Is Buddhism a science or a religion?

 

I talked with a woman at a Christmas partly and happened to mention that I do a form of “Mindfulness Therapy” based on Buddhist self-inquiry.

Oh, I am Christian and feel uncomfortable about Buddhism.

Hm. I see it more as a science than a religion, at least when it comes to using it as a form of therapy.

But it is a religion! 

So is it a science or a religion? It all depends on how we relate to it.

If we take it as a faith, something to believe in, pray to, set up a shrine to, see it mostly as external, and want to preserve as is, then it becomes a religion.

If we take it as pointers, a guide, something to explore for ourselves, a mirror for what we can explore in ourselves, then it becomes a science. And just as any science, it can be something to test in collaboration with others and clarify, refine, and extend through our shared exploration.

This goes for any aspect of Buddhist practice, including inquiry, heart centered practices, resting with / as our experience, and training a more stable attention. For instance, we can explore the effects of tonglen, a heart centered practice, and some of the mechanisms behind it. (E.g. helps us change our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world which can be very healing.)

And although it’s perhaps easier to take Buddhism as a science of the mind than some of the other traditions, we can apply the same approach to any tradition or approach to spirituality. We can take a pragmatic approach and explore the effects of the different tools and aspects of the tradition.

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