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Is Buddhism A Religion?


Lorena Rodriguez
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I was watching this video posted by the webmaster on another thread. In it, Richard Hockins talks about the evils of religion.

 

And I noticed that Hockins, like many others, when talking about the evils of religion, mentions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It makes me wonder what Buddhism is considered to be.

 

I like some Buddhist teachings, but I am not seeking to become a Buddhist. I am just curious as to whether people think of it as a religion or not.

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My understanding is that Buddhism is a form of Atheism. There's no God to pray to. It is a framework or a belief system though, with some beliefs in the supernatural, reincarnation and stuff. But not in the sense of any divine being up there guiding everything, or that you have to pray to.

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Buddhism is classified as a major World Religion, but most Buddhists will tell you that it is a philosophy, not a religion. Of course, as it has spread all around the world, it has evolved - including in some areas into quasi-religious territory.

 

The reason you hear so much about the Abrahamic religions in re War is this: much of the aggression and killing (except for murderous political despots such a Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Hitler, Stalin) have involed one of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).

 

There have been no Buddhist wars of aggression.

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My one Buddhist friend (a Vietnamese) says it's a philosophy, not a religion, because there's no deity demanding worship. That right there earns a lot of respect in MY philosophy.

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Part of the confusion around Buddhism is that there are many, many forms it takes depending on where you go. Some versions (Mahayanian) believe that you can pray to the Bodhisatvahs (buddhist saints) and they'll intercede on your behalf, so in that it's very much like a religion. Others (therevadah, zen, etc) would see praying as rediculous and counter productive to their goals. So it really is a mixed bag in that regards.

 

If pressed, I would say it's a philosophy (a guide to living) more than anything...

 

(please note, I didn't have time to check spellings, I'm sure there's some errors in the names)

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i'd say that Buddhism is a religion. it has a set of beliefs, and more importantly... a prescribed set of practices, symbols, sacred texts, hierarchical clergy, sacred places, etc... there is more than one form of Buddhism so they have had "schisms."

 

i think fundies don't bash Buddhism because they really don't know anything about it... doesn't stop them in other instances... but Buddhism is pretty exotic. Plus there are over 20000 sacred texts to master... too much for these fundies to read. Fundies really don't get the whole "non-theism" bit, either.

 

and Buddhism has had a little publicized history of violence amongst its own kings in the history of India, China and Japan... take Ashoka, for instance. Westerners have a tendency to "romanticize" or "otherize" the East.

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Buddhism is classified as a major World Religion, but most Buddhists will tell you that it is a philosophy, not a religion.

Admittedly, I've never researched Buddhism, so I may be way off. But isn't that kind of like a Christian arguing that Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship?

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Buddhism is classified as a major World Religion, but most Buddhists will tell you that it is a philosophy, not a religion.

Admittedly, I've never researched Buddhism, so I may be way off. But isn't that kind of like a Christian arguing that Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship?

 

Well, I know a few buddhists, and have never heard them say that they have to go to temple every week or that they do or don't do this because they are buddhists.

 

In my Canadidan city, orientals are as numerous as Latinos in the U.S.A, so I come into contact with many, and a few are close friends. I have never been preached at or been invited to temple by the ones whom I know for sure are buddhists.

 

So if it is a religion, it would be of an unusual type.

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http://www.bps.lk/index.html

 

I have been communicating and studying with the Buddhist Publication Society, P.O. Box 61, Kandy, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), for a very long time.

 

You can also just Google "buddhism" for more links, if you want lots of different input.

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I agree with Skankboy, depending on the sect depends on the answer you will get. As a practitioner of Buddhism I view it as more of a philosophy and way of life. If you want to call it a religion, call it a religion, if you want to view it as a philosophy, view it as such. I doubt you'd get much argument either way from a Buddhist.

 

:thanks:

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If you are becoming a monk then I think it is a religion. there is rituals and some meditate focusing and picturing buddha in there mind(not all of them but some). For the normal buddhist, not monk, it can be either a religion or a philosophy.

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If you are becoming a monk then I think it is a religion. there is rituals and some meditate focusing and picturing buddha in there mind(not all of them but some). For the normal buddhist, not monk, it can be either a religion or a philosophy.

 

Good point. Obvioulsy a monk has taken vows, and has much stricter guidelines to follow then the common lay-person.

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I think Buddhism can be either or on the individual scale ...

 

but basically I think it can be classed as a religion - a huge one! (asia/india/china)

 

Its also not quite correct that buddism is entirely pacifist.....

 

http://www.state-terrorism.net/buddhist_terrorism.htm

 

In my experience.....there are also 'fundy' buddhists.

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Yes and no. I would like to say it's not but frankly, I know that, in many manifestations it is a religion. Those who take it as a philosophy take it in the more general sense... which is fine. But there are actual things which the "beliefs" require of people. A lay Buddhist, for example, can't work in the meat department at his local foodstore. Or work for the local liquor store. I mean, they will but it's against the "rules."

 

And, as much as I am going to get slammed for this comparison, that is where it becomes the difference between philosophy and religion. The ancient Jews had a philosophy and tradition which was passed down. But when it became "laws" about things they can and can't do... even beyond the written laws... it became religion. Many quotes in the new testiment are reactions to this religious calcification present at the time. Of course, it introduced brand new ones but what can you do?

 

The 4 Noble Truths (Philosophy), The Eightfold Path (Philosophy turning to religion), almost everything else from taking refuge on (religion).

 

That said, I've gone through a ceremony to take refuge (including shaving my head in the process)... and have adopted many of the more religious ideas of Buddhism. But that's because they appealed to me and I liked them. No one forced me to. I don't consider myself "more" Buddhist for doing it. Nor do I consider myself "less" Buddhist for not having done other things. Buddhism "technically" requires very little. Depending on the situation though, tradition and society may require more.

 

I think this is further complicated by the fact that the word "religion" and it's meaning doesn't have a real parallel in Buddhism... so each Buddhist is free to define it with whatever terms fit best without being wrong. Philosophy and religion both are as accurate as the other... with neither being wrong. But in the view of most people on this site and what they consider religion (even without a God)... yeah, religion.

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There have been no Buddhist wars of aggression.

 

The Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan were greatly feared as the best trained soldiers in the country. Nowadays, however, I dont' think there are any militant Buddhists out there.

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There have been no Buddhist wars of aggression.

 

The Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan were greatly feared as the best trained soldiers in the country. Nowadays, however, I dont' think there are any militant Buddhists out there.

 

HuhUmmm... :grin:

 

Yes there is....http://www.state-terrorism.net/buddhist_terrorism.htm

 

also according to a fairly current news broadcast....the locals in Tibet- the youth to be precise are questioning the validity or wisdom of following the DaLama's policy of Non Violence.

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I would think that if you hold to any specific doctrine created by a spiritual leader that speaks of "creation" and "death" and specific ideas about what you should do in order to be enlightened/reborn etc....then you are holding to a religion.

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And, as much as I am going to get slammed for this comparison, that is where it becomes the difference between philosophy and religion. The ancient Jews had a philosophy and tradition which was passed down. But when it became "laws" about things they can and can't do... even beyond the written laws... it became religion. Many quotes in the new testiment are reactions to this religious calcification present at the time. Of course, it introduced brand new ones but what can you do?

 

Interesting, Fallenleaf, but don't you need the intimidation factor to call it a religion? And if so, is there an intimidation factor in Buddhism?

 

In Christianity, the big thing is that if you are not "walking in the light," it's because you were never saved in the first place and you are, therefore, going to hell.

 

The people who adhere to strict rules in buddhism must be motivated by something. What are they motivated by?

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I would think that if you hold to any specific doctrine created by a spiritual leader that speaks of "creation" and "death" and specific ideas about what you should do in order to be enlightened/reborn etc....then you are holding to a religion.

Buddha said don't worry about creation because the debate is pointless. Talks about death aren't the main concern except for reincarnation and you don't have to believe it. Enlightenment is mostly a realization where you are not held by worldly desires anymore and the doctrine basically says to stay away from those desires while reaching for your goal of enlightenment. Ideas aren't specific either since buddha's doctrine was tailored toward the person and not humanity as a whole.

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I would think that if you hold to any specific doctrine created by a spiritual leader that speaks of "creation" and "death" and specific ideas about what you should do in order to be enlightened/reborn etc....then you are holding to a religion.

Buddha said don't worry about creation because the debate is pointless. Talks about death aren't the main concern except for reincarnation and you don't have to believe it. Enlightenment is mostly a realization where you are not held by worldly desires anymore and the doctrine basically says to stay away from those desires while reaching for your goal of enlightenment. Ideas aren't specific either since buddha's doctrine was tailored toward the person and not humanity as a whole.

 

Its still giving instructions.

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I do think of Buddhism as a religion, but I agree it is a fine line. I guess it goes into the line of "religion" on the basis that practiioners, while they may say it's a philosophy, usually end up acting in religious manners. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, mind. Yes, there are fundamentalist Buddhists out there, especially back in Asia. Not such a good thing. While it sounds like there are a few violent Buddhists out there, I do think it is safe to say that it causes far less aggression in the world than the Abrahamic religions (Jews, Christians, Muslims) do.

 

I'm not Buddhist but I have great respect for the religion.

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Interesting, Fallenleaf, but don't you need the intimidation factor to call it a religion? And if so, is there an intimidation factor in Buddhism?

 

In Christianity, the big thing is that if you are not "walking in the light," it's because you were never saved in the first place and you are, therefore, going to hell.

 

I would not say that intimidation is "required" for religion. I see religion as a set of beliefs [ideals] which form a part of your culture and usually involve rituals of some form. Although even that is flexible in many ways. I would say that beliefs and rituals tend to make up what I see of religion. The fact that Buddhism has a culture of stories which are fantastic (The newborn Siddharta walking the four directions and declaring that this was to be his last birth, for example)... and some other things which aren't taken on personal experience would support the idea that it's religion. The various rules, ceremonies, and sects would support that it's religion.

 

The fact that it strongly encourages people to test every bit of it and reject what does not work for them or things they find untrue would be very non-religious. So you have to take it with a bit of salt. For some people the religion aspects help them by letting them not focus on things which would otherwise waste their effort. For others, almost every teaching beyond the 4 noble truths and the 8-fold path is suspect... and they're both Buddhists... and everything in-between.

 

The people who adhere to strict rules in buddhism must be motivated by something. What are they motivated by?

 

It depends on the person... I would say the correct answer is compassion. But what motivates people is not constant. Some would say it's truth, or to reduce their suffering, or to find peace, or to reach nibbana, etc. Buddhism is not unique, but is special, in that you can get many different things out of it depending on what you're looking to find. This is probably because it's basic framework is very loose as well as the fact that it tends to absorb the culture whereever it goes so many of the different sects have different things to offer a person looking in that direction. Some of these are much more religious (e.g. Pure Land) and some are very non-religious but they run the gamut.

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The person who is posting about the Tamils and so on is not speaking with knowledge, in my opinion, but is trying to appear knowledgeable for some kind of imaginary points on this forum. This person needs to study more about the infiltration of communist idealogies into the area. And possibly a little actual study of Buddhism wouldn't hurt.

 

The youth of Tibet would never refer to the Dalai Lama as the DaLama, nor would they question his wisdom. This is an absurd statement which shows an ignorance of Tibet and which ignores (or is unaware of) the influence of Chinese communist propaganda.

 

There is no doubt that legend and myth have appeared in Buddhism over the centuries, especially in regard to Siddhartha Gautama, Lord Buddha. It is undeniable, and likewise of no import. There is also no doubt that in its many variations Buddhism has acquired religiosity. And if pollsters or anyone for that matter want(s) to call Buddhism a religion instead of a philosophy/way of life, it hardly matters.

 

Buddhism has been difficult for Westerners to apprehend or comprehend, but its "growth" has been primarily in the West. This is not in any way surprising or significant, because in the East it is rather ubiquitous, making "growth" moot.

 

The growth of Buddhism in America and Europe is greatly attributable to the influences of HH the Dalai Lama and Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh of Vietnam. I am personally grateful to them in almost all matters, although I cannot embrace Xians as they do.

 

I am also (possibly surprisingly) grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their literature which over the years helped me learn about actual Christianity, and to the Buddhist Publication Society, whose little Bodhi Leaves were a great help to me at a time of great need.

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