Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is Buddhism a religion ? II

The subject matter of Buddhism is this entire phenomenon that we call 'our life', 'existence', 'reality' etc. As such, it includes all particular values or beliefs - one god, many gods or no god; good and evil; religion and non-religion; Materialism and Idealism; Dualism and Monism; spiritual and non-spiritual; existence and non-existence; unity and multiplicity; the all and the individual. Nothing is excluded. How can we say it is any particular thing?

Yet when we practice by sitting we are still sitting and when we practice by walking we are still walking. So, when we practice by practicing Buddhism we are still practicing Buddhism and Buddhism is generally regarded as a religion. So, at a conventional level it seems acceptable to refer to Buddhism as a religion of sorts.


  1. Speaking of Buddhism as a religion, I would like to know if Hinayana is still around.

    I know there are some schools that are still referred to as the lesser vehicle, but they do not assume that title for themselves.

    In the Lotus Sutra, Lord Buddha made it clear that there is only one Great Vehicle, so I see no way that there are still schools of Hinayana Buddhism, but I wanted to ask someone knowledgeable.

    I know the philosophy of Lord Buddha well, but I have not had time to learn much history or culture. I found the Holy Dhamma about six months ago, and am now a dedicated Buddhist, but I have not found any books concerning things beyond the philosophy, and the nuns at the Zen monastery I sit at all speak Vietnamese.

  2. Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula:

    We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world. Therefore, in 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated in Colombo unanimously decided that the term Hinayana should be dropped when referring to Buddhism existing today in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, etc. This is the brief history of Theravada, Mahayana and Hinayana.
    From: "Gems of Buddhist Wisdom", Buddhist Missionary Society, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1996.

  3. A religion usually centers around a deity. Many people assume that Buddhists worship a seperate and deified individual too. When we call our practice a religion we tacitly support this view.

    Practicing Buddhism makes a religion out of life itself. Life, the eternal moment, becomes the deity.
    Zen Buddhism is a tool to master the monkey mind and work more directly with reality. In doing so we achieve varying degrees of enlightenment.
    Many people confuse enlightnemnet with heaven, another reason that Buddhism doesn't belong in the rank of a classic religion.

    Our culture has too much emotional baggage when it comes to the whole religion thing. If we think of Buddhism as a religion we stand the risk of transfering some of our prioir religious conditioning onto our practice.

    And then we just confuse ourselves.