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The Globalization of Buddhism

In the economic realm, globalization is usually referred to as the increasing integration of world markets for capital, goods, and services. The interdependency of markets provides the avenue for increased economic interaction between key economic players. As economic integration increases, economic needs are reinforced. The formation then of a world market depends on the propensity of major markets to “stay” in the “game. ” There is no alternative but integration. Integration is a stimulus to innovation and development.

The creation of new technologies and goods depends considerably on the ability of each player in the world market to satisfy specified demands (comparative advantage). Isolation, on the other hand, inevitably results to economic stagnation and underdevelopment. The case of former European Communist countries is an example. By limiting economic interaction with other Communist countries in Latin America and Asia, these countries were not able to acquire new technologies essential for developing their domestic economies (especially those in the manufacturing and military sectors).

This resulted to severe economic problems (like stagflation). These countries had no choice but to reestablish economic relation with the West. In exchange for providing military and financial support, the West demanded a partial opening of their economies. The result was staggering; the economies of European Communist countries stabilized. The drawback was, of course, a reinforced economic dependency of these countries to the West: the formation of a world market. The effects of globalization, however, were not limited to the economic sphere.

On the social and cultural spheres, globalization resulted to the homogenization of cultures. Some channels like the internet and the media portrayed Western culture as the standard culture for the “modern man. ” In connection, globalization contributed to the decay, even death of some cultures. For example, the encroachment of cities to the ancestral lands of a certain tribe in northern Brazil resulted to forced resettlement. They were relocated to lands which, for them, had no spiritual significance.

Hence, the basis of their cultural beliefs was demolished by the facets of economic development. Thus, it can be said that globalization often undermines local cultures and traditional relationship in a society because of the assumption that free trade will lead to the establishment of a democratic society. Religion and Globalization On the aspect of religion, the strains created by globalization to underdeveloped countries led to the development of religious organizations.

Because underdeveloped countries provide cheap raw materials to industrialized or developed countries, their domestic economies suffer from stagnation and trade deficits. This potentially increases unemployment rate and budget deficits of many underdeveloped countries. Consequently, the number of persons below the poverty line increases. Thus, economic strains lead to the formation of social strains. How does this relate to religion? The poverty experienced by many people in underdeveloped countries is generally translated to a spiritual urge to achieve a good life.

Groups of people often establish bases in the mountains, outside from the civilized world (where social strains reside because of the contemporary global economic arrangement), to find the true meaning of existence. The spirituality of these people is reinforced by the rudiments of a simple life. By erasing all traces of modernity, they are able to redirect the meaning of their lives. Living a religious and simple life, for them, is the channel for man to achieve spiritual satisfaction (which is usually absent in the civilized world).

Consequently, their dependence to the “outside” world diminishes. Group solidarity becomes more and more manifested in worship, hymns, and symbols. The “religious” group is transformed to a spiritual community. The spiritual community exists in contravention with the outside world. Globalization can also result to an expansion of an existing religion. It is now recognized that Buddhism is the second fastest growing religion in Asia after Islam (and the fastest in Australia).

The factor which significantly influenced this expansion, as many social scientists noted, is globalization. Globalization provided the avenue for the reinforcement of some concepts in Buddhism. These concepts are currently being transmitted to the minds of the modern man through various modern channels like the media and the internet. In this paper, we shall examine the relationship between globalization and the general expansion of Buddhism to many countries.

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