Saturday, 11 April 2015
China's stressed-out 'millenials' embrace Buddhism
by Lu-Hai Liang, for CNN
"Five years ago, Beijinger Robert Zhao went on a trip to Tibet. What he encountered left him confused but intrigued.
A science graduate from China's elite Tsinghua University, he had been taught to mistrust superstition and religion, but in the culture and devotion of the Buddhists he met he found something worth knowing.
Now 25, he is considering giving up his job and becoming a monk.
"It means I will have to give up everything of the ordinary world," he told CNN.
While Buddhism has a long history in China, entering via missionaries from India during the Han dynasty, it was repressed during the Maoist era -- many monasteries and temples were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and monks actively punished for believing in "superstition."
But now, a growing number of Chinese are rediscovering the country's dormant Buddhist traditions.
Some, like Zhao, are looking for a spiritual anchor in a competitive, fast-changing society. Others take comfort in meditation and enjoy volunteering.
However, it's not always easy to combine Buddhist beliefs with the demands of modern life.
Zhao works as an assistant to the boss of an environmental company. His religion means it's difficult to entertain clients and partners -- a key part of the role.
"Not drinking, smoking or eating meat affects my socializing. So the company has to send someone else to go with me, which creates extra expenses," he says.
Zhao has not told his family about his desire to become a monk yet, fearing that they might oppose it.
Fenggang Yang, the director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, Indiana, says it's difficult to explain exactly why so many young people are turning to Buddhism.
Some discover it at university, where Buddhist groups are active and famous monks and lamas give lectures. Others have devout parents and grandparents.
He also says that the Chinese Communist Party policy has "moved toward treating Buddhism more favorably than other religions..." read it all