Many people assume that because I teach meditation I am probably a Buddhist. This is a natural mistake to make since the two are often confused. However meditation is a practical skill. Buddhism is a conservative Asian religion. There is no automatic connection between the two.
Meditation as a skill is compatible with the scientific world view while Buddhism with its reliance on karma and reincarnation is not. Buddhism also believes in a strong Cartesian duality of body and mind which no good scientist takes seriously nowadays.
I can’t claim to know what Buddhism means to ethnic Buddhists nowaday. I haven’t done the study and the field is too diverse. In this article I will restrict myself to explaining the key ideas of Buddhism as mapped out in the original texts. In doing so it will become obvious why I am not a Buddhist.
We have no excuse for being ignorant of what the Buddha taught. He established a highly regulated monastic order during his forty years of teaching. About eight hundred of his sermons have survived. His arguments are clear, systematic and practical. We know exactly what he wanted his followers to do. He is a most impressive thinker even if we disagree with his values.
The Buddha was a typical old-style ascetic. He loathed the world and all worldly pursuits with an intensity that is almost impossible to imagine nowadays. He taught a path of liberation from the world and from future rebirths and gave detailed instructions on how to achieve this. Because his approach is so cold and uncompromising, Buddhist teachers have sweetened the message ever since.
Nowadays Buddhism is usually presented as promoting peace, ‘compassion,’ living in the present and having a philosophic acceptance of whatever happens. There is nothing wrong with this but it is far removed from what the Buddha actually taught. I regard this as ‘Sentimental Buddhism’ and it doesn’t do him justice. There was nothing at all sentimental about him, as you will see [via Meditation Articles > Why I am not a Buddhist.]