TMingyur wrote:I don't understand the discussion about whether it is a religion or not. What is so important about this question? Is there a taboo? Taboo means limitation and limitation seems not to be compatible with liberation.
For me of course the Buddha is an idol. I am striving to be like this idol. This idol is an idea but this idea is based an what has been transmitted and it confers enthusiasm, energy, conviction, joyous perseverance (6th paramita). And of course the Buddha is to be revered and honored and admired because he taught the path, he was the one in this age who started turning the wheel for the benefit of all beings. How wonderful! Without him and his activities there would be just darkness.
I think the distinction between religion and philosophy is an important one. Religion is based off myths and legends while philosophy is a reasoned opinion that may or may not hold weight, but can be subjected to judged either way. I think it's healthier to base decisions in your life on reasoned thought rather than myths.
Look at a American right now. People are fighting against Gay rights, based off of what a mythical being has said about homosexuality. This same being said shell fish is evil and you shouldn't wear two different fabrics at the same time and stone your wife if she wears make-up. What kind of philosophy is this? It isn't, it's religion. If people sat down with the facts concerning any of these issues and simply used reason would they find cause to believe that shell fish is evil, or that it's moral to stone your wife for make-up use, or that two fabrics worn together cause a problem? of course not.
When I began studying Buddhism it was purely academic. I study Asian history and culture, therefore I needed to understand Buddhism to understand what I was studying. It's the same if you study European history. How could you do it without understanding Christianity? You can't, not well at least. As I studied Buddhism though I found a philosophy in it that was attached to the superstition but could be successfully removed as well. The Abrahamic religions lacked this very concise philosophy. Theirs was a jumble of ideas that Christian thinkers picked out at will to support their current cause. Buddhism had a real philosophy that ran through everything and was in more way bigger then the religious trappings.
So, I felt that is was important to focus on this philosophy instead of the religious decoration. There is no reason to believe that Buddha came out of his mother's side, or that she had dreams of his coming, or he faced off with demons or stopped a rampaging elephant. None of this is important, it's all superstition and none of it will help any one deal with their suffering. However, the Dhamma, the vipassana meditation, these things can because they are real. A person thousands of years after the Buddha taught can recreate these practices and see the results. This is the basis of scientific research and philosophical debate. Can the issue in question be tested and verified? Yes, in the case of the Dhamma, it can, and it doesn't require any religious trapping to do.
I had these thoughts long before I began focusing on individual teachers of the Dhamma, so I thought for a long time it was just my opinion and was sure Buddhists would disagree with me. Most of what I have read in the Zen school, backed up my ideas however. I encountered Ajahn Chan's teachings and Bhikkhu Buddhadasa's teachings as well, and they also backed up what I had first believed. So, I believe that to practice the Dhamma one has to focus on it, and that means allowing the religious trappings to fall by the wayside, to not be attached to them, for they mean nothing. The label, religion or philosophy, is therefore important because it will influence how people view Buddhism as well as how people practice Buddhism, and it's the Dhamma people should see first, and the Dhamma that people should be practicing.