Is Buddhism a Religion? And Does It Really Matter?

May 1, 2024

Buddhism: What It Is & Isn’t

Look, I get it.

When you hear the word “Buddhism,” you immediately think of monks in orange robes, incense burning, and weird chanting.

It can seem like just another religious practice, and that’s a turn-off for many people.

But here’s the thing: Buddhism isn’t actually a religion at all.

the buddha surrounded by warm and colouful light

Buddhism Basics

Let’s clear up some misconceptions right off the bat.

If we look at the definition of religion, we can clearly see that Buddhism doesn’t fit it.

A religion needs a superhuman god who is worshipped as the creator of everything, but Buddha never taught that people, the world or the universe were created by one being.

And he certainly never said that he was a god either. . .

The Buddha — also known as Gautama or Siddhartha — was just a human being who figured out a way to end suffering.

He didn’t create the universe or claim any divine powers.

He simply rediscovered an ancient path to enlightenment and shared it with others, teaching the Dharma and the Four Noble Truths.

Beliefs & Practices

If you come to Thailand you might see Buddhists in temples praying to statues, getting “Buddhist” tattoos or consulting fortune tellers.

But those are just cultural influences and traditions that have been mixed in over time, especially in countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar in Southeast Asia.

I’ve spoken to people who think that spreading loving kindness, chanting for hours on end or sitting cross-legged and meditating peacefully must be what Buddhism is.

It’s closer to the truth, but still that’s not all there is to it. It’s not what Buddhism is all REALLY about.

a cut section of a tree revealing the heartwood inside

The Heartwood of Buddhism

If we imagine Buddhism as a tree, those types of activities are only the bark, the surface.

Real Buddhism is the heartwood that lies beneath all the outer layers and can only be found deeper towards the centre. 

The heart of Buddhism is about cultivating your own mind through meditation, mindfulness, and ethical living by following the Eightfold Path.

It’s about direct experience rather than belief; it’s about proving it out for yourself rather than having blind faith.

No Belief (of Faith) Needed

Buddhism doesn’t require any belief or faith whatsoever.

The Buddha himself told all his disciples — and anyone else who listen to his Dharma —  to not believe A SINGLE WORD he said!

Instead, he urged them to prove it through their OWN experience.

The Buddha encouraged us to approach his teachings as working theories that we should put test and verify for ourselves.

If we think about it objectively, Buddhism isn’t a religion, a belief system, a philosophy, or even just an ethical code.

It’s a practical method for ending your own suffering based on the Law of Karma.

That’s it.

And you don’t have to worry about going to hell or displeasing some angry god if you don’t follow it.

The only “punishment” is continuing to experience suffering because you haven’t developed the wisdom to let go of your cravings and aversions.

The best way to describe Buddhism is probably as an education system, one that helps you develop wisdom and free yourself from desires that cause suffering.

Over to You. . .

Whether or not Buddhism is a religion is not really important.

It is what it is.

So, if you’ve been avoiding Buddhism because you thought it was just another religion trying to sell you some dogma, think again.

It’s a straightforward path to lasting happiness and freedom from suffering that the Buddha taught.

NO compulsion, NO strings attached, NO deities to worship, and NO need to believe anything until you’ve proven it for yourself.

My suggestion? Ditch the preconceptions and give it an honest try.

You might just find the answer you’ve been seeking all along.

2 Comments

  1. temp mail

    Whoa, that blog style is awesome. For what duration have you been blogging? You made it look so easy. Overall, your website looks great, and the content is much better.

    Reply
    • GoodBadKarma

      Thank you for stopping by — and for the positive feedback! Glad you’re enjoying what we share 🙂

      Reply

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