1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Readers Respond: Does Buddhism Have to Be Religious?

Responses: 29

By

Just This- Part 1

After many years of searching various paths and having many wonderful experiences my head was filled with questions, beliefs and all sorts of concepts until one day, whilst viewing a landscape, it all dropped away. I experienced something that I can only decribe as being "this as it is". I left the quest for anything and just lived normally. That experience didn't change everything I thought needed to change within myself but it was a huge step, somehow. Some people say that Buddhism is a psychological process- they may be right in part. Some say it is a religion- it can be. A Japanese Zen master said it is a spiritual path (whatever that means) and strongly disagreed it was a psychological process. That last sentence I disagreed with completely until I realised that seeing reality just as it is is beyond the samsara of psychology. It is also beyond the samsara of religion and spirituality. It is just what it is. So what we are heading for is "just this". If we live moment to moment in
—Guest Rich

michhaelallen

Buddhism as taught by the Blessed Master around 500 BC has little to do with Tibetan Buddhism, created in 700 AD, besides the 4 immutable truths and the 8 fold noble path. A major point of contention then, and this could be applied to the various off shoots of Buddha's teachings, was whether he intended the followers of his thought to lose themselves in meditation or if he intended them to forego that practice of Self becoming aware of itself in favor of benevolent acts toward others. The embellishments of Tibet,et al on his teachings have caused widespread confusion as to what exactly Buddhists believe. I for one learned that Guantama Buddha taught that the illusion of soul was a byproduct of the conscious mind. There are many who contend that their Buddhism is the correct one while He believed the true measure of any philosphy of living centered on the ability of that philosophy to give comfort and alleviate the suffering of the adherent. Truth is secondary to the equation. Peace
—michhaelallen

Religion is irrelevant

The Buddha didn't make Buddhism about religion. Why should I?
—Guest AGuest

Buddhism is a religion, if you wish...

Buddhism is certainly a religion for some people, especially lay people of Mahayana sects that believe they will be transported to an after-death heaven by faith in an external Buddha. Contrast this with the Zen story of a Zen hermit who was given a picture of Amida Buddha - He gave the picture a home but wrote this on it (from memory, so not exact,) "Honorable Amida Buddha, I don't mind giving your picture a home, but please don't believe that I'm asking to be reincarnated in your heaven!" A Zen Roshi was asked if Zen is hard. His answer: Zen is hard if you make it hard, Zen is easy if you make it easy. My thought is, Buddhism is a religion if you make it a religion, it isn't if you don't make it into a religion. Most people want for Zen to be a religion, so it is, for them. But for the most advanced in Zen, perhaps it is not a religion at all. How do you put something bigger than the universe into a box?
—Guest Tim Dunn

"Religious" Buddhism is a big tent

I believe that Buddhism without religion--in the wide sense of the word as described by Barbara--is a contradiction in terms. How can you be Buddhist with no reference to the Buddha and his ideas? However, as someone whose only available sangha in my region is a Rinzai Zen center, I sort of understand the feeling Barbara described of Zen being like having a horse in one's living room. True involvement with Zen is just so, well, big. My only occasional participation at the center is welcomed, but it is clear that to go much further with Zen I would need to make commitments I am not ready for, not least of them driving an hour each way. On the other hand, just meditating is too small. What I try to do is incorporate whatever Buddhist practice and study I can and, fortunately, my spouse often does it with me. Do I have the discipline of a Zen student? No, I don't. But in my own way I am striving for understanding and living the Dharma.
—JuBuRs

secular

i was raised since birth as a southern baptist but i have since converted to buddhism. its been the greatest thing for my life ive ever found and for me its as much as a religion as ive experienced.i cant learn enough or spend too much time with others at my monastery. the one thing that concerns me is as americans we tend to find something thats perfect but we still try to tweek it. any religion should change you not you change it. for mebuddhism explains so much that was alien to me for years and friends ive had for years tell me "youve changed" and i think thats what should happen when you bring spirituality into your life all religions have rituals and symbols and buddhism is no different although it looks foreeign to others it couldnt be more natural to me i dont want to change one thing about it, its changing me for the better. thank you namaste
—Guest bamabuddhist

"quick fix" way of life

I think we need to respect buddhism as religion, way of life and philosophy practice but not a secular practice. People have used secular to attract people who do not belong to any religion. But they'er bringing a conflict understand to those followers. Some people use "secular" to justify their way of life and the intention to become buddhists.Buddhism practice has to come from within and a strong understanding of religious practices. some people have embark to a spiritual practices and establish secular buddhist centers so that they can make money quickly and attract people who do not understand the meaning of buddhism practices. lets just understand "what is" the buddhism philosophy. "watch out the modern buddhists these are just like born again christians what are confused with life.
—Guest fineway

Secular Budddhism

Those who want the feel-goofd effects of meditation without its relgious import would be well advised to try TM. They have wrenched meditation out of its spiritual moorings and have cast aside all pretenses that it has anything to do with religion.
—Guest George Deane

secular buddhism

i for one have found it hard to practice the indepth type of buddhisms like tibetan. zen wasnt much good either--all that meditation & my mind wondering. though i did attend several "churchs" that were buddhist & positive experiences all around even though at times i was the only non-asian in the place. i am hispanic. but i believe buddhism as a religion & as a philosophy. i dont believe in jesus-though i have met buddhist/christians that do very well. as for westernizing it--i feel the buddhism should compliment the country or social norms. because of this i am nichiren buddhist. in nichiren i have found my home.
—Guest elfinbee

"Western" and Secular Buddhism

I am not sure what is broken that Americans are trying to fix... is our goal to make practice easier... do we know the Dharma well enough to "fix" it what it should be... every time I read comments about westernizing or making it secular I scratch my head and ask myself many questions...
—NF23456

Traditional vs Modern

This may be slightly off topic but does apply. I was very fortunate to study Kendo (Japanese Fencing) in New York under traditional Japanese Buddhist teachers for seven years from age 40 to 47. The mental medatative side was taught equally with the physical fencing side. We were exposed to zen meditation as a form of moving meditation. I developed an interest in Buddhism from the instructors. We were instructed that raking leaves, walking, riding a bike can all be done in a meditative state. As an artist most of my waking hours are spent in a zen meditative state. I only "think" when necessary, not all the time. I find it unfortunate when Asian traditions get "Americanized". Here is South Carolina we have Christian Karate schools teaching non-violent karate with none of the moving meditation side being taught. Most of the Asian traditions have been thrown out as Non-Christian. One cannot simply take thousands of years of tradition and throw it out to make it more western.
—Johnkaye

Concerns...

To Quote: "Vince Horn of Buddhist Geeks says that the real issue with Secular Buddhism is making Buddhism more accessible, not necessarily less religious." Isn't Buddhism already accessible to anyone in the West who has a computer and a desire to learn more about it? Or for that matter, anyone who lives within driving distance of a library or book store? I'm afraid that some may want to change Buddhism to make it more popular. Accesibility may just be a polite way of saying Buddhists are now playing the numbers game. If Buddhism is changed to make it more relevant/popular to Westerners by shedding the religious parts, will we also be asked to shed meditation when Westerners complain that five minute meditation takes too long. Be careful about changing to catch the attention of a Western World that buys books entitled "One minute bedtime stories" for the busy parent who only has one minute to spend with their child. Enlightenment doesn't come from popularity or relevance.
—Guest Stephen

Different 'kind' of religion

When I started attending my local Buddhist centre I enquired as to the expectations when I arrived. They said 'no it's a laid back religion, you don't have to do anything special and we'll tell you all about Buddhism when you get here.' It's a really good start for most people who attend to hear that Buddhism is experiential so you're expected to observe, test and never believe! Sounds pretty secular but actually sitting in front of an altar saying magical words in a foreign language certainly feels like religion to me! I understand that Zen is somewhat different to Vajrayana so maybe your experience is different.
—Guest Jessica

hmmmm....

I would consider myself a lay Zen (lazy?) practitioner. As a African American, I have found hostility and indifference when entering certain sanghas that are Asian. I am left with no choice but to "westernize" certain Buddhist practices. I think it comes back to the individual. American lifestyles may not leave much time to meditate, or to go on long retreats. Therefore I think its only right that the individual tailor his practices to what is practical.
—Guest abstract219

Have Your Say!

Does Buddhism Have to Be Religious?

Receive a one-time notification when your response is published.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.