The appeal of Buddhism
Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions and by some estimates, it is THE fastest growing religion, especially among those who convert from one religion to another.
In 2005 the Swedish government conducted a survey and one of the questions asked high school students which religion they would like to choose. And 60% answered Buddhism. The number of Buddhists in the Netherlands rose nearly 1,500% (from 16,000 to over 250,000) from 1998 to 2009. The number of Buddhists has been steadily rising in Asia too. In Taiwan the number of Buddhists grew from 5.5 million in 2001 to 8 million in 2008. During that same seven year period the number of Buddhists in India grew from about 1% to 3.25% which was about 35 million in 2008.
In the fast-paced world of modern life, many are becoming attracted to the meditation teachings found in Buddhism. For some it is for that reason and one or more of the following:
- 1. The Logic of The Four Noble Truths (the logic of a teaching based on the causes and cures to our everyday suffering).
- 2. The Compatibility of the Sciences with Buddha’s teachings.
- 3. The teachings are compatible with and talk about life on other planets.
- 4. The teachings on the evils of slavery and the caste system.
- 5. The teachings on the equality of women.
- 6. The recognition of humans as members of the Animal Kingdom.
- 7. A meditation technique beyond relaxation, but also for wisdom. There is a clear path for spiritual and personal development.
- 8. The longevity (health) of the Buddha (killed at the age of 80 from bad mushrooms during an age when life expectancy was 35 to 40 at best).
- 9. There is no blind faith or unthinking worship in Buddhism.
- 10. Questions are encouraged and investigation into the teachings is allowed and important.
- 11. Buddhism teaches to take full responsibility for all of our actions.
- 12. It can be approached, realized, and experienced, with immediate results.
- 13. It teaches that followers of other religions are also rewarded in the afterlife.
- 14. The teachings emphasize compassion, tolerance, and moderation.
- 15. Humility of the Buddha
Once Sariputta remarked, “Venerable sir, I have such confidence in the Blessed One that I believe there has not been nor ever will be nor exists at present another ascetic or brahmin more knowledgeable than the Blessed One with respect to enlightenment.” The Buddha responds, “Lofty indeed is this bellowing utterance of yours, Sariputta, you have roared a definitive, categorical lion’s roar. Have you now, Sariputta, encompassed with your mind the minds of all the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones, arisen in the past and known thus: Those Blessed Ones were of such virtue, or of such qualities, or such wisdom?” Sariputta responds, “No, venerable sir.” Samyutta Nikaya 47.12
In that discourse, instead of agreeing with the bold praise of the Buddha given to him by Sariputta, the Buddha basically asks him, “Have you met every Buddha of the past, present, and future? Then how can you call me the best that ever was or will ever be?” Such was the amazing wisdom, the intelligence, and humility of the Buddha of our time.
Ahead of its time
From a Dharma Paths discussion:
- 1. Ahimsa, nonviolence advocated to animals and the environment, before it was cool or shown to be helpful by modern science.
- 2. Anti-war, before it was cool.
- 3. Minimalism, so one has less attachments, simplified life, as shown in Four Noble Truths, to have less desires and cravings.
- 4. Women can attain the highest level of the religion, that of an arahant (fully enlightened), egalitarianism before it was cool.
- 5. Compatible with biological evolution - no creator god, Aganna sutta is not exact, but similar to evolution, describing simple unicellular beings feeding off craving and evolving.
- 6. Compatible with the idea/possibility of life on other planets - Buddhism refers to other worlds and other solar systems as 'world systems'.
- 7. Middle Way - We can see in everyday life how extremists are intolerant, violent and oppressive. Middle way is a balanced approach.
- 8. Attachment to rites, rituals, and ceremonies considered a hindrance to enlightenment, taking some secular / less religious notions, before it was cool.
- 9. Meditation, as opposed to prayer, is the primary practice and this has been shown to be helpful for overall mental health, relaxation, tranquility, samadhi, and insight.
- 10. Investigation into the Path, not blind acceptance, as taught in numerous suttas, including Kalama Sutta, DN1, SN 12.51, MN 2.379
There are some people interested in Buddhism who are known as skeptical Buddhists or agnostic Buddhists who have doubts about rebirth and some other teachings. This is considered acceptable as it is a "come and see" for yourself religion. However, some take their doubt to an extreme and prefer a Buddhism without rebirth and argue that concepts like rebirth could keep some away from Buddhism, believing it to be a cultural accretion. However, is reincarnation / rebirth really a hindrance to getting more appeal for Buddhism? Studies show that belief / acceptance of reincarnation / rebirth are at very high numbers. Here are some statistics of the percentage believing in reincarnation / rebirth: 
- Nordic countries: 22%
- Lithuania: 44%
- Western Europe: 22%
- United States: 27%
The above are very high percentages when you consider that the above countries / regions are primarily Christian (at least by birth certificate), which does not traditionally accept rebirth. The U.S. study showed that acceptance was especially higher among the younger age groups. Belief in reincarnation is held by 40 percent of people aged 25 to 29 but only 14 percent of people aged 65 and over.
- List of Buddhist Records and Trivia
- 8 Wonders of the Buddhist World
- Buddhists in the world
- Theravada Buddhists in the World
- Misconceptions about Buddhism
- Rational teachings of Buddha
- T Y Lee. "Anyone can go to heaven, Just be good".
- Buddhist Channel, 2009. "Buddhists are 3rd largest religious group in the Netherlands".
- Newsweek magazine, March 2008. "Armies of the Enlightned".
- Erlendur Haraldsson. "[https://notendur.hi.is//~erlendur/english/Nordic_Psychology_erlhar06.pdf Popular psychology, belief in life after death and reincarnation in the Nordic countries, Western and Eastern Europe]".
- wnd. "27% believe in reincarnation".
- The Complete Book of Buddha's Lists -- Explained. David N. Snyder, Ph.D., 2006.