How would you define "Buddhism"?


“An Asian religion based on the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama.”
From Oxford Learner’s Dictionary


To me, the religion of Buddhism is the consensus that because there is difficulty, it must come from somewhere, so it must have an end, which means there’s a way of getting there.


All definitions are impermanent

nonBuddhism + time = Buddhism
Buddhism + time = nonBuddhism

It depends on whether you’re a Buddhist or a nonBuddhist. But it’s best to be neither :wink:


Oh! I recently defined Buddhism in my Buddhism 101 Class ! :grinning:


Saṃvaratthaṃ pahānatthaṃ,
brahmacariyaṃ anītihaṃ;
Adesayi so bhagavā,

Esa maggo mahattehi ,
anuyāto mahesibhi ;
Ye ye taṃ paṭipajjanti,
yathā buddhena desitaṃ;
Dukkhassantaṃ karissanti,

The Lord taught a holy life
Not based on tradition,
For restraint and abandoning,
Leading to and merging in Nibbāna.

This is the path followed by the great,
Pursued by the lofty sages.
Those who enter that course
As taught by the Enlightened One,
Heeding the Teacher’s instruction,
Will make an end of suffering.



:pray: Thank you for explaining.

I thought to explain because my exposure to Buddhism was through the Burmese emphasis mindfulness and mediation techniques - the study and practice of Dhamma-Vinaya textual sources expanded my focus from those two factors to others that also seem important and necessary to achieve the end goal of Buddhism.

I agree, no one is inherently a Buddhist (or nonBuddhist).
Acting and living one’s life in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya seems to be what makes one a true Buddhist.


come from somewhere=2NT
so it must have an end=3NT
which means there’s a way of getting there=4NT

Can that which is impermanent still have utility value?
Is there any value in defining Buddhism or does it seem better to leave it vague and undefined, perhaps blur its boundaries the way that say Hinduism seems to?

Buddhism will inevitably become nonBuddhism over time?

nonBuddhism will inevitably become Buddhism over time?

Why does it depend on whether you are Buddhist or nonBuddhist? :thinking:

:thinking: Why? What’s the value of being neither?

:pray:Thank you, Bhante!:pray:



Yes and No. In the grand scheme of things, I would say Yes, if it brings us to that which is not impermanent (i.e. the deathless). And No, because while it may have had utility value yesterday, it may not today. Why have so few of us entered the stream today, whereas in the past many more did even though we have the (same?) instructions? What has happened to ‘Buddhism’ or ‘humanity’ or more likely ‘both’ to make the teachings of Gotama Buddha less efficacious than they once were?

For whom, in what scenario? Not for me at this point in my life and practice, but yes, e.g. for a student doing a Buddhism 101 course run by @Khemarato.bhikkhu .

Yes. That is my understanding. But I don’t have the sutta references. First the dhamma of Gotama Buddha gets corrupted and then it is lost from the world.

Yes. That is my understanding. But again I don’t have the sutta references. Gotama Buddha was the last (sammasam)buddha to arise in the world, but there are other previous Buddha’s referenced in the EBTs such as Kassapa. If the teachings of Kassapa Buddha had survived intact, then there would be no need for the arising of Gotama Buddha. I think that the general arc is: A Buddha arises in the world, gives the teachings, over time they become corrupted, they die out, then when the conditions are right another Buddha arises in the world to teach. We are fortunate to be born at a time when there are still remnants of the teachings available (thank you suttacentral) and we (humanity) still has the faculties to get some utility value out of them.

Well yes, I was being a little flippant. But after a little practice I think that our understanding of what is meant by “impermanence” changes in quite a dramatic way. As I understand it impermanence is the core teaching of Buddhism.

As I understand it, when you have given up this view - being ‘something’ or not being ‘something’ - and instead fully understood dependent origination, then you have crossed the deluge and having thus extracted all the utility value out of Buddhism, you can lay down the raft. I was cheekily suggesting that being neither ‘this’ nor ‘that’ (nor inbetween) is the equivalent of being an arahant, and hence holding the identity view of a Buddhist or a nonBuddhist was just an example of how not to be an arahant.


I believe we are here:

DN26:18.1: And so, mendicants, from not paying money to the penniless, all these things became widespread—poverty, theft, swords, killing, lying, backbiting, sexual misconduct, harsh speech and talking nonsense, desire and ill will, wrong view, illicit desire, immoral greed, and wrong thoughts, and lack of due respect for mother and father, ascetics and brahmins, and failure to honor the elders in the family. For the sentient beings among whom these things were widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined. Those people who lived for two hundred and fifty years had children who lived for a hundred years.

It gets worse. Then it gets better.


Isn’t it more a case of there is more counterfeit dhamma today, so one has to look closely at the written teachings and listen closely to how it’s presented by a teacher?


Yes. For sure. That’s a good way of putting it. I found a couple of suttas.



AN5.79:5.2: When discourses spoken by the Realized One—deep, profound, transcendent, dealing with emptiness—are being recited they won’t want to listen. They won’t pay attention or apply their minds to understand them, nor will they think those teachings are worth learning and memorizing. But when discourses composed by poets—poetry, with fancy words and phrases, composed by outsiders or spoken by disciples—are being recited they will want to listen. They’ll pay attention and apply their minds to understand them, and they’ll think those teachings are worth learning and memorizing.

Hmm. I suppose we are almost here. (and thanks for the link)


And here’s another that is perhaps more in line with the thoughts of @awarewolf



“If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should not give way to resentment, displeasure, or animosity against them in your heart. For if you were to become angry or upset in such a situation, you would only be creating an obstacle for yourselves. If you were to become angry or upset when others speak in dispraise of us, would you be able to recognize whether their statements are rightly or wrongly spoken?”

“Certainly not, Lord.”

"If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should unravel what is false and point it out as false, saying: ‘For such and such a reason this is false, this is untrue, there is no such thing in us, this is not found among us.’

"And if, bhikkhus, others speak in praise of me, or in praise of the Dhamma, or in praise of the Sangha, you should not give way to jubilation, joy, and exultation in your heart. For if you were to become jubilant, joyful, and exultant in such a situation, you would only be creating an obstacle for yourselves.

If others speak in praise of me, or in praise of the Dhamma, or in praise of the Sangha, you should acknowledge what is fact as fact, saying: ‘For such and such a reason this is a fact, this is true, there is such a thing in us, this is found among us.’
DN 1 Brahmajāla Sutta: The All-embracing Net of Views

"For the Blessed One, O Lord, spoke these words to me: ‘I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by the appropriate conduct, and having learned the Master’s word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse Dhamma arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma.’
DN 16 Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha

According to the Buddha as conveyed in DN 16, shouldn’t those who accept the Dhamma-Vinaya taught by the Buddha take steps to refute Adhamma-Avinaya thoroughly and well, whether it arises in other religions or even within sects of Buddhism?


Very carefully and mindfully.


I have bolded parts of your questions which seem to me particularly concerning.

No, I don’t think so; it’s an external distraction, puts people off, puts fuels on identity views and ill will, brings the Sangha into disrepute. For those who slander the Buddha, or voluntarily enter into debate, I think DN16 is a guide but it never imo is more important than the Noble 8 Fold Path or (secondarily) preserving the Dhamma. Picking a fight harms.


Not only are there the dangers that @ERose mentions, but how will you know what is Right Dhamma or slightly different Dhamma, unless you are yourself enlightened?

This is a very slippery slope. Wars are fought about religious beliefs.


“Buddhism” is series a series of religions based on the memory of a celebrity śramaṇa ascetic named “Gautama.”


Seeing things the way they are?

(Just for clarity this statement is humour!)


Refuting others is pointless and potentially endless. It can only lead to arguments, hurt feelings and, if carried too far, even war. Stop worrying about others beliefs and look to your own practice.



So then how can I properly understand what the Buddha meant to convey here below?

How can one refute Adhamma thoroughly and well when it arises?

Do you have textual support for enlightenment being a necessity for being able to discern wrong and right Dhamma?
If someone says the Buddha taught X when he clearly didn’t and says that he didn’t teach Y when he clearly did, I don’t think one has to be enlightened to know that the other being spoke what is false, wrong, and contrary to fact.

Perhaps “refuting Adhamma thoroughly and well” does not entail arguing, fighting, disputation, picking a fight, nor warring, etc.
What if not refuting Adhamma-Avinaya is harmful, unbeneficial, and contrary to Dhamma-Vinaya?
What if the pop culture notion of “agreeing to disagree” and “tolerating and respecting the beliefs of others” was not actually endorsed by the Buddha?
Yes, the Buddha definitely taught that argumentation, fighting, and war is against the Dhamma-Vinaya.
But he also seems to clearly state that he refused to pass away until his disciples at that time were able to refute Adhamma that arose thoroughly and well.
What if those of us who are not refuting Adhamma-Avinaya thoroughly and well are not acting in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya and those of us who are, are acting in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya…even if the reverse appears true? :thinking: