Why so few Western Buddhists?

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No_Mind
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Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am

Percent of population who are Buddhist (along with percent who are irreligious in parenthesis) -

USA - 1.2% (35% irreligious), UK - 0.4% (66% irreligious), France - 0.3% (53% irreligious), Germany - 0.4% (59% irreligious), Sweden - 0.4% (76% irreligious) (taken from Wikipedia)

I assume the spike in case of USA is due to larger number of immigrants from Buddhist countries. Converted Buddhists are therefore between 0.2% and 0.4% (rough estimate)

In a country with population of 10 million that is a mere 40,000.

Why are the number of Buddhist converts so low? With its lack of God(s), dictats, popes, church and open attitude, one would have thought that Buddhism in some form would be a natural religion for liberal Westerners to turn to.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:55 am

it lacks those things but it's not secular and there is hierarchy
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:04 am

Dhammarakkhito wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:55 am
it lacks those things but it's not secular and there is hierarchy
Secular means not connected with religious or spiritual matters. A religion can hardly be secular (sort of oxymoron).

But I always thought (probably I am wrong or it is a cultural bias) that everyone needs faith in something .. be it a religion or communism .. (I have found research scientists who work in a lab often replace religion with science but 50% of the population cannot be real scientists).

Is it not a lonely or shall I say unfulfilled life without belonging to any body of beliefs?

I have not seen any hierarchy in Buddhism. And if there is any .. one can bypass it and continue to believe.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by JamesTheGiant » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:19 am

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:04 am
...and continue to believe.
Maybe one reason for it being so small, is that after a little research or practise, the spiritual seeker quickly realizes it takes work and practise and effort to follow the Eight-Fold-Path. You gotta practise right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right this, right that, so much to do. You actually have to change your life and practise.
Whereas with the other religions you don't have to do much except believe and go to pray.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by SarathW » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:06 am

Whereas with the other religions you don't have to do much except believe and go to pray.
Agree.
Another reason what I see is Westerners are bogged down in two extremes of existence or non-existence.
Middle way or Noble Eightfold Path is not easy to understand.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by chownah » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:36 am

The percents of western buddhists seems pretty understandable if you look at for instance the fact that about 1.2% of the thai population is christian.
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:20 am

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am
Why are the number of Buddhist converts so low?
In the West, there is very little Buddhist infrastructure (temples, places where groups can meet) and community (very few Buddhist converts, and much fewer potentially like-minded ones).

There are so many Buddhists schools, lineages etc. to choose from that one can easily get lost in the diversity and crumble under the burden of choice (a burden that cradle Buddhists generally don't face).

Asian supremacism: the notion held by many Asian and Western Buddhists that an Asian way of doing Buddhism is the only right one. Also shows itself in the form of ignoring the challenges that prospective converts in countries and societies hostile or at least foreign to Buddhism have to face. Basically, Asian supremacists expect that prospective Western converts to Buddhism should approach Buddhism with the same kind of faith and conviction as people do who were born and raised Buddhist; and accuse the Westerners of all kinds of lowly things if they can't live up to the Asian model.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:17 am

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am
Why are the number of Buddhist converts so low? With its lack of God(s), dictats, popes, church and open attitude, one would have thought that Buddhism in some form would be a natural religion for liberal Westerners to turn to.
I think it's still very early days for western Buddhism. In an increasingly secular society it might be secular Buddhism that really attracts more people over time.
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by SarathW » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:32 am

The great thing about Western converts is their dedication even if they are few.
When I see persons like Bikhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bikkhu our own Bhikkhu Pesala, Ven Dhammanado, Ajhan Braham and Bhante Sujato a name a few are pretty incredible. Even lay people like our own David S, Joseph Goldstein, Frank who done the recording of Sutta Pitaka are hard to find.
What I am trying to say is the quality of Western Buddhist excels the conventional Buddhist as a percentage.
Western Buddhism has started with a very strong foundation.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by DNS » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:14 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:17 am
I think it's still very early days for western Buddhism. In an increasingly secular society it might be secular Buddhism that really attracts more people over time.
I agree with this. In our current time, there is a huge increase in secularization. People might identify as "Christian" or "Jewish" or "Buddhist" but in reality are non-religious, don't attend church/temple services and are basically agnostic and identify with a religion label merely because they were born into it. In the near future "non-religious" might be the number 2 ideology among the list of top 5 world religions.

I'm not a secular-Buddhist, but I think that might be the lure for many as they find the Dhamma that way. And then some might go for more of the religion - Buddhist practices after that, but first through secular Dhamma, meditation, corporate mindfulness, etc.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by dharmacorps » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:22 pm

A lot of people here in the USA attend meditation groups, retreats, and classes, but don't consider themselves "Buddhists" particularly the vipassana/insight meditation crowd which is closer to secular Buddhism than anything else. There seems to be a lot of resistance with that label. Probably judeo-christian programming running deep. A lot of people treat religious identification in this country as a racial or ethnic identification-- "Irish catholic" or whatever, something you don't lose even if you don't practice it. I know for instance, many Jewish people who don't practice Judaism but Buddhism still would call themselves Jewish on a survey. So ultimately who cares, its just a survey and probably doesn't tell you much.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by manas » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:51 pm

In a culture that often seems to glorify indulgence in sensuality, it's not surprising that relatively few see the value of the Buddhist Path.
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by DooDoot » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:42 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am
Why are the number of Buddhist converts so low? With its lack of God(s), dictats, popes, church and open attitude, one would have thought that Buddhism in some form would be a natural religion for liberal Westerners to turn to.
Why would "liberals" follow a religion since "liberalism" is the opposite of religion? Religion or dharma seeks to maintain or uphold the fabric of society (which centres on family values, the golden rule & charitableness) where as "liberalism" is often narcissistic sensual indulgence. What mostly is the result of "liberal religion" is like Protestant Evangelism, namely, salvation without morality; reincarnation without morality; ideas like when man destroys the earth we will all be reincarnated in other galaxies (to start the destructive narcissism all over again).
manas wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:51 pm
In a culture that often seems to glorify indulgence in sensuality, it's not surprising that relatively few see the value of the Buddhist Path.
This seems to be implying that most Westerners who regard themselves as "Buddhists" are abandoning sensuality.
dharmacorps wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:22 pm
A lot of people here in the USA attend meditation groups, retreats, and classes, but don't consider themselves "Buddhists" particularly the vipassana/insight meditation crowd which is closer to secular Buddhism than anything else. There seems to be a lot of resistance with that label. Probably judeo-christian programming running deep. A lot of people treat religious identification in this country as a racial or ethnic identification-- "Irish catholic" or whatever, something you don't lose even if you don't practice it. I know for instance, many Jewish people who don't practice Judaism but Buddhism still would call themselves Jewish on a survey. So ultimately who cares, its just a survey and probably doesn't tell you much.
This might simply be indicative of a lack of commitment to or otherwise lack of spiritual penetration into the reality of Buddhism. Just flip-flop folks sitting on the fence. For example, the Jewish people don't know or discern the family values in Buddhism and, while they are probably mostly liberals, they still connect family values to their Jewish roots (which has a very strong family tradition). Lack of gratitude towards the Buddha-Dhamma is often due to a lack of real results from practise.
Dinsdale wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:17 am
I think it's still very early days for western Buddhism. In an increasingly secular society it might be secular Buddhism that really attracts more people over time.
I doubt this myself. Buddhism started as a "liberal" ideology in the West therefore has missed the "moral majority" market. Buddhism is attracting liberals, hedonists, LBGT, feminists, mentally-ill and other fringe groups, which probably won't create any sustainable or coherent future. Unlike the Buddha, who taught "gods & humans", Western Buddhism is pretty much caught up recruiting from the hungry-ghost (those searching for love) & hell (suffering) realms.
SarathW wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:32 am
The great thing about Western converts is their dedication even if they are few. When I see persons like Bikhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bikkhu our own Bhikkhu Pesala, Ven Dhammanado, Ajhan Braham and Bhante Sujato a name a few are pretty incredible. Even lay people like our own David S, Joseph Goldstein, Frank who done the recording of Sutta Pitaka are hard to find. What I am trying to say is the quality of Western Buddhist excels the conventional Buddhist as a percentage. Western Buddhism has started with a very strong foundation.
Six monks, including monks promoting left-wing liberal ideologies & literal Hindu reincarnation (of Ian Stevenson)? Do you really think this upholds the essence of Buddhism? Or are you one of those Asians who wants to be freed from sexual conservatism; like Muslim & Christian kids who post in Reditt asking Buddhists: "Since my parents disapprove of me having sex with a girlfriend, I heard Buddhism will allow me?"
binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:20 am
Asian supremacism: the notion held by many Asian and Western Buddhists that an Asian way of doing Buddhism is the only right one. Also shows itself in the form of ignoring the challenges that prospective converts in countries and societies hostile or at least foreign to Buddhism have to face. Basically, Asian supremacists expect that prospective Western converts to Buddhism should approach Buddhism with the same kind of faith and conviction as people do who were born and raised Buddhist; and accuse the Westerners of all kinds of lowly things if they can't live up to the Asian model.
The Western Xtians do a very good job of converting hundreds of millions of Asians to Christianity, including getting Asians, like Chinese, to worship the Jewish Patriarchs & Family Lineages. :tongue:
chownah wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:36 am
The percents of western buddhists seems pretty understandable if you look at for instance the fact that about 1.2% of the thai population is christian.
chownah. I think this is an invalid comparison because Thais are fierce nationalists & 'Buddhists'. Maybe start comparing to Sri Lankans and then move to Chinese. It is forecast Christianity could be a major religion in China soon enough.
Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... years.html
:alien:
JamesTheGiant wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:19 am
Maybe one reason for it being so small, is that after a little research or practise, the spiritual seeker quickly realizes it takes work and practise and effort to follow the Eight-Fold-Path. You gotta practise right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right this, right that, so much to do. You actually have to change your life and practise.
I agree here. Having a complete conviction & gratitude towards Buddhism is difficult, which probably leads to Westerners still clinging to their old social roots. The Buddha-Dhamma has not yet become their Saviour & Real Teacher & Real Home.
Dhammavaro wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:06 pm
5 of my friends are living in Buddhist temple since 10 to 30 years. But on the paper , they are still Christians. In my country it's not good to leave the Catholic Church for some reasons. But real Buddhism will not attracte many people. Mara is too strong
Buddhism certainly invites non-Buddhists to fondle or experiment with Buddhist practises; which probably contributes to this.
SarathW wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:06 am
Another reason what I see is Westerners are bogged down in two extremes of existence or non-existence. Middle way or Noble Eightfold Path is not easy to understand.
Probably the idea that repulses most people is the idea of billions of past & future lives until Nirvana. I think most religious minded people prefer the idea of going to heaven or paradise with Jesus or Allah. For the majority of people, I think the idea of billions of past & future lives sounds crazy.

:candle:
Last edited by DooDoot on Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:22 pm, edited 7 times in total.

Dhammavaro
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Dhammavaro » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:06 pm

5 of my friends are living in Buddhist temple since 10 to 30 years. But on the paper , they are still Christians. In my country it's not good to leave the Catholic Church for some reasons.

But real Buddhism will not attracte many people.
Mara is too strong
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by SarathW » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:33 pm

Six monks, including monks promoting left-wing liberal ideologies & literal Hindu reincarnation (of Ian Stevenson)? Do you really think this upholds the essence of Buddhism? Or are you one of those Asians who wants to be freed from sexual conservatism; like Muslim & Christian kids who post in Reditt asking Buddhists: "Since my parents disapprove of me having sex with a girlfriend, I heard Buddhism will allow me?"
Sorry. I do not get what you mean here.
Just give me what you do not like for each of these monks.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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