According to official statistics, one in a million Americans has converted to Buddhism. This excludes the “ethnic” Buddhists, of course, and although some may find this statistic not to be impressive, a large majority of converts may still be undeclared because not everyone who practices Buddhist principles formally identifies themselves as a Buddhist. This makes the statistics inaccurate and thus, the rate of Western converts to this religion potentially higher. As mentioned, there are many living by Buddhist rules and practicing traditions conventionally found in this religion, such as meditation, simply for spiritual purposes. But, why do people chose this religion over the one they may have been born into? Many claim that this happens because Buddhism is a religion that does not require from its disciples any form of blind faith and this appeals to the modern, analytical mind. And although it has some core books that the lamas teach from, it is not strictly based on them, like Christianity or Islam. For beginners in Tibetan Buddhism, it simply requires following some spiritual rules, on the way to their and other’s happiness.
And although many might be inspired by mesmerizing Buddha images for free download that they find online and decide to take further steps to acquiring deeper knowledge about the religion, the true reason for the high conversion rate that we find in Western countries can be traced back to the beliefs of Buddhism. With a set of values and practices emerging from ancient India, Buddhism remains highly compatible with modern society. Many who are in a constant search of deepening their philosophical knowledge and beliefs on life and happiness, will find the answer in Buddhism. After all, Buddhism is all about, of course, in a simplified way, acknowledging that all creatures suffer, that all suffering ultimately ends in Enlightenment (also known as Nirvana), and that to reach the state of Nirvana we must follow a simple set of moral rules and concepts. Engaging in the right actions at the right time, understanding the world and the workings of karma in the correct way, consistently accessing a state of mindfulness and always remaining analytical are some beliefs of Buddhism strongly encouraged by gurus.
Yes, unlike other religions, Buddhism encourages all adepts to remain analytical and even skeptical. Practitioners don’t have to place their faith in a deity, blindly following its rules. They have the liberty of thought and act, which makes Buddhism the perfect manifestation of spirituality for those describing themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. It might sound surprising, but this is a religion embraced even by agnostics and atheists.
Just like Tsem Rinpoche, a reputable spiritual adviser says, karma and reincarnation are two concepts that motivate people do acts of good. Because every creature’s life is a cycle of reincarnations and the next existence is determined by their deeds from their present life (karma), practitioners find motivation in acting correctly from an ethical point of view. It is simple: if you live a modest and noble life, your next life will experience less suffering. Otherwise, your next existence may find itself to be marked by suffering and unhappiness.
Because it follows simple moral and behavioral rules, Buddhism will continue to grow in popularity, and so will the number of converts.