I’ve been having this twitter debate with Vince Horn over whether Buddhism is a religion. Of course it is, but it doesn’t have to be. This post from Engage! was written by a native Indian yogi who studied Nyingma with native Tibetan lamas. These are the people whom one would think would be most likely to practice Buddhism as a religion.  The yogi came to the same conclusion I did: that what the Buddha devised was not a religion but an ethical-empirical practice that is a replacement for religion.

And then it occurred to me: if Buddhism is not a religion, then one does not have to join a Buddhist church or organization. The 17th Karmapa said as much in his book The Heart is Noble.

But, as Vince Horn said, what if people want to practice Buddhism as a religion? Let people practice what they want.

Again, I have no argument here. Sure, practice Buddhism as a religion if you want to.

Religions have “beliefs”, unprovable assumptions that are the foundation of that religious system.

Ok, so if Buddhism is a religion, what does it “believe” in?

Nothing. Emptiness.

Ha! I thought about that again and realized that there’s nothing to believe in, which in one sense is the ultimate Cosmic Joke.

Buddhism is totally empty. It’s an empty placeholder to take up space in what is supposed to be the “god part” of the brain. It fills it up with. . . Nothing. . . Emptiness.

It’s like the Occupy movement, which had One Demand. One demand that nobody could articulate. I once called Occupy the first Buddhist political movement in the West because all if offered for an ideology was an empty space.

One Demand ____________ [Fill in the blank].

And that’s all Buddhism offers as a religion: an empty placeholder.

____________ [Fill in the blank].

Meditate. Empty your mind.

Once I grokked this, I stopped being terrified of Buddhist concepts of Nothing and Emptiness.

I just laughed, because I finally got the joke.

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