What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

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What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby ylee111 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 7:04 pm

Has a census or poll ever been done within the Buddhist sangha of which sect has the most followers (or at least people self-identifying as a member of a subgrouping)? I am guessing it is a Mahayana school since China is one of the world's largest Buddhist countries and has the most biggest population on the globe. So Chinese Pureland?
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:16 pm

To the best of my knowledge, most Buddhist on Earth are human.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Jan 09, 2014 1:36 am

ylee111 wrote:Has a census or poll ever been done within the Buddhist sangha of which sect has the most followers (or at least people self-identifying as a member of a subgrouping)? I am guessing it is a Mahayana school since China is one of the world's largest Buddhist countries and has the most biggest population on the globe. So Chinese Pureland?


Depends on what you mean by a "sect". 99% of Chinese Pureland practice doesn't really have much to do with a "sect" at all.

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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Tenso » Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:00 am

Chinese PL is the most widely practiced for sure.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby rory » Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:35 am

Sokka Gakkai I bet for a membership group.
gassho
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby plwk » Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:57 am

Why Dharma Wheel of course... :mrgreen:
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Motova » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:08 am

why does it matter? :shrug:
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby ylee111 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:15 am

I'm a stats guy.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:48 am

My guesstimates:

1. Pure Land
2. "General" Buddhism (no specific school, although primarily Mahayana)
3. Theravada
4. Zen
5. Vajrayana-Tibetan

And then among convert 'Western' Buddhists:

1. Vajrayana-Tibetan
2. Zen
3. Theravada / Vipassana
4. "General Buddhism" or Buddhayana
5. Pure Land

Notice the pattern? Completely flip-flopped for the convert Buddhists compared to all Buddhists.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby ylee111 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 6:11 am

thanks Mr Snyder
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Adamantine » Thu Jan 09, 2014 6:31 am

David, are your guesstimates supported by any figures? Just wondering, since I thought Vajrayanists were not necessarily the most populous of Buddhist converts, just the loudest. . .
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:22 am

Anybody want to address the issue of what is meant by "sect"? :thinking:
I can't help but think that several of those listed above are not even in the same category.

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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby ylee111 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:39 am

:shrug: I mean by a subschool of religion not a pejorative like cult.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:51 am

ylee111 wrote::shrug: I mean by a subschool of religion not a pejorative like cult.


Okay. But, defined in what terms?

By school, do you mean that it's defined in terms of specific doctrines or teachings? Or in terms of particular practices? Though, either way, even in the same monastery people may have different understandings of teachings / doctrines and different practices. Would that make them different "sects"?

Or, are schools (or sects) defined in institutional terms, eg. monasteries, temples, etc.?

Or geographical terms, eg. "Tibetan" Buddhism.

Or, if defined as "subschool", what are the basic schools then, that would have subschools?

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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby ylee111 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:13 pm

I define the the three schools as Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Sects would be classified for example, Zen, NIchiren, Maha NIkaya, and Chinese Pure Land. Further divisions would be like . I guess I am somewhat influenced by Western thinking in many ways since I grew up in the Eurocentric Americas (ie dividing Christianity to Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, and then separating Protestant to Baptist and Lutheran). Also, I use Wikipedia to inform my ways of thinking.

I apologize if I have in any ways offended you venerable Huifeng.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:21 pm

Adamantine wrote:David, are your guesstimates supported by any figures? Just wondering, since I thought Vajrayanists were not necessarily the most populous of Buddhist converts, just the loudest. . .


You could be right. :) I am just going off some rough estimates from Buddhist directories and from experience with various traditions.

If we get into all the schools of Buddhism and their sub-schools and sub-sub schools, it could easily get into over 200 divisions or denominations, similar to the Protestant Christians. That is why I just mentioned the 5 major divisions of Buddhism. See for example this list of different Theravada traditions and Theravada is the smaller (in numbers) school of Buddhism:

Bangladesh:
Sangharaj Nikaya
Mahasthabir Nikaya
Burma (Myanmar):
Thudhamma Nikaya
Shwekyin Nikaya
Dvara Nikaya
Sri Lanka:
Siam Nikaya
Rohana
Malwaththa
Asgiriya
Waturawila (or Mahavihara Vamshika Shyamopali Vanavasa Nikaya)
Amarapura Nikaya has many Sub orders including
Dharmarakshitha
Kanduboda (or Swejin Nikaya)
Tapovana (or Kalyanavamsa)
Ramañña Nikaya
Sri Kalyani Yogasrama Samstha (or 'Galduwa Tradition')
Delduwa
Thailand and Cambodia
Maha Nikaya
Dhammayuttika Nikaya
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Astus » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:12 pm

I have to second Master Huifeng's question. The word "sect" needs to be defined, even if loosely. Why?

Vajrayana, Mahayana and Theravada are not sects. That's because they lack the necessary identification in terms of organisation, doctrine and ritual. Buddhism is not like Christianity where most of the churches have a defined organisational structure and a set of beliefs. In fact, there are very few Buddhist groups with an explicit and exclusive teaching, i.e. statements of faith.

Technically speaking, all Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels. The monastic community is traditionally defined by the precepts followed, and while there are some minor differences between the three living traditions, they are fairly similar, while the lay community has the same five precepts everywhere. In that sense, there aren't really any sects, we are all followers of the very same Shakyamuni Buddha. (A recommended reading: Sects & Sectarianism: The origins of Buddhist Schools)

What defines Pure Land Buddhism? The simple intention to be born in Sukhavati. While the recitation of the name of Amitabha is the most popular form of practice for that, it is not the only one. It doesn't have any unique doctrine, precept, ritual or organisation.

What defines Zen Buddhism? There is nothing that is found in all Zen groups but not outside of Zen. No unique doctrine, precept, ritual or organisation. We could say that Zen has its own lineage system of transmission, but on the one hand there are other Buddhist groups with similar lineages, and on the other there are a number of highly respected Zen teachers without lineage affiliation.

What defines Theravada? That looks somewhat easier, because of the Kathavatthu, however, if we look at the current state of what is called Theravada, it is something very diverse in their doctrines, practices, rituals and organisations. And since all of them are Theravada, there isn't actually one definitive Theravada school.

What defines Vajrayana? It feels easy to say that all things tantra. However, tantric teachings and practices our found not only in a couple of Tibetan Buddhist groups, but also in Tibetan Bon, in Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, in Japanese Buddhism (mostly Shingon and Tendai, but certain elements exist(ed) in other schools too), and most importantly in various Hindu schools. And if we start limiting the meaning of Vajrayana, we find that there are all sorts of traditions within Buddhism that don't agree with each other on certain points, so like for Theravada, there is no single orthodox school.

So, I think either there aren't really sects in Buddhism, or there are a whole lot of them. Thus some sort of definition is needed to answer the question about the largest Buddhist sect. Or change the question to something else, like "the most popular understanding of enlightenment", "the favourite colour for monastic robes", "the most popular buddha", "the most respected teacher", etc.
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:27 pm

Astus wrote:
What defines Vajrayana?


Empowerment (abhiṣeka) as the entryway into the teachings.

M
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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:24 am

ylee111 wrote:I apologize if I have in any ways offended you venerable Huifeng.


No offence taken at all.
I ask questions like this for a living.
:smile:

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Re: What is the Largest Buddhist Sect on Earth Today?

Postby Alfredo » Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:00 pm

In addition to nailing down the definition of "sect," we also have to decide what it means to be an adherent of such a sect. (How many Chinese people count as Buddhists--only those who have formally taken refuge, everybody who expresses belief in Buddha, or what?)
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