Buddhism is a global religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent (mostly in modern day Myanmar) in the 6th century BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights on ending suffering by overcoming ignorance, rather than a god.

Four major branches of Buddhism exist - they are Theravada (The School of the Elders), Mahayana (the Great Vehicle), Ariyavada (Persian/Aryan) and Arphrikhayana (African). Theravada Buddhism is mainly found in Southeast Asia and certain parts of South Asia (particularly in Burmese territories), while Mahayana is found in East Asia and Eastern Russia. Ariya Buddhism is found in Persia and parts of South Asia (particularly the Bharat Republic). Ariya Buddhism is found mainly in Persia and parts of southern Russia, while Arphrikha Buddhism is found mainly in its namesake, Africa.

Buddhism is the largest religion in the world with over 3.5 billion adherents. It is found mainly in Asia, Oceania, East, South and Central Africa, and is the fastest growing religion in the world.

Buddhism is the dominant religion in a number of nations: (Dominant form of Buddhism, percentage of total population and population)

  • South China (Mh, 93% - 703.22 million)
  • Bharat Republic (Ar, 69% - 552.7 million)
  • Myanmar (Th, 98% - 476.6 million)
  • Persia (Ar, 94% - 376.9 million)
  • Majapahit (Th, 90% - 205.2 million)
  • North China (Mh, 72% - 180 million)
  • East Africa (Ap, 86% - 120.3 million)
  • Japan (Mh, 93% - 112.4 million)
  • Congola (Ap, 95% - 90.3 million)
  • South Africa (Ap ,81% - 43.7 million)
  • Vietnam (Mh, 93% - 63.9 million)
  • Korea (Mh, 91% - 51.1 million)
  • Sarawak (Mh, 95% - 33.5 million)
  • Tibet (Mh, 100% - 19.98 million)

(Ar = Ariyavada, Ap = Arphrikhayana, Mh = Mahayana, Th = Theravada) It also has significant minorities in a variety of countries:

  • People's Republic of the Philippines (Mh, 46% - 30.5 million)
  • Dravida Nadu (Th, 34% - 192.5 million)
  • Ethiopia (Ap, 33% - 25.22 million )
  • Arabic Union (Ar 8% - 5.22 million)

South China has the world's largest Buddhist population at over 700 million. Bharat has the second largest, at over 550 million and Myanmar third at over 475 million.


Inter Denomination Relations

The inter-denominational relationship between the four major and other branches of Buddhism are handled by the Buddhist Council of Inter-denominational Relations (BCIDR), based in Bodh Gaya, Myanmar. While relations are generally cordial, the Theravada and Mahayana schools have had occasional quarrels over certain orthopraxy issues. The other two schools are not as confrontational as the two 'older' and bigger schools.

Mission Work

Myanmar is the largest sender of Buddhist missionaries, with over 29,000 missionaries sent to nearly 100 countries annually. The Ananda Foundation, based in Yangon, is the world's largest Buddhist missionary organisation and is funded by both the Burmese government and the Burmese public. The Tzuchi Foundation, based in Hualien City on the island of Formosa, South China, is the world's largest religious charity with over 45 million volunteers operating across the world.

The Red Mission is a dedicated Buddhist missionary service operating underground in most Communist countries.

La Mission Bouddhiste d'Afrique is the largest Buddhist mission group in Africa, based in Kinshasa in Congola.