Religion has many different definitions. All of them however contain the aspect of a superhuman deity or God(s). That then poses the question of whether or not Buddhism is a true religion. Michael McGhee recently wrote an article with possible answers to this question in The Guardian. Throughout this article, McGhee explains why Buddhism, not necessarily in his opinion, but with information he has gathered from others on why Buddhism may not be a religion. He states that Buddhism is possibly closer to a philosophy or way of life, rather than a religion. Although Buddhism does have a figure, that being the Buddha, it is not a form of God nor is there really anything to worship. Buddhism uses lots of techniques that are used to make you one with yourself, such as Yoga and meditation. But yoga is not confined just to Buddhism either and just because you participate in yoga does not mean you are practicing Buddhism. There are however many ceremonies and rituals done in Buddhism that does make it more like a religion than not. However, although Buddhism does have some core teachings, many teachings are for the individual not for a group. From person to person the teachings could contradict each other which is unlike any other religion than typically has a defined set of scriptures such as Christianity.
The problem I have with this article is that McGhee doesn’t come to any sort of conclusion. He really leaves it open ended for the reader. Is it even possible to come to a conclusion on this topic? Buddhism has been around since 500BCE and is still practiced today. That in itself shows that it is a very successful religion or philosophy or anything else it is classified as. I also feel like many people get the misconception that Buddhism is just a Chinese practice. Or at least that is the idea that I had before learning about Buddhism. On the contrary, Buddhism is practiced all throughout Asia and the Eastern world. There are three main schools that teach Buddhism, those being: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. The fact that Buddhism is taught at certain schools shares similarities with other religions such as Christianity. In all honesty, the only real difference in deciding what is a religion and what is not a religion is whether or not there is a God or Deity.
In reality, does it really matter if it is labeled as a religion or not? Buddhism wouldn’t be any different if it was decided to be a religion or anything else. I think the important thing is that it is still around today and works for so many different people. It is a way of life for people to deeper their own beliefs and soul. It connects you with the world around you and can help you make life long decisions. Maybe one day we can come to a conclusion but in the meantime, we can only have our opinions on the matter.