- New to Buddhism
- Buddhist Events
- Community Projects
- Training Unit
- Eco Living
- Humanitarian Care
- Spiritual Care
- For Members
- Getting Involved
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are nearly half a million Buddhists in Australia and this number is growing rapidly, doubling between 1996 and 2006. Broadly speaking, at least three quarters of Australia’s Buddhists are what can be called Eastern Buddhists, from Buddhist families originating from Asian countries, who have migrated to Australia in recent decades. The remaining quarter, Western Buddhists, are generally Australian-born Caucasians and have probably grown up in either a Christian or humanistic family.
Australian Buddhism is a picture of ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as diversity of practice. Some traditional practices have survived centuries and some others have emerged recently due to the conditions of contemporary Australian society. Let us summarise some of the challenges to Buddhism as it develops in Australia and indeed, the West generally.
Diversity of Buddhist Practice. To the newcomer the different types of Buddhist practices may look inconsistent. Being a Buddhist can mean daily chanting and prayers, regular visits to temples to make food offerings to monks and nuns, the occasional meditation retreat, or even participating in social or community activities. Even Buddhists with years of practice may not be aware of the full extent of Buddhist teachings and practices.
Cultural and Language Barriers. Some cultural norms are adapted into Buddhist practice because they support or underpin the more important rituals and values, for example generosity and respect for monks and nuns. While not being part of the core teachings, rituals nevertheless can become part of Buddhist practice. While cultural practices may be appropriate and reasonable when and where they originated, some cultural practices may present an obstacle for those new to Buddhism, for example bowing or chanting in an unfamiliar language.
Interfaith relationships. There is much goodwill from other religions towards Buddhists. This stems from the perception that Buddhists are generally peaceful and non-threatening. The challenge for Buddhists engaged in inter-faith dialogues is to find the common ground, for example the values of compassion and kindness, and to explore with other faiths the spiritual, existential and day-to-day issues of living.
Women in Buddhism. The role of women in Australian society can be different from other societies due to the social progress made by women in recent decades. If expectations of women interested in ordination are realistic and well informed, there is no doubt that Buddhism can benefit from more female ordination.
Relevance to the next generation. Younger people in their teens and twenties have many competing choices for their time. What is needed by young Buddhists is a form of Buddhism which is practical and relevant for them, is taught in English, allows questions and interaction and has an informal, social dimension.