Buddhism is usually classed as a religion and there are those of its adherents who would claim it to be so. It is usually found described in books about the major religions of the world such as ‘The Great Religions’ by Richard Cavendish , 1980. However, despite temples, prayer wheels monks and nuns, it lacks one thing. Buddhism has no god, although it does have a devil, a concept drawn from earlier Hindu ideas. Buddha, although a special person, was altogether human.It does however have a path to salvation as described by Cavendish on page 58.
The Noble Path depends upon human effort rather than the intervention of heavenly beings. It is this difference that makes it a philosophy rather than a traditional religion. Buddhists believe that by the way they lead their lives they will eventually be able to escape the cycle of death and re-birth and attain Nirvana – a state hard to define but one in which the material world no longer impinges.Many people, who would not accept every precept of Buddhism, accept some of its practices such as meditation or follow its dietary rules. They consider its precepts such as a respect for other life on the planet, but may be a member of another group or have no religious faith at all, so for them Buddhism is a way of thinking carefully and critically about the big questions of life as described by Mark Siderits , 2007, in ‘Buddhism as philosophy’ ( chapter 1 , page 1) rather than a pure religion.Yet for the majority of Buddhists it does fill the space in their lives normally taken by a religious faith and for them the debate as to whether or not it is a religion or a just a way of looking at life is not important.
What is relevant for them is the fact that following the Noble Path helps them to live their lives in a positive way.ReferencesCavendish, R., The Great Religions, London, W.H.Smith, 1980Siderits, M, Buddhism as Philosophy, Ashgate World Philosophy Series, Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing 2007