Title: Is Buddhism a religion?
The guardian: By Michael McGhee-October 7th 2013
The article discusses whether Buddhist practices can be reduced to a mere philosophical endeavor instead of having a religious consideration. The author Michael McGhee begins by stating that his interest in Buddhism started with a fascination with Budha’s statue and the message of serenity and peace it radiated. The writer started his journey by slowly relinquishing his beliefs of Christianity in favor of Buddhism. This appeal was brought about by a need to fill a void in spirituality. His perception of Buddhism is that of a belief system that focuses on self -improvement through meditation. Mindfulness calms the mind of thoughts and relieves any stress. According to McGee, it is a practice that does not require a belief in a Divine power. It rests on an enlightened mindfulness-based psychotherapy with proven scientific benefits.
On the other token, the writer sets up the argument that western Buddhism is a diluted form of Buddhism. It has been stripped off its authentic religious identity in order to de-methologize it, making it more accessible to the Western world. Contemporary groups regard Buddhism as not religious. Engaging in its practices is
open to anyone who wishes to live a more meaningful life that focuses on being present in the moment and not withheld by external forces.
Having said that, the author also cautions us on the danger of simplifying the act of meditation to a mere technique devoid of ethical substance. In addition, many former Christians are drawn to Buddhism in the hope of finding a transcendent experience that might mirror an embedded yearning for God.
He concludes that Buddhism is a form of philosophy. It teaches an individual to think differently about the world we live in. It enables us to be less mesmerized by the “veil” that the world puts over our eyes and to begin seeing the universe in a clearer and more spiritual fashion.
In my opinion, the article captures the western essence of Buddhism accurately. In today’s developed world, time is of the essence. We often seek the synopsis version of matters. In applying this type of behavior towards Buddhism, one can easily lose its rich sense of history, tradition, rituals and the meaning behind each practice. Buddhism has been in existence for about 2500 years. Its theories are based on a philosophical approach, however this does not diminish the fact that it is regarded and intended to be a religion. Buddhism does not deny the existence of God but does not rely on it in its teachings. This is what makes Buddhism quite unique and the most misunderstood religion in the West. One could attribute one reason for this misunderstanding to Sir Edwin Arnold. In the 19th century, he introduced the world to Buddhism through his manuscript: The light of Asia. Arnold omitted several miracle stories and only included what he deemed rational and relevant. Despite his heavily flawed text, it was widely received and accepted at the time. A century later,
writer Edward Conze gave us a more accurate depiction of Buddhism through his work: Buddhism: Its essence and development a classic. Buddhism scriptures: The Dharma (the truth, a doctrine text), The Sutra (oral teachings of Buddha) and The Vinaya (rules of the monastery) teach individuals a set of beliefs and practices to reach the enlightenment stage (Nirvana). Nirvana is believed to be a highly regarded state of awareness that can only be achieved if one free oneself from the bonds of Kharma and the wheels of existence (false reality perception). The three jewels of Buddhism to reach Nirvana are: a belief in Buddha, Sangha (monks community) and in the Dharma (the truth). Buddhism myths are rich in nature. Buddha was a man who transcended himself to an extraordinary being status by reaching Nirvana through severe self-discipline and world contemplation. Buddha’s teachings provide wisdom to laymen. It points out the four noble truths of life. Buddha’s lessons contain philosophical concepts with a conclusion to live life in a middle way (no excess and no deprivation). It also affirms that successful meditation requires mindfulness (freeing the mind of thoughts), the power of concentration and wisdom.
In summary, Buddhism has deep religious, spiritual and philosophical meaning. The only way to capture its full spirit is to incorporate all of its attributes without any omission.