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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby LastLegend » Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:28 am

I think it's good that we keep Buddhist terminology to avoid confusion. Not unvalidating anyone's understanding of Buddhist teachings in relation to other teachings or philosophies.

The term Tao can be easily understood as Dharmakaya, emptiness, or whatever, yet Buddhism does not need to employ that term.

Yes, in a particular context, there might be similarities between other teachings or philosophies and Buddhism. But this is about it.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:54 am

catmoon wrote:Before running through them again, perhaps we should agree on a definition. I suggest that we use God in the common parlance, God the Creator, the Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent Alpha and Omega.

I regard other uses of the word as illegitimate, not because I think someone has their theology wrong, but because common usage defines the meaning of a word. Using minority definitions, or privately invented definitions, is no better or different than hiding a faulty argument behind a wall of semantic obsfucation.


Well, truth be told I disagree with your critique of using what you call "privately invented" or "minority" definitions - for one, the vast majority of "scientific" definitions surely belong these days to the latter, clashing wildly with their popular mainstream versions.

That thing aside, I wonder if it's true that according to the "common usage" of the word "God" the later is "God the Creator, the Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent Alpha and Omega". It still might perhaps be like that in the US, in Europe, however, as some recent surveys show (sorry, can't find the link), the situation is somewhat different, and increasingly so; The Big Peeping Tom-Sadist Daddy in the Sky seems no longer a very popular concept this side of the ocean.

catmoon wrote:Now there are certainly those who believe in things quite different from God, but like to call them God. Those who believe in divinity residing in the universe at large, or in each little stream and tree, are notorious for arrogating the name of God to describe the object of their beliefs. By doing so they lend themselves a sense of legitimacy, a sense of equality with the mainstream religions that is surely very comforting. However they also do violence to an idea that is clear, by muddying the waters and adding superfluous definitions to it. They do violence to the English language, making it nearly impossible to tell what in the blazes a person is talking when they use the God word. Such mucking about with clear concepts strikes me as sheer laziness, an unwillingness to simply use descriptive terms or invent a new term.


"Do violence to the English language", you say . . . But the history of language is continual, endless remaking - and its getting more or more impure. And I sincerely doubt that any concept, and especially such radically abstract concepts as "God", were ever "clear".

I don't think you hit the spot with "laziness" either. It's more or less obvious to me why Christians, for instance, the thinking ones, at least, ceaselessly reinvent "God" - they are trying to wrestle some authentic, personally relevant and not totally, gruesomely outmoded meaning from the ancient word; which shows, obviously, their profound (and by no means surprising) attachement to the three letters - the attachement which some of us obviously suffer from as well - but hardly any intellectual "laziness".

I wholeheartedly agree, btw, that there is no need whatsoever to refashion the Dharma in such a way that its doctrine includes the hopelessly vague three-letter word, no matter how radically redefined. Also, Namdrol seems to be right when he talks about the "totalizing" charge of the word. That capital letter is profoundly unpleasant - and, as history shows, very, very dangerous (It's Le Guin, I think, who's written somewhere that "People need God the way a three-year-old child needs a chainsaw").
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Nov 19, 2011 9:28 am

catmoon wrote:My refusal to admit God into Buddhism is based on entirely other reasons. Before running through them again, perhaps we should agree on a definition. I suggest that we use God in the common parlance, God the Creator, the Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent Alpha and Omega.
I agree with catmoon on this one. The defintion of God can be based on the common usage of the term which remains consistent across all the Abrahamic religions and is a valid descriptor/description even for non-Abrahamic systems (eg. in polytheist religious systems, where there are a number of Gods) and can even be observed in the manner/relationship with which "common folks" approach deities in (Vajrayana) Buddhism.

Rest assured that the majority of God-fearing folk out there do not utilise the mysticists nor the naturalists defintion of God(s).

In any case, regardless of the theistic approach utilised, the best that Buddhism can do for God is give "it" a position in their pantheon somewhere between the Devas and the Asuras. It is clearly the only "space" that exists for God in Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Sat Nov 19, 2011 10:58 am

catmoon wrote:
tobes wrote:.... also the inverse: why do so many western Buddhists so desperately feel the need to refute and negate the G-word whenever it appears near the context of Dharma?

I would suggest: precisely the same thing in both cases - gross conditioning by our upbringing. It really says a lot about western conditions.

:anjali:


And I would suggest it is not the case at all.


My gross conditioning and upbringing was Christian. I even spent three years living in a Catholic boarding school. Prior to Buddhism, there was a time where I had no religion, but prior to that I spent seven years in the fundamentalist churches. I taught Sunday school. I led Bible studies. Now if what you say is true, I should surely be one of those people who is trying to smuggle God into Buddhism by the back door. However, the diametric opposite is the case.

My refusal to admit God into Buddhism is based on entirely other reasons. Before running through them again, perhaps we should agree on a definition. I suggest that we use God in the common parlance, God the Creator, the Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent Alpha and Omega.

I regard other uses of the word as illegitimate, not because I think someone has their theology wrong, but because common usage defines the meaning of a word. Using minority definitions, or privately invented definitions, is no better or different than hiding a faulty argument behind a wall of semantic obsfucation.

So since Buddhism has done rather nicely these last couple of millenia without such a character hanging about, there is no need to graft him in now. This would be rather like glueing a cartoon cutout of Homer Simpson to the Mona Lisa as a background figure. It can be done, but the effect is a little dissonant.


Now there are certainly those who believe in things quite different from God, but like to call them God. Those who believe in divinity residing in the universe at large, or in each little stream and tree, are notorious for arrogating the name of God to describe the object of their beliefs. By doing so they lend themselves a sense of legitimacy, a sense of equality with the mainstream religions that is surely very comforting. However they also do violence to an idea that is clear, by muddying the waters and adding superfluous definitions to it. They do violence to the English language, making it nearly impossible to tell what in the blazes a person is talking when they use the God word. Such mucking about with clear concepts strikes me as sheer laziness, an unwillingness to simply use descriptive terms or invent a new term.

Hence my position:

1) God has never been a part of Buddhism and indeed comes into direct conflict with Dharma

2) Lesser concepts of God have their own, perfectly good nomenclature, and that should be used in preference to borrowing the name of a deity that bears little or no relation to them.


Hmmm....it strikes me that your account verifies exactly what I was alluding to: that western Buddhists who desperately try to smuggle God into the Dharma are in a very similar boat as those who desperately try to keep it away.

In both cases, God is or was a central part of conditioning.

For everyone else the question of God and Dharma is either a total irrelevance or something of an interesting conversation.

As far as your definition goes: well, on that basis you are very right that it is fundamentally at odds with Buddhadharma.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:10 am

LastLegend wrote:I think it's good that we keep Buddhist terminology to avoid confusion. Not unvalidating anyone's understanding of Buddhist teachings in relation to other teachings or philosophies.

The term Tao can be easily understood as Dharmakaya, emptiness, or whatever, yet Buddhism does not need to employ that term.

Yes, in a particular context, there might be similarities between other teachings or philosophies and Buddhism. But this is about it.


That's an impossible demand. How can one know the Buddhist meaning of Anatman, if one does not know the meaning of Atman?

How can one understand Madhyamaka, without understanding Sankhya?

The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other traditions, self enclosed and independent is a total denial of the dialectical context in which it arose and has manifested through history. It has always intersected with other traditions, and has both changed them and been changed by them.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby LastLegend » Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:23 pm

Well you are welcome to bring Spinoza here if you are really pressing it. However, don't ask me to read Spinoza, it's not that important to me.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:12 pm

tobes wrote:The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other traditions, self enclosed and independent is a total denial of the dialectical context in which it arose and has manifested through history. It has always intersected with other traditions, and has both changed them and been changed by them.


But here you have lumped Buddhism into the category of "religious traditions" or "spiritual paths " or whatever, which is what most people do, and it's what bookstores do, but that does not mean it is a valid association.
The view of that category as an inherently valid concept, I think, leads to a lot of confusion over main points.

If I said, to borrow from your statement, "The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other architectural traditions...", you might think that to be an absurd pretext, because in your mind, Buddhism is not part of the category "architectural traditions" but instead, perhaps, "religious traditions".

People make this association because they are matching up aspects of Buddhism with preconceived ideas they already carry with them, about "religions". Someone once told me, "all religions are basically the same" and then started listing the various outward similarities...burning candles, some sort of 'prayer' , etc., but just as a whale might wrongly be called a fish and a bat might be called a bird, similarities, even a lot of them, can be misleading.

And, if you begin with the pretext that Buddhism has something to do with an inherently existing category: "religion", then in fact, your statement is true, and Buddhism is after all, just another religion. But, if you consider Buddhism on different terms, for example, that Buddhism teaches that everything depends on everything else for its support, then one could also argue that Buddhism is first and foremost integral part of the philosophy of architecture, and that any discussion of dharma really ought to fall under the category of building construction.

What? architecture is now a philosophy?

Well, to Walter Gropius, one of the founders of the Bauhaus, Architecture was a matter of philosophy. And, since a buddhist temple is essentially a "bow-house", here is yet another reason to put it into the category of "architectural traditions"!! :tongue:

Do you know that the Tibetan language does not contain a word that translates as "religion". It simply isn't a category in what we think of as being a very "religious" culture.

Now, I will agree that many western buddhists, eager to shake off whatever religion they were indoctrinated with as children, are adamant in declaring, "No, Buddhism is not a religion! I didn't just throw down one set of prayer beads, merely to pick up another!" But again, these people have really not yet let go of the concept of 'religion", and it is this fixed concept, this category, rather than either Buddhism, or Christianity, or whatever, which haunts them.

So, yes, in that sense, your statement, The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other traditions is accurate. but I think there is a distinction to be made between that, and the point that many here tend to suggest, which is that an actual fundamental difference exists between Buddhist philosophy and any formulation in which a definition of "God" is crucial, in much the same way that most people would tend to separate a discussion of Buddhism from a discussion about architecture.

In other words, just as there are many Buddhists for whom the concept of "God" or "religion" are something to avoid, for others these are just concepts which have no relevant meaning to the context.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:17 pm

tobes wrote:How can one know the Buddhist meaning of Anatman, if one does not know the meaning of Atman?



if one does not know the meaning of atman, how could one possibly understand the meaning of Batman, who in fact asserted not only one "self", but two: one secret and one not secret!
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby LastLegend » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:50 pm

Error* Sorry.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby LastLegend » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:53 pm

tobes wrote:
That's an impossible demand. How can one know the Buddhist meaning of Anatman, if one does not know the meaning of Atman?


How can one understand Madhyamaka, without understanding Sankhya?


Study Dependent Origination.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby mañjughoṣamaṇi » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:56 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Do you know that the Tibetan language does not contain a word that translates as "religion". It simply isn't a category in what we think of as being a very "religious" culture.


Tibetan does in fact have a word that translates as religion: ཆོས་ལུགས་/chos lugs. If someone converts to another religion they "ཆོས་ལུགས་སྒྱུར་/chos lugs sgyur"; change religions.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Nov 19, 2011 5:15 pm

mañjughoṣamaṇi wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Do you know that the Tibetan language does not contain a word that translates as "religion". It simply isn't a category in what we think of as being a very "religious" culture.


Tibetan does in fact have a word that translates as religion: ཆོས་ལུགས་/chos lugs. If someone converts to another religion they "ཆོས་ལུགས་སྒྱུར་/chos lugs sgyur"; change religions.


Thank you. I stand corrected.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Sat Nov 19, 2011 10:12 pm

LastLegend wrote:Well you are welcome to bring Spinoza here if you are really pressing it. However, don't ask me to read Spinoza, it's not that important to me.


Just to be clear, yet again: I'm not pressing Spinoza at all. I don't really know him very well. It came up earlier in the thread; I think Kevin brought it up.

And I have simply asserted that if (and only if) one is engaged in the task of refuting Spinoza from the perspective of Buddhism, then, one ought to know Spinoza.

That's all. If it's not important to you, so be it.

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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby tobes » Sat Nov 19, 2011 10:20 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
tobes wrote:The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other traditions, self enclosed and independent is a total denial of the dialectical context in which it arose and has manifested through history. It has always intersected with other traditions, and has both changed them and been changed by them.


But here you have lumped Buddhism into the category of "religious traditions" or "spiritual paths " or whatever, which is what most people do, and it's what bookstores do, but that does not mean it is a valid association.
The view of that category as an inherently valid concept, I think, leads to a lot of confusion over main points.

If I said, to borrow from your statement, "The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other architectural traditions...", you might think that to be an absurd pretext, because in your mind, Buddhism is not part of the category "architectural traditions" but instead, perhaps, "religious traditions".

People make this association because they are matching up aspects of Buddhism with preconceived ideas they already carry with them, about "religions". Someone once told me, "all religions are basically the same" and then started listing the various outward similarities...burning candles, some sort of 'prayer' , etc., but just as a whale might wrongly be called a fish and a bat might be called a bird, similarities, even a lot of them, can be misleading.

And, if you begin with the pretext that Buddhism has something to do with an inherently existing category: "religion", then in fact, your statement is true, and Buddhism is after all, just another religion. But, if you consider Buddhism on different terms, for example, that Buddhism teaches that everything depends on everything else for its support, then one could also argue that Buddhism is first and foremost integral part of the philosophy of architecture, and that any discussion of dharma really ought to fall under the category of building construction.

What? architecture is now a philosophy?

Well, to Walter Gropius, one of the founders of the Bauhaus, Architecture was a matter of philosophy. And, since a buddhist temple is essentially a "bow-house", here is yet another reason to put it into the category of "architectural traditions"!! :tongue:

Do you know that the Tibetan language does not contain a word that translates as "religion". It simply isn't a category in what we think of as being a very "religious" culture.

Now, I will agree that many western buddhists, eager to shake off whatever religion they were indoctrinated with as children, are adamant in declaring, "No, Buddhism is not a religion! I didn't just throw down one set of prayer beads, merely to pick up another!" But again, these people have really not yet let go of the concept of 'religion", and it is this fixed concept, this category, rather than either Buddhism, or Christianity, or whatever, which haunts them.

So, yes, in that sense, your statement, The desire to keep Buddhism nicely boxed away from other traditions is accurate. but I think there is a distinction to be made between that, and the point that many here tend to suggest, which is that an actual fundamental difference exists between Buddhist philosophy and any formulation in which a definition of "God" is crucial, in much the same way that most people would tend to separate a discussion of Buddhism from a discussion about architecture.

In other words, just as there are many Buddhists for whom the concept of "God" or "religion" are something to avoid, for others these are just concepts which have no relevant meaning to the context.
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Well, hang on a second - we were having a philosophical discussion.

I don't think Buddhism can be contained by categories or philosophy or religion at all. In fact, I think that is perhaps the most primary error in the text critical/philological methodology of Buddhist studies.

To understand what Buddhism is, one needs a much more diverse approach. I totally buy your Gropius argument, even though you were clearly making quite the inverse point - there is indeed a history and philosophy of Buddhist architecture which can tell us a great deal about different Buddhisms in different cultures; relationships to space, mandala's, the relationship of form and emptiness etc.

Ever read a book on Zen gardens?
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Nov 20, 2011 3:53 am

tobes wrote:
Ever read a book on Zen gardens?
:anjali:


You know, I absolutely love zen gardens and the subtlety of their design, and the philosophy involved in their aesthetics. I have a small garden of moss and rock that I have been cultivating for a while. If I can find a good picture, I will upload it here.
I am also a huge fan of Buddhist temple architecture, and Chinese, Japanese and Korean temple architecture in general.

A couple of years ago, I was in Taiwan looking at the many Taoist temples, and some of the older Buddhist ones. They are amazing. Everything is so ornately painted, yet as your eyes look up, you notice that the ceilings gradually become like black spiderwebs, having turned dark from so many years of burning incense and ghost money. And parts of these ceilings almost seem to disappear totally into just indistinguishable shadows, and you can really imagine that there are spirits living up there in the rafters, living off the smoke.

I'm sorry, I wandered off. What were you saying about gardens?
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Jnana » Sun Nov 20, 2011 4:17 am

If people want to align their theistic, pantheistic, or atheistic beliefs with ancient Indian schools of philosophy there are a number of adequate parallels to choose from, but Buddhism isn't one of them. It should be made plain what the Buddhadharma is not. It is not theistic, pantheistic, or atheistic. The non-Buddhist Indian Brihaspati Sūtra qualifies a Buddhist as follows:

    When, abandoning the rites described in the Veda, and knowledge of them, also Shiva, the Lord of All, Vishnu, and Shri, a man declares that all is void, then he is a heretic entitled Bauddha.

Sounds like these ancient Indian non-Buddhists knew what a Buddhist wasn't willing to swallow. And this qualification could easily be expanded to include the rejection of atheistic/materialist views as well by surveying the extant Indian Buddhist literature which addresses these issues.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 20, 2011 6:48 am

Jnana wrote:Sounds like these ancient Indian non-Buddhists knew what a Buddhist wasn't willing to swallow. And this qualification could easily be expanded to include the rejection of atheistic/materialist views as well by surveying the extant Indian Buddhist literature which addresses these issues.


Ironically in Nepal it is common for people to making offerings at a Buddhist temple and then go across the street and worship Shiva. The common folk don't necessarily distinguish between a theist Hinduism and non-theist Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Thug4lyfe » Sun Nov 20, 2011 6:55 am

Sakra Devnamindra told me to tell you homeboys that this debate is pretty lol...
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Katy » Sun Nov 20, 2011 8:42 am

gregkavarnos wrote:The best that Buddhism can do for God is give "it" a position in their pantheon somewhere between the Devas and the Asuras.


Surely that depends on the definition of God, does it not? I mean that your statement cannot be an absolute.
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Re: Buddhism on God

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Nov 20, 2011 9:49 am

Katy wrote:Surely that depends on the definition of God, does it not? I mean that your statement cannot be an absolute.
Dear Katy, I am going to be totally full of myself and quote myself now, from the same post that you pulled my statement out of:
I agree with catmoon on this one. The defintion of God can be based on the common usage of the term which remains consistent across all the Abrahamic religions and is a valid descriptor/description even for non-Abrahamic systems (eg. in polytheist religious systems, where there are a number of Gods) and can even be observed in the manner/relationship with which "common folks" approach deities in (Vajrayana) Buddhism.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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