Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Nyana
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Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Nyana »

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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ground
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by ground »

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Kenshou
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Kenshou »

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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Goofaholix
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Goofaholix »

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?
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
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Kim OHara
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Kim OHara »

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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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

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).
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:46 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Ben
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Ben »

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,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Goofaholix
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Goofaholix »

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Can't say I've ever heard this view touted.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

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.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ben
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Ben »

Thank you, Bhante.
with metta,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Kenshou
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Kenshou »

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.
Last edited by Kenshou on Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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mikenz66
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by mikenz66 »

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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Nyana
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Nyana »

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

Post by Nyana »

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.
Nyana
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Nyana »

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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