Religion and Beliefs in Myanmar
Burma is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country. An appreciation of Buddhism and its history in Myanmar is a prerequisite for outsiders wishing to better understand the Burmese mind. There are no totally reliable demographic statistics from Burma, but the following is an estimate of the religious composition of the country:
- Buddhists: 89%
- Animists: 1%
- Christians: 4%
- Muslims: 4%
- Hindus: 2%
Most Myanmar are Buddhist of the Theravada stream. Central to their religious beliefs is karma, the concept that good begets good and evil begets evils. The ultimate aim in life according to Buddhist belief is to escape the cycle of rebirth and reach Nirvana. Meritorious deeds that will help a person to achieve Nirvana include giving donations (especially to monks) and abiding by the Five Precepts and practicing Bavana (meditation).
Some Myanmar people, especially those from the rural areas, have many superstitions. Astrology, palmistry and clairvoyance are sometimes relied upon to make important decisions. These may include marriage, going into a business partnership, naming a baby, and others. To offset bad luck, certain meritorious deeds or yadaya may be performed such as setting free some live birds or animals, building a footbridge, or mending a road.