Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
greggorious
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Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by greggorious » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:05 am

Is Buddhism pantheistic? What I mean by that is if there was anything at all that would resemble the word God, it would be the natural universe itself?
"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” Ajahn Chah

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Ben
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Ben » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:16 am

Hi Greg,

Um....no - not according to my understanding.
This might be of help to you:

Buddhism and the God-idea by Nyanaponika Thera

kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Sarva » Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:15 am

Hello Greggorious
Darvki posted a reference to the Vajira Sutta (SN 5.10) in another thread which I found useful and I feel it is applicable to the question. I hope it helps although the answer is not as straight forward as your question :)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

metta
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:59 pm

there is a pantheon of Devas in some ways similare to the Greek or Roman pantheon, but The Buddha is not a god, and in Buddhism there is no worship of Devas.
there are practices of reverence and respect to the devas, the Karaniya Metta sutta is an example of this, but as a "religion" it is not pantheistic.
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Goofaholix
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Goofaholix » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:33 pm

The devas are beings caught in samara like you and me, the Buddha effectively demoted them from the gods they are in other religions, so not pantheistic.
“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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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Ron-The-Elder » Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:08 pm

Yes and no as follows:
Brahma in the Pali Canon
Brahma is among the common gods found in the Pali Canon. Brahma (in common with all other devas) is subject to change, final decline and death, just as are all other sentient beings in samsara (the plane of continual reincarnation and suffering). In fact there are several different Brahma worlds and several kinds of Brahmas in Buddhism, all of which however are just beings stuck in samsara for a long while. Sir Charles Eliot describes attitudes towards Brahma in early Buddhism as follows:
There comes a time when this world system passes away and then certain beings are reborn in the "World of Radiance" and remain there a long time. Sooner or later, the world system begins to evolve again and the palace of Brahma appears, but it is empty. Then some being whose time is up falls from the "World of Radiance" and comes to life in the palace and remains there alone. At last he wishes for company, and it so happens that other beings whose time is up fall from the "World of Radiance" and join him. And the first being thinks that he is Great Brahma, the Creator, because when he felt lonely and wished for companions other beings appeared. And the other beings accept this view. And at last one of Brahma’s retinue falls from that state and is born in the human world and, if he can remember his previous birth, he reflects that he is transitory but that Brahma still remains and from this he draws the erroneous conclusion that Brahma is eternal.[25]
[edit]Other common gods referred to in the Canon
Many of the other gods in the Pali Canon find a common mythological role in Hindu literature. Some common gods and goddesses are Indra, Aapo (Varuna), Vayo (Vayu), Tejo (Agni), Surya, Pajapati (Prajapati), Soma, Yasa, Venhu (Viṣṇu), Mahadeva (Siva), Vijja (Saraswati), Usha, Pathavi (Prithvi) Sri (Lakshmi) Kuvera (Kubera), several yakkhas (Yakshas), gandhabbas (Gandharvas), Nāgas, garula (Garuda), sons of Bali, Veroca, etc.[26] While in Hindu texts some of these gods and goddesses are considered embodiments of the Supreme Being. The Buddhist view was that all gods and goddesses were bound to samsara. The world of gods according to the Buddha presents a being with too many pleasures and distractions.
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Buddhism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:26 am

I guess you could possibly say that because all things depend on one another, the entire existent multiverse is one big thing. I guess you could probably call that God. But it doesn't seem to be something that has anything to do with Buddhism. So at best it would be a peripheral view that doesn't really impact the practice?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
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Kim OHara
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:39 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I guess you could possibly say that because all things depend on one another, the entire existent multiverse is one big thing. I guess you could probably call that God. But it doesn't seem to be something that has anything to do with Buddhism. So at best it would be a peripheral view that doesn't really impact the practice?
Best answer so far :smile: although the Vajira Sutta is also very relevant.
A couple of respondents have drifted OT in that 'pantheism' has nothing to do with a 'pantheon' of gods :thinking:

To add to what Lonesome Yogurt said, one could also argue that rebirth makes every living creature as 'spiritually significant' as every other, in contrast to (eg) Christianity where people have souls and nothing else does, so in that way Buddhism gives more respect to the whole living world. But it still isn't quite pantheism and again, it doesn't really seem to be very important to the teachings.
Back to the Vajira Sutta?

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Buckwheat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:47 am

Wikipedia wrote:Pantheism is the view that the Universe (or Nature) and God (or divinity) are identical.[1] Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek (pan) meaning "all" and the Greek (theos) meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of relating to the Universe.[2] Although there are divergences within Pantheism, the central ideas found in almost all versions are the Cosmos as an all-encompassing unity and the sacredness of Nature.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Buckwheat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:50 am

It is my understanding that the Buddha rejected the idea of a "infinite and material self", so I think this rules out a pantheistic kind of god.

There is a difference between the universe being one big "thing" as in the OP, and calling that thing "god". The character and magnitude of that difference would be an interesting discussion, I think.
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ground
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by ground » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:58 am

greggorious wrote:Is Buddhism pantheistic? What I mean by that is if there was anything at all that would resemble the word God, it would be the natural universe itself?
I don't know of any buddhism (there are many kinds) that is pantheistic. However there are some kinds of buddhism that ressemble pantheism due to their application of terms and terminology.
In a sense pantheism stands between buddhism and the theisms that view a God as some sort of person.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:18 am


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Goofaholix
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Goofaholix » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:24 am

Buckwheat wrote:There is a difference between the universe being one big "thing" as in the OP, and calling that thing "god". The character and magnitude of that difference would be an interesting discussion, I think.
I was one of the ones who mixed up pantheism with pantheon, but I think the answer is still no.

I'm not sure there is any difference between saying the universe being one big "thing", and calling that thing "god", other than having added a conceptual overlay. People have ideas about what the word "god" means so using that word introduces those ideas, but one big thing is more of an open question.
“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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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by Sarva » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:21 am

Deleted with metta. :)
Last edited by Sarva on Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Buddhism pantheistic?

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:00 am

Sarva wrote: My point is that I see little difference between the Buddhist view and the Hindu view on this detail,
Forgive me, but I am not sure what "detail" you are referring to here.
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