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How Buddhism Differs from other Religions

Buddhism is unique to the world’s belief systems in one major way: Buddhism is the look inwardly for the truth.

Most of the world’s religions concern themselves with the nature of God or the nature of the gods. Monotheism envisions a reality where one central God is the end all, do all, entity. This one God can be removed from our experience, transcendent, (Examples of this is Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.) or eminent to our experience,

Pantheistic (examples of this would be Taoism and the beliefs of Spinoza). Polytheism believes in many gods (a good example of Polytheism is Greek mythology with its pantheon of gods). All of these seek to understand our place in the universe relative to the higher powers, as those powers are conceived to be. In other words the other religions start with a cultural assumption or common belief and then attempt to understand man’s place within that context.

Buddhism starts by looking. It assumes nothing. It believes no dogma or tradition. It concerns itself with looking inside and living mindfully the ever present now. Buddhism at its Theravada core does not believe in gods. Buddhism does not believe Buddha was a god they believe he was a man that woke up for I am awake or I have awoken’ is what Buddha means literally.

Someone who has looked in side and stilled the muddy waters within in to clear transparent pools has purged the hot buttons that cause anger and intolerance from themselves. They can be tolerant because they can mindfully choose to be compassionate. By choosing to be with the suffering of another (Compassion) you are removed from whether or not it is a good or bad idea it merely becomes a choice that is helpful.

Now many will say that they have heard all kinds of Buddhist Gods and Goddesses. These come from two different attempts by Buddhists to be helpful as they mindfully interact with people who have not looked inside. The first attempt is allegory using personifications to represent states of being or non-mindful perspectives or mindful perspectives to help non-Buddhists live a better life. Buddhists have created these stories (even about Buddha himself) to help the understanding of non-practicing Buddhists to see the truth for themselves. The second way Gods and Goddesses appear are from the Mahayana sects of Buddhism. These bodhisattva inspired forms of Buddhism use God and Goddesses imagery again to teach like their Theravada brothers but for a different reason.

Theravada Buddhists look to improve self and help others. In this way it has been said that they build little rafts and help their fellow man then row across the sea of confusion (in their little raft) to the truth and are enlightened. Mahayana Buddhists have themselves made a little raft they have seen the truth across the sea of confusion but they have adopted the way of the bodhisattva. They have chosen to turn around and row their little rafts back to the rest of us. Here, when they return, they endeavor to build a large raft and take as many of us with them as they can. Further a bodhisattva has vowed to stay in the middle until the last of the sentient beings has crossed over.

Now you can see how a practitioner of the forms of Mahayana Buddhism would pray for help calling upon a bodhisattva who has vowed to offer help. You can see how the Theravada Buddhists would use allegory to foster greater understanding by being mindful that they are talking to non-buddhists who most be helped none the less. It is easy to see why so many people do not understand (Nor is it important from a Buddhists point of view that we do, it is only important that they are midful and helpful) the difference between Buddhism and the rest of the world religions.

Buddhism looks inside for reality. It is solely concerned with experiencing reality and discovering it mindfully for oneself. This is why a Buddhist would never say never. The Dali Lama was asked if violence was wrong? Instead of answering yes or no he explained the consequences of violence and left the questioner to decide for himself.

The Buddhist does not want enlightenment or require the presence of a Buddhist. One of the first notion killing exercises a Buddhist goes through is to mentally destroy the Buddha This way you cannot take anything the Buddha himself said as the truth unless introspection reveals it to you.