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I was listening to a podcast a while ago and it stated that Buddhism worldwide is in decline. I found that surprising. Is that true? Does anyone have any references or better still statistics to prove or disprove that.

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From my reading on Buddhist history-- Buddhist in places where it was numerically most successful it was as state religion. Tibet, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Japan, Korea-- all of these places, no more state support, sometimes quite the opposite! The institutions are slowing responding. –  MatthewMartin Jul 1 at 22:11

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I found several interesting Wiki pages:

This one gives a basic idea about the growth as a comparison between 1910 and 2010.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_religion

This is the List of religious population.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations

This one gives the population groth rates
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_growth_rate

By briefly analysing all of the above, I feel like Buddhism is decline according to the statistics.

Further found this article which gives a projections for the Next 200 Years :
http://www.wnrf.org/cms/print_next200.shtml

According to it from 1900 to 2025 Buddhist world wide % changed ( and will be change) from 7.8% to 5.7%.

Although it sound like depressing, please think as a Buddhists this is quite expected and all align with Buddhist teaching. Going forward, It is quite clear that world is not going be a better place than today. As people moving more towards to materialism, consumerism they tends to distract from the reality. So be mindful and practice the Dhamma.

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Part of the problem with measuring the number of practicing Buddhists depends on how you define "practicing" and "Buddhist". Plus the world population has grown dramatically so the percentage of Buddhists may decline but the number of Buddhists may increase.

This is especially true in the west where Buddhist principles are practiced by an unknown number of people with no affiliation with monastery, meditation centers or other organized Buddhist centers. The polls do not count people who participate in a regular practice that have a previous affiliation with a group but who now cannot or do not choose to be an active member, so the polls do not consider what might be called "informal Buddhists". Mindfulness training, although not Buddhist in the strictest sense, teaches the principals of Buddhist meditation without the precepts and rules of traditional Buddhism. If we counted those as people on the path to awakening, would that be a more realistic picture?

The stresses of the world do incline people to seek material solutions to problems, but those with an inner calling are plodding along with their spiritual practice.

The success of Buddhism does not depend on numbers but on keeping the practice of awakening alive in the most realistic way possible in the present situation.

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According to the commentaries, Buddha Sasana will last 5000 years. That means about another 2400+ years. In the 1st millennium, there were Arahaths with special Jhanic powers. In the 2nd millennium, there were Arahaths with no specials powers. In the 3rd millennium, i.e. at present, it's said that there are only Anagami Sangha at most. In the 4th millennium, there will be Sakadagami Sangha at most. In the 5th, there will be Sothapanna Sangha at most. At the end, monks won't even be wearing robes. They will wear ordinary clothes and will just use a yellow string to indicate that they are monks.

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You know that wasn't the sort of answer that I was expecting but absolutely - the decline is spoken about within the texts themselves +1 –  Crab Bucket Jul 1 at 20:14
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Yes, declining! But enough Dhamma is preserved for you to attain enlightenment. You just need to work harder since the Buddha is no more. Most of the beings who could easily attain enlightenment had already attained it during Buddha's time. –  Sankha Kulathantille Jul 1 at 20:21
    
Where Is this all found in the pali cannon? –  Jayantha Jul 1 at 21:54
    
It's in the commentaries as far as I know. Don't have a link to provide at this time. –  Sankha Kulathantille Jul 1 at 22:00
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The 5000 year prediction is given in both Manorathapurani commentary and Sampasadaniya sutta commentary. –  dmsp Sep 12 at 12:56

In addition to the other answers, I believe there is a global decline in many major religions as you can see in this Google trends graph.

Google trends graph showing global decline in major religions

I would argue that especially in the western countries choice and interest of religion is subject to change, e.g., due to trends and/or major events.

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Out of interest - why didn't you include Islam in the graph? It is also a major religion... –  Rabbit Sep 12 at 12:53
    
@Rabbit I am sorry. But the resulting graph wouldn't have shown the downwards curve as good as this (due to "zooming out"). Also I do believe the fact that there are way more results implies that many are not religion related per se –  kingkero Sep 12 at 12:57
    
The fact that less people type a name of a religion into Google might simply be a result of people using Google differently. Today people search a lot more targeted. –  Christian yesterday

Main aspect leading to Buddhist decline or growth as per The Dharma-ending Age :

  1. the admission of women into the monastic community;
  2. the lack of respect toward various elements of the Buddhist tradition;
  3. the lack of diligence in meditation practice;
  4. carelessness in the transmission of the teachings;
  5. the emergence of divisions within the Sangha;
  6. the emergence of false or “counterfeit” Dharma; and
  7. excessive association with secular society.

Later texts also mention external causes of the religion’s decline of which there are two:

  1. the invasion of India by foreign, non-Buddhist powers; and
  2. excessive state control.

Out of these we already see many elements today. So naturally Buddhism is in the decline. The way to get over this decline can be as follows:

  • Every Buddhist should operative the 4 frame of mindfulness diligently to attack 3
  • Should teach this diligently and sharing Dhamma realized empirically to attack 2
  • Should try to source as much from the Suttas strengthened though empirical understanding to attack 4 and 6
  • Be mindful of the Vinaya and how the Sangha is organised without trying to bring variations 5, 7 and 2
  • Look at the Dhamma as it is without a mixing personal or cultural beliefs to attack 2 and 7
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