Most Laotians are followers of Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Indian prince Gautama Siddhartha. He was given the title Buddha, which means "enlightened one." Buddhism provides a code of conduct and set of practical rules for living. It is not a religion of divine revelation or inspiration. According to Buddhism, individuals are reborn after death. Dharma is the basic principle of Buddhist education. It consists of duties, virtues and principles of conduct. Karma refers to the actions that determine an individual's lifespan and the nature of the next life, with its rewards and punishments.
Buddhists seek to follow the eightfold path to nirvana (the perfect state), where rebirth is no longer necessary. The eightfold path consists of right understanding, right thoughts, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right attentiveness and right concentration. 

Over the centuries, two schools of Buddhist thought have developed. Theravada Buddhists believe that each individual must work to bring about his or her own nirvana. Mahayana Buddhists believe that individuals cannot achieve their own nirvana, but can only approach this state. Nirvana will come only when all people are ready for salvation. Most Laotians are Theravada Buddhists.

Some Laotians practise a traditional form of spirit religion or phi worship. According to the spirit tradition, Naga is a king dragon who rules the waters and all that live in them. Garuda, son of the winds, is the king bird responsible for all things that fly. Deva Da is the realm where angels and gods live, while humans and animals live on earth. If people want long lives and prosperity, they should take care not to offend anyone. Many Laotians maintain small altars in their homes where they make offerings to the spirits. They may also perform a ritual called su khwan or basi in which the 32 guardian spirits who protect an individual are tied to a person's wrists with white threads. This ritual may be performed when someone is ill or is about to undertake an important project or journey.
Although Laos is a Communist and mainly Buddhist society, all people are permitted to worship freely. There are small communities of Christians and Muslims in Laos.
  Did you know?
Buddhist men usually spend several weeks or months in a monastery after leaving school and before starting work. They live with few possessions, practise meditation and use a begging bowl to gather food for the monastery from people in the neighbourhood.