By Buddhadasa BhikkhuNow we come to the word "religion" (sasana). In everyday language, the language of the undiscerning person, the word "religion" refers simply to temples, monastery buildings, pagodas, saffron robes, and so on. If there are pagodas and temples all over the place, people say, "Ah! The religion is thriving!" This is what "religion" means in everyday language.
In Dhamma language, the word "religion" refers to the genuine Dhamma which can truly serve people as a refuge or point of support. The Dhamma which actually can be for people a basis of support, which really can bring about the end of dukkha (suffering, misery, unsatisfactoriness), the Dhamma is the religion. This is the meaning of "religion" as that term is used in Dhamma language. "The religion is thriving" means that this very special something which has the power to put an end to dukkha is spreading and expanding among people. To say that the religion is thriving does not by any means imply progress in terms of yellow robes. The religion in everyday language is temples, monastery buildings, pagodas, yellow robes, and so on; the religion in Dhamma language is the truth which genuinely serves humanity as a refuge.
Those who take the word "religion" to mean "the Teaching" are nearer the mark than those who take it as standing for temples and so on. To consider progress in religion study and instruction as true religious progress is correct up to a point. But it is not good enough. To understand the religion as simply the Teaching is still to understand it only in terms of everyday lanugage.
In terms of Dhamma language, the religion is "the sublime or Excellent Way of Life" (brahmacariya), that is to say, life lived in accordance with Dhamma. It is this exalted way of living which is "glorious in its beginning, middle, and end." By Sublime Way of Life the Buddha meant the way of practice that can really extinguish dukkha (suffering). The glory of its beginning is study and learning; the glory of its middle is the practice; the glory of its end is the real reward that comes from the practice. This is the Sublime Way of Life, the religion of Dhamma language,. Taken as everyday language, "religion" means at best the teaching; taken as Dhamma language, it means the Sublime Ways of Life, glorious in its beginning, middle, and end. The two meanings are very different.