» Country? Thailand.
» In a few words, what is the idea? This is a timely question when you travel through Thailand and visit Buddhist temples, here we venture to give our opinion. What do you think?
» For whom? Travellers who, when observing faithful devotees and the ceremonies in Buddhist temples, find it interesting to discuss this question.
» Where? In the Buddhist temples.
» When? During the visit to one of them.
Perhaps you have never been interested in this matter, but now that your attention is focused on Thailand, it may be a good time to do so, because, throughout your trip, Buddhism will be omnipresent and depending on what you see, it might not be easy to understand.
Surely you will have the idea that Buddhism is an Eastern philosophy because the knowledge does not come from the revelation of a god, however, although that is true, you will probably be surprised during your travel around Thailand by somewhat strange behaviours, more typical of faith than reason, which leads us to the question:
Is Buddhism a philosophy or a religion?
This question has no definitive answer, but here we are going to argue that, although it is unquestionably a philosophy, it has a lot to do with religion.
Buddhism is a philosophy of life – it implies a way of living, a way of interacting with things and with others, of solving everyday problems, of setting targets and thinking about what hurts us.
It is also a philosophy in the sense of a doctrine of life, that is to say, it addresses the transcendental meaning of life and shows us a way of avoiding suffering and achieving the higher spiritual state they call Nirvana.
And finally, Buddhism is a philosophy in the sense of an intellectual activity that aims to go beyond superficial appearance to delve into the meaning of things, the essence of reality.
But besides philosophy, it has many traits inherent to religion.
It is not easy to understand concepts such as Nirvana, emptiness or the profound sense of reincarnation, the reason why for a vast majority, being a Buddhist is more an act of faith than the result of rational speculation, a belief which, like religion, is transmitted through practices learnt from childhood within the realm of the family.
In short, when you have the chance, you can ask the monks about their philosophy and, at other times, if you find yourself at a ceremony that does not exactly fit that category, think that what you are witnessing has more to do with Buddhism as a religion.