I've been asked several times whether Zen is a 'religion', a 'philosophy', or just what it is.
My teacher, Nishijima Roshi, has written that all people necessarily have a 'religion', no matter that they call it a 'philosophy', or claim that they are 'atheists', or that they have no religion at all.
[My] definition of a ‘religion’ is something that virtually no human being can avoid to have ... In my definition, there are two elements central to a religion: The first is that there is some way of thinking or ideology believed true concerning the meaning and workings of the world and humankind’s place in it, and the other is that the actions of the individual are sought to be regulated in accordance with that way of thinking believed true. Namely, one aspect of the content possessed by something which constitutes a ‘religion’ is a faith in some ideology which is a world-view, and the other aspect is a discipline and regulation of the faithful’s actions to accord with the ideology thought proper in that faith. It is by this definition that I believe that all men and women ... have a religion.Tomorrow, I will talk a little about the place of Zen practice in all that. Our way is rather different from most religions and philosophies.
Survey on world religions by population.
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