Buddhism made inroads into Philippines when the Srivijaya empire in Malaysia gained prominence. This was the period between 7th century to 13th century. Later, on the arrival of the Chinese and Indian merchants between the 14th - 20th century brought in the Buddhist knowledge as well as Buddhist iconography. Buddhist statues and artefacts from this era is a proof to the influence that Buddhism had amongst the people in Philippines.
Today, the Buddhist community in Philippines is relatively small, with Buddhist forming only 2% of the total population. However, despite this, Philippines still is the 20th largest country in the world as far as Buddhist population goes.
Schools of Buddhism
All the important schools of Buddhism are well represented in Philippines although it is predominantly Mahayana School of Buddhism that is practised in the country. Other Schools of Buddhism are also making their presence felt gradually amongst the people. Prime amongst these are - Nichiren Buddhism, Thervada Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism.
The first of these is a branch of Buddhism based on the teachings of Nichiren, a 13th century Japanese monk. This form of Buddhism is known most for its focus on the Lotus Sutra (one of the most popular Mahayana sutra in the East and South East Asia) and a belief that each individual has an innate Buddha nature which makes him capable of attaining enlightenment.
Thervada Buddhism is the oldest form of Buddhism in this world and is the most important religion of the people of Sri Lanka and Thailand. It is from these two countries that Thervada Buddhism has been imported into Philippines.
Vajrayana Buddhism has entered the country from Tibet. Though, it is a part of the Mahayana Buddhism, it is considered the third major 'vehicle' (Yana) of Buddhism, alongside the Theravada and Mahayana.