5 Common Misconceptions about Buddhism

A short list of five very common misconceptions about Buddhism


"Buddha is a god"

Buddha is not another name for god like Yahweh or Alah. Answering the question who or what a Buddha exactly is, isn't that easy because it depends on the viewpoint. For some Buddhist traditions, the Buddha was simply a historical person, i.e. a human being who reached spiritual insight through meditative practice. For others, the Buddha has transcended the state of an ordinary human being and possesses special powers. Still, he isn’t considered a god, but rather forms a category of his own. 

It's even more complicated: Buddhism does not deny the existence of gods altogether. Buddhists believe that one can take rebirth as a god, but it is not the goal of Buddhist practice which is to pass beyond the endless cycle of rebirths.

"Karma means fate"

Karma is no synonym for fate or predetermination in Buddhism. The Sanskrit term simply means actions and describes the natural law of causality, i.e. that any action will trigger off a specific effect. It is therefore often called "the law of karma, cause and effect". While it is explained that any karmic action will inevitably lead to a corresponding result, not everything that occurs is believed to have been caused by karma alone. A great deal of what happens is said to depend on conditions as well.

"No war has ever been fought in the name of Buddhism"

That would of course be too good to be true. Buddhists are also humans. Unfortunately, there have been wars and fights in many Buddhist countries and communities. Since the Buddhist doctrine emphasizes non-violence, it is however very difficult to justify a war by the Buddhist doctrine...

"The Dalai Lama is the head of Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism"

One often hears or reads that the Dalai Lama is the religious head of Tibetan Buddhism, or of Buddhism as a whole. In fact, all traditions, also those in Tibet, have their own leaders. The Dalai Lama, belonging to the Tibetan Buddhist Gelug tradition, formally isn’t the religious head of this school. That position is held by the Ganden Tripa (Throne-holder of the Ganden monastery). The Dalai Lamas have been important religious figures within the Gelug tradition, and since the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, were considered also the political leaders of Tibet. 

Nevertheless, after the Chinese invasion, the present Dalai Lama emerged as an important identification figure for  Tibetan Buddhism and is highly revered by its followers to the point of becoming a quasi-head of Tibetan Buddhism.


"All Buddhists are vegetarians"

Shrimp rape (seen in a Mongolian restaurant)
While quite a lot are, many aren't. Vegetarianism is very popular in many Buddhist traditions, but not in all. It's also not the case that all monks would follow a vegetarian diet. If you will spend some time with Tibetan monks for example, you will see that a majority of them eat a lot of meat indeed.

4 Kommentare:

  1. Bitte schön! Das klärt einiges auf! Danke fürs Lesen und Servus.

  2. Karma means the actions and the results of actions. It in fact determines one's fate.

    1. Well, to a certain extent, what you say is right. Karma literally means action. The theory of karma also implies that every action leads to a result which is in accord with the action, the cause. Still, karma doesn't mean that everything is predetermined by past karma/action alone. If your stomach feels bad, this can have many reasons. It can be the result of past karma, true, but it can also be a result of meeting with unfavorable conditions: maybe you ate something wrong or environmental conditions influenced your body negatively, etc. Not everything we experience is karma. The subject of karma is actually more complex, I believe.


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