Buddhism in Vietnam

Buddhism in Vietnam

It is believed that Buddhism came into Vietnam quiet early, at around the commencement of the Common Era. As per legends, Chu Ðong Tu became a disciple of an Indian Buddhist monk and Luy Lâu, in Bac Ninh Province became the centre of Buddhism. Since Buddhism entered Vietnam directly from India, Therevada Buddhism was more prevalent in those days. However later, in the 4th -5th century, Mahayana Buddhism became more popular due to Vietnam’s proximity to China. Buddhism, in Vietanam, progressed rapidly during the reigns of the Ly (1009-1225 AD) and Tran Dynasty (1225 – 1400 AD). During this period Buddhism attained the status of state religion. However, the succeeding period in which Vietnam was ruled by the Le Dynasty ( 1428-1527 AD), Buddhism suffered a setback with the emergence of Confucianism.


The period of Buddhist decadence continued till the time King Quang Trung came to power in the early 18th century. New Buddhist temples were built and the older ones were repaired to give Buddhism a new lease of life. But, before King Quang Trung could complete his task of restoring Buddhism, he died. Buddhism began to regain its lost glory by the onset of the 20th century. Today, influence of Buddhism in Vietnam is easily seen, however, the religion is still making efforts to enhance its influence on the life of the people.

Schools of Vietnamese Buddhism
Buddhists in Vietnam belong mostly to the 3 forms of Mahayana School of Buddhism – Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism and Vajrayana. Actually, it is a combination of Pure Land and Zen Buddhism that dominates Buddhist life in Vietnam. Pure Zen practice is followed mostly by monks and nuns while Pure Land Buddhism is preferred by more common people.

Despite the dominance of Mahayana Buddhism, followers of the Theravada Buddhism, too, are found in the country is sizeable number.

The most striking feature of Buddhism in Vietnam is the integration of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian traditions. The religion reflects the rituals, beliefs and notions of all the three faiths in a balanced manner. Also, the two step development of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism in the country is a defining feature. The two schools are representative of the two different form of influences, one from India and the other one from China.


The monks of Vietnam are addressed as “Thay” (Teacher) while the Nuns are addressed as “Su Co” (Sister). Both the monks and the nuns enjoy equal status. To greet each other, Buddhist place their palms together at their chest level and say, “Mo Phat” which means Praise Buddha. Another way of greeting is to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha.

Buddhist Festivals
The main Buddhist festivals celebrated in Vietnam by the Buddhist community include Vesak (Buddha’s Birthday) and Vulan (Ullambana). A traditional Buddhist also visits the temple on the fifteenth day of the Lunar month (Ram), and on various other festival days of the Mahayana Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.