Buddhism’s Status as a Religion
Published 30 May 2017
The realms of human life are innumerable with profoundly infinite divisions through internal and external; hidden and apparent; comprehensible and incomprehensible manifestations. No matter how much scientific and technological deities may claim to have achieved and mastered, a miracle every now and then astounds us all. Saved records of phenomenon and discoveries from many eras of history provide startling evidences of some Mighty presence, perplexing to human thought and imaginations but still existent and evident. Surely enough any reasonable mind should interpret all these intricacies to be speaking of A Divine, Powerful Existence. Since time immemorial, though differing in level and intensity of belief, man has believed in the presence of An Omnipresent Master. Just as a mother does not leave her child without guiding her enough, in the same and much superior vein Lord did not leave us alone in this world. Religion was the term coined to represent Lord’s Guidance for His naïve creation i.e. us. Buddhism, more like any simple code of ethics gets disqualified every time when analyzed as a religion, due to the absence of A Mighty existence and religious essentials.
If we look at any dictionary for the definition of religion, we’ll surely come across its pre-requisites or common essentials of religion which include an Omnipotent Divine Master and a composite set of guidelines, morals, and ethics in the form of revelations to serve as complete way of life.
Variations do exist among different religions regarding nature of revelations, and its application but almost all agree upon the term religion as a composite and must-to-be adopted manual for every man to live like a man. All the abstinences and adoptions to be pursued during man’s entire life-span in most simplified words constitute religion. For neither did they possess an instinctive dictation as in animals nor could they declare themselves free from the need of guiding principles to enlighten their course of life. (Molloy)
Buddhism evolved many centuries back. A mortal man likes us, though much superior ethically, laid its foundations. Since then it has attracted millions of followers. However, debate and disagreement has continued on over its status as a religion or an ethical system or a philosophy. The very first objection that can be directed against its status as a religion is the absence of a Divine Master in it. Only A Supreme controlling power, above every human and other creation of the entire universe entitles to this status. Buddha, the founder of Buddhism cannot simply qualify to this stature; his mortality in the first place defies it. A huge universe system with set, developed, working forces of nature is beyond any man’s power and intellect to run. (Molloy)
The absence of A Supreme, guiding and ruling power, a deficient set of revelations and an over-emphasis on man of being his own savior are the highlighting drawbacks we encounter in Buddhism. In a more compassionate perspective, we may call Buddha, its founder to be more like a teacher who simply wanted peace in world. He taught good ethics but even in doing so, he faltered. Buddha’s placement of man central to his reformation further delegates Buddhism’s status as a religion. (Molloy)
Secondly, Buddhist teachings place man as central to his reformation. Buddha greatly emphasizes the power of man to be capable of delivering man from worries and tensions. He places no checking authority on man. What Buddha expected from man to behave like is quite angelic. Committing no mischief without any surveillance and refraining from sin in reward’s absence is indeed prophetic and saintly. But practically it harbingers intense straying. Today we see crime, corruption, atrocities, and abuses even in the presence of so many commanding religious, political, social authorities. Then can this philosophy appeal of leaving man alone with his conscience as his master to correct his morals? Can the wrong doers be stopped from spreading mischief without any fear of eternal damnation? In this context Buddha’s philosophy appears as too incomplete. Practically it cannot succeed to offer long term remedy. (Molloy)
In Buddhism, we find no Compassionate and forgiving Lord. Rather, we find the entire burden on man’s own shoulders to help, guide and reform himself. There are no rewards to be bestowed by The Master to those who try the hardest to become good. Simultaneously, we cannot hope for any punishment for those who corrupted this world. A lonely man, taking his own charge, with no divine help, guidance and support is what Buddhism offers for its followers. Even further aggravating is Buddha’s own assertion that his teachings must be analyzed by those wishing to follow it. (Molloy)
Wisdom put forward by Buddha is no doubt enlightening. Annoyed with prevalent corruptions, He wanted a reliever. His meditations dawned on him his teachings which he further preached. Buddha’s intentions were to reform the world thus indeed they are noble. However logically and practically, Buddhism cannot satiate any complete code of life. Human beings act like children in facing and combating their temptations. Psychological studies, social experts vociferously declare re-enforcement and abstinent strategies to be of infinite effectiveness in inducing goodness and restricting evil respectively. Buddhism’s teachings stand as a philosophy with somewhat decent but a limited approach towards mankind’s bleeding sores.
The emotional link offered in a true religion is the hope of forgiveness. So that, no matter even after corruption if any man wishes to reform, then A Powerful Master is there to forgive, reform and set the matters straight equally. However, this is absent in Buddhism. Buddhism rather than lessening man’s burden overburdens him, which is contrary to the spirit of a true religion. (Molloy)
Buddhism’s disqualification is neither a denial nor it is biased. The prevalent scenario, more than ever, bespeaks of its deficient status which does not in any degree undermine the noble intentions of its founder. Rather it highlights that no matter how much we may desire to close our eyes to avoid the startling reality, but our conscience cannot escape its message. Man cannot be ruled by a man until and unless powers are employed on the behalf of Divine intercession and implementation of rules in the light of Divine Guidance i.e. Religion. Then only man can be relieved.
- Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World’s Religions. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009.