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BUDDHIST EVANGELISM INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
Pst. Gerald Chen Hsiongcai
2001 Panna Youth Centre, Singapore

The Asian Wind

A trend is apparent throughout the all Asian countries is that the population of Buddhism has decline heavily and what can we Buddhists do to save this situation ? Many people has taken Buddhism as an oriental religion or even mere superstition, what has led to the decline in Buddhism?, the teachings of Buddha?, the outlooks?, or an opportunity for people to come in contact with Buddhism ?Perhaps it is time for Buddhists to focus on Evangelism especially towards the coming 21st century and get a steady structure of the corporate body of the development of Buddhism in the future.

The Challenging Scene

Where this trend is apparent, there will be an impact on the Buddhist community. The Buddhist population is "greying" like the general population that Singapore is facing! Already in Singapore many of our Chinese-speaking Buddhist temples and especially the dialect-speaking congregations have a very high proportion of members who are older adults or senior citizens. By the year 2002, there will be at least 7000 Buddhists having their 60thBirthday each year. By 2010 there will be almost more than 10000 people in our Buddhist temples who will turn 60 year old -and perhaps will have only another 20 - 30 years to live on. Changing demands and Opportunities. It is imperative for the Buddhist community to be sensitive to the changing demographic trends both within the Buddhist Temples and in the society at large. The preaching and Dharma teaching ministries needs to be relevant to the life experiences and situations of older adults. These "seniors" also need to be natured to competently face the challenges for living a fulfilling and meaningful life. The cohorts of "young-olds"(those who are 60-70 years old) which will be emerging in front of our eyes can be a new source of manpower for them inistry of the Buddhist temples and associations, if they are encouraged and equipped with good knowledge of the Buddha-dhamma. It is timely now to create and start a new educational sessions which will reflect this particular need among the Buddhists. Older members should not be seen as liabilities or passive recipients but rather as tremendous assets who can be active providers. The challenging demands of youths Buddhism has also been losing it's youth to other religions such as Christianity which may seem more appealing to these teenagers a religion that teenagers find it more modern and Westernised. Again, this comes back to the propaganda of Buddhism. The faith had always given young people the image of an old religion whereas a church where rock and roll songs are sung and a place where more youths and peers can be found. A church meeting can be as fun as a friend outing or even a music concert to the teenagers. Here is a call for all Buddhists to wake up and take up the responsibility of propagating the Dharma. This includes inculcating and training youths and teenagers with the goodness of the Dharma and introducing them to Buddhist evangelism which can be simply done by an invitation to join the organisation's youth activities etc.

Strategies for Evangelism Strategies for Buddhist Evangelism needs to be promoted amongst all Buddhists, such as forming Lunch-time fellowships and a miniature group todiscuss the Dharma in the office, Evangelism should start from the people around us, such as our family, and friends. Tools for Evangelism is knowing the basics of Buddhism, techniques to approach our fellows and even converting others to Buddhism. Such Evangelism is not new to the western Buddhist community. Flims, drama performance, counselling, music, Dharma-talks and Dhamma crusades can be useful tools. Such evangelism may help build up the foundation for the survival of Buddhism in the next century. Buddhist Missionary works are not only the responsibility of the Buddhist temples and associations but rather also a job of all the Buddhists. We should take the initiative always to approach and introduce Buddhism to others and not wait for others to approach us. the Buddha told us to go forth to expound and proclaim his Dhamma to others, and we as Buddhists have the every responsibility to teach and make disciples of all nations! Checking our attitudes. As we move towards the new millennium, a new attitude and interest in propagating the teachings of Buddha is necessary, as it changes me may also be pleasantly surprised at the impact of the Buddhist Community as truly inclusive Dharmafarers. The fate of the development in the future depends on we people now. May Buddhist Evangelism uphold the survival of the Dharma always and now is the time to come forth with hard work. The people of all nations shall rejoice in the grace and spirit of Lord Buddha. May this article inspire more youths to spread the Law far & wide.


The author, presently the President of  Panna Youth Centre, a Buddhist Based Youth Organisation, Singapore, can be reach at hsiongcai@yahoo.com

 


Updated: 14-3-2001

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