Number of Western practioners in the World?

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Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Sacha G » Sun Dec 18, 2011 3:22 pm

Hello
Does anybody know of the number of Western Theravadin practitioners in the World?
My guess is something like 20 000.
Do you have maybe also an idea of the number of western monks/nuns in this tradition?
I suppose something like 200.
Thank you
Sacha
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:48 pm

Sacha G wrote:Hello
Does anybody know of the number of Western Theravadin practitioners in the World?
My guess is something like 20 000.
Do you have maybe also an idea of the number of western monks/nuns in this tradition?
I suppose something like 200.
Thank you
Sacha
:juggling:


Sacha, what do you base your guess on and how do you expect other people to know? I'm not being sarcastic. I don't know of any international census, let alone asking people that question.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:26 pm

Demographics is one of my hobbies (former sociology professor).

Buddhists in the World

And then based on the number of Buddhists in the world, I also created a table of the number of Theravada Buddhists:

Theravada Buddhists in the world

Note the U. of Utah study suggests that there are about 6 million Buddhists in the U.S. and about 20% or 1.2 million are non-Asian.

So I would guesstimate that there are about 2 million non-Asian Buddhists in the world or more.

And then if about 25% of the non-Asian Buddhists are Theravada, that would make the number about 500,000.

And the number of monks you have is also significantly low. There are thousands of monasteries in non-Asian countries and a sizable percentage have at least one Western monastic in their facilities.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Sacha G » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:11 pm

Hi David
Thanks for the answer.
Concerning the number of buddhists in the world, I would be OK, apart from China, where I think that it's exaggerated to call buddhists that proportion of Chinese.
As for the number of westerners practicing buddhism, I didn't know the number was that high. I suspect they took a very large definition.
Now supposing it's the case (that the definition was too large), we would arrive at maybe 1 million Buddhists in the West. That makes one person out of 1000 in the Western World (considering that it's composed of 1 billion individuals), which sounds sensible, all the more as people older than the "boomers" have little chance to be Buddhists.
Now if one retains 25% of Theravada buddhists, that makes 250 000.
Maybe in a more conservative approach, one could say that Mahayana is still a very dominant form of practice (especially the Sokka Gakkai is very big I heard).
So if one say 10%, one arrives at 100 000.
So one could say that the number of Western Theravadins Buddhists is between 300 000 and 100 000.
Now if one considers one out of 200 is a monk or nun, that would be around 1500 and 500 mons and nuns.


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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:14 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:So I would guesstimate that there are about 2 million non-Asian Buddhists in the world or more.


The trouble is, what's the definition of a Buddhist?
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby cooran » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:06 pm

Hello SachaG,

Australian official census figures for this year have not yet been released. But the 2006 Census figures reveal:

''According to the Australian census in 2006, Buddhism is the largest non-Christian religion in Australia, with 418,000 adherents, or 2.1% of the total population. It was also the fastest growing religion in terms of percentage, having increased its number of adherents by 109.6% since 1996.''
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_i ... a#Buddhism

Maybe look at the official census figures for those western countries that include a question on religious affiliation?

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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Zom » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:11 pm

As I see it, in Russia there are not more theravadins than ~50 people.
I mean those russians who has taken official refuge (from a monk) in theravada tradition.
This number is more if we take those who just "sympathize" theravada buddhism (but perhaps doesn't consider himself "a theravadin").
There is 1 russian mai chee.
There are at least 5 russian bhikkhus and 2 samaneras.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:10 am

Goofaholix wrote:The trouble is, what's the definition of a Buddhist?


I prefer it to include nominal Buddhists, i.e., anyone who wants to call themselves Buddhist. Definition of a Buddhist

cooran wrote:Australian official census figures for this year have not yet been released. But the 2006 Census figures reveal:

''According to the Australian census in 2006, Buddhism is the largest non-Christian religion in Australia, with 418,000 adherents, or 2.1% of the total population. It was also the fastest growing religion in terms of percentage, having increased its number of adherents by 109.6% since 1996.''
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_i ... a#Buddhism

Maybe look at the official census figures for those western countries that include a question on religious affiliation?


Excellent growth of Buddhism in Australia.

Unfortunately, here in the U.S., the third largest country by population in the world and the largest "Western" nation, we don't have a religious affiliation question on our census forms. So we have to rely on social science surveys for approximations.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:16 am

Don't forget the thousands of Vipassana practitioners . Which side of the fence do they fall in?
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:42 am

Sacha G wrote:Hello
Does anybody know of the number of Western Theravadin practitioners in the World?
My guess is something like 20 000.
Do you have maybe also an idea of the number of western monks/nuns in this tradition?
I suppose something like 200.
Thank you
Sacha
:juggling:

Hello, Sacha,
I think it is clear by now that the answer you get depends very much on the definition of 'Western Theravadin practitioners' you use, but the answer (happily) is much higher than you expected even if the definition is very strict.

Just a side-note on the Australian numbers: remember that we have had quite a lot of Asian immigrants in the last thirty years and a percentage of the increase is due to that. From what others have said in other threads, our experience is rather similar to the US in that migrant groups' temples do not attract many Australian-born practitioners.
My perception is that most Australian-born practitioners are Mahayanists - especially Vajrayanists - but I have no figures to support it.

:namaste:
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby chownah » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:44 am

Goofaholix wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:So I would guesstimate that there are about 2 million non-Asian Buddhists in the world or more.


The trouble is, what's the definition of a Buddhist?

....and what is the definition of Asian?
Do third generation born in the US of Asian descent who go to temple three times a year count as being Asian Buddhists? Is Tiger Woods an Asian Buddhist?
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby plwk » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:49 am

The trouble is, what's the definition of a Buddhist?


I prefer it to include nominal Buddhists, i.e., anyone who wants to call themselves Buddhist. Definition of a Buddhist

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What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:01 am

chownah wrote:....and what is the definition of Asian?
Do third generation born in the US of Asian descent who go to temple three times a year count as being Asian Buddhists? Is Tiger Woods an Asian Buddhist?
chownah


Good questions; which is why I prefer to not break it down by race or ethnicity. I put my lists simply by "Buddhists" and Theravada Buddhists, especially nowadays where there are many people like Tiger Woods and my kids who are a mix of different races and ethnicities.

I assume the studies that did break it down between "Western" and "Asian" did so by counting Western born Buddhists of Asian descent as "Asian". But culturally there is certainly some 'blurring' of the lines between Western and Asian.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Ben » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:37 am

Hi Pilgrim,
pilgrim wrote:Don't forget the thousands of Vipassana practitioners . Which side of the fence do they fall in?


Realistically, we are Theravadin. What we practice is considered to be mainstream Theravada within Myanmar. U Ba Khin described what he practiced and taught as Buddhism as did Ledi Sayadaw before him.

If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck then I think its probably a duck - even if that duck says its not a duck.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Ytrog » Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:38 pm

Is there any source about The Netherlands? Judging by the number of monasteries here it isn't that much Theravada, but a lot more Vajrayana.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:55 am

Ytrog wrote:Is there any source about The Netherlands? Judging by the number of monasteries here it isn't that much Theravada, but a lot more Vajrayana.

What you see agrees with my observation in Australia, that most westerners follow Mahayana and especially Vajrayana while the increase in Theravada is mostly from our Asian immigrants. As far as I know, you haven't had our level of Asian immigration, so that leaves the Vajrayana.
I could never condone the Chinese invasion of Tibet but it did have one very positive effect - if forced a diaspora of trained Tibetan Buddhist teachers from Tibet to the West. We're now talking about the result.

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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby pilgrim » Thu Dec 22, 2011 3:59 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:What you see agrees with my observation in Australia, that most westerners follow Mahayana and especially Vajrayana while the increase in Theravada is mostly from our Asian immigrants. As far as I know, you haven't had our level of Asian immigration, so that leaves the Vajrayana.
I could never condone the Chinese invasion of Tibet but it did have one very positive effect - if forced a diaspora of trained Tibetan Buddhist teachers from Tibet to the West. We're now talking about the result.

:namaste:
Kim

Generally speaking , in the west, present day Mahayana and Vajrayana are also more keen on missionizing. There are many centers with only one monastic who teaches regularly. On the other hand, Theravadin monastics tend to congregate around a teacher forming larger communities, but fewer centres.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Zom » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:55 am

I could never condone the Chinese invasion of Tibet but it did have one very positive effect - if forced a diaspora of trained Tibetan Buddhist teachers from Tibet to the West. We're now talking about the result.


Positive? Possibly in the sense of earning money by tibetans 8-)

As for the popularity of Vajrayana - that is because Theravada is too dry and unexciting. People love exciting things - magic, esoteric rituals, something spiritual but at the same time very worldy and so on. Generally Vajrayana is another religion that has very little in common with Buddha's Teaching. So no need to compare it with Theravada.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby David2 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:03 am

Zom wrote:As for the popularity of Vajrayana


Another reason could be that the Dalai Lama is probably the most widely known Buddhist in the world. There are many people out there who think that the Dalai Lama is the leader of the whole Buddhism.
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Re: Number of Western practioners in the World?

Postby Zom » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:22 am

I think, even if Dalai Lama was a theravadin this wouldn't give much bonus to theravada popularity in the West. Why is that? Because Dhamma is hard to understand, to accept and to practise; it goes against the world. Vajrayana doesn't go against the world ,)
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