|The Buddha sent the Dharma far and wide|
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
How many Buddhists are there in Britain?
The census form made no provision for such people to be counted. There are also those who refuse to label themselves as "Buddhists" because it runs counter to the principle of selflessness or egolessness. They prefer to think of themselves as free spirits.
Irrespective of how many Buddhists there are in Britain today, there is unquestionably a growing interest.
How has Buddhism developed in Britain?
The limited number of books available in those early years was enough to inspire a few to begin actually practicing Buddhism as a way of life. One of those, Allan Bennett, went to Sri Lanka in 1898 and returned as Ananda Metteyya, the first Englishman to be ordained as a Buddhist monk (bhikkhu) of the Theravada tradition.
[An Irishman -- Lawrence Carroll a.k.a. Lawrence O'Rourke or William Colvin -- preceded Bennett. He became Venerable Dhammaloka, the first Westerner to become a Buddhist monk, which he did in Southeast Asia years before.]
Sixties Britain brought eastern religions into fashion for the first time, including Buddhism. The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 eventually led to the exodus of thousands of Tibetans with the Dalai Lama in 1959. This brought lamas to the west. These two factors in particular led to the mushrooming of new Buddhist groups. As a result, today almost every Buddhist tradition is represented in Britain. More