Saturday, May 06, 2006

Australia's Fastest-Growing Religion? Buddhism


Via The Sydney Morning Herald:
BUDDHISM is growing as a religion of choice for Australians seeking an antidote to a greedy, violent and stressed-out world.

Dr Cristina Rocha, a post-doctoral fellow with the University of Western Sydney Centre for Cultural Research, said increasing numbers of Australians were shying away from their religion of their birth and instead adopting spiritualities of choice.
From an interview with The Buddhist Channel:
"Buddhism is attractive because it provides a powerful antidote to the stress, greed and violence of today's world," says Dr Rocha.

"Buddhism is now the fastest growing religion in Australia, growing 80 per cent between the 1996 and 2001 census. Interestingly, this surge is not only due to migration, but also to large numbers of Australian's converting to Buddhism.

"People from Western cultures are drawn to Buddhism because it is . . . not tied to a particular church or central leader, and is associated with peace, love, happiness, justice and enlightenment. Westerners find it gives them tools to cope with the day-to-day, and helps them detach from the rampant consumerism and stresses of their busy lives."

She says Western society's eagerness to embrace Buddhism stands in stark contrast to its misunderstanding, distrust and fear of a religion like Islam, which is labelled by Western media as 'violent' and linked to terrorism.

"One of the reasons for this is the fact the Dalai Lama received a Nobel peace prize in 1989 for his peaceful resistance against the Chinese invasion of Tibet," says Dr Rocha.

Dr Rocha says Western society's flirtation with Buddhism was boosted in the 1960s, thanks to increased levels of migration and exposure to other cultures, and the flower-child generation's willingness to explore things spiritual and alternative.

"Western culture's exposure to Buddhism is so much greater now. Books by the Dalai Lama are bestsellers, and people flock to see and hear him speak as he travels the world. In recent years there have been many movies like 'The Little Buddha', 'Kundun', and 'Seven Years in Tibet', and non-Hollywood films like 'The Cup' and 'Samsara'," says Dr Rocha.

"Celebrities like Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys have used their status to bring attention to the plight of Tibet and its struggle against China; and actress Uma Thurman's father, Robert, who is now a professor at Columbia University, was the first Western Tibetan Buddhist monk and an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. . . .
Western followers regard meditation as the main practice of Buddhism," she says.

"Westerners see meditation as something you can do alone, any time, anywhere; as if there's no need for a temple, or a priest or monk. This enables an individual to embark on [his or her] own spiritual quest for enlightenment."

7 comments:

enigma4ever said...

Well, that is it I am going to have to move...WOW...

Nice to see you NB....time to lurk around for a bit...

No Blood for Hubris said...

Move?

No need.

Welcome back, e4e.

james said...

Well, I am one of those "new Buddhists." I've been one now for 3 years although i've been studying Buddhism for about 5 years.

I mostly follow the Zen Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh but of course welcome other teachers.

No Blood for Hubris said...

I wasn't brought up Buddhist, and in fact am a Sunday School graduate, and became one a little after college. But when I was a little little kid my favorite book was one that had a big picture of Buddha on the cover, of all things. My husband, brought up Episcopalian, painted a picture of the Potala when he was a kid. Interesting synchronicities.

enigma4ever said...

NB - I loved hearing about you and your other...that is so beautiful...My grandmother had these terraced gardens- I used to call them the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.....and as you walked around them, she had tucked statues in little pocketed areas, my favorite section she had St.Francis of Assisi and then a beautiful Dogwood and on the other side she had a beautiful Buddha....She used to say that she loved the idea of them having tea together down at the end of the garden. There was such healing in that garden, and there were many sundays she worked on her Garden, it was where she prayed.....( She was a Quaker....I used to go to the Meetings with her when I was growing up...so I guess in a way I am a Quaker Buddhist ? ....it doesn't matter in the long run...what matters is that I have Faith and Hope and still can pray for peace....)Namaste.... NB...

JAMES: there is a Blog called Daily Zen that is great and also another one called Virtual Buddha...I hope you find your way there...Both spots are so special ....

"James" said...

Thanks for the recommendations.

"James" said...

Oh yeah and that garden you described sounds wonderful!! A secret garden of sorts. :)