I actually had a lot of respect for Buddhism, and studied it a few years ago.

But it made me feel that it might be too extreme (and it could be that most religions are too extreme, because they tend to think what they believe is right, and the other beliefs are wrong). I say that because, for example, it tend to teach self-sacrifice and letting go, and that do not hold onto anything, and to the point that do not marry and do not have any children -- what the deep believers -- monks -- do.

Let's say if this is the appropriate thing to do, and everybody in the world does that, then the world, in 100 years or 200 years, will not have human beings any more (because if no marriage and no children, then there will be no new life on earth, while the existing people pass away). I can't say that it will be "good" if on earth, there is no more human beings, but lions, wolves, foxes, rabbits, and other animals remain on earth.

Could somebody present a calm and rational argument to suggest otherwise? I am open to any idea, as I am, like many of us, always learning new things along our life time.

  • 動靜能量, i initially assumed your question was "what if everyone became a monk?" but it could also be a different question, "Does Buddhism teach that everyone should be celibate?" which is slightly different. Could you perhaps clarify what you're asking?
    – Anthony
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 2:32
  • This seems like the more universal problem of taking something literally which is meant to represent something symbolically. The ideas of sacrifice and detachment might have some value symbolically (as do the stories of the ascetics who exemplify these concepts), but, taken literally, they don't fit into the real world. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 21:24
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    I think worrying about such things is tantamount to a person who just started a small business and is only grossing a few thousand dollars a year worrying about what life will be like as a millionaire. The truth is, by the time you reach that level, if you reach that level at all, your entire perspective will be different and you will not be concerned with such issues. Just practice and let whatever happens come naturally. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 22:26

3 Answers 3


It's kinda funny to see how we westerners stereotypically misunderstand Dharma as postulating some kind of globally applicable set of absolute unconditional prescriptions. Is this not taking it to the extreme? :) Buddha's teaching should not be taken out of context and unwittingly extrapolated.

Did Buddha say lay people should "not marry and do not have any children"? No, he said they should avoid sexual misconduct.

Did Buddha say all lay people should become monks? No, in fact he suggested that monks should not work and are instead to live in dependence on lay community (begging, accepting donations).

Did Buddha teach "self-sacrifice"? No, he taught middle-way: by looking after ourselves we look after others, by looking after others we look after ourselves.

Did Buddha teach radical ascetic rejection of everything? No, what he taught was letting go of obsessions, preconceptions, biases, overgeneralizations, irrational expectations; he taught not to assign too much importance to petty stuff that does not deserve it; he taught to be analytical; he taught to be practical and flexible and wise.

Buddha said, tanha (thirst, craving) is the source of dukkha (troubled mind, emotional suffering). This means, whenever you crave for things to be different than they are, right now, you suffer. This does not mean you should not participate in life, this means if we fully accept what we have, and work with it, instead of wishing it were otherwise, we will not generate emotional suffering.

Is this not the most rational doctrine ever?

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    It's rather easy to answer in the form: Does Buddha teach this extreme thing? No, he only teaches you not to do that bad thing. A better answer would perhaps go into details about what that "bad thing" is and is not. For example, "not to cling to petty stuff that does not deserve it" -- how does one know what is petty? This is basically the gist of OP's question, because one may claim that life, food, offsprings, etc. are petty. How do we know whether that claim is extreme or not? Based on what criteria do we judge?
    – Heisenberg
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 15:47
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    @AndreiVolkov I appreciate your point that it is important to understand Buddhism correctly. To help readers on that path, it'd be more useful if you could give specific guidance instead of saying "Buddhism is a doctrine of sanity and excellence." That statement will only resonate with those who already share your belief. For those who are evaluating whether Buddhism is a good doctrine for them to follow, you need to demonstrate that statement. So let's do specific example. What does "letting go" of sex mean? What does the world in which everyone lets go of sex look like?
    – Heisenberg
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 22:06
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    Letting go of sex means "you" don't obsess with sex, neither at pop culture level, nor at the level of individual day-to-day interactions. You may still have sex, both to procreate as well as to communicate your feelings, but you don't make it all important, don't ever let the urge overwhelm you -- as often happens. Letting go of sex means you having sex instead of sex having you. Society in which everyone lets go of sex is a healthy(ier) society. That's what I mean when I say Buddhism is a religion of sanity; we may not have answers to all questions beforehand but sanity is our flag, IMO.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 23:28
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    @ChrisW, no it's a very small subset, only one aspect as it pertains to the question of altruism vs. egoism.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 2:19
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    The guidelines for monks are stricter than for the lay. Period, end of story.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 12:07

There are many different forms/sects of Buddhism. Some are more "monkish" than others. I've been following the Lotus Sutra and the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, which advocates using our desires and attachments to fuel our enlightenment rather than eradicating them.

My view is that the whole priesthood/monk phenomenon was an aspect of history. Cultural and historical, not core to the Buddhist belief system. You need a group who takes on responsibility to help lead, but they don't need to be monks. This is the kind of organization that is emerging in the Soka Gakkai, where I practice (sgi-usa.org).

Hope this helps!


If you find a branch of Buddhism without ceremonies and beliefs, you could easily avoid the type of imposed belief you are talking about.

Or if you are a brave soul, you could take the writings of as many true teachers as you have need of and put it into practice with no belief.

I would start with Roshi Suzuki that does not advocate for much beyond sitting with the beginner's mind www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/zenmind.pdf

If you do not find that to your liking you could try Dogen who is quite verbose about his path.

If you want open minded, the Dalai Lama though thoroughly a Tibetan Buddhist embraces science, psychology, other religions and other people choosing a different way

This ceremony is the door to compassion. It is unlocking beginner's mind in an applied way.


Look at the flower sermon for the ultimate simplicity in Buddhism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_Sermon There is no belief in that, just the experience of what is.

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