Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hold the Religion

I received one of those Dalai Lama quotes in email today -- I suppose we all do -- and found it right on target:
"I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another--an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of metaphysical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on.
Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit--such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others. While ritual and prayer, along with questions of nirvana and salvation are directly connected with religious faith, these inner qualities need not be, however. There is thus no reason why the individual should not develop them, even to a high degree, without recourse to any religious or metaphysical belief system. This is why I sometimes say religion is something we can perhaps do without. What we cannot do without are these basic spiritual qualities."
I sometimes think we make a grave mistake when we confuse Buddhism with religion, and in particular, when we confuse state religion with Buddhism. I have been privileged in this life to personally know and spend time with several highly realized Buddhist masters. I do not recall any of them as being particularly religious men; rather, I recall them as deeply spiritual men. Yet, in the majority of cases, these men operated within the context of organized religion.

This may be a question we'll all have to answer for ourselves in the future--

Have we, in fact, mislabeled Buddhism?

If we have, are we selling ourselves short?

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4 reader comments:

Nightprowlkitty said...

Just discovered last night the White Tara mantra recited by the Karmapa that you posted at the bottom of the screen. Thank you so much for this wonderful gift.

When I read this post I thought of the saying "it is not stained by confusion nor exalted by realization" (paraphrased). Judaism has a saying somewhat complementary, "He who understands will understand."

If the view is real and fueled by compassion, I guess you could call Buddhism a sport and it wouldn't matter.

Anonymous said...

To bind, to regulate. Isn't this the meaning of religion? Isn't it the feeling we all get from the word? Isn't it the effect religion has?

Buddha taught many religions for many minds. But what is Dharma?

Stephen said...

HH the Dalai Lama uses "sometimes" and "perhaps", thuse indicating that what he thinks is exceptional and tentative.

Rough said...

I feel like there's been a long history of people promoting Buddhism as non-theistic or the scientific religion, or 'not a religion but a way of life' and such...

Are we really seeing the phenomenon of Buddhist practice and beliefs here or our own traumas and prejudice?

Personally, I understand that quote from the Dalai Lama to be aimed at those people getting hung up around religion, either in disgust or as a Truth.

I think this 'is it a religion or not' question has a rather discursive and prejudice-laden framework to it, while not having so much to do with the actual practices and beliefs that make up 'Buddhism.'