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Rising challenges to the Buddhist world

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Are traditional Buddhist countries being force fed with ideas foreign to Asia?



By Senaka Weeraratna
  The crisis facing the Buddhist world is neither a decline in religious conviction nor an apprehension that truth underpinned by rational argument and new scientific discoveries will one day overtake and outstrip the core teachings of its founder which is a perennial fear bordering on despondency that characterizes several other competing religions, but the lack of an effective institutional mechanism that can lend support when a Buddhist institution, Buddhist community or even a pre-dominant Buddhist nation is in danger. We see the lack of substantial networks of support driving threatened Buddhist nations or Buddhist communities into a sense of despair and hopelessness at times of an emergency. Traditional Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos are now under severe pressure to distance themselves from extending state patronage to Buddhism and erase their Buddhist country identity and embrace a secular identity with no such pressure being applied to countries in other parts of the world such as the Middle East or the Catholic belt of Europe.

"Buddhist countries should engage in increasing close cooperation in international affairs and meet like the European Union or the OIC in the form of a League of Buddhist Nations"


Despite a 2500 year old history that makes Buddhism one of the oldest religions in the world, a worldwide presence that makes it a global religion, and a way of life grounded in wisdom and compassion that attracts the envy of other civilizations, Buddhism still retains its biggest constraint i.e. lack of effective protections. It is a historical fact that Buddhism has lost more territory and space in Asia, its traditional homeland, in the last one thousand years than any other religion. It is also a hard fact that this process is on going with no sign of abatement and no effective measures developed to counter it.

Buddhism’s biggest appeal of being an eternally passive, non-confrontational, peace loving religion that lacks a central place to direct its affairs in the international arena unlike in the case of say the Vatican (sovereign state enjoying both temporal and spiritual power) or the World Council of Churches ( powerful and well – funded with influence reaching to four corners of the world) or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (promoting Muslim solidarity in economic, social, and political affairs), has become Buddhism’s Achilles’ heel. Its organizational bases are relatively powerless when compared to the aforesaid entities. For example, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The organisation is the collective voice of the Muslim world and committed to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world. It has its headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

Rising Challenges to Buddhism The issue of rising challenges to Buddhism to the extent of undermining its very existence as the pre-dominant religion of a nation, hardly merits much attention in discussions of International Buddhist Organisations, International Buddhist Conferences, or among National Governments in countries with predominant Buddhist populations and corresponding state and constitutional obligations to protect and foster Buddhism.
Contd. on Page 11
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