Buddha / Jesus – ngram

Just for fun, I thought for this week’s ngram I’d take a look at the influx of Eastern religious thought into the English speaking world. How well does Buddha do, relative to Jesus?

If Google’s ngram viewer is new for you, check out this brief intro.

And here we go:


A few observations.

First, not surprisingly, two hundred years ago there wasn’t a whole lot of mention of Buddha in the English speaking world. At least not relative to Jesus. The introduction of Eastern religions into the Western world was apparently rather gradual.

I found it interesting that around 1920 and 1950 there was a sudden sharp increase in the use of the word. I’m no historian, so I’m not sure what caused that, but what else is interesting is the subsequent decline in both cases (again, relative to our use of the word “Jesus”). After 1920 the ratio subsided slightly around 1940. Then it shot up again around 1950 and subsided, rather sharply, around 1980.

Out of interest (not shown on this chart) I checked up to 2008 and the ratio just continues to plummet. It’s as if we got our fill of Eastern religions in the 1960s and 1970s and then moved on from there.

But when we were interested, actually, the interest was pretty significant. Considering the English speaking world is largely rooted in Christian ideology over the centuries, that Buddha was talked about 1/4 as often as Jesus is kind of a big deal. He gave Jesus a serious run for his money over the years.

As Jesus has become increasingly popular since the 1960s the relative interest in Buddha (as a ratio of the interest in Jesus) has subsided.