Why Buddhism is not growing?


Simplifying the EBT to an essential core would be an interesting exercise.
The 3-fold expression of the 8-fold path might be a contender, ie sila, samadhi and panna.


In my experience the, having run some groups in Sri Lanka, it is best to have a temple setting with those practicing ritualistic Buddhism as a first tier , and a meditation or sutta based teaching as a second tier. The third tier could be a links with an established retreat centre. Or the meditation group could organise the retreat as required. The fourth step would be medium and long term retreat settings/exploring different teachers/expertise for advanced practitioners. Finally there’s ordination in a supportive monastery environment! It’s a problem when teachers remain in the dhamma ‘lite’ and there’s no clear upward path to progress, or when the teachers are confused with a) what are the limits of the dhamma practice and involve Advaita, Yoga or other unrelated practices (but generally non-religious psychology might be helpful, including mindfulness) b) a poor understanding of what the Dhamma is (lack of right view); monks stating their personal understanding as The Dhamma.


As loyal readers of this forum know, I am a Westerner practicing at a Thai Wat in the United States. Although I have been practicing for only a little more than a year, many laypeople and some of the monks have suggested that I might think about ordaining at some point, even if only for a short period. In addition to the Thai monks who live at the Wat, there is now an American in residence who ordained full-time in April after having practiced at the Wat for the last ten years. The laypeople think it would be nice if more Americans joined him. Last summer an American ordained for a retreat. Also, the children of the Thai immigrant families in the area obviously contemplate short-term ordination at some point. There is no pressure to ordain either on the Thai population or the few Westerners such as myself who practice at the Wat. But it is nice to know that the Wat offers more than simply meditation lessons to the Westerners who happen upon what is otherwise a Wat that primarily serves the Southeast Asian immigrant community in the region.


I was thinking along the lines of bringing together all the concepts in EBTs, probably under the structure of the Four Noble truths, with some outliers, like including the initial approach to a teacher, etc.

But you are correct that even that could be simplified. ‘I teach only suffering and the ending of it’, three trainings, etc. and have an introductory module, of sorts!


As in, “dude! let’s start with losing the Identity View!” ? :rofl:

I’m not really sure how to market that to minds occupied by selfies. People regularly die to get those selfies. :cry:


So what could this Thai Wat do, to reduce the number of hoops a westerner would have to jump through, to get to the dhamma? As a born Sri Lankan I find it hard to visualise what it must be like for someone from a different culture to visit a temple. For sure, I didn’t learn to practice Buddhism from my local temple. And most temples aren’t well culturally integrated to know how best to reach the community around them, when transplanted out of their traditional settings. Some monks don’t speak English. But it must be valuable to get a sense of the rituals and the values it imparts as well. Some people find the chanting is a form of attraction. However if the monk is practicing and can communicate well, then it is great thing for many individuals who come to the temple! While not everyone can be as appealing as Ajhan Brahm or Ajhan Sujato in their humour or erudite sermons, the embodiment of renunciate values is valuable if only as a symbol IMO. The facility to ordain must be delightful and I missed it, as temporarily ordaining is not a tradition in Sri Lanka. I see the cultural festivals and rituals being carried out as essentially a gathering potential for potential talent, for deeper practice and ordination! It’s said when King Ashoka implanted Buddhism in Sri Lanka he sent people of various trades that kept Buddhism alive, culturally, though this also created the confusion (conflict?) between culture and the dhamma. This might explain some Hindu practices in Sri Lankan Buddhism.


That’s how it is, Kassapa. When sentient beings are in decline and the true teaching is disappearing there are more training rules and fewer enlightened mendicants. The true teaching doesn’t disappear as long the counterfeit of the true teaching hasn’t appeared in the world. But when the counterfeit of the true teaching appears in the world then the true teaching disappears.


It’s not my personal favorite, but IMO the only way for Buddhism to grow in the west is to become a rigid science of mind-development. To be inspired by the suttas, but not relying on them. Shedding the artificial language, the weird concepts, the supernatural notions, the Buddhist jargon.

The past century spoke about transformation of mind and consciousness, and while it was partly Buddhism-inspired, many influential teachers spoke a contemporary language. This is possible today as well.

Mind is real, and has its own reality, and its laws and logic. And Buddhist practitioners I think should reformulate their insights in a language of today, without the theatrics of suttas or sutras. And I don’t mean a shallow version like MBSR. It can retain the radical outlook of the original, just stop revering the palm leaves.

In Asia it’s a different story altogether. There will be many more waves of fundamentalist come-backs, religious Buddhism, ritualist Buddhism, etc. ‘Traditional’ Buddhism might well have a growing future in Asia and in Asian expat communities.


The Dhamma is profoundly counter cultural, when you think about it. It isn’t without reason that the Buddha reportedly considered not teaching it at all.

Basically, the Dhamma says that pleasures are impermanent and hence cause suffering, and so we should get rid of wanting them in the first place. The only rational response to a world that is impermanent like a soap bubble is to let go of attachment to it, and all it has to offer. Our culture worships pleasure, as it did 2500 years ago.

Renunciation is not going to be a “mass market” idea, ever, in my opinion. Nor do I see why it should be.

When it comes to Advaita Vedanta, the western version is very light on doctrine. So no preachy doctrines about rebirth, no hell, no real teaching about karma. That is helpful in a culture that has stopped trusting in dogmas by figures of authority, and is probably what the Buddha of the Kalama Sutta would have prescribed for us anyway.

Basically, western “Advaita light” amounts to a few highly effective teachings/contemplations that are used to show that the little self inside/as the body cannot be real. People can have very real breakthroughs on the spiritual path with the help of Advaita, in my opinion, but it stops short of stream entry, and stagnates, in large part because of the Brahman-belief.

Instead of the little “me”, consciousness is reified into one’s true self, the big “cinema screen” - self on which all experience happens. And even when one lets go of the cinema screen, one is still left with the idea that consciousness is the stuff everything is made out of, and that it is absolute. “I awareness” or “I consciousness”.

From a Buddhist point of view, that is like saying that weather is the stuff rain is made out of.

EDIT: I also think Stephen Batchelor has a point about people clinging to God or God’s surrogates, such as the non-dual, the absolute, the ultimate truth, etc.


Possessions, honor, and popularity are brutal … When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This venerable would not tell a deliberate lie even for the sake of a silver bowl filled with gold powder.’ But some time later I see them tell a deliberate lie because their mind is overcome and overwhelmed by possessions, honor, and popularity. So brutal are possessions, honor, and popularity. …”


I think it is safer to be remain as no 2.


I had been under the impression that Buddhism was growing in the west. It will continue to grow as long as people allow western Buddhists to be creative in their interpretation of the tradition, and also don’t associate Buddhism with negative and oppressive forces in the world.

If there ever could be such a thing as a rigorous science of mental development, one wouldn’t need a spiritual tradition.


According to Buddhist teaching Buddha appears in this world only rarely.
You can learn Buddhism only from Buddha’s teaching.
For that we need spiritual tradition.


This series is interesting reading:

Folk Buddhism is the popular understanding and practice of Buddhism. It is less refined but more accessible to average people who have not had the opportunity or inclination to devote themselves intensely to Essential Buddhism. This bifurcation is inevitable and desirable in Buddhism.

In essence, the argument is that the “Dhamma Lite” is the West’s Folk Buddhism…

The argument is that it takes a large number of “Folk Buddhists” to support the “Essential Buddhists”. So, in traditional Buddhist countries you need many of lay supporters to support each monastic. It wouldn’t work to have all monastics - they would starve (if they stuck to the vinaya).


What about Vimalaramsi and the “American Forest Tradition”? Is that considered American folk Buddhism?


I don’t know much about how that is organised, but it appears to me to be a kind of variation on traditional Buddhism (with monastics and lay people).


There are several types of ‘Buddhism’, some of them will grow, but there is a maximum market share in the west, it won’t just continue to grow.

But it would be partly spiritual of course. Psychoanalysis at that time was the furthest western-scientific humans could investigate, but it lacked spiritual dimensions and was therefore limited. CG Jung partly opened up the scope, but he had his own issues. The humanists and the human potential movement of the 60s expanded it a bit more.

There is, and surely will be, a western rigorous science of mental development, and it will have a spiritual dimension. Look at Greg Goode for example (advaita though), he’s in a way dry as a bone, but he’s pursuing spiritual questions. I just assume that with time more people will gravitate to such approaches and simplified versions will become mainstream.


Simplified versions of Buddhism are already mainstream.

It’s not my personal favorite, but IMO the only way for Buddhism to grow in the west is to become a rigid science of mind-development. To be inspired by the suttas, but not relying on them. Shedding the artificial language, the weird concepts, the supernatural notions, the Buddhist jargon.

Why even bother with Buddhism then?


Good question. Was the Buddha a Buddhist or a liberator? Liberation is the goal, not ‘Buddhism’.


I guess you’re right. Becoming a monk is a waste of time. Why go through all that if you can just become liberated.