“Buddhism is not a religion. It’s more like a philosophy,” is a refrain I often hear these days. Such words are mostly spoken by Westerners who practice Buddhist meditation and read the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh but do not belong to a temple community.
During my studies as an interfaith minister in 2016, I explored a variety of Buddhist traditions from Tibet and Malaysia to Japan and beyond. I found a lot more variety than I expected, from the bare bones of Zen Buddhism to the pomp and circumstance of Tibetan Buddhism with its far-reaching philosophy to Japanese Buddhist services that felt like traditional religious services in West. To say that Buddhism is not a religion is an abuse of language if there ever was one.