Siddhartha Gautama (the founder of Buddhism) was born a prince and lived a life sheltered from all suffering.  One day, he left his palace home and encountered the four signs:  old age, pain, death, and a holy man.

He decided to renounce his life of luxury and sought answers to life’s problems through suffering.  He spent years in self-deprivation, discipline, and isolation.  However, he still had no answers.

Siddhartha Gautama spent three days sitting under a fig tree.  He came to the realization that the path of moderation is the best way.  He also learned the four noble truths and achieved enlightenment.  From then on, he was known as Buddha or the Enlightened One.

While reading about Buddhism, a few questions came to mind that I think would be interesting to discuss.

Since Buddhism does not have a supreme being to worship, should it still be considered a religion?  Would you call it an atheistic religion?  Would it be better to describe Buddhism as a life philosophy?

The Four Noble Truths:

  1. Dukkha – all life is suffering
  2. Samudaya – suffering is caused by craving or desire
  3. Nirodha – to eliminate suffering, it is necessary to eliminate craving or desire
  4. Manga – to eliminate craving or desire, follow the eight fold path.

The Eight Fold Path:

  1. Right Thought
  2. Right Understanding
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Concentration
  8. Right Contemplation


(source:  Know it All by Susan Aldridge, Elizabeth King Humphrey, Julie Whitaker)

10 thoughts on “Buddhism

  1. I read some time ago that the story of Gautama, as you have told it here, is generally considered to be legend/myth so in certain respects it does contain aspects/parallels that are comparable with the tales of the central character of Christianity, Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth).

    I must be honest, I know little about Buddhism, and while I do not beleive or agree with all its tenets, as far as I am aware, it does not contain doctrine that damns non-believers to eternal torture,nor does it indoctrinate adherents that they are born sinners.

    On these points alone it far and away surpasses several religions from a moral and ethical standpoint.

    Is it a religion? A quick Google suggests the definition of religion is as follows:

    the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
    “ideas about the relationship between science and religion”
    synonyms: faith, belief, divinity, worship, creed, teaching, doctrine, theology; More
    a particular system of faith and worship.
    plural noun: religions
    “the world’s great religions”
    a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.
    “consumerism is the new religion”

    Maybe everything in its own way is a life philosophy?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JC says:

    In Buddism, God is “suchness”, He is such as he is. We should stop guessing at what he looks like or what attributes he has. One should live a good life and follow the Four Knowable Truths and The Eight Fold Path, practice mindfulness and show compassion.

    All religions have one thing in common, they show compassion for others, so in this definition, Buddhism is a religion.

    Liked by 3 people

    • ByAQuirkOfFate says:

      Very well stated. In traditional Indian religions, God has always been described more as a force, energy, or as you said “suchness”. It simply is, transcending all qualities. Many sects of Buddhism do recognize and revere such a God, but others don’t. Those that do would be religions, I suppose. Those that would not, would not be religion. That is simply my opinion, just based off of the dictionary-definition of religion.


  3. desertcurmudgeon says:

    I would call Buddhism agnostic rather than atheistic. Legend has it that one of Buddha’s early disciples posed to him the question that we in the West consider of paramount importance: “Is there a god who created all of this and who has a plan for us?” to which Buddha Shakyamuni replied simply, “I don’t know.” It was his contention that if those are the type of questions concerning you, then you are asking the wrong questions. In other words, he was telling the man that he doesn”t even know how to alleviate his own suffering and live his own life in a liberated fashion, so why is he jumping to such lofty questions of theology? With that thought in mind, when you look at our Western culture and its stubborn adherence to such literal and dry and un-mystical takes on Christianity, it’s clear that the type of “religion” pervasive in our country is nothing more than escapism and rationalization. I practice a Buddhist-inspired meditation and absorb books on the subject like a sponge. It inspires and emboldens me. However, I do not believe (necessarily) in reincarnation, the Bardo realm, tulkus, devas and dakinis or any of that other supernatural stuff. A man named Stephen Batchelor wrote the books “Buddhism Without Beliefs” and “Confessions of A Buddhist Atheist”, both of which advocated a secular outlook on Buddhism. Even the notions I just dismissed can be seen as symbolic of different states of mind that we experience in THIS life; no need to pretend that we know what, if anything, happens after we die. But in some ways, Siddhartha Gautama contradicted many of the ubiquitous Hindu (at the time, Vedantic) theological points in ways that don’t always make sense to me. The Atman is the Hindu equivalent of the soul, or as they say, the Self (the all, universal consciousness, Brahman, God) that resides in everyone and everything. Buddha found any notion of eternalism at odds with his budding philosophy, so he coined the term “Anatman” to imply that there is nothing permanent about any of us, no essence or spirit without an expiration date. And yet, Buddhism is generally fraught with references to our “karmic continuum” that forces us to go from life to life on the wheel of Samsara. Perhaps it’s impertinent of me to question the wisdom of The Buddha, but I’m going to do so anyway: whether you call it a soul, an Atman, or a karmic continuum, it’s clearly the same exact concept. So yes, as presented by The Buddha himself and the vast majority of Buddhist lamas and scholars past and present, it is a religion. But its brilliance and downright practical nature also make it very appealing and useful to an agnostic such as myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Very good summary; thanks. I think Buddha wants us all to examine life as it is and not just use faith. From that perspective it is closer to philosophy than to religion for me. Maybe the teaching is philosophical with religious thoughts included. Anyway, thanks for the great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The concept of God to a Buddhist is non-existence. The thing is, Buddhism is a lot less interested in the individual life entity but more on the connectedness between sentient beings. Our lives are liken to waves on the surface of the ocean. Each waves is unique. Yet they are born from the same ocean. In the mind of the a Buddhist, the entire cosmos is a single living entity. Hence, each live is just a function within this life. Life cells or organs functioning on their own to support the larger macro life.


  6. In Buddhism we acknowledge the presence of different types of haven and the different types of Gods and goddesses residing there. Like different countries of gods, each with their own unique inhabitant. However, Buddhist believe that these beings are just another class of beings. This beings could be humans who died and reincarnate in havens. Say if someone is very good died, that person can be reborn as a god or goddess. We are taught that we are the cause of our own happiness and therefore do not need to pray to the Gods. The Buddhist scriptures recorded accounts of Gods visiting Buddha to ask for his advice on various matters. They even invited him to their realm to teach which he accepted. And when Buddha returned to earth accompanied or escorted by them, that event was witnessed by many humans and commemorated up till today as a Buddhist holy day. I guess in short we can say the Buddhist acknowledge the presence of Gods, however the relationship with God is not that of masters and servant. More like distant friends.


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