The Buddhism of Myanmar is Theravada Buddhism. Theravada means the doctrine of the elders. It is the oldest form of Buddhism and bases its doctrine on the Pali Canon or Tipitaka, as it is sometimes called. Most of its 100 million followers live in Southeast Asia.
Buddhism was started by Siddhartha Gautama. Gautama was an Indian prince who was given any pleasure he wanted. His father even built him three palaces, so he would not be in any discomfort during any of the seasons.
He at length felt an emptiness in Hinduism. He thought that there must be more to life than living like a Brahman. He soon took to searching for a path to enlightenment and freedom from his sin. It is said that after much suffering and austerity he found enlightenment and a spiritual awakening while meditating under a tree. Gautama very quickly set to teaching the precepts that he found under that tree.
For the first 500 years after Buddha’s death, the teachings were passed down by mouth. It was not for a long time that the Tipitaka was written. Because of this, every sermon starts with the disclaimer, “Thus have I heard.”
This canon has served as a guide for Buddhists to live by for the last 2,000 years.
Yangon, Myanmar is the center of Buddhism. The Shwe Dagon Pagoda is as important to Buddhists as Mecca is to the Muslims or as Jerusalem is to the Jews. Many other shrines and pagodas are scattered all over the country.