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Buddhism - Size & Distribution of the Religion

Updated on July 11, 2017
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Sunilkunnoth loves spiritual sojourns and makes frequent travels to the pilgrimage centres across India.

Lord Buddha
Lord Buddha | Source

'The Global Religion Landscape', a report published in 2012 by 'Pew Research Center' presented a very informative account on the size and distribution of the world's major religions as of 2010. Their research helps us to find and extract some vital statistics on the size of Buddhism too, the 4th largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

Their methodology of the Global Census was very scientific and almost accurate. I have briefed how they did this Herculean task in my previous hub titled "The Global Religious Census-2010". It would be fine if you pay a glance to that report. Please click on the word "CENSUS" to read the same.

Well, as already stated Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the wolrd. There are about 488 Million Buddhists around the world. They represent 7% of the world's total population as of 2010. For your easy comprehension of a complex data, I present below further features of the religion in bullet (point) format. This method is easy to read and grasp quickly.

  • There are 3 major branches of Buddhism- Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism.
  • Vajrayana is sometimes described as Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Mahayana Buddhism is the largest one as it is prevalent in many countries with very large population, particularly in China, Japan, South Korea & Vietnam.
  • Theravada, the 2nd largest branch is concentrated in Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Sri Lanka, Laos & Cambodia.
  • Vajrayana, the smallest is concentrated in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Mongolia.
  • The religion started in Asia.
  • Nearly 99% of Buddhists live in Asia-Pacific region.
  • North America (3.9 Million) and Europe (1.3 Million) have more than 1 Million Buddhists.
  • Though 99% of Buddhists live in Asia and the Pacific, their share is only 12% of the total population of the region.
  • About 1% of North Americans are Buddhists.
  • All 10 countries with highest Buddhist population are in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • 95% of the Buddhists live in 10 countries.
  • 50% of the total Buddhist population live in one country-China.
  • After China, the largest Buddhist concentration is in Thailand (13%), Japan (9%), Burma (Myanmar) ((8%), Sri Lanka (4%), South Korea (2%), India (2%) and Malaysia (1%).
  • Seven countries have Buddhist majorities. These are Cambodia, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Laos and Mongolia.

To sum up our Buddha story, we need to study and analyse the statistics on Buddhist population in ten countries, where 95% of them live. Out of the 487,540,000 Buddhists, 460.620,000 are living in these countries. A number of 26,920,000 or 5.5% of the Buddhists live outside these ten countries.

The The Ten Countries with Largest Buddhist Population

Estimated 2010 Buddhist Population
% of Population that is Buddhist
% of World Buddhist Population
Burma (Myanmar)
Sri Lanka
South Korea
Sub total for 10 Countries
Sub total for Rest of World
World Total

India has got a Buddhist population of 9.25 Million

© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


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