Grace in Buddhism?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Grace in Buddhism?

Postby qoheleth » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:08 am

Hello,

According to my understanding, Theravada Buddhism places the responsibility for awakening on each individual. In many other religious traditions, there is an "other power", like the Amida Buddha, Christ, etc, and by calling upon or entrusting ourselves to this power or entity, we receive a kind of grace that helps us move towards our spiritual goal. Is there anything even remotely resembling the idea of grace - help from outside of ourselves - in the Suttas or the writings of Theravada Buddhists that you know of?

Thanks in advance,
Steve
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:29 am

Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:42 am

qoheleth wrote:Is there anything even remotely resembling the idea of grace - help from outside of ourselves - in the Suttas or the writings of Theravada Buddhists that you know of?

Kalyāṇa-mittatā aside, no.

Not only NO, but HEAVENS NO!

The question alone betrays the ignorance of the questioner with regard to the subject matter. Seeking soteriological salve from someone other than oneself is pure delusion. Pure and simple.

In the Buddhadhamma, there is no salvation outside of the individual. What makes you think that anyone besides oneself is responsible for your life? For the choices you make? For the person you become while on this miserable earth?

I'm not castigating you. I'm asking you to think about these things. Seriously! And then look up, become familiar with, and contemplate the Four Noble Truths.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:43 am

No such notion in Buddha dhamma, kalyana mitta is nothing like the idea of grace.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Ben » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:45 am

It might be worthwhile unearthing another thread on Grace and Buddhism created by long-time DW member, Zavk.
It will have some interesting material germane to this line of enquiry.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Viscid » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:28 am

B wrote:It might be worthwhile unearthing another thread on Grace and Buddhism created by long-time DW member, Zavk.
It will have some interesting material germane to this line of enquiry.
kind regards,

Ben


Link because Ben is lazy: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=5296#p82679
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Dan74 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:37 am

Some people talk of the deathless element, the unconditioned, etc. Perhaps this can sometimes be perceived as "other"?
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:18 am

Is there anything even remotely resembling the idea of grace - help from outside of ourselves - in the Suttas or the writings of Theravada Buddhists that you know of?


Maybe not ongoing active help, but it is I believe worth reflecting on the good fortune that we have inherited. To be born in a time and place to hear the Buddha's teaching, to have favourable conditions for practice, whatever good health we have in body and mind, good friends, and so on. I don't remember doing anything to deserve these, even if according to some people I did. Left to my own devices without these things, I would have been more likely to dig myself deeper into a hole. My good fortune seems to be as much "outside myself" as many Christian conceptions of Grace.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Mar 30, 2013 11:00 am

There are ideas which are similar to how I understand grace in the way Theravada is practiced in Thailand. Boon (punna) which is normally translated as merit has connotations of good fortune. Barami (parami) is similar, meaning something like "having good qualties". It is possible to come in to contact with those who have parami, which would be seen as a blessing or good fortune (it rubs off). There is also the notion of sacred. And there is also a notion of power, which is associated with the triple gem and that which is sacred. You could also associate meditative states with grace, as they are not personal and are said to purify.
Last edited by Mr Man on Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Ben » Sat Mar 30, 2013 11:13 am

Viscid wrote:
B wrote:It might be worthwhile unearthing another thread on Grace and Buddhism created by long-time DW member, Zavk.
It will have some interesting material germane to this line of enquiry.
kind regards,

Ben


Link because Ben is lazy: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=5296#p82679


Not lazy, I am busy.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Aloka » Sat Mar 30, 2013 11:30 am

Dan74 wrote:Some people talk of the deathless element, the unconditioned, etc. Perhaps this can sometimes be perceived as "other"?



Views and opinions and conditioned thinking in general are "other".

.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby qoheleth » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:36 pm

IanAnd wrote:
qoheleth wrote:Is there anything even remotely resembling the idea of grace - help from outside of ourselves - in the Suttas or the writings of Theravada Buddhists that you know of?

Kalyāṇa-mittatā aside, no.

Not only NO, but HEAVENS NO!

The question alone betrays the ignorance of the questioner with regard to the subject matter. Seeking soteriological salve from someone other than oneself is pure delusion. Pure and simple.

In the Buddhadhamma, there is no salvation outside of the individual. What makes you think that anyone besides oneself is responsible for your life? For the choices you make? For the person you become while on this miserable earth?

I'm not castigating you. I'm asking you to think about these things. Seriously! And then look up, become familiar with, and contemplate the Four Noble Truths.


Perhaps there is a Beginner's Forum I should have posed this question in? Is every newcomer here who asks an out-of-the-norm question called out for ignorance?! I have read and thought about the 4NT a great deal, actually. Anyway, I admit I am interested in this now in a fairly curious and academic sense. I ask in part because of something a friend of mine said once. He has attended several of the 10 day Goenka Vipassana retreats, and he quoted Goenka as saying something like: "The Dhamma wants you to be awakened," or "it begins to work with you", or something to that effect. I realize that he does not represent Theravada, but it made me think of the concept of grace, and while I have never encountered anything like it in my readings of Theravada Buddhism, I was curious to explore the issue a little with knowledgeable people. Maybe grace isn't quite the right word... and I certainly wasn't expecting to discover a mysterious divine savior in Theravada Buddhism! Perhaps I have completely misunderstood what my friend or Goenka meant... :thinking:

EDIT: After re-reading my original question, I think I can better understand your response. I don't mean to be defensive.
Last edited by qoheleth on Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby befriend » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:39 pm

there is a quote in buddhism that says, take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you. that seems to be what your thinking about.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby qoheleth » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:40 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Is there anything even remotely resembling the idea of grace - help from outside of ourselves - in the Suttas or the writings of Theravada Buddhists that you know of?


Maybe not ongoing active help, but it is I believe worth reflecting on the good fortune that we have inherited. To be born in a time and place to hear the Buddha's teaching, to have favourable conditions for practice, whatever good health we have in body and mind, good friends, and so on. I don't remember doing anything to deserve these, even if according to some people I did. Left to my own devices without these things, I would have been more likely to dig myself deeper into a hole. My good fortune seems to be as much "outside myself" as many Christian conceptions of Grace.


Interesting. Thank you.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby qoheleth » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:42 pm

Thank you, every one, for your thoughtful and helpful responses. :)
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Prasadachitta » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:25 pm

Hi Steve,

If you have an experience of grace it is not necessary to attribute it to some "other" and it certainly does not help to attribute it to "self". Just notice if it supports wholesome states of mind or not. If it doesn't then what is the point in calling it "grace". If you do not have an experience of grace then its just a word without any reference that will just cause confusion.

I associate grace with recollecting the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. I am inspired and reassured by the recollection and consequently tend towards much more wholesome attitudes and activities. This is not merely because of something I "do". For me it is an experience which is like getting help from some "other" but that is not quite true either.

Take Care

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby Dan74 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:01 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:Hi Steve,

If you have an experience of grace it is not necessary to attribute it to some "other" and it certainly does not help to attribute it to "self". Just notice if it supports wholesome states of mind or not. If it doesn't then what is the point in calling it "grace". If you do not have an experience of grace then its just a word without any reference that will just cause confusion.

I associate grace with recollecting the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. I am inspired and reassured by the recollection and consequently tend towards much more wholesome attitudes and activities. This is not merely because of something I "do". For me it is an experience which is like getting help from some "other" but that is not quite true either.

Take Care

Prasadachitta


:goodpost:
_/|\_
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby manas » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:04 am

qoheleth wrote:...
Perhaps there is a Beginner's Forum I should have posed this question in? Is every newcomer here who asks an out-of-the-norm question called out for ignorance?! I have read and thought about the 4NT a great deal, actually. Anyway, I admit I am interested in this now in a fairly curious and academic sense. I ask in part because of something a friend of mine said once. He has attended several of the 10 day Goenka Vipassana retreats, and he quoted Goenka as saying something like: "The Dhamma wants you to be awakened," or "it begins to work with you", or something to that effect. I realize that he does not represent Theravada, but it made me think of the concept of grace, and while I have never encountered anything like it in my readings of Theravada Buddhism, I was curious to explore the issue a little with knowledgeable people. Maybe grace isn't quite the right word... and I certainly wasn't expecting to discover a mysterious divine savior in Theravada Buddhism! Perhaps I have completely misunderstood what my friend or Goenka meant... :thinking:

EDIT: After re-reading my original question, I think I can better understand your response. I don't mean to be defensive.


No problem from where I stand, you are not being defensive. I apologise on behalf of anyone who has made you feel belittled for asking a perfectly natural question for a beginner to ask. Anyway, rest assured that it's fine to ask questions, and as you correctly allude to, a beginner should not be chastised for asking questions, when embarking on a new field of inquiry.

According to my understanding, it's not so much that there is some 'presence' that is 'out there' that can grant us salvation, no. But we are blessed to have access to the teachings left behind by the Buddha, and what's more, there are still teachers around who can aid us in understanding & applying those teachings. That is the 'blessing' we can be thankful for. As for how we came to be here at a time when the teachings are still accessible - one would need the power of recollection of past lives to have a chance of that, afaik. Best just to focus on taking advantage of what we've got - the vast and detailed teachings left behind by the Buddha. I don't think that's the same as the Theistic notion of 'grace' but for me, there is still an element of the miraculous about it. I look at my own life, and the strange and convoluted journey I have made thus far, to the point where somehow, many of those awful events in my life, have ended up helping me to understand the Buddha-Dhamma, ultimately. It can feel like a kind of 'grace' to see how all of the pain and sufferings one has been though, kind of make sense one day, and one no longer feels so bad about them. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn what I have learned thus far.

Finally, I offer that we did not discover the Four Noble Truths & Noble Eightfold Path on our own. We learned them from someone else, and tracing it all the way back the teaching originates with the Buddha. That is a source external to ourselves, outside of ourselves. But if we take the teachings to heart and apply them well, eventually they get internalised and we become 'our own refuge'. Bear in mind, though, what came first - the imbibing of the Teachings. When we have reached a certain level in this, then it is that we can become our own refuge. It is not that while still a worldling who knows nothing of Dhamma that we can read that line and say, "the Blessed One says I can just be my own refuge, that means I can rely exclusively on my own understanding". Aiui, that's not what 'be your own refuge' actually means.

I hope that was in some way helpful.

:anjali:
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby qoheleth » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:54 am

manas wrote:I hope that was in some way helpful.

:anjali:


Quite helpful, indeed!

Thanks kindly, manas and Prasadachitta.
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Re: Grace in Buddhism?

Postby chris98e » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:01 am

There are probably many people out there who pray to shakyamuni Buddha and lean on him. But that's probably not the widely accepted interpretation of shakyamuni Buddha's teachings.
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