THE FIVE FORMS OF BUDDHISM TODAY
Currently, there are at least five forms of Buddhism. The first form is the traditional Buddhism I have just discussed. It is the education of the Buddha's teachings. This original form is rarely seen today. The other four forms are deviations of this one.
The second form is religious Buddhism. Although originally not a religion, it has become one in the past few hundred years. Today, it is difficult to deny this. Why? The external form of Buddhism today is indeed that of a religion. It is no longer the education found in a traditional way place where cultivators had up to sixteen hours a day for both lessons and cultivation. The lessons included listening to lectures and discussions. The cultivation session included either Buddha name chanting or sitting meditation. Study and cultivation were used hand in hand to strive for the right and proper understanding and practice, to purify practitioner's minds and to eventually attain the state of enlightenment.
Since the monks and nuns spent sixteen hours a day on study and cultivation, there was little time for discriminatory or wandering thoughts, and so achievement could be attained relatively quickly. Unfortunately, this traditional form of Buddhism is seldom seen nowadays in way places for many of them have become a place to make offerings, to pray for blessings and to conduct memorial services. It is little wonder that people regard Buddhism as a religion.
The third form is philosophical or academic Buddhism often found as a course in college. This is inappropriate. Why? Buddhist education is a complete university in itself, including all branches of learning. But now it is reduced to merely a philosophical discipline. Regarding it as such, we miss the importance of the fact that the teachings are a necessity for all sentient beings. Why? Because these teachings can resolve all problems ranging from those in our current lives to those in the future, including even those of birth and death. Buddhism's scope is broad and profound and regarding it as merely an academic field of study is frankly, another deviation. These two forms cause no serious harm to society. Religions try to encourage people to be good. Philosophy strives to pursue truth and to gain knowledge.
The fourth and most recent deviation is Buddhism as a show. It consists of a few hours of music, singing and dancing with a short talk in between. However, the fifth form is a deviation that has gone too far, that of the distortion of Buddhism into a cult. This deviated form has appeared in the last thirty to forty years. The exploitation of Buddhism by evil cults has gone too far. In the name of Buddhism, they take advantage of the weaknesses of human nature, creating chaos by cheating and misleading people, endangering the safety of the public. Some of their propaganda and deeds can sound extremely enticing and appealing. However, if we join their activities, which doom us to ruin, by the time we realize our mistake, the damage will have already been done. It will then be too late to regret. Therefore, we need to choose wisely which form to practice in order to receive the true benefits.