It it not unusual for people to ask me“What do you (Buddhists) believe in?” I usually say that “it’s not important what I believe.” Generally people are not sure how to take that, but they are usually sure that I don’t believe that “it’s not important what I believe.” They usually just think I don’t wish to discuss it with them, and create some mental idea (predisposition) as to why. Usually people equate religion with theistic beliefs…so if I’m a Buddhist then I should have “Buddhist” beliefs. Buddhism is often regarded by theistic religions as atheistic, and sometimes not even a religion at all…it’s seen as a psychology or philosophy because Buddhism doesn’t originate from a theistic or doctrinal position. Not so long ago someone showed me a description of Buddhism as a “non-theistic religion”, which seems to indicate a non-religion.
I remember a book I read a few years ago where almost an entire chapter was spent debating whether Buddhism is a religion or philosophy…the Author finally came to the conclusion that he thought it was a combination, a sort of religious-psychology, although he wasn’t really sure. So, we could go debating and speculating about this forever…we come to theistic irrelevancy…back to “it doesn’t matter what I believe.” You see…religion isn’t really what a person believes, but what a person practices day to day. If someone says that they are a Christian with Christian beliefs, but they don’t practice the non-judgement of others on a daily basis, then they don’t really believe in the teachings of Jesus…they’re just speculating about the way things could be.
In Buddhism we emphasize practice because that leads to true understanding as opposed to mere speculation. As we practice we begin to see how our mind works and how things really are…our beliefs keep changing with our realizations until we finally realize how impermanent our beliefs are, that there is no permanent “self” to be found in them, and that they are essentially unsatisfactory because trying to hold onto them only stands in the way of our willingness learn. Then we can have a real belief…the belief that our beliefs don’t matter, not even the belief that ‘our beliefs don’t matter’ is important, they all become irrelevant as mere beliefs.
please, take care of your heart…
The True Freedom Teachings of Suwattano
This short text may be freely reproduced and distributed, and this statement may be taken as sufficient permission to do so, there is no need to seek further permission. – 1996, updated March 1997 by True Freedom Cyber-Temple