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Religions in Mekong Delta

Located in the heart of Southeast Asia with thousands of years founding and development, Vietnam is a country of a diverse mix of many religions which had strong & deep influence on Vietnamese culture and ideology. The Mekong Delta, a newly settled multi-cultural region, besides its characteristis as rivers, mountains, fruit orchards and natural environment, it also has spirits which are believed to protect humans from outside enemies. The attitude towards spirit, life, death, people and the world exhibits a deep predomination of triple religions including Buddhism, Hoa Hao and Cao Dai that live in harmony.

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1.Buddhism religion

Buddhism represented in the earliest day as compared to other religions. While people in the north follow Mahayana Buddhism, people in Mekong Delta follow Theravada school.

Budda statue in Vinh Trang pagoda

Budda statue at Vinh Trang pagoda, Mekong Delta

Buddhism plays important role in spiritual life of people in Mekong Delta. Pagodas and temples are the centers of religious and cultural of community. Up to December 2011, there have been 454 pagodas and 8574 monks. Buddhist teachings have become the social norms, leading people to the Truth and the Goodness. Especially, Khmer people in Mekong Delta rule that every boy at the age of 12 – 13 will live religious life in the pagoda for at least one month. There are many Buddhist festivals and ceremonies in Mekong Delta such as: Buddha’s birthday, Chol Chnam Thnay, Donta which enrich the religion as well as the culture of Mekong Delta.

2. Hoa Hao religion

Hoa Hao is the second most influenced religion in Mekong Delta with nearly 1.5 million followers (according to the census in 2009). Hoa Hao religion was instituted Tan District, An Giang Province in 1939 by Phu So Huynh.
Through more than 70 years of establishing and developing, Hoa Hao religion has advised people to live in harmony and build up the kindness. Hoa Hao encourages its follower to practice Hoa Hao’s teachings at home rather than go to the temples or pagodas. For Hoa Hao followers, it is recommended to raise money for helping the poor rather than build up temples or holding expensive ceremonies. Hoa Hao religion worship Buddha, ancestral and heroes of the country. Even though there is no temple, no statues or ancestral tablets, Hoa Hao is still an important part of people in Mekong Delta’s religious life with the motto: "Buddha in the mind, the mind is Buddha".

3. Cao Dai religion

Established in 1929, Cao Dai in Vietnamese means "at the high position". As compared to Buddhism or Catholic, Cao Dai is a new religion with more than three million followers Cao Dai is the combination and fusion of great religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Cao Dai temple

Cao Dai become the specific religion of Mekong Delta

Cao Dai religion advises people to live honestly and harmoniously, do the good things and avoid the evil things. During the construction and development, Cao Dai followers have built up many religious centers: 9 Cao Dai churches and 19 Cao Dai independently operating organizations. In spite of being considered as the “youngest” religion in Vietnam, Cao Dai have put great influence on culture of Mekong Delta. Cao Dai keeps its strict rules and tradition to protect its characteristic, making Cao Dai become the specific religion of Mekong Delta.