Buddhism in Indonesia
Monks praying at Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure in the world, built by the Sailendra dynasty.
Total population
Increase 2.02 million (2022)[1]
0.73% of population
Regions with significant populations
Jakarta, North Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Banten, Riau, Riau Islands, West Java, East Java, South Sumatra, Central Java.[2]
Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism
Indonesian and Mandarin Chinese
Japanese (minority)

Buddhism has a long history in Indonesia, and it is one of the six recognized religions in the country, 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, numbering around 2 million. Most Buddhists are concentrated in Jakarta, Riau, Riau Islands, Bangka Belitung, North Sumatra, and West Kalimantan. These totals, however, are probably inflated, as practitioners of Taoism and Chinese folk religion, which are not considered official religions of Indonesia, likely declared themselves as Buddhists on the most recent census.[3] Today, the majority of Buddhists in Indonesia are Chinese and other East Asians, but small communities of native Buddhists (such as Javanese and Sasak) also exist.


Religion map in Indonesia: Others category (of whom majority are Buddhist) regions are highlighted in orange.
Buddhist in each regency of Indonesia
Expansion of Buddhism starting in the 5th century BCE from northern India to the rest of Asia, which followed both inland and maritime trade routes of the Silk Road. Srivijaya once served as a centre of Buddhist learning and expansion. The overland and maritime "Silk Roads" were interlinked and complementary, forming what scholars have called the "great circle of Buddhism".[4]


Buddhism is the second oldest religion in Indonesia after Hinduism, which arrived from India around the second century.[3] The history of Buddhism in Indonesia is closely related to the history of Hinduism, as a number of empires influenced by Indian culture were established around the same period. The arrival of Buddhism in the Indonesian archipelago began with trading activity, from the early 1st century, by way of the maritime Silk Road between Indonesia and India.[5] The oldest Buddhist archaeological site in Indonesia is arguably the Batujaya stupas complex in Karawang, West Java. The oldest relic in Batujaya was estimated to originate from the 2nd century, while the latest dated from the 12th century. Subsequently, significant numbers of Buddhist sites were found in Jambi, Palembang, and Riau provinces in Sumatra, as well as in Central and East Java. The Indonesian archipelago has, over the centuries, witnessed the rise and fall of powerful Buddhist empires, such as the Sailendra dynasty and the Mataram and Srivijaya empires.

Borobudur Temple Compounds, located in Central Java, Indonesia

According to some Chinese sources, the Chinese Buddhist monk I-tsing, while on his pilgrim journey to India, witnessed the powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya based on Sumatra in the 7th century. The empire served as a Buddhist learning center in the region. A notable Srivijayan revered Buddhist scholar is Dharmakīrtiśrī, a Srivijayan prince of the Sailendra dynasty, born around the turn of the 7th century in Sumatra.[6] He became a revered scholar-monk in Srivijaya and moved to India to become a teacher at the famed Nalanda University, as well as a poet. He built on and reinterpreted the work of Dignaga, the pioneer of Buddhist Logic, and was very influential among Brahman logicians as well as Buddhists. His theories became normative in Tibet and are studied to this day as a part of the basic monastic curriculum. Other Buddhist monks who visited Indonesia were Atisha, Dharmapala, a professor of Nalanda, and the South Indian Buddhist Vajrabodhi. Srivijaya was the largest Buddhist empire ever formed in Indonesian history. Indian empires such as the Pala empire helped fund Buddhism in Indonesia, specifically funding a monastery for Sumatran monks.[7]

A number of Buddhist historical heritages can be found in Indonesia, including the 8th century Borobudur mandala monument and Sewu temple in Central Java, Batujaya in West Java, Muaro Jambi, Muara Takus and Bahal temple in Sumatra, and numerous of statues or inscriptions from the earlier history of Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms. During the era of Kediri, Singhasari and Majapahit empire, Buddhism — identified as Dharma ri Kasogatan — was acknowledged as one of kingdom's official religions along with Hinduism. Although some of kings may have favored Hinduism, harmony, toleration, and even syncretism were promoted as manifested in Bhinneka Tunggal Ika national motto, coined from Kakawin Sutasoma, written by Mpu Tantular to promotes tolerance between Hindus (Shivaites) and Buddhists.[8] The classical era of ancient Java also had produces some of the exquisite examples of Buddhist arts, such as the statue of Prajnaparamita and the statue of Buddha Vairochana and Boddhisttva Padmapani and Vajrapani in Mendut temple.

Decline and revival

In the 13th century Islam entered the archipelago, and began gaining foothold in coastal port towns. The fall of Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit empire in late 15th century marked the end of Dharmic civilization in Indonesia. By the end of the 16th century, Islam had supplanted Hinduism and Buddhism as the dominant religion of Java and Sumatra. For 450 years after that there was no significant Buddhist practice in Indonesia. Many Buddhist sites, stupas, temples, and manuscripts were lost or forgotten as the region became predominantly Muslim. During this era of decline few people practiced Buddhism, most of them are Chinese immigrants who settled in Indonesia when migration accelerated in the 17th century. Many of klenteng (Chinese temples) in Indonesia are in fact a tridharma temple that houses three faiths, namely Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

In 1934, Narada Thera, a missionary monk from Sri Lanka, visited the Dutch East Indies for the first time as part of his journey to spread the Dharma in Southeast Asia. This opportunity was seized by local Buddhists to revive Buddhism in Indonesia. A Bodhi tree planting ceremony was held on the Southeastern side of Borobudur on March 10, 1934, under the blessing of Narada Thera, and some Upasakas were ordained as monks.[3]

Modern Indonesia

National vesak ceremony in Borobudur, Central Java.

Following the downfall of President Sukarno in the mid-1960s, Pancasila was reasserted as the official Indonesian policy on religion to only recognise monotheism.[9] As a result, founder of Perbuddhi (Indonesian Buddhists Organisation), Bhikku Ashin Jinarakkhita, proposed that there was a single supreme deity, Sanghyang Adi Buddha. He was also backed up with the history behind the Indonesian version of Buddhism in ancient Javanese texts, and the shape of the Borobudur Temple.

During the New Order era, Pancasila listed Buddhism among the five official religions of Indonesia. The national leader of the time, Suharto, had considered Buddhism and Hinduism as Indonesian classical religions.[citation needed]

The first Theravada ordination of bhikkhunis in Indonesia after more than a thousand years occurred in 2015 at Wisma Kusalayani in Lembang, Bandung, West Java[10]

Today, in reference to the principle of Pancasila, a Buddhist monk representing the Buddhist Sangha, along with priest, Brahmin, clergy or representative of other recognized religions, would participate in nearly all state-sponsored ceremonies. The ceremony would always include a prayer (led by a Muslim imam with representatives of other faiths standing in a row behind him). Although the majority of Indonesian Buddhists are of the Chinese Mahayana school, more often than not the representative of Buddhism as selected by the Government would happen to be a Theravada monk.[citation needed]

Once a year, thousands of Buddhists from Indonesia and neighboring countries flock to Borobudur to commemorate the national Waisak Day.[11]


The oldest extant esoteric Buddhist Mantranaya (largely a synonym of Mantrayana, Vajrayana and Buddhist Tantra) literature in Old Javanese, a language significantly influenced by Sanskrit, is enshrined in the Sang Kyang Kamahayanan Mantranaya.[12]

The Lalitavistara Sutra was known to the Mantranaya stonemasons of Borobudur, refer: The birth of Buddha (Lalitavistara). 'Mantranaya' is not a corruption or misspelling of 'mantrayana' even though it is largely synonymous. Mantranaya is the term for the esoteric tradition on mantra, a particular lineage of Vajrayana and Tantra, in Indonesia. The clearly Sanskrit sounding 'Mantranaya' is evident in Old Javanese tantric literature, particularly as documented in the oldest esoteric Buddhist tantric text in Old Javanese, the Sang Kyang Kamahayanan Mantranaya refer Kazuko Ishii (1992).[13]

Current practice

Monks doing Pindapata before Waisak Day 2010 in Magelang, Central Java. Chinese Indonesian Buddhist giving alms to the monks.

In Indonesia, Buddhism is mainly followed by the Chinese community and some small indigenous groups of Indonesia, with 0.8% (including Taoism and Confucianism) of Indonesia's population being Buddhists.[14][3][15] Most Chinese Indonesians reside in urban areas, thus Indonesian Buddhist also mostly living in urban areas. Top ten Indonesian provinces with significant Buddhist populations are; Jakarta, North Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Banten, Riau, Riau Islands, West Java, East Java, South Sumatra, and Central Java.[2]

A small minority of Sasaks called the "Bodha" are mainly found in the village of Bentek and on the slopes of Gunung Rinjani, Lombok. They had managed to avoid any Islamic influence and worship deities like Dewi Sri with Esoteric Buddhist and Hindu influences in their rituals due to their secluded geographical location. This group of Sasak, due in part to the name of their tribe, are recognized as Buddhists by the Indonesian government. At present, there are more than 10,000 Buddhists in their community and belonging to the Theravadin tradition. [16]

Pockets of Javanese Buddhists also exist and are to be found mainly in villages and cities in Central and East Java. The regencies of Temanggung, Blitar and Jepara count about 30.000 Buddhists, mostly of Javanese ethnicity. For example, native Javanese Buddhists population formed as the majority in mountainous villages of Kaloran subdistrict in Temanggung Regency, Central Java.[17]

Official Census (2018)

According to the 2018 census, there were 2,062,150 Buddhists in Indonesia.[18] The percentages of Buddhism in Indonesia increased from 0.7% in 2010 to 0.77% in 2018.

Province (2018 Census.) Total population Buddhist population Percentage
Indonesia 266,534,836 2,062,150
Jakarta 11,011,862 399,005
North Sumatra 14,908,036 361,402
West Kalimantan 5,427,418 330,638
Riau Islands 1,961,388 143,755
Banten 10,868,810 136,183
Riau 6,149,692 133,744
West Java 45,632,714 98,780
East Java 40,706,075 74,186
South Sumatra 8,267,779 67,504
Bangka Belitung Islands 1,394,483 66,705
Central Java 36,614,603 53,578
Jambi 3,491,764 34,376
Bali 4,236,983 28,635
Lampung 9,044,962 27,397
South Sulawesi 9,117,380 21,661
West Nusa Tenggara 3,805,537 16,654
East Kalimantan 3,155,252 15,535
South Kalimantan 2,956,784 12,412
Aceh 5,253,512 7,444
Central Sulawesi 2,969,475 4,339
North Kalimantan 654,994 4,216
North Sulawesi 2,645,118 3,957
West Sumatra 5,542,994 3,638
Special Region of Yogyakarta 3,645,487 3,155
Central Kalimantan 2,577,215 2,763
Papua 4,346,593 2,355
Bengkulu 2,001,578 2,180
Southeast Sulawesi 1,755,193 2,118
Gorontalo 1,181,531 977
West Papua 1,148,154 957
West Sulawesi 1,563,896 478
East Nusa Tenggara 5,426,418 448
Maluku 1,864,229 395
North Maluku 1,314,849 150


There are numerous Buddhist schools established in Indonesia. The earliest school that was established in Indonesia was Vajrayana Buddhism, which developed from Mahayana Buddhism, and which had some similarities with later Tibetan Buddhism. Various temples of ancient Java and Sumatra are Vajrayana. Chinese Buddhism (the main branch of Mahayana Buddhism) has gained followers from Chinese Indonesian populations that began to migrate into the archipelago during the 17th to 18th century. Other notable schools are Theravada Buddhism from Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Indonesia's most notable Buddhist organization is Perwakilan Umat Buddha Indonesia (Walubi) which serves as the vehicle of all Buddhist schools in Indonesia. Other Buddhist organizations include Majelis Buddhayana Indonesia, Sangha Agung Indonesia (SAGIN), Sangha Theravada Indonesia (STI), Sangha Mahayana Indonesia, and the Taiwan-originated Tzu-Chi.

Religious events

The most important Buddhist religious event in Indonesia is Vesak (Indonesian: Waisak). Once a year, during the full moon in May or June, Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak day commemorating the birth, death, and the time when Siddhārtha Gautama attained the highest wisdom to become the Buddha Shakyamuni. Vesak is an official national holiday in Indonesia[19] and the ceremony is centered at the three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.[20] Vesak also is often celebrated in Sewu temple and numerous Buddhist temples in Indonesia.

Discrimination and protests

The Chinese Indonesian community in Tanjung Balai municipality in North Sumatra has protested against the administration's plan to dismantle a statue of Buddha on top of the Tri Ratna Temple.[21][22]

On July 29, 2016, several Buddhist vihāras were plundered and burnt down in Tanjung Balai of North Sumatra.[23] On 26 November 2016, a homemade bomb was discovered in front of Vihara Buddha Tirta, a Buddhist temple in Lhok Seumawe of Aceh.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "Jumlah Penduduk Menurut Agama" (in Indonesian). Ministry of Religious Affairs. 31 August 2022. Retrieved 29 October 2023. Muslim 241 Million (87), Christianity 29.1 Million (10.5), Hindu 4.69 million (1.7), Buddhist 2.02 million (0.7), Folk, Confucianism, and others 192.311 (0.1), Total 277.749.673 Million
  2. ^ a b Garnesia, Irma (29 May 2018). "Manakah Wilayah dengan Umat Buddha Terbanyak?". tirto.id (in Indonesian). Archived from the original on 2022-07-03. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  3. ^ a b c d "Buddhism in Indonesia". Buddha Dharma Education Association. 2008. Archived from the original on 2002-02-14. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  4. ^ Acri, Andrea (20 December 2018). "Maritime Buddhism". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.638. ISBN 9780199340378. Archived from the original on 19 February 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  5. ^ Flanagan, Anthony (2006). "Buddhist Art: Indonesia". About. Archived from the original on August 19, 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  6. ^ P. 487 Buddhism: art, architecture, literature & philosophy, Volume 1
  7. ^ ACRI, ANDREA. ESOTERIC BUDDHISM IN MEDIAEVAL MARITIME ASIA. This includes a charter from mid 9th-cen- tury Nālandā, where a monastery for Sumatran monks was endowed by a Pāla king
  8. ^ Depkumham.go.id Archived 2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ cf. Bunge (1983), chapter Buddhism Archived 2009-10-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ http://www.bhikkhuni.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/FirstTheravadaordinationofbhikkhunisinIndonesiaAfteraThousandYears.pdf Archived 2016-09-14 at the Wayback Machine [bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ "Vesak Festival: A Truly Sacred Experience". Wonderful Indonesia. Archived from the original on 4 May 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  12. ^ SHIVA BUDDHA INDONESIA. "SHIVA BUDDHA INDONESIA". Archived from the original on 2020-04-05. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  13. ^ Ishii, Kazuko (1992). "The Correlation of Verses of the 'Sang Kyang Kamahayanan Mantranaya' with Vajrabodhi's 'Japa-sutra'". Area and Culture Studies Vol. 44. Source: [1] Archived 2020-04-06 at the Wayback Machine (accessed: Monday February 1, 2010)
  14. ^ "Peringatan". Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
  15. ^ [2] Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Rediscovering an Ancient Heritage in Indonesia". Buddhistdoor Global. Archived from the original on 2022-06-25. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  17. ^ "Sepenggal Asa dari Kampung Buddha". Tempo (in Indonesian). 2009-05-10. Archived from the original on 2022-06-18. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  18. ^ "Statistik Umat Menurut Agama di Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Kementerian Agama Republik Indonesia. 15 May 2018. Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2020. Muslim 231.069.932 (86.7), Christian 20.246.267 (7.6), Catholic 8.325.339 (3.12), Hindu 4.646.357 (1.74), Buddhist 2.062.150 (0.77), Confucianism 117091 (0.03), Other 299617 (0.13), Not Stated 139582 (0.06), Not Asked 757118 (0.32), Total 237641326
  19. ^ "Keputusan Bersama tentang Hari Libur Nasional dan Cuti Bersama tahun 2006" (Press release) (in Indonesian). Coordinating Ministry for Public Welfare. Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
  20. ^ "The Meaning of Procession". Waisak. Walubi (Buddhist Council of Indonesia). Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  21. ^ Apriadi Gunawan (2010-10-20). "Indonesian-Chinese protest removal of Buddha statue". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 2022-04-25. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  22. ^ "Patung Buddha di Vihara Tanjung Balai Pecinan Digusur; Alasannya Karena Dianggap Menghina Agama Mayoritas | Tionghoa.INFO". 17 April 2021. Archived from the original on 3 July 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Vihara, pagodas burned down, plundered in N. Sumatra". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 2022-09-12. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  24. ^ "Bomb placed near Buddhist temple door in Aceh". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 2022-08-04. Retrieved 2022-08-04.


Media related to Buddhism in Indonesia at Wikimedia Commons