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    Posted August 15, 2013 by
    Mandalay, Myanmar

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    Religion of Freedom


    This is a religion of freedom and reason for human beings to lead a noble life.
    UDDHISM does not prevent anyone from learning the teachings of other religions. In fact, the Buddha encouraged his followers to learn about other religions and to compare His Teachings with other teachings. The Buddha says that if there are reasonable and rational teachings in other religions, His followers are free to respect such teachings. It seems that certain religionists try to keep their followers in the dark; some of them are not even allowed to touch other religious objects or books. They are instructed not to listen to the preachings of other religions. They are enjoined not to doubt the teachings of their own religion, however unconvincing their teachings may appear to be. They believe that the more they keep their followers on a one-track mind, the more easily they can keep them under control. If anyone of them exercises freedom of thought and realises that he or she had been in the dark all the time, then it is alleged that the devil has possessed their mind. People are given no opportunity to use their common sense and education. Those who wish to change their views on religion are taught to believe that they are not worthy to be allowed to use free will in judging anything for themselves.
    According to the Buddha, religion should be left to one’s own free choice. Religion is not a law, but a disciplinary code which should be followed with understanding. To Buddhists true religious principles is neither a divine law nor a human law, but a universal law.
    In actual fact, there is no real religious freedom in any part of the world today. People have no freedom even to think freely. Whenever they realise that they cannot find satisfaction through their own religion to which they belong, which cannot provide them with satisfactory answers to certain questions, they have no liberty to give it up and to accept another which appeals to them. The reason is that religious authorities, leaders, and family members have taken that freedom away from them. People should be allowed to choose their religion which is in accordance with their own conviction. One has no right to force another to accept a particular religion. This is particularly obvious when people from two different religions fall in love. Some people surrender their religion to get married, without a proper understanding of their partner’s religion. Religion should not be changed to suit a person’s emotions and human weaknesses. One must think very carefully before changing one’s religion. Religion is not a subject for bargaining; one should not change one’s religion for emotional, personal, material gains. Religion is to be used for spiritual development and for self-salvation.
    Buddhists do not try to influence other religionists to come and embrace their religion for material gain. Nor do they try to exploit poverty, sickness, illiteracy and ignorance in order to increase the number of Buddhists in the population. The Buddha advised those who indicated their wish to follow Him, not to be hasty in accepting His Teachings. He advised them to consider carefully His Teaching and to determine for themselves whether it was practical or not for them to follow. This is why there has never been a ritual baptism to be performed before one is “converted to Buddhism”.
    Buddhism teaches that mere belief or outward rituals are insufficient for attaining wisdom and perfection. In this sense, outward conversion becomes meaningless. To promote Buddhism by force would mean pretending to propagate justice and love by means of oppression and injustice. It is of no importance to the followers of the Buddha whether they call themselves Buddhists or not. Buddhists know that only through their own understanding and exertion will they come nearer to the goal preached by the Buddha.
    Amongst the followers of religions there are usually some fanatics. Religious fanaticism is dangerous. A fanatic is incapable of guiding himself by reason or even by the scientific principles of observation and analysis. According to the Buddha, Buddhists must be free. People must have an open mind and must not be subservient to anyone for their spiritual development. They seek refuge in the Buddha by accepting Him as a source of supreme guidance and inspiration. The devotee seeks refuge in the Buddha, not blindly, but with understanding. To Buddhists, the Buddha is not a savior nor is He an anthropomorphic being who claims to possess the power of washing away others’ sins. Buddhists regard the Buddha as a Teacher who shows the Path to salvation.
    Buddhism has always supported the freedom and progress of mankind. Buddhism has always stood for the advancement of knowledge and freedom for humanity in every sphere of life. There is nothing in the Buddha’s Teaching that has to be retracted in the face of modern, scientific inventions and knowledge. The more new things that scientists discover, the closer they come to the Buddha’s explanation of the universe and how it operates.
    The Buddha emancipated human beings from the thralldom of religion. He also released them from the monopoly and the tyranny of priestcraft. It was the Buddha who first advised people to exercise their reason and not to allow themselves to be driven meekly like dumb cattle, following the dogma of religion. The Buddha stood for rationalism, democracy and practical, ethical conduct in religion. He introduced this Teaching for people to
    practise with human dignity.
    The followers of the Buddha were advised not to believe anything without considering it properly. In the KALAMA SUTRA, the Buddha gave the following guidelines to a group of young people:
    ‘Do not accept anything based upon mere reports, traditions or hearsay, Nor upon the authority of religious texts, Nor upon mere reasons and arguments, Nor upon one’s own inference, Nor upon anything which appears to be true, Nor upon one’s own speculative opinions, Nor upon another’s seeming ability, Nor upon the consideration: ‘This is our Teacher.’
    ‘But, when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and bad: tending to harm yourself or others, reject them.
    ‘And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good: conducive to the spiritual welfare of yourself as well as others, accept and follow them.’
    Buddhists are advised to accept religious practices only after careful observation and analysis, and only after being certain that the method agrees with reason and is conducive to the good of one and all.
    True Buddhists do not depend on external powers for their salvation. Nor do they expect to get rid of miseries through the intervention of some unknown power. They must try to eradicate all their mental impurities to find eternal happiness. The Buddha says, ‘If anyone were to speak ill of me, my teaching and my disciples, do not be upset or perturbed, for this kind of reaction will only cause you harm. On the other hand, if anyone were to speak well of me, my teaching and my disciples, do not be overjoyed, thrilled or elated, for this kind of reaction will only be an obstacle in forming a correct judgment. If you are elated, you cannot judge whether the qualities praised are real and actually found in us.’ (BRAHMA JALA SUTRA) Such is the unbiased attitude of a genuine Buddhist.
    The Buddha upheld the highest degree of freedom not only in its human essence but also in its divine qualities. It is a freedom that does not deprive human beings of their dignity. It is a freedom that releases one from slavery to dogmas and dictatorial religious laws or religious punishments.

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