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Is Buddhism like a western religion?

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 If the "essence of religion" turns out to be indistinguishable from morality or moral perfectionism then Buddhism, including its Zen sect, cannot be put under the rubric of religion—Wester religion that is. As the dictionary defines it, such a religion is “the personal commitment to and serving of God or a god with worshipful devotion, conduct in accord with divine commands especially as found in accepted sacred writings or declared by authoritative teachers, a way of life recognized as incumbent on true believers, and typically the relating of oneself to an organized body of believers (Merriam-Webster).

On the other hand, the goal of Buddhism is certainly not in the achievement of moral perfection. What morality seems to be present in Buddhism is not like the 'thou shalt not' morality found in the Judeo-Christian context. It is more about discipline and behavior that keeps one on the path to achieving nirvana. Yet, Buddhism is not strictly humanistic; which at times seems more like a reaction to the authoritarian history of Christianity, and certainly its abuses.

If anything, Buddhism falls under the heading of Indian religion (or some believe "philosophy," but closer to ancient Greek philosophy in the example of Neoplatonism). In this unique take, right view (samyagdrishti) or darshana appears to be at the heart of Indian religion. In almost every Indian religion the goal is to attain a profound and all penetrating intuition of ultimate reality. Thus each Indian religion claims to provide the final and absolute vision which is not without its difficulties.

Unlike the Judeo-Christian religion that still dominates the West which is believed to be final and absolute, Indian religions, including Buddhism, see a problem that Westerners do not see. This is exemplified in the Tittha Sutta found in the Udana of the Pali Nikayas which is about blind men unable to explain what an elephant is.

    "Those blind people who had been shown the head of the elephant replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a water jar.' Those blind people who had been shown the ear of the elephant replied. "An elephant, your majesty, is just like a winnowing basket.' Those blind people who had been shown the tusk of the elephant replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a plowshare.' Those blind people who had been shown the trunk replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a plow pole.' Those blind people who had been shown the body replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a storeroom.' Those blind people who had been shown the foot replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a post.' Those blind people who had been shown the hindquarters replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a mortar.' Those blind people who had been shown the tail replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a pestle.' Those blind people who had been shown the tuft at the end of the tail replied, 'An elephant, your majesty, is just like a broom.'"

In the same way do men, blind to the transcendent, seek the truth of religion which amounts to guessing. Until they have the right vision they remain blind and foolish, always quarreling and fighting. Belief in God, obedience to his commandments, cannot give one right vision nor does moral behavior.

Source

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