Buddhism in the Philippines

Buddhism in the Philippines

See|Srivijaya "is the historical center of Vajrayana Buddhism in Southeast Asia, and not of Theravada Buddhism"

Buddhism, specifically Vajrayana, gained a foothold in the Philippines with the rise of the Indianized Buddhist Srivijaya Empire centered in Sumatra in the 7th century. Archaeological finds in the Philippines include a number of Buddhist images common to Vajrayana iconography that dates back to this period. These include a number of Padmapani images and the Golden Tara found in 1917 at Esperanza, Agusan. [ [http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Cyprus/8446/tara.html Agusan-Surigao Historical Archive ] ]

Laguna Copperplate

left|frame|Laguna_Copperplate_Inscription_(circa_900 AD)
Evidence of the extent of cultural influence from the Srivijaya empire can be seen in the so-called “Laguna Copper Plate”, which is written in the Kavi (old Javanese) alphabet in a mixed vocabulary of Tagalog, Old Malay, and Sanskrit in the year 900AD.

The transliteration is as follows:

"Swasti Shaka warsatita 822 Waisaka masa di(ng) Jyotisa. Caturthi Krisnapaksa somawara sana tatkala Dayang Angkatan lawan dengan nya sanak barngaran si Bukah anak da dang Hwan Namwaran dibari waradana wi shuddhapattra ulih sang pamegat senapati di Tundun barja(di) dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Pailah Jayadewa."

"Di krama dang Hwan Namwaran dengan dang kayastha shuddha nu diparlappas hutang da walenda Kati 1 Suwarna 8 dihadapan dang Huwan Nayaka tuhan Puliran Kasumuran."

"dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Pailah barjadi ganashakti. Dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Binwangan barjadi bishruta tathapi sadana sanak kapawaris ulih sang pamegat dewata [ba] rjadi sang pamegat Medang dari bhaktinda diparhulun sang pamegat. Ya makanya sadanya anak cucu dang Hwan Namwaran shuddha ya kapawaris dihutang da dang Hwan Namwaran di sang pamegat Dewata."

"Ini grang syat syapanta ha pashkat ding ari kamudyan ada grang urang barujara welung lappas hutang da dang Hwa"

English Translation

"Long Live! Year of Saka 822, month of Vesak, according to Jyotisha. The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her brother whose name is Bukah, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander in Chief of Tundun [modern day Tondo in Manila] , represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah [Paila, Bulacan] , Jayadewa.

By this order, through the scribe, the Honourable Namwaran has been forgiven of all and is released from his debts and arrears of 1 Katî and 8 Suwarna before the Honourable Lord Minister of Puliran [Pulilan, Pampanga or Pulilan, Angat, Bulacan] , Kasumuran, by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah.

Because of his faithful service as a subject of the Chief, the Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwangan [Binwagan, Pampanga] recognized all the living relatives of Namwaran who were claimed by the Chief of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang.

Yes, therefore the living descendants of the Honourable Namwaran are forgiven, indeed, of any and all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Chief of Dewata.

This, in any case, shall declare to whomever henceforth that on some future day should there be a man who claims that no release from the debt of the Honourable..."

"Vesak" is the Buddhist name of the month—though now it’s shortened to a single day--which celebrates Buddha’s birthday and enlightenment. Vesak or Vesakha (in Pali) is the holiest month in the Buddhist calendar and is usually the time when debts are forgiven and festivals held. "Swasti" is also a very traditional Sanskrit-Buddhist greeting (similar to the modern Thai, "sawatdee"). The Laguna copper plate therefore indicates that the areas mentioned — Pampanga, Tondo, and Bulacan — had already adopted Buddhism.Or|date=February 2008Fact|date=February 2008


Pre-Colonial Period

In the 9th century, Butuan (in Mindanao, southern Philippines) and Ma-i (Mindoro, central Philippines) began extensive trading with the Buddhist Kingdom of Champa (South Vietnam).

In 1001 AD, the Buddhist ruler of Butuan (P’u-tuan in the Sung Dynasty records), Sari Bata Shaja, made the first tributary mission to China and this was followed by the rulers of Basilan (in southern Philippines) and the Luzon Empire more than two hundred years later, and by Mindoro, Sulu and Pangasinan (northern Philippines) four hundred years later. However, according to the "Sung Shih" ( [http://www.yifan.net/yihe/novels/history/songshiytt/sshi.html 宋史] ), the official History of the Sung Dynasty, Butuan made regular tributary missions to China since 1001 AD, and that it rulers usually arrived at the same time as the rulers of Tibet, Champa (Southern Vietnam), and the Mongols.

In 1279 AD, some Chinese historians now speculate that the last Song Emperor, Bing Di, may managed to escape across the sea with Grand Admiral Zhang Shijie to Taiwan or to Luzon (zh-tp|t=|p=Lǚsòng Guó) [ [http://www.lib.kobe-u.ac.jp/directory/sumita/5A-161/index.html 東西洋考] ] because of the similarity of a few Chinese and Tagalog place names. However, official Chinese sources state that Emperor Bing died during the Mongol Conquest of southern China and most Chinese-sounding place names can be traced to Malaysia and Indonesia.

panish colonial Period

With the advent of Spanish colonialism in the 16th century, the Philippines became a closed colony and cultural contacts with other Southeast Asian countries were closed. In 1481, the Spanish Inquisition commenced with the permission of Pope Sixtus IV and all non-Catholics within the Spanish empire were to be expelled or to be “put to the question” (tortured until they renounced their previous faith). With the refounding of Manila in 1571, the Philippines became subject to Spanish law and the Archbishop of New Galicia (Mexico) became the Grand Inquisitor of the Faithful in Mexico and the Philippines. In 1595, the newly appointed Archbishop of Manila became the Inquisitor-General of the Spanish East Indies (the Philippines, Guam, and Micronesia) and until 1898, the Spanish Inquisition was active against Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. As was the case in Latin America and Africa, forced conversions were not uncommon and any attempt not to submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church was seen as both rebellion against the Pope and sedition against the Spanish King, which was punishable by death.

Buddhist practices, festivals and iconography had to be converted and adopted to Catholicsim if they were to survive Spanish persecution. A good example of this was is the "saniculas" biscuit of Pampanga that has its roots in Buddhism. Syncretism (the blending indigenous religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism and indigenous folk religions) became necessary. This can be seen instantly with statues of the Virgin Mary, including the depiction of the halo, hand poses, and rainbow-arches, look almost identical to statues of Tara especially in Binondo and other areas. In time, Buddhism seemed to have virtually disappeared during the 400 years of Spanish rule.

American Colonial Period

With Revolution of 1896 against Spain and later with the coming of the American colonial regime in 1898, religious freedom was instituted. Mahayana and Zen Buddhist temples began to be built in the 1920s and 30s. Davao, due to the large number of Japanese residents, and Cebu, due to the large number of Chinese settlers had the largest Buddhist populations in the Philippines. After World War II, most Japanese were expatriated to Japan and the Chinese and Chinese-Filipinos became the predominant Buddhist ethnic group. In the 1960s, Vietnamese refugees arrived and established a temple in Palawan. At the same time, Japanese Buddhist temples and organizations began to re-emerge such as Sokka Gakkai International.

Buddhism Today

Today, Buddhists account for about 1-3% of the Philippine population. Currently, only the Mahayana and Zen are present in the Philippines. Theravada Buddhism is now confined with nationals from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar, as well as Cambodia and Laos.


However, the linguistic influence left its most lasting marks on every Philippine language throughout the archipelago with the following Buddhist and Hindu concepts directly from the original Sanskrit. About 25% of the words in many Philippine languages are Sanskrit terms:

From Tagalog:
*"budhi" "conscience" from Sanskrit "bodhi"
*"dukha" "one who suffers" from Sanskrit "dukkha"
*"guro" "teacher" from Sanskrit "guru"
*"sampalataya" "faith" from Sanskrit "sampratyaya"
*"mukha" "face" from Sanskrit "mukha"
*"laho" "eclipse" from Sanskrit "rahu"

From Kapampangan:
*"kalma" "fate" from Sanskrit "karma"
*"damla" "divine law" from Sanskrit "dharma"
*"mantala" "magic formulas" from Sanskrit "mantra"
*"upaya" "power" from Sanskrit "upaya"
*"lupa" "face" from Sanskrit "rupa"
*"sabla" "every" from Sanskrit "sarva"
*"lawu" "eclipse" from Sanskrit "rahu"
*"galura" "giant eagle (a surname)" from Sanskrit "garuda"
*"laksina" "south (a surname)" from Sanskrit "dakshin"
*"laksamana" "admiral (a surname)" from Sanskrit "lakshmana"

From Tausug:
*"suarga" "heaven"
*"neraka" "hell"
*"agama" "religion"

Sanskrit and Sanskrit-derived words common to most Philippine languages:
*"sutla" "silk" from Sanskrit "sutra"
*"kapas" "cotton" from Sanskrit "kerpas"
*"naga" "dragon or serpent" from Sanskrit "naga"

ee also

*Vajrayana Buddhism in Southeast Asia
*Philippine Mythology
*Hinduism in the Philippines
*Islam in the Philippines
*Protestants in the Philippines
*Religion in the Philippines


Almario, Virgilio S. ed. 2001. UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino. Pasig City.

Ereccion del Pueblos-Bulacan, 1764-1890. Paper creating the barrios Casay, Lawang, Tigbi and Bayabas into new town named Norzagaray, apart from Angat. Bundle no. 45, Legajo no. 129.

Francisco, Juan R. 1995. “Tenth Century Trade/Settlement Area In South East Asia: Epigraphic and Language Evidence in the Philippines,” National Museum Papers: Vol. 4, No.2:10-35.

Jocano, Landa F. 1998. Filipino Prehistory. Quezon City.

Kuang-Jen Chang, “A Comparative study of trade ceramics as grave goods in Pila, Laguna and Calatagan, Batangas, SW Luzon, the Philippines,” presented at Congres International, European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 11th International Conference, Bougon, France, 2006.

Postma, Antoon. 1992. “The Laguna Copperplate Inscription,” Philippine Studies 40:183-203.

Scott, William Henry, PreHispanic Source Materials (For the Study of Philippine History), New Day Press, Quezon City, 1984.

Tiongson, Jaime F. The Laguna Copperplate Inscription and the Route to Paracale in “Heritage and Vigilance: The Pila Historical Society Foundation Inc. Programs for the Study and Preservation of National Historical Landmarks and Treasures,” presented at Seminar on Philippine Town and Cities: Reflections of the Past, Lessons for the Future, Pasig City, 2006.

Tiongson, Jaime F. 2004. The Paracale Gold Route. Unpublished Manuscript. Cited in Santiago, Luciano P.R. 2005. “Pomp, Pageantry and Gold: The Eight Spanish Villas in the Philippines (1565-1887),” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society: 33:57-75.

Valdes, Cynthia O. “Archaeology in the Philippines, the National Museum and an Emergent Filipino Nation,” Wilhelm G. Solheim II Foundation for Philippine Archaeology, Inc. 25 Feb 2004.

External links

* [http://sanghapinoy.braveheart.com Directory for Buddhism in the Philippines]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Cyprus/8446/tara.html The Golden Tara of Agusan]
* [http://www.mts.net/~pmorrow/lcieng.htm Paul Morrow's THE LAGUNA COPPERPLATE INSCRIPTION]
* [http://www.lib.kobe-u.ac.jp/directory/sumita/5A-161/index.html 東西洋考]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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