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March 24, 2012

Laos religions

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Buddhism: The religion of the majority and almost official of Laos is Theravada Buddhism, also known as "Little Vehicle" or Hinayana, for nearly 67% of the population. This religion emerged in Laos between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Buddhism plays an important role in spiritual life of Laotian people. Buddha statues can be found almost everywhere in Laos: in temples & pagodas, on mountains & hills, in the forests & caves. The colourful saffran robes of Buddhist monks adorn the streets of Luang Prabang.

It is based on the four truths taught in India by Siddhartha Gautama in the sixth BC. BC Lao Buddhist believes in reincarnation. The ideal is to directly reach nirvana (or nibbana) without reincarnation. Many Laotians believe that doing good and not evil enough to ensure his salvation. Doing good can acquire the merits or boun. As the word also means "party", some say that a Laotian partying to acquire merit ... Most of the religious life takes place around the monastic life. The monks enjoy great prestige and are highly respected. Buddhism was an integral part of the Lao identity.

Animism and ancestor worship: The outstanding feature of Laos religion is coexistence of Buddhist with animist practices. All Laotians believe in phis (pronounced "pi"). This word means both "spirit," "soul," "Ghost" and "returning". In principle, it is enough to build a sort of small altar where food is provided for the phis are quiet. That somehow is their "home". Each village, each province and even the country itself, has its guardian spirits, the Lokapala, so deeply rooted that they are even recognized and celebrated by Buddhism. Generally at night, they can take in an animal appearance. All Laotians, even those who have studied in the West believe more or less to phis.