United Kingdom : BUDDHIST STUDY


Buddhism in the United Kingdom has a small but growing number of supporters which, according to a Buddhist organization, is mainly because of the result of conversion. In the UK census for 2011, there were about 178,000 people who registered their religion as Buddhism, and about 174,000 who cited religions other than Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Jainism and Sikhism. This latter figure is likely to include some people who follow the traditional Chinese mixture of religions including Buddhism.

In Britain, the earliest Buddhist influences came from the Theravada traditions of Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Interest in them among Brits was primarily scholarly to begin with, and a tradition of study grew up that eventually resulted in the foundation of the Pali Text Society, which undertook the huge task of translating the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhist texts into English. The start of interest in Buddhism as a path of practice had been pioneered by the original Theosophists, the Russian Madame Blavatsky and the American Colonel Olcott, who in 1880 became the first Westerners to receive the refuges and precepts, the ceremony by which one traditionally becomes a Buddhist. They were also later received into the Hindu religion.

Currently, the scholarly study of Buddhism in the UK is carried out by lone individuals or fairly small groups of people in any one location. Moreover, scholars may be located in a range of departments: Anthropology, Asian Studies, Comparative Religion, Law, Oriental Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, Religious Studies, Theology and Religious Studies, etc.

Buddhist Study

University of Bristol

At undergraduate level, units involving Buddhist and Asian Studies form part of the BA degree profile within the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. The Department offers one single-honours degree in Religion and Theology and joint-honours in collaboration with other departments in Philosophy and Theology and Theology and Sociology.

With any of these degree courses it is possible to take the units in Buddhist and Asian Studies. All BA degree courses last three years full-time.

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