Many visitors in the West that go to Buddhist temples are in fact not Buddhists. It’s the simple curiosity of what Buddhism is, what Buddhist actually do, and what do they believe in that ignites people’s curiosity to take action. This is a good thing. If people visit a genuine Buddhist temple and not a temple that’s commercially selling Buddhism, then the people and monastics there will tell you that Buddhism is a “religion” of love; of loving-kindness and compassion, everything else is just extra.
People always ask or say, “I’m practicing Buddhism, should I still be Christian?” or “I’ve been raised Christian but connect more with Buddhism.” Simply put, yes, you can practice Buddhism if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other religion. Buddha’s teachings are not about buddha or any supreme being. Buddha’s teachings are the methods and tools to escape the dissatisfactions of our lives and live peacefully and happily. That’s it. No mention of god or deity worship (because there is none in Buddhism anyway), no mention of having to ask for forgiveness or help from some higher being, nothing that has to do with anyone that isn’t you.
Unlike all other major religions that are faith-based on a god, Buddhism puts its faith in yourself. That’s all you need. Buddhism is a mind-centered religion. That means that the happiness and unhappiness in your life doesn’t come from external circumstances, it comes from you and how you view and handle things. If you view something that is unsatisfactory and allow that to control your happiness or unhappiness, then no one is to blame but yourself. Sure, maybe someone didn’t do something for you that they say they would do, or the dog peed on the carpet; these things might seem like it’s their fault, but it’s your own fault for allowing that negative situation to control your mood or view in a negative way. So in Buddhism, the practice is to control our mind; our thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc., so when these negative situations happen, it doesn’t affect us and generate negative karma.
All major religions, at the very core, are the same. They all preach about love, compassion, and generosity, but it’s unfortunate some religions push that to the same and instead preach the “negative” things in their holy books and preach at a literal level without any true reflection or contemplation. If Buddhism were to read and contemplate the bible or Koran, or any other holy book, the interpretation and explanation would be very different than what people might know. Why? Because contemplation, on anything, allows us to look deeper into the meaning, to find out what they really meant by saying this, and what it means today. People say they’ve lost connection with their own religion and come to Buddhism all the time. It’s because their own religion is ignoring the true teachings of what Buddhism is always teaching; equanimity, compassion, loving-kindness, generosity, and appreciative joy.
Buddhists never encourage other people to become Buddhist. Instead, we tell people that if you study and practice Buddhism (example, the Eightfold Path, compassion, generosity, etc.) you will become better practitioners of your own religion. Buddhism isn’t replacing your own religion’s teachings, it’s simply adding to it and reminding you what your religion is probably already teaching you just in a different way.