The Perfect “Religion”

Zen isn’t bound by rules, punishments, “shoulds,” or any external parental figure, making it the perfect “religion” for people who aren’t interested in religion in the classic Western sense.

-Eve Adamson and Gary R. McClain, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living

Is Buddhism a religion?

The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, was a product of Hinduism, so it stands to reason that the pervading beliefs of his culture would have been a part of his thinking.  Nevertheless, his own teachings seem to many to be more philosophy than religion.

Wherever Buddhism went, it seemed to meld with existing beliefs and, as a result, it often looks like a religion.  But the historical Buddha never claimed to be anything other than a man, nor did he purport to have had divine revelations or to have had “supernatural” powers.

It seems that, to those who seek or prefer “religion,” Buddhism can serve; yet for those who are agnostic or otherwise disinclined toward belief, it is a philosophy, a tool-kit, a way of life.

Regardless of one’s approach, most – if not all – Buddhists, Zen or otherwise, would agree with the above quote.  Buddhism is without dogma, without promises of heaven or threats of damnation, and does not demand belief; it makes observations about life, tells us how we can change our lives, and simply encourages us to walk the path for a while and judge the results for ourselves.

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