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Religious Movements of the 1980s and 1990s I

Nearly every decade sees a new religion emerge. Some collect many followers while other lose steam after a couple of years. With connections to traditional beliefs and practices of Buddhism, the following religions have emerged during the 1980s and 1990s.

American Buddhist Movement

The American Buddhist Movement (also referred to as the Association of American Buddhists) was organized in 1980 by American practitioners of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana sects of Buddhism. No specific school of Buddhism  The group promotes the religion by relying on publications, classes and the ordination of monks. The movement respects all of the traditions associated with Buddhism as on the same level. Practitioners wish to unify Buddhism in thought and practice. By 1998, there were an estimated 2,000 members following the religious movement.

Anyone can join the American Buddhist Movement.

This religion was not the first attempt to establish an American Buddhist movement. Dwight Goddard (1861,1939) was serving as a Christian missionary in China when he first encountered the Buddhist religion. In 1928, Goddard traveled to Japan where he spent a year living at a Zen monastery. In 1934, he founded “The Followers of Buddha, an American Brotherhood” in hopes of following the traditional monastic structure of Buddhism more strictly than others before him.

Goddard’s efforts failed, as no Americans were recruited to become a part of the religion as monks and he was unsuccessful in gaining the support of a Chinese Chan (Zen) master who was willing to relocate to the United States. Goddard went on to write books on the subject, which included translations of Buddhist text. He also published the first edition of A Buddhist Bible , an anthology of Buddhist scriptures associated with Chinese and Japanese Zen.

Falun Gong

Li Hongzhi is the founder and spiritual master of Falun Gong , a religion founded in China in 1992. The system of beliefs and practices was created at the end of what was known as the ‘qigong boom’ period in China, where similar practices were growing in popularity. However, Falun Gong is different because it does not include daily rituals of worship. The religion also places more emphasis on morality and focuses on taking a theological approach to the teachings.

In the West, Falun Gong is seen as a ‘spiritual movement’ the follows the teachings of the founder. Concepts belonging to Buddhist, Taoist, and qigong beliefs are what make up the bulk of the religion. Central beliefs to the religion include teachings on Compassion, Forbearance, and Truthfulness.

The Falun Gong movement gained a great deal more followers in China between 1992 and 1999. By 1998, the government estimated that as many as 70 million practitioners existed in the country. However, the religion has been met with scrutiny and critics, to which Falun Gong practitioners have staged peaceful protests in responses. However, in July of 1999, the Chinese Communist Party banned the religion and started a crackdown across the nation. By October, Falun Gong was described as an ‘evil cult.’

Reports of human rights abuses started to emerge including forced labor, organ harvesting, and ill treatment of practitioners. Members of the organization sought media outlets to help their cause and fight the Chinese Communist Party.