My take on Buddhism

Update: Most of what I think is summed up more eloquently by Stephen Batchelor’s ‘Buddhism without beliefs‘ and Sam Harris’ ‘Waking Up‘.


When people ask, I say I am a Buddhist. This is easier, as it gives folk a pigeon hole to put me in. However, I don’t think of myself as “a Buddhist” or any other “-ist”. I think and behave in some ways that Buddhists do, some of the time. I have a complex belief system which will always be growing and changing and is based on contemplation of everything I have ever imagined, read or been told. To label myself as any “-ist” limits me to that one belief.

I would not describe myself as a Buddhist because on the whole, I do not subscribe to the Indian cultural references and rituals that Buddhism has become entangled with. Those details belong to a different time and place. However, the principles and of Buddhism and some other Eastern philosophies such as Zen and Tao are useful and make a lot of sense to me.

The Buddha is said to have taught numerous things, which were then spread verbally and eventually written down. Over the years, people have argued over points of theory and competing schools have arisen, which to me, misses the point. This fragmented and conflicting collection has then been translated into Western terms and language. Modern Western Buddhism has surrounded the original teachings with a lot of interpretation and commentary, as the original ideas may seem alien to our Western philosophy and culture and some Sanskrit or Pali words do not have direct translations. At every point in this history, there is ample scope for the original teachings to be subtly altered or misinterpreted, so I personally prefer to concentrate on what was originally said.