Buddhism is a religion that, while widespread in terms of numbers and influence on world cultures,1 is not well-understood in the West. Chances are you, you’ve probably heard of it, or seen something like the Happy Buddha in gardens or Chinese restaurants. You’ve probably have an idea of what “Zen” is, and so on.
Buddhism as a religion that focuses on wisdom, self-discipline, and goodwill toward all beings.
Buddhism is a religion that does not elevate a god of any sort, and is not concerned with gods one way or another.1 So, in this sense, people get confused about whether it’s even a religion at all. But it isn’t some dry philosophy either for people to debate in coffee shops or college campuses. The Buddha intended for his teachings to be applied in daily life, regardless of who you were, or what your background was.
In the Buddha’s own time, he described it as the “holy life”. It is a path that, if carried to fruition, is said to be praiseworthy and free from guilt, and hassles. But the holy life is also a people-centered religion in that the focus of its teachings is on daily life, and on people, not external deities. A person who adopts the Five Precepts of Buddhism, even if they make mistakes and struggle with some precepts, has made great progress.
Finally, the Buddhist path is something that is easy to take up, and you can begin just you are. It’s a long, slow path, with many discoveries, but you learn many things about yourself and others.
1 the Buddha is venerated as a peerless teacher, and the other Buddhas you find in Buddhism are expressions of the teachings. Buddhism has layers and layers of meaning, so it’s one of those things that takes time to sink in.