In a multi-cultural country like Malaysia, having the freedom to practice religion is crucial in order to preserve harmony. The main religions in Malaysia are Islam while there are Buddhists, Christians and many others.
Buddhism in Malaysia
Buddhism has a strong influence in Malaysia. As of 2010, there has been reported more than 5.5 million Buddhist in Malaysia. With a population of about 28 million, that is almost one-fifth of Malaysians. Buddhists are mostly found in major states like Selangor, Johor, Penang and in Kuala Lumpur.
Types of Buddhism
Buddhism in Malaysia is practiced in several languages including English Language, Bahasa Malaysia, Indian, Mandarin and Thai, among others. Most of them practices the Mahayana Buddhism which is predominantly Chinese. Others practices the Theravada Buddhism which is common among Thais and Sri Lanka.
Teachings and practices
Most Buddhists in Malaysia come from the Chinese community. As many combines Buddhism with Taoism or some with Confucianism, it puts Buddhism as the second largest in terms of population after Islam. Like many other countries, Buddhism was brought into Malaysia by the Indian traders and priests. This was then part of other traits like arts and government that was brought into the Malay Peninsula. As such, there is still a very strong influence of Indian culture to present day. It was only later during the 15th century that the kings converted to Islam that shaped the religion today.
Malaysian Buddhist organizations
Religions in Malaysia are not regulated like other organizations. Buddhism in Malaysia in particular does not have a development chart headed by a single organization. As such, coordination can sometimes be quite challenging. In recent years, there has been a formation of the Malaysian Buddhist Council which aims to align all the different types and sects of Buddhism so that they speak the same language and practices.
Wesak Day in Malaysia is celebrated and observed with much fanfare mainly because of the strong numbers of devotees. Each year, the Joint Wesak Celebrations Committee of Buddhist temples in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor organizes the Wesak Day celebrations which include a procession across the city. Meanwhile, all the Buddhist temples will have Wesak Day observations that commemorates the birth, death and enlightenment day of Buddha.
Here are some of the significant Buddhist temples:
- Buddhist Maha Vihara Temple – located in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, it was founded in 1895 that includes a library, a school and other services
- Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple – this temple is in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur. It is connected to the Sri Jayanti Welfare Organisation and has a wide range of services like blessings, Dhamma classes and others
- Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple – one of the prominent Thai Buddhist temples located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor which includes Thai celebrations like Loy Krathong and Songkran
- Poh Ka Buddhist Temple – one of the few major Buddhist temples in Kuching, Sarawak
- Wat Photivihan Buddhist Temple – Located in Tumpat, Kelantan, it is home to the very famous Sleeping Buddha at the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia