461 Buddhism revisited

  1. Buddhism  is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi' (Sanskrit, "to awaken").  It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.


On SBS, on Sundays a new four part series about Buddhism; last week’s episode was called  Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World  (link expires 1 March 2015). It’s a curious program, right in tune with the notion of Buddhism as a religion, the Seven Wonders being shrines and places of worship all around the world. I see Buddhism differently … for me it’s not a religion but a philosophy, and frankly - though I may be talking here about something I don’t know enough about (I haven't studied Buddhism formally) - I think that’s the way Siddharta Gautama saw it too. 

Nevertheless, the program inspired me to change one of my essays ...  RELIGION 2  (I added the last two paragraphs). I also have an essay  BUDDHISM  in my book with no title, but instead three definition for the term  en.light.en.ment

The above note says Buddhism is a religion to about three hundred million people ... I wonder to how many it is a philosophy? What's the difference?

Well, to begin with, a religion needs a God, or gods ... there are none of those in Buddhism. Religions use scriptures (the Bible, Quaran, Talmud, Adi Grant etc) and they have dogmas and traditions. But the Buddha spoke out against all of that ... that is why I say Siddharta Gautama would probably not agree with what has been done in his name over the past two and a half millennia; it's also why I refer to the tv program I mentioned as 'curious'.

Especially in Zen Buddhism - where I have done most of my Buddhism related reading - the philosophy (so that's what I'll call it) is pared right back. And that is what I like about Buddhism. It propagates compassion and ethics. Nothing else. Indeed, the rest is commentary, as they say (I add to the commentary with my  ZEN  essay).

Here is an  introduction  to Buddhism (I especially like the notion that Buddhism is a philosophy that teaches you to be responsible for yourself; what is that in Christianity ... Jesus saves you?!):

Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of reality. Buddhist practices like meditation are means of changing yourself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path - a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood. An enlightened being sees the nature of reality absolutely clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision. This is the goal of the Buddhist spiritual life, representing the end of suffering for anyone who attains it.


Because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. So Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, caste, sexuality, or gender. It teaches practical methods which enable people to realise and use its teachings in order to be fully responsible for their lives.