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What Buddhism is and isn't.

On this page we rely heavily on Buddhism and Zen by Zenzaki and McCandless, using many quotes.

Belief and worship

Buddhists do not think in these terms.

  • Instead of holding to a belief, they try to understand.
  • Instead of worshiping, they practice what they understand.

Buddha was a man, born Gautama Siddhartha in Nepal in the year 565 BCE. The word Buddha is also a system of teaching, the Dharma or Dhamma, the law of the universe. Buddha came to his system of thought after six years of meditation. He then spent the rest of his years teaching. On his deathbed, Buddhas said: "The teachings I have given you will be your teacher when I am gone."

Buddhists do not believe in the God of Abraham. Buddhists understand the universe and God as one. They believe all life is one, therefore there cannot be God and man, nor a universe and God. Anthropomorphism has no place in Buddhist thought. This is an astonishing result in a way. Some 2500 years ago, Buddha came to an essence that modern biology has now proved. Humanity has no corner on uniqueness. We share the same 20 building blocks plus a marker with all of life. Neither are our genes unique. Chimpanzees have 99% of their genes in common with us. See Natural History for that story.


    "The Buddha's feeling of torment was concerning the malady of mankind. This malady afflicts it in three directions: 1. Man versus nature 2. Man versus Man 3. Man versus himself "The last is the first logically in so far as, once this predicament is settled, the other battles are automatically won. Buddhist ethics have come to be known as psychological only for this reason. The innermost depths of human personality are measured and the forces molding the thoughts and attitudes are laid bare by Buddhism so that moral behaviour could be mastered and perfected.

    "Knowledge and will are the twin sides of the same coin. False knowledge and perverse will are the sources of pain and suffering. Mind must be trained both in the matter of intuiting the truth and of the conquering the passions.

    "Impermanence is built into the very structure of the world. Change is the very stuff of reality. Nothing is an exception to this law. Holding onto things under the delusion that things will endure causes suffering when they pass away in spite of one's best wishes and efforts. Right knowledge and belief in impermanence save us from the delusion of permanence and consequent despair."

Buddha and God

The Creator of monotheism is a foreign thought to the Buddhists. Buddhists conclude that they create the world each moment of each day. They see the world as a phenomenon of flux consisting of various relations, not created by some divinity. They argue:

    "If you think that this world is created by a supreme being, then you must feel powerless to change anything, thus leaving your fate to the mercy of that creator. Buddhists know that the world is your own production. You may change it, rebuild it, or improve it to suit your own will."

The world we experience is our own production, certainly. Probaby that is what was meant. They cannot mean hunmanity creates the physical world. But we think there is great wisdom in these words. In our terms, Buddhists have internal loci of control, are self actualized. Their quest for peace is is not just pragmatic; it is logical. On the gauge of violence, Buddhism scores multiples better than any of the montheisms.

The Mind

The mind is an endless chain of processes--craving, acting, and discontent. These three make a cycle, and without them there can be no mind, and consequently no body. Buddhism places the center of the universe in the subjectivity of the individual mind, whereas monotheists put it in the objectivity outside the individual mind.


While other religions ascribe cause to God, Allah, Brahma, or something outside the individual. Buddhists find cause in their own realization. They do not mean they are the creators, or that we are. What they promise is that when you have fulfilled the requirements, you will know the answer beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Future Life

Buddhists believe in the continuation of cosmic life. Many religions teach that when one's life comes to an end, one receives judgment. Buddhism teaches that good character or bad character continues according to individual desire. In Western parlance, future life finds expression in today--legacy in other words. A Buddhist will try to leave the world better than s/he found it.

Buddha -- a general meaning

Buddha also means an enlightened mental state or condition, and that has a future. It does not involve a god or human. In much of their literature, Buddha means an enlightened mental state.


Like the Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount, Buddhism does in deed have a set of precepts--more than 250 of them. It is much like Confucianism in this regard. American Buddhists keep three precepts first:

  • Avoid evil thoughts and actions.
  • Attain good thoughts and right actions.
  • Develop Prajna--insight into things more deeply than mere intellectualization.

From these precepts it follows that no living thing is killed for pleasure. Further, all sentient beings deserve love and kindness. This is why Buddhist monks took no sides in the Vietnam War and suffered huge casualties for their trouble.

Buddhism vs Other Religions

Missionary work by Buddhists differs distinctly from that of the monotheists. In the view of religions spawned by Abraham, destruction must precede construction. This is the history of Islam itself, of Judaism marching under Zionism, of the Christian Crusades, and now Iraq. In stark contrast, Buddhists do no destroying; they emphasize the constructive and positive. Buddhists study the other faiths and accept what is good and true. Buddhism spreads quietly by the quiet influence of one person on another each day, and by the media as well. See next:

Links For Research

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?"


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