If you search “world religions,” you’ll find “Buddhism” on every list. Does that make Buddhism a religion? Many would say it is not, as it is often labeled a “philosophy” or “belief system” or a “practice.” Whether Buddhism is, or is not, a religion depends upon how the word “religion” is defined. Lots of people have their favorite definition; some think that theirs is the only valid meaning for the term.
People’s definition of “religions” are so diverse that it is no easy task to bring them all under one simple definition. Of course, this difficulty has not stopped people from attempting to define religion. While no one definition of religion can completely sum up what religion is, they all tell us something about religion and perhaps bring one to a closer understanding of what we mean when we talk about “religion.”
Here are some definition of religion
What is Buddhism?
A lot of people prefer to think of Buddhism as a religion. It’s easy to see why, when Buddhism abounds with religious trappings: the rituals and the chants and the golden statues sitting on the shrine. However, Buddhism does not include the idea of worshiping a creator god, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. In Buddhism there is no Almighty God to be obeyed and feared. there are no divine revelations or divine messengers. A Buddhist doesn’t obey to any higher supernatural power which controls his destinies. Buddhism cannot, therefore, strictly be called a religion because it is neither a system of faith and worship. Sometimes people regard religion as belief in God or gods, so religion becomes identified with the theistic attitude of a particular religious form. Often Buddhism is regarded by theistic religions as an atheistic form, or not even a religion at all. It’s seen as a philosophy or psychology, because Buddhism doesn’t come from a theistic position.
Buddhism is a very influential religion as it has exerted a strong influence on the whole of Far Eastern culture, especially in India, China, Tibet and South-east Asia generally, not just in religious terms but also in the art, ideas and behavior of the people. Generally speaking they are thoughtful, reflective and peaceful peoples.
Its influence was mainly to increase interest in meditation, peacefulness, pacifism, respect for all life, calmness and fostering reflection and quiet, especially in training the young and in old age.
Buddhism stresses very strongly indeed the restraint of anger, hatred and desire as a path to personal peace and contentment. Modern attitudes towards Buddhist meditation tend to portray it as leaving the world and developing a very concentrated state of mind
However, not every Buddhist can achieved such pacifism. Alexis, who is accused of killing 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., on Sep. 18, spent time studying and practicing Buddhism.
To some, the Navy Yard rampage raises difficult questions about Buddhism and meditation as ways to improve mental health, especially for people who delve deeply into meditation but may not have a well-developed understanding of Buddhism’s history and theology.
Buddhist community members are also questioning the link between their faith and Alexis, according to The Washington Post. Some Buddhists “saw the tragedy as an opportunity to publicly air some difficult topics that Buddhists most often discuss only among themselves.”
“Is the peaceful Buddhist an illusion?” the article asks. “Do Buddhists and Buddhist temples deal directly enough with the topic of mental illness? And, in fact, might Buddhism hold a special attraction for people who are mentally ill?”
Buddhism’s popular image as a peaceful, non-dogmatic science of the mind, internationally known figures like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. Buddhists do not commit violence, it seems, therefore no one who commits violence can be a Buddhist. There’s no doubt that Aaron Alexis failed to live up to Buddhism’s principles and ideals.
Overall, religion often provides us with answers to life’s big questions from the start. We learn what to think and believe, and our job is to live up to that, not to question it. If we relate to the Buddha’s teachings as final answers that don’t need to be examined, then we’re practicing Buddhism as a religion.
In any case, we still have to live our lives. We can’t escape having a “philosophy of life” because we’re challenged every day to choose one action over another kindness or indifference, generosity or selfishness, patience or blame. When our decisions and actions reflect the knowledge we’ve gained by working with our minds, that’s adopting Buddhism as a way of life.
Boorstein, Michelle, and Elizabeth Tenety. “Shooter’s Interest in Buddhism Prompts Debate in Buddhist Community.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 20 Sept. 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/shooters-interest-in-buddhism-prompts-debate-about-stereotype-of-peaceful-faith/2013/09/18/f0ecd938-1fcf-11e3-94a2-6c66b668ea55_story.html
Morrell, Peter. “Is Buddhism a Religion or a Philosophy of Life.” Is Buddhism a Religion or a Philosophy of Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. http://homeoint.org/morrell/buddhism/buddhism.htm
“Buddhism by Country.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_by_country
“What Is Religion? Definitions and Quotes.” http://www.religionfacts.com/religion/quotes.htm
Chernus, Ira. “RELIGION AS A CULTURAL SYSTEM.” IraChernus-GeertzSummary. http://www.colorado.edu/ReligiousStudies/chernus/4800/GeertzSummary.htm