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Buddhism in England

buddhism in england

Buddhism is quite a recent religion to arrive in Britain. The influences of Buddhism started in England from the early twentieth century. Despite this, the most recent census, the 2011 Census, over 200000 people in England had declared themselves to be Buddhist and 34% of them hail from the capital London. From the early periods, there have been few significant events like the foundation of London's Buddhist society, the London Buddhist Vihara of Theravada influence, establishment of Maha Bodhi Society, etc were successfully able to introduce the religion as a monastic as well as spiritual tradition to the people of Britain. The earlier Buddhist influences were with the Theravada traditions from Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka which eventually led to the foundation of the Pali Text Society in England. Sir Edwin Arnold compiled an epic poem, The Light of Asia, describing the life of the Buddha in 1879, became an instant classic which is still in print to this day.

The number books on Buddhism were available in a very limited number in those early days but they were enough to inspire people to actually begin practicing Buddhism in their lives. Many people from England travelled to Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma to learn more about Buddhism, one of those was Allan Bennet who returned as Ananda Metteyya from Sri Lanka. He became the first Englishman to be appointed as a Buddhist monk inTheravada tradition. This continued for many years and the returning monks introduced the Dhammakaya tradition in England in 1954 followed by the foundation of the English Sangha Trust in 1955. This also encouraged few Asian monks to come to live in England. There were further development and flourishing of many other prominent Buddhist societies and Buddhist movements in England. This led to the westerners to travel to study Buddhism in the east by the eastern teachers, particularly by many Tibetan Lamas who were refugees under the influence of whom a large and diverse Buddhist society in Britain had emerged.

The sixties brought eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism into fashion as many pop culture icons embraced the Eastern lifestyle with ease which prominently included Buddhism. The Chinese invasion of Tibet led to the exodus of thousands of Tibetans with the Dalai Lama in 1959. This brought the lamas to the west. This factor in particular led to the ever growing popularity of the new Buddhist philosophy among the people from England and Buddhist traditions and many groups were formed in a drastic way.

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