Buddhism, Religion?

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Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:05 pm

Hello,
I just wanted to share this blog entry I found on Huffington Post which offers an opinion on the debate over whether or not Buddhism is a religion.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche/is-buddhism-a-religion_b_669740.html
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:09 pm

Greetings,

Not only is the definition of Religion hard to pin down but the word Buddhism covers so much Dhamma and things inconsistent with the Dhamma, that whatever answer anyone comes up with would have to have so many qualifications attached so as to make it virtually meaningless. Or if done properly, it would be a very long thesis.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:40 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
Not only is the definition of Religion hard to pin down but the word Buddhism covers so much Dhamma and things inconsistent with the Dhamma, that whatever answer anyone comes up with would have to have so many qualifications attached so as to make it virtually meaningless. Or if done properly, it would be a very long thesis.
Metta,
Retro. :)

Or you could draw a really simple diagram: two circles, one bigger than the other, overlapping by about a third of the smaller one's area. Label the big one 'religion' and the small one 'Buddhism'.
:smile:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Sobeh » Sat Aug 07, 2010 1:33 am

I wonder if people want it to be a religion, or not, on account of thereby including it (or not) in polemic on 'religion' generally. Say what you have to say about Christianity or Buddhism or Sunday Football or whatever, but when you start talking about 'religion' you've stepped away from the realm of precision into the realm of colloquialism.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Sat Aug 07, 2010 1:37 am

Thaibebop,

Seems like the author's intent is getting lost in the semantics. What I took from his article was to be wary of the dangers of religious trappings. However, I hasten to add that I disagree with his choice of words near the end:
This path is spiritual, not religious.
To my mind, a spiritual quest is religious. It's certainly more than merely an intellectual pursuit. The fact that many other religions have diluted their spirituality with excessive religious trappings has no bearing on the efficacy and inherent honesty of the Buddhist path. So...I agree with the author that we shouldn't deify the Buddha. I also agree that "religious trappings" are to be avoided. But I disagree with any implication that Buddhism is merely an intellectual activity.

Regards: Jim
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 07, 2010 2:59 am

I'm fine with teachers warning about grasping teachings wrongly. Which I think this article is trying to do.

However, I'm in agreement with Sobeh that people often use words like "religion" in an attempt to justify their particular prejudices, as in:
    "I'm not interested in (religion/other labels for other stuff I don't like), only Dhamma."



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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby ground » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:05 am

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.

Kind regards
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:44 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Not only is the definition of Religion hard to pin down but the word Buddhism covers so much Dhamma and things inconsistent with the Dhamma, that whatever answer anyone comes up with would have to have so many qualifications attached so as to make it virtually meaningless. Or if done properly, it would be a very long thesis.

Metta,
Retro. :)

I am not sure about that. I had a professor of Theology state that religion could be defined as an ideology that identified a problem, with humanity, life, whatever, and then offered a solution that was exclusive to itself. In this definition he actual included Communism, or at least the cult of Mao.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:47 pm

Sobeh wrote:I wonder if people want it to be a religion, or not, on account of thereby including it (or not) in polemic on 'religion' generally. Say what you have to say about Christianity or Buddhism or Sunday Football or whatever, but when you start talking about 'religion' you've stepped away from the realm of precision into the realm of colloquialism.

In this I can agree. I think that while labels are helpful with introductions to topics I feel that they have to be put aside at some point to really understand what you are studying. The general label may slant the view of the topic if kept in mind.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:58 pm

AdvaitaJ wrote:Thaibebop,

Seems like the author's intent is getting lost in the semantics. What I took from his article was to be wary of the dangers of religious trappings. However, I hasten to add that I disagree with his choice of words near the end:
This path is spiritual, not religious.
To my mind, a spiritual quest is religious. It's certainly more than merely an intellectual pursuit. The fact that many other religions have diluted their spirituality with excessive religious trappings has no bearing on the efficacy and inherent honesty of the Buddhist path. So...I agree with the author that we shouldn't deify the Buddha. I also agree that "religious trappings" are to be avoided. But I disagree with any implication that Buddhism is merely an intellectual activity.

Regards: Jim

While I agree without about religious trappings I disagree about the spiritual and religious being the same. People have climbed mountains and viewed oceans and the universe and have had spiritual experiences, that were not religious. Hitchens as well as Dawkins have shared some of their spiritual non-religious experiences, that is if you needed an easy to find example. So, I think they are two different things.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:01 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I'm fine with teachers warning about grasping teachings wrongly. Which I think this article is trying to do.

However, I'm in agreement with Sobeh that people often use words like "religion" in an attempt to justify their particular prejudices, as in:
    "I'm not interested in (religion/other labels for other stuff I don't like), only Dhamma."



Mike

I agree, but see no reason why those prejudices are negative things. I think the Dhamma is the most important thing out of Buddhism. I don't think people need the stories about demons and lotuses in footprints, I think they need the Dhamma. So, I think the prejudices are important. Take what is useful and what is needed, why bother with the trappings?
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:27 pm

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.

Kind regards

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.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Sobeh » Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:28 pm

Comments below, per highlighted sections:

Thaibebop wrote: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.


1. The difference is a Western one, and thereby created, not inherent. Reifying the difference in order to apply it across cultures and intellectual traditions worldwide is unsupported and disingenuous.

2. Sloppy generalization, as I warned against; centuries of theistic philosophy are wholly ignored here. Further, while I'm not in agreement with theism as it makes too strong of an epistemological claim, a-theism makes the same epistemological mistake. (Eternalism/Annihilationism.)

I'll say this another way: (a-)theism is a metaphysical claim; agnosticism is an epistemological one, as is the Dhamma. The difference is enormous.

Thaibebop wrote:People are fighting against Gay rights, based off of what a mythical being has said about homosexuality.


This discounts the difference between views on homosexuality that arise between adherents of the same religion. Religion is sometimes used as an explanation, but it is not necessarily the cause of the behavior as different individuals agree, or not, on this interpretation of their scripture(s). This is the same mistake as saying...

Thaibebop wrote:The Abrahamic religions... <are> a jumble of ideas that Christian thinkers picked out at will to support their current cause.


The intentions of all Abrahamic thinkers are assumed to be known. This is not a valid claim.

Thaibebop wrote:So, I felt that is was important to focus on this philosophy instead of the religious decoration.


Your inherent assumption is that religious components are all merely decorative, but "religious decoration" is carelessly left undefined.
---
Thaibebop wrote:Take what is useful and what is needed, why bother with the trappings?


Have a care, all: this is the sort of loose reasoning that eschews evidence in favor of supporting preexisting biases. Clearer thinking is called for.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Sekha » Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:14 pm

"Whose creed do you approve of, bhikkhuni?"

"I don't approve of anyone's creed, friend."

[Mara:]
"Under whom have you shaved your head?
You do appear to be a recluse,
Yet you don't approve of any creed,
So why wander as if bewildered?"

[Sisupacala:]
"Outside here the followers of creeds
Place their confidence in views.
I don't approve of their teachings;
They are not skilled in the Dhamma.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html


I take here 'creed' to mean 'religion' and fully agree
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:30 pm

Thaibebop wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I'm fine with teachers warning about grasping teachings wrongly. Which I think this article is trying to do.

However, I'm in agreement with Sobeh that people often use words like "religion" in an attempt to justify their particular prejudices, as in:
    "I'm not interested in (religion/other labels for other stuff I don't like), only Dhamma."
Mike

I agree, but see no reason why those prejudices are negative things. I think the Dhamma is the most important thing out of Buddhism. I don't think people need the stories about demons and lotuses in footprints, I think they need the Dhamma. So, I think the prejudices are important. Take what is useful and what is needed, why bother with the trappings?

Exactly my point. The parts of the Suttas that you think are unimportant you label "religion" and dismiss them...

What exactly is the Dhamma, and what is not? How do you know?

I'm not suggesting that all the statements in the Suttas need be taken literally. But there is plenty of stuff in there that makes people uncomfortable not because it seems mythical, but because it is extremely radical. Just look at the threads about rape such as viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5183 to see how much aversion there is to taking seriously the teachings that suggest that we should give the same amount of compassion to the perpetrator as the victim.

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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby EricJ » Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:42 am

I consider Buddhism to be the most profound expression of human religious sentiment [although I'm a bit biased ;D]. I don't find this thought alienating, and I don't think that "religion," "philosophy," and "Dhamma" are mutually exclusive terms. I look at that sutta quoted by Dukkhanirodha as discouraging spiritual beliefs which are clung to as ultimate truth without any sort of personal verification a la Vibhajjavada. Think about what the term "creed" means. People often equate it with the word "religion," but the word itself points to a specific core set of religious beliefs which are clung to as ultimate truth, even whenever experience suggests something else. In some religions, the creed is effectively the religion and the acceptance of the creed is taken as the entry in to spiritual life. I think of the shahadah, the obligatory statement of belief for all Muslims which serves as the basis for the key points of Islam ("There is no God but Allah [the characteristic strict monotheism of Islam] and Muhammad is his Messenger [which lends divine authority to the Qur'an and all other Muslim beliefs which emerge from that book.]) This statement is also the means of officially converting to Islam. Of course the Buddha would oppose beliefs of a creedal nature, because creeds are based upon speculation and lead to a great deal of clinging to ultimately useless views. Creedal religions lay out religious paths which are founded upon unverifiable claims and while these claims are taken as the basis of spiritual life, liberating discernment cannot occur. I think you can see this point of mine in the sutta itself:

""Outside here the followers of creeds, place their confidence in views." They place confidence in views instead of experiential discernment.

Here is how I think of the word "religion" [which, admittedly, doesn't count for much]: Any institution with a prescribed set of beliefs and practices which are used to "attain," "realize" or "connect to" something beyond the range of "conventional experience." I put these phrases in quotation marks because they obviously aren't sufficient to describe Nibbana.
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With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Aug 08, 2010 1:37 pm

Thaibebop wrote:Hello,
I just wanted to share this blog entry I found on Huffington Post which offers an opinion on the debate over whether or not Buddhism is a religion.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche/is-buddhism-a-religion_b_669740.html


This is one of those debates i dont get. Word meanings are just agreed upon conventions after all. Buddhism would fit the second sense listed here http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion. For that matter so would being a republican, or a girl scout.
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Aug 08, 2010 1:51 pm

I've found those (Buddhist or not) who say Buddhism is not a religion usually do so because they don't want it to be a religion
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Kare » Sun Aug 08, 2010 2:26 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:I've found those (Buddhist or not) who say Buddhism is not a religion usually do so because they don't want it to be a religion


I once used to say that "Buddhism is no religion". But then I heard fanatical Christians say that Christianity is no religion - it is truth. I also found that some Muslims say the same thing about Islam, and some Hindus say the same thing about Hinduism. After discovering this, I just had to laugh. :lol:

Now I really don't care if Buddhism is a religion or not. It all depends on how to define "religion" and what you mean by "Buddhism". But since Buddhism conventionally is counted among the world religions, I have no problem with accepting this.

So, OK, Buddhism is a religion. There are other religions. This means that "religion" is a wider category, and "Buddhism" is a subcategory within this wider category.

But the funny thing is that we can say that there are "religious" Buddhists (observing rituals, having faith, etc.), and there are "non-religious" Buddhists (practicing meditation and ethics and studying the Dhamma, but not really caring for the traditional "religious" trappings). This means that "Buddhism" is a wider category, and that "religion" is a subcategory within this wider category.

Who said that these things should be easy? :rofl:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Digger » Sun Aug 08, 2010 2:30 pm

If you define religion as "belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny", unfortunately Buddhism has taken a wrong turn this way as many people pray to Buddha to grant wishes, win the lottery, etc. I personally witnessed this at a Buddhist temple in Taiwan. When I asked how and why Buddha became a god to worship I was told "It's the same thing you (the western world) did with your Jesus"

If you define religion as "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects" then pretty much anything a bunch of people do could be a religion.

I think when you say "religion", most people think worshiping a deity and many people wrongly worship the Buddha this way instead of understanding and following his teaching.
He is different. He thinks.
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