MythBusters: Common Myths about Buddhism In this blog post, common myths about Buddhism will be discussed in detail.
1. Was Buddha a God?
Literally, the word Buddha means “the awakened one” or “the enlightened one”. In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha. The Buddha was neither a God nor a deity, and he never claimed to be one. Most accept that he lived as a normal man who taught mostly in northeastern India around 6th and 4th centuries BCE, and through his own efforts, attained enlightenment.
2. Do Buddhists worship God?
Firstly, it is important to define the word “religion”. The root of the English word “religion”, the Latin religio, initially mean “reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things”. Beliefs and worshipping of God are commonly seen in many religions. However, contrary to many other religions, Buddhism is about following the path to liberation, instead of worshipping a “God” or Buddha. Buddhism emphasized on the causal relationships underlying the universe which constitute the natural order (dharma) and source of enlightenment. Thus, many thinks Buddhism more as a philosophy instead of a religion. However, it depends on how one’s definition of religion will be. Even though Buddhism do not worship God or any supernatural beings, celestial and mystical concepts are embedded in Buddhism, which makes it something more than simply philosophy. Additionally, one consistent belief held by all Buddhist school is that Buddhism rejected the existence of a creator deity. The refutation of the existence of a creator deity is also distinguishes Buddhist from non-Buddhist.
3. Is there only a single set of Buddhist beliefs?
As many religion have different sets and branches of beliefs, similarly, Buddhism can also be broken down into different school of thoughts, mainly the Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism is the most strict branch of Buddhism, by which it holds most firmly to the original teachings of Buddha. Mahayana Buddhism not only sees self-liberation important, but also helping others to achieve nirvana. Vajrayana Buddhism emphasized the most on esotericism as compared to the other branches of Buddhism. Many differences can be identified in topics such as the objective of training and death aspects.
4. Do Buddhists believe in reincarnation?
Many believe that reincarnation is a concept in Buddhist teaching. Nonetheless, Buddhists believe in rebirth instead of reincarnation. Reincarnation normally means transmigration of soul from one body to another. It implies that memories and emotions are brought along with the soul. However, the concept of rebirth suggests that there is no unchanging identity that moves from life to life. There is no permanent existence of self identity. In rebirth, the only force that propels is karma.
5. Are all Buddhist vegetarians?
As mentioned above, there are different branches of Buddhism. Hence, in Buddhism, vegetarianism vary between different schools of thought. Some schools insist on a vegetarian diet, however some do not. For instance, the Buddha did not purposely forbid himself to consume meat, in the condition that the animal is not killed by the person who intend to eat it. In many Buddhist traditions, monks and nuns begged for their meal and were supposed to eat what people offer to them, including meat. The teachings of Buddha mentioned that some types of animals are not supposed to be eaten, such as horse, elephant, dog, etc.
Most of the times, we develop misunderstandings and misconceptions of things such as religions or philosophies that we are not familiar with. This could result in discrimination and prejudice, which consequently leads to tension and conflict. It is important to get rid of some false pictures we have in mind, learn more in depth about different practices and beliefs, and at the same time appreciate different cultures.