By Vexen Crabtree 2014
|Links: Pages on Buddhism, Other Religions|
|Texts||Multifaceted. Includes Pali Canon and the Mahayana sutras, depending.|
|Afterlife||Reincarnation until escape|
|Area of Origin||India|
|Founder||Traditions based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, 1st millennium BCE|
|Numbers in the UK (Census results)|
|2001||144 453||2011||248 000|
|Buddhists Worldwide (Pew & WM)|
|World: 5.91%. Cambodia (96.9%), Thailand (93.2%), Myanmar (Burma) (80.1%), Bhutan (74.7%), Sri Lanka (69.3%), Laos (66%), Mongolia (55.1%), Japan (36.2%), Singapore (33.9%), Korea, South (22.9%) 1|
The historical evidence does not make it easy to trace the beginnings of Buddhism except that it sprung out of, and shares many basic beliefs, with Hinduism. "During the reign of emperor Ashoka (3rd century BCE) Buddhism became a major Indian religion and was subsequently established across the whole subcontinent and beyond"2 and is now counted as one of the great world religions3,4,5. It has grown so diverse that it is very hard to define its core nature - in 1913 one scholar pointed out that "in Japan alone it has differentiated itself into thirteen main sects and forty-four sub-sects". Buddhism is a well-liked and respected religion in the West; many attend Buddhist retreats, meditation centres and classes, and western Buddhist communities nearly all run such events for the general public. But in the West many who put "Buddhist" on census forms have merely attended some of these and who have an interest, but are not committed Buddhists, which artificially inflates the numbers.
The Ethic of Reciprocity appears in many religions. Buddha said 'Let a man overcome anger by kindness, evil by good' - it is the same rule later adopted by Christians as their Golden Rule, by Pagans as the Wiccan Rede and by many others. "Ethics Of Reciprocity like the Golden Rule and the Wiccan Rede Do Not Work" by Vexen Crabtree (2015).
The Buddhist Emperor Wang Mang was 'probably the first recorded ruler to abolish the slave trade' on "Traditional Religions and Abolition of the Slave Trade" by Vexen Crabtree (2003)
|Social & Moral|
(Lower is better)
|17||Northern Mariana Islands||10.6%|
The population of 7 countries are mostly Buddhist (2011)1. Comparing those 7 country(ies) to the rest of the world:
Buddhist countries' average life expectancy at birth (70.1yrs) is close to the global average (71.3yrs).7
Buddhist countries' average fertility rate is 2.22, compared with the global average of 2.81. Values above 2.1 cause population growth, putting further strain on the Earth's resources. See: The Overpopulation of the Earth and the Demographics Crises: The Impact on Pensions and Immigration.8
Buddhist countries' are much poorer than the global average Gross National Income (per capita) of $17 240, with an average GNI of $7 989.9
When it comes to tolerance of homosexuality and LGBT rights, Buddhists' countries are even worse than the global average, scoring -19.3 on the Social and Moral Development Index LGBT component compared with the global average of -7.3.
William James says that Buddhism, like Christianity, is more "complete" than many other religions because it has attempted complex explanations of why suffering exists. See "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James (1902) [Book Review] and The Problem of Evil: Why Would a Good God Create Suffering?.
“Karma is an important concept in a range of Vedic religions and cultures, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, all stemming from Indian beliefs. Karma is a universal principal and cosmic law, like the Tao of Taoism11. Unlike Taoism, individual beings (and the entire universe) go through a large number of incarnations. It is closely linked to the concept of continual rebirth (reincarnation)12. Original Jain beliefs had it that all actions had negative karma and only complete serenity and detachment could help the situation13. Later Jain beliefs came closer Hindu and Buddhist ideas: Acts of merit such as pilgrimages and worship can improve your next fate14. Eventually, beings can break free from the cycle. In Hinduism and Jainism this liberation is called moksha and in Buddhism the result is the attainment of enlightenment and nirvana. Western New Age movements have also taken on the concept "though sometimes with a degree of misunderstanding"14. All in all, more people on Earth believe in Karma through a series of rebirths than in any other religious principle.12,13,14,15,16”
“Karma. A volitional action which is either wholesome or unwholesome, and in consequence either rewarded or punished.”
In Buddhism, karma is not simple18. There are many streams of cause and effect (niamas). Ken Jones in "The Social Face of Buddhism" writes "all, however, are also expressions of a Universal Consciousness, alayavijnana. The 'law' of kamma and the 'law' of cause and effect are thus not synonymous in Buddhism. Kammaic 'law' is simply one kind of cause and effect relationship"18. Buddhism "rejects a fatalstic view of karma"14 which means that individuals can do something about it, by changing their behaviour, improving their outlook, avoiding bad deeds, and engaging in ethical behaviour18. Karma isn't just about actions: a lot of it is about internal state of mind, internal desire and internal psychology18. When it comes to Buddhism's multistreamed laws of cause and effect, thought crime has ramifications across multiple lifetimes.
“Buddhists believe that we are tied to the cycles of death and birth through desire and can be born again in many different forms. But they believe they can find a way to escape this cycle, to be finally released from reincarnation to reach nirvana.”
"Religions of the World" by Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997)15
“Traditional and canonical Buddhism extends the span of kamma through successive rebirths. The succession, however, is that of a vital energy, not of a reincarnated personality.”
“Karma was a pivotal concept in Indian thinking, around which turned the whole question of why life is as it is. ... It can act as an explanation of why misfortune happens when it is not recognisably the result of particular actions. [...] The importance of karma is that i[t] demonstrates the practicality of Buddhist teachings. Ethical considerations become paramount, because liberating oneself from the dis-ease of samsaric existence is a karmic matter.”
Bad karma resulting from previous bad decisions, in this life or in former lives, can cause suffering in the current incarnation. The Buddha said:
“Evil in the future is the fruit of bodily offence. Evil is the fruit of offence by word, by thought, in the future life. If I offend in deed, in word, in thought, should not I, when the body breaks up, after death be reborn in the Waste, the Way of Woe, the Downfall, the Purgatory?”
In Anguttara Nikaya Part 2, Chapter 1:119
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Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer
(1997) Religions of the World. Hardback book. Subtitled: "The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions, & Festivals". Published by Lionheart Books. By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien & Martin Palmer. Published for Transedition Limited and Fernleigh Books.
(1959) Buddhist Scriptures. Paperback book. Published by Penguin Books.
(1995) Buddhism. Paperback book. Part of the TeachYourself Books series.
Hinnells, John R.. Currently professor of theology at Liverpool Hope University.
(1997, Ed.) The Penguin Dictionary of Religions. Paperback book. Originally published 1984. Current version published by Penguin Books, London, UK. References to this book simply state the title of the entry used.
(1954) Buddhism. Paperback book. Christmas was President of the Buddhist Society, London, from its foundation in 1924 until its Silver Jubilee..
James, William. (1842-1910)
(1902) The Varieties of Religious Experience. Paperback book. Subtitled: "A Study in Human Nature". 5th (1971 fifth edition) edition. Originally published 1960. From the Gifford Lectures delivered at Edinburgh 1901-1902. Quotes also obtained from Amazon digital Kindle 2015 Xist Publishing edition. Book Review.
Murray et al.
(2009) Hammond Atlas of World Religions. Hardback book. Published by Hammond World Atlas Corporation, Langenscheidt Publishing Group, New York, USA. Contributing authors: Stuart A.P. Murray; Robert Huber; Elizabeth Mechem; Sarah Novak; Devid West Reynolds, PhD; Tricia Wright; Thomas Cussans.
Nukariya, Kaiten. Professor of Kei-O-Gi-Jiku University and of So-To-Shu Buddhist College, Tokyo.
(1913) Zen - The Religion of the Samurai. E-book. Subtitled: "A study of Zen philosophy and discipline in China and Japan". Amazon Kindle digital edition produced by John B. Hare and proofread by Carrie R. Lorenz.
Pew Forum. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
(2012) The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Major Religious Groups as of 2010. Published 2012 Dec 18, accessed online 2013 May 01.
(2013) Human Development Report. This edition had the theme of The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Published on the United Nation's HDR website at hdr.undp.org/.../hdr2013/ (accessed throughout 2013). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2008) Worldmapper Datasets 551-582: Religion. Worldmapper Datasets 551-582: Religion (2008 Mar 26) on worldmapper.org/.../religion_data.xls, accessed 2013 Nov 11. Authored by John Protchard, published by SASI, University of Shieffield. Data is for year 2005, with some datasets being edited from original sources to remove the effects of double-counting, and, adjusting for population changes between 2002 and 2005.
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