Buddhist Culture in England

buddhist culture in england

The cultural difference of Buddhism in England and the eastern nations can be clearly seen on how people approach Buddhist practice in the region. This is also the main difference between the practice of Buddhism in these two regions. Though few temples and monasteries in Britain are almost entirely the replications of the temples and monasteries in the east. The biggest example can be seen as the Wat Buddhapadipa in Wimbeldon, London. There is a very little characteristic of the temple to distinguish it from a temple in Thailand.

The main difference is how people see Buddhist practices and how they react to them in the two regions. It is unlikely that a Buddhist monk from Burma, Thailand or Sri Lanka would be able to walk down a road in England in his Buddhist saffron robes carrying an alms bowl without getting some notice and surprised reaction from normal passersby in the area, which is a very common sight in the Southeast Asian nations who follow Buddhism. And it is also extremely unlikely that anyone walking by would put food and alms into the very same bowl for the monk's daily meal and needs which is a custom in the eastern countries. Instead, in England, food is either taken to the temples and monasteries by the followers or they cook the food on site.

Similarly, while celebrating a Buddhist festival, the essence of Buddhism, Buddha's teachings and practices are the same in Britain as the ones in the eastern Buddhist regions. Whatever the tradition is, the practice and celebrations of the Buddhist festivals remain somewhat similar but not necessarily the cultural customs of the regions. There is much preparation and excitement around these festivals which take place in British Buddhist temples and monasteries at different times of a year. Food is either taken to or prepared at the temples while gifts are presented by any followers to the monks which involve money, robes, household goods and foods for the kitchen. The Buddhist festivals in England are not only special holy days of chanting and Buddhist teachings, but also social occasions and happy celebrations in the same way that Easter or Christmas is celebrated by the Christians. However, among the British Buddhists, the traditional Buddhist festivals and ceremonies do not always rank higher the way it does for the eastern Buddhists. This does not mean that the British do not attend or enjoy them but there is often little to no connection in the social life of British Buddhists as some Buddhists are actually converts i.e. they have renounced the religion they were born into and taken up Buddhism as their religion. Whatever it may be, the festivals and traditions is taken as an opportunity to make offerings to support the temples, monasteries and monks in their lives.

Buddhism, however, does not demand a commitment to it alone. There are many British people who are happy to harmonise more than one faith in their way of life within themselves. For example, there are westerners of the Judaeo-Christian traditions who happily continue and maintain their faith and supplement their spiritual path with the practice of Buddhist meditation. They would have no deep sense of converting from one relation to other.

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