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BUDDHISM > BUDDHISM IS NOT A RELIGION

Buddhism Is Not a Religion

Today, many people regard Buddhism as a religion. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines religion as “the service and worship of God.”But Buddhas are not gods. The person whom we know as the Buddha, over many lifetimes, uncovered the goodness, compassion, and wisdom that lay within his true nature. He achieved supreme enlightenment and in doing so became an example of what we, too, can achieve: We have within each of us our true nature, our own Buddha-nature, that is waiting to be fully awakened.


Once, the Buddha was asked if he was a god. The Buddha replied that, no, he was not a god. Then was he an angel? No. A spirit? No. Then what was he? The Buddha replied that he was awake. Since the Buddha, by his own assertion, is not a god, we do not worship him. We respect and are grateful to him for teaching us the Way to be liberated from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and to become perfectly enlightened just as he was.

 

Religion is also considered a belief in a supernatural power or powers regarded as the creator and ruler of the universe. But the Buddha is neither. The Buddha did not create the universe. Having observed the reality of basic eternal principles, he explained that everything arises from our minds. In effect, the universe is the creation of all our thoughts and behavior, not the creation of any one being. Neither does the Buddha govern the universe. The natural law of causality determines what will happen. Simply put, we reap what we sow. If we plant the seeds for wheat, we will harvest wheat. Likewise, if we plant the seeds for kindness, we will receive kindness in turn. We have already sown the seeds, some good and some bad. Some lie dormant within us, just as others have already matured. We bear the consequences of our thoughts, speech, and actions that we initiated in the past. No other being, no matter how wise or compassionate, can bear the consequences on our behalf. We alone are responsible for our individual lives. Just as our lives today are the direct results of what we did in the past, what we do today will, similarly and unequivocally, create our future.

 

It is the belief of many religions that heaven and hell are permanent and everlasting. As Buddhists, we believe that while our lives in the heaven and hell realms are eons long and may therefore seem eternal, they are not. We rise and fall through the realms of existence as our good actions help us to rise to better lifetimes while our bad behavior literally brings us down. We rise again, only to fall yet again. We have done this, over and over again, innumerable times. Some lifetimes last just a matter of days. Others last longer than we can possibly imagine. But within the realms of existence, of which heaven and hell are a part, no life is permanent. And no lifetime is eternal. Because of this aimless re-cycling, Buddhists seek to transcend this cycle through awakening.

 


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