God!

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.

God!

Postby mettatrader » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:58 pm

I have been brought up as a Christian, however, recently I feel a very strong draw towards Buddhism, hence why I am reading lots of Buddhist books, and posting on this forum! If anything I feel like a "Christian Buddhist" but given that is probably not possible (or is it?!?!) can you help me reconcile the 'spiritual' questions below that I am encountering in considering the two faiths!

Everything I have read so far about Buddhism makes perfect sense, but I am a bit confused on the 'God' issue.

My understanding from some things I have read is that Buddhists deny the existance of God, but other Buddhist publications say that God is all around us (e.g. in a beautiful flower, in a nice view, in a thunderstorm, even in us!)

My question is, which of the above, (if either) is correct.

Also, if there is no God, who do you thank when you see a beautiful view or other pleasing event and just feel great to be alive, and so thankful for what you have - who do you pass the feeling of gratitude onto!? Finally, how do you deal with painful times, if there is no one to ask for help.

If any of you can assist, perhaps even those who have made the transition from one faith to another, I would love to know how you feel.


Thanks for answering these questions, I appreciate it!
mettatrader
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:48 pm

Re: God!

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:08 pm

My understanding from some things I have read is that Buddhists deny the existance of God, but other Buddhist publications say that God is all around us (e.g. in a beautiful flower, in a nice view, in a thunderstorm, even in us!)


The Buddha taught that phonemona have three "marks", they are impermanent, dukkha (suffering, stress, unsatisfactory) and anatta (not self). Any being that exists has these three marks. This would mean that any "God" would be impermanent, and so would be subject to death

However generally the idea of God, from what I understand of Buddha's teachings, is simply a view point that arises in the mind of a person due to clinging and is an out growth from the assumption that there is some kind of permanence in the world instead of impermanence



Also, if there is no God, who do you thank when you see a beautiful view or other pleasing event and just feel great to be alive, and so thankful for what you have - who do you pass the feeling of gratitude onto!?


No one

Finally, how do you deal with painful times, if there is no one to ask for help.


If one practices Dhamma then painful times can be dealt with easily, in essence the practice is about turning to inwards, not outwards
Open your mind and see, open your mind and rise. Shine the light of wisdom and see, don't wait till the end of time.
User avatar
clw_uk
 
Posts: 3284
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: God!

Postby khlawng » Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:52 pm

Hello mettatrader,

mettatrader wrote:My understanding from some things I have read is that Buddhists deny the existance of God, but other Buddhist publications say that God is all around us (e.g. in a beautiful flower, in a nice view, in a thunderstorm, even in us!)

My question is, which of the above, (if either) is correct.


I am afraid neither is correct. Buddhism doesn't deny the existence of a God. In fact, base on the Suttas, there are deities, devas and God(s) existing in a number of realms. In particular, the Maha Brahma Realm where the most famous inhabitant is the Great Brahma, a deity whose delusion leads him to regard himself as the all-powerful, all-seeing creator of the universe. You can read more information about this here:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sagga/loka.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html#bigbrahma

To say that god is around us in flowers, nice views etc. is also incorrect and I can't think of any reference in Buddhism that would actually state something like that. Just out of curiosity, where are you reading these?

mettatrader wrote:Also, if there is no God, who do you thank when you see a beautiful view or other pleasing event and just feel great to be alive, and so thankful for what you have - who do you pass the feeling of gratitude onto!? Finally, how do you deal with painful times, if there is no one to ask for help.


As such, since there is no one God that is responsible for the creation of beautiful views, there really is no one to thank for for feeling good or bad. In fact, the basis of what Buddhis teaching is to get us to understand that feelings, as part of the 5 clinging aggregates, leads to stress and if not abandon, birth and death and sorrow and lamentation. I think the best thing for you to do is to read the first discourse by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment. There are some very profound basic concepts in there and you should find it useful and insightful.

Hope that helps. :anjali:
User avatar
khlawng
 
Posts: 111
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:28 pm

Re: God!

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:16 pm

Hi mettatrader!

Buddhists dont place much emphasis on denying or proving the existence of God. God doesnt play a big role at all in this tradition- I call it a tradition because someone could argue that without a belief in a God, calling it a religion is incorrect.

However we do believe that purifying our minds is of utmost importance. If believing in God helps you with that, it might be helpful to have that belief (as mentioned above we believe a 'MahaBrahama' exists in a high 'heavenly' plane). If you find that your mind is purer without a belief in God, that is also another way forward.

We believe that Buddhism ('dharma') can be understood by those who are wise.. and wise to the ways of their own minds. Part of this is understanding what certain beliefs do to us- in terms of how it prompts us to act in the world at large. If a certain belief helps us to be kinder to other people then it sounds like a belief worth keeping- if it causes us to go into war with other people, perhaps it is better to be left behind.

I hope this is making some sense to you. :anjali:

with much metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: God!

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:30 pm

Hi MT,

Further to RYB's point:

Tolerance and Diversity by Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_24.html
To the extent that a religion proposes sound ethical principles and can promote to some degree the development of wholesome qualities such as love, generosity, detachment and compassion, it will merit in this respect the approbation of Buddhists. These principles advocated by outside religious systems will also conduce to rebirth in the realms of bliss — the heavens and the divine abodes. Buddhism by no means claims to have unique access to these realms, but holds that the paths that lead to them have been articulated, with varying degrees of clarity, in many of the great spiritual traditions of humanity. While the Buddhist will disagree with the belief structures of other religions to the extent that they deviate from the Buddha's Dhamma, he will respect them to the extent that they enjoin virtues and standards of conduct that promote spiritual development and the harmonious integration of human beings with each other and with the world.
:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 9608
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: God!

Postby Taco » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:38 pm

mettatrader wrote:Also, if there is no God, who do you thank when you see a beautiful view or other pleasing event and just feel great to be alive, and so thankful for what you have - who do you pass the feeling of gratitude onto!?

Perhaps the pleasent experiences are a result of one's previous good kamma (i.e. intentional actions)?
Ledi Sayādaw wrote:Religions apart from Buddhism have only one refuge—that is, refuge in God. Whatever comes into existence and whatever is destroyed is therefore attributed to God.

I shall clarify this point. In religions such as Christianity and Islaṃ the bare meaning of refuge—in making good kamma—is not understood so that followers regard God as their only refuge. They assume that the appearance and disappearance of the world and of the beings on it is due to the power of God. So they believe that God saves those who have faith in him by means of his supernormal power. And by means of this power he can wash away all the sins and evils done by beings, giving them eternal happiness and eternal life after death. Thus the good and bad things experienced by beings depend on the will of God.

People like this disbelieve in kamma and do not think that it can be the cause of results. It is really very surprising that people who are making kamma all the time, in this way disregard their own actions. Kamma, as we have already said, means all intentional physical, verbal, and mental actions. Now all of these actions are done by people, whether Buddhist or otherwise, and some will be done by non-Buddhists in the worship of their religions, whatever forms it takes. So they make kamma by practising and undertaking such things as baptism, worship of God with body, speech and mind, obedience to his commandments, prostrations and offerings; all these things, as they are intentional, are kamma. Though these outsiders believe that God saves those who have faith in him and perform such actions (and does not save those who do not know of him or believe in him and who therefore do not do these things), really there is just the kamma made by those people who in time will receive its fruits, from their own hearts, not from God.

http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh245-u.html#IRightView
Taco
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:23 am

Re: God!

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 06, 2011 3:25 pm

What is it about Christianity that has you looking elsewhere?
User avatar
andre9999
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:04 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI, US

Re: God!

Postby Viscid » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:55 pm

I've been reading the writings of Christian mystics, and their description of deep states in contemplative prayer sounds remarkably similar to that of deep states in meditation. The main difference being that the peace they experience is attributed to an external God rather than that which arises within themselves. This would suggest that regardless of one's view of God, one can practice with a great deal of success.
Last edited by Viscid on Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
User avatar
Viscid
 
Posts: 835
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:55 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: God!

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:56 pm

Viscid wrote:I've been reading the writings of early Christian mystics, and their description of deep states in contemplative prayer sounds remarkably similar to that of deep states in meditation. The main difference being that the peace they experience is attributed to an external God rather than that which arises within themselves. This would suggest that regardless of one's view of God, one can practice with a great deal of success.




Sure, there were many in the Buddhas time who did
Open your mind and see, open your mind and rise. Shine the light of wisdom and see, don't wait till the end of time.
User avatar
clw_uk
 
Posts: 3284
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: God!

Postby Viscid » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:09 pm

just feel great to be alive, and so thankful for what you have - who do you pass the feeling of gratitude onto!?


If you are thankful to God when feelin' great, then be grateful when tormented.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
User avatar
Viscid
 
Posts: 835
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:55 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: God!

Postby mettatrader » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:26 pm

To everyone who has replied to this post, thank you very much. It is very interesting reading, and I am still "digesting" and considering the replies.

In the next posts I will also respond to some of the questions this thread has brought up!

Thanks again for your input!

khlawng wrote:To say that god is around us in flowers, nice views etc. is also incorrect and I can't think of any reference in Buddhism that would actually state something like that. Just out of curiosity, where are you reading these?


I read this from an old book called "Zen for Americans" - according to the book its the essays of a Zen Buddhist Abbot Soyen Shaku from Japan who visited the United States in 1905-6. I'm not sure how Zen compares with Theravada, but I assumed being a Buddhist school, the principals are the same.

Perhaps this is not in line with current thinking, because it was written a long time ago to introduce people who had no knowledge of Buddhism to the basics.

I found this book on the internet, at:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/zfa/index.htm


For your interest, The quote I was referring to is below:

Buddhists do not think that God has any special abode, that his administration of the universe comes from a certain fixed center or headquarters, where he-sits in his august throne surrounded by angels and archangels and saints and pious spirits who have been admitted there through his grace. In short, the Buddhist God is not above us, nor below us, but right in the midst of us; and if we want to see him face to face, we are able to find him in the lilies of the field, in the fowls of the air, in the murmuring mountain streams; we can trace his footsteps in the sea, we can follow him as he rides upon the storm; we can meet him in the bush; indeed, wheresoever we may turn, we are sure to be greeted by the smiling countenance of the author of this universe. Who says, then, that God is in Heaven, in some unknown region where we mortals are never allowed to venture in without his special permit?

This God of Buddhism works constantly and everlastingly; he knows no rest, no fatigue, he has not to stop his work after six days of toil; he does not resort to any special revelation in order to announce his existence to the world; he has no favored son to sacrifice for the sake of the sin of which the poor innocent child has no conception. On the other hand, the Buddhist God is able to turn the meanest creature in the world to the noblest figure in which his glory is manifest to its full extent. He can destroy this whole universe and raise it again in the twinkling of an eye, it not being necessary for him to wait even for three days. His revelation is not an historical event, but it is happening every minute, and those who have eyes see it, those who have ears hear it. And to know the truth of this, it is only necessary to cleanse the heart of its egoistic impurities and defilements, which have been accumulating by virtue of our subjective ignorance. When this fundamental purification is completed, "we all, with unveiled face reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory." Again, we are glorified with the "glory which he had with him before the world was." When we arrive at this exalted stage of spiritual enlightenment, Buddhism declares that we have attained Nirvâna
END QUOTE

Anyhow, even if it's totally wrong, I hope that the quote above is at least a curiosity that you might find interesting!

Best Wishes to all,

Philip.
mettatrader
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:48 pm

Re: God!

Postby mettatrader » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:40 pm

andrer9999 wrote:What is it about Christianity that has you looking elsewhere?


I have been brought up a Christian and have tried my best to follow that faith for most of my life.

Over the last year though I have been more and more drawn to Buddhism.

I think the main reason for my move towards Buddhism is that I always had trouble truly believing the supernatural aspects of the Bible, and some of the stories therein. I also found some of the stories seemed to conflict with others, leading to confusion. In short I would often come away from reading the Bible feeling like I didn't agree totally with what I had read and /or confused.

Once I started to read some Buddhist texts and words of Buddha, I had completely the opposite feeling, and It just feels like this is the religion or philosophy I have been looking for, but that I didn't didn't know existed before. It just seems to fit me better.

To be clear though, I have no complaint against Christianity at all, it's just a matter of preference.
mettatrader
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:48 pm

Re: God!

Postby plwk » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:48 pm

When I was a Christian seeking into Buddhism, I used to think along your questions in the initial stages. This managed to halt that wandering...hope it helps...
Simsapa Sutta
"And what have I taught?
'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress': This is what I have taught.

And why have I taught these things?
Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
This is why I have taught them.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation,
'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'"
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
VSM VMM WBB TBHT WTBT My Page
plwk
 
Posts: 1093
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am

Re: God!

Postby andre9999 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:05 pm

mettatrader wrote:I think the main reason for my move towards Buddhism is that I always had trouble truly believing the supernatural aspects of the Bible, and some of the stories therein. I also found some of the stories seemed to conflict with others, leading to confusion. In short I would often come away from reading the Bible feeling like I didn't agree totally with what I had read and /or confused.


Along with your Buddhist reading, you may also want to do some reading on the historical Jesus if you haven't already.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus

You may find that it addresses some of concerns that you have. Reading along those lines will also help bring context to the Bible, as opposed to the lately fashionable literalist interpretation.

That said, from my point of view the big differentiator between Buddhism and Christianity is where you place your faith - in god or in yourself. If you look around this world and agree with The Buddha that god cannot or will not stop suffering, then Buddhism is probably going to be a good path for you.
User avatar
andre9999
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:04 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI, US

Re: God!

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:11 pm

mettatrader wrote:... God is all around us (e.g. in a beautiful flower, in a nice view, in a thunderstorm, even in us!)


I think this is what is known as "pantheism". My layman's guess is you are more likely to find elements of this view in Mahayana Buddhism as opposed to Theravada. Some of the Mahayana sutras (notably the Avatamsaka) suggest that Buddha is everywhere and in everything.

Thich Nhat Hanh's writings have a distinct leaning in this direction, if you're interested.

All best,

LE
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 730
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: God!

Postby Jason » Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:17 pm

mettatrader wrote:I have been brought up as a Christian, however, recently I feel a very strong draw towards Buddhism, hence why I am reading lots of Buddhist books, and posting on this forum! If anything I feel like a "Christian Buddhist" but given that is probably not possible (or is it?!?!) can you help me reconcile the 'spiritual' questions below that I am encountering in considering the two faiths!

Everything I have read so far about Buddhism makes perfect sense, but I am a bit confused on the 'God' issue.

My understanding from some things I have read is that Buddhists deny the existance of God, but other Buddhist publications say that God is all around us (e.g. in a beautiful flower, in a nice view, in a thunderstorm, even in us!)

My question is, which of the above, (if either) is correct.

Also, if there is no God, who do you thank when you see a beautiful view or other pleasing event and just feel great to be alive, and so thankful for what you have - who do you pass the feeling of gratitude onto!? Finally, how do you deal with painful times, if there is no one to ask for help.

If any of you can assist, perhaps even those who have made the transition from one faith to another, I would love to know how you feel.


Thanks for answering these questions, I appreciate it!


In my opinion, these types of questions are really a non-issue in Buddhism, especially in regard to the practice itself. That said, Buddhism and Christianity aren't necessarily incompatible.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

leaves in the hand (Buddhist-related blog)
leaves in the forest (non-Buddhist related blog)
User avatar
Jason
 
Posts: 453
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:09 am
Location: Earth

Re: God!

Postby Viscid » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:51 pm

And to know the truth of this, it is only necessary to cleanse the heart of its egoistic impurities and defilements, which have been accumulating by virtue of our subjective ignorance. When this fundamental purification is completed, "we all, with unveiled face reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory." Again, we are glorified with the "glory which he had with him before the world was." When we arrive at this exalted stage of spiritual enlightenment, Buddhism declares that we have attained Nirvâna.


That's really quite beautiful, and corresponds wonderfully to my own personal view about the goal of a spiritual life. However, I think you'll encounter many Western Buddhists who flatly deny the existence or influence of anything called 'God' within Buddhism. If someone experience peace, bliss and inner radiance within deep states of meditation, you can call it 'God' or you can call it 'peace, bliss and inner radiance.' The difference is language, not so much experience.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
User avatar
Viscid
 
Posts: 835
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:55 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: God!

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 08, 2011 1:36 am

mettatrader wrote:I read this from an old book called "Zen for Americans" - according to the book its the essays of a Zen Buddhist Abbot Soyen Shaku from Japan who visited the United States in 1905-6. I'm not sure how Zen compares with Theravada, but I assumed being a Buddhist school, the principals are the same.

Perhaps this is not in line with current thinking, because it was written a long time ago to introduce people who had no knowledge of Buddhism to the basics.

I found this book on the internet, at:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/zfa/index.htm


For your interest, The quote I was referring to is below:

Buddhists do not think that God has any special abode, that his administration of the universe comes from a certain fixed center or headquarters, where he-sits in his august throne surrounded by angels and archangels and saints and pious spirits who have been admitted there through his grace. In short, the Buddhist God is not above us, nor below us, but right in the midst of us; and if we want to see him face to face, we are able to find him in the lilies of the field, in the fowls of the air, in the murmuring mountain streams; we can trace his footsteps in the sea, we can follow him as he rides upon the storm; we can meet him in the bush; indeed, wheresoever we may turn, we are sure to be greeted by the smiling countenance of the author of this universe. Who says, then, that God is in Heaven, in some unknown region where we mortals are never allowed to venture in without his special permit?

This God of Buddhism works constantly and everlastingly; he knows no rest, no fatigue, he has not to stop his work after six days of toil; he does not resort to any special revelation in order to announce his existence to the world; he has no favored son to sacrifice for the sake of the sin of which the poor innocent child has no conception. On the other hand, the Buddhist God is able to turn the meanest creature in the world to the noblest figure in which his glory is manifest to its full extent. He can destroy this whole universe and raise it again in the twinkling of an eye, it not being necessary for him to wait even for three days. His revelation is not an historical event, but it is happening every minute, and those who have eyes see it, those who have ears hear it. And to know the truth of this, it is only necessary to cleanse the heart of its egoistic impurities and defilements, which have been accumulating by virtue of our subjective ignorance. When this fundamental purification is completed, "we all, with unveiled face reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory." Again, we are glorified with the "glory which he had with him before the world was." When we arrive at this exalted stage of spiritual enlightenment, Buddhism declares that we have attained Nirvâna
END QUOTE

Anyhow, even if it's totally wrong, I hope that the quote above is at least a curiosity that you might find interesting!

Best Wishes to all,

Philip.

Hi, Philip,
This reads to me as though communication from the Japanese master to his English-speaking audience has failed due to cultural and language barriers. As some others have pointed out here, we don't generally speak in those terms now.
I think you're much better off reading newer books and newer translations of older ones. Access to Insight is an excellent source.
:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim OHara
 
Posts: 2893
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: God!

Postby alan » Sat Jan 08, 2011 2:55 am

Best to just drop the idea of God.
Mixing beliefs is a time-consuming mess that will lead nowhere.
alan
 
Posts: 2438
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: God!

Postby andre9999 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:00 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:This reads to me as though communication from the Japanese master to his English-speaking audience has failed due to cultural and language barriers. As some others have pointed out here, we don't generally speak in those terms now.
I think you're much better off reading newer books and newer translations of older ones. Access to Insight is an excellent source.


I think that it's not so much of a translation issue as a teacher who was very aware of his audience. As the first Zen master in the US trying to explain Buddhism to a Christian audience, I'd say it's a fairly effective text. I think that considering it caught the attention of our Christian friend 100 years later, it's still pretty effective.

That said, I agree with Kim that newer translations and text are generally more favorable than old ones. Zen, however, is Mahayana, and that crew mostly hangs out over on http://www.dharmawheel.net/. Mahayana is the result of a reform movement that most of us feel is a huge departure from what The Buddha taught.

Take a look at texts from both the Therevada and the Mahayana. The core is the same, but the teachings are wildly different.
User avatar
andre9999
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:04 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI, US

Next

Return to Discovering Theravāda

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest