God!

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Jason
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Re: God!

Post by 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).

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Re: God!

Post by 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

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Re: God!

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


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

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Re: God!

Post by 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.

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Re: God!

Post by 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.

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Re: God!

Post by alan » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:10 am

Well said, andrer.
I'd still direct our OP away from the idea of God if he is to ever become a Buddhist.

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Re: God!

Post by clw_uk » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:38 am

Viscid wrote:
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.

All depends on what a person means by "God"
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Re: God!

Post by octathlon » Sat Jan 08, 2011 4:11 am

mettatrader wrote:For your interest, The quote I was referring to is below:
... <snip> ...
He can destroy this whole universe and raise it again in the twinkling of an eye ...
... <snip> ...
Sounds about right.

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Re: God!

Post by vanquisher91 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:03 am

I would say that to believe in a Christian God would be to place your faith in that God. This is completely counter to the guidance given by the Buddha.

33. Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
-DN 16

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Re: God!

Post by andre9999 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 2:12 pm

alan wrote:Well said, andrer.
I'd still direct our OP away from the idea of God if he is to ever become a Buddhist.
I said something right on here?! Score! :)

And yeah, I don't feel that Jesus and Buddhism match up particularly well either. But I figure that if people read a little of the basics and sit on a cushion once a day for a couple weeks, they'll start down that path on their own...

Or not. I certainly don't have it all figured out, so what do I know?

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Re: God!

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:05 am

"Buddhists do not share most of the core beliefs of historical Christianity and many of the less critical beliefs accepted by some Christians. Buddhism does not teach:

An original golden era in the Garden of Eden, and a subsequent fall of humanity.

Original sin shared by all present-day humans, derived from Adam and Eve.

A world-wide flood in the time of Noah, causing the greatest human genocide in history.

The need for a sinless personal savior whose execution enabled individual salvation through atonement.

A god-man savior who was born of a virgin, executed, resurrected and ascended to heaven.

Salvation achieved:

Through good works (a common liberal Christian belief) or

Specific actions and beliefs (as in repenting of one's sin and trusting Jesus as Lord and savior as taught by many conservative Protestant faith groups) or

Sacraments (e.g. the ritual of baptism within the Roman Catholic Church, followed by confession later in life).

Most Christians believe in the soul: the essence of a person that lives on, unchanged, after death for all eternity. Buddhists have no such belief.

Return of a savior to earth at some time in the future.

An end of the world as we know it, in the near future with a war of Armageddon and the genocide of over two billion people who will be targeted because of their religious beliefs.

The belief that their religion will continue forever. Most Christians believe that Christians will increase in numbers until essentially the entire world is of this one faith. Some Buddhists believe in Miroku, the "future Buddha." They expect that Buddhism will eventually fade from the scene. This belief is compatible with their principle that all objects, religions, etc. are impermanent. However, they expect that at some future time in the future, another person will attain Buddhahood -- the state of perfect enlightenment -- and will recreate a religion similar to Buddhism.

While some shared beliefs are that:

Life continues after death:

Almost all religions teach that life continues after death. In fact, many religious historians believe that this belief was the prime reason that originally motivated people to create religions. However, Christianity and Buddhism conceive of life after death in very different forms:

Buddhism teaches that humans are trapped in a repetitive cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. Each successive rebirth may be into a better, a worse life, or a similar life, depending upon the person's Kamma -- the wrong-doing and merits that have accumulated during their present and previous lives. One's goal is to escape from this cycle and reach Nibbana. Once this is attained, the mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. Suffering ends because desire and craving -- the causes of suffering -- are no more.

Christianity has historically taught that everyone has only a single life on earth. After death, one's beliefs and/or actions are evaluated in the Final Judgment. An eternal life awaits everyone. Depending on the judgment, it will be either in Heaven or Hell. There is no suffering in Heaven; only joy. Torture is eternal without any hope of cessation for the inhabitants of Hell.

Ethic of Reciprocity: Buddhism, Christianity and all of the other major world religions share a basic rule of behavior which governs how they are to treat others. Two quotations from Buddhist texts which reflect this Ethic are:
"...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353.

"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18.
This compares closely to Christianity's Golden Rule, which is seen in:

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12.

"...and don't do what you hate..." Gospel of Thomas 6. This Gospel was widely used in early Christianity but never made it into the official canon because of its Gnostic content. However, it remains valuable today because it seems to have preserved many unique sayings of Jesus that do not appear in other gospels.

Themes of morality, justice, love: These themes are found through both the Buddha's teaching and the Hebrew and Christian Bible.
Got the whole thing from here, and it explains what the differences are.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism4.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Personally I think as a person there's several things that are directly incompatible. Buddhism not only doesn't acknowledge the divinity of Christ, it does not recognize divinity at all as a serious category. All Gods are born, live and eventually die (even though their time-frame is measured in eons) these are the only kind of gods acknowledged, and they are inferior to the Buddha and not of equal merit.

Imagine a creature is born with an unfathomably slow aging process. It sees all creature appear and disappear before him. He ages so slowly that he begins to believe he is the one who brought them forth. That is how Gods regard humanity. It is not Gods that created us. We became what we are because we wanted to. We created ourselves.

In Christianity there is an immortal soul, that is cursed by God and can only be cleansed by God. In Buddhism there is no soul or souls and that very idea is not only problematic to a Buddhist but it can destroy Buddhist practice. Buddhist Cosmology is that people are made of mind and matter. Mind occurs in a continuum or "stream" that may be split into a variety of incarnations caused by the mind clinging to matter. If circumstances are correct for that this clinging meets conditions that leads to birth, suffering, sickness, and death. In Buddhism, you don’t “reincarnate” exactly (as you don’t have a soul there’s nothing to “re” anything). Your mind-stream just finds itself helplessly in another body due to clinging. The personality in the subsequent body is not you, in fact you are not the same person from instant to instant. Coherence in personality as a being is what the Buddha says we are empty of, and it is this emptiness of coherence that we can finally achieve coherence. This is the attainment of enlightenment. Enlightenment is an ontological category that is personal and unfathomable and it can only be achieved through the accomplishment of total purity in virtue, mental development, and actions. This and the intention to encourage and help others achieve the same goal is the life mission of a Buddhist. While we may all try our hardest, only a very, very few are going to be able to practice Buddhism in this lifetime seriously enough to accomplish this end, even though it is the goal of all Buddhists, whether of the Theravadin (Southern) or Mahayana (Northern) traditions. It may take many tens of thousands of years (or more) and possibly uncountable lifetimes are required to accomplish this goal. In the end, enlightenment is possible and your goal is to be the same as the Buddha. Ceasing of suffering.

In Christianity it doesn't matter what you say, do, or think. All who put their unflinching faith in Jesus may be saved. Even if you’re a terrible person. You only receive salvation not for what you do, but for placing all hope in an external deity who might not even grant that salvation promised to his own believers (one just needs to look at all the death, aging, suffering, sickness, and ignorance to see that.). It doesn't matter because regardless of how faithful you are, it'll always be "Thy will be done". This means that putting total faith in God will still mean absolutely nothing within the confines of the Christian faith. Now, in Buddhism, suffering is something brought upon the mind because of conscious choices and it keeps happening until one exhausts all the bad karma. The principle aim of Buddhism is to end pointless suffering. To be a Buddhist (as opposed to someone who pretends to be one), you must have three supreme refuges, forsaking all others: Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. This explicitly excludes Christ, God, and the Bible, the Church, etc. Now, there are some Buddhist traditions that are vague about this but it is ultimately what makes or breaks practice.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: God!

Post by Jechbi » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:37 am

mettatrader wrote:Once I started to read some Buddhist texts and words of Buddha ... 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.
Thanks for this discussion, mettatrader. One thing to bear in mind is that we are bound to have certain beliefs and inclinations. While they might change and develop over time, the underlying phenomenon remains: that one believes this or that, one holds this or that point of view. And you might notice that these beliefs and viewpoints aren't 100% in your control. You can't just make yourself believe something if in your gut you really don't buy it.

In that respect, the practice of Dhamma is not dominated by doctrines and beliefs in the way that many of us might have experienced religions in the past. While there are doctrines and beliefs associated with various Buddhism traditions, many of these traditions share in common a practical approach that involves seeing one's beliefs for what they are, and understanding their nature. So sure, anyone here might have certain beliefs about what God means, and whether God exists or doesn't exist, but as we roll along with our practice, we understand that when you get right down to it, it's not helpful to worry too much about these beliefs. In Dhamma practice, what really matters is our experiential understanding of suffering, its conditions, and the path.

Everybody desires to be happy and not to suffer. Christians or anyone, if they listen and give appropriate attention, might understand that the Dhamma message resonates with that universal experience. Hearing the Dhamma is important, as is appropriate attention. Forcing oneself to adopt certain beliefs regarding God is not important. Beliefs will bubble along and change according to the conditions that arise along this path. You don't have to force it. And it's fine to continue to have an appreciation for your roots. I hope that's helpful in your search.
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Re: God!

Post by ground » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:59 am

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.
The thought "God" simply is irrelevant for buddhist practice. To argue about existence or non-existence would just be distraction.
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.
The precious human life is appreciated because of its opportunities in the context of the buddhist path.
To experience beauty or pleasure is seen as conditioned experience. That attitude does not despise beauty or pleasure but it entails not being attached to it, not seeking it, being aware of the impermanence of beauty or pleasure.
IMO humility replaces gratitude if one practices the right way.


Kind regards

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Re: God!

Post by mettatrader » Mon Jan 10, 2011 12:48 pm

Jechbi wrote: Hearing the Dhamma is important, as is appropriate attention. Forcing oneself to adopt certain beliefs regarding God is not important. Beliefs will bubble along and change according to the conditions that arise along this path. You don't have to force it. And it's fine to continue to have an appreciation for your roots. I hope that's helpful in your search.
Very helpful indeed! Thanks! So this is exactly what I intend to do - continue my "voyage of discovery" into Buddhism whilst not worrying too much about what I think my beliefs were or should be. I will just let things happen and see where my journey takes me.

What I can say with a lot of certainty though, is that since starting to study Buddhism and trying (in my own very basic and probably confused way) to apply the concepts such as mindfulness and meditation I am starting to feel a lot more calm and centered. Also I feel like my life is proceeding in the right direction. So, I'm happy so far, and I look forward to seeing what other changes I observe in myself as time goes on and my understanding grows.

On a different subject, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has posted on this thread and provided feedback. As a complete novice, I appreciate your wisdom!

Oh one final thing - if its not changing the thread too much - I'd just like to ask - How does Zen compare with Theravada, because I had read somewhere that Zen is a way of life and therefore is compatible with other religions...or is this also not strictly true!

With very best wishes to all,

Mettatrader.

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Re: God!

Post by andre9999 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:02 pm

mettatrader wrote:What I can say with a lot of certainty though, is that since starting to study Buddhism and trying (in my own very basic and probably confused way) to apply the concepts such as mindfulness and meditation I am starting to feel a lot more calm and centered. Also I feel like my life is proceeding in the right direction. So, I'm happy so far, and I look forward to seeing what other changes I observe in myself as time goes on and my understanding grows.
Just a little heads-up, that calm and centered feeling is probably going to waver occasionally. Be sure to stick with the practice even (especially) when things get tough. Like Gil Fronsdal says about when things start to go wrong, "Great! Now the real work can begin!"

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