What is a "religion"?

Vajradhara

One of Many
Messages
3,786
Reaction score
45
Points
48
Location
Seattle, WA
Namaste all,

you know... depending on the school of Buddhism that you practice, there are, in fact, higher beings that can be worshipped. for instance, the Pure Land school of Mahayana Buddhism worships the Buddha Amida (Boundless Light), as Amida has said that if one generates faith in Her then She will ensure that they are reborn in Her pure land (hence the english name of the school) where they will be sure to progress to swift and complete enlightenment.

in my opinion.. if one considers themselves part of a religion, then i would have no argument with them. if one considered themselves part of a group of individuals that weren't a religion, then i'd have no argument with them either.

if a religion can be based on a lack of knowledge (and really.. aren't most?) then an atheist type person could be a religious type person. it would, in my mind, depend on how they viewed themself.
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
a practical definition

For me religion is a human behavior founded upon a belief in an unknown power resulting in affection and action intended by the believer to influence the unknown power to react favorably to himself.

I have a problem here with Buddhism. On the masses level it is certainly a religion, because the followers fulfil all my elements of religion as stated in my definition.

It is with the ideologues or intellectuals who practice Buddhism that I seem to see a denial of the element of belief in an unknown power, and relating to it on the basis of affection and action for eliciting a favorable reaction from it.

Students of religion should really investigate the practice of Buddhism by such adherents, and discern whether the elements they deny are in fact present.

I suspect they are present. But I have to talk with such Buddhism enthusiasts who practice the tenets of Buddhism, to learn from them exactly what they intend to achieve with Buddhism.

That is why I asked in another thread what Buddhists are praying for or meditating on or about, and thinking of achieving thereby.

Hope some Buddhists will enlighten me here.

Susma Rio Sep
 

emong

Well-Known Member
Messages
51
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Location
Wisconsin
Why do you look at religious practice as the attainment of something?
As has been stated before, by persons much more knowledgable than myself, there are many schools of Buddhist practice. But even a brief definition, which has been presented elsewhere in another thread would show you that Buddhism is not a religion.

To be brief and susinct: It is a means to knowing who you are, by self reflection.

It doesn't fit your critiria at all.

We do not pray to Buddha, nor do we believe he is or was anyone special.
There is no Buddha in the sense of a god. We do not try to please Buddha. We do not even think of Buddha when in meditation practice.
We are all Buddha. We are born Buddha, and spend the rest of our lives returning to Buddha.

You keep questioning things that have already been explained....do you think we will suddenly change our minds and agree with you?
 

mikie8

Well-Known Member
Messages
61
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Another great thread with many intresting points .

This suffering thing dont hold with me as it could be said "if no god , then why dont man live in a natrual order like beasts ?". Some of the oldest beliefs is based on the reason we suffer and if we worship god suffering will seace .


i see Atheism as a philosophy but buddhism as a religion .

My reasonings are simular as oden's "Religion is a communications system that is constituted by supernatural beings and is related to specific patterns of behavior." (tnx baud)
Religion seems to me to couple the thought/belief with the pratice/action . i dont adhere to the belief that aliens (?) are supernatual , if they do exsist then why or how are they supernatrual ?

The question of buddhism is a little more complex as buddha was a man . All men can attain buddha or become buddha , So this potential being , or the potential of the being , is this not a supernatural being , as this being does not exsist , well not yet anyway .
/\ clarfication probally needed from a buddhist /\

what then is a supernatural being ?

Language is such a tounge twister
 

Vajradhara

One of Many
Messages
3,786
Reaction score
45
Points
48
Location
Seattle, WA
Namaste all,

it seems to me that there is a fundamental misconception regarding Buddhism and Guatama (the hisotrical Buddha).

there is nothing to attain, no goal, no achievement. you do not become a Buddha. you already ARE a Buddha. however, due to emotional conditioning and defilments, you cannot realize it.

As Dogen says... To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to drop off our own body and mind, and to drop off the bodies and minds of others. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

those in the west seem to be asking "what do you get out of practicing Buddhism" which represents a fundamental flaw in understanding what Buddhism is about. it is not about what i get out of it for Buddhism teaches that there is no "I" that could gain from the teachings.
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
still questioning

We do not pray to Buddha, nor do we believe he is or was anyone special.

There are all kinds of monumental structures, buildings and statues, and art works associated to say the least with Buddha if not depicting Buddha himself. He must be someone special.

You keep questioning things that have already been explained....do you think we will suddenly change our minds and agree with you?

If you were not now Buddhists or practitioners of Buddhism, when you die wll you get to where you are going to as Buddhism adherents?

If your being Buddhists is not to achieve anything that's not achievable in not being Buddhists, why bother being converted or being enthusiasts of Buddhism.

I am not trying to make you agree with me. I want to find out what exactly you are aspiring after if anything at all, and how.

I have this habit of asking questions until I am satisfied that that's the way things are. For example, I used to ask a lot of questions about sex, but now no longer; because I have come to know that the things about sex are the way things are. It's up to us to change them if we don't feel happy about them.

In Buddhism I have not yet reached that state of inquiry where I am already at rest; but with Christianity, and Islam, and Judaism, I have arrived at that state or stage wherein I find an intellectual rest: meaning that I have realized what Christians and Muslims and Jews are all about; even though I don't see their logic and reason to be acceptable -- in my own appreciation of life and how to live it.

"Buddha Bless You."

I believe I have heard that invocation uttered by Buddhists.

Do you disown such an invocation?

Susma Rio Sep
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
more musings

(If this message and its relay here is out of bounds, please delete it. But I still can't find any button for new thread, except in the page of private messages.)

Thread of david:

http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=441

Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally Posted by David

From what I understand, it is the most widespread of the world's religions, after Christianity, and is also rapidly growing with around 6 million adherents worldwide.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I don't know that. Have you any statistics of how many and where they are concentrated, adherents of the of Baha'i religion.

As a major in comparative religion, what is your own very personal definition of religion founded upon factual considerations?

I have this definition from my own observations:
Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A human behavior founded upon a belief in an unknown power resulting in affection and action intended by the believer to influence the unknown power to react favorably to himself.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I seem to see after reading reactions to my definition that there might be a religion which does not look forward to anything of advantage to the practitioner or adherent or profess-or, like the Buddists(?).

But the way I see it, the masses of Buddhists validate my definition of religion. It is with the ideologues-doctrinaires-intellectuals-elites-spokesmen who appear not to. But I suspect they too are within my definition, if they would analyze themselves to determine exactly what they expect or hope to achieve with their practice of Buddhism.

Yet, they might just be enthusiasts of a philosophical lifestyle, and nothing more; and they are attached to such a lifestyle and want also to tell people about it and to defend, explain, apologize, etc., in its regard.

Maybe the difference between religion and philosophy as regards the adherence of enthusiasts is the element of attempts at interaction with the unknown power or with an unknown power.

In philosophy the system as an impersonal entity like the mechanics in an automobile; but in religion there is some sort of a personal entity.

This brings in the idea of the impersonal entity that can be reactive or non-reactive, depending upon the right kind of button-pressing by the connoisseurs of such an entity.

Are we talking here about magic?

So, we have philosophy, magic, and religion...?

And in every religion that validates my definition one can find all three of them together; however, the religion proper factor dominates in the religion that is properly contained in my definition.

Susma Rio Sep

Since David must have stopped looking up his thread to attend to respondents to his thread, maybe others in these boards might be interested.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
kinds of religion students

What kind of people are studying religion?

First. there are those studying religion for apologetics and polemics reasons.

Then there are those studying religion like Martians with light years ahead of earthlings studying the life of earthlings -- from mere intellectual curiosity, like academic interest.

I like to imagine myself to be of the second kind, although I don't pretend to be light years in advance of earthlings' civilization, but just from academic curiosity, like I used to study human sexuality.

So, more and more will I bring in this thread my observations and musings on religion.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
nature of the subject, religion

It has come to my attention just now after I was doing a chore for my better half, that there are also students of religion who can study religion from an entrepreneurial spirit, how to go into religion and earn a good living there.

Now back to the study of religion, prescinding for the present from its benefits on the commercial returns of religion.

This is a subject that is easier to study than many other subjects, because the material being dwelled on is human society and the individuals practicing a religion. And they are all around us.

The student himself can also look into himself as an object of his study of religion, whether he be himself a practitioner or not; for in the latter case he is also a member of any society and that is every society at all where religion is an ever present ingredient.

This study is not llke the study of, say, eroticism among whales.

Right off, we can state that religion is a human behavior, just like business, politics, marriage, courtship, commerce, etc.

What exactly is peculiar to this kind of human behavior which we call religion, that makes it distinct from other kinds of human behavior?

Susma Rio Sep
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
the big basket of religion

I am a handyman in the house and in the garage. Down the years I have set up a system of putting various bits and pieces of artifacts in distinct containers; like all kinds of nuts and bolts and things that can be screwed on and off in one container or drawer. Then there are the things that can bend like pieces of wire and can be used to fasten other things together. And so on and so forth.

So, we are going to collect all the things that can be put in the basket called religion.

Susma Rio Sep
 

emong

Well-Known Member
Messages
51
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Location
Wisconsin
To Susma:

First of all, do you really have to spue out everything that comes to you while doing insignificant chores?

I believe you are using this forum because you have either given up reading books entirely or you are an unfortunate who has no library near.

What is a religion? It's something that YOU are incapable of understanding!

I mean no offense. You are like a three year old who asks the same question over and over because he doesn't like what he hears.

I dread seeing your name on a thread - I guess I'll just stop coming here.
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
be patient

emong said:
To Susma:

First of all, do you really have to spue out everything that comes to you while doing insignificant chores?

I believe you are using this forum because you have either given up reading books entirely or you are an unfortunate who has no library near.

What is a religion? It's something that YOU are incapable of understanding!

I mean no offense. You are like a three year old who asks the same question over and over because he doesn't like what he hears.

I dread seeing your name on a thread - I guess I'll just stop coming here.

I hope that others here in these boards will have the interest to exchange views with me on the idea of religion.

It is my intention, hopefully on the forbearance of the owner and moderators of this message board, to express my thinking on religion, and to again hopefully encounter some contributions or exceptions that can refine or modify or totally show how my thinking is all wrong or nonsensical.

I was talking about the motivations for the study of religion, mentioning apologetics, polemics, then also from occupational or financial or commercial or professional standpoint, on the understanding that the student is interested in studying religion in order to make a living and a career from it.

My motivation is purely academic, like studying the nature or physiognomy of mrror physics when I don't see any practical use to myself except curiosity in such study.

Now I will mention another motivation for the study of religion, to see how to employ one's knowledge of religion to govern a society.

I will be back. Family duty beckons.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
self-examination and from others

Is my interest here purely academic as in the search for knowledge?

Please help me then in my self-examination, fellow seekers of knowlodge here, to fathom into my heart and mind to find out exactly what my motivation might be in studying religion.

Let me put things which belong to the basket we call religion.

They are all around us as we live and move in this world.

Let us use this enumeration itemlist as a basis for picking up items: quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando.

So: priests, monks, popes, etc., altar, church, ciborium, etc., Jerusalem, Rome, Lourdes, etc. and etc.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Vajradhara

One of Many
Messages
3,786
Reaction score
45
Points
48
Location
Seattle, WA
Namaste Susma,

i know you've directed this to emong, however, i hope that i can respond adequately.


Susma Rio Sep writes: There are all kinds of monumental structures, buildings and statues, and art works associated to say the least with Buddha if not depicting Buddha himself. He must be someone special.

i respond:

no, he was just like you and i. he accomplished something special, however, and that is why there are monuments for rememberance and that sort of thing. Buddhist hold the historical Buddha in a special place in their hearts since he first turned the Wheel of Dharma in our age, however, that is not in a spiritualized-worshipping sense.

Susma writes:

If you were not now Buddhists or practitioners of Buddhism, when you die wll you get to where you are going to as Buddhism adherents?

to which i respond:

hmm... well... it depends. because one practices Buddhism does not mean that one is enlightened yet. so.. generally speaking, yes, a non-Buddhist will be reborn in the same place as a Buddhist, depending on the inclinations of their karmic influences.

remember... one need not call themselves a "Buddhist" to be a Buddhist.


Susma continues:

If your being Buddhists is not to achieve anything that's not achievable in not being Buddhists, why bother being converted or being enthusiasts of Buddhism.

to which i respond:

i'm not entirely sure what you are asking... though i think i get the general gist of it. as i stated, you do not need to convert or even consider yourself a Buddhist to actually be a Buddhist. we are enthusiastic practiconers because we have verified the 4 Noble Truths for ourselves and found them to be correct. we practice so that we can relieve the suffering that is characteristic of life, in the Mahayana tradition, this is done with the idea of alleviating the suffering of all beings.

Susam writes:

"Buddha Bless You."

I believe I have heard that invocation uttered by Buddhists.

Do you disown such an invocation?

to which i respond:

invocation seems to connot something mystical or magical in nature. i have spent many years amongst Buddhists of various flavors and there are some that use phrases such as this.

i would suggest, however, that instead of trying to find a nice lable to place on the box wherein you're trying to put Buddhism, you actually investigate the teachings for yourself and see if they make sense to you.

i am but a student and my postings are to sustain my own understanding. i have no conception that they will be of benefit to others, if they are, it is due to the readers own good karma ripening.

please visit www.buddhanet.net for some basic primers on Buddhism.
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
more enlightened now

Dear Vaj:

Thanks for your courteous interaction with me.

I am like the child who asked Confucius why at noon when the sun is so small and faraway it is so hot; whereas at dawn and at dusk it is so huge and near, yet not hot. Anyone less possessed of Buddha's mind would dismiss the child's question as foolery.

You have plenty of materials here on religion, your own insights as well as information accepted from others. It might be good for both of us to exchange notes on our insights and information, specially the insights.

The search function of this message board is very helpful to locate materials and post-authors. I will have to look up your posts to learn more from you and benefit from your exposition of religious matters and other topics as you understand them.

You have given me a good answer to the question what Buddhists expect to achieve in the practice of Buddhism, scil.:

...we practice so that we can relieve the suffering that is characteristic of life, in the Mahayana tradition, this is done with the idea of alleviating the suffering of all beings.

Do I understand from the quote above that you not only intend the relief of your own personal suffering but also of others, even of all beings; so that you are doing mankind a good deed, even the whole world of living things?

This intention seems to resemble some aspect of Christianity, do you see it?

May I commend you on your noble mind and heart in your words:

...i am but a student and my postings are to sustain my own understanding. i have no conception that they will be of benefit to others, if they are, it is due to the readers own good karma ripening.

Sometimes I wished I had your kind of disposition, but I am more like the laughing Buddha or the mirth-some Buddha. Buddhists of this board, please don’t take offense for my identifying myself with Buddha.

Do you know anything about the fat Buddha, with kids crawling all over him, and with a hilarious laugh in his face. He is supposed to be good luck to homes displaying this statue.

Thanks for your contributions to my enlightenment.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Vajradhara

One of Many
Messages
3,786
Reaction score
45
Points
48
Location
Seattle, WA
Namaste Susma,

my pleasure :)


Susma Rio Sep said:
Do I understand from the quote above that you not only intend the relief of your own personal suffering but also of others, even of all beings; so that you are doing mankind a good deed, even the whole world of living things?

This intention seems to resemble some aspect of Christianity, do you see it?
***********************
i respond:

correct. that is the main thrust of the Mahayana teachings, the path of the Bodhisattva. a being that works tirelessly for the liberation of all other sentient beings.

it is similar to the 'Grace' concept of Christianity with some notable differences... namely, that each one of us has the ability to do this.. not just one unique individual.
*************************


Sometimes I wished I had your kind of disposition, but I am more like the laughing Buddha or the mirth-some Buddha. Buddhists of this board, please don’t take offense for my identifying myself with Buddha.

Do you know anything about the fat Buddha, with kids crawling all over him, and with a hilarious laugh in his face. He is supposed to be good luck to homes displaying this statue.

Thanks for your contributions to my enlightenment.

Susma Rio Sep

not at all... in fact, that is exactly correct... you ARE a Buddha... we all are... it is not something that we "gain" or "find"... more accurately, it's something already within us that we've obscured.

hmm... well... let me put it this way. 90% of the statues and so forth are not, actually, Guatama Buddha :) for instance... you're reference of the "fat Buddha" is quite a common misconception in the West. this figure is actually Ho-Ti, a Bodhisattva, not Guatama Shakyamuni the historical Buddha.

in my tradition of Buddhism (Vajrayana) for instance, the 84 Mahasiddhas are often dipicted in paintings (Thangkas) along with the various embodiments of the enlightened aspects of mind... compassion, altrusim, equanimity, wisdom and so forth.
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
philosophy or religion

Thanks for your illuminating information and your avowal of what others might not feel disposed to admit, namely, that Buddhism is also into and maybe chiefly into the endeavor to relieve mankind and all life forms of suffering.

In my own personal definition of religion, "A human behavior founded upon a belief in an unknown power, resulting in affection and action intended by the believer to influence the unknown power to react favorably to himslelf", I seem to notice that many religionists find it unacceptable: that in religion there is the concern for benefits or advantages or reliefs, as from suffering.

So they protest that in their religion they are not expecting any advantage from its practice -- which I find most unrealistic if not intellectually dishonest, or at least lacking in knowledge of one's self.

Now, I would like to ask you whether in your own self-examination, your profession of Buddhism is more like of a philosophy, as when people used to embrace communism, and of course still at present the opposite capitalism, or globalism, or libertinism, and not essentially as a religion like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Baha'i.

Thanks a lot again, I am learning from your insights and information; and I must commend you on your honesty.

But I guess you do have difficulties with your philosophy/religion of Buddhism, questions which you in your innermost heart and mind have not been answered by yourself or others to your satisfaction?

Susma Rio Sep
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
things in the basket of religion

Things which can be put in the big basket called religion:

Objects: crucifixes, altars, holy water, prayer wheels;

Concepts: nirvana, hell, heaven, sanctifying grace, sin;

Persons: popes, monks, Dalai Lama, nuns, pastors;

Places: church, chapel, monastery, temple, Mecca;

Times: Ramadan, Easter, Christmas, Sunday;

Actions: prayer, meditation, sacrifice, Mass, episcopal consecration.


These things above are properly contained in the basket called religion. They do not belong properly in the basket, say, called sports or business or politics.

Now we want to find out what is the ingredient in them that assigns them to the basket called religion.

I have a suspicion; but I would like to hear from others.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Vajradhara

One of Many
Messages
3,786
Reaction score
45
Points
48
Location
Seattle, WA
Susma Rio Sep said:
Thanks for your illuminating information and your avowal of what others might not feel disposed to admit, namely, that Buddhism is also into and maybe chiefly into the endeavor to relieve mankind and all life forms of suffering.

Namaste Susma,

remember... this is a view that is particular to the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions. The Hinyana tradition, though it contains the Bodhisattva ideal, does not actively teach that path. They teach the path of the Arhat, a Foe Destroyer, that liberates themselves only.


In my own personal definition of religion, "A human behavior founded upon a belief in an unknown power, resulting in affection and action intended by the believer to influence the unknown power to react favorably to himslelf", I seem to notice that many religionists find it unacceptable: that in religion there is the concern for benefits or advantages or reliefs, as from suffering.

perhaps... it's a sematic difference. belief implies something unkown, whereas, most religious practiconers feel that they do, actually, know so they don't like the word belief. eh... just a thought...

So they protest that in their religion they are not expecting any advantage from its practice -- which I find most unrealistic if not intellectually dishonest, or at least lacking in knowledge of one's self.

Now, I would like to ask you whether in your own self-examination, your profession of Buddhism is more like of a philosophy, as when people used to embrace communism, and of course still at present the opposite capitalism, or globalism, or libertinism, and not essentially as a religion like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Baha'i.

hmm.... well, yes... it is certainly that... though it doesn't stop there. it is also a scientific methology that one can use to produce the experience of enlightenment. the essential issue, in my opinion, is that Buddhism as a ligua franca, denies the expressibility of it's essential experience and that is difficult for many people to grasp.... especially in a religion.

Thanks a lot again, I am learning from your insights and information; and I must commend you on your honesty.

But I guess you do have difficulties with your philosophy/religion of Buddhism, questions which you in your innermost heart and mind have not been answered by yourself or others to your satisfaction?

Susma Rio Sep

hmm... well... i'm not sure that is the case. whilst it is true that there are questions that i do not have answers to, these questions are, essentially, meaningless and have no bearing on my actual practice. remember, Buddhism encourages people to apply their logic and reasoning to ascertain if the teachings are correct and worth accepting. each person is called to make this determination for themselves and not to rely upon any outside source for this determiniation.

my questions normally revolve around obscure Vinya rules and things of this nature as Buddhism is changing somewhat as it spreads in the West. Fortunately, Buddhism is a very adaptable system and has no problems changing exoteric aspects to allow the adherents easier access.
 

Susma Rio Sep

Well-Known Member
Messages
828
Reaction score
1
Points
0
simple and complex behavior

In examing what thing or things in the basket we call religion make the behavior of religion different from say sports, politics, or commerce, it is useful to make a distinction between simple behavior and complex ones.

Simple behavior is basically founded upon physiology and can end there and can be limited there, like eating and elimination. Of course it can be complex as in banquet and in toilet rituals, of which religion also enters in, for example Judaism and Islam.

Now, religion is a complex behavior, and very different from simple ones, so that in essence it might even be transcendental to simple behaviors; but the fact is that the same subject doing religion is also constrained or circumscribed indispensably in the performance of simple behaviors for his own survival and comfort.

Susma Rio Sep
 
Top