Buddhism-A philosophy? A religion? Buddhists don’t like God?


I read an entry on Asha’s Stories-see http://www.facebook.com/#!/notes/asha-stories/pain-body-can-we-do-anything-about-it/289334947476  that intrigued me and wanted to post a comment but could not. After several attempts, I got it. This is where I had to post it. So.. here it goes.

Asha writes “I am connecting more and more to Divine Mother energy, and really trying to feel out what I want to take from Buddhism. Well, for starters I believe in God, and Buddhism does not, but as the Dalai Lama says, “Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy”, ok, cool, so I can be any religion and follow this philosophy, that works for me.”

Could there be a misunderstanding here? Mmmm….

What do we create when we distinguish between who we are, what we practice and what we believe?  Separations; dualities. Is there a difference between God and what we believe and practice? Let us define these words, both in Western parlance and in Buddhism and see what comes up.

The Dalai Lama said, “Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion”. Indeed, he said that. I heard it. But,  what did he mean?

 “Buddhism does not believe in God”. I am not sure who said that, but I heard it for the past 30 years. What did these people mean?

Well.. these statements are both true and untrue. Yeah, I know…a koan? Not really. It has to do with reflecting (meditation?) on the words we use and “contemplating” the meaning  we attach to the words.

On Buddhism being a philosophy,  the Merriam- Webster dictionary defines philosphy as a “theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought.” Yes,  Buddhism is a philosophy.

 On Religion, Merriam-Webster also defines it as a set of “personal or institutionalized system” of attitudes, beliefs and practices. Buddhism is a set of practices (could it be a system? Oy, vey!) handed down by a monk a few milennia ago, that has blossomed into a “system of attitudes”, beliefs and practices (institutionalized? Shhh!).

The beliefs are the Four Noble Truths. The practices are spelled out in the Eighfold Path–the practices the Buddha taught and encouraged his followers to try out and examine their own results.  These practices led the Buddha to enlightenment–seeing “truth”, removing the veil of delusions. Twenty six hundreed years later, each Buddhist School (shall we define school too? I’ll let you do it) sees the possibility of enlightenment in this lifetime, in the next or after several lifetimes on the karmic path. Wouldn’t Buddhism be a religion, according to this definition?

What about God? It is not a belief in God that makes a group, a system, a school, a religion or not. It is the meaning we assign to the words, that become thoughts that become beliefs.
Buddhism denies the existence of God, as most people understand God. If we understand God as who we are, within and without. If we see ourselves as a hologram, big mind, the open and vast connection to the All. This being the source where all knowledge, understanding and love is, and of which we are a part, then Buddhism does not deny God. Once we make God a separate entity imbued with form, and us as also inbued with form, then God, according to Buddhism does not exist. If we assign God super powers and we see ourselves as pawns in the sea of misery seeking salvation outside of ourselves, then  God, according to Buddhism, does not exist. It is the attachment to form and the reliance on ego-based beliefs that makes the difference.  When we take on the practice of becoming aware of the pain-body– ego-based attachments, we become free. We stop being identified with it and become God!  Well, Buddhism after all…may yet be a religion.

Have an awesome weekend!

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