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September 2019
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Is Buddhism a religion?

Is Buddhism a religion? In my opinion, Buddhism is not a religion. It is a science or a philosophy. Buddhist belief does not promote blind faith or supernatural beings that dictate our lives and future. Therefore, our future is in our hands, and what makes our lives more meaningful and precious is respecting the law of karma and doing the right thing, such as right actions of body, right speech, and thoughts which are undefiled. Most importantly, whenever we act, our intention must be examined and deeply understood.
For instance, Buddhism is like water. The water can be mixed with any color we wish. Similarly, we can apply Buddhist teachings to any belief and still see the fruit at the end of day. However, one cannot really compromise the fundamental principles of loving kindness and compassion. Buddhist doctrine teaches us not to be selfish, but to sincerely learn to share our merit, or the fruits of our good karma with others. Sharing is an important part of Buddhist values.
The Buddha said, "I can show you the path, but it is only you who can walk that way to achieve nirvana.” I personally believe that it is the Buddhist teachings that can engender an understanding within us enabling us to attain realization through proper learning, contemplation, and practice for the sake of all others. We can only see in our lives change for the better when we practice right action and right motivation as explained in Buddhist doctrine. Otherwise our efforts may go to waste.
How can one call oneself a Buddhist? Generally speaking, there are four types of people who regard themselves as Buddhists: first are those who take refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), and who follow the four seals of dharma (all compounded things are impermanent, whatever deteriorates in life is suffering, persons and things are selfless, and Nirvana is peace). Whoever follows such a practice is a true Buddhist. Second, there are those who take refuge, but who never follow the Buddhist doctrine. Third, there are those who may not take refuge, but who follow the advice of the Buddha dharma. Finally, there are those who may believe they are Buddhist because their parents are Buddhist, but who do not take refuge and who also do not follow the teachings of the Buddha.
Frankly speaking, one has to quietly contemplate deep inside to find out where we belong in this list. What this also tells us is that being Buddhist is not simply having a certificate - it is something that is dependent upon our motivation and efforts. First, we must listen to and read about the Buddha’s teachings. Second, we should contemplate what we have read and listened to in order to retain the content deep inside our hearts. Finally, we have to skillfully bring Buddhist practice in our daily life in order to see changes and progress for a better tomorrow.
Therefore, where we wish to be in the near future is in our hands. Whether we bring pain or happiness, failure or success in our lives is largely dependent on our efforts. The Three Jewels are there to assist, guide, and show us the right path to liberation. We should begin today, not tomorrow, because time travel faster than we might imagine.Boston.15/9/13