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Buddhism and Hinduism: more recent developments: a personal investigation.

2020-07-31
photo by WikiImages courtesy of pixabay.com (picked for its one-pointedness)

I’m writing this post today for two reasons: first, I don’t know what is going on with these organized religions today. Two, I wrote several posts about the origins of both religions in the eras surrounding the birth of the Buddha and the origins of the Vedas (documents that form some of the foundations of Hinduism.)

The Hindu religion is closely associated with India, home to the second-largest population in the world today (roughly 1.353 billion people in 2018 and growing about 1% a year or 13.53 million– meaning there are roughly 1,380,060,000 people there today. Actually, Worldometer estimates that there are 1,380004,385 people in India on July 31, 2021.)

According to Wikipedia, India is nearly 80% Hindu, and Nepal is 81%. Bali is also 84% Hindu. Wikipedia lists these other countries with large Hindu populations: Bangladesh (14 million or 8.5%),  IndonesiaPakistan (3.6 million or 1.8%), Sri Lanka (2.7 million or 12%), MalaysiaSingaporeUnited StatesMyanmarUnited KingdomCanadaSouth AfricaMauritius, and the Caribbean or West Indies.

Buddhism is associated with China, but not quite as strongly as Hinduism is with India. China has the largest population, estimated at 1,439,323,776 today by Worldometer. Some say that India’s population will overtake that of China soon.

China has been home to Buddhism since Chinese pilgrims (some of them Taoist monks) visited India in the early years of the common era.

Time.com says, “Official [Chinese government] statistics don’t exist, but the Pew Research Center, which surveys religious belief worldwide, estimates some 245 million Buddhists in China, around 18% of the total national population.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “The state [the People’s Republic of China, herein called the Chinese government] recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. The practice of any other faith is formally prohibited, although often tolerated, especially in the case of traditional Chinese beliefs.”

Several smaller countries have significant populations of Buddhists. Taiwan, which aspires to be a separate country from mainland China but has some difficulty with international recognition, has some eight million Buddhists. Most of them are adherents of the Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) sect.

Other countries with large Buddhist populations: Tibet (legally part of China), Japan (45 millions), Thailand (64 million or 93% of the country), Sri Lanka (14 million or 69%), Nepal (3 million or 10%), Myanmar/Burma ( 38 million or 80%), Mongolia (1.5 million or 55%), Malaysia (5 million or 20%), Laos (4 million/ 66%), South Korea (11 million/ 23%), Cambodia (13.7 million / 97%), and Bhutan (0.5 million/ 75%). For the world, the total of Buddhists is 487 million or 7.1%. All this is from Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, “… an IndiaSpend analysis of 2011 Census data … there are more than 8.4 million Buddhists in India and 87% of them are neo-Buddhists or Navayana Buddhists. They are converted from other religions, mostly Dalits (Scheduled Caste) who changed religion to escape Hindu caste oppression.” (This means about 0.8% of India is Buddhist.)

That suggests another topic, the origins of the caste system, about which I have some thoughts and some need to research in order to form opinions. Not now.

Both religions started in Northern India.

As I noted in previous posts, Buddhism in India may be considered to have begun as an outgrowth of Hinduism– when the Buddha rejected the teachings of two sramana experts on meditation. There are many aspects of Hinduism which the Buddha found objectionable.

I won’t get into that now, but there were reports of Buddhists in China before 300 BCE. The Han emperor Ming Ti (reigned CE 57-75) is said to have had a dream that was interpreted to him as a vision of the Buddha.

In reality, it was more of a gradual process both before and after the emperor’s dream. The Silk Road trade route was a major factor in the wide spread of Chinese Buddhism, especially after the first century of the common era– the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE.)

Buddhist tantras or magical invocations (mantras) were popular because of their resemblance to Taoist practices. This made Vajrayana, or Tibetan Buddhism, particularly engaging for Chinese Taoists.

Not a good place to stop.

This is not a good place to stop but sometimes you have to stop for extraneous reasons and that is the case now. So I promise more later, especially if i get some “likes”… even if I don’t get any likes or comments. No, I don’t care if you like it or not, but it’s always nice to be liked. Really, I have to stop now. Don’t stop now. Stop now. Don’t stop now. Don’t. Stop. Now.

[microphone falls to floor]

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