Indonesian government fixes misspelling of 'Buddha'

An Indonesian man holding burning incense at a temple in Jakarta, on Feb 19, 2019.
An Indonesian man holding burning incense at a temple in Jakarta, on Feb 19, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - After decades, the government has corrected a misspelling of Buddhism, which was previously spelled as "Budha" on identity cards instead of the correct Indonesian spelling of "Buddha".

Buddhism is acknowledged as one of the six official religions in the country. All citizens are required to formally adopt one religion, as identity cards require the mention of one.

On Feb 6, the Home Ministry issued a letter to announce that its Civil Registry and Population Agency had made the correction.

The vice-chairman of the Council of Buddhist Communities, Mr Jandi Mukianto, told The Jakarta Post that the Buddhist community had, for a long time, requested that the government fix the spelling.

In its most recent attempt in December 2017, Mr Jandi sent a letter to the Civil Registry and Population Agency and the Religious Affairs Ministry to ask that the change be made.

"The Buddhists are finally getting a proper spelling for our religion on the ID card after a long time," Mr Jandi said recently.

Mr Jandi also questioned why it took such a long time for the government to fix the misspelling.

"I don't know whether it was because of the complicated bureaucracy or because there are only a few Buddhists in this country, but it took years to fix the misspelling," he said.

Mr Jandi also stressed that the spelling had to follow the correct spelling in the Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language, in which the religion is spelled as "Buddha".

Buddhism, the world's fourth-largest religion, is estimated to have over 500 million followers, according to a 2019 overview of demographic data website World Population Review. In Indonesia itself, Statistics Indonesia recorded 1.7 million Buddhists in the country as of 2010.

Viryananda, a Buddhist monk from Medan, North Sumatra, explained that Buddha, the root word for Buddhism, was derived from "budha graha", a Sanskrit word that signifies planet Mercury.

He also said that Buddha was a title used to refer to those who were enlightened, which is why it was important to write each term correctly, the monk stressed.

The Buddhist communities in Indonesia also appreciated the move, despite decades of waiting.

The vice-chairman of the North Sumatra chapter of the Budayana Indonesia Council, Mr Tony Aci, said Indonesian Buddhists had long fought for their right to be recognised by their religion's proper spelling on official documents.

"All this time, we have been protesting against the incorrect spelling of our religion because it is different than how it is written in Pali," he said, referring to the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism texts.

Responding to the misspelling, the Religious Affairs Ministry's director for Buddhist community development, Mr Supriyadi, said the mistake happened because of a limited understanding of Buddhism.

"It has nothing to do with political issues or something like that. It merely happened due to the limited knowledge regarding Buddhism, that's all," he told The Jakarta Post.