Modern trends and movements

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Modern Trends and Movements within Buddhism

In the 20th & 21st centuries a number of modern developments, trends and movements have occurred. The movements and trends listed here are in addition to the traditional forms of Buddhism which are Classical Theravada and the myriad forms of Mahayana and Vajrayana.

Modern Theravada / EBT Buddhism

Modern Theravada is the modern movement of getting back to the earliest teachings, the Early Buddhist Texts. Those who follow this are sometimes referred to as Early Buddhism, "EBT", "Suttanta" or as "Suttavada." They might still hold the Abhidhamma and Commentaries in some regard, but their main focus of study and practice are the five Nikayas of the Suttas. The members of this form are Buddhist, generally accept rebirth and simply focus on the Suttas and the Agamas (Sanskrit and Chinese parallels to the Pali Canon), rather than what they feel are some of the later writings and teachings. An argument could be made (although not universally accepted) that this form of Buddhism is not "modern" but actually Early Buddhism or Pre-Sectarian Buddhism and thus, the closest to the original Buddhism, as taught by the Buddha.

Those who follow EBT Buddhism and Engaged Buddhism respect and honor the ordained Sangha of monks and nuns. The others listed below tend to not support the ordained Sangha and in general, tend to reject the monastic lifestyle and prefer attention to the life of a lay person.

List of the Modern Trends and Movements

  • 1. Modern Theravada / EBT (as described above)
  • 2. Secular Buddhism (generally follow most Buddhist doctrines and practices, but reject the rituals, ceremonies, monastic living and reject or at least agnostic on rebirth)
  • 3. Ambedkarite Buddhism (consists mostly of Indian Dalits-untouchables, following the teachings of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, focusing on the plight of the Dalits, rejecting caste, rejecting rebirth, following a mostly secular form of Buddhism)
  • 4. Corporate Mindfulness (engage in mindfulness meditation and other Buddhist meditation techniques, for improving mental health, relaxation and work productivity)
  • 5. Vipassana Meditation (focus on vipassana meditation techniques, especially those as taught by S.N. Goenka, for self-improvement)
  • 6. American Tantra (non-monastic Buddhism, focusing on the life of a lay person, dealing with everyday work and family life; includes Tantra, Advaita, New Age doctrines and practice)
  • 7. Barnes & Noble Buddhism (those who read all the latest bestsellers from the bookstore, from famous monks, nuns, lay people)
  • 8. American Buddhism (Buddhism adapted and transformed as it mixed with American culture, avoidance of rituals, no foreign language chanting or chanting in English instead)
  • 9. Western Buddhism (also an adaptation with the mixing of Buddhism & Western cultures, avoidance of rituals, however, a misnomer because there are Asian Buddhists who also don't like too many rituals and ceremonies)
  • 10. California Buddhism (Buddhism mixed with California culture; environmentalism, vegetarianism, veganism. Frederick Lenz was a Californian who wrote the bestseller "Snowboarding to Nirvana")
  • 11. Beat Buddhism (also known as Hippy Buddhism; popular movement in the 1960s and beyond, experimentation with psychedelics for so-called short-cuts to enlightenment experiences)
  • 12. Buddhist Science (believe Buddhism is the highest science; discuss its relation to physics, neuroscience and psychology and how academia has proven Buddhism as true)
  • 13. Nightstand Buddhism (those who secretly read Buddhist books privately in their bedroom, but are afraid to publicly say they like Buddhism for various reasons)
  • 14. Jazz Buddhism (utilizing various Buddhist doctrines and practices, like a music instrument, not necessarily to perfection, but still able to make "good" music; i.e., "good enough for Jazz")
  • 15. Upper Middle Way Buddhism (Upper middle-class Buddhists who go to expensive residential retreats at expensive lay-led groups in an almost resort style setting)
  • 16. Buffet Buddhism (also known as Cafeteria Buddhism, where participants pick and choose from various Buddhist traditions. A good, tolerant approach that is non-sectarian, but one has to be careful that one is not just choosing the most palatable doctrines and practices and leaving out the difficult parts)
  • 17. Buddhayana (all Buddhist schools are honored and revered, including all practices and doctrines; similar to Buffet style, but accepts it all, including the doctrines that contradict each other)
  • 18. Engaged Buddhism (a focus on social action, social justice, environmentalism, charity work, mixed with Buddhist practice; might be with a specific tradition or with a non-sectarian Buddhist practice)


As discussed at various Buddhist online discussion forums, including: