MR: Buddhism is not a religion?
RT: No, not primarily. The way we define religion today in religious studies is as a non-rational, sort of an emotional thing, where you put your science aside and you kind of commune with the world or something and you have a leap of faith and you’re saved and born-again. And therefore it’s non-rational, in fact, by definition anti-rational.
MR: So that experience can happen in a Buddhist context, like in the Vimalakirti Sutra you described earlier, even though Buddhism is not a religion? It sounds like you are saying the root of a conversion experience is not, in fact, religious.RT: Yes, the real essence of that experience can happen in a Buddhist context because the real essence of it is not the blind faith or religious part of it, actually. The real essence is a deep contact with a different aspect of reality. The essence of that experience is a contact with the nirvanic nature of reality. That is what the essence of that experience actually is.