Edited by Matthew Clarke
Whether or not Buddhism is a religion is always open to question. Scholars of religion typically include Buddhism within their inquiry since it shows many of the characteristics of what a religion is understood to be: systems of belief, institutional organization around belief and ritual practices, religious specialists in its monastic system and an ethical discourse based upon its teachings and beliefs. However, the fact that Buddhism does not teach belief in a transcendental deity or supernatural being(s) does differentiate it from most other religious systems. While the figure of the Buddha and various bodhisattvas1 do, at the popular level, more or less, fulfil the role of transcendental deities, and often Buddhists will combine local animistic beliefs in the supernatural within their Buddhist practice, the ‘orthodox’ view is that a reliance upon the divine is an obstacle to the individual taking responsibility for their own journey towards enlightenment.
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