Understanding Modern Buddhism

For those who are wondering, modern Buddhism is a movement that is based on the modern day understanding of Buddhism. According to several experts, the modernism aspect that is found in modern Buddhism is something that is found in other religions as well. Modern Buddhism has been affected by aspects such as monotheism, romantic expressivism, as well as scientific naturalism.  As far as the concept of monotheism is concerned, it has influenced Buddhism in such a way that the internalization of Buddhist gods is more accepted in the modern West. As far as scientific naturalism, and romanticism is concerned, they are more focused on the current life, reasoning, as well as psychological and health advantages.

Modern Buddhism started emerging during the time period of late 19th century and early 20th century; one could say that it was the result of joint efforts by Western Orientalists as well as reform-minded Buddhists. Modern Buddhism consisted of western philosophy, psychological insights, and themes of secularity. In addition to that, modern Buddhism actually ended up denying a lot of different elements such as gods, icons, cosmology, and a lot more; instead, it focused on thing facets such as interior exploration, satisfaction in the life we are living, and cosmic interdependence.


The earliest record of modern Buddhism dates back to the late 19th century, and these were by the European travelers as well as Christian missionaries; these people depicted modern Buddhism as a heathen religion that comprises of ludicrous ceremonies as well as strange gods. Instead of understanding this religion, their main concern was to reject and debunk it.

The first proper, and detailed study of modern Buddhism was published in 1966 by Heinz Bechert. He was responsible for identifying several characteristics of modern Buddhism, modern day interpretations of teachings of Buddhism, as well as other factors such as demythologization, and understanding of Buddhism as a religion of science, social philosophy, as well as focus on providing equality, democracy, activism, and social engagement; support of Buddhist nationalism as well as focus on bringing back the meditation practice was included too.

Different Concepts

Although the first concept is quite old, there have been other concepts such as Lopez’s concept of modern Buddhism. According to Donald S. Lopez Jr, the term “modern Buddhism” is best used to describe the entire Buddhist modernist traditions. He also suggests that these traditions have developed in some sort of transnational Buddhist sect. The sect that has been mentioned by Lopez does not refer to a physical or geographical existence of it, but instead, it is the modern facet of so many Buddhist schools that have opened in different locations around the world. In addition to that, the modern Buddhism also has a lineage in the cosmopolitan aspect, and several other canonical scripts. These mainly refer to the work of several authors who are both popular, and have reached the status of semi-scholars in one way or another.

Needless to say, one cannot possibly deny that the concept of modern Buddhism is slowly developing and growing further.