The popular fat bald man (as depicted in statues) known as the Laughing Buddha is not a representation of Siddhartha Gautama. It is a Chinese monk known as Budai or Pu-tai, who was known for his generosity and joviality.
Buddhism is among the most-followed religions in the world. It was founded in India in around 566 BC by Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha. It then became popular throughout Asia. With passing time, various Buddhist sects with their own doctrines, gods, and legends have emerged.
Though the religion is popular, there are many misunderstandings that people have about Buddhism. Unfortunately, these misconceptions give rise to favoritism and bias. To help clear out some of the common myths about Buddhism, here is a list of myths and facts about this religion.
Myths and Facts
Myth 1: All Buddhists are vegetarians.
Fact: Buddha was never against any type of meal. Many Buddhists follow a vegetarian diet or have vegan food, but many others consume meat. It depends upon the religious sect that one follows.
Myth 2: All Buddhists meditate and their meditation is arduous.
Fact: It is believed that meditation is the central practice of Buddhism. People imagine a Buddhist as someone meditating in a lotus position and chanting a mantra. The fact is that not all Buddhists meditate. Some Buddhist sects meditate for a long time while others practice it for a short time. While seated in chairs, they collectively chant the sutras (which are the teachings of Buddha).
Myth 3: When Buddhists join their hands and bow their heads, they are praying for good fortune.
Fact: This gesture is not related to prayer. It is an expression of humility and gratefulness for the blessings of God.
Myth 4: All Buddhists live in monasteries.
Fact: Since the past, many Buddhists have been laypeople and hence, have not lived in monasteries.
Myth 5: All Buddhists worship idols.
Fact: Some Buddhists worship idols, others do not. And there are some who do not worship idols, but pay respect to them.
Myth 6: All Buddhists are pacifists. It is believed that a war has never been fought in the name of Buddhism.
Fact: There have been wars between Buddhists and non-Buddhists.
Myth 7: Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion.
Fact: People think that Buddhism is not a religion because it does not require belief in God. They think that religion requires belief in gods and supernatural beings, which is untrue. The fact is that Buddhism is a philosophy as well as a religion.
Myth 8: In Buddhism, karma means a fixed destiny or fate.
Fact: Karma refers to the energy created by action, thoughts, speech, and deeds. The things we experience, good or bad, are determined by our thoughts and actions. We create karma and it affects us. It does not mean that our destiny has been fixed by what we did in our past life. It is something we make by our deeds. By constructively changing our thoughts and behavior, we can transform our lives for the better. It is important to remain positive and virtuous in our thoughts and behavior, especially in adverse situations.
Myth 9: All Buddhists believe in reincarnation.
Fact: Buddhists believe that after someone dies, a soul can never transmigrate into a new body. It is the energy created by one life that is reborn into another.
Myth 10: Buddhists welcome suffering.
Fact: This misconception arises from the perception that a Buddhist is true and sincere if he or she is suffering. This is only partially true. They believe that suffering is an opportunity to learn a lesson, grow and become stronger. It does not mean that Buddhists like suffering.
Myth 11: Shin Buddhism in America is for Japanese or Japanese-Americans only.
Fact: This belief is due to the fact that in the US, a Shin Buddhist temple usually has Japanese-American members. Also, many of the Shin Buddhist temples in the US are populated with Japanese or Japanese-American people. It was Japanese immigrants who brought the Shin Buddhist teachings with them to America. However, it has nothing to do with Buddhism. The Buddha himself certainly wasn't Japanese. Buddhism is a religion for everyone.
Myth 12: All Buddhists wear robes.
Fact: Some of the monks and priests who are strict followers of Buddha wear robes, but not all.
Myth 13: Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha, is a God.
Fact: There is no God or deity in the religion. However, you can choose to believe in God. Also, Buddha never claimed that he was God or taught that there were no gods, but said that it was not necessary to believe in God to attain enlightenment. He was a normal human being who attained enlightenment through his own will and patience.
Myth 14: The Dalai Lama is the head of Buddhism.
Fact: The people of Tibet consider Dalai Lama as their political leader. He also has the authority within the sects of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is not the head of any of the sects of Buddhism.
Myth 15: Buddhism is a reformation of Hinduism.
Fact: Buddhism is different from Hinduism. In Hinduism, there are transmigrating souls, caste system, polytheism, and animal sacrifice. Buddhism does not follow these principles.