Although Myanmar is predominantly a Theravada Buddhist country, some animists exist, especially in remote areas and hilly regions made up of ethnic minorities. But spirit-worship has crept into the lives of a considerable number of Myanmar people who are Buddhist by tradition. The cult of spirit-worship dates back to the time of King Anawrahta of Bagan in the 11th Century A.D. He introduced Theravada Buddhism into Myanmar but had to tolerate and permit spirit worship. Since then, the spirits as well as their worshipers have thrived throughout the country especially in such places as Mount Popa and Taung Byone, a small town north of Mandalay.
Although the devotees of the spirits understand that one's liberation ultimately depends on his own deeds according to Buddha's teaching, they are easily misled into thinking that current or impending troubles may somehow be eased by a helping hand from a favourite guardian spirit. Outside the Buddhist lent, hundreds of small fetes are held all over the country in honour of the spirits while the bigger ones are held annually in Mount Popa and Taung Byone. While it may sound like some dark gothic ritual, the supernatural event in Myanmar is anything but solemn. The aim is after all to make the spirits happy in order to put them in a generous mood to grant favours and fulfill wishes. So there is always plenty of merriment on those occasions.
One percent of Myanmar's population are animists, believers in the spirits that surround us.
Animists in East Asia
Mongolia - pop 3m, 50% animist
Vietnam - pop 70m, 3% animist
Cambodia - pop 9m, 3% animist
China - pop 1200m, 3% animist
Malaysia - pop 20m, 2% animist
Philippines - pop 75m, 2% animist
Indonesia - pop 202m, 1% animist
Myanmar - pop 70m, 1% animist