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Readers Respond: Does Buddhism Have to Be Religious?

Responses: 29


From the article: Secular Buddhism
"Secular Buddhism" is a hot topic in western Buddhism. But what is Secular Buddhism? And is it really a good idea?

Which door to enter

I don't know about all the 84,000 doors. For me the door was Wholesome view and intention for life following experience of deep dukkha. I contemplated three marks of existence. oracticed five precepts and metta or loving kindness to overcome fear. Faith in triple gems came from Kalama sutta and ehi passiko and of course direct meditative experience of four brahmaviharas, seven factors of enlightenment and listening and absorbing the energy of Maha-satipathhana sutta or four-foundations. I have profound gratitude for Buddha Dharma as it transformed my life in ways I did not imagine possible 9 years ago. So blessings to all who follow the dharma.
—Guest Door-enterer

Buddha Not Buddhist, Dharma No Religion

Religion is about creating separate exclusive collective identity wego (self as soul, God, surrendering as followers to external god) and institutional religion wanting to make things permanent and solid. Dharma has six characteristics, religion do not. Buddha did not ask for blind faith in anything including a belief in permanent soul, self or god or that we blindly follow or worship Buddha (pointing to the way of Dharma). Those who correctly sees dharma sees Buddha. It is about waking up and realizing the selfless empty nature of all existence and phenomena. Aim for the highest liberation, peace and happiness of Nibbana. Also secular means belonging to the generation or age. We could aspire to develop correct understanding of basic Dharma and practice Noble eightfold path that leads ultimately to supreme knowledge and ultimate liberation from conditioned cycle of existence. Peace http://www.seek2know.net
—Guest mita101

The question doesn't really matter...

..the Buddha said there were 84,000 Dharma doors so simple pick the one that suits you best. It's easy.
—Guest Mike

Buddhism is what it is

The way I see it, there are three types of reality: 1) reality of actuality, as things and all things have occurred, are occurring, and will occur 2) reality created by mind and all aspects of mind and 3) realities created by others of through experience, which is unique from the reality you may have created of the same phenomena. So to answer the question, is Buddhism a religion: 1) it is what it is, the nature of Buddhism and the teaching of Buddhism is what it is, without the distortions created by the people over time 2) the individual makes Buddhism whatever and however she wants to make it to be through mind and experience. This view may or may not be what the original teaching was and 3) even among Buddhism there are many different schools of Buddhism like zen, etc., that have evolved over time due to the fact that different people may not necessarily see the same phenomena or thing the same way. Ultimately, there is no answer: an answer itself is empty of intrinsic identity.
—Guest Jon

How's this?

If Buddhism were religious, there would be postings on here by hate-filled, self-righteous assholes!
—Guest Softland

Secular huh !

This continuous debate reminds me of the following little story. "Once upon a time there were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was once an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, But Nobody did. Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody`s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn`t do it. Everybody blamed Somebody and Nobody accused Anybody. Everybody got very upset when Somebody accused him of shirking. Nobody wanted a fight, but Somebody started one, Everybody got hurt, Nobody apologised and it was Anybody`s guess what would have happened if Somebody hadn`t made them all see reason ! "
—Guest Paul

Not Culturally Buddhist

I'm a Westerner who was raised in an atheist family. I'm just not capable of taking the concepts of "faith," as used by most religions, or "salvation" (by some invisible Personage walking around the sky) with any seriousness. No two Buddhist countries' versions of Buddhism are the same: Buddhism has always changed shape a bit to fit a new culture. Belief in gods and rebirth is not necessary to keep the precepts or purify the mind. Re: TM - there are two types of meditation, not one. While TM will work fine as *shamatha*/calming, it has nothing to do with *vipassana*/insight. To me, Buddhism is fundamentally neither a religion nor a philosophy: it's a system of training in Advanced Humanity. Deity neither included nor required.
—Guest Rational Pilgrim

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
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