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Readers Respond: Does Buddhism Have to Be Religious?

Responses: 37


Does the label matter? Part 2

Again, one definition of religion is "Details of belief as taught or discussed." Here is where belief comes into it for me. The story of the Buddha itself. I don't *know* how true it is. He lived during the Bronze Age when much was orally transmitted. Eventually things got written down. Likely, elements are factually incorrect. Example: his battle with Lord Mara and his demons as he sat under the Bodhi Tree. Did it really occur? To me, the answer is, "It doesn't matter." I believe the story as taught. But I understand it *is* a story and not literal truth. This is an act of faith on my part. That, too, falls under the realm of religion. Some Vehicles are devotional. My preference is Theraveda because it is the Vehicle in which I sit well. He said, "Don't believe anything unless it meets with your own experience, even if I said it." I choose to believe the Buddha attained Nibbana and was freed of samsara forever. And I can do it too. That's all I need. :)
—Guest Cord

Does the label matter?

Religion, not religion, practice, not practice, secular, not secular. Buddhism means as an English word, "of Buddha." I am comfortable with the term non-theist religion. Religion is defined to mean, "Details of belief as taught or discussed." To be "of the Buddha" I need only take refuge in the Three Jewels - the Buddha, the dhamma (dharma), and the sangha. I do. I love the story of Siddhartha Gautama, of his swinging from one extreme to the other, finding no succor in either hedonistic luxury or hard asceticism. I love reading more and more about what he said and taught. I love his peace and his humor. Would that I had such! And I love sharing my experience with others and hearing about theirs, and working with them. My how we all differ as we seek awakening! I try not to be too caught up in labels. They are illusions. They are retreats, sometimes, into self-righteousness. My way is better! There is no my. There is no me. There is no better. There only is.
—Guest Cord

A rose is a rose is a rose

I don't think of the Buddhadharma as being necessarily a religion. It *can* be, but it doesn't *have* to be. Many Hellenistic philosophies involved not merely intellectual discourse (as we commonly understand the word "philosophy" today) but also incorporated various practices (Neoplatonists, Stoics, Epicureans, etc.). Likewise the Buddhadharma seems like this to me. But in the end, I don't think the Buddhadharma really fits into nice modern western definitions of "religion" or "philosophy," but it is flexible enough to be easily considered either. This probably says more of the temperament of the individual than it does the Buddhadharma itself. Better to take the Buddhadharma on its own terms than trying to get too hung up on whether it is a religion or a philosophy. The Buddhadharma is bigger than either one.


One of the reasons that Buddhism resonates with me is that it is non-theistic. The Buddha taught that belief in god(s) is irrelevant and unnecessary in the attainment of enlightenment. Buddha also cautioned against blind faith in doctrine and advised that his teaching are like a boat: when you get to the other side, you don't need to pick the boat up and carry it with you, you have already arrived. For me, these three teaching, taken together, suggest that secularism and buddhism are entirely compatible.
—Guest Beginner

Buddhist will be secular..Buddhism can

Anybody who learned Dhamma will be at ease with any society or people around. So, he will be the world's most secular person. Buddhism when it takes the form of a religion can be secular or non-secular depends on the "Guru"/ "Lama"/ "Monk" in the helm of affairs
—Guest Rajeev G

Lotus flower

No! If one removes all the accumulated cultural attachments that tend to adhere to the Buddha's teaching as it passes through country after country century after century, one is left with psychotherapy in it's purest form! I see the Buddha as a psychotherapist who taught us a way to train our minds by "Changing the way we look at things and the things we look at change!"!
—Guest Sati Lotus

How do you define "religious?"

If "religion" means clinging to a teaching or superstition, then I think Buddhist practice and religion are antithetical. If "religion" means a shared set of traditions and teachings designed to help people along their spiritual (whatever that means) path, then Buddhism would necessarily fall into this category. But then so would watching Oprah (Oprahism?) and any number of things most people wouldn't call "religion." But perhaps the question means, "Does Buddhist practice require belief in something supernatural?" No. (See Stephen Bachelor's 'Buddhism Without Belief'). Nor, in my opinion, does Buddhist practice require ontological naturalism.
—Guest Advocatus D.

Just This- Part 2

"just this" then we could still use plasters to treat cuts and so we could also use psychology to help, religious forms to help, spiritual talk to help- Buddhism to help. However, "it" is none of those things and yet perhaps it can be all at the same time. I just have to continue to sit, walk, bow, study and live life as best I can, helping myself and others to the best of my ability..which sometimes is very successful and other times not so much. Occasionally I am provocative in the hopes of demonstrating something and trying to get people to throw out their comfortable position to return to the beginner's mind because we don't know really, or perhaps it would be better said we can't know, in the sense that our conscious minds having "models" for what life is. We have scientific "models" that describe the universe around us but they are not the universe just approximate descriptions..just so with everything else. Sometimes I upset people with this strong style of Dharma combat, I trul
—Guest Rich

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


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

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.


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

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Does Buddhism Have to Be Religious?

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