What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is not a religion in the traditional sense of the word in that one has to believe in God or gods. It is a doctrine taught by Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha in the 6th century BCE. It is neither a dogma nor a revelation by a supernatural agency. Buddhism is a spiritual path based on personal inquiry an experience, self-knowledge based on the understanding of the human condition and suffering, and how to overcome it through wholesome living, spiritual cultivation and wisdom. The Buddha was, in effect, a great Siddha, an accomplished knower of truth, a healer of the spirit.

To a seeker of truth it is not important where an idea comes from. To understand truth, it is not necessary to know whether the teaching comes from the Buddha or anyone else. What is essential is seeing and understanding it. Most traditional Buddhists do not see Buddhism as a form of spirituality but understand it as a religion. There are also scholars who study Buddhism as a philosophy. Buddhism should not be treated as a religion or a philosophy. Our modern society needs a spiritual training process to bring about peace and harmony to all beings and Buddhism is exactly this. Buddhism as religion tends towards dogmatism, supernaturalism and the occult. Buddhism as a mere philosophy limits its benefits to man. We should live the truth to realise it. Thus, Buddhism is the raft that ferries us from the bondage of delusion to liberation.

Buddhism is neither an abstract philosophy based mere intellectual activity. Philosophy means the love of truth. It is the path of awakening to the truths of existence and laws of nature. The Buddha’s method of teaching was unique; he encouraged people to observe for themselves. He criticised the enslaving ways of the traditional religious authorities and emphasised the importance of observation and analysis.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you’ve heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken or rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. After observation and analysis, if you find anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

“If we could see the beauty of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.”
– Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha)


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