Buddhism has been brought to the West very recently. Even as little as fifty years ago a person could have gone through life without ever hearing about Buddhism or its teachings.
Sure, those who did study different religions in school did encounter Buddhism and American Transcendental writers such as Thoreau and Emerson did write about it in their works, but most people in the West were completely unaware about this religion.
Those who wanted to find out more had a very limited number of resources available to them. There were rare courses about Eastern philosophy in universities and books in the libraries that described Buddhism as an exotic relic from an unknown land.
Today the landscape is very different. Terms that originated in the Buddhist religion seem to pop up everywhere in the West. These terms include words such as “karma” and “nirvana.” Many celebrities, including Hollywood movie stars, rock and pop performers and even basketball coaches practice Buddhism and talk about it at length in interviews to the media. Examples of such celebrities include Richard Gere, Phil Jackson, and Tina Turner.
Bookstores in the United Kingdom, United States, and other countries carry a lot of books about Buddhism, including teachings of Dalai Lama, whose books regularly make it to the very top of the New York Times best-seller list. Most metropolitan areas in the West also have centers where people can come to practice Buddhism and meet others interested in this religion.
One of the reasons for Buddhism becoming so popular was the migration of many Asian Buddhist teachers to North America and Europe. However, there’s more to this story than simply increased availability of teachers. There are many reasons and trends that are occurring in the Western societies that make Buddhism and interesting and attractive choice for people of various backgrounds, ages, and walks of life.