Buddhism is a major component of the spiritual heritage for individuals in the APAC region of the world. There are two main branches in Buddhism: Threavada and Mahayana. Buddhism is also a major component of many new religious movements that are beginning today, especially in South Korea and Japan.
More than 490 million people actively practice Buddhism on a regular basis.
There is a third branch of Buddhism, called Vajrayana, which is also practiced by about 20 million people. Sometimes referred to as Tibetan Buddhism, for the western world, it is the branch of this religion that is most often pictured.
Who Practices Buddhism?
- 7% of the world’s population identifies itself as a practitioner of Buddhism.
- Outside of the APAC region, the largest number of practicing Buddhists in the world today exists in North America with 3.8 million practitioners.
- Just 0.1% of the practicing Buddhist population makes their home in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Only Europe joins the US as a region which is the home to more than 1 million Buddhists.
- 50% of all Buddhists call China their home. This is followed by Thailand at 13%, Japan at 9%, and Myanmar [Burma] at 8%.
- There are 7 countries which have Buddhist majorities in the general population.
- The average age of the practicing Buddhist is 34.
Buddhists are about 6 years older in median age than the general population. The only sub-group that is an exception to this rule is the small group of Buddhists in Sub-Saharan African, which has a median age of 29 – yet even there the median age of the population is just 18. Altogether this makes Buddhism the fourth largest religion in the world, even though it is primarily concentrated in the APAC region, but what makes this religion unique is that one can practice Buddhism and practice other religions simultaneously.
Buddhism Demographics Outside the APAC Region
- About 1 in 3 Buddhists living outside of the APAC region have an Asian ancestry, another 53% are classified as being White/Caucasian.
- When US citizens where asked to rate how they feel about Buddhists on a scale of 1-100, with higher numbers being “warmer,” the average score given was 53. This ranked Buddhists higher than Mormons, Hindus, and Muslims.
- For people who consider themselves a non-evangelical Christian, Buddhists rank higher than evangelical Christians in the US.
- Younger people tend to rate Buddhism higher than older people outside of the APAC region, which is the opposite of what occurs in the primary population base for this religion.
- Buddhists tend to lean more toward the Democratic party in the US than the Republican party [53-47%].
- In the US, 72% of practicing Buddhists converted to the religion from a previous religion.
Some may say that Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the western world. Although this point may be arguable, there are some facts that are not in dispute. People are becoming fed-up with the status quo when it comes to religion. They are looking for real peace and contentment. This is why many are turning to Buddhism as an alternative. It is not a mutually exclusive religion, yet offers something that the other major religions may not be able to provide.
What It Is Like To Be Buddhist
- 90% of Buddhists say that they are satisfied with what is going on with their personal life.
- Only 8% of Buddhists say they are dissatisfied with life, which is the lowest percentage of any religious group.
- In the US, only 50% of children who are raised in a Buddhist household still consider themselves to be part of this religion as an adult.
- In the western world, most organized religions are experiencing negative gains when it comes to the practicing population. Buddhism has a 0.3% gain, which is only beat by groups listed as “other faiths” or “unaffiliated religion.”
Why is Buddhism popular? For some, it is because it allows people to choose their belief in God. For others, it allows them to pursue their own life path. There is no history of violence like the other religions have and the philosophy is one of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. Some even say that Jesus may have been a follower of Buddhism based on the teachings reported in the New Testament. Ultimately faith and religion is a personal choice. As the demographics prove, more people are thinking about Buddhism than ever before.