Is Buddhism a Religion?

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by kmguru, Aug 8, 2010.

  1. arauca Banned Banned

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    Again I am a Christian I don't believe in Catholic rituals , but I respect highly the teaching of Yashua. There are millions of Nonpracticing Jews but they considering themselves as Jews . In other words what you are saying a Buddhist which is not practicing the religios part.
     
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    The praying to Buddha can be empty religious ritual or it can be a form of meditation, which is actual practice.
     
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  5. arauca Banned Banned

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    What ever you can call it missionary or what ever they have their services like Christians, State ville Il. We all try to find a balance, it is just different approaches at the end the product is the same . Find inner pace .
     
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  7. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    Buddhism comes in as many types as there are practitioners. Here in the US, the government accepts that Buddhism can be either a religion or a philosophy.

    I am a practicing Buddhist, I live by a set of ethics I have acquired from various persons and practices. My rituals are extremely personal, my practice is very much based on daily physical, mental and emotional exercises. It is all based on the 4 noble truths:

    1) Each of us experiences pleasure and pain in our life.

    2) Much of that pain is due to our choice of attachments.

    3) You can learn how to control those choices of attachments so as to minimize the pain in your life.

    4) Buddhist practice can help you to do that.

    What I do works very well for me.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I suppose that might be true if you are a believer in the supernatural. But neither my wife nor I are supernaturalists.

    Practicing a ritual can be simply a way of clearing your mind and organizing your thoughts, so you can focus on a particular idea, problem, desire, etc. Nothing supernatural about that. It's just a form of discipline.
     
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Is Buddhism a religion?

    My answer is 'yes'.
    Of course, that leads to the next question, what does the word 'religion' mean?

    'Religion' is an English language word, with similar cognates in other European languages. It originally dates back to Roman Latin, though its precise etymology is disputed.

    During medieval times, Europeans recognized three (and maybe four) religions. There was Christianity, the true and paradigmatic religion. There was Judaism, which had to be acknowledged, if only because Jesus was a Jew and Bibles contained the Old Testament. And there was Islam, which Christians believed was false and heretical, but which was similar enough to Christianity that it was recognized as a species in the same genus. Finally there was everyone else, grouped together as heathens.

    After the voyages of discovery, Europeans gradually became aware of a host of other things around the world that more or less resembled these acknowledged religions. Buddhism was one, along with Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism and many others. Europeans initially had trouble even telling them apart at first. The Theravada Buddhism of Southeast Asia was for a long time assumed to by most observers to just be more Hinduism. Some of the South Asian idolaters worshipped Vishnu, others Shiva, and others a god the early European voyagers called 'Budh'. European travelers encountered temples and priests and prayers and scriptures and incense and monks, and they couldn't help noticing the simularities to religion back home.

    And as time went by, there were more sophisticated and scholarly inquirers. The Jesuits in particular were interested in foreign religions and in the 1600's had developed a pretty sophisticated knowledge of both Confucianism and Japanese Zen. But even they were a little cloudy on the relationship between Zen in Japan and the stylistically very different religion prevalent in places like Siam. In the 1700's we find Jesuits in Tibet, living in Tibetan monasteries and studying Tibetan philosophy in Tibetan. But whatever the Jesuits learned tended to remain in their own archives and didn't really enter into the wider awareness of educated Europeans. Europeans weren't really ready to hear it. The Enlightenment of the time was so impressed by the scientific revolution that avant-garde thinkers didn't have a whole lot of interest in studying what they dismissed as 'heathen superstition'. That was the kind of stuff that they expected mankind would be done with in short order, and good riddance. Nothing worth learning there.

    In the 1800's, the idea of the scientific study of religion took hold. Scholars had been electrified to discover the linguistic simularities of Sanskrit with European languages. That recognition of the Indo-European language family (and of historical links between the Indians and themselves) led to the creation of chairs of Sanskrit at many European universities in the 1820's. Many Indian religious texts were translated into English and other European languages, and for the first time European university scholars started to gain some understanding of the details of Indian religions.

    And these developments focused people's attention on the question of what the word 'religion' means. It was believed that the word needed a clear and scientific definition. So many scholars tried to define what they thought was the fundamental essence of religion. Inevitably those attempts were ethnocentric, once again using Christianity as the model and paradigm, with other religions being recognized as religions to the extent that they resembled Christianity. So 'religion' was often held to require belief in and worship of God, or given the many polytheists out there, of gods. That left non-theistic religions like Buddhism as problem cases.

    As time went by and as these attempts multipled, scholars of religion realized that none of these supposedly essential definitions was satisfactory. They were just too arbitrary and there were simply too many exceptions.

    So it was gradually realized that 'religion', like so many words in natural language, was kind of a family-resemblance concept. Christianity has a whole set of characteristics. Another religion like Islam has many of those same characteristics, but not all of them. And Islam introduces some new characteristics of its own. Buddhism in turn has even fewer characteristics in common with Christianity, and more characteristics that Christianity doesn't have.

    In other words, every religion shares enough characteristics with other religions to be recognized as a species of the same genus, even though there may not be any single defining characteristic that every religion shares in common with all of the others.

    Buddhism is almost universally recognized as being one of the world's major religions. If you pick up any textbook of world religions, Buddhism's going to be in there. That's because it possesses so many characteristics such as prayer, meditation, temples, religious ethics, salvation, scripture, ritual, monasticism, heavens, hells, offerings, grace (in Mahayana at least) and many more, even rosaries.
     
  10. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    ...Yes, the religious practice of Buddhism is indeed a religion. Those of us that practice Buddhism as a philosophy or a lifestyle choice take exception to describing same as a religion, however.

    We (I) do not possess/practice any of this stuff with the sole exception of meditation >
    No gods, no spirits, no masters, no heaven, no hell no church or religion. You could perhaps refer to my 7 mile daily run with my dog, my meditation and doing my 20 Taekwondo patterns as ritual, but those can better be described as a health and exercise program. If you label them ritual, then the same must apply for the balance of my life as well. Then, by extension, the same is true for everyone else so we are all then "religious", which of course we are not.

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    RAA contradiction. Buddhism can be either a religion or a life philosophy as the US federal government states.
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    How should we distinguish 'philosophy' from 'religion'?

    (I'm a little uncomfortable calling Buddhism a 'lifestyle choice'. In my opinion it's intended to be far more transformative than that.)

    Prayer - Many Buddhists pray to various cosmic Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. That's a fundamental practice in the Pure Land schools that represent probably the majority of Buddhists in China and Japan.

    Temples - Temples, Wats, Stupas, Pagodas and whatnot are scattered all over the landscape in Buddhist countries.

    Religious ethics - Buddhist ethics (Sila) is one of the fundamental core aspects of Buddhist practice. In my opinion, it's perhaps the most important aspect. The first thing that new Buddhists do is take the five lay precepts. Four of the eight path factors in the Eightfold Path concern ethics.

    Salvation - Enlightenment, Liberation, Nibbana, whatever we call it. Buddhism is all about saving people from suffering.

    Scripture - The Pali canon, the Mahayana sutras, the Kanjur and Tenjur, Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga... There are no end of authoritative Buddhist texts and writings that are often highly venerated.

    Ritual - Monks' lives are highly ritualized in many Buddhist traditions. Buddhist laypeople behave in ritualized manners when they visit temples.

    Monasticism - In the Buddha's time, Buddhism was an order of Sramanas, of forest ascetics gathered around the Buddha as their teacher. After his death, the monastic Sangha has been the heart and the core of Buddhism ever since.

    Heavens and Hells - Buddhists have traditionally believed in rebirth, and that those rebiths not only occur on the Earthly plane, but on higher and lower spiritual planes as well. Some of these are imagined to be places of suffering even worse than here. Others are blissful realms where Buddhas constantly teach and where enlightenment is almost assured. Western/Modernist Buddhists shouldn't dismiss these ideas too quickly, since the heavens and hells are associated with and represent kind of a roadmap of psychological and meditative states.

    Offerings - Dana is a fundamental aspect of Buddhist ethics. If you observe a Southeast Asian Buddhist temple, lay visitors routinely bring offerings in hopes of accruing karmic merit and a better rebirth. Here in the United States, it's still common (at least among the Buddhist groups I'm most familar with) to bring food offerings for monastics who give teachings.

    Grace - This one is more peculiar to some schools of Mahayana, where it is believed that grand Bodhisattvas exist in heavens above, full of compassion for the likes of us, and willing to help anyone who sincerely calls on their aid. There's a whole genre of Mahayana sutras that are about this and a great deal of popular Buddhist religiosity in China and Japan focuses on it.

    Rosaries - Buddhists often finger rosaries (that look just like the ones that Catholics use) when they are meditating. (Interestingly, Muslims use rosaries too. It's something that's found all over Eurasia in many very different traditions.)

    There's a sort of new modernist Buddhism that's popular here in the West, and increasingly among university educated Asians as well in places like Singapore and Malaysia. This pushes meditation to the forefront and kind of deemphasizes many other aspects of Buddhist tradition. Devotionalism and ritual are of less importance. In my opinion the biggest and most important change associated with modernist Buddhism is the deemphasis on monasticism. The new Western Buddhism is extremely lay-centered, and we see laypeople teaching and aspiring to practice advanced meditation techniques that in Asia are usually only practiced by advanced monks.

    I lean in this modernist/rationalist direction myself, but at the same time I'm rather sceptical of it. In this, as in so much else, it might be best to follow a middle path, between superficial Western pop-psychology on one extreme, and equally superficial Asian ritualism and credulity on the other.

    But the thing I want to emphasize is, this new modernist Buddhism so visible among converts in places like the United States, illustrated by things like the 'vipassana' movement, isn't really all that representative of how Buddhism has traditionally appeared in much of Asia. It isn't totally dissimilar either. Rather, it tends to highlight and emphasize some aspects of the tradition, while deemphasizing and occasionally even denying other aspects.
     
  12. arauca Banned Banned

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    Very good , Buddhist meditate , so do I , only that we call it pray which is equivalent to meditate, I don't have to rise my voice in prayer , it can be a silent prayer
     
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    To see some images of the world's most amazing collection of ancient Buddhist temples, click here.
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Duh? A religion has at least one god, and usually a whole lot more supernaturalism. A philosophy can be rooted strictly in reality and therefore be compatible with science. A religion cannot, because it insists on the truth of things for which there are no supporting evidence.

    How much more transformed can a person be than choosing a new lifestyle???

    Why do you call these "religious" ethics? My wife has adopted many of the notions of Buddhism that make the world a better place, and none of them are based on belief in the supernatural. Many are just common sense.

    So are many political movements. They're not religious either.

    But American Buddhists do not insist that they were inspired by supernatural creatures flying around in the air and planting ideas in the writer's heads. Or stone tablets handed to a prophet by a supernatural creature.

    We all practice riturals. We just don't use that word for our daily jog or the reefer before bed.

    Nothing supernatural about that. This is still a philosophy, or maybe even just a bunch of useful habits.

    My wife and many other American Buddhists call this, in highly technical jargon, "bullshit." They insist that unlike the Abrahamic religions, which are still mired in the Bronze Age, Buddhism has the capacity to evolve so that it remains relevant to each new reboot of civilization: Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Revolution, Computer Age. We're smart enough now to know that Heaven and Hell and coming back from the dead are just metaphors. Metaphors can be highly useful, but they can be deadly if you take them as literal truth. (Just watch the Christians, Jews, and Muslims blow themselves to pieces over utter trivia, in the forthcoming Nuclear Holy War.)

    And notice that the ritual still works even though our people know that "karma" and "rebirth" are simply metaphors that are very useful for focusing our minds and searching for the truth. They are not "truths" themselves.

    Stone Age Buddhism. Americans practice Post-Industrial Buddhism.

    Jung calls that an archetype, an image, belief, story, ritual, etc. that pops up again and again in nearly all cultures and nearly all eras. It's an instinct programmed into our neurons by evolution. Most instincts confer a survival advantage, but there's no reason that a few random mutations that serve no purpose can't just be passed down through genetic drift or a genetic bottleneck.

    Well duh. When you have universal literacy and 99% of the population are not working 120-hour weeks as subsistence farmers, your population becomes much more educated and intellectual. Welcome to the 21st century.

    Unlike a couple of other religions that I won't name for personal safety, Buddhism allows you to do this. Ain't that great?

    Traditions are only good so long as they are useful. Racism and sexism were traditions in Western culture, but we're dumping them now because they hold us back.
     

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