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.

  • 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. Jul 1 '14 at 22:11
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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
    – soulsings
    Sep 12 '14 at 12:45

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.


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.

  • 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 Jul 1 '14 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. Jul 1 '14 at 20:21
  • Where Is this all found in the pali cannon? Jul 1 '14 at 21:54
  • It's in the commentaries as far as I know. Don't have a link to provide at this time. Jul 1 '14 at 22:00
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    The 5000 year prediction is given in both Manorathapurani commentary and Sampasadaniya sutta commentary.
    – dmsp
    Sep 12 '14 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.

  • Out of interest - why didn't you include Islam in the graph? It is also a major religion...
    – Rabbit
    Sep 12 '14 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
    – kero
    Sep 12 '14 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
    Nov 23 '14 at 12:19

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

In the modern age of world-wide education & science, all religions that have superstitious beliefs will inevitably fall into decline (statistically). Asian cultural 'Buddhism' is no different to Western Christianity or Judaism. Many Asian cultural Buddhists will stop believing in unknowable superstitious ideas (such as 'reincarnation-rebirth' & external 'heavens & hells') & thus reject (what they believe) Buddhism (to be).

The Buddhist scriptures (such as MN 95) report the Buddha criticised religions that adhere to blind faith yet, since that time, Buddhism has become the same. For example, today, there are famous teachers that will insist you cannot be a Buddhist if you do not believe in post-mortem-rebirth.

"Master Gotama, with regard to the ancient hymns of the brahmans — passed down through oral transmission & included in their canon — the brahmans have come to the definite conclusion that "...this is true..." What does Master Gotama have to say to this?"

"Tell me, Bharadvaja, is there among the brahmans even one brahman who says, 'This I know; this I see...this is true..'"

"No, Master Gotama."

the Dhamma... is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise..

I speculate Buddhism only historically grew as a cultural religion due to a change of emphasis towards 'rebirth-reincarnation' (which was also the primary reason why Buddhism became extinct in India due to it becoming undifferentiatable from Hinduism). Therefore, it is inevitable cultural Buddhism declines for the same reason that it grew; in that it was never ever True Buddhism.

In conclusion, (in ordinary circumstances) the True Dhamma will not decline since those that comprehend Ultimate Knowable Truth do not change their convictions.


I don't have statistics for you but I do want to point a few things out to give you hope against the dire (skillful means) predictions of a Dharma Ending Age:

  • Statistics lie. There must be a huge amount of "unnanounced Buddhists" who practice meditation with the quest for Awakening (freedom from suffering). This to me qualifies as Buddhist, especially because some of these "untracked" people spend far more hours in the day practicing the essence of Buddhism than those affiliated to a softcore branch of Buddhism.. I myself am one of those people who announces themselves as multiple religions/none.
  • Buddhism is more of a spiritual lifestyle than a '-ism'. Therefore anyone of any religion can practice it in the cover of their communal Abrahamic (or otherwise) religion.
  • Buddhism can never die. The quest for freedom and happiness will never end and due to the information age, the Buddhist teachings/suttas are forever preserved even if a major portion of humanity is decimated.

So long as you yourself are interested in Buddhism for its life-benefitting knowledge, you can be sure many others are, too.

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