All Buddhists Are Atheists

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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:02 pm

catmoon wrote:
Red Faced Buddha wrote:Its pretty hard to believe in Indra having a role if he doesn't exist in the first place. So one implies the other.

That is beside the point. What Huseng is asserting and what you are asserting are qualitatively different questions - that is the point.

I don't see it. The only position I have held throughout is identical to to Huseng's (at the outset.) To wit, that Buddha included Indra in his world view. There is no reason to paint Buddha as a follower of Indra, the arguments do not require it and if I have given you that impression it was unintentional.

Isn't Sakra depicted as a mortal being who will die?


Yup, all occupants of all six samsaric realms have that problem. You, me, dogs, cats and various godlike occupants of the two realms above us.


What about the arhat-devas,arhats reborn in the highest realm?
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby pueraeternus » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:07 pm

catmoon wrote:There is no reason to paint Buddha as a follower of Indra, the arguments do not require it and if I have given you that impression it was unintentional.


I still don't understand why you think that is what Huseng said - he never said the Buddha was a follower of Indra, and neither was the Buddha ever portrayed that way in the Canon. In fact, it is the other way round.

Or maybe I got it wrong. Huseng - could you confirm your comments on Indra?
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby catmoon » Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:29 pm

pueraeternus wrote:
catmoon wrote:There is no reason to paint Buddha as a follower of Indra, the arguments do not require it and if I have given you that impression it was unintentional.


I still don't understand why you think that is what Huseng said - he never said the Buddha was a follower of Indra, and neither was the Buddha ever portrayed that way in the Canon. In fact, it is the other way round.

Or maybe I got it wrong. Huseng - could you confirm your comments on Indra?


I do not believe it was Huseng's intent was to portray Buddha as a follower of indra any more than it was mine.

The overall structure of the argument is like this;

Any being that exists is either greater or lesser compared to Buddha
Indra cannot be either
Therefore Indra does not exist.

This is a very rough outline. The actual argument runs more like; the case where Indra is the greater is unacceptable in Buddhist thought, and the case where he is lesser renders him completely redundant. This reasoning can be applied to any Buddhist deity other than Buddha, so the only survivors of the process are those deities that are, in a sense, the same as Buddha. Emanations.

In order to advance the argument it is necessary to assume, for the sake of argument, that each case is true and then show that such assumptions rapidly lead to unacceptable conclusions. That means a lot of hypothetical cases are flying around and I believe you have mistaken one of them for the main point.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that this argument is exploratory, a work in progress, and not complete.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Sherlock » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:43 pm

In what sense is Indra 'greater' than the Buddha, you never demonstrated exactly where anyone says that.

In a video game, Indra is a guy with one of the highest levels around; Buddha is the guy who tells you to turn off the computer.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Indrajala » Fri Nov 02, 2012 3:41 pm

pueraeternus wrote:
catmoon wrote:There is no reason to paint Buddha as a follower of Indra, the arguments do not require it and if I have given you that impression it was unintentional.


I still don't understand why you think that is what Huseng said - he never said the Buddha was a follower of Indra, and neither was the Buddha ever portrayed that way in the Canon. In fact, it is the other way round.

Or maybe I got it wrong. Huseng - could you confirm your comments on Indra?


Indra is a protector deity who the four Maharaja answer to.

In the cosmic order he has an important role to fulfil, and he is on record as having went to the Buddha for teachings.

As far as liberation is concerned, Indra is of little significance, but mundane teachings suggest that these gods have an important role to play in maintaining the cosmic order. They are the divine cord which keeps demonic forces in bondage.

Such disrespect for gods is typical of most westerners. Monotheists tend to have the same attitude where they believe since their chosen deity is supreme, they can and should ignore all the rest, even denying their existence. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me!"

The polytheist worldview is much more accommodating and realistic. You don't have to take refuge in worldly gods, but showing suitable levels of respect and veneration doesn't hurt.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned. :sage:
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby pueraeternus » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:22 pm

catmoon wrote:Any being that exists is either greater or lesser compared to Buddha
Indra cannot be either
Therefore Indra does not exist.


This is not logical to me, since Indra can also be lesser to the Buddha and yet still exist.

catmoon wrote:and the case where he is lesser renders him completely redundant.


This also seems illogical to me. The Bodhisattvas are also lesser than the Buddhas, so does that make them redundant?
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby pueraeternus » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:26 pm

Huseng wrote:As far as liberation is concerned, Indra is of little significance, but mundane teachings suggest that these gods have an important role to play in maintaining the cosmic order. They are the divine cord which keeps demonic forces in bondage.

Such disrespect for gods is typical of most westerners. Monotheists tend to have the same attitude where they believe since their chosen deity is supreme, they can and should ignore all the rest, even denying their existence. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me!"

The polytheist worldview is much more accommodating and realistic. You don't have to take refuge in worldly gods, but showing suitable levels of respect and veneration doesn't hurt.


Totally agree with this. You don't see this with most Asian Buddhists, as far as I know (and being an Asian Buddhist myself).
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby pueraeternus » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Jnana wrote:
catmoon wrote:Therefore, having eliminated theism and polytheism, Buddhism must be atheistic.

Can you provide a definition of atheism that explicitly asserts the existence of gods, heaven realms, and post-mortem continuums?


This is an excellent question.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:31 pm

Most westerners these days are unfamiliar with the word "respect"
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:34 pm

Huseng wrote:
pueraeternus wrote:
catmoon wrote:There is no reason to paint Buddha as a follower of Indra, the arguments do not require it and if I have given you that impression it was unintentional.


I still don't understand why you think that is what Huseng said - he never said the Buddha was a follower of Indra, and neither was the Buddha ever portrayed that way in the Canon. In fact, it is the other way round.

Or maybe I got it wrong. Huseng - could you confirm your comments on Indra?


Indra is a protector deity who the four Maharaja answer to.

In the cosmic order he has an important role to fulfil, and he is on record as having went to the Buddha for teachings.

As far as liberation is concerned, Indra is of little significance, but mundane teachings suggest that these gods have an important role to play in maintaining the cosmic order. They are the divine cord which keeps demonic forces in bondage.

Such disrespect for gods is typical of most westerners. Monotheists tend to have the same attitude where they believe since their chosen deity is supreme, they can and should ignore all the rest, even denying their existence. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me!"

The polytheist worldview is much more accommodating and realistic. You don't have to take refuge in worldly gods, but showing suitable levels of respect and veneration doesn't hurt.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned. :sage:


That's my take on it as well.I consider myself a pagan in that I venerate worldly deities and worship them but I don't really go to them in refuge.I view bodhisattva and Buddhas as superior to them.In my opinion,they deserve respect and admiration because they earned their rebirth as exalted celestial beings.Like a person honing their skills,gods have honed their good karma into getting such a high rebirth.
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I replied. "Wanting to be reborn is like wanting to stay in a jail cell, when you have the chance to go free and experience the whole wide world. Does a convict, on being freed from his shabby, constricting, little cell, suddenly say "I really want to go back to jail and be put in a cell. It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want that?"
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Fruitzilla » Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:27 pm

The man who has so far made up his mind about anything that he can no longer freely reckon with that thing, is mad where that thing is concerned.

-Allen Upward.

This is one of the greatest truths I have found so far.....
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Nov 02, 2012 11:04 pm

Hi, I don't remember what sutra it is...but there is something (I think) in the Pali cannon where The Buddha says something to effect that there is no abiding, eternal spirit in the world, either inside of us or out, and that a wise man doesn't acknowledge the existence of this kind of thing. In addition, the parable of the arrow, the fourteen unanswerable questions, (while not directly addressing God) seems to suggest that these speculations on the creation of the universe and similar aren't the concern of Buddhism.

Sorry it's just from memory, i'm no scholar!

Believing in some kind of 'entity' that is neither eternal, nor nomniscient, nor responsible for a 'first cause' doesn't seem to fit what most think about as "theism" - whether one calls the beings deities or not..maybe that's just my being a westerner though?

I think that with concepts like Anatta, Sunyata, etc. it is pretty easy to make a case that by any reasonable definition Buddhism is technically "Atheist".

However, this does not mean it is complementary to the modern, rationalist view of naive realists. You see alot of "New Atheists' praising Buddhism while simultaneously rejecting ideas of Reincarnation etc. while Buddhism is not compatible (so it seems to me) with ideas of placating creator gods etc., it also is not compatible with the concepts that we are simply organic beings who pass away upon death, and have no existence beyond the physical..which these days is the connotation of the 'atheism' professed by people like Sam Harris, Hitchens and those guys.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby viniketa » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:32 am

Fascinating that this thread is still drawing attention... We've had two extremes:

(from Sara H) Buddhism is theistic (as long as you accept my definition) >>> TO >>> (from catmoon) Buddhism is atheistic (as long as you accept my definition)

While those answers that avoid the extremes and counsel the middle way are ignored.

Buddhism, says the Dalai Lama, is nontheistic -- but not "atheistic" in the sense of "anti-God". Buddha is to be located within and experienced in the heart as Tathagatagarbha, the Buddha-nature.
http://www.ecobuddhism.org/multimedia/videos/dlama1


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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:09 am

This was the first thread that even prompted me to make an account and post, it seems like it's a pretty important question for Buddhists, since it touches on things like The Three Marks Of Existence etc..

I don't know about anyone else, but for me as a westerner, until discovering Buddhism the only choices of worldview I was aware of were basically on the one hand Judeo Christian, and on the other science-based naive realism. You could argue that there are spaces "between" these two extremes, and in fact most western Christians seem to have a worldview encompassing some of both. Either way though. anywhere on this spectrum is divergent in very important ways from the worldview of Buddhism.

The very act of not taking positions on these things as it appears in the Suttas blew my mind when I first encountered it, and I think in many ways is antithetical to the conditioning one receives with any kind of western education. So yeah, bound to be controversial!
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Matt J » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:15 am

Ah, non-theistic. That sounds about right.

viniketa wrote:
Buddhism, says the Dalai Lama, is nontheistic -- but not "atheistic" in the sense of "anti-God". Buddha is to be located within and experienced in the heart as Tathagatagarbha, the Buddha-nature.
http://www.ecobuddhism.org/multimedia/videos/dlama1

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If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby Indrajala » Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:18 am

pueraeternus wrote:Totally agree with this. You don't see this with most Asian Buddhists, as far as I know (and being an Asian Buddhist myself).


Apparently Christians in Taiwan are noted for thinking that Jesus is just the western god, though all the other Chinese and Buddhist deities still exist nevertheless. The Catholic priests can't convince them otherwise.

I guess that's what happens when you try to introduce monotheism into a basically polytheist culture. It doesn't make sense that there could just be one god.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby catmoon » Sat Nov 03, 2012 9:41 am

I was just thinking... funny part about all this is, Huseng and I could go to the same temple and we'd be saying all the same mantras, doing all the same practices and bowing to, and learning from, all the same people. We might differ on diet a bit.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby catmoon » Sat Nov 03, 2012 9:51 am

pueraeternus wrote:
catmoon wrote:Any being that exists is either greater or lesser compared to Buddha
Indra cannot be either
Therefore Indra does not exist.


This is not logical to me, since Indra can also be lesser to the Buddha and yet still exist.

catmoon wrote:and the case where he is lesser renders him completely redundant.


This also seems illogical to me. The Bodhisattvas are also lesser than the Buddhas, so does that make them redundant?


It certainly does not affect the living ones. There is nothing I know of that can replace having a living, breathing bodhisattva around.

By the way any difficulties with the above statements can be quicky cleared up by reading the paragraph following the parts you quoted. The two quotes are, as explained in that paragraph, not the actual postition being advanced, and are a much simplified version presented in the hope the it will make clear the structure of what is actually being said.
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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby pueraeternus » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:25 pm

catmoon wrote:It certainly does not affect the living ones. There is nothing I know of that can replace having a living, breathing bodhisattva around.


A living cat?

I think sometimes it is the celestial Bodhisattvas or Buddhas can render the most unexpected and timely aid, since they are unencumbered by time and space.

catmoon wrote:By the way any difficulties with the above statements can be quicky cleared up by reading the paragraph following the parts you quoted. The two quotes are, as explained in that paragraph, not the actual postition being advanced, and are a much simplified version presented in the hope the it will make clear the structure of what is actually being said.


Reread those parts, but I still think the assumptions and hypothesis put forth are still illogical.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: All Buddhists Are Atheists

Postby catmoon » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:41 am

pueraeternus wrote:
Reread those parts, but I still think the assumptions and hypothesis put forth are still illogical.


It's certainly possible. I don't see a flaw in the double reductio structure itself, but like any argument, the form can only spit out answers as good as the ideas fed in.

I see three major religious structures out there. One is full blown theism, in which there is a God, who holds absolute power over everything. Everyone under him in the hierarchy then simply attempts to discern his will and carry it out. The only big problem with this view is the persistence of suffering, but there are ways around it so it can be termed more or less self consistent.

Pure polytheism, in which there are multiple deities running things, works fine so long as the deities are flawed beings on the Greco-Roman model. They simply operate on a more dramatic scale than mortals do. Looks consistent to me, though of course I'm not looking at verifiability at all.

But what some Buddhists are trying to do is to fuse the two systems, having a complete set of minor deities and an omniscient Buddha at the same time. Now omniscience is a tricky beast and it tends to get out of hand. One might think that omniscience implies knowledge of how to do anything desired, so now there is omnipotence as well. Omnipresence is widely assumed for the Buddha. So you can see, there is some danger of assigning the Buddha the three fundamental properties of the Judeo Christian God at which point they become difficult to distinguish.

So I think the whole question can be rephrased as, "What are the actual limitations on a Buddha's omnipotence?" If there aren't any, don't we just have Christianity with the names translated into Asian languages?

Hm. I think I've wandered into one of those questions Buddha condemned as a waste of time. Oops.
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