Proposal: Buddhism

Shouldn't the description for Buddhism at least include the word religion? I understand this is controversial from the POV of many Western practitioners but Buddhism is a religion to the rest of the world...

And no, the word religion doesn't intrinsically have anything to do with blind faith:

religion (n.)

c.1200, "state of life bound by monastic vows," also "conduct indicating a belief in a divine power," from Anglo-Fr. religiun (11c.), from O.Fr. religion "religious community," from L. religionem (nom. religio) "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," in L.L. "monastic life" (5c.); according to Cicero, derived from relegere "go through again, read again," from re- "again" + legere "read" (see lecture (n.)). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare "to bind fast" (see rely), via notion of "place an obligation on," or "bond between humans and gods." Another possible origin is religiens "careful," opposite of negligens.


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    I'm not sure why the word religion needs to be in the description: if you look at the Christianity, Islam, and Judaism sites, they don't have the word religion in their description either.
    – user36412
    Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 2:11
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    @Yuttadhammo could you please propose a specific update to the current description (with the word religion in it)?
    – Drux
    Commented Nov 24, 2012 at 21:23
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    Okay, sorry, my bad. I was interpreting the description as implying Buddhism was only a philosophy, now I see it doesn't do that. Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 19:31
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    It is for tax purposes
    – jsj
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 15:24
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    Tax purposes...?? Not able to understand.
    – DroidDev
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 12:06
  • Here, in Indonesia buddhism widely known as a religion. And Buddhism is one of 5 official primary religions here. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 23:29

9 Answers 9


After looking into wikipedia and following some linked sources, it seems intractable, who (in the old rome) has invented/introduced actually the term "religio" and what he really had intended to adress. But there is known use in texts of Cato and of Cicero - where this word seem to be used a bit informally - not with respect to a precise etymology - subsuming (and not explicitely characterizing) a behave of some people, which was then called "religious": clearly in the discussion of their ritual observances to the contemporary (roman) gods.

Although I myself had many times proposed that dictum "re-ligio"="to bound oneself to a codex" I see now, that this is only a later re-interpretation of a word without a sharp contour, already in use - giving it a later convenient meaning.

Having this said, I think now, one/we should no longer insist on the existence of some etymologically founded interpretation for this word and instead point the questioner to the (historically evolved) arbitrariness of this word - and its limited usefulness for the categorizing of some widespread behave in cultural and individual environment.
(The Buddha, this comes just now to my mind (and it makes me smile...) has answered often questions like this by just refraining to the sequel, that "there is a housholder who leaves his home and gives away his money and clothes and goods and ... (in short: turns to the noble practice)" - funny, that this comes just now to my mind :-))

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    I like how you didn't actually answer the question.
    – Xarcell
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 12:26

First I don't think Buddhism is any less a religion than Hinduism is. In both cases, there is perpetual debate as to where the line between philosophy and religion is (and Hinduism recognizes philosophy as a religious practice for example).

The problem comes from equating religion with belief which is a Protestant development on the older Christian innovation of belief as religious practice. However most historical religions have not obligated belief and so I don't think one can see belief as important to determine whether something is a religion or not. Instead prior to Christianity, virtually all religions were orthopraxies and some traditional religions (for example those of the Hopi) go out of their way to discourage unthinking belief, even to lengths that would make many modern Westerners shudder.

Buddhism is a religion in the sense that it is a cosmology, coupled with a tradition of story and practice. Chinese-Indonesian Buddhism is not the same thing as the form of Buddhism imported into mostly white Buddhist circles in the US (the rise of "Buddhism for peoples of color" circles really strikes me as largely an effort by Asian Americans to hold onto their Buddhist religious traditions rather than a statement on race per se). It is not "a religion" in the Protestant sense, but then neither is Judaism, Shintoism, or Hinduism, so I dont think that's very helpful.


Wikipedia also says Buddhism is a religion but I think Buddhism is more likely to Philosophy,

Religion is a system based on beliefs and worship, whereas philosophy studies the general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is used to find answers from things we are able to see, and accept. Religion is based on worshipping or believing in a god whose physical characteristics cannot necessarily be seen by one that is not enlightened.

Source: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Difference_between_philosophy_and_religion


Buddhism can be both and it depends how you see it.

In example in Tibet there is some kind of worship of the Dalai Lama. The believe in resurrection is strong.

Ippens "Pure Land" buddhism describes how people can go to the "pure land" after dying and at least calling "namida butsu" one time.

Both examples already show that buddhism can be surely be treated as religion.

On the other hand, in various Zen groups Buddhism is taken as a kind of "practiced philosophy". While there is surely believe in what Buddha has said, there are almost no mystical elements in it. In that groups the philosophy part is surely higher than the religion part.

Coming to the description, I would describe it as "Discussion Buddhism Myths, Religion and Philosophy". I added "Myths" to the list of terms, as there are many interesting Myths and what they teach us which are maybe not covered by the terms "Religion" and "Philosophy". In example, the countless myths around Bodhidharma.

I would like to suggest this description:

"Proposed Q&A site for people interested in Buddhist mythology, religion, philosophy, teaching and practice."


Religion and Philosophy go together with culture. The three are so intertwined it is often difficult to impossible to fully separate these into clear and distinct boxes.

The difference between Religion and Philosophy comes down to practice, do you practice what you think?

It may be interesting to ponder Buddhist, or any other Philosophy, and you may have interesting intellectual insights, you cross into Religion when you put the Buddhist Philosophy into practice.

Once you follow the 8 fold path and the Precepts, join a Sangha, once you practice the Philosophy, you are now practicing and following a Religion.

Buddhism meets most any criteria for a Religion, following the Precepts satisfies the OP criteria posed in his/her question in this thread.


Buddhism isn't a Religion at all because any religion will worship something or someone that is mysterious to us (maybe we don't know about it at all), and the "something" or "someone" may be not exist in the world (but virtualized somehow). A group of such people who are worshipping them called "religion people", and the group is just "religion".

But buddha existed in the world in the old India and taugh a lot of people about the way to rescure them from death (called "transmigration"),Buddha and his members think any living thing will be strongly forced by what he has done (for good, gain good; for bad, gain bad, the result for good will lead him to the heaven, to be a man next time……; for bad he will fall into the hell, become a hungry ghost or a pool animal). This mysterious force fits the natural science called "energy conservation" (because any living thing is a special kind of energy).

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    By definition, Buddhists do not worship idols, so your premise is invalid. I am not sure you understand the Buddhist belief system. You need to think outside what you have learned about Religion and consider Buddhism (and other beliefs) with an open mind. Empty your cup - thebuddhistblog.blogspot.com/2007/08/zen-story-cup-of-tea.html
    – Panther
    Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 13:57

I don't think so. The teachings are not confined to any 'Dogma', as traditional religions do. It's open to independent interpretations.

  • All religious practices are open to independent interpretations. The interpretations of the practitioners is then validated by the spiritual leader(s).
    – Panther
    Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 13:52
  • Religious leaders. Don't miatake religion for spirituality.
    – Syed Priom
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 6:13

1."Shouldn't the description for Buddhism at least include the word religion?" Which description should include the word 'religion' and where? Where do you expect Buddhism to be 'described' as (or also as) religion?

2.If in general you are asking - Isn't Buddhism a religion? then I would say - - a. I think, it primarily depends up on how you define religion. Looking at etymology (origin of the word) is not 'just' the way. As far as I know, since the period of renaissance western world started differentiating all other institutions from religion. Religion then was attributed to rituals and was considered as agency between god (supernatural power) and human. With this, it was pushed to the 'individual sphere'. But there is another view of religion also. If we consider religion as 'that which forms society' (this was how it was defined by one of the Indian Hindu ideologue - Mr. Tilak) Buddhism is definitely a religion. So in other words, what 'you' consider as religion as deciding factor here. - b. No need to define "what is Buddhism". At least here, that is invalid because though there are some differences in practice we all know and agree what is Buddhism. - c. In this regard I found that thoughts by the great modern promoter of Buddhism were very useful. (especially from "The Buddha and His Dhamma"

3.and at the end. I found this question very interesting promoting me to read more and to look for it.. which was good to increase my own knowledge.


It's all confusing if you ask me. It basically boils down to practices not wanting to be identified & associated to something else, so they declare a different term. However, the bottom-line is that Buddhism by technical definition is a religion.

A more conflicting argument would be the difference between an occult and an religion, and which is Buddhism. In my opinion, Buddhism is still a religion because it brings peace, and acceptance; where as in Christianity would be an occult because it brings violence, judgement, and rejection.

Addressing philosophy, any religion or occult could also be considered a philosophy.

phi·los·o·phy [fi-los-uh-fee]

  1. the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.
  2. any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are accepted as composing this study.
  3. a particular system of thought based on such study or investigation: the philosophy of Spinoza.
  4. the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science.
  5. a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.
  • @Earthliŋ the definition of religion was defined in the question. Which I guess you choose to ignore. Ergo, your comment has no meaning.
    – Xarcell
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 1:06
  • I see where you choose to ignore "In my opinion" part of that statement. Although, for fun please read: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occult . Then study "occult practices" . Or you can just at the history of Christianity on how many wars were started because of it, or how many were killed, because it's too many to mention here. How many wars did Buddhism start? Or how many Buddhists ever killed or threatened others for not being/becoming a Buddhist? See how "My Opinion" is formulated here?
    – Xarcell
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 15:23

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