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.
I found several interesting Wiki pages:
This one gives a basic idea about the growth as a comparison between 1910 and 2010.
This is the List of religious population.
This one gives the population groth rates
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 :
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.