Theism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Theism

Postby clw_uk » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:03 pm

Buddhism is thought of as an atheist religion, however did the Buddha ever state "there is no one powerful God" or was he just agnostic about it


Is there a passage where the Buddha denies any kind of supreme being?


Can one become enlightened and still believe/worship an all powerful God?


Im an Atheist myself i only ask because ive never come accross a passage (that i can remember) that states directly there is no God


Metta

:anjali:
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
User avatar
clw_uk
 
Posts: 3479
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: Theism

Postby Fede » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:24 pm

"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
User avatar
Fede
 
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: The Heart of this "Green & Pleasant Land"...

Re: Theism

Postby Rui Sousa » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:44 pm

From the Kevatta Sutta DN 11:

A second time, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'

"A third time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.'

"Then the Great Brahma, taking the monk by the arm and leading him off to one side, said to him, 'These gods of the retinue of Brahma believe, "There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not know. There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not see. There is nothing of which the Great Brahma is unaware. There is nothing that the Great Brahma has not realized." That is why I did not say in their presence that I, too, don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.'
With Metta
User avatar
Rui Sousa
 
Posts: 366
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:01 pm
Location: Sintra, Portugal

Re: Theism

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:02 pm

A couple of different ways to look at God. There is a God, but it is not quite what it thinks it is, or that there is no God that is permanent, omniscient, and the creator of the universe:

The Buddha states (Anguttara-Nikaya X 29):

'As far as the suns and moons extend their courses and the regions of the sky shine in splendour, there is a thousandfold world system, in each single one of these there are a thousand suns, moons, Meru Mountains, four times a thousand continents and oceans, a thousand heavens of all stages of the realm of sense pleasure, a thousand Brahma worlds. As far as a thousandfold world system reaches in other words, the universe], the Great God is the highest being. But even the Great God is subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be.'


And in the 83rd discourse of the Middle Length Sayings:

"God truthfully answers [the questions of the Buddha] in succession: 'Good sir, those views I previously held are not mine; I see the radiance the world of God as passing; how could I say that I am permanent and eternal?'"


In other words God is still bound by karma.

In Digha Nikaya 24 where the Buddha states:

"There are some ascetics and brahmins who declare as their doctrine that all things began with the creation by God, or Brahma."


And this singular god is characterized so:

"That Worshipful God, the Great God, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Organizer, the Protection, the Creator, the Most Perfect Ruler, the Designer and Orderer, the Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be, He by Whom we were created, He is permanent, Constant, Eternal, Unchanging, and He will remain so for ever and ever."


which is a nice characterization of the brahmanical notion of the creator God one finds in the early Brahmanical and Ishvara literature, and it seems to fit for most every other creator God notion that has come down the pike.

The Buddha goes on in this discourse, using mythic language, to give a biting satirical re-telling of the creation myth of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad making it quite clear that God is not quite what the absolute entity it imagines itself to be. It is not the creator, and we can see in this discourse by the Buddha and in other related ones that the idea of a single, absolute cause for the multiplicity of things, an infallible source of revealed knowledge that was different in kind from ordinary human knowledge, an unconditioned being that participates in any way in (even only as a witness to) the changes of human experience, and any kind of being that can interfere with the natural consequences of karma is rejected by the Buddha.

Elsewhere the Buddha states:

Anguttara Nikaya 3.61: "Again, monks, I [the Buddha] approached those ascetic and brahmins and said to them: 'Is it true, as they say, that you venerable ones teach and hold the view that whatever a person experiences...all that is caused by God's creation?' When they affirmed it, I said to them: 'If that is so, venerable sirs, then it is due to God's creation that people kill, steal ...[and otherwise act badly]. But those who have recourse to God's creation as the decisive factor will lack the impulse and the effort doing this or not doing that. Since for them, really and truly, no (motive) obtains that this or that ought to be done or not be done...."'


"If the pleasure and pain that beings feel are caused the creative act of a Supreme God [Issara-nimmana-hetu], then the Niganthas [Jains] surely must have been created by an evil Supreme God." MN II 222.


"The universe is without a refuge, without a Supreme God." MN II 68.


And then let us add these statements from the Pali Canon:

"He who eyes can see the sickening sight, why does not God 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 God unjust in making a world in which to shelter wrong." J VI.208


"If God designs the life of the entire world -- the glory and the misery, the good and the evil acts, man is but an instrument of his will and God alone is responsible." - J V.238.


Samyutta Nikaya III 144: "Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding a fleck of cow dung in his hand], if even if that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal individual selfhood/metaphysical being (attabhava), not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living the holy life could not be taught by me."


Atta, in Sanskrit Atman, in this context carries a heavy metaphysical connotation, and given that the Buddha was speaking against backdrop of the two or three Upanishads that predate the Buddha, atman is a term equivalent to brahman, the absolute, the godhead - that is, self existence being par excellence (which is personified or mythologized as Brahma). The point is the Buddha was not silent on the question of god.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19404
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Theism

Postby clw_uk » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:07 pm

Thanks Tiltbillings for all those quotes and explanations


Was exactly what i was looking for :thumbsup:



:anjali:
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
User avatar
clw_uk
 
Posts: 3479
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: Theism

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:11 pm

Excellent collection, Tilt :thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14656
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Theism

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:43 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Excellent collection, Tilt :thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)


Yeah. It comes from dealing with Baha'is who insist that the Buddha is a manifestation of their god.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19404
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Theism

Postby Individual » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:51 pm

clw_uk wrote:Buddhism is thought of as an atheist religion, however did the Buddha ever state "there is no one powerful God" or was he just agnostic about it


Is there a passage where the Buddha denies any kind of supreme being?


Can one become enlightened and still believe/worship an all powerful God?


Im an Atheist myself i only ask because ive never come accross a passage (that i can remember) that states directly there is no God


Metta

:anjali:

Buddhism is misunderstood as an "atheistic" religion. Buddhism is non-theistic. The existence of gods is neither affirmed nor denied; it is irrelevant. What is explicitly rejected is the notion of a monotheistic creator god. For some people, this is the only conceivable conception of "God", so to reject it implies Atheism. Passages on this have been cited by those above. Based on this, supreme enlightenment is not possible with such a wrong view.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Individual
 
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: Theism

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:51 am

As has been pointed out, the Suttas
MN49 Brahmanimantanika Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.049.than.html
SN 6:5 A Certain Brahama
have some relevance, in that Baka-Brahma has the delusion that he is "God".

There are two talks about MN49 by Ajahn Brahm on this page, on only this month...
http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/SuttaStudy.rss.php
The Invitation Of A Brahma
Monday, 10 April 2006 4:00 p.m.
Ajahn Brahmavamso explains the Brahmanimantanika Sutta from the Majjhima Nikaya (#49). Here the Buddha teaches God a lesson. :-)
MN49 Brahmanimantanika Sutta
Monday, 9 March 2009 5:00 p.m.
Ajahan Brahm explains and discusses MN49, the Brahmanimantanika Sutta (The Invitation of a Brahma)

And there is a talk by Bhikkhu Bodhi here that also discusses SN 6:5.
http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about-bud....html?showall=1
On 2009.01.13
MN 49: Brahmanimantanika Sutta — The Invitation of a Brahmā

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10280
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Theism

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:53 am

I would say Buddhism was a theistic religion, as are any which have one or more gods, or merely a view on the importance of or existance of such beings.
I don't think there is a passage as such where he denies such a being but there are passages which indicate that such a being is not bothered with worship if s/he does and others where he says the universe is without knowable beginning etc.
I don't think belief in such a being makes enlightenment imposible, or lack of belief for that matter, but how much attention we give that belief.
hope this helps.

WM
Manapa
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5743
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Theism

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:58 am

I don't think belief in such a being makes enlightenment imposible,


It depends what you mean by god. If it is a creator god, ther Buddha would likely not agree with you:

But those who have recourse to God's creation as the decisive factor will lack the impulse and the effort doing this or not doing that. Since for them, really and truly, no (motive) obtains that this or that ought to be done or not be done....
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19404
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Theism

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:42 am

hi tilt
tiltbillings wrote:
I don't think belief in such a being makes enlightenment imposible,


It depends what you mean by god. If it is a creator god, ther Buddha would likely not agree with you:

But those who have recourse to God's creation as the decisive factor will lack the impulse and the effort doing this or not doing that. Since for them, really and truly, no (motive) obtains that this or that ought to be done or not be done....


but I do go on to say

or lack of belief for that matter, but how much attention we give that belief.


believing in or not isn't a problem, but paying that belief to much attention is.

if I believe there is a god or gods and worship in accordance to that belief neglecting the rest of life due to a sense of god is the only power which matters then that quote is true, just as if I don't and argue that we can do what we want, but If I take a more deistic, Agnostic, or don't care about the issue of whether there is or isn't a god stance and acknowledge that there are things in this life to be done and not done then the problem is not there, or not as much of a problem depending on the grasp of that view.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5743
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Theism

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:55 am

Well, it seems you are not talking about the kamma bound gods that might help with your crops or some such thing.

"The assumption that a God is the cause (of the world, etc.) is based on the false belief in the eternal self (atman, i.e. permanent spiritual substance, essence or personality); but that belief has to be abandoned, if one has clearly understood that everything is impermanent and subject to suffering." - Abhidharmakosha 5, 8 vol IV, p 19


If this is true, and there is no reason to think it is not, then belief in a god is something of limited value and will need to be let go.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19404
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Theism

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Mar 17, 2009 10:31 am

tiltbillings wrote:Well, it seems you are not talking about the kamma bound gods that might help with your crops or some such thing.

"The assumption that a God is the cause (of the world, etc.) is based on the false belief in the eternal self (atman, i.e. permanent spiritual substance, essence or personality); but that belief has to be abandoned, if one has clearly understood that everything is impermanent and subject to suffering." - Abhidharmakosha 5, 8 vol IV, p 19


If this is true, and there is no reason to think it is not, then belief in a god is something of limited value and will need to be let go.


I could also be talking about anything we could worship, or pay homage to in a manner which distracts from the path.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5743
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Theism

Postby nathan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:25 am

Imho classical Theravada is neither agnostic nor atheistic about such beings. As I see it buddhism these days simply contains a great many people who are either atheists or agnostics.

Personally I couldn't really accept buddhism if it didn't deal with such beings as real entities simply because I do and more or less always have. I think I can say that much openly because it doesn't in itself imply any sort of attainments in a buddhist context at all. So, if you don't like my saying it still doesn't change anything in my life or experience, so feel free to disagree or think me mad but it will probably just continue to be this way for me regardless of what I or anyone else thinks about it.

As I see Buddhadhamma, everything is a presentation in terms of analysis of dhamma and so the treatment of the nature of these beings is also an analysis by means of dhamma. So it is not theo-anything, it is dhamma. There.

As far as more simple descriptions of God, particularly monotheistic ones, these are mostly the result of too many people with no idea what they are talking about composing their 'truths' out of their presuppositions or preconceptions on the basis of second hand information from those who have had first hand experiences and the limited nature of those disclosures. Even in the bible there are all sorts of divine beings and the simple reduction to God Almighty, the devil and angels is a much later reformulation of originally far more elaborate cosmological conceptions. Before the monotheisms came to spread their great blindness over the world almost all peoples saw these beings and realms as varied and diverse.

In the dhamma presentation of all this there are beings who serve in all of the roles now simplified, altered and reduced to a relative few beings. So I see there being a place for all these beings in the overall structure of the universe it is just hard to know how they fit in until you know how they are in the first place and most people have no awareness at all. So, don't hold your breath waiting for answers. Those of us with any actual insights into this get no respect from most of the rest of you anyways so don't count on it happening any time soon. We tend to not speak about it at all. It's just easier that way.

As far as I am concerned those who think that the Buddha was deceiving them about all of this are basically calling him a liar and are wrong. That may be more worthwhile thinking about some if you really have no idea what to think.
:anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
nathan
 
Posts: 692
Joined: Sat Feb 07, 2009 3:11 am


Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: martinfrank, mikenz66, Samraj and 11 guests