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Buddhism in Norway

by M. Michael Brady, The Foreigner, 6 August, 2013

Buddhism in Norway is of two sorts: an alternative religion and a diaspora religion.

Oslo, Norway
-- As an alternative religion, Norwegians seeking spiritual development differing from that offered by the prevailing Protestant faiths first brought Buddhism to Norway in the early 1970s by. A Zen school was started in 1972 near Frogner Park at the periphery of the downtown area of Oslo. The first society offering study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism was founded in 1975. Thereafter Norwegian adherents of other Buddhist creeds started circles for them.

There are currently seven Buddhist organisations started by Norwegians and other Westerners. Their focus is on bringing Buddhism to the general public, so they publish books and periodicals, offer courses, and have meditation centres. The largest of them, the Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist community (KTL), has a centre with a temple at Bjørndal in Oslo, a meditation centre, a Buddhist book and art shop in downtown Oslo, and a retreat in the city of Ski, south of Oslo.

Yet Buddhism as a diaspora religion, brought in by immigrants and refugees from countries with large Buddhist populations – Viet Nam (55% Buddhist), Thailand (95% Buddhist), Myanmar (88% Buddhist), Cambodia (90% Buddhist) and Sri Lanka (70% Buddhist) – has a greater presence in the religious landscape of the country. Today, 85% of the more than ten thousand registered Buddhists in Norway are first or second-generation immigrants from these five countries.

The new resident Buddhists set about founding five communities, one for each country. The Vietnamese Buddhist Community was founded in 1975, the Thai Buddhist Association in 1991, the Burmese Theravada Buddhist Association in 2005, the Khmer (Cambodia) Buddhist Association in 1998, and the Tisarana (Sri Lanka) Association in 1993.

They also set about building and bringing in monks and nuns from their home countries. The Vietnamese Community built the first Nordic Countries’ temple in 1999, and now has four others and tens of resident monks and nuns. The Thai Community has a temple and five monks, and the Burmese Community has two monks.

These 12 organisations coordinate activities through Buddhistforbundet (‘The Buddhist Association’) that in turn interacts with other religions in Norway through Samarbeidsrådet for tros- og livssynsamfunn (‘The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities’).

Facts:

  • Membership: 15,426 registered Buddhists in country (Statistics Norway, 2012); total estimated Buddhist population about 25,000.
  • 12 organizations in Buddhistforbundet: (‘Buddhist Association’): Buddhadhamma Association, The Burmese Theravada Buddhist Association, The Thai Buddhist Association, Friends of Western Buddhist Orders, The Vietnamese Buddhist Community, Dharma Group, Dharma Sah, Hridaya Group, Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist Community, Khmer Buddhist Association, Rinzai Zen Centre, Skogskloster Buddhist Community, Stavanger Buddhist Association and the Tisarana Association.

Further information: Buddhistforbundet, PO Box 9340 Grønland, 0135 Oslo, Tel 22177019.


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