10 of the Most Common Misconceptions and Myths about Buddhism

More than 400 million people worldwide practice Buddhism, representing about 7% of the world’s population. Despite the prevalence of Buddhism as a religion, however, many people still believe common misconceptions about it.

If you are interested in Buddhism, you may be surprised to learn that some things you thought you knew about it are not true. Here’s a look at the top 10 myths about Buddhism to help clear up some misunderstandings.

1. Buddhism is Only Practiced in China

People often associate Buddhism with China, partly due to the common sight of Buddhist statues in Chinese restaurants. But the truth is that Buddhism is a major religion in many Asian countries, including Thailand, Japan, and India.

In fact, historical accounts claim that origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, was first brought to Japan by Buddhists monks. If this topic interests you, you can learn more at origami.me.

2. Statues Depict the Buddha

Since we mentioned Buddhist statues, we should clarify that most of these statues do not actually depict the original Buddha, Siddharta Gautama. The statues depicting a large-bellied bald man are known as “the laughing Buddha,” and are separate from the original Buddah, who was thin.

3. All Buddhists are Vegetarians

Although many Buddhists, especially in Asia, are vegetarians, vegetarianism is not considered a requirement of the religion. While some Buddhists believe that abstaining from meat is an important way of maintaining a healthy mind and body, others believe that eating ethically-sourced meat is acceptable.

4. Buddhism is a Philosophy, Not a Religion

Many Western adopters of Buddhism, who are disenchanted with organized religion, will claim that Buddhism does not “count” as a religion. In reality, Buddhism is one of the seven major world religions and is represented by several different philosophical sects.

5. Buddhists Worship Buddha

On the flip side, some folks who recognize that Buddhism is a religion believe Buddhists worship Buddha. Instead, Buddha was a historical person whose teachings regarding Enlightenment Buddhists follow.

6. Buddhists Believe in Reincarnation

While some Buddhists believe in reincarnation, most don’t. Buddhists do believe in rebirth, which is an entirely different concept regarding the passing on of emotions, memories, and tendencies.

7. Nirvana is the Buddhist Version of Heaven

In Nirvana, Buddhists believe they will be free from their personal identity and desires. These beliefs conflict with the concept of Christian heaven, where personal identity is maintained.

8. Karma is Fate

In Buddhism, karma is an energy that people put out in the world through their actions. This is different from fate, which is unchanging in spite of actions.

9. Meditation is Central to Buddhism

While some sects of Buddhism emphasize meditation, it is less stressed in others. In fact, most Buddhists surveyed report that they don’t meditate often.

10. The Dalai Lama is the Buddhist Pope

The Dalai Lama and the Pope are often the two major religious figures that come to people’s minds. But the Dalai Lama is only the leader of a small sect of Tibetan Buddhism, not of all Buddhists.

Moving Beyond Myths About Buddhism

If learning about these myths about Buddhism has inspired you to learn more about your spiritual path, then you’re in the right place. Contact us to get started on the path to discovering your life’s journey.

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