Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Western Buddhist Order at 40, part V: Changing age profiles in the Order

Continuing this week’s theme of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Western Buddhist Order by looking at some of its features and characteristics, part V looks at the Order’s changing age profile and the way this has changed over the years. The different colours on the chart opposite show the different ‘age bands’ in the Order; the different columns plot how this has changed over the past thirty years.

As the chart makes very clear, in the early days of the Order, it was rare to find anyone over 40 (colours blue and above). Now, it is equally clear that it is somewhat rare to find anyone under 40! (colours yellow and below).

As the Order has matured, it is of course natural that its age profile should have filled out, and it is perhaps also natural that people entering the Order were older as it gradually took longer to enter as clearer and more systematic processes evolved for ‘Ordination training’. Nonetheless a significant shift seems to have happened.

Interestingly, this trend seems to have been noticed in other groups, prompting for instance a somewhat controversial piece last November in the Wall Street Journal entitled
Buddhist Boomers - A meditation on how to stave off decline’ by Clark Strand – you can see some replies to this on the Tricycle blog and an earlier article by Clark entitled
Dharma Family Values or, Why American Buddhism must change or die’ on the Tricycle website.

However the recent and authoritative ‘Religious Landscape Survey’, organised by the Pew Forum, offers a portrait of Buddhists in the US and reports a more balanced picture, with only some 37% of Buddhists in the US over 50 – compared to 46% in the Order. Be that as it may, it is clear that ‘the times they are a’ changing…’.

The WBO is perhaps most successfully working among youth in India, where Order Members have been involved in helping create the Indian ‘National Network of Buddhist Youth’, a division of the "World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth". This organises large annual retreats and is currently planning a major program of training a generation of youth leaders across India. In the UK a small FWBO conference is planned for November 2008, this hopes to bring together both those interested and skilled in working with younger people, and younger people themselves in an ‘Open Space’ style event. Please contact FWBO News if you are interested to attend.

Tomorrow – part VI: Patterns of life and work in the Order

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Blogger Jayarava said...

"I've been feeling so much older, frame me and hang me on the wall" - Neil Finn

Blogger Bahiya said...

When I became involved with the FWBO 24 years ago at the age of 43, it seemed that most Order Members were hardly out of short trousers. Now. aged 67 I am not even the oldest Order Member teaching meditation at our local centre.


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