Why Buddhism is not growing?


Yeah the Canadian guy is mentally ill. It wasn’t him that bothered me so much, it was more the Buddhist Monk being ok and even agreeing with his views. I sure hope that movement doesn’t grow, though their presence is growing online. There are now several websites dedicated to this type of Buddhism.

Both the Monk and the Canadian guy have been involved with Buddhism for a long time. They are both pretty familiar with Buddhist scriptures.


Everyone wants to find a niche. I imagine Buddhism is poorly represented among Nazis, skinheads, the alt-right, what-have-you. I imagine that someone marketing themselves as two contradictory things at once, a monk and a Nazi, might be attention grabbing. Some people love attention, whether it is positive or negative, and I imagine this monk in his dialogues with his “teacher” attracts a fair amount of attention, even negative attention such as if you or I would happen to see the video and disagree with it.

In a weird way, this loops back to the OP. Does Buddhism need to grow everywhere into any and every community? What does it mean for Buddhism to grow into a community like that of white supremacists? Can Buddhism grow into any community? Is the dharma really that adaptive? Do some communities need to come to Buddhism, and necessarily away from their former communities and associates and their ideologies, rather than Buddhism coming to them?


When are religions growing in general? Probably for multiple reasons, among them charismatic leaders and proselyting. And what is ‘growing’ anyway? People who worship the Buddha with flowers and chants? People who meditate but don’t call themselves ‘Buddhists’?

Let’s face it, Theravada is a rusty old-fashioned religion where again a preacher ‘who knows’ preaches to the ignorant masses who don’t know. I think westeners have had enough of this type of religion (i.e. Christianity) and it will never get a great numbers of followers in this form. Which is why people are drawn to entertaining teachers (like A.Brahm) or intellectually more appealing ones like Batchelor.

Why should people become ‘Buddhists’ at all? Happiness? Avoid hell? meditation? liberation? Someone who labels themselves ‘Buddhist’ is not automatically a good person, or a better person than a ‘Christian’.

When people come to our meditation group, I always ask them “Why do you want to meditate?” If they tell me they want to relax or learn how to switch off thinking I usually tell them that there are more effective ways to do it. Then again you have (had?) the hype of mindfulness-based approaches - Buddhism is growing in watered-down versions.


Are you a Buddhist?


Just a reminder that this thread asks the question “Why Buddhism is not growing?” … what happens in other forums can safely be left there and not dragged over here.


I can’t offer a source but I’m pretty sure that somewhere the Buddha told the monks that they were only to teach the Dhamma if they were requested to do so. Can someone confirm this?

I heard it from certain Thai/Burmese trained bhikkhus/bhikkhunis who wanted to asked formally to teach at the beginning of every scheduled Dhamma talk.


I think the Dhamma has yet to fully adapt.

I think it’s exactly then the Dhamma is truly necessary!

The parents might have an identity crisis, whether they are Buddhists. Or they might be neglecting their duty as parents in teaching what is right and wrong to their children as in Advice to Sigalaka sutta. Or it could be an anti-religious inclination after negative experiences of Christianity!

Not sure. It’s a reasonable method to wasting time and filtering out trying to teach to those who won’t even muster up the will to ask for a teaching from teachers. What is the likelihood they will actually put it into practice. It’s rather a different kettle of fish with the internet.


Generally it seems that Buddhists don’t proselytise, though I’m not clear about the rationale for that.
There are often Christians outside my local supermarket offering leaflets. Its not the kind of thing I’d be inclined to do, though actually I can’t see a strong reason for not doing it.


People usually trust other people that they know. At least someone might take more kindly to a real person saying something compared to a website saying something.


In some (Buddhist) traditions mendicants will only give a Dhamma talk if formally invited to do so.
Is this rule actually laid down somewhere?

The sekhiyas variously prohibit mendicants from teaching the Dhamma to certain people or in certain circumstance, but I don’t see anything along the lines of ‘not to teach the Dhamma to someone without first being invited’.

Thanks and mettā.


“Proselytise” is often used in a pejorative way, but actually I dont see a problem with raising public awareness about Buddhism, particularly in countries like the UK where Buddhism isn’t mainstream, and where many people don’t have convenient access to a Buddhist centre or group. The Internet might not be ideal, but what are the practical alternatives?


Hence the need for getting to know people through a forum!


Forums are definitely helpful, though I think face-to-face contact with other Buddhists is also important. Maybe traveling to a centre or monastery, or going on retreats. Or setting up a local group if there is nothing in the area - which has the advantage of making Buddhism more available to others at the local level.
Or handing out copies of the Dhammapada at your local Tesco… :laughing:


I fail to understand why this isn’t being done? Is it because the minorities who actually keep the temples going feel alienated or don’t know how best to interact with their adopted land? Or is it because westerners feel they are outsiders to Buddhist religion?


The question is, why aren’t you or I doing it?
Or to put the question more positively, what can we all do personally to make Buddhism more available, or more accessible, or better known, or whatever?


I think we have to ask where the growth is coming from.

  • Increase the population of existing Buddhists
  • Stop existing Buddhist convert to other religions including atheists
  • Conversion from other religions
    My experience is more and more Buddhist are converted to other religions and their children accept the new religion due to strong opposition to conversion by others. For instance, Islam imposes the death penalty for giving up Islam. All the Buddhist who convert to Christianity become Christians including their children. (I may be wrong)
    The biggest problem I see is many Buddhist do not see the difference in Buddhism and other religions.
    Many Buddhist know only the ethical aspect of Buddhism and think that all relegions are the same.
    Many aware of the Sila and leser extent of Samma Samadhi. Many Buddhist do not have a knowledge of Panna. (wisdom)
    What additional ethics you find in Buddhism which are not found in other religions?
    What additional ethics you find in Buddhism which are not found in other religions? - Dhamma Wheel


It seems the issue has more to do with birth and death rates, than any growth or decline due to the merits of the religion or practices:

It’s mainly down to births and deaths, rather than religious conversion. Muslim women have an average of 2.9 children, significantly above the average of all non-Muslims at 2.2. And while Christian women have an overall birth rate of 2.6, it’s lower in Europe where Christian deaths outnumbered births by nearly 6 million between 2010 and 2015. Religion: why faith is becoming more and more popular | News | The Guardian

I’d argue that with respect to Buddhism, there will be growth in parts of the world where science and reason are fundamental to the culture. For example, one article points to Buddhism being the fastest growing religion in Australia. Here in the US, Buddhism seems to be growing and inviting interest from individuals raised, for example, in Catholic or Jewish families. I’d also argue that it might be true that, while the sheer numbers of Buddhists may remain static, the quality of that Buddhism might improve, thanks to SC and other avenues where more people have access to Dhamma in more languages. This will clearly bring more inquiring people into Buddhist practice.

Some declines in Buddhism may stem from evangelization efforts in traditionally Buddhist regions. I have seen, for example, in northern Thailand, very active efforts by Christians with US based churches bringing education, healthcare, money and other incentives to Buddhist regions, and converting people there to Christianity. I find this to be tragic, insofar as many of these traditionally Buddhist families might be better served, no matter their economic status, living and raising their kids with the Dhamma vs. a “faith-based” spiritual crutch such as American evangelical Christianity, but this trend seems not to be reversible in some Asian communities.

So, if the quantity of Buddhists around the globe is not growing relative to other religions, due to birth and death rates, and coerced conversion issues, I expect that the quality will grow. I also see a real cross-pollination with other groups and factions in the west, such as the “mindfulness movement” and popular media figures (such as Sam Harris, Dan Harris and others) who all but speak of and teach Buddhist principles without using the word “Buddha.”

“Why Buddhism is not growing?”

I’d say Buddhism is growing, in ways that might not be as obvious or measurable as the Pew article suggests.


I just want to say a lot of us do end up Buddhist. But our attitudes might be very different than our convert parents. I am much more comfortable (though not fundamentalist about it) with the more religious components and much lazier about the practice component. Though I take the ethical conduct of Buddhism pretty seriously. I did do temporary ordination in Thailand. And I had a very very very serious practitioner moments in my life. But in some ways, not having chosen Buddhism, I have an attitude akin to many Buddhists who are born Buddhist in Asia (though by far not identical) who just want to make merit and hope for a good rebirth down the road and follow the path more seriously down the road! :woman_shrugging:t3:

I am exaggerating a little. I do take a lot of dhamma/Dharma seriously, otherwise I wouldn’t be here on this forum and reading suttas and mahayana sutras and occasionally going on retreats.

Anyway, for the most part, Buddhism wasn’t pushed on me by my mother. But she did sometimes give meditation techniques for me to work with as a kid and I enjoyed chanting. But I was left to my own devices to find my spiritual path. Personally, I am grateful for this approach in my upbringing. And being surrounded by dhamma/Dharma growing up, and as a very spiritually inclined kid, I did end up taking refuge and officially choosing Dharma at an age I could understand what I was doing. If I ever chose to have kids, I would do something similar for them. Expose them, but not push them to believe. And give bitesize buddhist inspired snippets when they are in need of advice or consolation (when appropriate).

I have met plenty of other Dharma brats (as we are called) and I would say we do share some or many of these experiences in common. Not all of us choose Buddhism, but we all share a deep (and sometimes critical—I can be highly critical of Buddhist institutions and very agnostic about certain teachings, even foundational ones) respect for it. And I don’t think any of us escape seeing the world with certain Buddhist colored glasses.

I am a sample size of one, though, so please don’t assume we all end up the same!


I don’t know the dates the article discussed, but I remember seeing figures that showed this increase was due more to immigration from SEAsia than to conversions. I would assume that more recently the proportion of migrants who are Buddhist has decreased.


Well the re-birth rates would presumably be affected by the percentage of non-returners. Perhaps we should think on the path to perfection rather than non-return?