In the early 1900s, when Buddhism first appeared on the scene in India, the ancient Indian religion was considered a spiritual, esoteric practice that offered salvation from the evils of worldly life.
But as it spread throughout India and Asia, it was also viewed with suspicion, and eventually it became one of the major stumbling blocks for the emergence of modernity.
As India’s spiritual tradition was gradually replaced by modernity, the Buddhist traditions were increasingly viewed as relics of an ancient religion that had been largely destroyed by the arrival of the modern world.
Today, there are nearly 500 million Hindus in India and about 3.5 million Buddhists.
And today, as Buddhism spreads worldwide, many of its tenets are at the forefront of a debate over whether it is a religion or an umbrella term for a variety of diverse, nonreligious philosophies.
The debate over what the term “Buddhism” means, and how to define it, has been raging since at least the 19th century, and is still raging today.
And that debate, which has been largely left to academic discussion, has resulted in a lot of confusion.
In a recent episode of PBS’s The Science of Your World, a panel of experts in the field debated the meaning of the word “Bengali” and other Buddhist terms.
“Buddhist,” the panelists said, “is not a single term, it’s a group of different, overlapping, overlapping terms.”
“Bengalism” and “Brahma” are two such terms.
Buddha, the title of the group’s book, has come under increasing scrutiny from experts in its use.
“We need to be very careful in using that term, especially when it is used in this context,” one of them, Dr. Daniela Pizzolatto, told PBS.
“I have read many books in the Buddhist tradition that are based on the Buddha’s teachings and that are very careful not to use that term,” she said.
The group of experts on the panel included Dr. John C. Dennett, a renowned Buddhist scholar and author of the bestselling book, The Buddha’s Awakening.
Dyson, a prominent Buddhist scholar, has argued that the term is a misuse.
“There is no such thing as Buddhism, there is just the practice of compassion and love, which is what we are practicing in the present, according to the teachings,” he told PBS’ Scientific American.
“It’s not a religious system,” he added.
The question of what the word means, Dr Dyson added, is not a question of whether or not it is “Buddhism.”
It’s a question about how we define the word, and whether or, indeed, it should be.
“If we want to be able to understand Buddhism, we need to look at how it is practiced,” Dyson told PBS host Terry Gross.
“Because Buddhism is not just about being Buddhist, it is also about being compassionate.”
In a study conducted by Oxford University Press, Dr C.C. Bennett, the author of several books on the topic, argued that a Buddhist definition of “Bodhi” would be useful in understanding Buddhism’s practice.
“The Buddhist definition would be that of a Bodhisattva, a spiritual teacher,” he said.
“Bodies of the past, present and future are called Bodhisatvas, or teachers.
So, what you see in Buddhism is the practice that Bodhisats are supposed to practice, and the practice is called the practice.””
It is the Buddhist way,” Dr Bennett added.
In an interview with NPR, Bennett argued that if we are to understand the practice and the Buddha, we should not be drawn into “the politics of religion” and use terms like “Bhikkhu,” which are not synonymous with “Boda,” or “Bhamo,” which is synonymous with the Buddha.
In a 2015 study, Bennett wrote that he was interested in understanding “the Buddhist definition and how we might use it in a secular context.”
The debate about whether the term refers to a particular faith or the broader practice of Buddhism is complicated, but one thing is for sure: It is getting more contentious.