Buddhism in the Modern WorldDecline? During the nineteenth Asian countries found themselves under colonial rule. Buddhism declined. All colonialist powers adopted the position that they would not fulfill the traditional native monarch?s role of patron and protector of local religions. This ended state donations. In some cases monasteries were destroyed, but mainly they lost their income. European medicine challenged folk remedies and rituals. In the twentieth century, however, a strong Buddhist revival developed. Why?- the arrival of Christianity. Missionaries, in order to understand loyal cultures better, translated and supplied commentaries to Asian classics, Hindu and Buddhist. They opened the eyes of educated Asians to the riches of their own cultures.- the rise of Asian nationalisms. This was triggered by * anti-colonialism * disillusionment concerning the culture and religions of the West that have proved so prone to wars.- new challenges arose from rapid industrialization. Issues of social equality, economic justice, and political self-determination had to be addressed. How did Buddhism respond to the challenge presented by Western colonialism and values?- few converted to Christianity- reformer Buddhists tried to involve the lay society more fully in Buddhist institutions and spiritual practice (meditation). This motivated some to take the place of former royal patrons.- Buddhists tried to reform Buddhism from within: * lay reformers insisted that monks respect all monastic rules * created new reformist monastic schools * offered a modern demythologized portrayal of the Buddha * were critical of local accommodations * emphasized meditation, individual?s quest for salvation over communal rituals and harnessing cosmic powers. More importantly, meditation was not restricted to monks and nuns. All Buddhists could and should feel capable of seeking nirvana. * rediscovered the practice of public sermonizing * rediscovered sacred texts through their English translations (only the elite among monk-scholars could read the original sacred texts) * invested in printing technologyThis reform movement developed strongly in Sri Lanka.- efforts have been made by some lay and missionary Buddhist organizations to bring all branches of Buddhism together. Buddhist World Congresses have met in different Asian lands.- In the beginning of the 20th c. Westerners themselves showed sympathy for Buddhism and some converts established Buddhist centers in Europe and America. Why? * Buddhism, for these new converts, encouraged spiritual experimentation. It did not require blind faith. * Buddha was a rationalist. He rejected ritual. He was also a social reformer * his movement was not religious but based on philosophy. * Buddhism was seen as atheistic and compatible with science. After the 2nd WW Buddhism became attractive because of its ideal of non-violence. As a general rule Western Buddhist schools have - downplayed celibate monasticism - downplayed ritualism - featured meditation In the postcolonial period, Buddhists in Asia faced the following challenges:- reconstructing the sangha (monastery)-state relations after the colonial neglect of Buddhist institutions- responding to scientific thought and modern medicine- religious pluralism introduced by Christianity- revising law codes in relation to national minorities- competing with popular public or private education (in the past, monastic centers were the only centers of education) In the twenty-first century, Buddhism is experiencing revival. Why? - the end or democratization of communist regimes - the economic boom of the 1990s in Asia. As you remember, you can make merit through pious donations. More laity supported monasteries. - global migration of monks and ideas An emerging focus in contemporary Buddhist practice is the relevance of Buddhism to social problems. Gautama renounced the life of a prince to save all beings from suffering. - Buddhists are often nonviolent social activists - they have led democratic movements - they oppose cruelty to animals, nuclear testing warfare and environmental devastation. In Thailand Buddhist monks reforest land, digging reservoirs, laying irrigation pipes. - they lead marches to promote peace (in Cambodia, for instance, monks walk through still-dangerous areas that are heavily landmined). Politically, in countries dominated by Buddhists, many debate whether Buddhism should endorse military authoritarianism (on the model of the benevolent dictator Ashoka) or representative democracy (on the model of the sangha?s democratic norms). Can buddhist ideals be most effectively implemented in a socialist or free-market system? Theravada Buddhism* INDIA: Today, Buddhism is found in modern India in only very small communities. After the Muslim conquest (roughly 13th c.) hundreds of Buddhist sites had been abandoned. Thanks to the British in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many of these sites were recovered. Some shrines are still under Hindu control and are the object of tension between the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Since 1950s, Mahar ?untouchable? cast groups relegated to the bottom of the caste system have held mass ceremonies to convert to Buddhism. They declare rejection of Hinduism and its system of social inequality. These new Buddhists call for active social engagement to end social injustice. The Mahars? knowledge of Buddhism was informed in part by colonial scholarship. Today Buddhists campaign to restore Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha experienced enlightenment. In 1987, the International Association of Buddhist Women was established in Bodh Gaya. * SRI LANKA: In Sri Lanka, after independence from British rule in 1947, Theravada Buddhism became the official national religion, often at the expense of non-Buddhist minorities. There has been tension between the Hindu Tamils of the north and the Sinhalese Buddhists of the south. An active Buddhist reform movement in Sri Lanka engages people in working together to eliminate poverty and illiteracy. * THAILAND: In Thailand, where most of the population is Buddhist, an important Buddhist reform movement has developed. It is called Dhammakaya (name of a center located north of Bangkok). This movement aims at the laity, in particular newly affluent classes. It teaches meditation practices through mass media. It has reduced the ritual complexity of the traditional monastery to a few simple practices. It has also emphasized that money-making is compatible with Buddhism. Thailand has also invested to make higher education available to individuals in the sangha. This opportunity attracts many young men from poor rural backgrounds to take ordination. At the same time the government of Thailand makes sure to control the political activities of the monks and check their preaching. * CAMBODIA AND LAOS: In Cambodia and Laos, communist regimes have damaged the status of Theravada Buddhism. Only in the 1990s did the restoration of Buddhism begin. * BURMA: In Burma (Myanmar), Theravada Buddhists are the majority. They have a long history of political activism. Monks, before the independence from British rule, agitated against colonialism and made common cause with Marxist communists in the forty years after independence. After a period of ?Buddhist socialism,? the country deals harshly with monks and monasteries suspected of fostering dissent. Burmese monks stage sit-ins to protest the restriction of democratic rights. Mahayana Buddhism In South Korea, many are converting to Christianity. However, economic prosperity has created patrons for Buddhist monasteries. There is an all-Buddhist Network on TV. It offers a mix of sermons, chants, rituals, and chefs teaching vegetarian cooking. In China, Buddhism was suppressed during Mao Zedong?s Cultural Revolution (1976-1986). Buddhism was identified with the old feudal order. Since the mid-1980s, however, the worship of bodhisattva Guanyin has returned to favor. The bodhisattva Guanyin (the celestial deity Avalokiteshvara) is the refuge for all who desire rebirth in the Western Buddhist paradise. Even state-run factories have produced a large variety of images for sale. Pilgrimage sites for Guanin have been opened. In Japan, Buddhism began to recover after WWII. As in China, devotion to the bodhisattva Guanyin (Kannon in Japan) is on the rise. There is a pilgrimage boom in Japan. Many undertake pilgrimage circuits across the country. The most popular route is Saikoku Kannon goes through the Kyoto-Nara-Osaka area. It includes the most magnificent temples of the country (many date back to the 13th c.) This pilgrimage boom was aided by the rapid expansion of facilities to support the pilgrims in their travel. A question remains: is this boom due to cultural tourism and nostalgia or increased religious dedication on the part of the pilgrims? Nichiren Buddhism and Zen are also on the rise. The Pure Land Schools are still very popular. Lay organizations in Japan campaign in elections to insert Buddhist values into the political culture. Tibetan Buddhism has attracted many Westerners to Buddhism. Many centers have sprung up in the US. The majority of the 5 million Buddhists in the US follow Tibetan Buddhism. Many have traveled to the Dalai Lama?s community in India to be given initiation by the Dalai lama himself. They translated texts and established flourishing publishing houses. Many Buddhist centers are led by women. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, with the support of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism has been restored to portions of Mongolia and is enjoying a resurgence. Monasteries are now being rebuilt. Many young men have taken monastic vows. The Dalai Lama regularly visits Mongolia.
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