Buddhism has often been misunderstood more than any other major faith. Buddhism is the second-oldest religion worldwide and has gone through numerous changes over the last 2,500 years says Jonah Engler. We understand that the core Buddhist dogma has intentionally not been open to casual observers. The inherent teachings associated with mindfulness and meditation, for instance, are unveiled to the adherents of Buddhism who have been pursuing the path for over a few years. As such, there are numerous misconceptions about Buddhism.
Jonah Engler says that people believe several things about Buddhism without realizing they are incorrect. People assume that Buddhists believe that if anything goes wrong, it is all because of your past misdeeds. Everybody wrongly assumes that Buddhists must mandatorily be vegetarians. Many things you know about Buddhism may be myths. Modern culture seems to have fostered innumerable myths about Buddhism. Some of the common misconceptions about Buddhism are below:
Misconception: All Buddhists Have to Be Vegetarians
Non-Buddhists in the West, particularly in the United States, are startled and shocked to meet non-vegetarian Buddhists. Even though a majority of the Buddhists in the East are vegetarians, Buddhists in Europe and the United States are both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. They seem to be evenly divided. Some contemporary Buddhists think that it is fine to be a non-vegetarian provided they are not witnessing animal slaughter or killing. Some Buddhists are vegetarians while others are not.
A few schools of Buddhism believe in vegetarianism. However, it is left to the follower to choose to be vegetarian or not. Vegetarianism is not a commandment but very much a personal choice! Some of the ancient Buddhist scriptures have pointed out that Gautama Buddha was not vegetarian.
Misconception: Buddhist “Nirvana” & Christian “Heaven” Are the Same
Mainstream Christian sects believe in heaven, an ultimate destination where everybody will have a personal identity and where all your desires will be fulfilled. Nirvana fundamentally implies the cessation of desires and the non-existence of personal identity. While ‘nirvana’ implies extinguishing your desires, ‘sky’ implies heavenly bliss according to some exponents.
Misconception: Buddhists Are Staunch Believers in Reincarnation
If the definition of reincarnation is the transmigration of souls into new bodies after the old bodies die, then Buddhism does not preach the doctrine of reincarnation. Buddha preached to his followers that no soul exists to transmigrate.
In reality, some Buddhists are believers in reincarnation while others are not. However, most of them believe in rebirth. Reincarnation implies the transfer of a constant identity from life to life after death and rebirth. Jonah Engler says that for Buddhists, rebirth does not imply carrying over emotions, and memories.
Misconception: Buddhism Advocates That Nothing Exists
Buddhism does not preach that nothing exists. It is all about challenging our interpretation and understanding the way things exist. Buddhism advocates that phenomena and beings do not have any intrinsic existence. However, advocates of Buddhism never claim that nothing exists. Lack of sound knowledge of the doctrines of Shunyata and Anatta leads to the misconception that Buddhists believe nothing exists.
Misconception: All Buddhists Practice Meditation
Meditation is often believe to be the core or fundamental principle of Buddhism. However, the fact remains that the majority of the followers of Buddhism do not practice meditation. Meditation has conventionally been regard as a monastic practice that is a specialty of just a few monks. It was only in the 20th century that meditation began to be embrace and practiced by everyone.
Misconception: Mindfulness Is the Chief Form of Buddhist Meditation
Buddhists follow many forms of meditation. Some meditation forms in Buddhism are best for creating deep states of mental bliss and concentration. There are some more forms of meditation that help analyze the components of the body and mind. Mindfulness is certainly not the chief form of Buddhist meditation. The concept of mindfulness meditation followed by most Americans started way back in the 20th century in Burma.
Misconception: Karma Is Fate
Karma is not fate, but it is action. According to Buddhism, karma is essentially energy generate by willful action via words, deeds, and thoughts. Everybody is generating karma every single minute. Karma impacts us every minute. People often believe that karma is the actions of your past life. However, the Buddhist understanding is not so. Karma is not a result but an action. You can alter or transform your life by getting rid of self-destructive patterns and modifying your volitional acts.
Misconception: Karma Will Punishes Those Who Deserve to Be Punished
Karma is not an intergalactic system of retribution & justice. There seems to be no unseen or unknown judge waiting to punish the wrongdoers by pulling the strings of your karma. Just like gravity, karma happens to be impersonal. Karma is not solely responsible for everything that takes place in the world. If a devastating flood brings about massive destruction and death, you should not automatically assume that the people got what they deserved or people got punish for some misdeed. Unfortunate events do occur, and things may go wrong with everybody. Always remember that the most righteous people also go through ordeals.
Misconception: Buddhism Upholds a Uniform Code of Belief
Nothing could be more misleading than this. There are three distinct sects in Buddhism. Each sect is further divide into offshoots. Buddhism does not boast a uniform code of conduct. Just like Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity, different sects of Buddhism follow and uphold their code of beliefs and conduct.
Misconception: The Ten Commandments & the Four Noble Truths Are the Same in Spirit
This is very much an incorrect comparison. The Christian Commandments are the things to do for leading a worthy and fulfilling life. However, the Four Noble Truths preached in Buddhism are different in spirit and meaning. The four noble truths highlight the facts of life, the way sufferings originate, and the efforts to get rid of the suffering says Jonah Engler. Nothing seems to be common between Christian commandments and the Buddhist scriptures.
Be aware of the common Buddhism myths and misconceptions and learn your facts well. It could be beneficial for you in the long run. You may browse through some good books on Buddhism online to know more facts about Buddhism.