Buddhism is a very popular religion and more than a billion people follow Buddhism in the world. Even after being popular, it is barely practiced and a lot of people carry a lot of misconceptions about this religion. They have a very low understanding of the beliefs and philosophy of Buddhism. Some of the most popular misconceptions about Buddhism are:
1. Siddhartha Gautama.
This is the most popular misconception about Buddhism. People believe that the man they know as Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha, is a God himself and a deity. But in fact, there is no deity mentioned in the religion. This religion is away from any form of Deities. There is no God in Buddhism but you can believe in God and still follow this religion. This is the beauty of the religion. Buddha himself felt that the questions about the existence and origin do not matter. All that matters is how you lead the life you have.
It is a misconception that the people who follow Buddhism believe in reincarnation. Reincarnation means rebirth or re-becoming. The idea of reincarnation says that after a person dies he is reborn as any animal or any other living being. But the truth is that there is no mention of reincarnation in Buddhism and this idea is not at all supported by the religion. People often say that this idea of rebirth is lost somewhere in the literature translations and thus you can never be sure.
People have a strong misconception that Buddhism says to stay vegetarian. There are different precepts of Buddhism which suggest not killing any living being. People misunderstand this and believe that Buddhists are not supposed to eat non-vegetarian food and just the vegetarian food. But the people who are Buddhists and have only and only a vegetarian diet is their personal choice. Buddha never stood against any sort of meals. But some argue that eating non-vegetarian food itself means killing animals and Buddha suggested against it.
4. Buddhists like to suffer.
People mostly believe that those who follow and preach Buddhism enjoy a lot of suffering and pain. Suffering is some sort of a religious practice for them. But the fact is that there is no such likeliness for suffering mentioned anywhere in Buddhism. All the religion says is that whenever you suffer, do not have a negative mindset about it and be optimistic, accept the suffering whenever you see that it cannot be avoided and handled. This path of Buddhism is intended to make people stronger and help them cope up with the sufferings of life.
5. Buddhists are Pagans.
There are people who say that those all who practice Buddhism are pagans. As mentioned by Dalai Lama, religion is something that we can never do without. On the other hand, people in the west do not consider religion that important for a living. Only if you consider anyone or anything that is not Judeo Christian as pagan, you may even think that Buddhists are as well pagan.
6. Laughing Buddha:
This is a very silly and senseless misconception people have about Buddhism. Some people think that Buddha was a very fat looking and jolly fellow with his belly always showing and he mostly sits in a complete lotus position. But this look is not of the Buddha, the Siddhartha Gautama. It is the image of “laughing Buddha” who is a monk that travelled around. There is no documentation about the looks of Buddha but he sure didn’t look like the laughing Buddha and he is a completely different person.
7. Dalai Lama
Most of the people think of Dalai Lama as a Pope in Buddhism. People often want to have religious leaders and sometimes create their own versions if nothing is known. But the truth is Dalai Lama is not the religion leader for Buddhism but is infact the head of a small group of Tibetan Buddhists who are called Gelugpa. All the remaining people who follow Buddhism do not take Dalai Lama as their official leader and he is no Pope of this religion.
Whenever people think of Buddhists they always picture them meditating and in a full lotus position, repeating a mantra in some language. But meditating is not a compulsion and only a few Buddhists practice meditation regularly. Some monks who are not even Buddhist also meditate regularly. In a survey among Buddhists in America it was found that more than half of the Buddhists do not meditate regularly or at all.
It is a misconception that all the Buddhists are pacifists. Buddhism preaches to practice non-violence, But do not support the complete idea of pacifism. Even once Dalai Lama was questioned about killing Osama Bin Laden who is an international terrorist. His reaction to that was sympathy and advised to take counter measures in such serious situations. Buddhists are like those martial arts instructors who avoid fighting if not necessary and are completely against violence but may attack in self-defense and whenever needed.
Depending on the individual definition of religion, people treat Buddhism as a religion or not. Some people think of it as a religion while other does not consider it a religion. In other words, it is a unique religion which can be followed even if you belong to a different community and culture. This is because Buddhism does not put restriction on anyone of any kind. You may or may not choose to believe in God and it all depends on how they personally perceive it.