Understanding Buddhism

Friday January 26, 1:00–5:00pm
Level 2, Meeting Room 11

This Mini-Conference on Buddhism is a significant first for Missions Fest Vancouver. Knowledgeable leaders and field experts will help tackle critical and timely issues for those who work towards effectively reaching the Buddhist world.

In view of Missions Fest's 2018 theme, “What is the Gospel”, this mini-conference on Buddhism will be quite enlightening. In 1893, Paul Carus, an American publisher attended the First World Parliament on Religions held in Chicago. Hearing Japanese Buddhist speakers moved him to become a Buddhist. Following his conversion he became a veritable conduit for spreading Buddhism, particularly through his publication company. In 1894, he wrote "The Gospel of Buddha", printed by his Open Court Publishing Company, Illinois. How does this contrast with this year’s theme? That’s a good question that BMC will answer. The purposes will be educational, motivational, and practical. As such we will provide avenues to understand Buddhism, to get a vision for the Buddhist world, and to discover ways of effectively reaching Buddhists.

BMC focuses on a considerably large population of 1.3 billion Folk Buddhists worldwide. The majority of them are in Asia, where research indicates that over 83% of Buddhists there do not know even one Christian (Atlas of Global Christianity 2010). Consequently, intercultural mission is still an obvious and considerable need among this massive multitude of Buddhist peoples, comprised of many hundreds of ethnic varieties. During the twentieth century, a Buddhist movement in the West expanded among Europeans, as well as through Eastern refugee and immigrant Buddhist diaspora. Buddhism is indeed "Glocal" - both at home and abroad.

A kaleidoscope of Buddhist types exist with over 270 kinds of Buddhists across the earth (Johnson 2010). Two main schools, Mahayana and Theravada, have many different sects within them. Vajrayana, with its various groups of Tibetan Buddhism is officially part of Mahayana. But because of its esoteric practices and tantric spiritual entities, Tibetan Buddhism is sometimes considered a separate third school of Buddhism. Consequently, over 2500 years a great variety of complex Buddhist belief systems arose. The basic unity in core beliefs spread across this broad spectrum of Buddhism poses significant challenges to Christian mission encounter. At the same time, since its beginning in the 6th Century BC, Buddhism was involved in its own mission, spreading its teaching and worldview persistently outward to tribes, nations and peoples. Their mission is still active today.


  1. The Vision: an overview of Buddhism, its premises, and its penchant for assimilating animistic beliefs.
  2. 2:30 pm - Coffee Break
  3. Comprehension: Buddhist monistic worldview and its syncretism, including ancestral worship,
  4. Application and Discussion Groups: How to approach Folk Buddhists and communicate Christ’s Gospel to them.

Co-presented by:

  • Dr Tin Nguyen, Vietnamese Baptist Church of Portland OR
  • Dr. Alex Smith, OMF International
  • Greg Ouellette, Mennonite Brethren Missions - Training Coordinator Long Term Missionaries