All Buddhists Are Atheists

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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Jnana » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:34 pm

catmoon wrote:Now it is true that "God" is sometimes used to refer to a more nebulous non-personal principle, but in my book thats atheism.

Then you're also playing fast and loose with language.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby futerko » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:52 pm

catmoon wrote:Now it is true that "God" is sometimes used to refer to a more nebulous non-personal principle, but in my book thats atheism. Such a "God" lacks almost all the properties I can think of that would define God.


I suspect you are overlooking some of more sophisticated theologians, who incidentally received credit from Richard Dawkins. I don't have their names to hand right now.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Seishin » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:54 pm

nilakantha wrote:
You well know that the Tathāgata is one eternal and unchanging, and is Uncreated. Nirvana Sutra, Chapter Two: On Cunda

Since the Lord is Eternal, some mistake Him for God; however, the Lord is not the cause of samsara.


I was refereing to "eternal interconnected", not the Tathagata, nor to nirvana. I think we have to be careful when using the word eternal and in what context we use it.

Gassho.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sara H » Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:02 pm

Jnana wrote:
catmoon wrote:Now it is true that "God" is sometimes used to refer to a more nebulous non-personal principle, but in my book thats atheism.

Then you're also playing fast and loose with language.


It's not playing fast and loose.

It's a valid way to define It, as valid as any word or term is within the limitations of all words and terms to describe the Ultimate.

One of the advantages of using the word "God" for the Ultimate in the west, is that it is familiar to people over here, and thus is not as alien a concept for some people, which makes Buddhism seem more familiar and less of an exotic religion, which is an approach that works for many people.

Not everyone is looking to "run-away" from Christianity who is Buddhist in the west.

There's nothing wrong with using English terms that can be equivalent.

And they can be equivalent. In Gnostic and esoteric Christianity, the definition of the Eternal, is nearly identical to Buddhism, but with Christian terms.

The idea that this is so alien is not really true.

You can call it the "Quantum Field" or the "Universe" if that works for you, if you are an atheist.

It really doesn't matter what you call it. What matters is that you KNOW it in your training.

Words don't really describe It anyway. It's really just a matter of semantics and debating personal preference at this point.

Me, personally, I like the Eternal Flow (or Eternal Flow/Flux) because that's how I first experienced it so that works for me.

But I don't have a problem with people calling It "God" if that label seems more comfortable to them.

" Not only do you look at other people with the awareness of continual change, you look at everything in this light. Everything is always changing; nothing stays the same. At first this is rather scary, because if you think deeply about it, it means that there is no constant, separate thing you can call “me”: there is only an ever- changing flow of space-time-being. But soon it becomes enjoyable because it means that you are not alone in the universe, and that is a great relief. Do not think that anything whatsoever is separate from the Eternal: do not think, for example, that there was a time when the Eternal was Kanzeon (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) and another time when It was Buddha; indeed, there is a time when the Eternal is Kanzeon and a time when It is Buddha, but there was never a time or place when the Eternal was not present as the whole of the Eternal. If you think of Kanzeon as separate, of the Buddha as separate, of the mountain as separate, of the river as separate, and of yourself as separate—if you think in that way, you cannot understand the Eternal. If you know that you are the whole of the Eternal, and that Kanzeon and the Buddha are the whole of the Eternal, and that the whole of the past is present now, and the whole of the future is present now, that there is no other time than (and there will never be any other time than) now, in the real sense of the term, then you understand the eternal now, you understand the Eternal. Otherwise, you become a separate being in a body that is not the Buddha’s body, in a body that is not Kanzeon’s body, and the Eternal becomes a separate Being that is not your body. So you can see how the Eternal is thought of as flowing; It is the eternal flow; It is not static, nor can we truly say It is changing. The whole world must be seen as the Eternal, and not only must it be seen, it must be known to be the Eternal; the Eternal must be able to be felt, seen, smelt, tasted, touched in everyone and in everything. It is not a thing of yesterday; It is not a thing of today;
It is not a thing of tomorrow. The Eternal is the eternal flowing, the non-static eternal, the “universe growing ‘I’”.

So this is what the Buddha found, and He explained It by what in religion is called the via negativa: He explained It by what It is not. It isn’t born, because It has always been there; It doesn’t change, because It is Eternal; It is not created; there is nothing greater than It. The Buddha goes on in this Scripture to say if this were not so, then there would be no hope whatsoever for humankind. Now, it’s just as good to say, to explain, what you know to be true by saying what you know the thing isn’t, as it is to say what you know to be true by saying what you believe that it is. You can know what it is not; you believe what it is. "


http://www.berkeleybuddhistpriory.org/pages/articles/rmj_online/zen_religion.html

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby undefineable » Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:34 pm

Sara H wrote:The Eternal interconnected nature of things


Seishin: I've re-bolded the words of Sarah H that you quoted to put a more orthodox spin on it. On the other hand,

gregkavarnos wrote:
Sara H wrote:You can call the Eternal "God" Greg, It's ok.

Actually it is not quite okay because the word God comes with a heap of baggage attached that has no relation whatsoever to the tathagatagarbha.


God is understood as providing an ultimate, foundational explanation as to the nature of things is forever (even eternally?!?) interconnected (a 'continuity of discontinuity' to borrow Chogyam Trungpa's words) rather than completely non-existent, so I'm not sure how we can *accurately* call it God. Maybe "the Eternal" captures it, but the implication is of an everlasting substance. Like science, Buddhism doesn't supply an ultimate, foundational explanation, since it recognises that we can never know whether such an explanation is even needed, let alone whether the traditional one is correct.

So, Buddhism is atheistic for me, atleast in the literal sense of the word, given that 'gods' in Buddhism take on the status of ordinary beings more than in any other religion I know of - in which, being 'gods' after all, they're the objects of veneration.

However, Buddhists are unlikely to find favour with 'New Atheists' (except perhaps Sam Harris), for whom atheism is disbelief in atleast two things, the second of which is the plausibility of any meaningful after-death existence. Watch:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0 ... thers_Cat/
from 11:27 to 12:40 (especially 12:00 to 12:15) for a vision of heretical backsliding from the atheist piety expected of so many western nations :roll: ;)

Viniketa, I hope the sangha has room for both atheists and transtheists. I'd prefer not to make any leaps beyond what I can reasonably deduce from experience and evidence (or accept on authority), although I hope my [reborn] mindstream will get a better handle on 'what is' - whether or not that includes the kind of divine principles (spiritual realities present outside -as well as within- our minds) being raised on this page.

gregkavarnos wrote:
...what it comes down to is this: we always place upon ourselves our own personal concept of God or the Eternal— something that is much better than us. But we usually stop short at Something that just is there, and is such perfect love It can tolerate everybody in the world."
Actually I find this statement problematic because the tathagatagarbha is not "much better than us" it is the true nature of "us". It is inseperable from us. When we project it outwards we can easily fall into the trap of considering it beyond, or seperate to, us. That somehow we lack "it", that we have somehow to find "it" or have "it" given to us, or connec to "it" rather than just realise "it".

:smile: I'm slightly disturbed by the idea that tolerating everyone in the world is 'out of the ordinary' - Weren't we all thrown together at school? Anyhow, this all sounds very external -or atleast both internal and external- which in spiritual terms means God to me atleast.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby nilakantha » Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:38 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:The first question on the Belief-O-Matic quiz:

Q1. What is the number and nature of the deity (God, gods, higher power)? Choose one.
1. Only one God--a corporeal spirit (has a body), supreme, personal God Almighty, the Creator.
2. Only one God--an incorporeal (no body) spirit, supreme, personal God Almighty, the Creator.
3. Multiple personal gods (or goddesses) regarded as facets of one God, and/or as separate gods.
4. The supreme force is the impersonal Ultimate Reality (or life force, ultimate truth, cosmic order, absolute bliss, universal soul), which resides within and/or beyond all.
5. The supreme existence is both the eternal, impersonal, formless Ultimate Reality, and personal God (or gods).
6. No God or supreme force. Or not sure. Or not important.
7. None of the above.

A monotheist would answer #1 or #2. A polytheist might answer #3. A pantheist might answer #4. A Jain might answer #5.
A Buddhist would most likely answer #6 or #7.
An atheist would answer #6 or #7.



I would go with #5. As Dharmakāya, Buddha is the "eternal, impersonal, formless Ultimate Reality;" as Saṁbhogakāya, Buddha, dwelling in His pure land, is the personal object of worship, which is why Buddhists are forbidden to worship other gods. In the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra, we are specifically told, "Adhering to thought of Buddha as his god, he (the bodhisattva) should not embrace other gods."
May I be a poet in birth after birth, a devotee of the feet of Lord Avalokiteśvara,
with elevated heart, spontaneously directed towards his Refuge,
wholly occupied with the solemn duty of saving others.

--Lokeshvarashatakam of Vajradatta
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sara H » Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:45 pm

Replying after undefinable


Well really, it depends on how you personally define the term "God" or "deity" (in reference to the definitions of the terms atheism or theism).

Not everyone uses identical terms for that. Even in Religion.

If your definition is something along the lines of scientific Quantum Field Theory, and that's how you think of "God" or the "Eternal", then by that definition then Buddhism is theistic.

If your definition is solely that a "God" or "deity" is some "other" supernatural being or man in a white beard who is separate from us and floats in a cloud above us and judges, then by that definition Buddhism may be atheistic.

It really just depends on how you define it and what works for you.

If the term "God" strikes too much of Christianity or Abrahamic religions for some, then it's fine not to call it that, and use another term.

Again, it really comes down to what works for you, and what your personal experience of That Which Is, is.

I realize some people get really turned off by any reminder of Abrahamic religion.

But that doesn't mean using the word "God" is incorrect by some ways of defining it.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby viniketa » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:02 pm

undefineable wrote:Viniketa, I hope the sangha has room for both atheists and transtheists....


Depends on the sangha, I suppose. I suspect the sangha of all Buddhas has room for infinitely manifold Buddha-natures... :twothumbsup:

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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby undefineable » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:08 pm

The idea of 'God' goes above and beyond the scope of Buddhism to my understanding - In other words, if there is any kind of ultimate reality that explains how -or even why- we came to be, it will be complementary to (atleast) the lower stages of an enlightenment in which we're told we'll understand what it is to be. After all, why is it that the universe hangs together? Come to that, how can a materialist explain why the mind hangs together? If these really are questions that have answers - albeit transcendental ones, then I can't see they'd be answers that could be understood rationally. On the other hand, the concept of ultimate reality appears to sit uneasily with sunyata, but this is only an intellectual construct, and mental functioning appears to change drastically as one walks the Path.

A lot of us are content to put the more forbidding paths of understanding -the Gnostic and the esoteric if you like- to one side in the hope that progress in other directions will shed light on their fruits. If those paths don't seem so forbidding -and terms like 'quantum field' make any sense- to you, then you're not one of those people. I can't see how anything related to consciousness can exist outside -or both within and outside- the minds of sentient beings, but I realise that things may look more accommodating from where others are standing.

But outside the US, Buddhism will get a bad rep if words like Theism or God are mentioned, and will probably attract many more to the dharma if it presents itself as atheist. If I'm right, then there's not much the sanghas can do about it other than to find presentations (of the teachings) that are both undistorted and attractive to the 'host' culture.

futerko wrote:
catmoon wrote:Now it is true that "God" is sometimes used to refer to a more nebulous non-personal principle, but in my book thats atheism. Such a "God" lacks almost all the properties I can think of that would define God.


I suspect you are overlooking some of more sophisticated theologians, who incidentally received credit from Richard Dawkins. I don't have their names to hand right now.


This is ironic, as the 'nebulous non-personal principle' of, say, physical energy might in that case form the argument "Richard Dawkins believes in God" if we're not careful :rolling:
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sara H » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:52 am

I don't think the term "atheist" is accurate in this context.

Buddhism is not atheistic.

I think "agnostic" is a more correct use of term.

There is a big difference between saying "there is not"

And

"I don't know."

An agnostic stance that says "I don't know, we'll try it and see" is a big difference than saying "there is not" which is the atheistic stance.

Buddhism is definitely not atheistic.

It is certainly open to agnosticism, and you might even say welcomes them and encourages them to practice.

After all, how can you KNOW until you know for yourself?

Most people don't know until they KNOW, that is to say, that they have experienced it for themselves.

After all, before that it's just heresay and doctrine.

But to say Buddhism is atheistic is to say Buddhism says "there is not" which couldnt be further from the truth.

Try it and see, the Buddha said.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Jnana » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:47 am

Sara H wrote:One of the advantages of using the word "God" for the Ultimate in the west, is that it is familiar to people over here, and thus is not as alien a concept for some people, which makes Buddhism seem more familiar and less of an exotic religion, which is an approach that works for many people.

Pantheism is just as incorrect of a view as is atheism.

The Buddhadharma is the Buddhadharma. It is not a type of monotheism. It is not a type of pantheism. It is not a type of atheism.

Sara H wrote:Not everyone is looking to "run-away" from Christianity who is Buddhist in the west.

There's no need to run away from anything, but Buddhism isn't Christianity.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sara H » Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:20 am

Jnana wrote:Pantheism is just as incorrect of a view as is atheism.


I didn't say it was pantheistic.
I just said it was not atheism.
Which it is not.

And I said whether or not you consider it "theism" depends on your personal view of how you personally define the word "God".

In Gasshō,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Jnana » Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:51 am

Sara H wrote:And I said whether or not you consider it "theism" depends on your personal view of how you personally define the word "God".

Well, this creates another unnecessary layer of conceptual proliferation and potential confusion. Trungpa Rinpoche, Journey Without Goal:

    According to the Buddhist path, there is nothing other than that whole world; therefore we could say that the tantric attitude toward reality is nontheistic... In the tantric tradition continuity has nothing to do with divine providence, since the notion of divinity has already been discarded. The continuity of tantra is simply the sense of path or journey, which takes place constantly.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:58 am

One of the advantages of using the word "God" for the Ultimate in the west, is that it is familiar to people over here, and thus is not as alien a concept for some people, which makes Buddhism seem more familiar and less of an exotic religion, which is an approach that works for many people.
And why would I want to do that? In order to convert people to Buddhism? Why would I want to purposefully deceive people about the fact that Buddhism does not recognise the existence of an external, eternal, creator deity?
Me, personally, I like the Eternal Flow (or Eternal Flow/Flux) because that's how I first experienced it so that works for me.

But I don't have a problem with people calling It "God" if that label seems more comfortable to them.
Yes, well... the problem is that God is not about flow or flux, God is normally defined as an external, eternal, static, unchanging presence. Mixing words merely creates confusion or can be conceived of as an attempt to be purposfully deceptive.
"I don't know."
Buddhism does not say I don't know. On the contrary it defines gods very clearly as samsaric beings that are not soley responsible for the creation of the universe. Buddhism is not agnostic. You may be agnostic about the presence of an eternal creator but Buddhism is not.
Well really, it depends on how you personally define the term "God" or "deity" (in reference to the definitions of the terms atheism or theism).
Nonsense, if you do that then language has no meaning. Descriptors are not (merely) how you define them personally, but how they are used collectively. If you just use your defintion, and ignore how the majority of people define God, then your description means nothing. Unless you are so egotistical to believe that only your description carries true meaning.
:namaste:
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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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:24 am

gregkavarnos wrote:Nonsense, if you do that then language has no meaning. Descriptors are not (merely) how you define them personally, but how they are used collectively. If you just use your defintion, and ignore how the majority of people define God, then your description means nothing. Unless you are so egotistical to believe that only your description carries true meaning.

Wait, so words' meanings are only valid via argumentum ad majorem?
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:48 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:Wait, so words' meanings are only valid via argumentum ad majorem?
Who is talking about validity? We are talking about descriptions of words. Words are necessary to communicate. If when I say "hello" I mean "goodbye", when the vast majority of the people mean "hello", then my words do not convey their recognised meaning. It is not a matter of believing or not believing that "hello" means "hello". It's not a matter of proving an argument that "hello" means "hello" it's just a matter of convention.

If I define God as jellyfish and I say to somebody: "Yesterday, while snorkelling I saw a God." Well it's going to make the conversation pretty bloody difficult isn't it? It's got nothing at all to do with argumentum ad majorem (arguing that something is correct because the majority of the people believe it is correct).
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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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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby sinweiy » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:47 pm

The Buddha rejected both extremes of eternalism and nihilism. Both are wrong views. impermanence is Right view.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby catmoon » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:12 pm

Where there is no agreement on definitions, there can be no communication.

If someone says, "Tupac is a brilliant musician" and I reply, "If by "brilliant" you mean "dull, repetitious, and obnoxious" then I fully agree." can I then walk away happy in the knowledge that agreement has been reached?
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby undefineable » Tue Oct 23, 2012 5:04 pm

Sara H wrote:I think "agnostic" is a more correct use


Well a lot of 'atheists' have put on record that they don't know there's no God either.

I don't know that divinity is relevant to Buddhism, which -in the strict sense of a doctrine defined by scriptures and priests/monks- sidelines 'gods' as ordinary beings by excluding (from its self-definition) anyone who looks to them as an ultimate source of strength, and that's before you start on sunyata.

Sara H wrote:After all, how can you KNOW until you know for yourself?

Most people don't know until they KNOW, that is to say, that they have experienced it for themselves.


Exactly my point in a previous post. But if you claim, for example, that a spirit of some kind envelops and grounds all beings within itself, many Buddhists will question whether you've misapprehended something that is actually limited to ordinary minds, even though your claim might offer a more complete explanation of reality.
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Do Buddhist believe in a god, and what branch to start.

Postby zAnt » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:01 pm

I've seen on different sites that they don't. But then I come here and see much talk of gods... I'm confused, is it a personal belief or universal? Does it apply to the different branches of Buddhism?

Also, let me kill two birds with one stone here.... what a terrible phrase haha. But what branch should I practice? Where do I start?
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