Buddhism Around The World


Buddhism in Indonesia


Indonesia is located between the continents of Asia and Australia. It comprises 16,056 islands, with 34 provinces spread over five main islands and four archipelagos. The five main islands include Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua. The four archipelagos are Riau, Bangka Belitung, Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku.

Indonesia is the third largest democracy after India and the US. The word Indonesia appears in the 1920's and it is only in 1949 that Indonesia was granted independence. The country has lived through various kingdoms, wars, colonization, periods of dictatorship and democracy over the ages.

In the history of Indonesia, the trade of spices from the archipelago made the influence of Indian culture stronger during the 4th century. Hinduism and Buddhism spread across the archipelago as a result. The first writings in Sanskrit in Indonesia, the language used by Indian intellectuals and religious people, date back to the 4th century.


Buddhism is the second oldest religion in Indonesia, just after Hinduism. Before the arrival of these two religions, people believed that nature had supernormal power. Trees and stones were worshipped as sacred object, where beings with supernormal power reside.

Buddhism arrived in Indonesia around the 2nd century CE, primarily through trade routes with India. It reached its peak at the time of the Srivijaya (Indonesia: Sriwijaya) dynasty, which was once the largest Buddhist kingdom in South East Asia, from around the 7th century until the 14th century. During that time, many Buddhist colleges and monasteries were built, and famous Buddhist scholars, such as Dharmapala and Sakyakirti taught there.

Another major Buddhist kingdom was the Mataram kingdom, which was ruled by the Sailendra clan during the eighth and ninth century in Central Java. Many Buddhist temples were built and Buddhist texts were inscribed on stone tablets (called prasasti) during this time and considered as the golden era of Buddhism. During the rule of the Majapahit kingdom between 13th to 15th century, Buddhism and Hinduism coexisted peacefully. After the fall of Majapahit, Islam was brought to Indonesia by traders from Gujarat, India. Thus, the influence of Buddhism started to decrease substantially after that, and was mainly confined to the areas of Eastern Java and Bali.

Over a period, Buddhism started to make a comeback in Indonesia around 1955 when a monk called Ashin Jinarakkhita started a tour across various regions in Indonesia to spread the Dharma. Since that time there has been a revival of Theravada Buddhism in Indonesia led by indigenous monks trained in Thailand, although the Mahayana tradition is still well represented.

Buddhist Sects

Indonesia hosts various Buddhist traditions. Some of the main Buddhist sects present in Indonesia are:

1. Theravada Buddhism: Emphasizes the original teachings of the Buddha as recorded in the Pali Canon. It is practiced by various ethnic groups in Indonesia, particularly in regions such as Bali, Sumatra, and Kalimantan.

2. Mahayana Buddhism: Includes various schools such as Pure Land, Zen, Huayan, Tiantai and Nichiren Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is practiced by the Chinese Indonesian community and some ethnic groups in Java and Sumatra.

3. Vajrayana Buddhism: Also known as Tibetan Buddhism has a smaller presence in Indonesia but is practiced by some communities, particularly among Tibetan refugees and their descendants.

Buddhist Scriptures

Buddhist scriptures in Indonesia span the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana sutras, and Tibetan Buddhist texts. The Pali Canon, with its Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka, and Abhidhamma Pitaka, underpins Theravada practice. Mahayana texts like the Heart Sutra, Lotus Sutra, and Avatamsaka Sutra are revered for their teachings on compassion and emptiness. Meanwhile, Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, including the Kangyur and Tengyur, offer profound insights into meditation and ritual. Jataka tales and local commentaries further enrich Indonesia's Buddhist literary heritage, fostering a deep connection between the country's diverse cultures and the teachings of the Buddha.

Buddhist Festivals

Buddhist festivals reflect the diverse traditions and cultures of its Buddhist communities. Some of the notable Buddhist festivals celebrated in Indonesia are:

1. Vesak: Celebrated on the full moon day in May, Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away (Parinirvana) of the Buddha. Devotees gather at temples for prayers, candlelight processions, and offerings of food and flowers.

2. Kathina: This festival occurs after the end of the three-month Varsa (rainy season retreat) for monks. Kathina ceremonies involve offering robes and other requisites to the monastic community.

3. Asalha Puja: Also known as Dhammacakka Day marks the first sermon of the Buddha, known as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which he delivered to his first five disciples. Devotees often gather for meditation, Dhamma talks, and chanting on this day.

4. Uposatha: Observance days that occur four times a month in accordance with the lunar calendar. Devotees gather at temples for meditation, chanting, and listening to teachings. These festivals not only serve as religious observances but also provide opportunities for community gathering, cultural expression, and the practice of generosity and compassion.

Famous Temples and Monasteries

Indonesia boasts several magnificent Buddhist temples and monasteries, showcasing its rich heritage and architectural prowess.

  1. The Borobudur Temple: It is one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the word and was built in 9th century during the reign of Syailendra Dynasty. It is built as a Mandala, a giant three-dimensional representation of Esoteric Buddhist cosmology. The temple shows Indian and local influences and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Today, it is listed under the UNESCO World Heritage site.

  2. Mendut Buddhist Monastery: Mendut is a ninth-century Buddhist temple, located in Mendut village, Central Java, Indonesia. The temple is located about three kilometres east of Borobudur. Mendut is the oldest of the three temples including Pawon and Borobudur. The Karangtengah inscription, the temple was built and finished during the reign of King Indra of the Sailendra dynasty. The inscription dated 824 AD mentioned that King Indra of Sailendra had built a sacred building named Venuvana which means "bamboo forest".

  3. Amurva Bhumi Temple: Amurva Bhumi Temple is located near Pakerisan River. This temple has Buddha silipraba footprints. It is indeed a Tri Dharma temple, which provides altars of worship for Buddhists, Confucians, and Taoists.

  4. Candi Jabung: It is a 14th-century Buddhist temple dated from Majapahit era, located in the Jabung Sisir village (desa), Paiton area, Probolinggo district, East Java, Indonesia.

  5. Candi Banyunibo: is a 9th-century Buddhist temple located in Cepit hamlet, Bokoharjo village, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

  6. Candi Kalasan: also known as Candi Kalibening, is an 8th-century Buddhist temple in Java, Indonesia. Having being featured in Microsoft's age of Empires II, the Kalasan Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island.

  7. Vihara Dharmayana: Located east of the main coastal strip in the surfer's paradise of Kuta, is the Vihara Dharmayana temple. Founded in 1876 and one of the last remaining untouched hidden gems in Bali, it's one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Kuta and dates back 200 years. The main structure is surrounded by a turtle-filled moat and is resplendent in brightly coloured, intricate Chinese architecture including giant red pillars, Chinese dragon sculptures and oversized red lanterns.

  8. Vihara Dharma Giri Temple: Amongst the top attractions in Pupuan in Tabanan, West Bali is the Vihara Dharma Giri Temple, best known for its giant sleeping Buddha statue.

  9. Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Monastery: Built in the 1960's and located near Bajar in Northern Bali, Brahma Vihara Arama is the largest Buddhist temple in Bali. Originally built for the Buddhist community, the temple remains a functioning monastery and is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage destination.

  10. Vihara Buddha Dharma: Located in Seminyak, it was built in 2007. The temple has become an important place of worship for local and international Buddhists alike.

  11. Vihara Buddha Guna: Part of the Puja Mandala, Vihara Buddha Guna is one of five religious temples in the complex located in Nusa Dua, which is dedicated to reflecting the essence of religious tolerance in Bali. Other temples include a Hindu temple, a Catholic church, a Protestant Church and an Islamic Mosque.

Present Status

Buddhism has a long history in Indonesia, and is one of the six recognized religions in Indonesia, along with Islam, Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), Hinduism and Confucianism. According to 2022 estimates roughly 0.7% of the total citizens of Indonesia were Buddhists, and numbered around 2 million. Despite being a minority religion, Buddhism has a rich history and a vibrant presence in various regions across Indonesia and mostly concentrated in Jakarta, Riau, Riau Islands, Bangka Belitung, North Sumatra, and West Kalimantan. The people of Buddhist communities actively engage in religious practices, cultural activities, and social welfare initiatives, contributing to the nation's pluralistic society.

Government-Recognised Organisations

The Indonesian Buddhist Council (Walubi) is the main organisation recognised by the government, representing Buddhist communities and institutions nationwide. Walubi promotes religious harmony, advocates for Buddhist rights, and coordinates religious activities within the Buddhist community in Indonesia.

Buddhist Organizations

  1. Young Buddhist Association: Uniting Indonesian Buddhist youth and inspiring them to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and gratitude through six main service areas of spreading the Dharma, education, culture, welfare, leadership and organizational training, publications.

  2. WALUBI: WALUBI stands for Indonesian Buddhist Representative. WALUBI was established in DKI Jakarta based on the National Consensus of Indonesian Buddhists on August 20, 1998, for an indefinite period.

  3. The Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities: The Association of Theravāda Buddhist Universities (ATBU) is uniting the people, knowledge, and skills of every Higher Education Institution with a specific mission to educate students to understand and practise the Buddha's Dhamma as presented in the Pāli Canon.

Buddhist Universities and Monastic Institutions:

In Indonesia, Buddhist education is offered through both formal university programs and

traditional monastic schools. Some of the Buddhist institutions and Monastic institutions are listed below:

  1. Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha (STAB) Nalanda

  2. Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha (STAB) Maha Prajna

  3. Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha (STAB) Syailendra

  4. Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha (STAB) Dharma Widya

  5. Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha (STAB) Kertarajasa

  6. Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha (STAB) Bodhi Dharma

Description: This institution provides higher education in Buddhist studies and offers programs in various disciplines related to Buddhism.

Location: Jakarta

Website: https://stabnalanda.ac.id/

Description: Another prominent Buddhist higher education institution in Jakarta, offering degrees and training in Buddhist philosophy and practices.

Location: Jakarta

Website: https://mahaprajnastab.ac.id/

Description: Known for its strong emphasis on academic and spiritual training in Buddhism, STAB Syailendra offers various programs in Buddhist studies.Location: Semarang, Central Java

Website: https://syailendra.ac.id/

Description: This institution provides comprehensive education in Buddhist teachings and practices, with a focus on nurturing future Buddhist leaders.

Location: Tangerang, Banten

Website: https://stabdharmawidya.ac.id/

Description: STAB Kertarajasa offers programs in Buddhist studies and is known for its serene environment conducive to learning and meditation.

Location: Batu, East Java

Website: https://stabkertarajasa.ac.id/id

Description: This university provides education in Buddhist philosophy and practices, aiming to produce knowledgeable and compassionate graduates.

Location: Medan, North Sumatra

Website: https://akupintar.id/universitas/-/kampus/detail-kampus/sekolah-tinggi-agama-buddha-stab-bodhi-dharma/profil

  1. STAB Maitreyawira

    This university provides program in Buddhist Religious Education and Buddhist Business and Management.

Location: Pekanbaru City - Riau Province, Sumatra

Website: https://www.maitreyawira.ac.id/

  1. Wihara Ekayana Arama

    Wihara Ekayana Arama - Indonesia Buddhist Center is a center for learning, practicing and serving Buddhism. Currently, apart from being a residence for monastics who are members of the Indonesian Supreme Sangha, it is also a place for Buddhist activities and a place for the spread of the Dharma throughout Indonesia.

    This temple offers a range of programs including meditation, Buddhist teachings, and

    retreats. It also has educational programs for both laypersons and monastics.

    Location: Jakarta

    Website: https://www.ekayana.or.id/

  2. Vihara Mendut

    It is situated near the famous Borobudur temple, Vihara Mendut serves as both a monastic residence and a center for Buddhist learning and practice, offering courses in meditation and the Dharma.

    Location: Magelang, Central Java