I am planning to live with Buddhist monks. But I am hesitant. I am not sure whether I shall be able to live with them without leaving my current religion.

I think, if Buddhism is a religion, I am bound to face hard times. Because, it will clash with my current religion.

If it is a philosophy, then I dare to attempt.

Is Buddhism a religion or philosophy?

  • 2
    If it is a deeply held belief, what difference does it make whether it's religion or philosophy? (And does not the content of the belief matter? Or is your existing religion hostile to other religions and therefore it doesn't matter what others' stance is if they believe a different religion?)
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 5, 2012 at 17:25
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    These "Is X a Y?" questions always vex me; why don't people just look up Y and see if X then falls under it? These are purely semantics questions and have nothing to do with philosophy proper... >_>
    – stoicfury
    Aug 6, 2012 at 1:49
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    @stoicfury - I both agree and note that the philosophy literature is full of debates that boil down primarily to semantics. (Free will seems particularly prone to this, for instance.) Let's at least aim for interesting questions about semantics!
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 6, 2012 at 16:03
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    Why either/or. Why not both? Aug 9, 2012 at 8:02
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    The "quotation" you offer is a very infamous misquotation; the Buddha actually said something profoundly different, almost precisely the opposite. You can read an article on the matter here: tricycle.com/feature/lost-quotation Aug 11, 2012 at 11:48

6 Answers 6


There are two aspects to this question, a theoretical one and a practical one. I shall attempt to address each of these in turn.

The theoretical question regards whether Buddhism is to be considered a philosophy or a religion. This is a definitional question; it assumes that we already have rigorous delimitations of the notions of "religion" and "philosophy"; needless to say, we don't. There is a large literature on the subject with regard to Buddhism, which comes to no real conclusion; most people consider Buddhism a religion, but this depends on the assumed definition of "religion." So, at the end of the day, it is not a useful distinction.

The more practical question is whether Buddhism would conflict with your prior religious beliefs. Here, the answer is somewhat clearer: as Buddhism rejects the notion that there is anything eternal: any religion that posits an eternal God is going to be in conflict with Buddhism's main tenets. Furthermore, even if your religion posits a God that is not eternal, Buddhism rejects the notion of a creator God.

However: the fact that you are planning to live with Buddhist monks while knowing so little about Buddhism itself is worrisome. I'd strongly recommend you check out a good, single-volume introduction to Buddhism, such as Peter Harvey's An Introduction to Buddhism (published by Cambridge) or Rupert Gethin's Foundations of Buddhism (published by Opus) which will give you a good overview of Buddhist doctrine.

  • any religion that posits an eternal God is going to be in conflict with Buddhism's main tenets -- I'm not sure that's true. I remember two points on that subject: 1) Even if you are reborn as a god, that state/incarnation will not last forever; 2) When someone asked the Buddha about the after-life he refused to answer, saying, "I am here to talk to you about /this/ life." Furthermore, IMO a characteristic of Buddhism is that it is not antagonistic: I would like to think that someone can, for example, try to live up to Christ's teachings (usually defined as "religious") as well as Buddhism's.
    – ChrisW
    Aug 9, 2013 at 22:44
  • Regarding your first point: it is in agreement with what I am saying. The Buddha rejects the notion that any god is eternal. Regarding your second point: you are misremembering. The Buddha spoke often about what happens after death (i.e., rebirth); what he refused to talk about was the status of a Tathāgata after death. You can try to "live up to" whoever's teachings you desire, but Buddhism rejects a Creator God, an Eternal God, an eternal Soul, and an eternal Heaven-- each of which are standard Christian doctrine. Aug 10, 2013 at 13:02

Both but more than either it is a PRACTICE. Practice and Study lead to Happiness and Enlightenment.

I have practiced Nichiren Shoshu True Buddhism http://www.USABuddhism.com since 1974. Having the correct practice is very important.

  • If this is the "True" Buddhism, I assume there are other types of False Buddhisms. I wonder what they are, but it is understandable that you would be most familiar with what you practice. Mar 20, 2018 at 13:07
  • Nchiren explicitly dismissed other forms of Buddhism. However, this focus on practice over metaphysics goes back to the Buddha.
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 20, 2018 at 23:17

Is Buddhism a philosophy (love of wisdom), a systematic approach to analysing experience (subjective science), an ethical and logical framework, a theory and conclusion that can be tested?

Yes it is.

Does Buddhism challenge fragile beliefs held without empirical evidence such as notions of a vengeful creator god, a sense of self or soul?

Yes it does.

Is Buddhism a religion as undefined by Wikipedia, "an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality"


respect for what is sacred,


reverence for the gods,

Not particularly.

obligation, the bond between man and the gods

Absolutely not.

Latin religiō, ... *le-ligarean ... lego "read", "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully"


ligare "bind, connect", ... prefixed re-ligare, ... "to reconnect,"

Yes as far as a community. No as far as the ultimate goal is nibbana (nirvana) which means 'unbinding', release, detachment, blowing out.

Are you likely to find Buddhists argue with you even if you do not engage them in debates of theological speculation?

No, I do not think so.


One of the epithets of the Buddha is 'teacher of the devas'. There are various accounts of Buddha teaching devas or gods, even Brahman the supreme being/ultimate reality. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/jootla/wheel414.html This is a very different dynamic to Western thought, it is not arguing ontic priority, but saying there are insights in this practice for all beings.

The bigger picture is, religion and philosophy are terms rooted in Greek thought. Why should we expect a really ancient practice that arose out of an even more ancient culture, to fit neatly into these categories?

Consider https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Poisoned_Arrow The concern of Buddhism is not with cosmology, or hierarchies of being, or who's book is best, or even who's account of how we got here is best. It is about suffering, the causes of suffering, that it is possible to live in a way that doesn't cause suffering, and how to do that. They are the Four Noble Truths. At core that is all Buddhism is. The poison arrow is in all beings, it is part of the nature of being an arising phenomenon. It's cessation, however that is achieved, for all beings, is Buddhism.

Buddhism is compatible, in principle, with all religions and cosmologies. But it is not concerned with things outside the area that it addresses, just like eg. science with areas outside it's conxern. That lack of concern can be interpreted as dismissal, but it shouldn't be. Just like scientific method has no concern with phenomena outside of external observations - yet other areas of consideration exist, so Buddhism is not concerned with phenomena outside of internal observations especially those honed by meditation - but such areas do exist. They are just not important to it's context.

Buddhism is about identifying what it is to be awake. What obscures our view of pur being in the world? How do we numb, or distance, or or go to sleep to our experiences? How can we turn that around, be aware, engaged, and awake? In this very moment we decide.


Edited to add: Please note the nature of faith as viewed in Buddhism https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/faithinawakening.html It is not unconditional, or unjustified, it does not require a leap from a standing start. But it does require going into the practice with faith in it, that this has seen others 'across the stream'. You might compare this to how science depends on us having faith in other scientists, and the community. But it must also go beyond the material, the practical, the explained, into something deeply and intrinsically personal. That is certainly not in the realm of science.


I think, if Buddhism is a religion, I am bound to face hard times. Because, it will clash with my current religion.

That depends on your religion. Eighty percent of Japanese are Buddhists and eighty percent are Shintoists, which means that a lot of people have resolved the problem. The culture seems to have reconciled matters by following Shinto for activities in this world and Buddhism for events in the next.


What is religion?

There are many ways to define "what religion is", but several assertions of them may be used related to this case:

  1. What is the purpose of religion, eventually?

    • The purpose of religion, eventually is to put us on happiness (whatever it is, may be different to others)
  2. What is the consistency on a religion?

    • Religion promises happiness on after life (including current life)
  3. Additional assertion

    • On most religions (not all that i know), related to this discussion, there are fixed assertion, that we must obey commands from God.

What is God?

There are many definitions of God, but in this case i will highlight God as the creator.


There are two differences on definition "what religion is" in this case:

  1. I regard religion as a wider range than spiritualism that adds commands that ascribed to God and should be executed by us.

    Basically the main purpose of religion that has imposed upon us, namely: the continuing expansion of awareness and carry out the commands of God with sincerity to reach long lasting happiness in harmony. Without obediement to God's commands, then there will be no happiness.

    • Whether meditation may be accepted or not on religion, but as long as it can be considered as part of the way to obey on God's commands, then it may be accepted as a cause for us to get into happiness.
  2. Religion is the way that promote fulfillment for better life (happiness) in this current life and after life, with no relation to God's commands. And there is no relation to God as creator.

    • ... he renounced his promising future as prince in order to start a long quest for a higher purpose, nirvāṇa (Pali nibbāna), which entails the cessation of old age, sickness and death

    • ... gods do not play any significant cosmological role. For the Buddha, the universe has not been created by an all-knowing, all-powerful god that is the lord of the universe and father of all beings (M.I.326-7). ...


    • Perhaps, this causes that buddhism is rather tolerance to any conflict regarding to "whether there is God or not", since "whether there is God or not" eventually we need happiness.

What is Philosophy?

There are various definition on philosophy. But essentially, in a short, philosophy is:

  • Knowing as it is to lead us acting as it should be (relevantly), IOW
  • Knowing something as it is to direct us acts as it should be (better adjustment)

In this definition, i don't assert philosophy as "rational investigation to the truth", but wider, because philosophy doesn't oblige rational investigation as the first priority, but philosophy obliges us to love wisdom, which oblige us not to use rational only (and mostly), but must be included implementation of wisdom.

Please refer to Distinguishing between philosophy and religion related to the meaning of philosophy in this post.


Is buddhism a religion or philosophy?

  • Buddhism may be considered as religion with no relation to God as creator, unless a religion must assert God as creator

  • Also, Buddhism is philosophical since it leads us to realize something as it is, and help us to react (adjust) better and better.

  • Whether Buddhism may be considered as religion or not, or may be considered as mysticism, but logical reasoning can be applied on Buddhism. This is why i consider Buddhism is not against philosophical.

We may adapt the goodness on anything, whether from any other beliefs or from any other religions, as long as it doesn't conflict with our main consistent principles:

  • For example, I may adapt technical on meditation to improve my chanting to be more focus.

Don't be afraid to adopt wisdom from another sources. Do it wisely. Know your main consistent principles, and start make further adaptation properly that is in line with your main consistent principles.

Hopefully, we will see where the limit that we couldn't pass it.

  • 5
    Sorry, but I disagree with almost every point here. The first 3 numbered points grossly under-appreciate the breadth and depth of religiosity in the world. "What is God? Within consistency among religions that God is the creator." I don't know what that means entirely but I don't think it's appropriate to reduce all religions to monotheistic, creation-story belief systems. All further definitions for both religion and philosophy are too narrow IMO.
    – stoicfury
    Aug 6, 2012 at 18:15
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    Yes, I understand that definitions are a "narrowing" process, but too much narrowing misses important properties of a thing. I just think your earlier definitions left out too much. A definition that encompassed 95% of those belief systems we might call "religious" is one thing, but your definition seems to leave out all non-Abrahamic religions, which is a stretch to say the least. Also, there is really more to religion than simply doing what makes us happy, or will eventually reward us with eternal happiness, or following God's commandments...
    – stoicfury
    Aug 7, 2012 at 2:00
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    That is a huge area in and of itself (whether true altruism exists) or everyone is merely acting selfishly, which I don't really want to get into here in the comments, but it'd make for an interesting question. :)
    – stoicfury
    Aug 7, 2012 at 4:52
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    No I'm not giving up. I just mean this comment space is not the place to have such a discussion. :P The question has already been asked, so at some point I may add an answer there. :)
    – stoicfury
    Aug 7, 2012 at 5:20
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    You may refer to this question to make a better understanding about "happiness" in this discussion. But actually "happiness" in this post already asserted as described on this link (if we understand it not piece by piece), and LOL, thanks for the Galaxy Quest ;)
    – Seremonia
    Aug 7, 2012 at 8:36

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