What Buddhism is and isn’t always comes under much debate and has for many thousands of years, but what is for certain is what the Buddha known as Shakyamuni Buddha said. He stated that Buddhism is not a religion because there is no entity of worship, Buddhists do not believe in God, the creation, or any divine entity of worship. According to the dictionary definition this excludes Buddhism as a religion. Buddha himself said he was not a god and should not be worshiped. So what is Buddhism? Buddhism is in fact an education, it teaches one how to live a better, happier, more peaceful life. It does this by teaching that the answers to life’s questions can be found inside you. Buddhism’s basic fundamentals lie in life as Dukkha or suffering. It simply says, 1-Life is just suffering, 2-There are causes for suffering namely attachment and desire, 3-There is a way to end ones suffering, 4-The way to end suffering is by following the “Noble eight fold path”.
Buddhism teaches one to search inside oneself and see that the answer to this is to sever attachment of the ego thereby reaching an enlightened status known as Nirvana. To sever attachment and desire becoming an enlightened being one has transcended samsara or the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. Although there are many schools of Buddhism, all seem to focus on meditation and/or chanting as the ultimate method of doing away with ego and severing attachments to enter enlightenment and end your samsara. Buddhism also teaches that compassion is the ultimate source of happiness in that if one lives for everyone else and not himself that this will bring good karma, kill ego and bring the Buddhist great peace and happiness. It has always been true that compassion for all sentient beings will bring you more happiness and peace as it is better to give than to receive. Buddhism teaches this as not just something done during certain times of the year such as Christmas or birthdays but a lifestyle and is done everyday.
Zen Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that uses mindfulness in all you do to remain in a state of meditation. It focuses on meditation over chanting and does not see any special observance days as better than any other day. Nor does it see any sentient being as being different or better than any other. In fact the animal world is seen as equal to the human and plant world if you will. Buddhism is not a cult where people come into the groups and shut themselves off from the world doing strange things. In fact Buddhism teaches that it is better to associate with the world or else how would someone spread the teachings of the Buddha to others in hopes that others can find true peace? Those that are in monasteries are there because they are in training which is usually around four or more years. Shut off from society they can focus and learn better, concentration is better when there is less distractions. There has never been a war declared in the name of the Buddha and there never will be. That is because we have nothing to fight for; there is nothing one can gain in war that will be yours when you die. There is but one thing that matters and will go with you when your time comes and that is the karma you are making now in this life, so that is all that matters.
For more Information:
Buddhism as an education, PDF
Amitaba TV, Buddhism is an education not a religion
A brief introduction to Zen Buddhism