Satori wrote:Was he Atheist on this issue? Or Agnostic? Or did he not talk about it?
People say there is no God in Buddhism , and yet I heard stories of people being religiously Jewish and Buddhist , and stories of people being Christian and Buddhist. I have also read that in Japan, Gods or Kamis were interpreted as being manifestations of the Buddha, which sort of implies the Buddha is like a God - to those who accepted such a belief.
I am not saying this is wrong, but I would have thought there would be confusion, through mixing worldviews.
So what did the Buddha have to say about God?
Just to add my two cents, I happen to be of the opinion that Buddhism ultimately rejects the idea of a creator God. For one thing, the logic of dependent co-arising
negates God because it precludes a first cause or a causeless cause. And then there’s this famous problem of evil passage from the Bhuridatta Jataka
We see those rules enforced before our eyes,
None but the Brahmans offer sacrifice,
None but the Khattiya exercises sway,
The Vessas plough, the Suddas must obey.
These greedy liars propagate deceit,
And fools believe the fictions they repeat;
He who has eyes can see the sickening sight;
Why does not Brahma set his creatures right?
If his wide power no limits can restrain,
Why is his hand so rarely spread to bless?
Why are his creatures all condemned to pain?
Why does he not to all give happiness?
Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail?
Why triumphs falsehood, truth and justice fail?
I count your Brahma one of the unjust among,
Who made a world in which to shelter wrong.
Those men are counted pure who only kill
Frogs, worms, bees, snakes or insects as they will,
These are your savage customs which I hate,
Such as Kamboja hordes might emulate.
If he who kills is counted innocent
And if the victim safe to heaven is sent,
Let Brahmans Brahmans kill so all were well
And those who listen to the words they tell.
So, essentially, Buddhism is non-theistic in view. Nevertheless, even in the Pali Canon, there are references to devas
or what we might call 'heavenly beings.' However, devas (literally 'radiant ones'), which are often seen as gods when taken literally, are simply non-human beings who are more powerful and long-lived than ordinary humans, but by no means eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, etc.; but more importantly, they can also be viewed metaphorically as the indulgent and hedonistic aspects of our psychology (i.e., the parts that are addicted to sensual pleasures).
In addition, according to AN 3.61
, the belief in a supreme being can be unskillful and interfere with Dhamma practice if it leads to a denial of the efficacy of karma (literally 'action') and a life of inaction:
"Having approached the priests & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being's act of creation. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being's act of creation.' When one falls back on creation by a supreme being as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my second righteous refutation of those priests & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views.
Moreover, in relation to the four noble truths
and the practice of the noble eightfold path, the matter of the existence of God is irrelevant and, ultimately, a distraction to be avoided. That doesn't mean that people can't believe in God and still practice the Dhamma, especially the noble eightfold path
, but it does mean that, at the very least, such a view can negatively impact the practice when held inappropriately.
Personally, I think Buddhism has always been what we might call a type of 'transcendent psychology,' and it's only been relatively recently (at least in the West) that its more technical terms have been understood and translated in ways that make this clear. I think this shift is due in no small part to the decades of excellent scholarship that has been brought to bear on the texts and the religious-historical context in which they took shape.
Regardless of how it's been popularized, at its core, Buddhism deals exclusively with one subject, that of human mental suffering. The Buddha himself made it clear that
"Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress.
That's not to say there aren't 'supernatural' concepts in Buddhism, or that local customs, deities and religious practices haven't found their way into Buddhism wherever it's been established. But rather than a pure system of thought or a strictly faith-based worship of the supernatural, a critical analysis of the earliest texts reveals a much more pragmatic and specialized method of mental training than most traditional Buddhists and Western converts realize—one that seeks to diminish and even eliminate suffering by radically changing the way the mind relates to experience.
So being an atheist, or even a theist for that matter, doesn't preclude one from practicing Buddhism as long as one has an open mind and is willing to seriously give some of these teachings a chance.