The Five Forms of Buddhism Today

There are at least five forms of Buddhism practiced today. The first form is traditional Buddhism which I described in the previous post. It is an education of the Buddha’s teachings. This original form is rarely seen today. The other four forms are deviations of this one.

The second form is religious Buddhism. Although originally not a religion, it has become one in the past few hundred years. Why has this occurred? The external form of Buddhism today is indeed that of a religion. It is no longer the traditional education found in way places where cultivators had up to 16 hours a day for both lessons and cultivation. The lessons consisted of both lectures and discussions. The cultivation session included either Buddha name chanting or sitting meditation. Study and cultivation were used synergistically to strive for the right and proper understanding and practice, to purify the practitioner’s minds and to eventually attain the state of enlightenment.

Since monks and nuns spend up to 16 hours a day on study and cultivation, there was little time for discriminating or wandering thoughts and so achievement could be quickly attained. Unfortunately, this form of Buddhism is seldom seen in way places of today since many of them have become a place to make offerings, to pray for blessings and to conduct a memorial service. It is little wonder that people today regard Buddhism as a religion.

The third form is philosophical or academic Buddhism often found as a course in college. This is inappropriate. Why? Buddhist education is a complete university in itself, including all branches of learning. But now it is reduced to merely a philosophical discipline. Regarding it as such, we miss the importance of the fact that the teachings are a necessity for all sentient beings. Why? Because these teachings can resolve all problems ranging from those in our current lives to those in the future, including even those of birth and death. Buddhism’s scope is broad and profound and regarding it as merely an academic field of study, is frankly, another deviation. Religions strive to encourage people to be good. Buddhism strives to pursue truth and to gain knowledge.

The fourth and most recent deviation is Buddhism as a show. It consists of a few hours of music, singing and dancing with a short talk in between. However, the fifth form is a deviation that has gone too far, that of the distortion of Buddhism into a cult. This deviation has appeared in the last 30 to 40 years. The exploitation of Buddhism my evil cults have gone too far. In the name of Buddhism, they take advantage of the weakness of human nature, creating chaos by cheating and misleading people, endangering the safety of the public. Some of their propaganda and deeds can sound extremely enticing and appealing. However, if we join their activities, which doom us to ruin, by the time we realize our mistake, the damage will have already been done. It will then be too late to regret. Therefore, we need to choose wisely which form to practice in order to receive the true benefits.