Buddhist scholars reaffirmed the strong influence of Buddhism directly from India to Vietnam at an International Buddhist Conference in Hanoi on April 6.

"Buddhism was first introduced into Vietnam as early as first century BC by Indian traders and monks," said Professor Sachchidanand Sahai from India .

Today, there are more than 20,000 Buddhist pagodas throughout the country.

"All testify to a vigorous development of Buddhism in Vietnam ," said the professor on the sideline of the two-day conference.

The conference aims to help Buddhist scholars from Vietnam , India , China , Sri Lanka , Cambodia and Thailand explore and strengthen the rich cultural ties that developed from the teachings of Buddha.

The conference is being held as part of a joint commemoration by Vietnam and India of the 2600th anniversary of the attainment of enlightment by Lord Buddha.

The executive secretary and deputy head of the Department for International Buddhist Affairs of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, Venerable Thich Duc Thien, said Vietnamese culture had absorbed Buddhism directly from Indian traders and monks.

The venerable said materials and antiques left at Dau Pagoda in the northen province of Bac Ninh were made about 1,752 years ago. This proved the pagoda was one of the oldest in Vietnam .

Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu, standing vice president of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, confirmed that Buddhism from India had intermingled into Mahayana Buddhism brought to Vietnam along the Silk Road into China and brought vitality to Vietnam 's culture.

"It has become part and parcel of the national culture," Tu said.

Between 70 percent and 80 percent of Vietnamese population believe in Buddhism, according to the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. /.