Ninian Smart’s Seven Dimensions in Buddhism

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 673 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jan 31, 2024

Words: 673|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jan 31, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Historical Context of Buddhism
  2. Ninian Smart's Seven Dimensions
  3. Experiential and Emotional Dimension
    Ritual and Practical Dimension
    Mythological and Narrative Dimension
    Doctrinal and Philosophical Dimension
    Ethical and Legal Dimension
    Social and Institutional Dimension
    Material and Artistic Dimension
  4. Application of the Seven Dimensions in Buddhism
  5. Critiques and Limitations of Ninian Smart's Framework
  6. Conclusion

Ninian Smart, a prominent British academic and religious studies scholar, proposed a framework known as the "Seven Dimensions of Religion" to understand and analyze the complexity of religious traditions. This essay will explore the application of Smart's framework to Buddhism, a major world religion with rich historical and cultural significance. By examining the historical context of Buddhism, the manifestation of the seven dimensions within the religion, and critiques of Smart's framework, this essay aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of Buddhism through the lens of Ninian Smart's Seven Dimensions.

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Historical Context of Buddhism

Buddhism originated in India around the 6th century BCE, as a response to the prevalent social and religious conditions of that time. It was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha after attaining enlightenment. The teachings of Buddhism spread across Asia, leading to the development of different schools and sects within the religion. The diversity within Buddhism reflects its adaptability to various cultural and societal contexts.

Ninian Smart's Seven Dimensions

Experiential and Emotional Dimension

Buddhism places significant emphasis on experiential and emotional dimensions through practices such as meditation and mindfulness. These practices are meant to cultivate inner peace and personal transformation, allowing individuals to connect with their inner selves and the world around them.

Ritual and Practical Dimension

Rituals and ceremonies are integral to Buddhist practice, serving as expressions of devotion and opportunities for communal participation. Examples of common Buddhist rituals include the offering of incense, bowing, and chanting, each with its own symbolic significance.

Mythological and Narrative Dimension

Buddhist literature is rich with stories and legends that convey moral and ethical teachings. These narratives serve as a means of transmitting Buddhist teachings in a relatable and engaging manner, providing moral guidance to followers.

Doctrinal and Philosophical Dimension

The doctrinal and philosophical dimension of Buddhism encompasses fundamental concepts such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which form the basis of Buddhist philosophy. Additionally, various schools of Buddhist thought offer diverse interpretations and approaches to these foundational concepts.

Ethical and Legal Dimension

Buddhism advocates for moral conduct and ethical guidelines, promoting compassion and kindness toward all sentient beings. The religion's teachings on ethical behavior extend to societal issues, emphasizing the importance of alleviating suffering and promoting peace.

Social and Institutional Dimension

Monasticism plays a crucial role in Buddhist societies, with monks and nuns representing a core institutional structure. Additionally, Buddhist organizations and institutions support the practice and dissemination of Buddhist teachings, establishing a sense of community and support for followers.

Material and Artistic Dimension

Buddhist art forms, such as statues, paintings, and mandalas, serve as visual representations of Buddhist teachings and principles. Symbolism and iconography play a significant role in conveying the deeper meanings and interpretations within Buddhist art.

Application of the Seven Dimensions in Buddhism

By examining the practices and beliefs within Buddhism, it becomes evident that each of Smart's dimensions manifests in various ways. For example, a case study of a Buddhist monastery may illustrate the ritual and practical dimension through daily ceremonies and the ethical dimension through the monastery's commitment to social outreach programs.

Critiques and Limitations of Ninian Smart's Framework

While Smart's framework provides a comprehensive approach to understanding the complexity of religious traditions, it has faced criticism from other scholars and practitioners. Some critiques center around the framework's Western-centric perspective and its potential limitations in capturing the full extent of religious experiences, especially within non-Western contexts.

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In conclusion, Ninian Smart's Seven Dimensions provide a valuable framework for analyzing and understanding the multifaceted nature of Buddhism. By exploring the historical context of Buddhism, the manifestation of the seven dimensions within the religion, and critiques of Smart's framework, this essay has provided a comprehensive analysis of Buddhism through the lens of Smart's framework. The implications of this analysis extend to further research on Buddhism and religious studies, highlighting the need for a nuanced and inclusive approach to understanding religious traditions.

  1. "The Seven Dimensions of Religion." Sacred Space: Ninian Smart.
  2. Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  3. Lopez, Donald S., Jr. Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed. University of Chicago Press, 2008.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Ninian Smart’s Seven Dimensions in Buddhism. (2024, January 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
“Ninian Smart’s Seven Dimensions in Buddhism.” GradesFixer, 31 Jan. 2024,
Ninian Smart’s Seven Dimensions in Buddhism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 May 2024].
Ninian Smart’s Seven Dimensions in Buddhism [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jan 31 [cited 2024 May 20]. Available from:
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