What is Buddhism?

Background: This article was first post in a Buddhist mailing list. I post this article, as someone in the mailing list had assert that, everything can be Buddhism (or seems to be incline to be inclusive of other religion), or Buddhism can be inclusive into other religion. Upon reading it, I wrote this article in response. I think this is the very first article I wrote (quite seriously) regarding Buddhism, and it can be very clear here, I intended to rebuke the view I read earlier.

What is Buddhism? This is a question that has been asked by many. Especially for those who are new in Buddhism.

There maybe many ways in answering this question. Some may sound very spectacular and grand, yet some may sound too simple to believe.

There are also some who will say, only by practicing, one understand Buddhism, thus no need to discuss. However, those who said this, maybe because, they do not know what is Buddhism. Such answer also meaningless, as, if one do not know what Buddhism is, how does one know he (or she) is practicing Buddhism.

I always believe, to understand something (as a whole), one need to start learning from the very basic. By referring what is the basic or fundamental of Buddhism, we can than avoid possible confusion when comes practicing it.

Buddhism, is the teaching of the Buddha (the enlightened being). The Teaching is about the Truth. The Truth is about the Path to Enlightenment and Enlightenment itself.

If a teaching is helpful for the cultivation of the Enlightenment state, we can call it Buddhism; if the teaching is against or not helpful for that cultivation, then it is not Buddhism.

So, if someone see a rock, and able to use that seeing to cultivate the Path to Enlightenment, that seeing is Buddhism.

Some say, they see Buddhism in other religion as well. Those who said this (maybe self claim as Buddhist), need to be caution with this statement. Someone may take this too literary, and think, one can practice Buddhism within other belief system. One can also gain Enlightenment within other belief system.

Buddhism can never integrates into other religions. This simply because, there is a very distinctive different between Buddhism and others doctrines. Others belief systems are for self gratification and satisfaction, like promise for one can find forever happiness for one self in Heaven. But Buddhism is for the destruction and eradication of self, which mean, there is no self in Enlightenment.

If someone forcefully join Buddhism with others doctrines, the result will be ‘confusionism’.

If we refer to the sutta: “The Shorter Discourse on the Lion’s Roar”of Majjhima Nikaya. Somewhere, at the beginning of the sutta, the Buddha said:

“Bhikkhus, only here is there a recluse, only here a second recluse, only here a third recluse, only here a forth recluse. The doctrines of others are devoid of recluses: that is how you should rightly roar your lion’s roar”.

Here, the Buddha clearly stated, only in the Buddha’s Dispensation (Buddhism), one can find Sotapana (stream-enterer), Sakadagami (once-returner), Anagami (non-returner) and Arahant. This also imply, only those who practice Buddhism, can gain Enlightenment.

Someone may see some similar practices in other religion when comparing with Buddhism. But, ultimately, they are not be the same.


Date: 24th Nov 2003

  1. Frank says:

    Hi Lenrek
    I agree with you that Buddhism and other religions do not mix. However, I cannot speak for other religions. I can only speak for the Christian faith.
    Your statement, “Others belief systems are for self gratification and satisfaction, like promise for one can find forever happiness for one self in Heaven” is not quite true with regard to Christianity. I have been a Christian for 25 years and know quite a bit about Christian doctrine and Jewish history.

    Christianity in a nutshell is about redemption. NOT self gratification.
    Ill tell you a story. Lets say a man had been convicted of a crime according to the law and was to receive the penalty of death. Now, before going to the death chamber, an innocent man named Jesus, stood up and said, “Stop! Do not execute him! I love him. I will die for his crimes. Let him go free!” So the guilty man was released and Jesus was killed in his place.

    Ill tell you another story. A true story about our family dog. I used to live in a house which had white carpet. Our family wanted to keep it clean. On the other hand, we also had a dog named Blazer. It was in her nature to dig. She really loved to dig! But there was one obvious problem, when she got muddy, she was not allowed on the white carpet. Now we loved the dog and wanted to allow her in our house. But she was not admitted unless she had clean paws. So, whenever she got dirty, she had to have her paws washed in a bucket and dried with a rag. The we opened the door and she happily came in.
    The analogy: Our carpet is like heaven; spotless! Man kind is like our dog Blazer in the sense that it is in our nature to get dirty. Nobody is perfect. In our imperfect condition, we must be separated from God our creator. We cannot gain admittance into heaven as sinners. Therefore we need to be cleansed. That is where Jesus comes in. He cleansed us by His sacrifice. Through Him we have redemption.

    There are numerous scriptures in the Bible which support that idea.
    Take the book of Romans in the Bible for example:

    Rom 3:23 For all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory.
    In other words, we are all sinners and are not perfect. As a result we alienated from God.

    Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    In other words, the penalty for sin is death, eternal damnation, eternal separation from God. And since we are all sinners all of us need redemption. Jesus was the Christ who provided a way of redemption.

    Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
    Jesus took on himself the penalty of death and sin so that we might be restored.

    Rom 10:9-10 …if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
    We are redeemed through Jesus’ sacrafice.

    Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    The Christian life is not one of self gratification as taught by Jesus.
    Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

    Jesus said, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Matthew 5:43-44

    So, I think I proved my point according to biblical doctrine.


  2. lenrek says:

    I think, what I was trying to explain, all other religions are for this self, either by self-satisfaction, self-gratification, self-redemption or self-{insert whatever} – they all for this self.

    Buddhism is about this self – The imperfection of this self, the danger of this self and the destruction of this self.

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