Is it a religion?
It is neither a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, for it is not "a system of faith and worship owing any allegiance to a supernatural being."
not demand blind faith from its adherents. Here mere belief is dethroned
and is substituted by confidence based on knowledge, which, in Pali,
is known as saddha. The confidence placed by a follower on
the Buddha is like that of a sick person in a noted physician, or
a student in his teacher. A Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha because
it was he who discovered the path of deliverance.
A Buddhist does
not seek refuge in the Buddha with the hope that he will be saved
by his (i.e. the Buddha's own) personal purification. The Buddha gives
no such guarantee. It is not within the power of a Buddha to wash
away the impurities of others. One could neither purify nor defile
another. The Buddha, as teacher, instructs us, but we ourselves are
directly responsible for our purification. Although a Buddhist seeks
refuge in the Buddha, he does not make any self-surrender. Nor does
a Buddhist sacrifice his freedom of thought by becoming a follower
of the Buddha. He can exercise his own free will and develop his knowledge
even to the extent of becoming a Buddha himself.
The starting point
of Buddhism is reasoning or understanding, or, in the Pali words,
To the seekers
of truth the Buddha says:
"Do not accept
anything on (mere) hearsay -- (i.e., thinking that thus have we heard
it for a long time). Do not accept anything by mere tradition -- (i.e.,
thinking that it has thus been handed down through many generations).
Do not accept anything on account of mere rumors -- (i.e., by believing
what others say without any investigation). Do not accept anything
just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything
by mere suppositions. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do
not accept anything by merely considering the reasons. Do not accept
anything merely because it agrees with your pre-conceived notions.
Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable -- (i.e.,
thinking that as the speaker seems to be a good person his words should
be accepted). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is
respected by us (therefore it is right to accept his word).
you know for yourselves -- these things are immoral, these things
are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, these things,
when performed and undertaken conduce to ruin and sorrow -- then indeed
do you reject them.
know for yourselves -- these things are moral, these things are blameless,
these things are praised by the wise, these things, when performed
and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness -- then do you
live acting accordingly."
words of the Buddha still retain their original force and freshness.
Though there is
no blind faith, one might argue whether there is no worshipping
of images etc., in Buddhism.
Buddhists do not
worship an image expecting worldly or spiritual favors, but pay their
reverence to what it represents.
The Bo-tree is
also a symbol of Enlightenment. These external objects of reverence
are not absolutely necessary, but they are useful as they tend to
concentrate one's attention. An intellectual person could dispense
with them as he could easily focus his attention and visualize the
Buddha. For our own good, and out of gratitude, we pay such external
respect but what the Buddha expects from his disciple is not so much
obeisance as the actual observance of his Teachings. The Buddha says
-- "He honors me best who practices my teaching best." "He
who sees the Dhamma sees me."
With regard to
images, however, Count Kevserling remarks -- "I see nothing more
grand in this world than the image of the Buddha. It is an absolutely
perfect embodiment of spirituality in the visible domain."
must be mentioned that there are no petitional or intercessory prayers
in Buddhism. However much we may pray to the Buddha we cannot be saved.
The Buddha does not grant favors to those who pray to him. Instead
of petitional prayers there is meditation that leads to self-control,
purification and enlightenment. Meditation is neither a silent reverie
nor keeping the mind blank. It is an active striving. It serves as
a tonic both to the heart and the mind. The Buddha not only speaks
of the futility of offering prayers but also disparages a slave mentality.
A Buddhist should not pray to be saved, but should rely on himself
and win his freedom.
take the character of private communications, selfish bargaining with
God. It seeks for objects of earthly ambitions and inflames the sense
of self. Meditation on the other hand is self-change." -- Sri
In Buddhism there
is not, as in most other religions, an Almighty God to be obeyed and
feared. The Buddha does not believe in a cosmic potentate, omniscient
and omnipresent. In Buddhism there are no divine revelations or divine
messengers. A Buddhist is, therefore, not subservient to any higher
supernatural power which controls his destinies and which arbitrarily
rewards and punishes. Since Buddhists do not believe in revelations
of a divine being Buddhism does not claim the monopoly of truth and
does not condemn any other religion. But Buddhism recognizes the infinite
latent possibilities of man and teaches that man can gain deliverance
from suffering by his own efforts independent of divine help or mediating
therefore, strictly be called a religion because it is neither a system
of faith and worship, nor "the outward act or form by which men
indicate their recognition of the existence of a God or gods having
power over their own destiny to whom obedience, service, and honor
If, by religion,
is meant "a teaching which takes a view of life that is more
than superficial, a teaching which looks into life and not merely
at it, a teaching which furnishes men with a guide to conduct that
is in accord with this its in-look, a teaching which enables those
who give it heed to face life with fortitude and death with serenity,"
or a system to get rid of the ills of life, then it is certainly a
religion of religions.