Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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daverupa
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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by daverupa » Thu Apr 21, 2016 1:42 pm

Cormac Brown wrote:Or maybe it's possible to attain deep states of concentration, leading to these insights, that aren't the jhanas as recommended by the Buddha.
This was discussed over here, with the conclusion that jhanas are a basic human ability, but that samma-samadhi means bringing it into alignment with the Dhamma by adding the proper perspective to the general practice.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Cormac Brown » Thu Apr 21, 2016 2:16 pm

Katarzyna wrote:
Cormac Brown wrote:Even focussing on the qualities of the Triple Gem isn't said to lead to jhana,
It's true that the commentaries state that these recollections lead only to neighbourhood concentration. But the Suttas on the other hand say that one who develops and makes much of them "is not devoid of jhana". This seems also to be indicated in the Mahānāmasutta:
“Here, Mahānāma, you should recollect the Tathāgata thus: ‘The Blessed One is … the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Tathāgata, on that occasion his mind is not obsessed by lust, hatred, or delusion; on that occasion his mind is simply straight, based on the Tathāgata. A noble disciple whose mind is straight gains inspiration in the meaning, gains inspiration in the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. When he is joyful, rapture arises. For one with a rapturous mind, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body feels pleasure. For one feeling pleasure, the mind becomes concentrated. Mahānāma, you should develop this recollection of the Buddha while walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. You should develop it while engaged in work and while living at home in a house full of children.
Cormac Brown wrote:so how much less so on the qualities of a deluded deity.
I don't find this at all a persuasive objection to the claim that some theistic contemplatives may be attainers of jhana.

Though the deity whose attributes a theist brings to mind may from a Buddhist point of view be regarded as a deluded being or even a purely fictional entity, it goes without saying that the theistic contemplative herself will not be including "being delusional" or "not really existing" among the deity's attributes that she recollects. Like the Buddhist practising buddhanussati she will be bringing to mind the inspiring qualities of an ideal and perfect being that she happens to believe in. That a deity possessing such attributes actually exists will of course be for her a matter of faith rather than knowledge. But are matters any different in the case of Buddhists practising buddhanussati? How many of them really *know* that the Tathāgata is "possessed of gnosis and good conduct" or that he is a "knower of worlds" and a "teacher of devas and humans"? I suspect the number is few and that for the average puthujjana Buddhist the recollections of the Three Jewels will be just as much faith-based practices as those of theists. In both cases the object of their contemplation is an ideal concept in which they have faith. Is it your opinion that success in jhana is dependent upon this concept representing something factual? If so, why?
Some interesting points. In the case of an Abrahamic creator God, the meditator would surely have to be exercising some strong ignorance towards the fact that they're meditating on an impossibility - i.e. a compassionate, all-powerful, and intelligent creator. Either God is a well-meaning, powerless imbecile or he is an intelligent, omnipotent psychopath. I'd grant other variations, but none of them seem at all genuinely inspiring. They'd also be trying to gain joy from what would be, if he were what they believe, the cause of all suffering and pain. I honestly don't see very positive results emerging from this practice. Perhaps some strong states of concentration divorced, by necessity, from reality. Granted, some Buddhist teachers seem to teach jhanas like this - absorbed in "nimittas", the senses disappearing and what have you - but it seems a far cry from what's described in the suttas, which is simply cool, pleasant states of full-body awareness, freed from afflictive thoughts/states of mind.

The Buddha is different in that he actually offered a path of practice out of suffering that one can verify and test for oneself. Mahanama was, it's fair to say, a stream-enterer, which meant he had "verified confidence" in the Buddha. This means that he'd put the Buddha's teachings to the test and found that they produce the promised results - the third noble truth, the end of suffering. So in taking the Buddha as a meditation theme, he's not simply focusing on a nebulous concept but on a teacher in whom he has confirmed, evidential confidence. As regards gaining rapture and pleasure from thinking about the Buddha, this is one of the hallmarks of a sotapanna:
AN 5.179 trans. Ven. Thanissaro

"Sariputta, when you know of a householder clothed in white, that he is restrained in terms of the five training rules and that he obtains at will, without difficulty, without hardship, four pleasant mental abidings in the here & now, then if he wants he may state about himself: 'Hell is ended; animal wombs are ended; the state of the hungry shades is ended; states of deprivation, destitution, the bad bourns are ended! I am a stream-winner, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening!'

"Now, in terms of which five training rules is he restrained?

"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from illicit sex, abstains from lying, abstains from distilled & fermented drinks that cause heedlessness.

"These are the five training rules in terms of which he is restrained.

"And which four pleasant mental abidings in the here & now does he obtain at will, without difficulty, without hardship?

"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.' This is the first pleasant mental abiding in the here & now that he has attained, for the purification of the mind that is impure, for the cleansing of the mind that is unclean.

(Similarly with the Dhamma, Sangha, and virtues.)
“I in the present who am a worthy one, rightly self-awakened, am a
teacher of action, a teacher of activity, a teacher of persistence. But the
worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Cormac Brown » Thu Apr 21, 2016 2:50 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Cormac Brown wrote: These are the hypothetical words of a non-Buddhist recluse or brahmin..
I'm afraid, I'll simply have to differ. They appear to me to be the Buddha describing other asectics with high levels of absorption. Listen to Ven Analyayo's talk if you are interested. He gives several other examples and analysis.

:anjali:
Mike
As regards the passage I quoted, nowhere does the Buddha say that the person stating that view has attained jhana, only that they hold the view that jhana is Nibbana.

Similarly, the person who holds sensual indulgence to be Nibbana is not stated to have attained to an abundance of sensual pleasures.

Nevertheless, if your personal interpretation of the sutta is correct, do you agree that their theme for attaining jhana would nevertheless be from the satipatthanas? Or do you think it could come from focusing on the idea of a being responsible for all the pain and suffering in the world?
“I in the present who am a worthy one, rightly self-awakened, am a
teacher of action, a teacher of activity, a teacher of persistence. But the
worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:20 pm

Cormac Brown wrote:
As regards the passage I quoted, nowhere does the Buddha say that the person stating that view has attained jhana, only that they hold the view that jhana is Nibbana.
And why would they, if they had not actually attainted such levels of meditation, think that jhana is nibbana? In working with jhana, it can be quite easy to get led astray by the experience. The passages you quoted do not negate what Mike has said, and you might want to revist this msg:
daverupa wrote:
Cormac Brown wrote:Or maybe it's possible to attain deep states of concentration, leading to these insights, that aren't the jhanas as recommended by the Buddha.
This was discussed over here, with the conclusion that jhanas are a basic human ability, but that samma-samadhi means bringing it into alignment with the Dhamma by adding the proper perspective to the general practice.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Kamran » Fri Apr 22, 2016 5:23 am

Some snippets from Islamic poet Rumi on meditation:

At times my state resembles sleep: a misguided person may think it is sleep.
Know that my eyes are asleep, (but) my heart is awake: know that my (seemingly) inactive form is (really) in action.

The Prophet said, “My eyes sleep, (but) my heart is not asleep to the Lord of created beings.”
Your eyes are awake, and your heart is sunk in slumber; my eyes are asleep, (but) my heart is in (contemplation of) the opening of the door (of Divine grace).

Because I have passed beyond (all) thoughts, and have become a swift traveler outside (the region of) thought.

I am the ruler of thought, not ruled (by it), because the builder is ruler over the building. . . .
In the view of him that has not experienced (it) this is (mere) pretension; in the view of the inhabitants of the (spiritual) horizon, this is the reality.
- The Mathnawí
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Cormac Brown » Sat Apr 23, 2016 11:16 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Cormac Brown wrote:
As regards the passage I quoted, nowhere does the Buddha say that the person stating that view has attained jhana, only that they hold the view that jhana is Nibbana.
And why would they, if they had not actually attainted such levels of meditation, think that jhana is nibbana?
Do you not think it's possible to believe that Australia is the greatest land on earth without having been there?
“I in the present who am a worthy one, rightly self-awakened, am a
teacher of action, a teacher of activity, a teacher of persistence. But the
worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Apr 23, 2016 11:55 pm

Cormac Brown wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Cormac Brown wrote:
As regards the passage I quoted, nowhere does the Buddha say that the person stating that view has attained jhana, only that they hold the view that jhana is Nibbana.
And why would they, if they had not actually attainted such levels of meditation, think that jhana is nibbana?
Do you not think it's possible to believe that Australia is the greatest land on earth without having been there?
You are not addressing the question.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Cormac Brown » Sun Apr 24, 2016 7:30 pm

tiltbillings wrote:And why would they, if they had not actually attainted such levels of meditation, think that jhana is nibbana?
Cormac Brown wrote:Do you not think it's possible to believe that Australia is the greatest land on earth without having been there?
tiltbillings wrote:You are not addressing the question.
Yes I am, by way of a counter-question. The point is that they could have heard about a state in which the mind is secluded from sensuality and the body is filled with rapture and pleasure. They could jump to the conclusion that there would be nothing better than such a state, and conceive of it as a yet-to-be-reached "Nibbana."

Nevertheless, returning to topic, I still find it unlikely that they could reach what the Buddha called jhana by pondering the notion of the jealous, genocidal, highly confusing character that the Abrahamic religions call "God." What do you think, mr billings?
“I in the present who am a worthy one, rightly self-awakened, am a
teacher of action, a teacher of activity, a teacher of persistence. But the
worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by daverupa » Sun Apr 24, 2016 8:09 pm

Cormac Brown wrote:I still find it unlikely that they could reach what the Buddha called jhana by pondering the notion of the jealous, genocidal, highly confusing character that the Abrahamic religions call "God." What do you think, mr billings?
What's odd is that you are forcing this hypothetical divinity-contemplative to see their divinity in a particular way; this is not how divinity is perceived by the devout.

Your question is disingenuous, a vehicle for this denigration of deity you seem to enjoy, it seems to me.

For example, a given god could embody the characteristic of a universal love, and this could be a model for a given radiation of same. It is not liberative, but it can definitely lead to ecstatic states. Or another example is contemplating the lack of there being any possible representation of the divine, and this might be akin to an immaterial sort of perception.

Even if we take Xianity in particular, there is a vast swath of contemplative effort on record.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Cormac Brown » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:05 pm

daverupa wrote:
Cormac Brown wrote:I still find it unlikely that they could reach what the Buddha called jhana by pondering the notion of the jealous, genocidal, highly confusing character that the Abrahamic religions call "God." What do you think, mr billings?
What's odd is that you are forcing this hypothetical divinity-contemplative to see their divinity in a particular way; this is not how divinity is perceived by the devout.
What seems to me odder is that a Christian contemplative would have to blind themselves to a lot of inconvenient contradictions in order to enter into a blissful contemplation of "God." The notion of a creator deity, as I've pointed out, is fraught with such. That they don't perceive him as such is precisely my point!
Your question is disingenuous, a vehicle for this denigration of deity you seem to enjoy, it seems to me.
It's hardly denigration... He describes himself as "a jealous God.." Plus, simply by the act of creating millennia's worth of mortal beings, if we are to believe that he did, he's most certainly genocidal - easily the biggest perpetrator of the act the world has ever seen. What's more, the Bible contains plenty of accounts of him hastening his creations' deaths by plagues, floods etc.

Jump to whatever conclusions you wish, but my question is with the direct purpose of arguing that contemplation of an Abrahamic God could not lead to what the Buddha defined as jhana.
For example, a given god could embody the characteristic of a universal love, and this could be a model for a given radiation of same. It is not liberative, but it can definitely lead to ecstatic states.
The point, again, would be that the "universal love" of the God depicted by the Abrahamic religions, is a very problematic one. He is the origin and creator of all things, therefore he is also the origin and creator of suffering and evil, either through deliberate effort or via a critical flaw in his supposed "intelligent" design, which he has either since been powerless and incapable of reversing, or cruelly unwilling to reverse. Understand?

Furthermore, "ecstatic states" do not necessarily equal jhana, as per the Buddha's description. Add to the mix that most Christians believe the soul to be one thing and the body another, and we find a general meditative effort to divorce the soul from the body, and to focus on the divine at the expense of the corporeal. Jhana is clearly defined as a body-oriented concentration. And the Buddha has said that with the view, "The soul is one thing and the body another, there is no leading of the holy life" (SN 12.35)
Or another example is contemplating the lack of there being any possible representation of the divine, and this might be akin to an immaterial sort of perception.
I'm quite sure the Buddha would have detailed this if he thought it a useful subject for jhana.
Even if we take Xianity in particular, there is a vast swath of contemplative effort on record.
Vast swathes of contemplative effort do not for jhana make.
“I in the present who am a worthy one, rightly self-awakened, am a
teacher of action, a teacher of activity, a teacher of persistence. But the
worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by daverupa » Sun Apr 24, 2016 10:46 pm

:toilet:
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Aloka » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:30 pm

Cormac Brown wrote:Vast swathes of contemplative effort do not for jhana make.
and more to the point, neither does arguing on a computer screen.


'

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Apr 25, 2016 12:26 am

Cormac Brown wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:And why would they, if they had not actually attainted such levels of meditation, think that jhana is nibbana?
Cormac Brown wrote:Do you not think it's possible to believe that Australia is the greatest land on earth without having been there?
tiltbillings wrote:You are not addressing the question.
Yes I am, by way of a counter-question. The point is that they could have heard about a state in which the mind is secluded from sensuality and the body is filled with rapture and pleasure. They could jump to the conclusion that there would be nothing better than such a state, and conceive of it as a yet-to-be-reached "Nibbana."

Nevertheless, returning to topic, I still find it unlikely that they could reach what the Buddha called jhana by pondering the notion of the jealous, genocidal, highly confusing character that the Abrahamic religions call "God." What do you think, mr billings?
You are, it seems, unreasonably supposing that these theist contemplatives need to view things the way you do. Obviously, they do not, as has been pointed out to you. Also, the only thing Buddhist about the jhanas is the Buddhist context. Outside of the Buddhist context these levels of meditative attainment are hardly unique.

Also, if you have had actual jhana experiences you could see how easily it would be to mistake the experience and results of jhana as being nibbana.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by The Thinker » Mon Apr 25, 2016 10:40 am

I would not want to meditate or even think too much about the Abrahamic religion because it is not a reality and stirs unwholesome thoughts, which I have already given attention in the past. It's down to the individual!
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by The Thinker » Mon Apr 25, 2016 11:19 am

Genesis 6:7 - "The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."

Psalm 103:4 - "Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; ?
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by badscooter » Sun May 01, 2016 9:08 pm

Cormac Brown wrote:
MN 44 trans. Ven. Thanissaro

"Now what is concentration, lady, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development?"

"Singleness of mind is concentration, friend Visakha; the four frames of reference are its themes; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development."
It's interesting how often people state that the jhanas are common to other spiritual traditions. The suttas don't at all support such a view. Only with mindfulness established on the four satipatthanas will one reach jhana. Not with mindfulness established on Brahma/Allah/Jehovah. Even focussing on the qualities of the Triple Gem isn't said to lead to jhana, so how much less so on the qualities of a deluded deity.
Actually the Buddha talked about how the brahmaviharas can also take one through the jhanas.

kind regards
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by manas » Fri May 06, 2016 11:15 pm

SarathW wrote:I am thinking more in line with Samath (absorption) practice not Vipassana (contemplate on arising and falling).
It is 'forbidden' to cast any image of the Abrahamic God, so I'm not sure what kind of image or perception one could actually use as a point of mental focus, but sure you *could* use ANYTHING as a meditation object, the question is, will the chosen object lead to calm and most importantly, is it skillful? Furthermore, If you were to focus on the Abrahamic God, would that include contemplation of all his actions as recorded in the Old Testament? Have you read some of the things he does or commands others to do, according to the Bible itself? I think a thorough read of the Bible might make you reconsider whether you would even want to ponder this question. :anjali:
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by SarathW » Mon May 09, 2016 1:57 am

It is interesting to note that recollection of Deva lead to concentration.
===============

Furthermore, you should recollect the devas:...........................


His mind heads straight, based on the [qualities of the] devas. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.


https://suttacentral.net/en/an11.12" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Lucas Oliveira » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:57 am

I would try to make a topic about Teresa of Avila on the states of concentration and contemplation that it describes very well. but it seems that the staff here already know this history.

then, just wanted to go on record here, which is really cool so that St. Teresa of Avila describes and I hope this helps me in my meditations.


:namaste:
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Re: Can we keep "God" (Abrahamic religion) as the meditation object?

Post by Chula » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:35 pm

I don't think God as a meditation subject can be used for jhana, but I do think those who had a belief in God could reach jhanas.

Alara Kalama and Uddakaramaputta might not be great examples since it is not clear whether they had a "Brahma as creator" belief, but even if they did, they were successful in attaining the arupa jhanas.

What Buddha brought to the table was right view - the four noble truths and the eightfold path. The problem with his former teachers was that even though they were followed admirable practices (achieving jhana means they at least avoided the hindrances), they didn't understand the underlying dukkha behind craving, so still clung to becoming.

They still were at a high enough level that the Buddha wanted to teach them first after Enlightenment, but unfortunately they had both passed away by then (I'm not sure if the source for this is a sutta or the commentaries though).

Also, just the fact that the realm that those who attain first jhana goes to is ruled by the Mahabrahma (as is detailed in the suttas) where the purohitas (followers) followed him shows that those who have reached the jhanas can possibly have a God-belief.

It's quite amusing/amazing how monotheism is explained as a deluded Brahma in the Dhamma. Imagine a person with a God-belief has an encounter with the Brahma who tells him that he is the creator (since he thinks that to be true). That person would come back convinced of the existence of God.. and in a way he's not wrong, just that the God-dude is also deluded.

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