Buddhism in the United Kingdom
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Buddhism in the United Kingdom has a small but growing number of supporters which, according to a Buddhist organisation, is mainly the result of conversion.12 In the UK census for 2001, there were about 152,000 people who registered their religion as Buddhism, and about 174,000 who cited religions other than Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Jainism and Sikhism.34 This latter figure is likely to include some people who follow the traditional Chinese mixture of religions including Buddhism.
At the 2001 Census, 144,453 people in England and Wales ticked the Buddhist box. Of these, the main places of birth were UK 66,522, Far East 59,931 and South Asia 9,847,5 and the main ethnic groups were white 56,040, Chinese 34,304, Asian 13,919, Mixed 4,647, Black 1,507 and Other 34,036.6 In Scotland, people were asked both their current religion and that they were brought up in. 6,830 people gave Buddhism as their current religion, and 4,704 said they were brought up in it, with an overlap of 3,146.7 In Northern Ireland, the published report8 which listed religions and philosophies in order of size reported 'Buddhist' at 533. For details of Buddhism in the individual countries of the United Kingdom, see:
The earliest Buddhist influences were with the Theravada traditions of Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka was primarily scholarly, and a tradition of study grew up that eventually resulted in the foundation of the Pali Text Society, which undertook the huge task of translating the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhist texts into English. The start of interest in Buddhism as a path of practice was pioneered by the Theosophists, Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, and in 1880 they became the first Westerners to receive the refuges and precepts, the ceremony by which one traditionally becomes a Buddhist. they were also later received into the Hindu religion.
Theosophical and Theravadin influences continued throughout the early twentieth century, though the 1950s saw the development of interest in Zen Buddhism. In 1967 Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre was founded in Eskdalemuir, Scotland, and is the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Western Europe. It has many affiliated centres in major UK cities including Kagyu Samye Dzong London. The Manjushri Kadampa Buddhist Centre9 in Conishead Priory located just outside of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria is a large New Kadampa Tradition Tibetan Buddhist centre. The priory established by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in 1975 claims to be 'the mother centre from which around 1100 Kadampa Buddhist centres have been set up worldwide'.10
Jamyang Buddhist Centre (JBC) in London is affiliated to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, an international network of Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhist centres. There is also a branch centre in Leeds and affiliated groups around across England. The resident teacher is Geshe Tashi Tsering.11
Buddhist organisations in the UK from the Tibetan tradition, which have been founded by Western lamas include Dechen, Diamond Way Buddhism and Aro gTér. Dechen is an association of Buddhist centres of the Sakya and Karma Kagyu traditions, founded by Lama Jampa Thaye and under the spiritual authority of Karma Thinley Rinpoche. Diamond Way Buddhism is a network of lay Buddhist centres in the Karma Kagyu tradition, founded by Lama Ole Nydahl and under the spiritual authority of the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje. The main Western lamas associated with Aro gTér, a Nyingma lineage, are Ngak’chang Rinpoche (formerly Ngakpa Chögyam) and Khandro Déchen.
A Theravada monastery following the Thai Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah was established at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery in Sussex, and has established branches elsewhere in the country. A lay meditation tradition of Thai origin is represented by the [Samatha Trust], with its headquarters cum retreat centre in Wales. Sōtō Zen has a priory at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland. The Community of Interbeing, part of the Order of Interbeing, founded by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh (who currently resides in Plum Village, France), has (as of 2012) about 90 sanghas meeting across the UK.12 The Order of Interbeing (Tiep Hien) was founded within the Linji School of Dhyana Buddhism (Zen (Rinzai)).
As well as the Triratna Buddhist Community there are other Buddhism-based new religious movements such as the New Kadampa Tradition and Sōka Gakkai International. More recently there has been the emergence of Secular Buddhism UK which has developed from the writings of Stephen Batchelor (author).13 Two Buddhist umbrella organisations in the UK are The Buddhist Society, established in 1924 with an office in London, and The Network of Buddhist Organisations, established in 1993.
- BuddhistChannel - Allure of Buddhism growing in the UK
- Buddhist Channel - Seed of Buddhism now growing in UK
- National Statistics Online
- Buddhism and Ethnicity in Britain: The 2001 Census Data
- Census 2001: National Report for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics, London, TSO, 2003, page 184
- Census 2001: National Report for England and Wales, part 2, Office for National Statistics, London, TSO, 2004, page 33
- Scotland's Census 2001: the Registrar-General's Report to the Scottish Parliament, General Register Office for Scotland, 2003, page 31
- Northern Ireland Census 2001: Standard Tables, National Statistics, 2003, page 43
- Buddhism & meditation in the English Lake District
- Conishead Priory, Ulverston
- Jamyang Buddhist Centre
- Community of Interbeing > Groups Accessed 14 April 2012.
- Secular Buddhism UK Accessed 14 April 2012.
- List of notable Buddhist centers, pagodas and temples in the United Kingdom
- The Buddhist Society
- BBC - British Buddhism
- Reassessing what we collect website – Buddhist London History of Buddhist London with objects and images
- Buddhism Today - Buddhism in United Kingdom
- Kagyu Samye Dzong London
- Diamond Way Buddhism UK
- Aro gTér
- Directory of Buddhist organisations in the north of England