Buddha nirvana

Maybe Buddhism Nirvana

Posted in Buddha Nirvana by buddhanirvana on August 25, 2009

It is not infrequently mentioned that Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion.  I might agree since the typical dictionary meaning of ‘religion’ has to do with a personal commitment to serving God.  In the Oxford English Dictionary the first definition of religion I read was this one:

“A state of life bound by monastic vows; the condition of one who is a member of a religious order, esp. in the Roman Catholic Church.”

Would I be wrong in harboring the opinion that Christianity has hijacked the word religion and made it its exclusive property?  I think not.  But it wasn’t always this way, not when I thumb through my old Cassell’s Latin Dictionary.  Spotting the word “religo” I found two good definitions.  The first one is respect for what is sacred.  The second one to catch my eye is respect for conscience

I have to admit both definitions seem adequate.  Both are universal enough to include Buddhism, yet specific enough to exclude any kind of irreligious notion or attitude. 

Philosophy, too, might be included under religion if we regard it as the love and pursuit of wisdom or truth which is fundamentally to be found through knowledge in oneself which is one of the Latin definitions of conscience found in the above mentioned definition of religion.  But now, let’s look at a rather remarkable definition of philosophy given by Hierocles of Alexandria who taught around 430 A.D.  It has much in common with Buddhism’s praxis.

“Philosophy is a purification and perfection of human life:  a purification from our irrational, material nature and the mortal form of the body, a perfection by the recovery of our proper happiness, leading to divine likeness.”

Using Hierocles’ definition of philosophy as a standard, Buddhism chimes philosophical.  It teaches purification and perfection of one’s true nature.  It also teaches purification from ignorance, conditioned existence, and from the Five Aggregates so that the Buddhist adept might eventually attain nirvana.

I think it is fair to conclude that Buddhism is not far from philosophy as was understood in Rome around 500 A.D.  It also falls within the scope of religion—at least religion as an educated Roman citizen might have understood the term.

Changing gears, I like the Latin definition of religion because I think it is important to have respect for what is sacred.  And there is much that we should regard as sacred, for example, our planet and all that lives upon it—and the very principle of life (prana) itself.  We should also regard ourselves as sacred if we strive, above all, to realize wisdom and truth; not just living, day to day, to acquire material possession and indulge in sensual pleasures.

What I find unsettling with the modern definition of religion, in which God is made sacred, is that everything else, by implication, is not sacred.  And anyway, why should I hold God sacred?  I’ve never met the guy.  For all I know he is a figment of some prophet’s wild imagination.  At any rate, I choose to see the sacred as being potentially within me and in others.  The sacred also includes the earth and all its creatures.  This is a better definition of religion.


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