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13 November 2014

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You are in: London > Faith > Religion > Religion I-Z > Buddhism

Buddhist group

A group of Buddhists in London


Welcome to our section dedicated to the Buddhist community in London. Find out the origins of the Bhuddist faith and how the 2,500 teachings of Siddartha Gautama influence the lives of many Londoners today.

Photo courtesy of London Buddhist Centre

Photo courtesy of London Buddhist Centre

There is a thriving Buddhist community in London with many centres offering urban retreats and meditation courses. Although there are many traditions of Buddhism, they all share the goal of making an inner change in order to create a happier, healthier planet. Buddhism is based on the 2,500 year old teachings of Siddartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni Buddha, in Northern India.

Buddhist Festivals

Although there are a number of Buddhist festivals and most are celebrated during the advent of a full moon, the four main Buddhist festivals are;

Wesak which marks Enlightenment of Buddha.

Sangha Day represents the celebration of Buddhists followers who have reached Enlightenment.

Dharma known as the First Turning of the Wheel celebrates Buddha's first passing of his teachings to his disciples thus reaching Enlightenment.

Parinirvana or Death of a Buddha is the time when Buddhists remind themselves of death.  Buddha was known to have said "Those who are aware of death put down their quarrels."

The word 'Buddha' means 'one who is awake'. The Buddha awakened to Enlightenment meaning that he attained perfect clarity, unceasing compassion, and tireless energy. Common to all Buddhist schools is the belief that everyone has that capacity. The teachings and methods of Buddhism ultimately have one goal, to enable us to fully realize that potential.

The largest Buddhist movement in the capital is Soka Gakkai (Value Creation society) International.

Together with Tibetan, Zen, Thai, Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) and New Kadampa Tradition, the community is ever growing, as more and more people seek a  return to spiritual values in the materialistic and fast-moving daily life of London.

Internationally, the FWBO has 65 dedicated centres as well as groups with no dedicated premises and 17 retreat centres in about 25 countries.  In the UK, it has 21 centres and 8 retreat centres, plus groups without dedicated premises.



The first ever Buddhist mission in the UK was established in 1908 by Charles Henry Allan Bennet, who had been ordained as a Buddhist monk in Burma.

By founding The London Buddhist Vihara in West London, the Sri Lankan Buddhist scholar and religious propagandist called Anagarika Dharmapala (previously Don David) ensured the continuation of Buddhism in the UK.

Buddha, courtesy of London Buddhist Centre

Buddha, courtesy of London Buddhist Centre

In the 1970s, Tibetan refugee teachers imported four schools of Buddhism (Sakya, Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug) to Britain, which still have a following.

The Zen tradition is described on the Soto Zen web site as "not a philosophy or system of ethics or religion, but it enables one to reach the source of all philosophies, ethics and religions". The largest group within the tradition is called the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and was founded in 1972.

"The central challenge to life is how to be happy and do good in this world. The key to this challenge is changing your mind and Buddhism offers this."

Dh Maitreyabandhu of London Buddhist Centre

The lay Buddhist movement of Soka Gakkai International was established in London in the 1960s and has approximately 6,000 members.  Followers study the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th Century Japanese priest. At the heart of the practice is the chanting of "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo".  This is the title of the Lotus Sutra and surrounds the universal truth to which Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened.

The Lotus flower is very much connected to Buddhism and can be found on Buddhist figures and in centres.  It generally symbolizes birth, growth, transformation and development. Also the way the lotus grows unsullied out of muddy water makes it an appropriate symbol for purity

The Lotus Flower

The Lotus Flower

Soka Gakkai International also believes in peace through education and culture, which is based upon the view of the inherent dignity and interconnection of all life.  It is a non-governmental organisation affiliated to the United Nations with members in 180 countries and territories.

Buddhist mediation group

Buddhist mediation group

There are approximately 400 committed Friends (or novices) of The Western Buddhist Order in London. At its core are about 120 ordained members who teach meditation and Buddhism in the city.   The society has 80 centres around the world and activities in 25 countries. A representative states: "It is a dynamic spiritual community of men and women who together follow the Buddha's path".

London Buddhist Centre

London Buddhist Centre

The New Kadampa Tradition is the third largest Buddhist movement in the UK, founded by the Indian Buddhist Master Atisha in the 11th Century.

Kadampa Buddhists follow the teachings of Shakyamuni, Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa, emphasising the Lamrim instructions which are all stages of the Buddhist path to enlightenment, and involve reciting the prayers of the Guru Yoga of Je Tsongkhapa.

last updated: 12/01/2009 at 14:55
created: 11/08/2004

You are in: London > Faith > Religion > Religion I-Z > Buddhism

BBC Religion
Diane Louise Jordan


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