The 10 countries with the highest Buddhist populations are all based on the continent of Asia. The reason behind this is that since Buddhists follow the teachings of Gautama Buddha, who lived in Asia during his time, the religion is also famous in Asia. While there are currently nearly 500 million Buddhists in the world, making it one of the world’s largest religions, only 10 countries host nearly 95% of the world’s Buddhist population.
Buddhism is a nontheistic religion which is different from being an atheist. A nontheistic religion means lack of belief in God but following a set of beliefs, traditions and practices. On the other hand, the 11 countries with the highest atheist population not only fail to believe in a God but avoid any traditions, beliefs and practices as well.
We have used data and research conducted by the Pew Research Center, which is an American think tank in order to rank the countries with the highest Buddhist population. We have used the most recent data available to us, since censuses aren’t conducted yearly. With this in mind, here are the 10 countries with the highest Buddhist populations:
Total Buddhist population in the country: 5,010,000
After Islam, Buddhism is the biggest religion in the country with nearly a fifth of the country practicing Buddhism. The religion is generally practiced by Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Sri Lankans in the country.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 9,250,000
When your country hosts nearly 1.2 billion people, you are bound to have a large number of followers of any religion. This holds true in India, where over 9 million Buddhists reside. Of course, this should come as no surprise considering the fact that Gautama Buddha lived in India, and it is the country where the religion began.
8. South Korea
Total Buddhist population in the country: 11,050,000
South Korea may host over 11 million Buddhists but there tends to be a difference in the practices followed in Korea when compared to other countries. This is because early Korean monks decided that the practices followed by foreign Buddhists were incorrect or inconsistent and attempted to correct this, resulting in an entirely different form of Buddhism practiced in the country.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 13,690,000
Buddhism has been practiced in the country since the 5th century while theories suggest that King Ashoka even sent his own missionaries to the country back in 2 B.C. Currently, there are two main forms of Buddhism practiced in the country, which include Dhammayuttika Nikaya and Maha Nikaya, with the vast majority practicing the latter.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 14,380,000
While the exact year in which Buddhism was introduced to the country is not really clear, historians suggest it was between the period 2 B.C. to 2 A.D. There are hundreds of temples in the country, and while various forms of Buddhism are practiced, there are no official division in the religion as in Cambodia.
5. Sri Lanka
Total Buddhist population in the country: 14,450,000
With nearly 70% of the population in Sri Lanka identifying itself as Buddhist, it is no surprise that it is one of the 10 countries with the highest Buddhist population. Estimates suggest that there are nearly 6,000 monasteries in the country, hosting nearly 15,000 monks.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 38,410,000
Nearly 90% of the population in Myanmar is Buddhist, while the monks in the country are treated with the utmost respect. Myanmar has recently had trouble with the Buddhist monks, who protested the military rule and were joined by civilians, leading to mass protests and resulting in brutality by the state on the Buddhists.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 64,420,000
Buddhism made its way into the country around the 5th century, with Buddhists from India spreading their philosophy in Thailand. Now, over 90% of the population follows the practices of Buddhism, with various schools of thoughts being followed.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 84,653,000
A large percentage of the total population identifies itself as Buddhist, which is surprising in a country where a lack of religion is considered to be the norm. However, Buddhism has still made its way into the culture of Japan with various schools of thoughts on the religion being followed.
Total Buddhist population in the country: 244,130,000
Chinese Buddhism is probably the most influential form of Buddhism in the world, with the religion also significantly influencing Chinese history, culture, politics and philosophy as well. Hence, it is no surprise that the country is number one in the 10 countries with the highest Buddhist population.