Is Buddhism a Religion?

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby KeithBC » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:56 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:What is a religion?

:namaste:

That is indeed the question. The question "Is Buddhism a religion?" is not about Buddhism; it is about the nature of religion. So the discussion is a bit pointless, since it is about something other than what it seems, and because the subject it is really about is so poorly defined.

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Ogyen » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:42 pm

According to wikipedia- (just copy/paste)

Religion
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a general set of beliefs about life, purpose, etc.. For other uses, see Religion (disambiguation).

"Religious" redirects here. For a member of a Catholic religious order, see Religious (Catholicism).

A religion is any systematic approach to living that involves beliefs about one's origins, one's place in the world, or a responsibility to live and act in the world in particular ways. Religion is often equated with faith and belief in a higher power or truth, but it is more commonly defined in religious studies as the patterns that express that faith and reinforce it in day-to-day living. One can share the philosophy of a religion, believing in its higher truth, without manifesting that faith religiously.[1]

Aspects of religion include narrative, symbolism, beliefs, and practices that are supposed to give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life. Whether the meaning centers on a deity or deities, or an ultimate truth, religion is commonly identified by the practitioner's prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things, and is often interwoven with society and politics. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws and ethics and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.

The term "religion" refers both to the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. "Religion" is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system,"[2] but it is more socially defined than personal convictions, and it entails specific behaviors, respectively.

Religions by country:

North America[show]
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Religion Portal v • d • e

The development of religion has taken many forms in various cultures, with continental differences. Any case, about the roots, it considers psychological by Sigmund Freud, philsophical by Ernesto De Martino and social by Emile Durkheim, along with origins and historical development.

Religion is often described as a communal system for the coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition, rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core belief, and these may have some overlap with concepts in secular philosophy. Religion is also often described as a "way of life" or a life stance.

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

According to this definition, Buddhism is a religion as it meets the criteria of a systematized method of belief. Then again, by this definition patriotism could be a religion too... And so are Jedi Masters and Sith Lords.

It seems the categorization of "what is a religion" is pretty broad. As such, in general terms, Buddhism is ALSO a religion among whatever else its practitioners consider it. All traditions are unified by one systematized eightfold path and 4 noble truths, etc, etc. Even though variations of interpretation occur, they all adhere to the same principles of suffering/cessation of suffering. By definition this kind of categorical systematization is a religion. That is a set of principles to follow with the personal belief that it is for one's improvement/awakening etc.

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:43 am

You know what's interesting is that until the 19th century in East Asia there was no concept of "religion" as being distinct from secular matters, "sciences", philosophy and so on. Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism were all individually identified as unique models of thought with their own traditions and histories, but there was no perception of "religion" or even "philosophy".

Those two words religion and philosophy, when introduced from the west, had to be crafted. The present word in Chinese and Japanese for religion 宗教 did exist already, but it didn't mean "religion" as we understand it now.

This lack of delineation led to a lot of mixing and interaction over the centuries. It is possibly why Buddhism in particular was so readily transplanted into new cultural environments.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:17 am

That's interesting, Huseng.

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby muni » Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:15 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:Do you consider Buddhism to be a religion? Or is it a life philosophy for you? Or a way of living? Or something I haven't mentioned?

:namaste:


:namaste:
No any clasification other than maybe this: a travel towards wisdom (see how we deceive our being), serenity and GOODNESS. In that way science of mind.

No religion because there is not just a believing in something, there is investigation.
No Phylosophy because it is not merely an intellectual investigation.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Ogyen » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:59 pm

Huseng,

that is very interesting considering that systematized religion has existed in the "west" since the time of the Egyptians, then the greeks, romans, judaic, muslim, etc.

It's interesting how in the "east" religion hasn't been systematized in quite the same way. That would certainly create some conceptual or cultural incompatibilities with the definitions of "religion" according to one's origin.

In India at least, there is a long history of religion being somewhat separate from non-religion, although religion permeates EVERY aspect of life for many, as India still has thousands of sects, and deities, etc. There is a fairly strong push for tolerance towards different religions.

I'm not as familiar with China, Japan. But I'd be inclined to think "religion" takes on a much more practical form in its spirituality. It would be more about one's honor, honoring one's family/ancestors, etc and less like the Christian model with its extensive dogma and inexplainable "mysteries" that one must just believe blindly to be, for example, Catholic.

By western definitions, Buddhism is another religion for many practitioners because this distinction is made.

Also something to keep in mind, there are many that resist this word "religion" because they have their own cultural dissonance with this word and what it represents, so I've often found that people who are born and raised in Buddhist cultures have no real issue calling it a religion, a way of life, a philosophy, etc. That might be because like Huseng mentioned, the context for the concept is very different, far more integrated into the daily experience of life and not something you go over there in that building and do for 2 hours, and then go out and continue to be a regular person that just repeats bad things and good things. The native Buddhist regular person is practicing always too. In their own non-monastic way, there is plenty of context for the lay person to practice kindness in their native cultural matrix.

It's in the western-cultural-matrix that one has this intense separation holy/profane, secular/spritual, this duality where people for example go and do bad things then go to church, confess, get absolved, and they're fine. They can go do it again. And just get their "get out of jail free" card with confession. Just an example. The basis is quite different altogether. Politically we also make a distinction by not electing our spiritual leaders into government positions, like the pope could never be the President of Italy. If that makes sense. This separation of church and state occurred in I think the 12th century in its final stages, and was mostly because of the usurping monastics who held control over large quantities of land and were using the resources of the people for their own power. A decree was finally made that Church and State had to separate. And so it has been since then... Not that this stopped the sales of salvation where people literally paid to buy themselves a spot in heaven... :broke: I think I would have gone straight to hell in the 13th century. At least in Italy.

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:44 pm

Hello OgyenChodzom! :smile:

OgyenChodzom wrote:Huseng,

that is very interesting considering that systematized religion has existed in the "west" since the time of the Egyptians, then the greeks, romans, judaic, muslim, etc.

It's interesting how in the "east" religion hasn't been systematized in quite the same way. That would certainly create some conceptual or cultural incompatibilities with the definitions of "religion" according to one's origin.



I should clarify what I'm saying here.

Basically, the abstract concept of "religion" as distinct from "philosophy", "science" and "everyday life" was not necessarily found in pre-modern civilizations.

It is well enough easy for us to look back into ancient China and see the "religions" of Daoism and Buddhism for example, but people in those times did not designate Daojiao and Fojiao (Buddhism) as being subsumed under a certain category of systematic thought that must be distinguished from "the sciences" like astronomy or divination. In this example Daoism and Buddhism were very much systematized schools of thought and both parties were aware that the other was external to their own school of thought, but nobody would have said, "We're doing religion, the astronomers are doing science."


In India at least, there is a long history of religion being somewhat separate from non-religion, although religion permeates EVERY aspect of life for many, as India still has thousands of sects, and deities, etc. There is a fairly strong push for tolerance towards different religions.


Again, it begs the question of people before modern times would most people in India have normally perceived a category of "religion" and a counter "non-religion".

I think for the common person, no matter the time period really, doing particular rituals like making offerings to the gods was just as much an essential and normal activity as bathing or milking cows. For ancients, and many people today too, what we call "religious activities" (and for most of us they're optional) were and are absolutely as essential to maintaining one's health and fortune in the world as is drinking water. It is just something you need to do. In India if the rites were not performed perfectly with exacting pronunciation and verbatim recitation, undesirable things were naturally expected to occur as a result.

For the modern westerner who has a standard education in materialist science, "religious activities" are optional and an entirely personal affair. Again, for a lot of people in history and even today what we call "religion" is just as essential to them as employment is to us. Absolutely essential.


I'm not as familiar with China, Japan. But I'd be inclined to think "religion" takes on a much more practical form in its spirituality. It would be more about one's honor, honoring one's family/ancestors, etc and less like the Christian model with its extensive dogma and inexplainable "mysteries" that one must just believe blindly to be, for example, Catholic.



I'm not all that familiar with western religions really, but let's look at the etymology for the word:



religion
c.1200, "state of life bound by monastic vows," also "conduct indicating a belief in a divine power," from Anglo-Fr. religiun (11c.), from O.Fr. religion "religious community," from L. religionem (nom. religio) "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," in L.L. "monastic life" (5c.); according to Cicero, derived from relegare "go through again, read again," from re- "again" + legere "read" (see lecture). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare "to bind fast" (see rely), via notion of "place an obligation on," or "bond between humans and gods." Another possible origin is religiens "careful," opposite of negligens. Meaning "particular system of faith" is recorded from c.1300.

"To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name." [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]

Modern sense of "recognition of, obedience to, and worship of a higher, unseen power" is from 1530s. Religious is first recorded early 13c. Transferred sense of "scrupulous, exact" is recorded from 1590s.



I think for medieval Christians too, appeasing God Almighty was just as essential to their daily lives as was tending the fields. As to how "applied" or "practical" their religion was in general, I don't know. I have an image of tithes and such, but that's probably more a stereotype on my part. I imagine the devout did volunteer work of some sort.


It's in the western-cultural-matrix that one has this intense separation holy/profane, secular/spritual, this duality where people for example go and do bad things then go to church, confess, get absolved, and they're fine. They can go do it again. And just get their "get out of jail free" card with confession.


Interestingly, the opposite extreme of materialism leads to the same behaviours. If you think that after death you'll just enter an eternal unconscious nothingness, then by the same token you're also free from suffering whatever actions are left unripe at the end of your mortal flesh. If you think you're just a cheap combination of chemicals and that "you only live once" then you're absolved from any concept of sin and your post-mortem oblivion is your "get out of jail free" card. From such a perspective nothing really matters and to them you'll just die and that'll be the absolute end of it anyway, so "live it up" as they say.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby catmoon » Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:22 pm

The view from here: A religion requires a God to worship. Therefore Buddhism is not a religion.

OTOH the Dalai Lama once described himself as "religious to the core". So obviously he defines religion differently.

Big deal. We can still have tea and cookies and a wonderful time. His definition of religion is consistent with his beliefs, so is mine, and neither way of defining things affects the reality in the least.

But please, let's avoid defining ourselves into opposing camps. A war might start. Over nothing.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby KeithBC » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:03 pm

OgyenChodzom wrote:According to this definition, Buddhism is a religion as it meets the criteria of a systematized method of belief. Then again, by this definition patriotism could be a religion too... And so are Jedi Masters and Sith Lords.

The Wikipedia definition is very close to what I mean when I use the term "religion", and to what I was taught in my Religious Studies classes. Yes, Buddhism is a religion by that definition.

And Noam Chomsky would agree about patriotism being one too.

Catmoon, your conclusion that Buddhism is not a religion does follow from your definition. However, I disagree with your definition.

Which is why, in an earlier post, I said that this question is not about Buddhism but about the nature of religion.

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:52 pm

Although the title of the thread is an intellectual question, in the original post I attempted to bring it down to the personal level. I am curious as to how people identify with this body of teachings and practices :)

Personally I identify with Buddhism as a religion.

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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby msmedusa » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:27 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Yes, definitely a religion. For some it may just be a way of life or something they are dabbling in, but when they get deep into it and practice daily, study the texts, do rituals and / or meditation; then it becomes a religion.

If it were just a way of life, it would have been a fad and died a long time ago.

For some, they don't want to be labeled and go into long justifications to avoid labels, but life is full of labels (race, gender, nationality, etc.) and they don't have to have a value as good or bad. Of course, like any label or belief system or philosophy it can be corrupted or taken to an extreme, but that does not spoil the whole pot.


This is an interesting post for me in the light of discussion I have been having with my son this week.

He questioned me on my response to being asked what religion I was. At the time I had stumbled over the question..what was I ? I had been Church of England for a lifetime and only in the last few years turned to Buddhism. I read. I listen . I learn . But am I a Buddhist? Or am I Buddhist curious? ;) Or maybe a spiritual explorer? I dont know what to label myself!

My son asked me 'why do you have to BE anything?, why cant you use believe what you believe ? why do you have to call it anything?'

And I dont know the answer. I dont know why I need to label myself but I do. We all do. Labelling is a speedy and efficent way of processing information about everyone we meet, it is the indicator of appropriate ways to interact with them. It also makes us feel we belong, we have affinity with others who share our value system.

For me ; replying ' I am Buddhist' does not mean I am a skilled, knowledgable practioner. It is merely an indication to those I meet of what my values might be.

Funnily enough ..when I took on the 'label' of Buddhist at work I met with knowing nods and little surprise. One person said 'I knew you were by the way you dress' and another agreed 'yes and you eat all that hippy food'.

I thought it was the robes that gave me away. :rolling:
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby catmoon » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:30 am

What is a religion?

The question has popped up any number of times.
There are lots of ways to define a religion.
I don't see any particular one as correct. I see all such definitions as mere conventions and hence not worth talking about much.
If you want a nice chat, just agree on one definition for the purposes of the conversation and all will be well.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:34 am

If you're a Buddhist with a chip on your shoulder about religion, it's not a religion, apparently. :tongue:

-M
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby catmoon » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:40 am

meindzai wrote:If you're a Buddhist with a chip on your shoulder about religion, it's not a religion, apparently. :tongue:

-M



This inverts neatly to:

If you're a Buddhist with a chip on your shoulder about secularism, it's a religion, apparently.


:shrug:

All meaningless.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Astus » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:20 am

What is missing from other cultures is the separation of philosophy from religion. It was in ancient Greece that men came up with a critical view of reality. Xenophanes (6th c. BCE) even criticised ruling concepts about gods and tradition. Since we have this distinction of philosophy from religion unlike anyone else, it is natural that applying these ideas for other cultures is problematic. If we look at ancient philosophy that had no problem with gods and propagagated a way of life we could say that Buddhism is a philosophy. What makes it not just a "love of wisdom" is that it claims to be "wisdom" itself, thus religion. This brings us to the second fundamental difference between philosophy and religion, in religion there is no space for "free thinking" for one is told what to accept as truth, hence orthodoxy.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby shel » Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:01 pm

According to this definition, Buddhism is a religion as it meets the criteria of a systematized method of belief. Then again, by this definition patriotism could be a religion too... And so are Jedi Masters and Sith Lords.

Although patriotism and scifi can offer meaning, I believe the defining difference is that religion offers ultimate meaning. Clearly Buddhism offers ultimate meaning.
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:07 pm

shel wrote:
According to this definition, Buddhism is a religion as it meets the criteria of a systematized method of belief. Then again, by this definition patriotism could be a religion too... And so are Jedi Masters and Sith Lords.

Although patriotism and scifi can offer meaning, I believe the defining difference is that religion offers ultimate meaning. Clearly Buddhism offers ultimate meaning.


Yes Shel, context means quite a bit I think :smile:
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Re: Is Buddhism a Religion?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:38 pm

If it gives people a means to frantically cling for a way to feel better about avoiding hell, then yes, it's a religion.

If it gives people a means to consume this nice warm fuzzy feeling in their tummy and exclude others who aren't members of the club then yes it's a religion.

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