Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

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Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:51 am

The view of atheistic nihilism (natthika-diṭṭhi) is an unskillful view to maintain and express. Not only is it a denial of the right view of affirmation (atthika-diṭṭhi) which affirms rebirth and the next world, it is also an untrue dhamma (asaddhamma) that contradicts the arahants who know that there is a next world. The wrong view of nihilism is described in DN 2 Sāmaññaphala Sutta:

    The person is composed of the four great elements; when he dies, earth returns and goes back to the element of earth, water returns and goes back to the element of water, fire returns and goes back to the element of fire, wind returns and goes back to the element of wind, while the senses disappear into space.... Fools and wise alike are destroyed and perish at the breaking up of the body, they do not exist after death.

The suttas inform us that this nihilistic wrong view leads to wrong intention, wrong speech, and opposition to noble ones. It can also result in trying to convince others to accept this false dhamma. Moreover, maintaining the view of atheistic nihilism is considered to be a type of clinging. Paul Fuller, The Notion of Diṭṭhi in Theravāda Buddhism:

    Indeed the view of nihilism is sometimes used to explain attachment. For example, the Vibhaṇga considers four attachments (upādānas): ‘attachment to sensuality’, ‘attachment to view’, ‘attachment to precepts and vows’ and ‘attachment to the theory of self’ (kāmupādānaṃ, diṭṭhupādānaṃ, sīlabbatupādānaṃ, attavādupādānaṃ). The attachment of wrong view is explained, first, as the view of nihilism, then it is stated that all wrong views constitute attachment to view. All wrong views are a form of greed and attachment.

Some food for thought....
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby ground » Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:05 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Some food for thought....


"Monks, there are these four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come into being or for the support of those in search of a place to be born. Which four? Physical food, gross or refined; contact as the second; intellectual intention the third; and consciousness the fourth. These are the four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come into being or for the support of those in search of a place to be born.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Kind regards
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Kenshou » Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:33 am

You seem to be implying that belief in future lives somehow necessitates theism? And that atheism and disbelief in rebirth are necessarily mutually inclusive traits. There are more permutations of views out there than that.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:44 am

a·the·ism   [ey-thee-iz-uhm]
noun
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Where exactly did the Buddha encourage belief in God?
"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: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:29 am

Hi, Nana,
I'm with Kenshou and Goofaholix: atheism has a very specific meaning and (on this board at least) I think we could use it correctly and avoid confusion.
My English is good :tongue: but my Pali is virtually non-existent. What is the best (most accurate, most literal) translation of "natthika-diṭṭhi" ?

:namaste:
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:40 am

Kenshou wrote:You seem to be implying that belief in future lives somehow necessitates theism? And that atheism and disbelief in rebirth are necessarily mutually inclusive traits. There are more permutations of views out there than that.

I suppose that it does, if by Theos one means celestial beings.

The orthodox Buddhist doctrine is that there are gods in non-human realms (atthi sattā opapātikā), and that virtuous beings who perform acts of merit are reborn in those planes of existence.

Rebirth does not refer only to rebirth in the human realm, nor to rebirth from moment to moment during this present life only. It refers to the rebirth of living beings in one or another of the 31 Planes of Existence.

The Buddha taught about the benefits of charity (dānakathā); about the benefits of morality (sīlakathā), and about the path to heaven (saggakathā). When the minds of beings were full of confidence and pliable, ready to understand deeper truths, he taught about the illusory nature of sensual pleasures, the disadvantages of defiling passions, the advantages of renunciation of pleasure (through samatha meditation), then the Four Noble Truths and the Path (maggakathā) leading to the end of this cycle of rebirth (vipassanā meditation).

The belief that an Almighty God is responsible for the happiness and sorrow of living beings, and that they have to believe in him and serve him to gain salvation is another serious wrong view obstructive to growth (Issarammana-hetu-ditthi).

Too many so-called Buddhists on this forum are making unwholesome kamma by trying to convince others of their annihilationist wrong views (natthika ditthi). A thorough knowledge (ñāna) and intellectual appreciation of the teaching is essential to follow the right path.

Four Points to Bear in Mind (to avoid wrong views like annihilationism, eternalism, fatalism, and moral impotency (akiriya-ditthi).
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:43 am

Hi Geoff,

An interesting discussion.
I just wonder whether the wrong view of personality belief as manifest in the notion of a soul and almighty god is any less pernicious than nihilism?
kind regards,

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:44 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:What is the best (most accurate, most literal) translation of "natthika-diṭṭhi" ?


This looks like a clear definition http://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/nat ... index.html

Can't say I've ever heard this view touted.
"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: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:55 am

Ben wrote:I just wonder whether the wrong view of personality belief as manifest in the notion of a soul and almighty god is any less pernicious than nihilism?

Yes, it is less pernicious, but still a wrong view. All of us who are not yet Stream-winners still have personality view (atta-ditthi), even though we do not accept the belief in an Almighty God. Nihilism, on the other hand, denies the results of kamma.

I agree with others that the use of Atheism in the thread title is misleading. A better term for Natthika Ditthi is Annihilationism or Nihilism.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:57 am

Thank you, Bhante.
with metta,

Ben
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Kenshou » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:26 am

I suppose that it does, if by Theos one means celestial beings.
I don't believe that is the sense in which the term is generally used, not that you couldn't if you wanted to. But that is up for the OP to clarify.

Too many so-called Buddhists on this forum are making unwholesome kamma by trying to convince others of their annihilationist wrong views
There are those like that now and again, but as far as I have seen, the attitude of those in recent discussions on this matter are taking a soft agnosticism towards the concept of rebirth due to an honest admission of lack of knowledge rather than a hard stance of denial, nor trying to rework the concept of rebirth as presented in the canon to be merely metaphorical or cultural residue, as occasionally people try to do.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:30 am

Hi Geoff,

Though I agree that "Atheism" is perhaps an unhelpful label, I think that it is interesting to discuss whether, and to what extent, annihilationistic views are a problem for Dhamma practice (according to your sutta quote they seem to be). I think it's a useful to change the focus from the question of "rebirth" to the question of "annihilation", which hopefully carries less baggage.

:anjali:
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:12 am

Woops! Accidentally deleted this reply when editing.....
Last edited by Nyana on Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:16 am

Goofaholix wrote:Can't say I've ever heard this view touted.

You've never heard of anyone who believes in this view:

    The person is composed of the four great elements; when he dies, earth returns and goes back to the element of earth, water returns and goes back to the element of water, fire returns and goes back to the element of fire, wind returns and goes back to the element of wind, while the senses disappear into space.... Fools and wise alike are destroyed and perish at the breaking up of the body, they do not exist after death.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:31 am

mikenz66 wrote:Though I agree that "Atheism" is perhaps an unhelpful label, I think that it is interesting to discuss whether, and to what extent, annihilationistic views are a problem for Dhamma practice (according to your sutta quote they seem to be).

I included the term atheism for a reason. In a contemporary context, it is the mainstream and widespread version of annihilationism. And while the term annihilationism may seem abstract or even quaint and archaic, atheism is well known.

One of the reasons that atheism is an unskillful view to maintain and express, is that it is divisive and dismissive of other religious views. Moreover, people who are members of other religions have very low opinions of atheists. For example, a University of British Columbia study found that religious people distrust atheists as much as rapists. Buddhism is not atheistic, and shouldn't be associated with atheism.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:46 am

Hi Nana,

From SN 35.245 - Kimsuka Sutta - The Riddle Tree.

"When a monk discerns, as it actually is, the origination & passing away of the four great elements [earth, water, wind, & fire], my friend, it is to that extent that his vision is said to be well-purified."

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Zom » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:07 am

Good topic.

I will add 5 cents.

from SN 22.55
"It might not be, and it might not be for me. It will not be, [and] it will not be for me" - resolving thus a bhikkhu can cut off the lower fetters.

Ven. Bodhi comment:

This formula for resolution recommended by the Buddha is found in the suttas
in two versions, one used by the annihilationists, the other the Buddha’s adaptation
of this; as the two versions differ only with respect to two verb forms, they are sometimes
confounded in the various recensions. From the commentarial glosses, it appears that
the confusion had already set in before the age of the commentaries.
....
The annihilationist version — explicitly identified as uccheda-di††hi at 22:81 and
classed among the wrong views at 22:152 and 24:4 — reads: "no c’assaμ no ca me siyå,
na bhavissåmi na me bhavissati". At AN V 63–64 the Buddha describes this
creed as the highest of outsider views (etadaggaμ båhirakånaμ di††higatånaμ), the reason being
that one who accepts such a view will not be attracted to becoming nor averse to the cessation of becoming.
It is problematic how the optative clause in the annihilationist version should be interpreted;
perhaps it can be read as an assertion that personal existence, along with its world, is utterly fortuitous
(“It might not have been and it might not have been mine”). The clause in the future tense
is clearly asserting that personal existence and its world will terminate at death.

The Buddha transformed this formula into a theme for contemplation consonant
with his own teaching by replacing the first person verbs with their third person counterparts:
"No c’assa no ca me siyå, na bhavissati na me bhavissati". The change of person shifts the stress
from the view of self implicit in the annihilationist version (“I will be annihilated”)
to an impersonal perspective that harmonizes with the anattå doctrine.

In the present sutta, resolving (adhimuccamåno) on the formula is said to culminate
in the destruction of the five lower fetters, that is, in the stageof non-returning (anågåmitå).
Elsewhere the formula includes a rider, yad atthi yaμ bhËtaμ taμ pajahåmi, “what exists, what
has come to be, that I am abandoning.” Contemplation of this is said to lead to equanimity.
At MN II 264–65 practice guided by the full formula (with the rider) culminates in rebirth in the base of neit
her-perception-nor-non-perception (if the meditator clings to the equanimity) or in Nibbåna
(if there is no clinging to the equanimity). At AN IV 70–74, resolution guided by the formula,
again with the rider, leads to one of the five levels of non-returning or to arahantship.
At Ud 78 the shorter formula is applied to mindfulness of the body; one who dwells thus
gradually crosses attachment, i.e., wins arahantship.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:10 am

vinasp wrote: "When a monk discerns, as it actually is, the origination & passing away of the four great elements [earth, water, wind, & fire], my friend, it is to that extent that his vision is said to be well-purified."

This quote is not advocating natthika-diṭṭhi.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:35 am

Hi Nana,

Quote: "This quote is not advocating natthika-diṭṭhi."

It is not "advocating" anything, it is describing a stage in the
development of right view.

My interpretation is that at this stage a monk understands that the four
great elements cease completely and permanently.

How do you understand this passage?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:40 am

Ñāṇa wrote:and entails denial of any form of post-mortem existence.


Not in the definitions you gave, or any definitions I've seen.
"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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