In Europe, a multitude of different Buddhist traditions and schools have firmly settled during the past 50 years. The various sanghas of Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and Tibetan Buddhism as well as newly formed Western Buddhist sanghas are present and most have established important monasteries and centres. While for a long time, most Buddhist places of practice remained invisible and hardly known to the wider public, the last thirty years saw the building of impressive Thai temples, Vietnamese pagodas, Tibetan monasteries, numerous Buddhist stupas, and much more. In Western Europe, Buddhism is on its way of reaching mainstream people in three different ways: the positive public image has established Buddhism as a viable and accessible alternative to other religions, leading to a tremendous growth in terms of the number of centres and members. Second, vipassanā meditation and its various secular forms have become increasingly practiced as a trendy form of stress-reduction and developing awareness. Finally, the capitalist market turned the widespread projections of Buddhism as peaceful, tolerant, and basically positive in different products such as Buddhist figures, thankas, sound bowls, and much more. These products are readily available for purchase in numerous furniture and garden shops. Buddha figures have become decorative objects in the family room and garden, symbolising calmness and modern spirituality. Buddhism has such taken numerous forms in Europe, shaped by the large-scale social trends of pluralisation, secularisation, and commodification. In its first part, the chapter will provide an overview of the beginnings of receiving Buddhist ideas and texts by European colonial officers, philosophers and scholars and sketch the initial steps of establishing Buddhist groups and organisations. Part two reconstructs the tremendous changes in terms of the arrival of teacher, teachings, and practices of Japanese Zen, Tibetan, and Theravāda Buddhism since the 1960s. Furthermore, migrants and refugees from various Asian countries started coming in larger numbers from the 1980s onward, multiplying the number of Buddhist people in most Western European countries. The third part discusses the adaptation of Buddhist ideas, practices, and objects to the large-scale social trends of individualisation, secularisation, and commodification prevalent in Europe. A brief conclusion rounds up the chapter. The contribution argues that Buddhist ideas, teachings, and practices were interpreted by European scholars and practitioners according to their knowledge, projection, and hope of the time. Each interpretation represents an adaptation to cultural and religious preferences of the very time. Despite all changes of interpreting Buddhism, the idea that original religious inspirations derive from the East has continued over a time-span of two to three hundred years in Europe.
Project: 10. Churches and religions in Europe.
Chronology: 16th century - today
Scope: Secondary Education, Higher Education
Resource type: Paper
Source: Buddhism around the World (pp.163-178). Publisher: Religion Publisher
Date: 16th century-today
Owner: Filippo Galletti (Modernalia)
Copyright: Baumann, Martin. (2019). Buddhism in Europe. History, current state of affairs, and adaptations to European large-scale social trends. 10.5281/zenodo.3248793.
Abstract: Academic paper by Martin Baumann, University of Luzern.