A brief discussion of
Theravada Buddhism (a.k.a. as Southern Buddhism) now has 100
Buddhist missionaries from India took the religion to a number of
countries, but it initially only achieved a foothold in Sri Lanka.
It later spread from Sri Lanka to Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and parts
of Vietnam. They promoted the Vibhajjavada school (Separative
Teaching). By the 15th century, this form of the religion reached almost
its present geographical extent. |
Concepts and practices include:
Mahayana Buddhism (a.k.a. Northern Buddhism) is the predominant
religion in China, Japan, Korea and much of Vietnam. The tradition entered
China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220
CE). It found initial acceptance there among the workers; later, it
gradually penetrated the ruling class. Buddhism reached Japan in the 6th
century. It underwent severe repression during the 1960's in China during
the Cultural Revolution. |
Eastern Buddhism contains many distinct schools: T'ein-t'ai, Hua-yen, Pure Land teachings, and the Meditation school. They celebrate the New Year, harvest festivals, and five anniversaries from the lives of Buddha and of the Bodhissattva Kuan-yin. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting, Worship and Pilgrimage.
Vajrayana Buddhism (a.k.a. Tantric Buddhism) has perhaps 10
million adherents in parts of China, Mongolia, Russia and Tibet. It was brought
Tibet circa 750 CE by Padmasambhava at the request of the king of Tibet.
4 Conflict with the native Tibetan religion of Bon caused
it to go largely underground until its revival in the 11th century CE. The
head of the Gelu school of Buddhist teaching became the Dalai Lama, and
ruled Tibet. It has been, until recently, wrongly dismissed as a degenerate
form of Buddhism. |
Ceremony and ritual are emphasized. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting, Worship and Pilgrimage. They developed the practice of searching out a young child at the time of death of an important teacher. The child is believed to be the successor to the deceased teacher. They celebrate New Years, harvest festivals and anniversaries of five important events in the life of the Buddha. Buddhist and Tibetan culture suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution when an attempt was made to destroy all religious belief. 1
Southern Buddhism became established in Europe early in the 20th century.
Buddhism came to the U.S. in the early 19th century, with the arrival of Chinese and Japanese immigrants to Hawaii and to the west coast of the U.S. mainland. The Zen Buddhist tradition of Eastern Buddhism has developed a large following, particularly after the "Beat" generation, which began in the 1950's. Today, there are racial and cultural divides in American Buddhism, between nationalities of new immigrants, and between Caucasians and Asians. They exist largely as two solitudes, with little interaction.
|For Asian-American Buddhists, the temple "has more congregational importance, playing a key religious, social and cultural role in the community." Many have come to America recently, escaping wars in the Far East.|
|Caucasians Buddhists focus on meditation. Their groups tend to be "more lay orientated, with more women in positions of leadership. For some converts, Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion." 2|
Tricycle: The Buddhist review maintains a listing of 834 centers in the U.S., Canada and Europe at: http://220.127.116.11/tricycle/
Reliable data on Buddhism in the U.S. is hard to come by. Many estimates of total adherents to Buddhism ranged from three to four million. This would have made them the third largest religious group in the U.S., behind Christians and NOTAS (None Of The Above; persons with no religious identification.) However, the American Religious identification Survey (ARIS 2001) by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York found that the estimated number of American adults who identify themselves as Buddhist was 1,082,000 in 2001, a significant rise from 401,000 in their similar 1990 survey. This places the number of Buddhists nearly equal to the number of Muslims in the U.S., which they estimated at 1,104,000 in 2001. Numbers of Canadian Buddhists rose from 163,415 in the 1991 census to 300,345 in 2001.3
Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-APR-07
Author: B.A. Robinson
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