New Zealand's Buddha Boom

July 21, 2007

Author: Vanessa Walker

Source: The Buddhist Channel / New Zealand Herald,4521,0,0,1,0

Auckland, New Zealand -- Thousands of New Zealanders from all walks of life have one thing in common: they are followers of Buddhism. Twenty-four years ago, Charlotte Wrightson used to thrash around angrily in an Auckland punk band called The Plague, making a commotion about the evils of private property, capitalism and conformity.

Around the same time, in Hong Kong, businessman Scott Wong had a recurring dream that led him to question the monks at a monastery he would visit during business trips on the mainland.

Going back further, to the mid-1970s, Simon Harrison was studying pure mathematics at Oxford University and living in a "free-thinking" house in Britain when he met someone who changed the course of his life.

Today these seemingly disparate people are connected by a faith that is growing quietly in New Zealand. According to the latest census 52,394 people identified themselves as Buddhist - an increase of nearly 11,000 since 2001. That's small compared with the 2 million-strong Christian population, but deduct the 37,590 Buddhists who brought their beliefs with them when they migrated here, mainly from Asia, and it emerges nearly 15,000 New Zealanders have converted to Buddhism, a faith with which they have little evident connection. Buddhism is the largest religion apart from Christianity and Hinduism (nearly 64,000), and outsizes all the religions that attract more attention, such as Islam (approximately 36,000), Brethren (18,000) and Scientology (357).