10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Apr 5, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Wisdom burns its own flame. So does humor. So does this title, which makes fun of the notion of religious one upsmanship. Read beyond the title, if curious:

If you don’t do Buddhism

don’t worry,

you’re not going to hell.

*You’ll just endure countless lifetimes of cyclical suffering.

1. We’re not really a religion. As the Dalai Lama said, if Buddhism and Science disagree, go with science. As the Buddha himself said, don’t believe anything I say unless it matches with your experience.

We are however a path: there are teachings, meditation practices, rituals with meaning…but it’s all centered on one point. Wake up. Be kind. Be present. Be genuine. Be generous to others.

2. We don’t go to war, much. Historically, when we’re attacked, our anemic joke-of-an-army fights heroically while the rest of wherever we’re at flees, gets burned, looted, raped, pillaged. No fun for us, but at least we don’t fight others in order to spread our religion.

3. Buddhism works. If we meditate, and we meditate some more, and we study, and we work with our mixed bag of a (difficult, incompetent, sycophantic, insecure, kind, generous, gentle, eco-minded, tolerant) community, we’ll naturally begin to soften, and straighten, and enjoy life, and help others enjoy life more, too.

4. Buddhism doesn’t believe in anything. Any Buddhist who tells you to believe in reincarnation or anything that can’t be proven is caught up in superstition, and should be forcibly sent to remedial Buddhist meditation camp, which sounds like a fun camp.

5. Buddhist teachers are transparent. The greatest Buddhist teacher I’ve ever known was utterly human: full of “mistakes,” full of wildness and sweetness, open about just about everything. If Buddhist teachers aren’t transparent...on to number six.

6. Buddhism is non-theistic. In Buddhism, we’re taught to bow with mutual respect, and self-respect. You aren’t any better than me except to the extent that you serve me and others better than I do. Serving is leadership.

Our hierarchical triangle is upside down. To lead is to serve. To lead without serving is selfish and useless and silly. If a Buddhist teacher leads out of arrogance or selfish privilege, they will be slapped in the face, with a grin. It’s happened.

7. Buddhism doesn’t say other religions are wrong or anyone’s going to hell and doesn’t advocate judging others “nonbelievers” from afar, let alone sending them to some sort of eternal damnation. In the Buddhist view, we’re all damned already by our happiness-desiring egos, but luckily we’re all fundamentally aok, and we just can relax and (through meditation, study) begin to be ourselves, and serve others in suffering. And then the joke is we’ll start being happy.

8. Buddhism is of the world. It is wildly enthusiastic about money, sex, family, business, sports, books, education, politics…as long as these things are being used to help us and others wake up and be of benefit, it’s all good.

9. Buddhism is not laissez-faire New Ageyness. While Westerners who embrace Buddhism as a lifestyle may be irritating Portlandiaish parodies of a type, like yours truly, Buddhism is all about tradition, about being a good, dues-paying member of society, about decorum and giving back and the arts.


The 10th Reason why Buddhism is Better than your Religion is…


We’re not better than your religion.
Your religion has lots of goodness and helpful stuff in it, and you should honor and practice that if you like. If you don’t like, you should become agnostic or atheistic and that’s pretty awesome, too. My grandma is a lifelong intellectual agnostic, and she’s the kindest person I know. As an old Christian saying goes, I can see how close you are to God by how kind you are.

Yoga, Christianity, Buddhism, Republicanism, Libertarianism, any ism…none is better than another. That’s not the point. They’re paths of truth, hopefully. Of finding peace, and true happiness. They are not meant to create further war.

Let’s stop the My Way is Better than Yours stuff.


This is all Buddhists want:

Buddhism isn’t about being perfect. It’s about having a sense of humor, and getting over ourselves, and yet being ourselves:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


88 Responses to “10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion.”

  1. oz_ says:

    Excellent summation, Way. And thanks for including the Arj Barker vid – never fails to make me lol…:)

  2. Besides, everyone knows Ceiling Cat is the one true faith! 🙂

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Gassho, meow.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Maria Von Egidy i am not going to read this in case you are serious..

    Christina Willow ‎#'s 1 and 10 saved this. thank goodness because i really like the elephant journal.

    Keith Winkler Read it Maria, you won't be disappointed. It's fun. 🙂

    Sara Wdb why i have been able to be a buddhist for as long as i have

    Madhava Ananda This has got to be the most Dogmatic Atheistic title I have heard this Kali Yuga!!

    Michael Rivers Whatever works….

    Madhava Ananda Leave to to Elephant journal for the cream of New-Age Gibberish! how about "10 reasons my hog-poge belief system is better than your faith which I have no clue about" The Nature of the mode of ignorance, is that is is elusive when you are swimming in seas of misconceptions…..Does anyone actually know what "Nirvana" means here?

    elephantjournal.com Madhava, sounds like you're the New Age learning-skimming guilty party here (though I'm guilty, generally). You didn't read the list. If you had, you'd have read #10, which directly contradicts the title. Thanks for surface skimming with lazy righteous indignation, the internet doesn't have enough of that! ~ Waylon

    Maria, we are never serious, and when we are, we make fun of ourselves for being self-serious. That's our practice. ~ Waylon.

  5. mariucc says:

    Would be better with a different title

  6. David Downs says:

    -The title says "*You’ll just endure countless lifetimes of cyclical suffering." but #4 says "Any Buddhist who tells you to believe in reincarnation or anything that can’t be proven is caught up in superstition," So, how can I reconcile the two?
    – I'd be happy if I could read Buddhist texts directly, but in all my study of Buddhism I've only been told what Buddhism is by someone else.
    – I also notice this article is rather condescending in tone to religions that do believe in "eternal damnation", as if saying you don't believe in it means you are more enlightened in some way.

  7. judith36 says:

    Love, love, love this. Perfect. Lyimperfect, that is….

  8. mommasutras says:

    Right on! Thanks for the love . . .

  9. SaiTaarn says:

    Right speech?

    Why separate yourself from others by these classifications, we all have the divine light. If you think that "We" or "I" am Buddhist, perhaps rethink that statement.

  10. Tim Illencik says:

    I was skeptical when I saw the title but this was an awesome post.

  11. Eric says:

    David~ of the two, the first was a 'funny' (in a previous life, Waylon was a Borscht Belt comedian, if one believes in that 🙂 Shakyamuni Buddha himself even said: "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, UNLESS it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” But, you can find his sutras (teachings) online or in books.
    Regarding the "eternl damnation" thing–the idea that "David" will have the same physical body and the same consciousness which suffers now after death isn't part of the Buddha's path. Yes, everything we do–right NOW, has an effect, which is what Waylon was pointing to….one could say that 'Heaven' and 'Hell' are right here, right now, but it is not about judgment or damnation. The Buddha also said: “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished BY your anger.” ::blessings::

  12. chonying says:

    Why can't it be a religion?

  13. ValCarruthers says:

    Home run, Waylon! Love how you start off with "better than" in the title—religiosity at its shallowest—and bring it home to the sweet truths that Buddhism shows are present at the core of all religons.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Yes. Less self-deprecation or humor, more egotistical holiness.

  15. elephantjournal says:

    On some level, I agree. But prajna (discriminating awareness wisdom) does distinguish between different things. You're pro-diversity, aren't you? The melting pot of tolerance doesn't mean we get rid of everyone's indigenous traditions and make everyone follow one way, does it? Differences are beautiful, and sometimes not beautiful. You eat organic food versus McDonald's for a reason, for example?

    Does Hitler have the divine light? It's alllllllllll good, right?

  16. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks! That was kind of the point: to make fun of the whole "our religion is better than yours" theme that's gone on for centuries, and caused wars and hate and rivalry where it should all be debate, fun, learning from our respective traditions and strengths.

  17. @Jawnie says:

    Sorry to say, but, you are quite wrong on some points. Buddhism most definitely says an individual can go to hell; or more correctly, be reincarnated as a being in the hell realms, either hot or cold. What I think you mean by this is that there is no God judging you and then sending you to hell for being bad. It is our own actions which project our consciousness to one of the six realms: god, demi-god, human, animal, preta, or hell realms. So, there is definitely a hell (many of them) in Buddhism, and you can go there.

    Similarly, Buddhism is NOT "wildly enthusiastic" about money, sex, etc. I have no idea where you get this idea. Non-attachment and detachment from worldly concerns and the five poisons: anger, pride, desire, envy, and ignorance are high on the list of central Buddhist thought.

    On the point of sex, in all my years as a practicing Buddhist, Tibetan style, I have never EVER heard a lama, high lama, or practicing monk recommend or espouse recreational sex as a dharma path. I think this is something westerners have invented or manufactured from some tantric teachings, but it is not taught by lineage holders.

    Finally, all schools of Buddhism accept the ideas of reincarnation and multiple lifetimes.

    I simply don't know where you get your information; perhaps you are taking things out of context, which really doesn't work.

  18. Beatrice says:

    Great summation of buddhism’s strong points. And fun to read too 😉

  19. elephantjournal says:

    I'll decline to compare spiritual credentials, and simply assure you that your views are accurate from a literal, serious, conservative point of view. If you'd like to actually debate these at length, in a friendly manner, I'd be happy to go toe to toe.

  20. elephantjournal says:

    Sorry? Explain more what you're asking? Buddhism certainly is a religion, one of the world's major religions, at that. It's a 2,500 year tradition, time tested. That said, it's not theistic. So it's often referred to as more of a path, or "spiritual tradition." Perhaps that addresses your question, to some extent?

  21. […] Step 9: Take this opportunity to tell your family why you dislike their religion of choice and think your is… […]

  22. Guest reader says:

    Waylon, I worry that you're turning the spiritual path into a celebration of yourself. Read your bio below the article; what would you lose from making it shorter and less clamorous? I question why we need to hear about any of the awards you've won, let alone the ones that were literally for "shameless self-promotion."

    About elephant's content itself, you're doing a good thing by making the Dharma accessible to a specific kind of reader, but I worry that you dilute it too much in the process.

    This article is no exception. You claim its intent is "to make fun of the whole 'our religion is better than yours' theme." Except that it doesn't just make fun of it, it also half-ironically indulges in it. I wish you were more willing to see these kinds of distinctions, and stick only to what is really true.

    Best wishes.

  23. akivamegatech says:

    I don't think one can separate good from bad when it comes to religion(s). Is it helpful to have a list of just positives like this? Or does it mislead? It's not as though Buddhism doesn't have a rich history of excluding women and marginalizing and repressing others (like Muslims in Tibet), like all religions. And plenty have been violent or oppressive. Buddhism's not a panacea for moral or religious purity, and I feel like your list paints a reductive portrayal of Buddhism by including only these sort of generic positive characterizations (some of which are a stretch).

    No disrespect. I know you're not trying to sugar-coat Buddhism or say that it is perfect. But many of the items in your list are a pretty simplistic portrayal of things as they are. And, I really, really, really don't buy this notion of "Buddhism isn't really a religion." Hogwash. That may be true for white Buddhists in the States – no offense. In Asia – where Buddhism came from – how folks practice their Buddhism accords with most sociologists' concept of a religion. Folks pray, go to temples, make offerings, invoke deities, celebrate holidays and feasts. It is a religion, meaning that it falls into that same category that Christianity, Islam, and Taoism do. Yes, these are all different traditions, with very differing conceptions of spiritual truth. But insofar as religion is a meaningful concept, Buddhism too is one. But, if you don't agree, I would love to hear why you think Buddhism is somehow an exception or outlier to this group.

    I actually think that this way of thinking about Buddhism ends up in a sort of problematic valorization, holding Buddhism up to be some kind of ideal arbiter of spiritual truth (the Catholic Church recognizes all teachings of other religions that it sees as containing spiritual truth), as though Buddhism is somehow more metaphysically objective than other religions? Well, yes, maybe it is. But it's still really, for all intents and purposes, a religion. and like all religions, imperfect. I feel like saying, "My religion isn't really a religion" is just a way of asserting that it is somehow more scientific or more truthful than others. I know the Buddha SAYS "don't believe me, check it out for himself." But the expectation is that if you do that, the Buddha will turn out to be RIGHT. And all religions assert that they are right. The Qu'ran enjoins Muslims to scientific inquiry in order to discover God's manifestation in the world.

    Basically, I just don't think Buddhism meets criteria of the exception to a norm that all other religions somehow fall into. Such an allegation, I think, is chauvinistic and unfair. I was born with a religion other than Buddhism I'm perfectly happy with. I don't however post on the Internet why it is better than other religions. Not to be snarky but I really think it is offensive to natively raised Buddhists – and certainly to other religionists – to suggest that it "isn't really a religion." Hopefully you don't think I am just being combative, because I do feel this is a pretty important issue to think about, in how we use language to describe the traditions and practices of others and of ourselves.

  24. Eric says:

    "white Buddhists in the States". Suzuki Roshi said, "Buddhism isn't like those other religions…like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism." While this is an example of a zen master having a little fun with language and semantics, there is also truth to what he is saying.

  25. Paul says:

    Hi Waylon,

    Firstly, congrats for taking the initiative and commitment to running your ventures. It's inspiring. Secondly, thanks for creating a platform that allows us to have this discussion.

    When we discuss 'Buddhism', obviously our views are determined by which teaching/text we have found most resonance with. From my point of view, if we are to have a sincere desire to discover what the Buddha was supposed to have taught than it be wise to start with what most Buddhist scholars would agree are part of the earliest known texts of Buddhism. In this case I'll refer to the Pali Canon. There are others like the Chinese Agamas that are almost identical.

    *I'm not advocating that these links are the true word of the Buddha, but merely they are part of some of the best sources we have at this time.

    In relation to a few of your points I would like to comment;

    5. Buddhist teachers are transparent

    Being transparent is very important in order for students to trust teachers. I'll add though that practising what you teach is even more so. Look at your teachers conduct. Do they teach one thing but do another?

    7. Buddhism doesn’t say other religions are wrong or anyone’s going to hell

    There are hell realms in Buddhism. The difference is that none of them are permanent. Have a look here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an08/a

    8. Buddhism is of the world. It is wildly enthusiastic about money, sex…

    If you can show me a Sutta where Buddha was 'wildly enthusiastic' about money and sex I'm all eyes. There's a reason sincere Buddhist monastics are celibate. Yes it's OK to have sex, but as long as you desire the carnal pleasures, full liberation is out of reach.

    10. We’re not better than your religion

    The Buddha did actually say that the path he rediscovered is the 'best way' for liberation. Not to say that other religious practices are wrong, but that the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are best. You can see here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dh

    In relation to your favourite teacher Chogyam Trungpa, what do you think he would say to these points included in the links above?

    "The drinking of fermented & distilled liquors — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from drinking fermented & distilled liquors is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to mental derangement." (A iv 247)

    284. For so long as the underbrush of desire, even the most subtle, of a man towards a woman is not cut down, his mind is in bondage, like the sucking calf to its mother. (Dhp 273-289)

  26. […] 10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  27. […] 10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  28. ArtSem says:

    #2 is plain wrong. Unfortunately, Buddhists have raged wars against people of other faiths and amongst themselves. I have seen monks bless weapons of soldiers in Sri Lanka back in the 90ties when the Buddhist majority brutally faught the Hindu minority. Reputable Zen Masters supported the aggressive invasionist Japanese war efforts during WW2. Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea have historically not been the most peaceful places either. Buddhist dogma does not make people more peaceful than Christian dogma…

  29. Erin says:

    Relax folks 🙂 if every person practiced pureness of body, speak, and mind…we would all need to take a vow of silence. We are not all at the sme level in our practice, and that is ok too. If this article opens up conversations for folks to discuss the merits of a happy, vituous life, than it has been helpful. Elephant is a wonderful gift and service to the online community. I suggested those that are easily offend, just log off the Internet and bliss out.

  30. Erin says:

    Buddist don't worry, go back to your cushion.

  31. Rebecca says:

    Fun article! Sounds like your grandma is someone I'd like to meet. Cheers!

  32. Katherine says:

    I tried. I took a deep inhale of sutras and learning most i could absorb.
    But you are who you are born and the one ur come from as yoga says.
    I enjoy yoga- but would not trade something that is just not me- religion.
    Peace, love, health and wealth 🙂

  33. […] 10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  34. This is a wonderful article. It serves Buddhism with a pleasant humor. I would like to learn more about Buddhism. I was unsurprised by all points except #9. I'm curious how this seemingly unaware, unquestioning practice – including "go with science" and "buddhism doesn't believe anything" – fits a seemingly traditionalist, you-owe-something political/duty philsophy. Enjoyed the article, thanks!

  35. […] 10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion. (elephantjournal.com) 0.000000 0.000000 Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedInTumblrEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post.Tagged as: Buddhism, children's art, Henry David Thoreau, Jon Kabat-Zinn, laundry room, mindfulness « Feelin’ free inside and out […]

  36. John says:

    I agree with you. The ideas in this article are not from traditional Buddhism, but a watered-down secular Buddhism that I personally believe is more of a marketing tool to attract skeptical and religion-weary Americans and Europeans to temples and meditation centers. While there's nothing wrong with the "Western Buddhism" that is actually more pop-psychology, one need only to read the short Dhammapada to learn about heavens, hells, and rebirth. Assuming the Buddha actually said what is attributed to him, he definitely taught these things. As far as reincarnation or rebirth, it seems to be the only life-after-death scenario that has any evidence to back it up.

  37. Suzanne says:

    Wow does that ever sound flip and arrogant Waylon. Somehow this article just doesn't ring true, nor do your comments.

  38. Rach says:

    Quite a threatening title/subheading; not conducive to Buddhism at all!

  39. Jenny says:

    Love this. Wonderful humor!

  40. elephantjournal says:

    Bluebell It's not a competition
    3 hours ago · Like · 2
    Aida 'tata' Guzman what an EGO!!
    2 hours ago · Like · 1
    Phet Lay H Religions are complex and require deeper analysis than just a top ten list. The author's interpretation of Buddhism is very diluted. One cannot separate the culture from the religion. One cannot drink just the coconut water and tells people that he's experienced everything that's in a coconut.
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like
    elephantjournal.com Writing this from hell. Tried to practice but didn't do it right so they sent me here. 🙂 ~ AB
    15 minutes ago · Like
    Valerie Fadok The fact that you have a statement that says "10 reasons why buddhism is better than your religion suggests you don't really understand the Buddha and his teachings.

    elephantjournal.com Valerie, the fact that you're saying that means you didn't read the article before commenting. Buddhism suggest 1) slowing down 2) examining your experience 3) retaining a sense of humor

    elephantjournal.com Rachie, Aida, this blog is making fun of the notion of religious competition. Please read before commenting. You're pretending to be offended by something you haven't read.

  41. elephantjournal says:

    Lighten up, smile, that is Buddhism (and any religion worth its salt). The whole world looks threatening when we take things too seriously. This blog is a sendup of the notion that any religion, including Buddhism, is better than another…and yes, the blog says that.

  42. elephantjournal says:

    Overall, it's dead right. Buddhists have fled invasion after invasion, and the teachings actively discourage the above examples, which are admittedly rare exceptions.

  43. elephantjournal says:

    Buddhism, and Walt Whitman, advises that we celebrate life. There is no shame in ego, once we are aware of it.

    But your condescending remonstration brings up a powerful sidetrack to the Buddhist path: we ought to be ashamed of any sense of big-ness.

    I'm sorry, but that's not correct. We are humbled in light of our duty, our vow to be of service. We are not humbled by anonymous folks telling us to be smaller. I am not small—I am nothing, and so are you.

    Given that: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/pretty-muc

  44. Rach says:

    I wonder how many other people have been put off reading the article by the use of a misleading title?

  45. Rach says:

    May I suggest "Buddhism is about confusing people" ; )

  46. Matt says:

    I'm a bit more hesitant to throw out essential teachings on precious human birth and motherly sentient beings (that take the assumption that the meditator believes in reincarnation) just because we can't yet prove them scientifically. Are we losing essential and fundamental teachings in westernizing Buddhism and picking and choosing what to accept and reject. There are more conservative voices on this subject and a training camp with HE Khandro Rinpoche or even modern Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche would certainly contain fundamental teachings on karma and rebirth. …I know the article said 'reincarnation' so maybe its a matter of semantics…anyway that's my two cents.

  47. Matt says:

    oh and very cute article…:)

  48. elephantjournal says:

    Heart of the Buddha, among many other un-watered down books, discusses the hell realms from a more psychological point of view—as in, if and when we're angry, we're already, in that moment, in hell. Again, the Buddha did away with superstition or the need to believe—like science, which the Dalai Lama has said should take precedence over Dharma if the two conflict, Buddhism does not need to be believed, because it's a set of teachings about reality. It can be tested.

  49. […] Four months back, I wrote a little introduction to basic Buddhism in a fun, troublemaking way (as op… […]

  50. Heavenly says:

    Sorry I'm a Christian. I like being that way. The world is full of evil, greed, sadness, war, and the list go on. No one is perfect except GOD. We all want peace