Buddhism = Atheism?

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Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 01, 2009 3:12 am

Greetings



There has been a lot of talk on this forum about "God". I was wondering, can one fully practice Dhamma (to nibbana as its end) and still believe in God or does this notion need to be done away with for nibbana to be reached?

I know in classical Theravada (and mahayana) there are "gods" but to me these represent beings who are "richer" in experience, not a god in any sense the west recognizes


I suppose what im asking is does nibbana require atheism?


N.B. By God i mean the common view of a perfect being and/or creator of everything or underlying reality etc not beings who are better off than us


metta
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Pannapetar » Sat Aug 01, 2009 3:21 am

I don't think that Buddhism is atheist in the original sense of the word. Buddhism is nontheist, which means it is not concerned with the notion of God. The closest concept to God that I can think of is the Mahayana notion of dharmakaya, which could be interpreted as being ontologically equivalent to Brahman.

Does nibbana require atheism? No, I don't think so. Neither does it require theism. It probably requires transcending concepts such as theism and atheism.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 01, 2009 3:31 am

Pannapetar wrote:I don't think that Buddhism is atheist in the original sense of the word. Buddhism is nontheist, which means it is not concerned with the notion of God. The closest concept to God that I can think of is the Mahayana notion of dharmakaya, which could be interpreted as being ontologically equivalent to Brahman.

Does nibbana require atheism? No, I don't think so. Neither does it require theism. It probably requires transcending concepts such as theism and atheism.

Cheers, Thomas




But atheism is an abandonment of belief (or non belief) which is something the Buddha encouraged via non attachment to views and beliefs


God belief/view is adherence, Atheism is non-adherence (non-attachment)



metta
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Pannapetar » Sat Aug 01, 2009 3:59 am

clw_uk wrote:But atheism is an abandonment of belief...


Philosophically speaking that is not quite correct. Atheism is a reactionary position rather than an abandonment of belief, at least strong atheism is. It can be argued that weak atheism is indeed an abandonment of belief, a neutral position, which is indistinguishable from nontheism and therefore identical with the position taken by Buddhism, but strong atheism most definitely isn't.

I can assure you from a recent experience at Prof. Richard Dawkins' board that the atheists over there are quite attached to their point of view and adamantly defending it, thus speaking of non-attachment doesn't seem to fit.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:10 am

Pannapetar wrote:
clw_uk wrote:But atheism is an abandonment of belief...


Philosophically speaking that is not quite correct. Atheism is a reactionary position rather than an abandonment of belief, at least strong atheism is. It can be argued that weak atheism is indeed an abandonment of belief, a neutral position, which is indistinguishable from nontheism and therefore identical with the position taken by Buddhism, but strong atheism most definitely isn't.

I can assure you from a recent experience at Prof. Richard Dawkins' board that the atheists over there are quite attached to their point of view and adamantly defending it, thus speaking of non-attachment doesn't seem to fit.

Cheers, Thomas




Well i can only speak from my own position but to me atheism is a leap but still a secure one


If i told you that Batman was in my room, you would disbelieve it (i hope) however you cant prove or know Batman isnt here in my room so your disbelief is strictly speaking agnostic but since the probablilty of Batman being in my room is so low, you can safely claim it as false


The people you are talking about are more in line with skepticism than Atheism (which is just a non belief, same as no belief in astrology or Nazism)


Atheism just means "i dont believe in god", hardly reactionary since everyone is born an atheist, even the pope :lol: )

metta
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Ben » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:30 am

Hi Thomas

Its an interesting question, thanks for posting!

The way that I look at it is that right view is a requisite for liberation.

Belief in a supreme being, a creator-being, as others have said here, is a barrier for liberation, it is a 'wrong view'. I apologise as I cannot produce the relevant sutta citation to back this up. Perhaps someone else more knowledgeable can assist.

Within the Canon, you will find instances where non-human beings, such as Devas and Brahmas are present. Some of these beings, identify themselves as creator-beings but in fact, are considered by the Buddha as co-inhabitants of samsara, subject to birth, ageing, sickness and death. Have a look at MN 49 Brahmanimantanika Sutta

In the canon, there are instances where the Buddha directly, or indirectly through his chief disciples, teaches the Dhamma to these beings. My personal opinion, based on my reading of the suttas and later writers such as Ledi Sayadaw, Nyanpaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi, is that the devas and brahmas in the suttas were not mentioned to impart a teaching via metaphor.

Having said that, I have not had any experience (that I can recall) that verifies the existence of these beings (yet). And I can understand why some Buddhists interpret the devas and brahmas, and even concepts such as rebirth as metaphorical. That's fine. What I think is important is a recognition that with the development of sammaditthi (right view) comes an acknowledgement that our own 'views' may indeed be tainted by our own defiled mind. The real deal then is developing wisdom and the development of right view. MN 9 Sammaditthi Sutta.
All the best

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saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:44 am

Ben wrote:Hi Thomas

Its an interesting question, thanks for posting!

The way that I look at it is that right view is a requisite for liberation.

Belief in a supreme being, a creator-being, as others have said here, is a barrier for liberation, it is a 'wrong view'. I apologise as I cannot produce the relevant sutta citation to back this up. Perhaps someone else more knowledgeable can assist.

Within the Canon, you will find instances where non-human beings, such as Devas and Brahmas are present. Some of these beings, identify themselves as creator-beings but in fact, are considered by the Buddha as co-inhabitants of samsara, subject to birth, ageing, sickness and death. Have a look at MN 49 Brahmanimantanika Sutta

In the canon, there are instances where the Buddha directly, or indirectly through his chief disciples, teaches the Dhamma to these beings. My personal opinion, based on my reading of the suttas and later writers such as Ledi Sayadaw, Nyanpaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi, is that the devas and brahmas in the suttas were not mentioned to impart a teaching via metaphor.

Having said that, I have not had any experience (that I can recall) that verifies the existence of these beings (yet). And I can understand why some Buddhists interpret the devas and brahmas, and even concepts such as rebirth as metaphorical. That's fine. What I think is important is a recognition that with the development of sammaditthi (right view) comes an acknowledgement that our own 'views' may indeed be tainted by our own defiled mind. The real deal then is developing wisdom and the development of right view. MN 9 Sammaditthi Sutta.
All the best

Ben




Hey Ben


I can understand your view but to me, the gods of classical buddhism are nothing more than "richer beings" e.g. richard branson of our world


The atheism i am discussing is the abrahamic/common view of God as creator and all knowing, all loving, all present etc


Can I assume from your last post that one has to be atheist?

metta
“ 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
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Pannapetar » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:50 am

clw_uk wrote:The people you are talking about are more in line with skepticism than Atheism (which is just a non belief, same as no belief in astrology or Nazism).


The people at Richard Dawkins' board -at least the majority- holds a view that can be characterised as "fundamaterialism". Although they are sceptical towards various religious claims, including those of Buddhism, they definitely lack scepticism towards their own underlying belief system, which is ontological materialism, physicalism, and scientism. Thus they can be regarded as believers in every sense of the word and thus represent the perfect mirror image of the group they have chosen to battle with, namely theists. I have written about this on my own discussion board, in this article, so I don't want to repeat the entire argument here.

I don't really want to go into the various arguments for and against God, as this is philosophy 101 which had some entertainment value for me 10-20 years ago, but not today. Personally, I am a nontheist / weak atheist and I have to agree with Ben that theism is probably difficult to reconcile with Buddhism.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Ben » Sat Aug 01, 2009 5:12 am

Hi Craig

I think part of my first few statements encapsulate my point of view:
Belief in a supreme being, a creator-being, as others have said here, is a barrier for liberation, it is a 'wrong view'.
which I want to clarify is different from the denial of the existence of brahmas and devas.
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
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 01, 2009 6:13 am

Ben wrote:Hi Craig

I think part of my first few statements encapsulate my point of view:
Belief in a supreme being, a creator-being, as others have said here, is a barrier for liberation, it is a 'wrong view'.
which I want to clarify is different from the denial of the existence of brahmas and devas.
Kind regards

Ben



Indeed they do, sorry about that :group:

metta
“ 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
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Individual » Sat Aug 01, 2009 8:23 am

clw_uk wrote:Greetings



There has been a lot of talk on this forum about "God". I was wondering, can one fully practice Dhamma (to nibbana as its end) and still believe in God or does this notion need to be done away with for nibbana to be reached?

Attachment to any view is incompatible with full enlightenment, but that's especially true in this case, because it's a wrong view.

I do think that provisionally, a belief in God can be helpful for some people, but if Buddhists adopted such a view it would be a corruption of Buddhism.

clw_uk wrote:I suppose what im asking is does nibbana require atheism?

That's not really a properly formed question, since you're treating Nibbana as a conditioned thing (ex: "Does X leads to Nibbana or not?" Nibbana is the unconditioned, so how could anything lead there?). I would say Nibbana requires nothing, but that wouldn't be accurate either. More precisely, properties like "requiring" or "not requiring" do not apply to Nibbana.

Ben wrote:Hi Thomas

Its an interesting question, thanks for posting!

The way that I look at it is that right view is a requisite for liberation.

Belief in a supreme being, a creator-being, as others have said here, is a barrier for liberation, it is a 'wrong view'. I apologise as I cannot produce the relevant sutta citation to back this up. Perhaps someone else more knowledgeable can assist.

Within the Canon, you will find instances where non-human beings, such as Devas and Brahmas are present. Some of these beings, identify themselves as creator-beings but in fact, are considered by the Buddha as co-inhabitants of samsara, subject to birth, ageing, sickness and death. Have a look at MN 49 Brahmanimantanika Sutta

In the canon, there are instances where the Buddha directly, or indirectly through his chief disciples, teaches the Dhamma to these beings. My personal opinion, based on my reading of the suttas and later writers such as Ledi Sayadaw, Nyanpaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi, is that the devas and brahmas in the suttas were not mentioned to impart a teaching via metaphor.

Having said that, I have not had any experience (that I can recall) that verifies the existence of these beings (yet). And I can understand why some Buddhists interpret the devas and brahmas, and even concepts such as rebirth as metaphorical. That's fine. What I think is important is a recognition that with the development of sammaditthi (right view) comes an acknowledgement that our own 'views' may indeed be tainted by our own defiled mind. The real deal then is developing wisdom and the development of right view. MN 9 Sammaditthi Sutta.
All the best

Ben

Nice post!
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Aug 01, 2009 8:56 am

Pannapetar wrote:[
I don't really want to go into the various arguments for and against God, as this is philosophy 101 which had some entertainment value for me 10-20 years ago, but not today. Personally, I am a nontheist / weak atheist and I have to agree with Ben that theism is probably difficult to reconcile with Buddhism.


That's about where I am. The whole God thing has become increasingly irrelevant.

Rick
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:36 am

an atheist doesn't believe in any Gods, that is pantheistic, monotheistic, deistic deity, the devine is not believed in, period. buddhism in all its forms having gods does not make it a atheistic belief system as they are an integral part of rebirth in all of its models (life to life and moment to moment)
saying that isn't a god as it isn't the monotheistic, pantheistic, or deistic version/s doesn't make them less of a God, and the west has recognised many many Gods, just the prevailing idea at the moment is different to then, and certainly doesn't stop the original ideas being Gods, and many of these gods wer perfect beings personifying certain things perfectly.
I am not sure what you mean by richer in experiance, but to me the gods found in Buddhism are gods because their good kamma was ripe, nothing to do with how much experiance they have as this would negate gaining enlightenment until we have had 'X' amount of experiance, not untill we practiced and removed our defilements, so could you clarify abit there.
Belief in Gods is a right view as it is part and parcel of rebirth, although it is mundain right view, and the Gods aren't worshiped because they can not grant liberation in any life.
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Re: Buddhism = Atheism?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 01, 2009 1:31 pm

From the 62 kinds of wrong views:

"The one who recalls a past existence in a heavenly plane where he was subject to a more powerful deva and thus, thinks in this life that the more powerful deva is an eternal, all- powerful God. Such a person proclaims that deva to be the one-all-powerful God.

The one who believes that certain devas are permanent and perfect because they do not enjoy the pleasures of the senses.

The one who believes that certain devas are permanent and perfect because they are not corrupt in the minds
."

Brahmajala Sutta, Digha Nikaya 1

In the sense of the Abrahamic monotheist creator God concept (of the Bible), it would be wrong view and certainly not found in an Arahant.
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