Do Buddhist believe in god?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Cittasanto
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Cittasanto » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:02 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The Buddha is the teacher of god and humans. From a Buddhist perspective Thor would be no different from any of the other devas. The significant point is, which you seem to be missing, is that for whatever gods there are claimed to be and whatever might be claimed of them, from the Buddha's perspective these gods are at best kamma bound, mortal beings and there is no singular unchanging causal agent of the universe. While the Buddha redefines the gods as kamma bound, mortal beings, the epithet of theism does not meaningfully apply to the Buddha's teachings given that the gods have no unique, necessary role to play in the one's awakening -- thus, Buddhist atheism.
Deities are in Buddhism, there is an acceptance of their existence, how they are visioned is not relevant to whether Buddhism is or isn't theistic.
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

a : a disbelief in the existence of deity
b : the doctrine that there is no deity
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

and quit with the snide comments.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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tiltbillings
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:12 am

Cittasanto wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The Buddha is the teacher of god and humans. From a Buddhist perspective Thor would be no different from any of the other devas. The significant point is, which you seem to be missing, is that for whatever gods there are claimed to be and whatever might be claimed of them, from the Buddha's perspective these gods are at best kamma bound, mortal beings and there is no singular unchanging causal agent of the universe. While the Buddha redefines the gods as kamma bound, mortal beings, the epithet of theism does not meaningfully apply to the Buddha's teachings given that the gods have no unique, necessary role to play in the one's awakening -- thus, Buddhist atheism.
Deities are in Buddhism, there is an acceptance of their existence, how they are visioned is not relevant to whether Buddhism is or isn't theistic.
Deities are, indeed, in Buddhism, and how they are envisioned by the Buddha is exactly to the point of how we understand the Buddha's teachings vis a vis deities.
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

a : a disbelief in the existence of deity
b : the doctrine that there is no deity
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Well, the deities of Buddhism, at their core, look a lot like any sentient being, and they can be quite deluded. So, from a Buddhist stand point the deities are hardly "deific" at all when compared to how deities are understood by other systems that deify their deities.
>> 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: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Kamran » Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:43 am

Many Buddhists do not believe in God. Some do.

Buddhism is atheist friendly :)

My understanding is that Buddhism is not a belief system, you don't have to believe in gods (or anything else).

Just to accept as a working hypothesis that you can develop the skills to end suffering, which is not hard to do once you see the benefits of meditation.

This is Unlike theistic religions where you will be sent to hell if you don't believe in god and his prophet(s).
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Way~Farer » Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:40 am

Cittasanto wrote: personally I believe this misrepresents Theravada as there are gods found in the texts, how Buddhism Vissions Gods may not be in the same light, but that doesn't mean that they aren't included.
I have noticed the Gods in the Pali Nikayas are very much like the pantheon of ancient Indian gods. The notion of 'Brahman', as distinct from 'The God Brahma', is not mentioned. There is also a mystical element in the early texts, for example the saying
There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.
(Ud 8.3)

I do know that a lot of Buddhists with Christian sympathies (and vice versa) refer to that, saying that this is a reference to mystical ideas of 'God' (note the quotes).

I do agree that the attitude of Buddhism is very different to (and preferable to) that of Christian monotheism. Personally, I am not atheist, but I don't relate to 'God' (what or whomever that might be) through the Bible or through the Christian church. But I am not hostile to them, either.

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:52 am

sunyavadin wrote:There is also a mystical element in the early texts, for example the saying

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.
(Ud 8.3)

I do know that a lot of Buddhists with Christian sympathies (and vice versa) refer to that, saying that this is a reference to mystical ideas of 'God' (note the quotes).
The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p159172" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p166961" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>> 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: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by pilgrim » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:04 am

Its a problem with semantics isn't it? Regardless of how the dictionary defines god, in popular usage the word god and atheist have widely understood meanings. Does the issue resolve itself if we stop interpreting devas as gods?

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Way~Farer » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:28 am

tiltbillings wrote:The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p159172" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p166961" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Good discussions, very interesting. But I don't know if I agree with their conclusions. 'The unconditioned, unborn,' seems radically other to what we normally know - including, for example, anything that we can know by means of the natural sciences. Even given that Theravada is not absolutist nor essentialist, that still holds, doesn't it?

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Ben » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:37 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p159172" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p166961" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Good discussions, very interesting. But I don't know if I agree with their conclusions. 'The unconditioned, unborn,' seems radically other to what we normally know - including, for example, anything that we can know by means of the natural sciences. Even given that Theravada is not absolutist nor essentialist, that still holds, doesn't it?
No. As Tilt said, conflating the "unconditioned, unborn" with god is reading into the passage something that is not there and that interpretation contradicts what the Buddha himself said with respect to Issaranimmana-hetu ditthi (belief in a supreme brahma or god).
kind regards,
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Zach » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:44 am

Cittasanto wrote:I was just searching for something and noticed an interesting link (which I shall share elsewhere) but it linked to this.
[url=http://www.buddhanet.net/ans73.htm]Good Questions Good Answers with Ven. S Dhammika[/quote] wrote:Do Buddhist believe in god?

No, we do not. There are several reasons for this. The Buddha, like modern sociologists and psychologists, believed that religious ideas and especially the god idea have their origin in fear. The Buddha says:

"Gripped by fear men go to the sacred mountains,
sacred groves, sacred trees and shrines".

Dp 188

Primitive man found himself in a dangerous and hostile world, the fear of wild animals, of not being able to find enough food, of injury or disease, and of natural phenomena like thunder, lightning and volcanoes was constantly with him. Finding no security, he created the idea of gods in order to give him comfort in good times, courage in times of danger and consolation when things went wrong. To this day, you will notice that people become more religious at times of crises, you will hear them say that the belief in a god or gods gives them the strength they need to deal with life. You will hear them explain that they believe in a particular god because they prayed in time of need and their prayer was answered. All this seems to support the Buddha’s teaching that the god-idea is a response to fear and frustration. The Buddha taught us to try to understand our fears, to lessen our desires and to calmly and courageously accept the things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with irrational belief but with rational understanding.

The second reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is because there does not seem to be any evidence to support this idea. There are numerous religions, all claiming that they alone have god’s words preserved in their holy book, that they alone understand god’s nature, that their god exists and that the gods of other religions do not. Some claim that god is masculine, some that she is feminine and others that it is neuter. They are all satisfied that there is ample evidence to prove the existence of their god but they laugh in disbelief at the evidence other religions use to prove the existence of another god. It is not surprising that with so many different religions spending so many centuries trying to prove the existence of their gods that still no real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable evidence has been found. Buddhists suspend judgement until such evidence is forthcoming.

The third reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is that the belief is not necessary. Some claim that the belief in a god is necessary in order to explain the origin on the universe. But this is not so. Science has very convincingly explained how the universe came into being without having to introduce the god-idea. Some claim that belief in god is necessary to have a happy, meaningful life. Again we can see that this is not so. There are millions of atheists and free-thinkers, not to mention many Buddhists, who live useful, happy and meaningful lives without belief in a god. Some claim that belief in god’s power is necessary because humans, being weak, do not have the strength to help themselves. Once again, the evidence indicates the opposite. One often hears of people who have overcome great disabilities and handicaps, enormous odds and difficulties, through their own inner resources, through their own efforts and without belief in a god. Some claim that god is necessary in order to give man salvation. But this argument only holds good if you accept the theological concept of salvation and Buddhists do not accept such a concept. Based on his own experience, the Buddha saw that each human being had the capacity to purify the mind, develop infinite love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted attention from the heavens to the heart and encouraged us to find solutions to our problems through self-understanding.
What do you think of the representation here?

personally I believe this misrepresents Theravada as there are gods found in the texts, how Buddhism Vissions Gods may not be in the same light, but that doesn't mean that they aren't included.
I will do a more detailed responce at a later point but just thought I would throw it out there for everyone to mull over.

Some throw the Baby out with the Bath water don't they ? There are many references to Gods within the Sutta's requesting Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, Granting him various protections and receiving teachings from him, It is important for those coming in from a monotheistic background to be able to eliminate delusions of a creator god as this could not fit in with Dependent origination but the Gods according to the system of the 6 realms seems perfectly reasonable beings enjoying marvelous forms based upon their Karma " After Death, After the break up of the body, Having performed good and virtuous deeds they will appear in the Good destination ( The higher realms) " :buddha1:

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:47 am

sunyavadin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The problem with taking that passage as referring to some sort of mystical thingie is to take it out of its context.

A couple of past postings that deal with this passage:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p159172" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... rn#p166961" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Good discussions, very interesting. But I don't know if I agree with their conclusions. 'The unconditioned, unborn,' seems radically other to what we normally know - including, for example, anything that we can know by means of the natural sciences. Even given that Theravada is not absolutist nor essentialist, that still holds, doesn't it?
If Theravada is "not absolutist not essentrialist" then there is no "The unconditioned, unborn." Awakening is -- by definition according to the Buddha -- freedom, liberation, from the conditioning of greed, hatred, and delusion; it is freedom. liberation, from any further rebirth.
>> 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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tiltbillings
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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:49 am

Zach wrote: Some throw the Baby out with the Bath water don't they ? There are many references to Gods within the Sutta's requesting Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, Granting him various protections and receiving teachings from him, It is important for those coming in from a monotheistic background to be able to eliminate delusions of a creator god as this could not fit in with Dependent origination but the Gods according to the system of the 6 realms seems perfectly reasonable beings enjoying marvelous forms based upon their Karma " After Death, After the break up of the body, Having performed good and virtuous deeds they will appear in the Good destination ( The higher realms) " :buddha1:
And we should not forget that these "gods" can be quite deluded.
>> 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: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:59 am

Kamran wrote:Many Buddhists do not believe in God. Some do.

Buddhism is atheist friendly :)
Very true, but you could just have friendly :)
My understanding is that Buddhism is not a belief system, you don't have to believe in gods (or anything else).
Just to accept as a working hypothesis that you can develop the skills to end suffering, which is not hard to do once you see the benefits of meditation.[/quote]
It is not a belief system where a god or gods are the focus, but there certainly are beliefs such as right views "mundane" expression of
there is what is given, there is mother, father & spontaneously born beings, there are results for skilled & unskilled action....
these were in contrast to certain beliefs expounded by other teachers.
This is Unlike theistic religions where you will be sent to hell if you don't believe in god and his prophet(s).
there is a theology (theory of god/s) but not all theistic religions have a theology in the catholic/christian way which produces theologians, or in the related term where theology is derived meaning message of god/s, and why it is sometime seen being called Buddhology, although there are arguments to stick with it being a peculiar christian term and others used for other faiths; although some of the areas studied are the same/similar, god/s are not necessarily included in the program in the way a theology course would have them.
Prophets were a unique feature of Israelite religion, although there are similarities with other types of messengers such as oracles, shamans... their scope and "job" isn't the same, and the Greeks believed they went to hell (hades) regardless (although only one of the areas were like the hell in christian belief, and one like the heaven, the heaven was reserved not for believers but those who had done some some sort of heroic task, the other areas were more like the later inclusion of purgatory.



One thing I see here (in the tread) is a black and white view of the idea of divinity "this and only this is a god/theism and the lack of belief in that criterion of a god is atheism" when there are gray areas, and a range of colours.
it is easy for Buddhists to apply the Buddhist conception of god/s to theistic beliefs other than the Abrahamic, yet instead many limit the actual scope that exists to suit a narrow understanding. it is like the God of the gaps theory, only works if every thing is a gap.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:02 am

Cittasanto wrote:One thing I see here (in the tread) is a black and white view of the idea of divinity "this and only this is a god/theism and the lack of belief in that criterion of a god is atheism" when there are gray areas, and a range of colours.
it is easy for Buddhists to apply the Buddhist conception of god/s to theistic beliefs other than the Abrahamic, yet instead many limit the actual scope that exists to suit a narrow understanding. it is like the God of the gaps theory, only works if every thing is a gap.
The grey areas are to the point and the point is that the Buddha's critique of the idea of a singular god and of gods can be applied to the wide variations that are presented to it.
>> 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: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:08 am

sunyavadin wrote:
Cittasanto wrote: personally I believe this misrepresents Theravada as there are gods found in the texts, how Buddhism Vissions Gods may not be in the same light, but that doesn't mean that they aren't included.
I have noticed the Gods in the Pali Nikayas are very much like the pantheon of ancient Indian gods. The notion of 'Brahman', as distinct from 'The God Brahma', is not mentioned. There is also a mystical element in the early texts, for example the saying
There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.
(Ud 8.3)
What do you mean with element?

I do know that a lot of Buddhists with Christian sympathies (and vice versa) refer to that, saying that this is a reference to mystical ideas of 'God' (note the quotes).

I do agree that the attitude of Buddhism is very different to (and preferable to) that of Christian monotheism. Personally, I am not atheist, but I don't relate to 'God' (what or whomever that might be) through the Bible or through the Christian church. But I am not hostile to them, either.
This is a misrepresentation of the text, certainly there is a mystical aspect to Buddhism, but this shouldn't be confused with pointing to the same idea.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Do Buddhist believe in god?

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:36 am

pilgrim wrote:Its a problem with semantics isn't it? Regardless of how the dictionary defines god, in popular usage the word god and atheist have widely understood meanings.
depends on who you talk to, when you say god people assume their perception of what is being talked about, regardless of other views, something strange on a buddhist forum, as the argument of generational belief steps in.
Most people here, I believe, are not from a Buddhist Background, i.e.born Buddhists, so their cultural background belief in god/s have been dropped allong the way but rather than accept there are other views on divinity with their own nuances when talking about it everything is clumped together and denied based upon one conception which they happen to of inherited. whereas Buddhism which is not, in most cases, part of the cultural backdrop for inheritance, is picked up then forced (to some degree) to fall in line with the previous denial of the inherited system.

This is not saying that god/s are an essential part or absolutely useful for the ultimate goal of Buddhism, but a personal disbelief in divine beings is just that, a personal belief which, in my opinion, does not represent Buddhism whether Theravada or otherwise, which has an inclusive attitude here regarding divine beings, so it is not an atheistic "religion", rather a theistic "religion" in its widest sense as these beings are accepted.

Does the issue resolve itself if we stop interpreting devas as gods?
The word is not isolated to Buddhist cosmology or teachings alone.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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