This is a question that has come up in this space several times in the past year (read about it here and here) and it now gets examined by Gary Gach, writing in Patheos. Gary, the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism, among other things, heads up by far the biggest discussion at the Tricycle Community site, Haiku Corner. It’s a wide-ranging discussion with a whole host of people writing in, posting haiku of their own, and over it all, the unblinking gaze of Gary’s 10,000 eyes, plus his frequent posts and poems.
About the question of Buddhism’s being a religion, Gary writes:
Sometimes it’s good to stay with a question, rather than latch onto any one answer. Is Buddhism religion? Well, it is, and it isn’t. No creator deity is mentioned here. So can there be religion without God? Theology, without theos? And since the Buddha clearly opposed the priestly caste, one might even make a case for his path being a religion of no religion.
Yet a religious dimension to the Way of the Buddha is quite real and vital. As the teachings were carried beyond the homelands, it formed the first world religion. Under King Ashoka’s reign in India, all creeds were welcome to practice side-by-side.
There’s nothing to convert to. Being a Jew, Christian, Muslim, pagan, atheist, or unaffiliated doesn’t change the Buddha’s essential teaching: Four Noble Truths, the nature of human suffering, and liberation from needless suffering.
Read the whole thing. This perennial question may never have an answer, but it will always be a fruitful topic of discussion.
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