Why Buddhism is not growing?


I used to worry about this. But the Dhamma is a gradual path, so I now think it is good that some aspects of Dhamma are getting a wide exposure. Some who come across these concepts will want to go deeper, others will not.



Interesting comment about Advaita out-competing Buddhism. Do you have any ideas about why Advaita might be more appealing?


Advaita and Tantra, in my experience, are more willing to meld and blend with the New Age movement, perhaps sacrificing aspects of themselves temporarily for the sake of youth marketability, than most Buddhisms are willing. New Ageism is making a huge comeback with the young generation. That is my suspicion at least. It will he interesting to see @TheSynergist’s experiences are.


I would say most people won’t go deeper. The style of practice is pretty different from what you get at a Monastery. When the local monastery here opened up they invited quite a few people, barely anyone came. Those that did, didn’t come for long.

It’s a real shame because the Monastery does a lot of good work. They have regular Dhamma class, Dhamma talks and meditation practice. All taught by a Monk. They give regular one day retreats. All this for free and yet very few people come! I would be there everyday if wasn’t for work and family responsibilities. Once I discovered the Monastery I never went back to the “meditation group”.

I have my theory as to why people prefer these groups, which I won’t discuss here.


I wouldn’t go as far as to call them counterfeit, but the stuff they taught was all over the place and felt more like a self help/self motivation group. Which is a good thing I guess. They were nice people, I just felt I wasn’t learning much about actual Buddhism at these groups.


Please discuss. It is interesting to know why some meditation groups failed.


Yeah, advaita does tap more into the New Age/“Spiritual but not Religious” crowd. Western Buddhism, by contrast, tries to tap into the “scientific” and “rationalist” crowd. About a third of americans believe in reincarnation, according to Pew, and belief in spiritual/New Age stuff is higher amongst those under 65.

IMHO Buddhists should try to do more to appeal to spiritual people. I think part of the problem is that Buddhist converts skew educated, which gives them an inflated sense of how many atheist scientific materialists there truly are. The same Pew study found that non college graduates are more likely to hold New Age believes than more educated ppl.


Yes, that’s my experience. It takes effort to come to grips with a monastic approach. And, in my case, with monks that didn’t speak much English…

Some people are just not ready for that, and may choose “lighter” options. That doesn’t mean that they get no benefit at all…



I think it’s a good thing that the ‘lighter’ options are out there. They can offer immediate relief and point the way towards deeper approaches. Many westerners only find out about the monasteries in their midst by attending such groups. The n8f path is a gradual one, and the first steps have to be taken somewhere.


Hi Gillian,

Yes. Well put. And it may take a while… Some of the very dedicated practitioners I know have significant aversions or blind spots when it comes to monasteries and monastics. They attend talks by Western monks who are famous enough, or quote selected famous Asians, such as Thich Nhat Hanh or the Dalai Lama, but overlook the Thai, Sri Lankan, Korean, and Tibetan monastics who actually live here. Many are very concerned with the environment, etc, but don’t recognise that Fo Guang Shan actually gets out and engages with our community… On the positive side, they do like the Fo Guang Shan Cafe and Art Gallery…



Details please?


You want the menu? :sweat_smile:


This is so true. I have been very fortunate to have found a Thai Wat in the United States with monks from Thailand who have come to the U.S. to serve the Thai and Southeast Asian immigrant community in the area. Apart from the Western men married to Southeast Asian wives, there are only a handful of Westerners such as myself who attend the Wat on a regular basis.

Apart from services the monks offer to the Thai and Southeast Asian laypeople at the Wat, there are also weekly meditation lessons that are specifically directed towards Americans who want to learn either about meditation or who want to delve more deeply into Buddhist teachings. There are probably fewer than ten individuals among those who started with the weekly meditation lessons who have come to embrace Buddhism more deeply (I am one of them). Most of the rest seemingly are content simply with meditation or have drifted away.

To be fair, there is a major metropolitan area an hour’s drive away with many more resources including those which stress the Dhamma and those focusing more on meditation practices. So for Westerners in that large city there are numerous options, some of which are easily recognizable as “Buddhist,” others which might better fall into the category of “mindfulness meditation.”


Hi Metaphor,

Yes, that’s similar to my experience… Our Wat unfortunately currently has difficulty catering to Westerners due to lack of monks with good enough English.

And, as in your experience, most western men married to Thai women don’t take Dhamma seriously. A very small number (like me) do. A few have made the effort to speak Thai well enough that they can communicate well with their wives. Others seem to have little interest in Thai language, Thai culture, or in Dhamma…


Actually I was interested in the art gallery (but when I saw the photos of the food I decided to rush to Sydney airport asap).


In my opinion light option is not going to work on the long run based on my Sri Lankan experience. When lay people get lite monks get lite. When monastics get lite lay people get even more lite and become a vicious cycle.


Like those who like to DJ in their bedroom I think there are bedroom Buddhists, but sadly not enough teaching or teacher numbers nowhere near what it should be, dedicated for them. A parallel example would be the alpha course in Christianity. The current Buddhism lite (which includes secular Buddhism) vs ‘heavy’ is a doctrinal difference- I would prefer a ‘practice split’ of off-retreat and on-retreat and maybe a further ‘step’ of ordination and the practice that follows on from that. I don’t like that dhamma-‘heavy’ might not know how to attract those people suited for dhamma-‘lite’ instructions and that dhamma-‘light’ instructors don’t know about dhamma-‘heavy’ and limit the student, just in dhamma-‘lite’!

It’s also the case that some dhamma-‘lite’ practitioners need dhamma ‘heavy’ and some dhamma ‘heavy’ practitioners need dhamma ‘lite’ instructions. The recursive nature of practicing the N8FP is an important principle. So it’s helpful to revisit both types of instructions with time. Dhamma ‘heavy’ and ‘lite’ is an artificial distinction on a gradually progressive path to the mountain top, of Enlightenment!

If the EBTs could be simplified down to the essential ‘core’ I wonder if students would engage with it, better? There may be different opinions about what the core is but I think the overall overlap would overcome those difficulties!


I think the circumstances in Buddhist-heritage countries and nonBuddhist heritage countries are a bit different.

I was thinking of a distinction based on physical locations and social groups that are largely but not totally separated. You are talking more directly about teachings. I agree with you about the recursive nature of practice and think you’re making an important point.

Paths that spiral slowly up the mountain of enlightenment, crossing each other as they progress. :sunny:


Adam’s peak, Sri Lanka!


Yeah for sure. I didn’t mean to imply these groups have no benefit. Clearly many people get benefit from and find these groups useful. To each his own. :slight_smile: