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Why does Buddhism appeal to you?

mwebbmwebb New
edited January 2015 in Buddhism Basics

Hi everyone.

I am an university student currently researching for an essay regarding contemporary Buddhism.

My question is: why does Buddhism appeal to you?


  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited January 2015

    @mwebb said:
    Hi everyone.

    I am an university student currently researching for an essay regarding contemporary Buddhism.

    My question is: why does Buddhism appeal to you?

    Because it doesn't reduce a spiritual life to "Worship the one true God and obey his Prophets and Priests". Tried that already. The world is full of people happily killing each other in the name of their one true God. Buddhism gives me room to grow. I am a Western Buddhist who practices a stripped-down form of Kwan Um Zen encountered while in Korea, if you need to know.

    Having read the moderator's post below, to answer the question from the title of your essay, Buddhism has throughout its history transformed itself as it spread and encountered other cultures. It's not unique in that aspect; religions transform people's lives and are transformed in return as it is translated into other languages and ways of seeing the world.

    If the religion looks back to Buddha as the founder and author of the core teachings, then it's Buddhism.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The title of the Essay is:

    "What is the appeal of Buddhism today? Can we still refer to it as 'Buddhism' that has changed its forms and practices in its adopted countries?"


    It would perhaps help the OP, not only if we respond to the question in his first post, but also give our impressions of Buddhism as practised in the different countries we hail from, as this is an international forum.

    Many thanks to all contributors.

    PLEASE KEEP TO TOPIC. This thread is for research purposes, therefore, it is important we contribute with @mwebb's questions, and do not diversify or fly off at a tangent!!

  • I have been practicing and meditating for 17 years and I feel in my body and mind a difference. For example I am more patient and less thrown by anger. I also believe on faith that the path goes further than I have gotten to this point. So it feels like I am doing the right thing.

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran
    edited January 2015

    Several different reasons, but I'll highlight the main ones below.

    1) No Us vs. Them. In most forms of Christianity I'm familiar with, you're either a believer or you're going to burn in Hell. I've always had problems with this position, and eventually had to reject it. I can't accept that Gandhi is going to suffer eternal damnation. Buddhism does not automatically condemn unbelievers to torture.

    2) The perfection of man. The doctrine of original sin says that man is inherently sinful and flawed, and can only achieve salvation through divine grace. Buddhism that says by following the Dharma I can achieve Nirvana through my own efforts. I like that.

    3) Buddha is not a god. Although many traditional Buddhists worship Buddha as a god, I've been taught and read that he is to be revered as a great man who taught the Dharma, not a divine figure who created the world and metes out reward and damnation. Perhaps it's pride, but I don't like the thought of having to bow down to cruel and jealous God to prevent eternal torture.

    4) I have also had a very positive results using Buddhist meditation techniques. I have become a better, healthier person by following the Dharma.

    To other members of the forum: if I've got any of this wrong, please correct me, though it might be better to do it in a different thread.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 2015

    Interesting question. My answer to such questions changes depending on the day, with certain aspect taking the forefront in my mind, and today's no different. For instances, since recently starting Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, some of the things mentioned in the introduction and foreword have given me a new appreciation for what the Buddha taught from an evolutionary standpoint.

    According to people like Dawkins, for example, there are two kinds of units in natural selection, the gene (as replicator) and the organism (as vehicle). And while the vehicle may be more or less altruistic, doing things out of compassion, generosity, etc., the genes are decidedly 'selfish.' In this context, deceit is arguably fundamental in animal communication, therefore, as Robert Trivers points out, "there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray - by the subtle signs of self-knowledge - the deception being practiced" (The Selfish Gene, xx).

    Here we see that some of our motivations, influenced by a subtle form of selfishness, lay hidden within us (original sin?). This is akin to the Buddhist teaching that many of our actions are conditioned/coloured by greed, hatred, and delusion (i.e., selfishness and self-deception); and one of the Buddha's insights was that we can master these mental processes of conditionality in such a way as to 'go against the stream' of craving (tahna, which here can be seen as the influence of genetic selfishness on human psychology) and ultimately transcend craving altogether. As Dawkins puts it, "Our brains have evolved to the point where we are capable of rebelling against our selfish genes" (xiv); and the Buddha was one of the greatest revolutionaries in this regard.

    So looking at it from the perspective of evolutionary biology, I'd say that it's the contemplative aspects of Buddhism that appeal to me the most. Although other religious traditions have their own forms of robust contemplativism, Buddhism has a very thorough and explicit form that I think cuts straight to the heart of the human condition. By practicing things like mindfulness meditation and constantly observing our actions via MN 61, we begin to remove this evolutionary veil of ignorance or avijja ('not knowing'), allowing us to see within the hidden depths of our psyche so that we can begin to condition changes in our behaviour and perception that lead to fuller awareness, self-knowledge and control, and liberation via transcendence of our genetic programming.

    Today, Buddhism comes in all shapes and sizes, arising out of a peculiar Indic culture, replete with its own religious traditions and worldview, and further shaped by the diverse cultures in which it's taken root, giving rise to numerous schools and approaches. Much of it may appear to be outdated and superstitious to the scientifically minded; but I think the underlying goal, as well as the various practices and insights that characterize 'Buddhism,' have a lot to offer us in terms of understanding and transforming ourselves.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 2015

    @nakazcid said: To other members of the forum: if I've got any of this wrong, please correct me, though it might be better to do it in a different thread.


    Nothing to correct, at all.
    you answered the question in the primary post. That's perfect.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    Initially the appeal of Buddhism for me was it being non-theistic. Then I got into meditation and it became a journey of discovery, an opening out of perceptions, at times scary, at times exhilarating.
    Might add more later.....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    It appeals to me because it leaves me, and only me, accountable. There is no middle man to go through in order to recognize the divine, the universe, the truth..whatever you prefer to call it. It's just me. All of the things people seek are actually already inside them. They just have to know how to get in touch. That is what Buddhism does for me.

    Can we refer to it as Buddhism as it's spread and somewhat changed forms? Yes. There are different turnings of the wheel of dharma, each expanding on the next. Some people are happy at a particular spot on that wheel, others move on. Just depends where they are on their path. There is discussion on what the 5th turning will be, if it exists, and it is being contemplated by some that whatever Buddhism turns into as it continues to flourish in the western world will be the 5th turning. Not sure how I feel about that yet, but it's out there.

  • Rowan1980Rowan1980 Keeper of the Zoo Asheville, NC Veteran
    Because I am a huge fan of the concept of ending suffering through human effort, motivation, and reasoning. My personal experience is that the belief that there is more to life than my own happiness, as well as the desire to do something to benefit all beings was what drew me to Buddhism. Worrying about my pride, how others viewed me, getting what I wanted, and being motivated by anger had not served me well. It was time to take a radically different approach. Buddhism won out. :)
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    Four Noble Truths / Noble Eightfold Path: most brilliant self-help psychological system I have found to this day.
    A system that won't work if you don't put the theory into practice or if you don't walk the walk.
    But if you do, inner peace lies at the end.
    Acceptance of reality as it is, not as I would like it to be.

    In Buddhism there is no superior being to respond to.
    Only yourself.
    You act skillfully, you create a positive life for yourself.
    You act unskillfully, you create sorrow for yourself.

  • SarahTSarahT Time ... space ... joy South Coast, UK Veteran

    Similar to @DhammaDragon for me but perhaps even simpler. The basic assumption of Buddhism - that ordinary life brings about suffering - accords with my experience. Any philosophy based on an assumption that does this is attractive to me.

    I label myself a Christian who seeks Buddhist wisdom. The summary of christianity for me, the reason I describe myself that way, is the two great commandments and that I choose to make these a priority in my life. Perhaps it is simplistic to say that Buddhism "is" the four noble truths/noble eightfold path as many calling themselves buddhists are not even aware of these (@lobster posted a link about this somewhere but can't find it now!) but that's what it's about for me. And I believe that my pursuit of Buddhist wisdom as set out in the 4NT/N8P makes me better able to fulfil my Christian goals.

    That's why Buddhism appeals to me but perhaps I am a bit of an oddity! :neutral_face:

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Honestly, I am no longer sure.

  • TheEccentricTheEccentric South east, UK Veteran
    edited January 2015

    I like it because it allows me to be spiritual without being religious. I feel that it is a wise way to live that will exist a long time after organized religion falls.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 2015

    Because the Buck Stops Here.

    And while it is a determined aspect of Theistic religions that one looks for support to some omnipotent deity, and one can seek to deposit all of ones troubles 'out there', in Buddhism, it is accepted that everything we perceive, experience, think, say and do, has to be dealt with 'in here'.

    Buddhism is the last word in Ultimate Responsibility for one's self.
    And you can quote me on that. :)

  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    My answer to the OP's question would also seem to change every day. "I" am not the same "me" everyday (but just try and tell me that!).

    I've always intuited a 'power', whatever that is, transcendent to whatever heights the human mind has reached. As a little kid I was probably conditioned like the next kid to KNOW there is a higher power than mankind. It sure stuck with me, and I'm OK with that as a 'cause' of how I've always looked 'beyond' my family, community, country, and lately species for the most comprehensive 'view'.

    Just like most in the west I grew up being told there is a God out there who watches and judges and either rewards or punishes me. I've yet to see the evidence of that in my life or anyone else's for that matter.

    Buddhism made actual SENSE from the beginning, leaving off a "God out there watching me" and taking that objective viewing of self and world and placing it back within me. The connection to that transcendent realm is born into us as humans and who knows, maybe a few other sentient species.

    For me Buddhism is practical, it has to be or I'll end up tossing it in the recycling bin. The Buddhist "cosmology", such as it is, resonates with what I already sensed. The Christian 'cosmology' obviously resonates with many in the same way.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @SarahT said:
    That's why Buddhism appeals to me but perhaps I am a bit of an oddity! :neutral_face:

    Oddities are good!

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran
    It appeals to me because I have always been searching for something outside of myself.
    Buddhism turns you inwards. Now I've stopped searching outside of myself.

    The truths in Buddhism can also be tested on an experiential level. Once I saw the reality in what it was pointing to my trust deepened.

    It provides a tangible way to end suffering, not through hope or belief. But by direct realisation.

    There also are people living in this world who have reached this point.
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran

    I like the idea of insight. Unlike other religions I've encountered, Buddhism places a great deal on getting to the bottom of concepts and notions and figuring out whether or not the ideas we hold are based in reality or false notions created by our environment. It's a work in progress, but I have found this concept invaluable to my issues with depression, for just one example.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The Void Veteran

    I don't have to take anything on faith and the focus is meant to be on 'personal development' (a western concept, not really expressed in traditional Buddhism) rather than worship.

  • @mwebb said:
    Hi everyone.

    Hi :)

    I am an university student currently researching for an essay regarding contemporary Buddhism.


    My question is: why does Buddhism appeal to you?

    You will notice the diversity of answers.

    For example one might say:

    • 'We appeal to Buddhism' (take refuge)
    • Only requirements are being human and a stilled mind
    • It works. It is pragmatic.

    However I will ask my talking meditation cushion your question . . .

    Now there is an invitation if ever there was one . . .

  • I was drawn to Buddhism while I was experimenting with it seems like just about every Religion/Spirituality under the great sun. It was the only one that I saw that I could just cherry pick what was good for me (how convenient), what I needed in life and use that wisdom for good. I along with many others have a problem with rebirth and reincarnation, good thing is, I don't have to believe in it and it doesn't matter. Siddhartha Gautama was no God nor did he claim to have any sort of divinity, He was an enlightened human being, a Buddha.

    Buddhism was a path that didn't have all these ridiculous things that I had to do (Coming from Catholicism) that I always asked myself why am I doing this? Or why is this necessary? Or having a problem with most of the Bible... This always frustrated me because how can you have a problem with the word of God? (So I was told) You have already messed up if you do this "cherry picking" in the Bible or any Holy Book that claims to be the word of God.

    I like to think of Buddhism like I do of Socrates, to me, it doesn't matter if Socrates didn't really exist as I hear some people say he didn't. Just like I don't know if Siddhartha Gautama really existed, but in all reality it doesn't matter because the teachings are there for you to follow in Buddhism and if you follow them with dedication you will see a change in your life, do don't need to invest blind faith in anything. Just as with Socrates, you can use his Socratic Method today. Where the belief in Jesus, well, everything just crumbles if he wasn't he was in the Bible, the inspired word of God.

  • I strongly believed in compassion before Buddhism so was heavily drawn to it from that. Compassion as the meaning and value of life - for happiness, for the benefit of others and myself. It's IT for me. Though I definitely struggle with being compassionate as I think all unenlightened beings do :) - intuitively it just feels right.

    Also the whole end suffering and be happy thing - I've always been on a romantic trek to be free, happy and without all this suffering. It makes the most sense and has done the most for me in this regard :). I resisted the spiritual, intensive nature of Buddhism as a teenager - but now I am ready - I tried it out and it's been working like nothing ever has. It's the greatest gift to mind Dharma in life to me :).
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    Anyway Buddhism is jolly good, the best thing since sliced bread. ;)

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    edited January 2015

    Buddhism makes me realise who I AM by allowing me to be WHO I AM...

    I have not had to read and contemplate any other religious commentaries over and above the 4 noble truths to intellectually, metaphysically and be understanding of what being is that I cannot subsequently find or forge to perfection in my mind.

    However, it has also taught me to be humble and that I am ultimately dependent on every other person and their actions in this universe to be who I am, and simultaneously they are just as interdependent upon me and everyone else like you to be who they are...

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Please keep to topic, and do not begin tangential discourses, which will be a distraction to The O/P.

    Many thanks.

    (Some O/T posts and comments removed)

  • It's so awesome to read these responses. Most affirm, at least in my own mind, why I embrace Buddhism.

  • I don't consider myself a Buddhist. I just like to challenge my mind. Buddhism teaches things that are counter intuitive in today's society. That intrigues me because although I do not claim to know any of the "correct" paths in life... I do know the ones that don't work for me. It is a process of elimination. I find some very thought provoking and useful teachings in Buddhism. So for me, it helps keep me on track by filling my mind with curiosity. The teachings also reinforce the importance of acceptance and I humbly get put back in place very quickly when reading some of the teachings.
  • To me, Buddhism is wonderful because it's NOT a religion, per se. It doesn't require belief, in fact belief is a form of attachment. Simple adherence to principles, compassion, and mindfulness are all you need.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 2015
    I like it because when a teaching hits home, I can feel it making sense and I don't have to suspend my disbelief to "get it".

    Compassion is presented as a matter of common sense or logic and not as a rule we must follow or be punished.

    The dharma doesn't depend on Buddha being other worldly or a messenger from a deity in order for it to work and can stand on its own merit. On hearing the dharma we are asked to hold it up to scrutiny and not believe it just because it is said.

    If I am asked my religion I usually say Buddhist but I see Buddhism as more of a process than a religion. In a way it teaches how to perceive instead of what to perceive.
  • rohitrohit Maharrashtra Veteran

    It does not says that don't think that scriptures are right without proper analysis.When it says that it is peaceful religion then it mean practically.

  • This is just the answer of a complete beginner but for me it's just the simplistic peace and calm itbrings to a mum of five x

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    edited January 2015

    @carolann said:
    This is just the answer of a complete beginner but for me it's just the simplistic peace and calm itbrings to a mum of five x

    There are no beginners...
    Tell me @carolann, how do you control 5 kids and remain peaceful and calm? Your answers will illuminate many minds I am certain...

    MODERATOR NOTE: As advised, off topic comments and banter removed.
    See my post at top of page.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @mwebb said:
    I am an university student currently researching for an essay regarding contemporary Buddhism.

    Are these answers helpful? Anything in particular you would like us to comment on?

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Good point @SpinyNorman‌, in fact I am intending to now close the thread until the OP advises me whether they require more input.
    Up to now, it's been a good response, so it's now up to @mwebb‌ to give the heads up.

    Thanks to all, who contributed. Good stuff.

This discussion has been closed.