While most changes we hear about most often on the news are socioeconomically related, there are other less talked about changes occurring. One of these is the influx of Eastern/Asiatic religions into the West. While this is by no means a very recent phenomenon, it has seen a notable increase in recent years. While the popular spreading of Buddhism is tied to the social factor – diaspora/migration – with expats from Thailand, Vietnam, and China laying roots in Europe, one more influential factor must be taken into consideration – the genuine interest displayed by Westerners to explore an alternative method other than those more traditionally Western.
In Sweden, Buddhism is still a relatively small religion. However, the amount of practitioners in 2011 grew from 35 to 40000, or, in other words, 0.38% of the population, making it the 3rd most popular religion in Sweden after Christianity and Islam. It is considered as one of the fastest growing religions in Sweden.
While interest in Eastern philosophies/religions in Sweden can date back to the mid-19th century, it was really officially brought to Sweden by Dharma Master Tao Wei (Marcel Strander) and Bhikkuni Amita Nisatta (Ingrid Wagner). Rev. Tao Wei – a French national – took up Buddhist studies in Nice before moving to Tse Chia Chan monastery in China, where he was ordained as Bhikshu and stayed until 1933. When the Sino-Japanese war broke out, he returned to Europe, and a few years later moved to Sweden as a disrobed Upasaka. He was employed at the University of Gothenburg. Soon after, he founded the Swedish Buddhist Society, which became the regional centre of the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
In 1975, he returned to China – this time, Hong Kong – to receive once more ordination. Returning once more to Sweden, he established The Lotus Buddhist Order, with members located both inside and outside of Sweden.
Ingrid Wagner and her husband Karl Henrik travelled to India in 1953 to study art and Buddhism. Both were ordained at Swayambu in Nepal. Wagner became known as Sister Amita, and was invited to study in Burma 1 year later. Her husband – known as Anagarika Sugata – filled in for her in Stockholm, and upon the return of his wife, he moved to Norway to teach Buddhism there. Amongst the many events, Sister Amita set up The Friends of Buddhism.
In the 70s, Sweden opened its boarders to many ethnicities, most of which brought different derivations of Buddhism to Sweden. It is now officially recognised by the government. While there aren’t yet sufficient Buddhist temples to cater for the needs of all Buddhist practitioners in Sweden, some of the most renowned are Stockholm Buddhist Vihara, the Thai Buddhist Temple in Gothenburg, the Thera Vada Buddhist Temple, the Buddhist Temple in Bjuv, and the Vietnamese Temple in Katrineholm.
With this ever-growing appreciation for Buddhism in Sweden, our primary motive at Buddhawisdom.se is to contribute by promoting a communal spirit through which we can help spread the Dharma.