The phrase “Mekong River – A Buddhist River” describes the cultural heritage of Buddhism in the Mekong region more fully and meaningfully than in any other words. This is because it has fully generalized the nature, reality, and infinite beauty of a river flowing through six national territories, including Vietnam. The Mekong River is not only mysterious because of the richness, diversity, and available colors of nature, but it is also more beautiful because of the values that are deeply rooted in the spiritual lives of the residents of the river, a strong and sincere belief that is true and clear to the foundation of the Buddha’s teachings. In countries with waterways passing through, Buddhism, if it is not the state religion, also has a great influence on social and moral values and cultural and artistic institutions, creating heritages that cannot be found anywhere else. It can be said that the beautiful nature blended with the holy souls of the Buddhist compatriots is the most wonderful cultural heritage that time has built up on the Mekong River from time immemorial to the present.

Aerial view of the Mekong River at dusk

The Mekong is one of the largest rivers in the world, originating in China, flowing through Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia, and emptying into the East Sea in Vietnam. Ranked 7th by the length in Asia and 10th in terms of water flow in the world. The Mekong River is known as a mysterious river because expeditions have almost become the irresistible passion of delegations from different countries. Many of them had to lie down with the river for the rest of their journey. However, the river gently let go of its soft body and flowed seemingly indefinitely, displaying its immense beauty that captivated many people.

A branch of Mekong River in Vietnam

When researching the cultural heritage of Buddhism in the Mekong region, we all agree that Buddhism has integrated in a very clever way to become the main religion of that country, not just an imported catechism system. It can be said that there is no place where Buddhism has been imbued and imprinted in the mindsets and lifestyles of the people in the Mekong region. Geographically, the river has endowed the people here with many natural products. Spiritually, the Mekong River is a mysterious river containing a great treasure of Buddhist culture. With the beauty of compassion and wisdom, Buddhism has gradually conquered the people of the river here, gently entering the cultural and spiritual lives of the people of the Mekong region. There is no place where Buddhism goes through without leaving golden features, and then that place develops in a very unique way according to each territory.

Temple of Bagan, Myanmar

The Emerald Buddha Wat, Thailand

Vinh Trang Pagoda, Mekong Delta Vietnam

Town of Luang Prabang – UNESCO World Heritage Centre

If in China Buddhism has contributed greatly to the fields of thought and language as well as Buddhist relics, in Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia, Buddhism is brought to the forefront with the slogan, “Since you are the national religion, what could be better and happier than when the people here live very harmoniously and honestly?” They always take the precepts, the cause and effect of Buddhism, as the foundation for their spiritual lives.  upward, and Buddhism became the national religion of Vietnam in the Ly Tran Dynasty, culminating in the Tran Dynasty, with the Tran Dynasty applying the Thap Thien Sutra doctrine, advising people in the way they treat people, creating a golden page of history for Buddhism.  And today, Buddhism still has a firm place in the hearts of the Vietnamese people.

The “Buddhist River” not only enriches life with unique cultural and artistic architecture, but it is also the original faith, love, and respect for Buddhism in that location.  Integrity, loyalty, and respect have created a rich and vibrant spiritual life for the people of the temple, and its architecture has been found everywhere, but it never seems to be enough.

The Golden Buddha on the banks of the Mekong in Pakse, Laos

 The people of the Mekong River sculpt Buddha statues all year round, not for the purpose of selling but to express their faith, love, and boundless respect for the Buddha.  If the Mekong river flows endlessly in the endless time of the universe, the “Buddhist river” also flows endlessly in the heart and soul of a co-resident of the vast river. That is the great pride and happiness of Buddhist disciples in this day and age. The more proud we are, the greater the responsibility of preserving and promoting Buddhist cultural heritage values to a new level associated with the breath and life of the times. grand. 

As a result, in addition to being pleased with the world’s recognition of the Buddhist cultural heritages on the Mekong River, which are cherished and preserved by other countries, we are also keenly interested in the severe impacts on river resources caused by overexploitation of mineral resources, which affect the living environment of the people of the countries through which the Mekong River flows. I believe that the world and the countries of the Mekong River should pay more attention to the preservation of the beautiful Mekong River in order to preserve and create a legacy of Buddhist heritages that will continue from the past, present, and future. And if we are all irresponsible and neglectful of this noble cultural and historical value, then surely in the future we will have to bear the consequences that our own irresponsibility creates. This means that we are guilty of the history and culture that nature has given us. The “Buddhist River” is no longer the property of anyone but the property of all mankind. Take care and safeguard!

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