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Religious Influences on Vietnam

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RELIGIOUS INFLUENCES ON VIETNAM

I understand there to be copious amounts of influential events which triggered trends in Vietnamese culture. The Chinese influence in Vietnam may have likely led to its communist political system. Vietnamese nationalism may have contributed to the difficulties the French faced during its colonization of Vietnam. However, I believe that the most relevant contribution to contemporary Vietnamese culture is the religious diversity and how it contributes to Vietnam's closed-door economic and political philosophies.

Buddhism is the primary religion in Vietnam. Buddhists believe that the way to become "enlightened" is to understand the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and to follow the Eight-Fold Path. Basically, I understand Buddhism to be a very internal religion based on the spirituality of the self. Various forms of meditation and intense study coupled with the eradication of desire lead to a very defined lifestyle with little or no need for external human interaction. Once a Buddhist has achieved what is considered to be the proper behavior and proper knowledge called for by the Eight Fold Path, and after a Buddhist has spent many years manipulating his or her dharma, Buddhists tend to leave behind all belongings and travel forth into the wilderness trying to achieve nirvana. This religious practice, in my opinion, has had a significant impact on the Vietnamese culture and the way they interact with outsiders. The fact that the Vietnamese are not exceedingly eager to be invaded by foreign corporations and capitalism makes sense; capitalism is not a prerequisite to Buddhism.

Taoism was also introduced to medieval Vietnam and is still noticeably practiced there today. Taoists believe that the way to achieve enlightenment is through chaos. Doing nothing and letting nature take its course without human interference are the methods by which Taoists feel most spiritual. Although I do not feel that there is a strong aroma of Taoism in contemporary Vietnam, I nonetheless deduce that it had a significant impact on Vietnamese trends. Compared to Buddhism and certainly Confucianism, which is discussed below, Taoism was an extremely outlandish concept to the Vietnamese when it was first introduced. The fact that sloth and confusion were being rejoiced in a time of awareness and filial piety must have caused a certain sense of segregation in the Vietnamese

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