- Brooke SchedneckBrooke SchedneckInstitution of Southeast Asian Affairs, Chiangmai University
Buddhists missionize in distinct ways by building on historical models, such as a concern with bringing knowledge and spreading teachings, as opposed to formal conversion and renunciation of previous religious beliefs. Academic scholarship tends to treat Buddhist missionization as a historical phenomenon. Yet it continues to be an important component of the tradition for Buddhists in the 21st century, motivating them to travel to spread the Buddha’s teachings to those who demonstrate curiosity. Because of Buddhists’ interest in conveying the dharma, they have often aligned the teachings with modern discourses, resulting in what scholars have called modern Buddhism. Buddhist missionaries have also argued that the dharma fits within contexts of social justice, which has been labeled engaged Buddhism. Examples of missionaries from East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the West, and world-famous monks such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, demonstrate spreading the teachings is a major motivation. These figures formulate their message in modern or socially engaged frameworks, but the root of their activity is missionizing. The main message of contemporary Buddhist missionaries is that Buddhism is open and welcoming to everyone, one does not have to convert to practice within Buddhism, and the Buddhist teachings apply to everyone.