Buddhism is one of the world’s universal religions, which has millions of adepts and this religion tends to be more and more popular in the world. At the same time, Buddhism is very different from other world’s religions, such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In fact, Buddhism can hardly be viewed as religion, from the traditional western point of view, because its adepts do not worship gods or deities. Instead, they are entirely focused on the search of personal enlightenment that makes the sense of Buddhism as one of the world’s universal religion. On the other hand, it is probably this search of self-perfection and personal enlightenment that lays the foundation to Buddhism that determines the growing popularity of Buddhism in the modern western society, where religion, in its traditional form, has started to lose its dominant position as the main source of spiritual values, norms and principles that define the life of the modern western society.
In order to understand the popularity of Buddhism and its growing influence as one of the mainstream, universal religions in the world, it is necessary to focus on the essence of Buddhism and its major principles. First of all, Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to insight into the true nature of life and personal enlightenment (Hudson, 217). This means that adepts of Buddhism are searching for the personal enlightenment through meditation. In such a way, they attempt to distance from troubles and vanity of the surrounding world.
Instead, they focus on their internal world searching for the true nature. The ultimate goal of such search is the personal enlightenment and the deep insight into the true nature of life. In this regard, Buddhism is very different from traditional religions, which are widely-spread in the western civilization, such as Christianity, for instance.
Buddhism does not tend to the externalization as other world religions do but, in stark contrast, it tends to the internalization of spiritual or religious searches of adepts.
At the same time, Buddhism is sometimes described as the first universal religion. Obviously, Buddhism is a truly universal religion because its fundamental principles and ideas imply the elimination of any differences between people and promote tolerance. To put it more precisely, the basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical that makes them universal and acceptable by all people, regardless of their cultural background (Cousins, 103). In fact, Buddhism promotes the idea that nothing is fixed and permanent. In stark contrast, Buddhists stress the impermanence of the world and life. They believe that actions have consequences. This means that whatever people do will have effects on their life in the future. In such a way, this belief makes people truly responsible for their actions because Buddhism implies that effects of actions will be respective to actions. In other words, good actions will lead to good effects on an individual, who does these actions, whereas bad actions will have negative effects on an individual who does these actions. Therefore, people cannot act irresponsibly to avoid negative effects of their actions.
At this point, it is possible to trace some similarities to Christian beliefs, which are still dominant in western societies, such as American or Canadian ones. In fact, similarly to Buddhism, Christianity promotes the idea of the responsibility of people for their actions. However, unlike Buddhism, Christianity stands on the ground that the reward for good actions as well as the punishment for evil actions will occur in the afterlife and the final judgment will bring salvation to true adepts of Christianity, whereas all the others are doomed to perish. Instead, Buddhism makes positive or negative effects of good or bad actions possible in the lifetime of an individual and it will affect directly the individual but not certain groups of people. Thus, Buddhism stresses the individual responsibility for actions committed by a person.
Furthermore, Buddhism stands on the ground that the change is possible. In this respect, Buddhism is quite different from traditional western religious beliefs, which are quite rigid at this point. In fact, Christianity, as the main religion of western societies, tends to admit either virtuous or sinful way of life, stressing that people are inclined to sinful life, but Christianity admits that through conversion to Christianity and worshiping of God, people can come to salvation of their souls, which actually occur in the afterlife. In stark contrast, Buddhism stresses that the change is possible and people can improve their life and become better in the course of their life. Therefore, it is up to an individual to decide whether they want to get good effects from their actions or bad ones. Nevertheless, whatever people have in their life, they always have an opportunity to change their life and make it better (Nattier and Prebish, 241). This idea is very important and very attracting to contemporary people, especially living in the western society because people want changes and improvements of their life when they are alive, but not in the afterlife.
In this respect, the impact of the modern culture on western people proves to be particularly significant because it is the modern culture and lifestyle that determines the growing popularity of Buddhism in such countries as Canada or the US. To put it more precisely, the modern society is the society of emerging materialism and consumerism.
Traditional, religious values turn out to be out of date, whereas the hypothetical threat of punishment or perspective of reward in the afterlife promoted by Christianity is perceived very skeptically by western people. The development of science and technologies along with emerging consumerism made western people concerned with their present life or their earthly life. Therefore, they do need positive changes right now, when they are still alive. At the same time, they often confront evil acts and injustice in the surrounding world and it is through action they do want to make the world better, whereas Buddhism makes this change possible. In addition, Buddhism addresses itself to all people, regardless of their race, nationality, or gender. The tolerance of Buddhism is extremely important, especially in the modern democratic and multicultural western society.
Thus, in conclusion, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that Buddhism is a truly universal religion that is very popular in different countries of the world. Buddhist principles and ideas are acceptable in different cultures that determine the growing popularity of this religion.