Buddhism - Comparative Studies - Is Buddhism A Religion?

Is Buddhism A Religion?

There are differences of opinion on the question of whether or not Buddhism should be considered a religion. While many sources commonly refer to Buddhism as a religion, other sources note that the answer to this question depends upon how religion is defined. For example, Lama Surya Das states:

...Buddhism is less a theology or religion than a promise that certain meditative practices and mind trainings can effectively show us how to awaken our Buddha-nature and liberate us from suffering and confusion.

B. Alan Wallace notes that Buddhism does not fit the definition of religion as it is typically used in the West. Wallace states:

...Buddhism has never been simply a religion as we define it in the West. From the very beginning it has also had philosophical elements, as well as empirical and rational elements that may invite the term "science."

Rupert Gethin points out that some key differences between Buddhism and conventionally considered Western religions are that Buddhism does not assert a belief in a creator god, nor does it define itself by a particular creed. On the other hand, Gethin notes, Buddhist practice often includes devotional practices and ritual, which are typically associated with religious belief.

Walpola Rahula emphasizes that the label is unimportant from the Buddhist point of view:

The question has often been asked: Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label 'Buddhism' which we give to the teaching of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives it is inessential.

Read more about this topic:  Buddhism, Comparative Studies

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