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 Buddhism in Australia

Little known fact: Buddhism is Australia's fastest growing religion and the 3rd largest religious grouping in the country.

How can Buddhism be thriving in the wide brown land? Think Australia, and, after kangaroos and cattle dogs, most of us probably think of lazy summer days at the beach, watching the cricket, or lounging around after a barbie. Australians are on the whole a down to earth and easy going lot and Buddhism seems so serious. Cross-legged monks in saffron robes, spending hours absorbed in solitary meditation. Could you possibly find anything more at odds with the Aussie self image?

Stereotypes aside, Australia has probably moved on a bit since the middle of the 20th century as it's become a more diverse and multicultural society. The increasing numbers of people interested in Buddhism in this country has a lot to do with the arrival of many immigrants from Buddhist cultures in recent decades (though the first Buddhist immigrants came to Australia much earlier, especially with Chinese immigration during the 19th century gold rushes). Mirroring the diversity of our society as a whole, just about every type of Buddhist tradition is now established here. Centres and temples representing the Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Burmese, Tibetan and Sri Lankan lineages of Buddhism can be found in most of our big cities.

Interestingly though, immigration is not the only contributing factor to the growth in Buddhism in this country. Increasingly people of Western background have also become interested in Buddhist methods and practice in the last few decades. Perhaps some people are attracted by the Buddhist emphasis on critical thought and analysis, which in many ways has a close fit with the scientific and technological streams of Western thought. The fact that Buddhism teaches the paramount importance of tolerance and respect for other religious traditions has also helped it to establish a dialogue with Christianity and other religions in Australia.

Another important factor is a more general interest in meditation and stress management that has developed in Western societies as our lives have become more demanding and frenetic. For many people Buddhism offers a powerful framework for interpreting their experience - both the good times and the difficult ones - and using those experiences to develop greater clarity, understanding, contentment and openness in one's personal life. So you may well find Australian Buddhists hanging out on the beach - but they just might be enjoying it more!

For more information about buddhism you can purchase books at 2002 Memorabilia.