Why the Buddha Dhamma is not a religion

By Dhammika – Courtesy Vesak Lipi

“Young man, living beings have Kamma as their inheritance, matrix, relation and refuge.” (Kammassaka, manava, satta Kammadayada Kammayoni Kammabandu ammapatisarana)
-Majjhima Nikaya iii, 203.

Before I proceed with the subject of this Essay, I must say that the word Buddhism to mean the teachings of Lord Buddha is a misnomer. Much of the misunderstanding and misinterpretations of the Buddha-Dhamma are due, I believe, to the suffix” ism” added at the end of the ennobling word Buddha. “Buddhism” is considered in certain quarters as yet another theory explanative of the beginning and creation of the word, of the finitude of the world and such other “ologies”. Or, it may mean yet another materialistic derivative, such as: Nazism, Fascism and Communism, anyone of which has its roots in greed, hatred and delusion, the three fires, according to the Buddha-Dhamma, that consume the entirety of the being .

The Buddha-Dhamma is primarily concerned with the immediate, insistent and poignant problem of suffering (Dukkha) and its end. To the Buddha suffering meant the endless process of being born, ageing and dying motivated by selfish Craving the offspring of Ignorance. By its end is meant the extinction of ignorance by extra-sensory Wisdom, the extinguishing of the fires of greed, ill-will and delusion and attaining the “coolness” of Nibbana. Gotama Buddha was actuated by a loving commitment to show all mankind the way to attain this undying Reality. All His teachings are directed to this end, and therefore, let them be called Buddha-Dhamma, sanctified by the liberating Truth they carry and prescribed by custom and long usage.

What does the word religion mean? Websters Dictionary defines it as. “the outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or gods, having power over their destinies, to whom obedience, service and honour are due”. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines religion more exhaustively: “Action or conduct indicating a belief in, reverence for, and desire to please a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this. Recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence and worship’.

Now, the Buddha-Dhamma does not fall within this definition, and hence it is not a religion. Moreover, it denied in toto the existence of a Creator-God (Iswara-Nirmana). It also does not demand blind and submissive faith to a supernatural being placed over man. It is free from dogmatism, from rites and ceremonies and from fanaticism. It exhibits an aversion for metaphysical speculation. It is not tainted with the fear or wrath of a divine power, nor does it believe in a vicarious salvation for sinners.
The Buddha-Dhamma is a “Way of life” for free men to think freely, to act freely and express their ideas freely independent of a “Supreme Being’s” acts of grace and compassion. It has bestowed upon the human mind its inherent freedom and dignity to plan out and shape its destiny without the aid of an external agency. In the world of Dwight Goddard :- “If the worth of a truly great man consist in raising the worth of all mankind, who is better entitled to be called truly great than the Blessed One, who instead of degrading man by placing another over him, has exalted him to the highest pinnacle of wisdom and love. His figure is the noblest, the most perfect that man can ever attain.”