This is a question I have often found myself thinking about. I think to properly understand the answer to this question the first thing we need is an understanding of what the definition of religion is. By Definition Religion is the belief in, and worship of a superhuman controlling power. Such as God(s). It can also mean a particular system of faith and worship. So, now that we have a basic understanding of the definition of religion lets take a closer look at Buddhism.
Buddhism was born and founded in India during the 5th Century B.C. by a man named Siddhartha Gautama, later being commonly known as Buddah. Gautama was born as a prince into a family of bountiful wealth in the area known in the present day as Nepal. He sat comfortably in the beginning of his life until he took notice of the people suffering in this world, and he was deeply moved. He decided to give up his lifestyle of comfort, and voluntarily went and lived in poverty. Although he had taken a step down from his previous lifestyle he still was unsatisfied and felt unfulfilled. He then had an idea called “The Middle Way”, which is to exist between the two extremes. A Life without all of the previous social indulgences, but at the same time a life without deprivation. After years and years of searching, around six years, Gautama found enlightment under a Bodhi tree. He Spent the rest of his years on Earth teaching others how to do what he did, and achieve spiritual enlightenment.
Now this is where I would say things started to take a little turn. When Gautama died, which was around 483 B.C., his disciples began to organize a religious movement. Gautama’s teaching became the foundation for what would later be developed into what people call Buddhism. Another important note from a similar time period, being the 3rd century B.C., an Indian Emperor, Ashoka The Great, declared Buddhism as the state religion of India. Shortly after Buddhist monasteries were built, and the belief started spreading.
Lets start looking at some other things now that we have went over some brief history. Buddah’s teachings, known as Dharma, are what the Buddhist go by. It teaches wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion were the most important virtues. Buddhist had five moral precepts across the board of what was prohibited. Specifically these things;
Killing Living things
Taking what is not given
Using drugs or alcohol
Buddhist also have some other aspects of their beliefs, such as the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths are as follows;
The Truth of Suffering (Dukkha)
The Truth of The Causing of Suffering (Samudaya)
The Truth of The End of Suffering (Nirhodha)
The Truth of The Path That Frees Us From Suffering (Magga)
These principles of Buddhism explained why humans hurt and how to overcome our suffering.
The Last part that I am going to go over is what Buddah taught his disciples how to end their suffering. They could achieve this by following something called the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path teaches the ideals for ethical conduct, mental discipline, and achieving wisdom. There is no specific order that you must follow though. Below is what makes up the Eightfold Path;
Right Understanding (Samma Ditthi)
Right Thought (Samma Sankappa)
Right Speech (Samma Vaca)
Right Action (Samma Kammantha)
Right Livelihood (Samma Ajiva)
Right Effort (Samma Vayama)
Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati)
Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi)
Now that we have taken a step back and looked at what defines religion, a brief history on Buddhism, and the principles of Buddhism, would you consider Buddhism to be a religion or a way of life?