Myanmar is predominantly a Buddhist country with the Buddhists making upabout 80 percent of the population, following the school of Theravada Buddhism. There are also Christians, Muslims, Hindus and some animists. But it respects the freedom of belief and the people practice religious tolerance on other religions which is evident in the existence of religious buildings of different beliefs in large cities. Because the people are deeply pious, there is at least one pagoda or Buddha Image in every town or city, and even in large villages, so is there a Buddhist monastery. Religion plays so vital in a typical Myanmar Buddhist’s life that his/her routine cannot be separated from Buddhist rituals. There is also a Buddhist lent on Myanmar calender which lasts for three months in the rainy season, approximately from July to October, during which fasting is preserved, marriages and moving home is usually put off.
Myanmar lies between two great civilizations, India and China, and is largely influenced by that of India, yet Myanmar has developed its own culture with distinctive characteristics. From India came the institutions of religion and government, but without the Indian caste system of social hierarchy. India was also the source of Pali, the sacred language, along with astrology and some kinds of food. For the majority of Myanmar’s population, Buddhism is the center of individual life whereas the monastery is the center of the community. That is why, it is little wonder Myanmar culture is synonymous with Buddhist culture. Myanmar people try to live according to the basic five precepts of Buddhism in their daily activities.
The unique thing about Myanmar culture is that it is free from racial or sex discrimination from childbirth throughout the lifetime. Every one is entitled to equal rights, opportunity and treatment whether at work or at court. For much of Myanmar’s history, women played a stronger role than in traditional Western societies. From early on they could own property and were independent in economic activities. Myanmar women enjoy the same status with their male counterparts and do not necessarily have to keep their surnames.