Spirit worship

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Spirit worship

Postby davcuts » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:54 am

I just posted on another forum about spirits. It seems some Buddhist take part in spirit worship. Is there spirit worship in Theravada Buddhism? Do Theravadas even believe in spirits, or possession?


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Re: Spirit worship

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:06 am

Greetings David,

There is no spirit worship in Theravada, though there is some spirit worship in some Theravada countries... but beware the distinction.

All beings in Theravada are accounted for within the...

Thirty-One Planes Of Existence
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html

Note, there is no Buddha realm.

As for believing in spirits, I think it's more a cultural thing than a Theravadin thing.

As for possession, I think I recall somewhere that possession is one possible explanation for madness, but take that with a grain of salt until someone learned like venerable Dhammanando is able to confirm or deny that.

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


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


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Re: Spirit worship

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:34 am

I think that this depends on how you define "worship". There are certainly instructions to recollect, and be nice to, devas.

Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the Ratana Sutta are worth listening to if you want some perspective on devas:
http://www.bodhimonastery.net/courses/Sn/Sn_course.html

Sn 2.1 Ratana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Whatever spirits have gathered here,
— on the earth, in the sky —
may you all be happy
& listen intently to what I say.

Thus, spirits, you should all be attentive.
Show kindness to the human race.
Day & night they give offerings,
so, being heedful, protect them.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... call-devas
"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones recollects the devas, thus: 'There are the Devas of the Four Great Kings, the Devas of the Thirty-three, the Yama Devas, the Contented Devas, the devas who delight in creation, the devas who have power over the creations of others, the devas of Brahma's retinue, the devas beyond them. Whatever conviction they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of conviction is present in me as well. Whatever virtue they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of virtue is present in me as well. Whatever learning they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of learning is present in me as well. Whatever generosity they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of generosity is present in me as well. Whatever discernment they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of discernment is present in me as well.' As he is recollecting the devas, his mind is calmed, and joy arises; the defilements of his mind are abandoned, just as when gold is cleansed through the proper technique. And how is gold cleansed through the proper technique? Through the use of a furnace, salt earth, red chalk, a blow-pipe, tongs, & the appropriate human effort. This is how gold is cleansed through the proper technique. In the same way, the defiled mind is cleansed through the proper technique. And how is the defiled mind cleansed through the proper technique? There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones recollects the devas... As he is recollecting the devas, his mind is cleansed, and joy arises; the defilements of his mind are abandoned. He is thus called a disciple of the noble ones undertaking the Deva-Uposatha. He lives with the devas. It is owing to the devas that his mind is calmed, that joy arises, and that whatever defilements there are in his mind are abandoned. This is how the mind is cleansed through the proper technique.




Metta
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby bodom » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:55 pm

Buddhism and Spirit Worship in Burma and Thailand

http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=3782

:namaste:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 29, 2009 6:43 pm

It depends very much on different factors, the individual beliefs, society and culture etc

You will find that many theravadins do worship spirits in thailand and sri-lanka but i think it is far less common among western buddhists (this again depends on the individual etc)

Also i think it is more common among lay people than the bhikkhus and bhikkunis (although i may be wrong)



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Re: Spirit worship

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:05 pm

clw_uk wrote:Also i think it is more common among lay people than the bhikkhus and bhikkunis (although i may be wrong)

Again, I think it depends what you mean by "worship". Many Bhikkhus and Bhikhhunis end their Dhamma talks by sharing merit with Devas, etc.

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Re: Spirit worship

Postby bodom » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:09 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Also i think it is more common among lay people than the bhikkhus and bhikkunis (although i may be wrong)

Again, I think it depends what you mean by "worship". Many Bhikkhus and Bhikhhunis end their Dhamma talks by sharing merit with Devas, etc.

Metta
Mike


Bhante Gunaratana from the Bhavana society recites a chant to invite devas to come and listen to the Dhamma talk he is about to give.

:namaste:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:12 pm

Sharing dhamma talk and merit though is different from worship :bow:

Metta
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:38 pm

I understand that "sharing merit" is still making an offering to the devas in the sense that the intention is that they will delight in it the good merit of the talk and thus benefit.

"Offerings to Honour the Dead" by Bhante Aggacitta might be of interest:
http://sasanarakkha.org/articles/2003/0 ... -dead.html
It discusses offerings to dead relatives and devas on the basis of the Suttas.

See also: AN 10.177
Janussonin Sutta (On Offerings to the Dead)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"Then there is the case where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sensual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in abusive speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the realms of the hungry shades. He lives there, he remains there, by means of whatever is the food of hungry shades. He lives there, he remains that, by means of whatever his friends or relatives give in dedication to him. This is the possible place for that gift to accrue to one staying there.


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Re: Spirit worship

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:50 pm

To me offering merit etc is karuna not worship. My deffinition of worship is doing deeds and making offerings to a being in order to gain that beings favour so that you can secure good fortune and/or to avoid offending said being out of fear of some kind of punishment in this exsistence or another one.

Sharing merit and dhamma talks with other beings is done to benefit those beings and not to gain favour.

At least thats my take on it.
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:12 pm

It seems that "worship" is a problematical word. Rather than argue about what exactly the word means, I'll stick to the concept of making offerings to devas and deceased relatives.

Clearly Buddhists do make offerings hoping for some good effects. Though of course I am trying to cultivate my "innate generosity" I don't give money, food, or assistance to Bhikkhus thinking that it will have no effect.

The Buddha appears to be indicating in the Suttas I've quoted above that offerings to deceased relatives will have good effects for the offerers' deceased relatives who are unfortunate enough to be in the hungry ghost realm. Offerings to devas may also have good effects for the offerers themselves.

However, the Suttas clearly indicate that one shouldn't take refuge in the devas.

As I said, Bhikkhu Bodhi's musings about devas are worth listening to in part because they give some useful insight into Buddhism as it is practised in Buddhist countries.
http://www.bodhimonastery.net/courses/Sn/Sn_course.html
The first three suttas studied, the Ratana, Mahāmaṅgala, and Mettā Suttas, are among the most popular texts in Theravada Buddhism. They provide the backbone of understanding, practice, and attitude in the Theravada Buddhist world and are often taught to lay people so that they will grow up imbibing the values and ideals of Buddhism. They also serve as paritta suttas (“Protective Discourses”), recited to provide blessings and protection in times of difficulty and danger.


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Last edited by mikenz66 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:15 pm

mikenz66 wrote:However, the Suttas clearly indicate that one should take refuge in the devas.

You mean "shouldn't" right?
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:20 pm

Peter wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:However, the Suttas clearly indicate that one should take refuge in the devas.

You mean "shouldn't" right?

Hmm, obviously I should not be let loose on a keyboard... :computerproblem:

Fixed...

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Re: Spirit worship

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:21 pm

Sorry if my last posts seemed to be nit-picking that wasnt my intention.

I do believe that giving offerings to the deceased that you feel are in the lower realms is beneficial, even if it has no effect at all on said being it will still be good for the person who is offering as it is done out of the wholesome roots.
“ 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: Spirit worship

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:33 pm

Hi clw_uk,

No, I don't think it's nit-picking. It's an interesting discussion. I don't personally leave out food for my deceased relatives, but I did want to point out that there are practises in Buddhist countries that some Western Buddhists dismiss as "superstition" but actually seem to be in line with the Suttas.

Being aware of this has made me more open to practises of indigenous people in many countries (including my own). Not that I necessarily believe them, but I now look much more closely at the motivation and the meaning...

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Re: Spirit worship

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:49 pm

I think western buddhists are dismissive of it because they feel that spirit worship, offerings etc are at odds with the buddhas teaching that beings are owners of their own kamma and that "no one can save us but ourselves"

This is how i feel anyway on the subject but i dont feel such practicies are worthless as they do encourage the wholesome. i just dont think they change the outcome of the being towards its directed.
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:18 pm

clw_uk wrote:I think western buddhists are dismissive of it because they feel that spirit worship, offerings etc are at odds with the buddhas teaching that beings are owners of their own kamma and that "no one can save us but ourselves"

It is no more at odds than it is to say "If I'm nice to my boss maybe he won't make my job so miserable." While no one but ourselves can completely end suffering, others can make samsara more or less bearable.
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Re: Spirit worship

Postby davcuts » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:58 pm

What I find troubling in Tibetan Buddhism is certain spirits have been used to harm others. My own former teacher was overheard placing a curse on someone. Is this type of behavior found in Theravada Buddhism? I do love Tibetan Buddhism, but there are certain things about it I find troubling. Using spirits to harm another seems more like the occult then it does Buddhism. Would Theravadas use spirits to harm others? For instance if a county like China was to invade a country where Theravada Buddhism is dominant, would they ask spirits to help protect them? Would they use spirits to attack the countries leader, to kill him, or even drive him mad?

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Re: Spirit worship

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:02 pm

It is no more at odds than it is to say "If I'm nice to my boss maybe he won't make my job so miserable." While no one but ourselves can completely end suffering, others can make samsara more or less bearable.


I have to say with respect I do disagree with this. Dukkha arises from inside because of ignorance, it can only be stopped by us, getting others to be nice to us to make it more berable does not solve the problem. If people are less bearable than others it is because of our ignorance and not the people themselves.


In relation to the question if theravada buddhists would curse other people with spirits the answer would be no. Such an act would be extremely unwholesome and be detrimental to the person who attempted it due to the negative kamma it would produce. Furthermore I dont think its likely that a sincere Theravada Buddhist would but such stock in notions of curses etc.

As to the monk you mentioned who was uttering the curse I dont think this is correct behaviour for a Buddhist. One should act with metta and karuna. If you are cursing somebody you are not acting out of these good roots.
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Spirit worship

Postby GrahamR » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:33 pm

Dear all,

Belief in spirits is deeply ingrained into Thai culture. People will leave offerings; maybe cans of Coke, for spirits or angels (depending if they put them high or low).
Most homes and businesses have a spirit house to appease the spirits who lived on the land before the building was constructed. Many homes will even have a shrine to a Thai king where food offerings can be made.
Animism and Hinduism have influenced Thai culture. People of Chinese extraction can bring an extra layer of beliefs with them.
My wife is Thai and I have slightly jokingly asked her how she can justify some of the actions as a Buddhist and the best answer I have ever got is she believes in both!

with Metta :bow:
Graham
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