RELIGION IN LAOS
by Massimo Moriconi on October 10, 2018
In Laos, as in much of Southeast Asia, the prevailing religion, practiced by about 67% of the population, is Theravada (or Small Vehicle, Hinayana) Buddhism.
This branch of Buddhism, which is the oldest, spread in Laos between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, but was born in India in the fifth century BC. from the teachings of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama.
Theravada Buddhism is based on the sutras of the Pali canon, that is, on the oldest collection of texts that include the discourses of the Buddha: this religious culture is based on the four Great Sufferings (birth, old age, illness and death). Laotian Buddhists believe in reincarnation.
The purpose of the disciples is that, through a spiritual and purification path called the Eightfold Path, to become "ahrat", that is, to reach enlightenment by directly gaining Nirvana without going through reincarnation. Having gained Nirvana, the ahrat, the enlightened one, he will come out of the vicious circle of birth / reincarnation, eliminating forever the suffering inherent in earthly life.
The essence of religion develops with monastic life.
The remaining 30% of the Laotian population, with the exception of a very small minority of Christian faith, practice animism and the worship of ancestors.
Laotian animism is pervaded by the belief that everything has a "phis", a soul, that there is an energy that pervades all that exists, visible and invisible.
For the cult of the dead, small altars are built, called houses of the spirits, where food is brought for the phis of the dead.