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.
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zavk
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Re: God!

Post by zavk » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:31 pm

Hi mettatrader

I think you'll find that as you interact with more so-called Buddhist converts, especially those in the West, you'll find that many come from a Christian background, or at the very least have been exposed to some general Christian influence in their lives. For me, I attended church occasionally when I was little, right through till my teenage years. I can't say I was a devout Christian; I probably attended church to hang out with friends more than anything else.

Nevertheless, having been exposed to Christianity since I was little, 'God', 'Christ', and all of the rest of it are powerful concepts that have conditioned my way of thinking, whether I like it or not. The conditionings of our lives, especially those from the early parts of our lives, run very deep. I think this applies to everyone, regardless of whether they were Christians or not. I'm reminded of Ajahn Sumedho, the highly esteemed senior Western representative of the Thai Forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism. I think it's in his book The Sound of Silence where he talks about how the habitual behaviour patterns from his childhood/adolescence would somehow come back whenever he was in the presence of his parents--the same goes for his parents who would somehow treat him like a kid, even when he was well into his middle-age (and a senior monk no less!). I suspect this happens to most of us. In any case, I mention this as an example to show how powerful the conditionings of how lives can be.

Given this to be the case, and following what I vaguely remember of Ajahn Sumedho's advice, I think it would be best to become aware of our conditionings, to become familiar with them, to be patient with them, and to learn from them, rather than deny them or attempt to cut ourselves off from them with one clean swoop. It seems to me that this what you are trying to do: to find new ways of understanding the conditionings of your life.

With regards to 'God'. Curiously for me, at my last retreat I unexpectedly came to the realisation that I've somehow learned to be at peace with 'God'. To be more precise, I should say that I have come to be at peace with the concept of 'God'. I do not believe in a Creator; I do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that he was resurrected, etc. I do not know what to make of all these. At the same time, I also no longer feel bothered by them. This is not to say that I have figured them out, but merely that I'm at peace with these concepts. I no longer feel the urge to invest my energy into proving or disproving them nor do I feel the urge to tell people what to think or not to think about them.

In place of this I feel a greater sense of curiosity. Curiosity about what? Erm... I'm not quite sure... all I know is that I'm directing this sense of curiosity towards the Dhamma, amongst the other interests I have in life. This is not something that happened over night. It is something that happened gradually. But I suppose it began to develop when I started to think of 'God', 'Christ', etc, as concepts rather than 'real' entities. This really helped me to come to terms with the Christian conditionings which--whether I care to admit it or not--have left an imprint on me, even though I've long stopped calling myself a Christian or engage in activities a Christian typically engages in.

Just sharing my experience, hope it is of relevance. All the best.

:anjali: :smile:
With metta,
zavk

alan
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Re: God!

Post by alan » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:34 am

Consider the God idea a hinderance. File it under precepts and practices if you like.
Drop it. It will be in your best interest.

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Re: God!

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:14 am

Greetings,

The main problem associated with a creator god from a Buddhist perspective is that it would be nicca (permanent), outside the web of causality, whereas the Buddha repeatedly stated that sabbe sankhara anicca (all formations are impermanent). This is reflected in the Buddha's treatment of various god realms and his dealings with Brahma.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Kim OHara
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Re: God!

Post by Kim OHara » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:35 am

mettatrader wrote: 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!
Hi, Mettatrader,
Zen is a Mahayana school and is therefore peripheral to the path most of us prefer to follow. You will ultimately find the same incompatibilities between Zen and theism as between Theravada and theism, because Zen is ultimately based on the same teachings as Theravada even though they are conceptualised rather differently. If you want more on this, I think a new thread might be a good idea.
:namaste:
Kim

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kirk5a
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Re: God!

Post by kirk5a » Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:02 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

The main problem associated with a creator god from a Buddhist perspective is that it would be nicca (permanent), outside the web of causality, whereas the Buddha repeatedly stated that sabbe dhamma anicca (all things are impermanent). This is reflected in the Buddha's treatment of various god realms and his dealings with Brahma.

Metta,
Retro. :)
hm actually he said sabbe sankhara anicca - all conditioned things are impermanent. It wouldn't make any sense to speak of "deathless" if that was impermanent.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: God!

Post by kirk5a » Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:23 pm

On the creator God concept, I think it's nettlesome, contrary to all reason and experience, and can't withstand the questioning of a child. Despite that, and despite just about everyone feeling that deep down, it is clung to anyway, perhaps out of fear and social pressure. I find it freeing to discard the idea altogether.

There are some re-interpretations of the God concept which make it less grating to reason and sound a bit more like a meditation experience, but I still don't think those fit in very well with Buddhism either. The reason being, Buddhism is not about "seeing God" it is about seeing the cause of suffering - clinging.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Nibbida
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Re: God!

Post by Nibbida » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:38 pm

clw_uk wrote:
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"

I agree with this point. It's often been said that instead of God making man in his image, man has made God in his image (i.e. anthropomorphizing). Orthodox forms of Western religions tend to have a more personified version, where God is the bearded man in the sky, in it's simplest interpretation. This is not necessarily the orthodox Theravada interpretation, but Eastern religions like Taoism and Buddhism have the notion of oneness, unity, ultimate reality, emptiness, etc. Mystical traditions of Western religions (Christianity, Sufi Islam, Jewish Kabbalah) also have less personified versions of God, somewhat akin to their Eastern counterparts. But if one says God is everywhere and in everything (panentheism), then that's similar to the notion of oneness, emptiness, unbounded by concepts, etc. (i.e. the kingdom of Heaven is within you) Or pantheism says that "God" is the universe itself and we are all parts of it.

So there's a great deal of latitude for interpretation. I don't favor a personified version of God, nor do I use the word "God" much or spend much time fussing about it. However, it makes more sense to me that people all over the world are using different vocabulary to describe the same or similar sublime experiences, which I believe are universal to humans and have been rediscovered across cultures and time. I do think some interpretations are more conducive to awakening than others, where dogmatism gets in the way rather than facilitating awakening.

The Buddhist framework not only distills the principles very clearly (e.g. Eightfold Path) but it also gives us clear methods for advancing. I grew up Catholic and heard a lot of ideals (compassion, forgiveness, etc.), but never got strategies for how to develop them other than devotion and stories about heaven. On the other hand, I have interacted directly with many Buddhist teachers (lay and monastic) who are awakened (i.e. stream entry or beyond) and it shows in their speech, in their body language, and in their actions. I never got this sense from any clergy I ever interacted with in my life. That to me indicates that the Buddhists are onto something.

So no, there's no concept of a personified, eternal, creator God in Buddhism, but this perspective can be useful to someone who has grown up and lived with that concept but is coming to Buddhism. It's more like making peace with our past rather than fighting against it. It's just a skillful means, in my view.

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cooran
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Re: God!

Post by cooran » Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:23 pm

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.
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!
Hello mettatrader,

A little reading matter:

Two Suttas:

"So the monk approached the Great Brahma and, on arrival, said, 'Friend, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?'
"When this was said, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'
A second time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.'
"A second time, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'
"A third time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.'
"Then the Great Brahma, taking the monk by the arm and leading him off to one side, said to him, 'These gods of the retinue of Brahma believe, "There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not know. There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not see. There is nothing of which the Great Brahma is unaware. There is nothing that the Great Brahma has not realized." That is why I did not say in their presence that I, too, don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... #bigbrahma" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

"Having approached the priests & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being's act of creation. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being's act of creation.' When one falls back on creation by a supreme being as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my second righteous refutation of those priests & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The God-Idea - Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha019.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Buddhism and God - Ajahn Jagaro
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha068.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Buddhist Attitude to God by Dr V. A. Gunasekara
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha268.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

There are gods, miracles do happen - Ajahn Brahmavamso
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha297.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The God Idea - Bhikkhu Dhammapiyo
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha185.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Morality with and without a creator God. Radhika Abeysekera
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha169.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Buddhism and the God-idea by Nyanaponika Thera
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... didea.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: God!

Post by Justsit » Fri Jan 14, 2011 11:52 pm

Some Buddhists enter the mandala through the Christian gate and proceed quickly; others, less so. You might be interested in some of their writings - Robert Kennedy Roshi, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and Zen master, author of "Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit;" William Johnston, "Christian Zen;" Lawrence Richardson, David Steindl-Rast, Thomas Merton (Trappist monk who actually ended up asking HH the Dalai Lama for Dzogchen teachings, but that's another story :smile: ), and others. You might also enjoy Thich Nhat Hahn's Living Buddha, Living Christ. It can be a difficult journey for those used to having answers presented rather than discovered. Letting go of "God" can be very scary, but it's kind of like removing a band-aid; some folks pull it off slowly and gently, and others just rip it and get it over with.
Best wishes,
Justsit

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Nibbida
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Re: God!

Post by Nibbida » Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:00 am

:goodpost:

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tiltbillings
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Re: God!

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Jan 15, 2011 2:55 pm

Justsit wrote:Some Buddhists enter the mandala through the Christian gate and proceed quickly; others, less so. You might be interested in some of their writings - Robert Kennedy Roshi, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and Zen master, author of "Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit;" William Johnston, "Christian Zen;" Lawrence Richardson, David Steindl-Rast, Thomas Merton (Trappist monk who actually ended up asking HH the Dalai Lama for Dzogchen teachings, but that's another story :smile: ), and others. You might also enjoy Thich Nhat Hahn's Living Buddha, Living Christ. It can be a difficult journey for those used to having answers presented rather than discovered. Letting go of "God" can be very scary, but it's kind of like removing a band-aid; some folks pull it off slowly and gently, and others just rip it and get it over with.
Best wishes,
Justsit
The mileage of "Christian Zen" varies, depending who you talk to. Philip Kapleau, Roshi was not a big fan of such an idea, but issues of "Christian Zen" are better discussed on such forums as Zen Forum International.

The idea of a singular omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos - god - is not something that ever found favor within Buddhism from the Buddha onwards for reasons spelled in a number of msgs above. Any number of argument have been put forth against such an idea of a singular omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos by various Buddhists during its history from the Buddha onwards.

The a question implied in the OP is if Buddhism can be practiced while believing in a god-notion and the answer to that is: sure. How one might reconcile god and Buddhism is an interesting question, but also equally interesting, does one need to reconcile the two in order to practice the Buddha's teachings? I would argue that the answer to that is: no. I suspect, however, if one's practice of Buddhism is successful, the idea of a singular omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos will be let go.
>> 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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octathlon
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Re: God!

Post by octathlon » Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:58 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The a question implied in the OP is if Buddhism can be practiced while believing in a god-notion and the answer to that is: sure. How one might reconcile god and Buddhism is an interesting question, but also equally interesting, does one need to reconcile the two in order to practice the Buddha's teachings? I would argue that the answer to that is: no. I suspect, however, if one's practice of Buddhism is successful, the idea of a singular omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos will be let go.
I agree, since after all, we keep practicing while still believing in all kinds of wrong view concepts, which (hopefully) diminish and are let go of as we progress. If we had to let go of all that stuff before starting to practice Buddhism, we'd never do it.

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Re: God!

Post by alan » Mon Jan 17, 2011 3:51 am

Love your Blue Meanie avatar, tilt.
But I'd argue the opposite when you say the average person can hold a belief in "God" and still benefit from Buddhist practice.
Why? because whole-hearted belief and effort is required to get to even the most basic levels of meditation. And without that peace of mind, there will be little motivation to continue. The original fascination will inevitably fade...
In my case a thorough reading of Than's compilation of the basic suttas was inspirational.
Why practice, why read, if you harbor lingering feelings that there is a God? I can't.

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Hanzze
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Re: God!

Post by Hanzze » Mon Jan 17, 2011 4:09 am

Dear friends,

if we chance the word "god" with "heart/mind" and the word "believe, hope" with the word "faith" I guess both Christian and Buddhist can learn from each other. Its all about translation mixed with believe.

_/\_
with loving kindness
and hopefully not off topic :-)
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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tiltbillings
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Re: God!

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Jan 17, 2011 4:12 am

Hanzze wrote:Dear friends,

if we chance the word "god" with "heart/mind" and the word "believe, hope" with the word "faith" I guess both Christian and Buddhist can learn from each other. Its all about translation mixed with believe.
Except doing something like that really is meaningless.
>> 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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