Year on year the number of people who identify as Buddhist in Ireland rises. Figures from the central statistics office show that between 2002 – 2006 the amount of Buddhists in Ireland increased by 67%, to 6,516 and between 2006 – 2011 this number increased again, this time by 33%.
Vajrashura, the manager of the Dublin Buddhist Centre, had some insight into why there has been substantially more interest in Buddhism in Ireland over the past 10 to 15 years, “For me I think it ties in with what we were being offered in the Celtic Tiger, it was happiness through wealth, happiness through consumerism, happiness through materialism and that just didn’t really work, it crashed and people were left wondering what the hell it all meant… I think people are realising that you have to have a spiritual dimension to your life if you’re going to be happy.”
Buddhism offers its practitioners a way to find happiness from within, so external things like wealth or material possessions have no impact on their happiness.
Organised religion has been in decline in Ireland during recent years, with the number of atheists increasing by 320% between 2006 – 2011. So, with such a dramatic increase in the amount of people who identify as having no religion, why is Buddhism continually on the rise?
According to Vajrashura, “What Buddhism offers is quite unique in the west, at least in terms of the older traditions, it doesn’t require obedience to a god because there is no god in Buddhism, it doesn’t require a cutting off of your rational functions, which a lot of the older religions did… so I think Buddhism offers a rational, friendly, spiritual tradition which is more than is available at the moment in the west, so people are finding it very attractive.”
Since the scientific revolution in 1543, the scientific method has been the most powerful way of determining fact from fiction. The rise in popularity of the scientific method has been mirrored with a decline in other religions, mainly religions that discourage rational thinking and functions, the kind of thinking that is necessary when following the scientific method. This may be another factor to take into consideration when contemplating the rise of Buddhism in contrast to other religions, as practising rational, clear thinking is a very important part of Buddhism.
Vajrashura, who holds a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics and a Master in high-performance computing, said “I think Buddhism is one of the few religions that isn’t actively in contradiction with science… the Western world has been incredibly influenced by the enlightenment period, the European classical enlightenment, so we have that deep and rich heritage that we’ve inherited these last few hundred years and if religion goes against that very strongly, it’s not going to win I think.”
So, what do you think about all this? Have you noticed more friends talking about Buddhism or are you possibly the friend who’s taking about it? Let us know in the comments section below.
For those of you who are interested in exploring the world of Buddhism, pop around to your local Buddhist centre and ask for some information. For those looking to take your first steps, the Dublin Buddhist Centre holds open group meetings and offers a wide variety of introductory courses on topics such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga.