Buddhism in Australia: Traditions in Change

By Bouma, Gary D. | Journal of Global Buddhism, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Buddhism in Australia: Traditions in Change


Bouma, Gary D., Journal of Global Buddhism


Buddhism in Australia: Traditions in Change. Edited by Cristina Rocha and Michelle Barker. London: Routledge, 2011, xviii + 170, ISBN 978-0-415-56818-0 (cloth), USD $130.00/£85.00; ISBN 978-0-203-84032 (ebook), £71.66.

Reviewed by Emeritus Professor Gary D. Bouma

Rocha and Barker present an excellent introduction to Buddhism in Australia. There is a lack of up to date material on Buddhism in Australia, even though Buddhists comprise over two per cent of the population, making them the second largest religious group in the country. Several authors refer to Buddhism as the fastest growing religion in Australia. This is not accurate-between 1996 and 2001 they won the prize among religious groups over 0.5% of the population, but that prize went to Hindus for the 2001-2006 period. However, Buddhists have clearly formed significant communities in Australia, built their spiritual infrastructure, and are making a significant impact on the society. This book tells the details of these facts in a most readable and enjoyable way, providing the reader a clear, accurate, and interesting picture of Buddhists and Buddhist communities in Australia.

The origins of Buddhism in Australia are richly diverse, even as the current practice of Buddhism is. The editors of this volume are well aware that any local history and description of Buddhism participates in and reflects the global movement of this religion/spirituality/ philosophy/way of life. These local-to-global links are made in ways that enhance the understanding of both spheres. The vital diversity of Buddhism is described in ways that ensure the reader finds it impossible to essentialize Buddhism or Buddhists in Australia or anywhere else.

Once the origins are described and a quick socio-demographic profile commenced, the impact of Buddhism on Australia in the form of temple building experiences is covered. These reports demonstrate the difficulties encountered by Buddhists, their creative responses to community challenges, and the outcomes of effort to build temples, meditation centers, and schools. The stories depict clearly the two-way nature of religious settlement-the processes by which a religion moves from one place to another and becomes part of the new home and, in the process, both the religion and the new home change in creative accommodation to each other. …

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