Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Africa: Buddhism Gaining Ground

What is African Buddhism?
Engaged Buddhists discussion (2/21/08)

And what is African Pureland Buddhism? These two questions tackle a delicate subject that cannot be answered straightforwardly. So it remains much of an open question. What we ask viewers and participants is to give their opinion/position/critique on:
  • What is African Buddhism?
  • What is African Pureland?
  • Is there, or should there be, such a thing as African Buddhism?
  • What would it entail?
  • Who decides what African Buddhism is?

It is important to keep ethical principles in mind. Buddhism should not be propagated as a power structure seeking converts. The Dharma is shared as a mutual means of guidance to help end suffering. Share your ideas and suggestions on the topic for the benefit of the African socio-spiritual-cultural Continent at:

Bhante Buddharakkhita (Uganda), a Theravada Buddhist monk born in Uganda, East Africa. He became interested in Buddhism while he was a student in India in 1990. He was ordained by the late Sayadaw U Silananda. In 2005, he founded the Uganda Buddhist Centre in Kampala, Uganda, the first Buddhist Center in Uganda. He is the author of Planting Dhamma Seeds: The emerging Buddhism in Africa. He is also a resident monk in West Virginia (USA) at the Bhavana Society Forest monastery. Venerable Buddharakkhita's Vipassana Foundation profile can be found here (scroll down to the end).

South Africa (Wikipedia, WQ edit)

Buddhism has been gaining ground in South Africa. The country now comprises the largest Buddhist community in Africa. South Africa is also the base for organizations aiming to spread Buddhism in Africa, such as the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Apart from various Buddhist groups brought to the Cape Colony from Southeast Asia during the 1680s, and the many indentured laborers brought to Natal from India during the latter part of the 19th Century (some of whom were Buddhist, and some of whom were Hindu who later converted to Buddhism once in South Africa), most Buddhists in South Africa are non-Asian converts.

Nan Hua Temple Complex, near Johannesburg, South Africa

Various Buddhist groups grew up in the major cities since the 1970s. There has been a proliferation of distinct Buddhist traditions since the mid-1980s. These include Theravada, Zen, Nichiren, and Tibetan schools. The Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order has erected Nan Hua Temple (pictured above), the largest Buddhist temple and monastery in Africa, in the town of Bronkhorstspruit near Pretoria.

Another notable Buddhist center in the country is the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal. The Nichiren Buddhist lay group Soka Gakkai International also has a community center in Parkwood, Johannesburg.

A community of lay and ordained Buddhist practitioners live in the modern and tranquil setting in the peaceful and beautiful suburb of Blairgowrie/Randburg/Johannesburg. Classes open to the general public as well as structured study classes are held at the Vajrapani Buddhist Centre and various other venues in Gauteng. The center is run by the resident teacher Gen Kelsang Legden, who was ordained in the UK in 1997 by the spiritual director, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, of the New Kadampa Tradition - International Kadampa Buddhist Union.

A 2003 study estimated that in the late 1990s there were a total of 6,000 Buddhists in South Africa (3,000 of Asian ancestry) out of a total population of 42 million (or 0.01% of the total population). [Ref]

Notable South African Buddhists & Organizations

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