Buddhist New Religious Movements at a glance
A New Religious Movement (NRM), also known as alternative spirituality or a new religion, is a religious or spiritual group that has modern origins and is peripheral to its society’s dominant religious culture.
Some New Religious Movements deal with the challenges which the modernizing world poses to them by embracing individualism, while other Movements deal with them by embracing tightly knit collective means.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of New Religious Movements
- 2 - Popularization of Buddhist NRMs
- 3 - Neo-Buddhism movements in the modern era
- 4 - Noticiable Buddhist NRMs
- 5 - Glossary of Buddhist New Religious Movements
- 5.1 - Sakyong Mipham
- 5.2 - Vipassana movement
- 5.3 - Triratna Buddhist Community
- 5.4 - Houn Jiyu-Kennett
- 5.5 - Shinnyo-en
- 5.6 - Shasta Abbey
- 5.7 - American Buddhist Movement
- 5.8 - Rulaizong
- 5.9 - Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia
- 5.10 - True Buddha School
- 5.11 - Tibbetibaba
- 5.12 - Soka Gakkai
- 5.13 - Shōshinkai
- 5.14 - Shambhala Buddhism
- 5.15 - PL Kyodan
- 5.16 - Bussho Gonenkai Kyōdan
- 5.17 - New Kadampa Tradition
- 5.18 - Navayana
- 5.19 - Myōdōkai Kyōdan
- 5.20 - Kokuchūkai
- 5.21 - Kenshōkai
- 5.22 - Hòa Hảo
- 5.23 - Guanyin Famen
- 5.24 - Gedatsu Church of America
- 5.25 - Forshang Buddhism World Center
- 5.26 - Dalit Buddhist movement
- 5.27 - Coconut Religion
- 5.28 - Won Buddhism
Origin of New Religious Movements
New Religious Movements can be novel in origin or they can be part of a wider religion, in which case they are distinct from pre-existing denominations.
There is no single, agreed-upon criterion for defining a “new religious movement”.
In 1893, the first Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Chicago.
The conference included NRMs of the time such as spiritualism, Baháʼí Faith, and Christian Science.
Henry Harris Jessup, who addressed the meeting, was the first to mention the Baháʼí Faith in the United States
Also attending were Soyen Shaku, the “First American Ancestor” of Zen, the Theravāda Buddhist preacher Anagarika Dharmapala, and the Jain preacher Virchand Gandhi.
This conference gave Asian religious teachers their first wide American audience.
Popularization of Buddhist NRMs
Buddhist New religious Movements expanded in many nations in the 1950s and 1960s.
Japanese new religions became very popular after the Shinto Directive (1945) forced the Japanese government to separate itself from Shinto, which had been the state religion of Japan, bringing about greater freedom of religion.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, the decline of communism and the revolutions of 1989 opened up new opportunities for Buddhist New religious Movements.
Falun Gong was first taught publicly in Northeast China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. At first it was accepted by the Chinese government and by 1999 there were 70 million practitioners in China.
Neo-Buddhism movements in the modern era
In the 21st century, the Neo-Buddhism movements differ in their doctrines and practices from the historical, mainstream Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions.
A co-creation of Western Orientalists and reform-minded Asian Buddhists, Buddhist modernism has been a reformulation of Buddhist concepts that has de-emphasized traditional Buddhist doctrines, cosmology, rituals, monasticism, clerical hierarchy and icon worship.
Noticiable Buddhist NRMs
Scholars have estimated that Buddhist New religious Movements number in the tens of thousands worldwide.
Examples of Buddhist New Religious Movements include:
- Humanistic Buddhism
- Secular Buddhism
- Engaged Buddhism
- the Japanese-initiated new lay organizations of Nichiren Buddhism
- Soka Gakkai
- Girō Seno’o’s Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism
- the Dobokai movement and its descendants
- Oneness Buddhism
- the New Kadampa Tradition
- the missionary activity of Tibetan Buddhist masters in the West (leading the quickly growing Buddhist movement in France)
- the Vipassana Movement
- the Triratna Buddhist Community
- Dharma Drum Mountain
- Fo Guang Shan
- Won Buddhism
- the Great Western Vehicle
- Tzu Chi
- Juniper Foundation
Glossary of Buddhist New Religious Movements
This is a non-exhaustive list of some noticiable Buddhist New Religious Movements around the world and their leaders.
Most Buddhist New religious Movements only have a few members, some of them have thousands of members, and a few of them have more than a million members.
Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, Jampal Trinley Dradul is the head of the Shambhala lineage and Shambhala, a worldwide network of urban Buddhist meditation centers, retreat centers, monasteries, a university, and other enterprises, founded by his father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is a high lama in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. In July 2018, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche stated that he is stepping back from his duties due to an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.
The Vipassanā movement, also called the Insight Meditation Movement and American vipassana movement, refers to a branch of modern Burmese Theravāda Buddhism which promotes “bare insight” (sukha-vipassana) to attain stream entry and preserve the Buddhist teachings, which gained widespread popularity since the 1950s, and to its western derivatives which have been popularised since the 1970s, giving rise to the more dhyana-oriented mindfulness movement.
Triratna Buddhist Community
The Triratna Buddhist Community is an international fellowship of Buddhists, and others who aspire to its path of mindfulness. It was founded by Sangharakshita in the UK in 1967, and describes itself as “an international network dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in ways appropriate to the modern world”. In keeping with Buddhist traditions, it also pays attention to contemporary ideas, particularly drawn from Western philosophy, psychotherapy, and art.
Hōun Jiyu-Kennett, born Peggy Teresa Nancy Kennett, was a British roshi most famous for having been the first female to be sanctioned by the Sōtō School of Japan to teach in the West.
Shinnyo-en is a Japanese Buddhist new religious movement in the tradition of the Daigo branch of Shingon Buddhism. It was founded in 1936 by Shinjō Itō , and his wife Tomoji in a suburb of metropolitan Tokyo, the city of Tachikawa, where its headquarters is still located.
Shasta Abbey, located on sixteen forested acres near Mount Shasta in northern California, United States is a training monastery for Buddhist monks and a place of practice for lay Buddhists and interested visitors. It was established in 1970 by Reverend Master P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett, who was Abbess and spiritual director until her death in 1996.
American Buddhist Movement
The term American Buddhism can be used to describe all Buddhist groups within the United States, including Asian-American Buddhists born into the faith, who comprise the largest percentage of Buddhists in the country.
Rulaizong is a cult originating in Taiwan which was established by Miaochan. It claims itself as a sect of Buddhism. According to the official website of Rulaizong, in 2015, the organization had more than 90,000 followers.
Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia
The Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia is a council or umbrella body consisting of member organizations which represents all Tibetan’s Vajrayana Buddhism traditions in Malaysia. It also accepts individuals who are inclined towards Vajrayana Buddhism as associate members.
True Buddha School
The True Buddha School is a relatively new Buddhist sect, that includes practices and deities from Taoism, and thus could arguably be defined as a new religious movement. Its headquarters are in Redmond, WA, USA, and the school has a large following in Taiwan and East Asia. There are also many temples and chapters worldwide, except in Mainland China where the sect is among those persecuted.
Tibbetibaba also known as Mahasadhak Tibbetibaba or Paramhamsa Tibbetibaba, alternative spellings Tibbatibaba, Tibbati Baba, Tibbeti Baba, Tibbotibaba or Tibboti Baba born Nabin Chattopadhhyaya Bengali: নবীন চট্টোপাধ্যায়;Mahasamadhi or death – 19 November 1930) was a famous Bengali philosopher, saint and yogi. He was one of the few saints in India whose life was an amalgamation of the Advaita Vedanta doctrine of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhist doctrine. Tibbetibaba was a master of all the eight siddhis and supposedly had remarkable healing powers. Even though he was master of all the siddhis, he was not personally interested in using them.
Soka Gakkai is a Japanese Buddhist religious movement based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren as taught by its first three presidents Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda, and Daisaku Ikeda. It is the largest of the Japanese new religions and claims the largest membership among Nichiren Buddhist groups. “The organization bases its teachings on Nichiren’s interpretation of the Lotus Sutra and places chanting “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō” at the center of devotional practice. The organization promotes its goals as supporting “peace, culture, and education”.
Shōshinkai (正信会), full name Nichiren-Shōshū-Shōshinkai (日蓮正宗正信会), is a Japanese Nichiren Buddhist dissenting group formed in July 1980 by approximately 200 Nichiren Shōshū priests who were mostly the disciples of the former High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi, along with their lay followers who were critical of the Soka Gakkai.
The term Shambhala Buddhism was introduced by Sakyong Mipham in the year 2000 to describe his presentation of the Shambhala teachings originally conceived by Chögyam Trungpa as secular practices for achieving enlightened society, in concert with the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Shambhala Buddhist sangha considers Sakyong Mipham to be its head and the second in a lineage of Sakyongs; with his father, Chögyam Trungpa, being the first.
PL Kyodan, or the Church of Perfect Liberty , is a Japanese Shinshūkyō founded in 1924 by Tokuharu Miki (1871–1938), who was a priest in the Ōbaku sect of Zen Buddhism. The stated aim of the Church of Perfect Liberty is to bring about world peace.
Bussho Gonenkai Kyōdan (佛所護念会教団) is an offshoot of Reiyūkai and branch of Nichiren Buddhism. It was founded in 1950 in Japan by Kaichi Sekiguchi and his wife Tomino Sekiguchi.
New Kadampa Tradition
The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT—IKBU) is a global Buddhist new religious movement founded by Kelsang Gyatso in England in 1991. In 2003 the words “International Kadampa Buddhist Union” (IKBU) were added to the original name “New Kadampa Tradition”. The NKT-IKBU is an international organisation registered in England as a charitable, or non-profit, company. It currently lists more than 200 centres and around 900 branch classes/study groups in 40 countries.
Navayana means “new vehicle” and refers to the re-interpretation of Buddhism by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar; it is also called Neo-Buddhism and Ambedkarite Buddhism. Ambedkar was a polymath, theologian and scholar of Buddhism. He was born in a Dalit (untouchable) family during the colonial era of India, studied abroad, became a Dalit leader, and announced in 1935 his intent to convert from Hinduism to a different religion, and he has studied all the major religions of the world in depth, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Buddhism, for nearly 21 years. Thereafter Ambedkar studied texts of Buddhism, found several of its core beliefs and doctrines such as Four Noble Truths and “non-self” as flawed and pessimistic, then re-interpreted these into what he called “new vehicle” Buddhism, or Navayana. Ambedkar held a press conference on 13 October 1956, announcing his rejection of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, as well as of Hinduism. Thereafter, he left Hinduism and adopted Navayana, about six weeks before his death. Its adherents see Navayana Buddhism not as a sect with radically different ideas, but rather as new movement founded on the principles of Buddhism.
The Myōdōkai Kyōdan (妙道会教団) is a Japanese Buddhist lay organisation that stems from the Reiyūkai, a branch of Nichiren Buddhism. It was founded in 1951 and has approximately 219,000 adherents, most of whom are in Japan. The current president of Myōdōkai Kyōdan is Keiji Sahara. The organisation’s headquarters are in Tennōji, Ōsaka. One of its core teachings is the belief in the Lotus Sutra.
The Kokuchūkai is a lay-oriented Nichiren Buddhist group. It was founded by Tanaka Chigaku in 1880 as Rengekai and renamed Risshō Ankokukai (立正安国会) in 1884 before adopting its current name in 1914.
Fuji Taiseki-ji Kenshōkai is a Japanese-based Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist lay group, affiliated with Taisekiji Head Temple since 1942 at the Myokoji Temple in Shinagawa, Tokyo and was originally called Myōshinkō .
Hòa Hảo is a religious movement described either as a syncretistic folk religion or as a sect of Buddhism. It was founded in 1939 by Huỳnh Phú Sổ (1920–1947), who is regarded as a saint by its devotees. It is one of the major religions of Vietnam with between one million and eight million adherents, mostly in the Mekong Delta.
Guanyin Famen or Quan Yin Buddhism, the teachings of Meditation Society of ROC（Chinese: 中華民國禪定學會) or Ching Hai World Society. The organization is a school of Mahayana Buddhism-like cult found in 1988 by the ethnic-Chinese Vietnamese teacher Ching Hai.
Gedatsu Church of America
Gedatsu Church of America is an American Buddhist church with branches in Japan, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Hawaii. A nonsectarian spiritual movement, it is based on the Japanese Gedatsu-kai, a new religious movement that was founded in 1929 by Seiken Okano. The Church preaches about Gedatsu-kai, a religious study dedicated toward promoting total inner peace and spiritual enlightenment. Gedatsu is the Japanese term for moksha or enlightenment.
Forshang Buddhism World Center
Forshang Buddhism World Center is a new religious movement based in Taiwan.
The organization claims to have received the “revelation of Buddha-Nature”, founded by the Venerable Master Miao Kung Bodhisattva and succeeding Master Yuan Dao Bodhisattva in the early stage of the Republic of China, revering Da Zi Zai Wang Fo (the origin of Buddha-Nature) as the Originator.
Yuan Dao Bodhisattva was initiated at the age of 14, after twenty years of unrelenting dedication, he became enlightened in 1956, wholeheartedly preaching the Forshang Buddhism doctrines to the full extent ever since. Before passing into Nirvana on August 11, 1993, he chose among disciples around the world Sun-Don Lee as the successor and appointed him as the Master of the third generation.
Dalit Buddhist movement
The Neo Buddhist movement is a religious as well as a socio-political movement among Dalits in India which was started by B. R. Ambedkar. It radically re-interpreted Buddhism and created a new school of Buddhism called Navayana. The movement has sought to be a socially and politically engaged form of Buddhism.
The Coconut Religion was a Vietnamese religious sect centered in southern Vietnam’s Bến Tre Province. Founded in 1963, adherents created a “Coconut Kingdom” on an islet of the Mekong River. The religion is largely based on Buddhist and Christian beliefs, alongside the pacifism teachings of founder Nguyễn Thành Nam. The religion was abolished by the communist authorities after 1975. At its peak, the religion had some 4,000 followers. After the founder’s death following a clash with the authorities in 1990, the cult is now practiced by a very small minority.
Won Buddhism, is a modern religion originating in Korea. It can be regarded as either a syncretic new religious movement or a reformed Buddhism. The name “Won Buddhism” comes from the Korean words 원/圓 won (“circle”) and 불교/佛敎 bulgyo (“Buddhism”), literally meaning “Round Buddhism” or interpreted as “Consummate Buddhism.” The stated goals of Won Buddhism are for people to realize their own innate buddha nature and to save all sentient beings by serving others. Emphasis is on interaction with daily life, not “stilling the impulses,” but rather acting in accord with “appropriate desires.” Won Buddhism’s Founder, Sotaesan believed that over-emphasis on the material world in relation to the spiritual world would create undue suffering; his Founding Motto was, “With this Great Opening of matter, let there be a Great Opening of spirit.” In essence, Won Buddhism proposes adapting to and overcoming modernity.