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Is Buddhism a Religion?

To begin, let us ask once again the huge question that is all burning in our minds: is Buddhism a religion? There are many criteria by which this can be compared to and/or answered by. For example, many religions have the following aspects within them: beginning, ritual, followers/believers, morality, purpose, and goals. This paper will compare Buddhism, other worldly accepted religions, and these criteria from the standpoint and belief that Buddhism is a religion.

Firstly on our list we have beginning. Every religion has its beginning. The biggest difference between the beginning of Buddhism and the beginning of any other religion (in most cases that is) is the amount of time. Buddhism ?appeared? overnight. That?s right, just like that, whereas a religion such as Hinduism evolved over endless numbers of years. But nonetheless, it is still a beginning. It has a history, and although it is still somewhat minor in terms of the beginning, it is still a beginning and still has a historical sense to it. This is one comparison under which Buddhism is strongly similar to other widely accepted religions.

Next up is ritual. In Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism, three of the world?s largest religions, there is ritual. Similar to these is the ritual of one of the two forms of Buddhism. While Mahayana Buddhism includes ritual, Theravada Buddhism eschews it. So although one may argue that only part of Buddhism contains/involves ritualistic concepts, ritual is still a part of a ?form of Buddhism.? Not all Christians or Jews or Hindus go by all rituals set aside by their religion and this could be an explanation as for why the Theravada portion of Buddhism contains no ritual, even though the word ?no? may be taken somewhat extreme.

After ritual comes followers/believers. Like the other religions that have been mentioned in this paper, Buddhism has a somewhat widespread acceptance. It is certainly not a small cult containing twenty or so people. Buddhism is much larger than any cult, and therefore meets another one of the criteria listed for what makes a religion.

Morality is certainly something that is found in every major religion. Buddhism contains some form of morality. If it didn?t, Buddhists would simply do whatever they had an urge to do. They might simply kill each other for one. Or do wrong upon one another. Whether it is on a simple, minimal level or on an extreme level, morality intervenes in Buddhism and is a factor that every Buddhist, like every member of any other religion, must deal with on a daily basis.

How does Buddhism have a purpose? One might say the purpose of Buddhism is to assist in the enlightenment of others. Another might say it is simply a system of guidelines for living a good life. Whatever you believe Buddhism is for, it certainly has a purpose. Maybe there is one single purpose of Buddhism that is enforced by all Buddhists. Maybe each and every individual gives Buddhism their own definition of its purpose. But there is certainly a sense of purpose involved with every follower of Buddhism.

Like the other worldly practiced religions, Buddhism has somewhat of a goal. In Christianity, the goal is to get into heaven. In Judaism, the goal is to bring on the Messiah. In Hinduism, the goal is to become a Brahmin. Like these, the goal of Buddhism is to achieve a better state of being. This state is called Nirvana. Although Nirvana can be achieved during the course of one?s life, Ultimate Nirvana is only achieved through death.


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