How do western people see Buddhists

Individualism and optimistic worldview

WDR.de: Mr. von Brück, you teach religious studies in Munich and are one of the most renowned Buddhism experts in Germany. Why does Buddhism fascinate so many people in the West?

Michael von Brück: Buddhism presents itself as a rational religion without dogmas. He emphasizes the importance of one's own experience and relies on experimenting with one's own way of life. That is attractive to people in the west. In addition, the Buddha's teachings can be easily reconciled with modern science. It calls for checking knowledge again and again. According to tradition, even Buddha exhorted his disciples not to accept anything uncritically.

Many German Buddhists emphasize that the autonomy of the individual is particularly important to them.

from Brück: That is indeed a great attraction. The Buddhist teaching assumes that every person can change through independent awareness training. This is based on an optimistic worldview, without innate sin. Anyone can reach maturity through insight and experience because they have the seeds of Buddhahood within them. He just has to develop it. However, humans do not accomplish this on their own, but in a community of practitioners.

Does this community also play a role for Buddhists in the West?

from Brück: Absolutely. The Buddhist form of community seems to suit Westerners. Buddhism has formed structures in Europe that its followers do not take over. In the small Buddhist centers that exist here, you can find as much community as you want and as much distance as you need. And in contrast to Christian communities, believers find people here who all want the same thing: They are looking for a very specific spiritual experience, for a meaningful life.

Even charismatic personalities like the Dalai Lama are evidently very attractive.

from Brück: Buddhism comes with names and faces into our society, which is poor in role models. Personalities like the Dalai Lama impress people because they do not spread book wisdom, but are role models with their way of life. One knows the Christian mystics from books - one experiences the Buddhist "masters". The various schools of Buddhism that these masters represent in their home countries have, by the way, been in violent conflict with one another in the past. In the West, however, this dispute is usually not noticed because it is conducted quietly - with arguments and not with slogans.