Do Buddhist believe in god?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby pilgrim » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:04 am

Its a problem with semantics isn't it? Regardless of how the dictionary defines god, in popular usage the word god and atheist have widely understood meanings. Does the issue resolve itself if we stop interpreting devas as gods?
User avatar
pilgrim
 
Posts: 962
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:56 pm

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:28 am

tiltbillings wrote:The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10378&p=159172&hilit=unborn#p159172

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10965&p=166961&hilit=unborn#p166961


Good discussions, very interesting. But I don't know if I agree with their conclusions. 'The unconditioned, unborn,' seems radically other to what we normally know - including, for example, anything that we can know by means of the natural sciences. Even given that Theravada is not absolutist nor essentialist, that still holds, doesn't it?
User avatar
sunyavadin
 
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:38 pm
Location: Sydney

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:37 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10378&p=159172&hilit=unborn#p159172

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10965&p=166961&hilit=unborn#p166961


Good discussions, very interesting. But I don't know if I agree with their conclusions. 'The unconditioned, unborn,' seems radically other to what we normally know - including, for example, anything that we can know by means of the natural sciences. Even given that Theravada is not absolutist nor essentialist, that still holds, doesn't it?


No. As Tilt said, conflating the "unconditioned, unborn" with god is reading into the passage something that is not there and that interpretation contradicts what the Buddha himself said with respect to Issaranimmana-hetu ditthi (belief in a supreme brahma or god).
kind regards,
Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16215
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Zach » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:44 am

Cittasanto wrote:I was just searching for something and noticed an interesting link (which I shall share elsewhere) but it linked to this.
[url=http://www.buddhanet.net/ans73.htm]Good Questions Good Answers with Ven. S Dhammika[/quote] wrote:Do Buddhist believe in god?

No, we do not. There are several reasons for this. The Buddha, like modern sociologists and psychologists, believed that religious ideas and especially the god idea have their origin in fear. The Buddha says:

"Gripped by fear men go to the sacred mountains,
sacred groves, sacred trees and shrines".

Dp 188

Primitive man found himself in a dangerous and hostile world, the fear of wild animals, of not being able to find enough food, of injury or disease, and of natural phenomena like thunder, lightning and volcanoes was constantly with him. Finding no security, he created the idea of gods in order to give him comfort in good times, courage in times of danger and consolation when things went wrong. To this day, you will notice that people become more religious at times of crises, you will hear them say that the belief in a god or gods gives them the strength they need to deal with life. You will hear them explain that they believe in a particular god because they prayed in time of need and their prayer was answered. All this seems to support the Buddha’s teaching that the god-idea is a response to fear and frustration. The Buddha taught us to try to understand our fears, to lessen our desires and to calmly and courageously accept the things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with irrational belief but with rational understanding.

The second reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is because there does not seem to be any evidence to support this idea. There are numerous religions, all claiming that they alone have god’s words preserved in their holy book, that they alone understand god’s nature, that their god exists and that the gods of other religions do not. Some claim that god is masculine, some that she is feminine and others that it is neuter. They are all satisfied that there is ample evidence to prove the existence of their god but they laugh in disbelief at the evidence other religions use to prove the existence of another god. It is not surprising that with so many different religions spending so many centuries trying to prove the existence of their gods that still no real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable evidence has been found. Buddhists suspend judgement until such evidence is forthcoming.

The third reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is that the belief is not necessary. Some claim that the belief in a god is necessary in order to explain the origin on the universe. But this is not so. Science has very convincingly explained how the universe came into being without having to introduce the god-idea. Some claim that belief in god is necessary to have a happy, meaningful life. Again we can see that this is not so. There are millions of atheists and free-thinkers, not to mention many Buddhists, who live useful, happy and meaningful lives without belief in a god. Some claim that belief in god’s power is necessary because humans, being weak, do not have the strength to help themselves. Once again, the evidence indicates the opposite. One often hears of people who have overcome great disabilities and handicaps, enormous odds and difficulties, through their own inner resources, through their own efforts and without belief in a god. Some claim that god is necessary in order to give man salvation. But this argument only holds good if you accept the theological concept of salvation and Buddhists do not accept such a concept. Based on his own experience, the Buddha saw that each human being had the capacity to purify the mind, develop infinite love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted attention from the heavens to the heart and encouraged us to find solutions to our problems through self-understanding.

What do you think of the representation here?

personally I believe this misrepresents Theravada as there are gods found in the texts, how Buddhism Vissions Gods may not be in the same light, but that doesn't mean that they aren't included.
I will do a more detailed responce at a later point but just thought I would throw it out there for everyone to mull over.



Some throw the Baby out with the Bath water don't they ? There are many references to Gods within the Sutta's requesting Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, Granting him various protections and receiving teachings from him, It is important for those coming in from a monotheistic background to be able to eliminate delusions of a creator god as this could not fit in with Dependent origination but the Gods according to the system of the 6 realms seems perfectly reasonable beings enjoying marvelous forms based upon their Karma " After Death, After the break up of the body, Having performed good and virtuous deeds they will appear in the Good destination ( The higher realms) " :buddha1:
Zach
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:41 pm

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:47 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10378&p=159172&hilit=unborn#p159172

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10965&p=166961&hilit=unborn#p166961


Good discussions, very interesting. But I don't know if I agree with their conclusions. 'The unconditioned, unborn,' seems radically other to what we normally know - including, for example, anything that we can know by means of the natural sciences. Even given that Theravada is not absolutist nor essentialist, that still holds, doesn't it?
If Theravada is "not absolutist not essentrialist" then there is no "The unconditioned, unborn." Awakening is -- by definition according to the Buddha -- freedom, liberation, from the conditioning of greed, hatred, and delusion; it is freedom. liberation, from any further rebirth.
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:49 am

Zach wrote: Some throw the Baby out with the Bath water don't they ? There are many references to Gods within the Sutta's requesting Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, Granting him various protections and receiving teachings from him, It is important for those coming in from a monotheistic background to be able to eliminate delusions of a creator god as this could not fit in with Dependent origination but the Gods according to the system of the 6 realms seems perfectly reasonable beings enjoying marvelous forms based upon their Karma " After Death, After the break up of the body, Having performed good and virtuous deeds they will appear in the Good destination ( The higher realms) " :buddha1:
And we should not forget that these "gods" can be quite deluded.
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:59 am

Kamran wrote:Many Buddhists do not believe in God. Some do.

Buddhism is atheist friendly :)

Very true, but you could just have friendly :)

My understanding is that Buddhism is not a belief system, you don't have to believe in gods (or anything else).


Just to accept as a working hypothesis that you can develop the skills to end suffering, which is not hard to do once you see the benefits of meditation.[/quote]
It is not a belief system where a god or gods are the focus, but there certainly are beliefs such as right views "mundane" expression of
there is what is given, there is mother, father & spontaneously born beings, there are results for skilled & unskilled action....
these were in contrast to certain beliefs expounded by other teachers.

This is Unlike theistic religions where you will be sent to hell if you don't believe in god and his prophet(s).

there is a theology (theory of god/s) but not all theistic religions have a theology in the catholic/christian way which produces theologians, or in the related term where theology is derived meaning message of god/s, and why it is sometime seen being called Buddhology, although there are arguments to stick with it being a peculiar christian term and others used for other faiths; although some of the areas studied are the same/similar, god/s are not necessarily included in the program in the way a theology course would have them.
Prophets were a unique feature of Israelite religion, although there are similarities with other types of messengers such as oracles, shamans... their scope and "job" isn't the same, and the Greeks believed they went to hell (hades) regardless (although only one of the areas were like the hell in christian belief, and one like the heaven, the heaven was reserved not for believers but those who had done some some sort of heroic task, the other areas were more like the later inclusion of purgatory.



One thing I see here (in the tread) is a black and white view of the idea of divinity "this and only this is a god/theism and the lack of belief in that criterion of a god is atheism" when there are gray areas, and a range of colours.
it is easy for Buddhists to apply the Buddhist conception of god/s to theistic beliefs other than the Abrahamic, yet instead many limit the actual scope that exists to suit a narrow understanding. it is like the God of the gaps theory, only works if every thing is a gap.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: 5826
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:02 am

Cittasanto wrote:One thing I see here (in the tread) is a black and white view of the idea of divinity "this and only this is a god/theism and the lack of belief in that criterion of a god is atheism" when there are gray areas, and a range of colours.
it is easy for Buddhists to apply the Buddhist conception of god/s to theistic beliefs other than the Abrahamic, yet instead many limit the actual scope that exists to suit a narrow understanding. it is like the God of the gaps theory, only works if every thing is a gap.
The grey areas are to the point and the point is that the Buddha's critique of the idea of a singular god and of gods can be applied to the wide variations that are presented to it.
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:08 am

sunyavadin wrote:
Cittasanto wrote: personally I believe this misrepresents Theravada as there are gods found in the texts, how Buddhism Vissions Gods may not be in the same light, but that doesn't mean that they aren't included.


I have noticed the Gods in the Pali Nikayas are very much like the pantheon of ancient Indian gods. The notion of 'Brahman', as distinct from 'The God Brahma', is not mentioned. There is also a mystical element in the early texts, for example the saying

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.

(Ud 8.3)

What do you mean with element?


I do know that a lot of Buddhists with Christian sympathies (and vice versa) refer to that, saying that this is a reference to mystical ideas of 'God' (note the quotes).

I do agree that the attitude of Buddhism is very different to (and preferable to) that of Christian monotheism. Personally, I am not atheist, but I don't relate to 'God' (what or whomever that might be) through the Bible or through the Christian church. But I am not hostile to them, either.

This is a misrepresentation of the text, certainly there is a mystical aspect to Buddhism, but this shouldn't be confused with pointing to the same idea.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: 5826
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:36 am

pilgrim wrote:Its a problem with semantics isn't it? Regardless of how the dictionary defines god, in popular usage the word god and atheist have widely understood meanings.

depends on who you talk to, when you say god people assume their perception of what is being talked about, regardless of other views, something strange on a buddhist forum, as the argument of generational belief steps in.
Most people here, I believe, are not from a Buddhist Background, i.e.born Buddhists, so their cultural background belief in god/s have been dropped allong the way but rather than accept there are other views on divinity with their own nuances when talking about it everything is clumped together and denied based upon one conception which they happen to of inherited. whereas Buddhism which is not, in most cases, part of the cultural backdrop for inheritance, is picked up then forced (to some degree) to fall in line with the previous denial of the inherited system.

This is not saying that god/s are an essential part or absolutely useful for the ultimate goal of Buddhism, but a personal disbelief in divine beings is just that, a personal belief which, in my opinion, does not represent Buddhism whether Theravada or otherwise, which has an inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings, so it is not an atheistic "religion", rather a theistic "religion" in its widest sense as these beings are accepted.


Does the issue resolve itself if we stop interpreting devas as gods?

The word is not isolated to Buddhist cosmology or teachings alone.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: 5826
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:42 am

Zach wrote:Some throw the Baby out with the Bath water don't they ?

I would agree, but continue with "the laundry out with the washing water" allot more is thrown out than one idea i.e., the baby.
and even useful aspects of traditions which have one form of idea regarding divine beings or another can be ignored.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: 5826
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:44 am

Cittasanto wrote:What do you mean with 'element'.


The 'mystical element' I was thinking of is described in Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha by Peter Harvey. This touches on the passage I mentioned, and also the passage on 'luminous mind' (Pabhassara Sutta).

I am disposed towards mysticism, generally - not everyone is -and I tend towards universalism. And I usually put quotes around 'God' which I hope conveys the idea that I am not literalistic in my interpretation of such issues.
User avatar
sunyavadin
 
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:38 pm
Location: Sydney

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:48 am

Cittasanto wrote:Most people here, I believe, are not from a Buddhist Background, i.e.born Buddhists, so their cultural background belief in god/s have been dropped allong the way but rather than accept there are other views on divinity with their own nuances when talking about it everything is clumped together and denied based upon one conception which they happen to of inherited.
That certainly is not a safe assumption to make.

whereas Buddhism which is not, in most cases, part of the cultural backdrop for inheritance, is picked up then forced (to some degree) to fall in line with the previous denial of the inherited system.
Nor is this a safe assumption.

This is not saying that god/s are an essential part or absolutely useful for the ultimate goal of Buddhism, but a personal disbelief in divine beings is just that, a personal belief which, in my opinion, does not represent Buddhism whether Theravada or otherwise, which has an inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings, so it is not an atheistic "religion", rather a theistic "religion" in its widest sense as these beings are accepted.
The Buddha did, indeed, have an "inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings," but the Buddha also characterized these "divine beings" -- that pre-dated him -- in a way that was radically different from how the Brahmins characterized them. There is a good reason why the Brahmins characterized the Buddha and his teachings as atheistic. In the Gita, chapter XVI, 8:

'The universe," they say, "is without truth [asat that which open to destruction and change, without an atman/brahman, the Absolute within each of us],"
Without basis/unstable [having no solid ground apratis.t.ham], without a God;
Brought about by a mutual union,
How else? It is caused by lust alone.'


This is a good caricature of the Buddhist position, and certainly the Buddhist position is that the world is unstable, constantly in change, without a basis or essence - an atman/brahman, and is without a god, "Brought about by a mutual union," and "caused by desire," all of which could be used to describe the Buddhist position, but no one else of the time.

And the Gita goes on, XVI, 9:

Holding this view,
These men of lost souls, of small intelligence,
And of cruel actions, come forth as enemies
Of the world for it destruction.
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:54 am

tiltbillings wrote:If Theravada is "not absolutist not essentialist" then there is no "The unconditioned, unborn." Awakening is -- by definition according to the Buddha -- freedom, liberation, from the conditioning of greed, hatred, and delusion; it is freedom. liberation, from any further rebirth.


I agree that 'the unborn' is not something to be reified or objectified. But I am also wary of what is described as ucchedavāda or nihilism. I think that 'liberation' is pointing at something beyond birth-and-death, not simply the absence of it. The Buddha awakens to something as well as from something, doesn't he?

I find I am mainly in agreement with Ñāṇa in the thread he started, Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma, but I don't intend to spend time debating the issue, as I realize it generates a lot of heat.
User avatar
sunyavadin
 
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:38 pm
Location: Sydney

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:59 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:If Theravada is "not absolutist not essentialist" then there is no "The unconditioned, unborn." Awakening is -- by definition according to the Buddha -- freedom, liberation, from the conditioning of greed, hatred, and delusion; it is freedom. liberation, from any further rebirth.


I agree that 'the unborn' is not something to be reified or objectified. But I am also wary of what is described as ucchedavāda or nihilism. I think that 'liberation' is pointing at something beyond birth-and-death, not simply the absence of it. The Buddha awakens to something as well as from something, doesn't he?
He awakens to freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion, which is a total transformation. Your "to and "from" is naught more, it seems, than a variation of is and is not, being and non-being.
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:59 am

sunyavadin wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:What do you mean with 'element'.


The 'mystical element' I was thinking of is described in Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha by Peter Harvey. This touches on the passage I mentioned, and also the passage on 'luminous mind' (Pabhassara Sutta).

I am disposed towards mysticism, generally - not everyone is -and I tend towards universalism. And I usually put quotes around 'God' which I hope conveys the idea that I am not literalistic in my interpretation of such issues.

OK,
do you mean God as a alternative designation of Dhamma (reality and all it encompases) not as any being, as found in deistic or even some depictions of Brahma?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: 5826
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Most people here, I believe, are not from a Buddhist Background, i.e.born Buddhists, so their cultural background belief in god/s have been dropped allong the way but rather than accept there are other views on divinity with their own nuances when talking about it everything is clumped together and denied based upon one conception which they happen to of inherited.
That certainly is not a safe assumption to make.

whereas Buddhism which is not, in most cases, part of the cultural backdrop for inheritance, is picked up then forced (to some degree) to fall in line with the previous denial of the inherited system.
Nor is this a safe assumption.

which assumption?
if you are talking about the cultural backdrop people are from, this may not be 100% representitive of every member, or represent their generational origins, place of birth... but... viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1697&p=22136&hilit=+poll+where+are+you+from#p22136
Europe and the US are not Culturally Buddhist and the predominant view would be the default people assumel, and according to that one poll it is relatively reasonable to assume that.
but to assume the abrahamic god is the only conception is also not a safe assumption when talking in a general sense, something many here have done.

This is not saying that god/s are an essential part or absolutely useful for the ultimate goal of Buddhism, but a personal disbelief in divine beings is just that, a personal belief which, in my opinion, does not represent Buddhism whether Theravada or otherwise, which has an inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings, so it is not an atheistic "religion", rather a theistic "religion" in its widest sense as these beings are accepted.

The Buddha did, indeed, have an "inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings," but the Buddha also characterized these "divine beings" -- that pre-dated him -- in a way that was radically different from how the Brahmins characterized them. There is a good reason why the Brahmins characterized the Buddha and his teachings as atheistic. In the Gita, chapter XVI, 8:

'The universe," they say, "is without truth [asat that which open to destruction and change, without an atman/brahman, the Absolute within each of us],"
Without basis/unstable [having no solid ground apratis.t.ham], without a God;
Brought about by a mutual union,
How else? It is caused by lust alone.'


This is a good caricature of the Buddhist position, and certainly the Buddhist position is that the world is unstable, constantly in change, without a basis or essence - an atman/brahman, and is without a god, "Brought about by a mutual union," and "caused by desire," all of which could be used to describe the Buddhist position, but no one else of the time.

And the Gita goes on, XVI, 9:

Holding this view,
These men of lost souls, of small intelligence,
And of cruel actions, come forth as enemies
Of the world for it destruction.

without a god?
Buddhism, regardless of what others may say, has gods found within its cosmology, and how they are considered may be represented in this way by those who have god/s in a central roll, but this does not show a lack of divine being within Buddhism, conceived in a different way or not.
how Buddhism defines itself rather than individuals or other groups is what is important.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: 5826
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:35 am

Cittasanto wrote:do you mean God as a alternative designation of Dhamma (reality and all it encompases) not as any being, as found in deistic or even some depictions of Brahma?


My way of thinking about 'God' is as 'the Not'. The Pali character 'a' is the negative particle - as in not-born, not-become, not-manifest. The Udana says 'if it weren't for the not-born, the not-fabricated, the not-manifest, there would be no escape from the born, the fabricated, the manifest'. My interpretation is that this is pointing to 'unconditioned mind' as a state of being. This is a lot more like a 'Mahayana' understanding though, I acknowledge that.

I don't believe in 'believing', though. That is why I am studying Buddhism and practicing meditation. I do ask myself, 'If I was Christian, what would I do differently?' I can't see any answer to that. I am not very impressed by 'belief', per se. You have to walk the walk.

tiltbillings wrote:
sunyavadin wrote:The Buddha awakens to something as well as from something, doesn't he?
He awakens to freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion, which is a total transformation. Your "to and "from" is naught more, it seems, than a variation of is and is not, being and non-being.


There are positive descriptions of Nibbana in the Suttas also, even though they are not very frequent.

In the essay by Nyanoponika Thera, 'Buddhism and the God Idea', he says

The materialistic philosophy of annihilationism (ucchedavāda) is emphatically rejected by the Buddha as a false doctrine. The doctrine of kamma is sufficient to prove that Buddhism does not teach annihilation after death. It accepts survival, not of an eternal soul, but of a mental process subject to renewed becoming; thus it teaches rebirth without transmigration. Again, the Buddha's teaching is not a nihilism that gives suffering humanity no better hope than a final cold nothingness. On the contrary, it is a teaching of salvation (niyyanika-dhamma) or deliverance (vimutti) which attributes to man the faculty to realize by his own efforts the highest goal, Nibbana, the ultimate cessation of suffering and the final eradication of greed, hatred and delusion. Nibbana is far from being the blank zero of annihilation; yet it also cannot be identified with any form of God-idea, as it is neither the origin nor the immanent ground or essence of the world.


I mostly agree with that. But I think that 'the final goal' is something beyond conception and that it's a mistake to think we know what it is.
Last edited by sunyavadin on Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
sunyavadin
 
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:38 pm
Location: Sydney

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:59 am

Cittasanto wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Most people here, I believe, are not from a Buddhist Background, i.e.born Buddhists, so their cultural background belief in god/s have been dropped allong the way but rather than accept there are other views on divinity with their own nuances when talking about it everything is clumped together and denied based upon one conception which they happen to of inherited.
That certainly is not a safe assumption to make.

whereas Buddhism which is not, in most cases, part of the cultural backdrop for inheritance, is picked up then forced (to some degree) to fall in line with the previous denial of the inherited system.
Nor is this a safe assumption.

which assumption?
Both the major assumptions you make in the two paragraphs I responded to. They are certainly not appropriate to my experience.

but to assume the abrahamic god is the only conception is also not a safe assumption when talking in a general sense, something many here have done.
I make no such assumption.

Cittasanto wrote:
tilt wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:This is not saying that god/s are an essential part or absolutely useful for the ultimate goal of Buddhism, but a personal disbelief in divine beings is just that, a personal belief which, in my opinion, does not represent Buddhism whether Theravada or otherwise, which has an inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings, so it is not an atheistic "religion", rather a theistic "religion" in its widest sense as these beings are accepted.

The Buddha did, indeed, have an "inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings," but the Buddha also characterized these "divine beings" -- that pre-dated him -- in a way that was radically different from how the Brahmins characterized them. There is a good reason why the Brahmins characterized the Buddha and his teachings as atheistic. In the Gita, chapter XVI, 8:

'The universe," they say, "is without truth [asat that which open to destruction and change, without an atman/brahman, the Absolute within each of us],"
Without basis/unstable [having no solid ground apratis.t.ham], without a God;
Brought about by a mutual union,
How else? It is caused by lust alone.'


This is a good caricature of the Buddhist position, and certainly the Buddhist position is that the world is unstable, constantly in change, without a basis or essence - an atman/brahman, and is without a god, "Brought about by a mutual union," and "caused by desire," all of which could be used to describe the Buddhist position, but no one else of the time.

And the Gita goes on, XVI, 9:

Holding this view,
These men of lost souls, of small intelligence,
And of cruel actions, come forth as enemies
Of the world for it destruction.

without a god?
Certainly without this god (DN 24): "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." Certainly without a god/godhead -- omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos -- as characterized in the Upansihads or the Gita, not to mention the atman as characterized in the Upansihads or the Gita.

Buddhism, regardless of what others may say, has gods found within its cosmology, and how they are considered may be represented in this way by those who have god/s in a central roll, but this does not show a lack of divine being within Buddhism, conceived in a different way or not.
how Buddhism defines itself rather than individuals or other groups is what is important.
No one here is denying that there are "gods" found through out the suttas, but the gods, taken from the brahmanical pantheon, are certainly radically redefined so as to fit with the Buddha's understanding of reality, and many of them are characterized as becoming good Buddhists, as in the 83rd discourse of the Middle Length Sayings: "God/Brahma 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?'"
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:05 am

sunyavadin wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:do you mean God as a alternative designation of Dhamma (reality and all it encompases) not as any being, as found in deistic or even some depictions of Brahma?


My way of thinking about 'God' is as 'the Not'. The Pali character 'a' is the negative particle - as in not-born, not-become, not-manifest. The Udana says 'if it weren't for the not-born, the not-fabricated, the not-manifest, there would be no escape from the born, the fabricated, the manifest'.
If there were no arahants where would the "not-born, the not-fabricated, the not-manifest" be?

There are positive descriptions of Nibbana in the Suttas also, even though they are not very frequent.
There are, but they exist within a broader context.
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: 19751
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

PreviousNext

Return to Theravāda for the modern world

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 8 guests