Question — ‘What Is Buddhism?’

Most of my lifelong friends and family are not Buddhist, but they all know I am. They tell me my enthusiasm is infectious and at some point pose the inevitable question: “What is Buddhism?”

I feel like I am reasonably articulate. I spent my career communicating concepts (a marketing and sales executive). But I have a very hard time delivering a simple answer to the simple question, “What is Buddhism?” I find my explanation inadequate. Very frustrating!

I am passionate about Buddhism, and I really believe that if my friends understood what I do about it, they would want to, at least, begin to pursue it. But I just can’t deliver an adequate explanation. I have tried the “It’s about wisdom and compassion” angle; it doesn’t do the job. I have tried the four Nobel Truths answer; but talking about “suffering” is as motivating as a cold shower. I can’t ever remember all eight of the Eightfold Path; that’s awkward. They want to hear about reincarnation; that’s not really the point.


Maybe Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” is really a Buddhist message and I should adopt that as my “go to” response. It sounds a bit too commercial though.


My Jewish mother would regularly ask if I “converted” to Buddhism. The truth is, Buddhism converted me. I began my practice as a mid-life attempt to find spirituality that makes sense to me. Over 20 years later, I haven’t shaved my head nor have I given up all my material posses