Do Buddhist believe in god?

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:12 am

tiltbillings wrote:
sunyavadin wrote: Dhamma, 'that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe'.
Interesting wording. Where is this "definition" from?


It is a dictionary definition, although I accept that 'Dhamma' is one of the key Buddhist terms that is very hard to directly translate into English. Nevertheless, I think we would agree that 'dhamma' implies, or even is, a 'moral law' or 'moral order'. After all one of the historic names of the Buddha is 'the Buddha of the Good Law'. But the very concept of 'moral law' is something that would be called into question in post-Scientific Revolution thought. It is outside the scientific-secular view of life, which believes that the only things worthy of the name 'law' are scientific and that everything has to be explainable with reference to those.

In After Virtue, Alisdair McIntyre has suggested that a dichotomy between 'is' and 'ought', between 'fact' and 'value', is a modern phenomenon. Indeed McIntyre argues that, until modern times, the distinction between 'is' and 'ought' was not made. Western thought may then make a distinction between thought and action, between fact and value, that was not made in India. This point has been made by Paul Williams:
In the Indian context it would have been axiomatic that liberation comes from discerning how things actually are [yathabhutam], the true nature of things.


From Paul Fuller, The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism

So this is the idea is that 'if you see how things really are, this is the source of spiritual liberation'. And this is an intrinsically religious or spiritual view. As far as the hardcore sciences are concerned 'how things really are' is completely devoid of meaning. (I myself regard that as a ditthi but that's a whole other argument.)

I do understand the attitude of Buddhism to the Christian God, and accept that there is no reason for the Buddhist to believe in or accept that God. But at the same time, viewed from the perspective of the modern scientific-secular mindset, Christianity and Buddhism share a concept of 'moral law' which has much in common. That is why many of the things actually said by the Buddha and by Jesus Christ are very similar, despite the many differences in their religious context. (See Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings.)

The way I choose to interpret it, is that Buddhism understands the universe in terms of the moral order, dhamma, while Christianity sees it through a theistic interpretation. But I would not like to think that they kind of 'cancel each other out'.
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 2:24 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
sunyavadin wrote: Dhamma, 'that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe'.
Interesting wording. Where is this "definition" from?


It is a dictionary definition
Which dictionary?
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:10 am

Many different sources:

Wikipedia wrote:Dharma: that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe; means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion


The Free Dictionary wrote:Dharma:

1. Hinduism & Buddhism
a. The principle or law that orders the universe.
b. Individual conduct in conformity with this principle.
c. The essential function or nature of a thing.


About.com Buddhism wrote:Dharma in both Hinduism and Buddhism refers to the principle or law that orders the universe.


Hindupedia wrote:The Sanskrit word Dharma has no direct translation into English. Among other things, it can be thought of as righteousness in thought, word, and action. It comes from the root Dhr, which means to uphold, sustain, or uplift. Thus another interpretation of the word in English would be 'the collection of natural and universal laws that uphold, sustain, or uplift.' i.e. law of being; law of nature; individual nature; prescribed duty; social and personal duties; moral code; civil law; code of conduct; morality; way of life; practice; observance; justice; righteousness; religion; religiosity; harmony.



Dictionary.Reference.Com wrote:1.essential quality or character, as of the cosmos or one's own nature.
2. conformity to religious law, custom, duty, or one's own quality or character.
3. virtue.
4. religion.
5. law, especially religious law.
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 6:20 am

sunyavadin wrote:Many different sources:

Wikipedia wrote:Dharma: that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe; means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion
The Dhamma does not uphold anything as far as I have seen in suttas. The Dhamma is not some thing that does anything. It does not uphold, support, or maintain anything. The Dhamma is, rather, the truth of how the universe functions.

Now, I could, of course, be quite wrong, but if I am, I'd love to see the suttas that show that the Dhamma is an active thing, active force, that upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe. And Hindu notions need not apply.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 6:38 am

sunyavadin wrote: The way I choose to interpret it, is that Buddhism understands the universe in terms of the moral order, dhamma, while Christianity sees it through a theistic interpretation. But I would not like to think that they kind of 'cancel each other out'.
The fundamental differences in understanding of the universe/world are radical:

    "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
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 6:51 am

Atheism’ is a much simpler concept than ‘Christianity’ or ‘Hinduism’, but the word atheism is still used in a wide variety of ways.

This can cause confusion. Someone may announce that she is an atheist, and her listeners may assume she is one type of atheist, when really she is a different type of atheist.

So to clear things up, here are 17 kinds of atheism, organized into 7 sets. Some kinds of atheism can be combined in a person, and some cannot. For example, it is perfectly consistent to be an agnostic, narrow, friendly atheist. But one cannot simultaneously be both a passive atheist and a militant atheist.

This list is not definitive. There are many ways to organize and label different kinds of atheism.

For brevity’s sake, I have substituted “gods” for the usual phrase “God or gods.”


1. Difference in Knowledge
A gnostic atheist not only believes there are no gods, he also claims to know there are no gods.

An agnostic atheist doesn’t believe in gods, but doesn’t claim to know there are no gods.

2. Difference in Affirmation
A negative atheist merely lacks a belief in gods. He is also called a weak atheist or an implicit atheist.

A positive atheist not only lacks a belief in gods, but also affirms that no gods exist. He is also called a strong atheist or an explicit atheist.

3. Difference in Scope
A broad atheist denies the existence of all gods: Zeus, Thor, Yahweh, Shiva, and so on.

A narrow atheist denies the existence of the traditional Western omni-God who is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

4. Difference in the Assessed Rationality of Theism
An unfriendly atheist believes no one is justified in believing that gods exist.

An indifferent atheist doesn’t have a belief on whether or not others are justified in believing that gods exist.

A friendly atheist believes that some theists are justified in believing that gods exist.

5. Difference in Openness
A closet atheist has not yet revealed his disbelief to most people.

An open atheist has revealed his disbelief to most people.

6. Difference in Action
A passive atheist doesn’t believe in god but doesn’t try to influence the world in favor of atheism.

An evangelical atheist tries to persuade others to give up theistic belief.

An active atheist labors on behalf of causes that specifically benefit atheists (but not necessarily just atheists). For example, he strives against discrimination toward atheists, or he strives in favor of separation of church and state.

A militant atheist uses violence to promote atheism or destroy religion. (Often, the term “militant atheist” is misapplied to non-violent evangelical atheists like Richard Dawkins. But to preserve the parallel with the “militant Christian” who bombs abortion clinics or the “militant Muslim” suicide bomber, I prefer the definition of “militant atheist” that assumes acts of violence.)

7. Difference in Religiosity
A religious atheist practices religion but does not believe in gods.

A non-religious atheist does not practice religion.

Of course, there are many more “kinds” of atheism than this, for one may be a Republican atheist or a Democratic atheist, a short atheist or a tall atheist, a Caucasian atheist or an Hispanic atheist, a foundationalist atheist or a coherentist atheist, an enchanted atheist or a disenchanted atheist.
-- http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6487


Different types of atheism are neatly outlined here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:00 am

tiltbillings wrote:For you. For me it was a matter of emphasis.

it still raised the question. whether it was for me or another, the "emphasis" created ambiguity.


Atheists will define themselves.
And there is, of course, a fair amount of variation in that, including Buddhist atheists.

But this fair amount of variation doesn't include the existence or inclusion of any god.
A number of Atheist do concede that they can not be 100% certain as to the actual existence or lack thereof of any god, however, that still doesn't equate to them saying they have a belief in such an existence.
An individual may or may not be an atheist and a Buddhist, but that doesn't mean it describes any Buddhism, or is a warranted description of Buddhism.
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."
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:04 am

tiltbillings wrote:
sunyavadin wrote:
Wikipedia wrote:Dharma: that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe; means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion


The Dhamma does not uphold anything as far as I have seen in suttas. The Dhamma is not some thing that does anything. It does not uphold, support, or maintain anything. The Dhamma is, rather, the truth of how the universe functions.


The very word 'Dhamma' comes from the root meaning 'that which upholds'. It is indeed as you say, 'the truth of how the universe functions.' So your last sentence contradicts the one before it. How can 'the truth of how the universe functions' not be 'something which upholds, maintains and supports?' It does not 'do' anything, because it is not something that exists on the level of phenomena, but it is assumed by the entire canon.
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:08 am

Cittasanto wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:For you. For me it was a matter of emphasis.

it still raised the question. whether it was for me or another, the "emphasis" created ambiguity.
And now you know.


Atheists will define themselves.
And there is, of course, a fair amount of variation in that, including Buddhist atheists.

But this fair amount of variation doesn't include the existence or inclusion of any god.
According to you.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:12 am

sunyavadin wrote:The very word 'Dhamma' comes from the root meaning 'that which upholds'.
Indeed it does, but how words are used it what gives them meaning.

It is indeed as you say, 'the truth of how the universe functions.' So your last sentence contradicts the one before it. How can 'the truth of how the universe functions' not be 'something which upholds, maintains and supports?' It does not 'do' anything, because it is not something that exists on the level of phenomena, but it is assumed by the entire canon.
This is a contradiction you are importing into the Buddha-Dhamma. You are turning truth into a thing, which the Buddha did not do.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:23 am

Something noted early on in the thread that meaning can have a wide scope or a narrow scope, and an individual preference has already been accomodated in what I have said.
Remember my Theist in the Broadest sense means a belief that at least one god exists? the same would be applied to atheist and the scope.
unfortunately all Buddhists would by definitions you have used be atheists, or monotheistic-buddhists with a belief in one god, but as pointed out there are gods so to apply the term would create ambiguity, as it would apply to all gods.
if an individual is atheistic that is one thing, but as a describer of Buddhism it is not portraying the scope in areas such as rebirth, and the texts.
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."
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:27 am

Cittasanto wrote:Something noted early on in the thread that meaning can have a wide scope or a narrow scope, and an individual preference has already been accomodated in what I have said.
Remember my Theist in the Broadest sense means a belief that at least one god exists? the same would be applied to atheist and the scope.
unfortunately all Buddhists would by definitions you have used be atheists, or monotheistic-buddhists with a belief in one god, but as pointed out there are gods so to apply the term would create ambiguity, as it would apply to all gods.
if an individual is atheistic that is one thing, but as a describer of Buddhism it is not portraying the scope in areas such as rebirth, and the texts.
This is less than clear. And please try not to ascribe to me things I have not said.

You might want to try rewriting this again and trying make it a bit more clear.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:And now you know.

yes now you know it is ambiguous to start with.
which created more explanations than neccesary.

But this fair amount of variation doesn't include the existence or inclusion of any god.
According to you.

any should be "a" and god should be god/s sorry
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."
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:36 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Something noted early on in the thread that meaning can have a wide scope or a narrow scope, and an individual preference has already been accomodated in what I have said.
Remember my Theist in the Broadest sense means a belief that at least one god exists? the same would be applied to atheist and the scope.
unfortunately all Buddhists would by definitions you have used be atheists, or monotheistic-buddhists with a belief in one god, but as pointed out there are gods so to apply the term would create ambiguity, as it would apply to all gods.
if an individual is atheistic that is one thing, but as a describer of Buddhism it is not portraying the scope in areas such as rebirth, and the texts.
This is less than clear. And please try not to ascribe to me things I have not said.

You might want to try rewriting this again and trying make it a bit more clear.

so you didn't say about the monotheistic god being refuted by the Buddha? You spent quite allot of time refuting that one idea.
don't ascribe to yourself that which is not ascribed to you!
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."
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:49 am

Cittasanto wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Something noted early on in the thread that meaning can have a wide scope or a narrow scope, and an individual preference has already been accomodated in what I have said.
Remember my Theist in the Broadest sense means a belief that at least one god exists? the same would be applied to atheist and the scope.
unfortunately all Buddhists would by definitions you have used be atheists, or monotheistic-buddhists with a belief in one god, but as pointed out there are gods so to apply the term would create ambiguity, as it would apply to all gods.
if an individual is atheistic that is one thing, but as a describer of Buddhism it is not portraying the scope in areas such as rebirth, and the texts.
This is less than clear. And please try not to ascribe to me things I have not said.

You might want to try rewriting this again and trying make it a bit more clear.

so you didn't say about the monotheistic god being refuted by the Buddha? You spent quite allot of time refuting that one idea.
don't ascribe to yourself that which is not ascribed to you!
The problem is, Cittasanto, in reading your writing it is not always easy getting what you are trying to say. Also, you are simply going around in circles with all of this, which is your choice, but it is kind of a waste of time. The fact of the matter is that "atheism" does not have a hard and fast definition that would not allow us to talk about Buddhist athesim in the ways I have indicated above.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:01 am

tiltbillings wrote:This is a contradiction you are importing into the Buddha-Dhamma. You are turning truth into a thing, which the Buddha did not do.


No sir I am not doing that. Leave you with it.
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:04 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:This is a contradiction you are importing into the Buddha-Dhamma. You are turning truth into a thing, which the Buddha did not do.


No sir I am not doing that. Leave you with it.
Then what are you doing? You seem to be talking about Dhamma as an agent that upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:45 am

I said, 'dhamma is conceived as a moral law', followed by a number of dictionary definitions of same. The Sanskrit root, dhr, means 'to hold', and can be interpreted as 'uphold'. That is certainly what it means in Indian culture, generally, and what it means in relation to Buddhism. It underwrites the whole theory of dependent origination, kamma, rebirth and liberation. This is not 'reifying' anything. It is what the word means.

The original context for my point was simply that the kinds of arguments atheism directs at the existence of God, can also be directed at 'dhamma', insofar as it is a moral law - there is no 'scientific' way of proving that it exists. (Not that I personally think that matters.)
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:02 am

sunyavadin wrote:I said, 'dhamma is conceived as a moral law', followed by a number of dictionary definitions of same. The Sanskrit root, dhr, means 'to hold', and can be interpreted as 'uphold'. That is certainly what it means in Indian culture, generally, and what it means in relation to Buddhism. It underwrites the whole theory of dependent origination, kamma, rebirth and liberation. This is not 'reifying' anything. It is what the word means.
You used the word Dhamma thus: "Dhamma, 'that which upholds supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe'." But when asked to provide sutta texts to uphold, support, and maintain your claim of this "Dhamma, 'that which upholds . . . .", none were forth coming. I do not believe that the word Dhamma is used in the suttas in that way. Dhamma is not, in this context, a thing that upholds. It is a word – Dhamma/Truth -- that simply refers to the way the “world” works, paticcasamuppada, from the perspective of the Buddha. If you want to see the Truth/Dhamma then one must see the interdependent causal rise and fall of the "world." There is no truth other than that and it is a truth that only has actual meaning for the individual who sees the truth of the "world."

The original context for my point was simply that the kinds of arguments atheism directs at the existence of God, can also be directed at 'dhamma', insofar as it is a moral law - there is no 'scientific' way of proving that it exists. (Not that I personally think that matters.)
Dhamma is not a matter existence, and it is certainly not a matter of existence that is most often claimed of god, and certainly not an existence as an agent.

I am not talking about the issue here of scientific proof. The point I am looking at is the question of an omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos from a Buddhist perspective. I am not arguing if that perspective is or is not true from a scientific point of view. I am simply pointing out that the Buddha presents a form of atheism that is worth considering.
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
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Postby sunyavadin » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:14 am

Tiltbillings wrote:when asked to provide sutta texts to uphold, support, and maintain your claim of this "Dhamma, 'that which upholds . . . .", none were forth coming


The fact that the word 'dharma' (or dhamma) is derived from the root dhr - meaning, 'to hold', and is generally translated as 'moral law', is not something in the Buddhist scriptures. It is the meaning of the term. There is also the word 'adhamma', which means contrary to the dhamma.

As for 'the dhamma upholding and supporting the teaching', the Buddha said at the time of the awakening: "What if I were to dwell in dependence on this very Dhamma to which I have fully awakened, honoring and respecting it?" (SN 6.2) (as distinct from any Brahmas, Maras, Devas, and so on.)
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