Gods protected Buddha

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Gods protected Buddha

Postby nirmal » Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:14 pm

In the Avatamsaka Sutra, Lord Buddha has said that many gods and even minor deities assembled to protect him.

Buddha was once asked by his disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernatural powers?" The Enlightened One gave two answers,"By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods."

It is said that gods will obey and help anyone bound for Enlightenment while demons will hinder.

Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:12 pm

nirmal wrote:In the Avatarhsaka Sutra, Lord Buddha has said that many gods and even minor deities assembled to protect him.

Buddha was once asked by his disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernatural powers?" The Enlightened One gave two answers,"By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods."

It is said that gods will obey and help anyone bound for Enlightenment while demons will hinder.

Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?


This is an interesting thing to bring up.

But first where are you quoting this from:


Buddha was once asked by his disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernatural powers?" The Enlightened One gave two answers,"By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods."




Historically in most countries it was the case that the existence of gods was taken as common sense. It wasn't considered a belief or superstitious to assume that spirits or gods were behind certain phenomena such as storms, plagues, droughts, floods or tsunamis. Now keep in mind this was polytheist in nature and such beings were not thought of as omnipotent. It was just matter of fact and common knowledge that spirits of the land existed and could be of benefit or harm to the community. To placate or appease them was necessary to maintain the balance of nature. This was particularly important for agriculture.

Now from such a perspective respecting such deities, making appropriate offerings at their shrines or even bribing them and their human caretakers for some special effect were not done out of devotion or for the purpose of salvation, but rather there was a practical application in mind. The deities or spirits could be utilized for worldly ends. In some places in the world this is still the case.

Do the deities trapped in samsara such as us have anything to do with liberation? Some suggest that they can be guardians that protect the practitioner against malevolent spirits. Nevertheless, the actual process towards liberation does not depend on them.

Now that being said, if deities and spirits of the land really do exist, is there anything wrong with building shrines for them and offering the respect one would show to a close neighbour?

Such sentiments don't work well with modern urban dwellers. To them such activities are superstitious and useless cultural baggage. I think that actually reflects their hubris more than anything else.

I don't see any problem with showing respect to worldly gods and spirits. Heck, visit their shrines, offer incense and wish them well. They may not be able to liberate you from samsara, but paying them respect is perfectly acceptable.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Dec 25, 2010 6:19 pm

The quote alone doesn't suggest that Buddha 'needed' the deities or, specifically, their protection. I seem to recall that Vajrapani was initially described in the Pali Canon as a protector, but controlled and directed by Buddha, who I guess could easily have used other means, as required.

I read it as Buddha being grateful that he could work through the deities, as indeed this may have been the best method to use when giving Dharma to people whose main spirituality was tied closely to those deities.

I'm not convinced that modern city dwellers are less likely to be drawn to deities - the veneer is very thin, especially when a tsunami, earthquake or terrorist attack occurs.
I guess the prevailing cuture determines whether people turn to a pantheon of deites or one creator god. Tantra seems to be successful in cities such as Mumbai, and I see propitiation of Catholic saints as very similar.

Perhaps my view is skewed because I am a Vajrayana practitioner, as I see Buddhadharma working through the many deity forms and sadhanas as just one of the methods of training the mind on the path, in removing inner, outer and secret obstacles.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby nirmal » Sat Dec 25, 2010 6:53 pm

Huseng wrote:
nirmal wrote:In the Avatarhsaka Sutra, Lord Buddha has said that many gods and even minor deities assembled to protect him.

Buddha was once asked by his disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernatural powers?" The Enlightened One gave two answers,"By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods."

It is said that gods will obey and help anyone bound for Enlightenment while demons will hinder.

Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?


This is an interesting thing to bring up.

But first where are you quoting this from:


Buddha was once asked by his disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernatural powers?" The Enlightened One gave two answers,"By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods."




Historically in most countries it was the case that the existence of gods was taken as common sense. It wasn't considered a belief or superstitious to assume that spirits or gods were behind certain phenomena such as storms, plagues, droughts, floods or tsunamis. Now keep in mind this was polytheist in nature and such beings were not thought of as omnipotent. It was just matter of fact and common knowledge that spirits of the land existed and could be of benefit or harm to the community. To placate or appease them was necessary to maintain the balance of nature. This was particularly important for agriculture.

Now from such a perspective respecting such deities, making appropriate offerings at their shrines or even bribing them and their human caretakers for some special effect were not done out of devotion or for the purpose of salvation, but rather there was a practical application in mind. The deities or spirits could be utilized for worldly ends. In some places in the world this is still the case.

Do the deities trapped in samsara such as us have anything to do with liberation? Some suggest that they can be guardians that protect the practitioner against malevolent spirits. Nevertheless, the actual process towards liberation does not depend on them.

Now that being said, if deities and spirits of the land really do exist, is there anything wrong with building shrines for them and offering the respect one would show to a close neighbour?

Such sentiments don't work well with modern urban dwellers. To them such activities are superstitious and useless cultural baggage. I think that actually reflects their hubris more than anything else.

I don't see any problem with showing respect to worldly gods and spirits. Heck, visit their shrines, offer incense and wish them well. They may not be able to liberate you from samsara, but paying them respect is perfectly acceptable.





I don't remember the source of this material but I have been taking down some notes and questions about Buddhism as I read along and that has come to about six exercise books till today.It was only early this year that I took the trouble to write down the source of the material as even I could not refer to it when I had wanted to do some further reading on it.

I usually jot down things that do not give me a clear answer, things that are vague or beyond my comprehension so that I could do a little more reading on them later on.

I also believe that gods have their nature, perhaps a little like us. If we were to see someone getting knocked down on the road,we would surely render help.Everything is put aside, race,religion sex,ect. and that thought to help comes first. Gods have that nature too, I strongly believe. It is in cases of emergency only that our god-like nature begins to show.

I had an experience of this sort once when I was burning offerings for the spiritual world outside my compound.There were too many spirits around and a few were too nasty.Out of the blue a ray of light came flying down to protect me.I actually knew and saw nothing. My camera was on standby and my hand automatically went up and I clicked into the dark empty sky and this is what I got(picture below).My Vajraguru told me that it was a picture of a female protector with golden hair, with a nose of a sharp blade and had another sharp blade above her head.She was passing by and saw the trouble I was going to get into with the nasty spirits and she just stepped in to help me. They have such nature. Even Jesus might have helped if he were to be passing by because I have not offended him in any way.After all it was our Lord Buddha who was the greatest teacher for not only man but also the gods and deities.They were all there at the Assembly Of The Gods.

Therefore I feel that we have to thank them and respect them.We won't lose anything in doing that and perhaps we would be remembered by them too as we move along the Path.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:17 pm

nirmal wrote:Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

No. We are for the most part responsible for or own enlightenment; we have to walk the path. Others who are more advanced than us can assist us by pointing the way. The gods (devas) in Buddhist cosmology aren't enlightened beings so how can they help us?

nirmal wrote:Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?

No. We don't need to believe in them at all. The real teaching of Buddhism isn't about gods; it's about realizing the real (nirvana) nature of all things. Whether we believe in gods or not, they are unimportant in Buddhism.

Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva (Guanyin) is considered a goddess by many even though he is a male bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra. In what I said above about gods, I don't mean to diminish the importance of him.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:45 pm

Yeshe wrote:I'm not convinced that modern city dwellers are less likely to be drawn to deities

I think that for many in the West, deities are a hindrance to acceptance of Buddhism.


Yeshe wrote:Perhaps my view is skewed because I am a Vajrayana practitioner, as I see Buddhadharma working through the many deity forms and sadhanas as just one of the methods of training the mind on the path, in removing inner, outer and secret obstacles.

If by deities you mean buddhas and bodhisattvas I agree with you. There is a place for Amitabha Buddha and Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva in Buddhism but I see them as expedients. And there's nothing wrong with that because I think that almost all the things we practice are expedients. Expedients are very important in Buddhism.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:51 pm

Kyosan wrote:
nirmal wrote:Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

No. We are for the most part responsible for or own enlightenment; we have to walk the path. Others who are more advanced than us can assist us by pointing the way. The gods (devas) in Buddhist cosmology aren't enlightened beings so how can they help us?

nirmal wrote:Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?

No. We don't need to believe in them at all. The real teaching of Buddhism isn't about gods; it's about realizing the real (nirvana) nature of all things. Whether we believe in gods or not, they are unimportant in Buddhism.

Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva (Guanyin) is considered a goddess by many even though he is a male bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra. In what I said above about gods, I don't mean to diminish the importance of him.


Why can't devas help us? Any being can help us - even people on this forum and in our own sanghas- without having to be enlightened.

I don't think Avalokiteshvara is special. Many people treat Bodhisattvas like gods and propitiate them, not to mention Dharmapalas and oracles. (I'm not saying they should, just that some people do this.)

The 'real' teaching about Buddhism is delivered in different ways, and for some people this involves deities. We can't know what other people 'need' on their path, nor be exclusive about sources of help. ;)

Edit: Yes, I agree, they are all expedients in the context of developing the mind. Some sadhanas, in the middle of 'generation', will include phrases such as 'who/which lacks inherent existence' in order to make it clear that we are working on the mind through such practices.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby nirmal » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:54 pm

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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby nirmal » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:54 pm

Kyosan wrote:
nirmal wrote:Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

No. We are for the most part responsible for or own enlightenment; we have to walk the path. Others who are more advanced than us can assist us by pointing the way. The gods (devas) in Buddhist cosmology aren't enlightened beings so how can they help us?



Yes Kyosan, I'd fully agree that we are for the most part responsible for our own enlightenment.No doubt about that. Ok, devas aren't enlightened beings. That is a fact.But are we in any way more advanced than the devas? Are we more advanced than Jesus? Surely no, not yet but perhaps one day we would be.Even though our Buddha's powers were primarily the result of Enlightenment, still we find on many occasions the devas also helped him.If they can help our Buddha, then why do you say that they cant help us.We are in no way going to church to pray to Jesus.No, it's out of the question.


nirmal wrote:Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?

No. We don't need to believe in them at all. The real teaching of Buddhism isn't about gods; it's about realizing the real (nirvana) nature of all things. Whether we believe in gods or not, they are unimportant in Buddhism.

Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva (Guanyin) is considered a goddess by many even though he is a male bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra. In what I said above about gods, I don't mean to diminish the importance of him.



I also agree that we don't need to believe in them at all.But could we just respect them? Sakyamuni had far more merits than any of the gods, yet in every lifetime they served him.It is simply that many gods feel that it is their duty to help one who declares that his aim is nothing less than Full Enlightenment.We don't have to pray to them, just respect them
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sat Dec 25, 2010 8:12 pm

Yeshe wrote:Why can't devas help us? Any being can help us - even people on this forum and in our own sanghas- without having to be enlightened.

I agree that any being can help us. But if devas aren't more enlightened than humans I don't think that they would have a greater ability to help us than humans do.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Dec 25, 2010 8:18 pm

Kyosan wrote:
Yeshe wrote:Why can't devas help us? Any being can help us - even people on this forum and in our own sanghas- without having to be enlightened.

I agree that any being can help us. But if devas aren't more enlightened than humans I don't think that they would have a greater ability to help us than humans do.


Yes, that's very true, the best birth we can have is the one which provides us access to the Dharma, enables us to meet a suitable teacher, and have the physical and mental ability to make progress on the path.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sat Dec 25, 2010 8:33 pm

nirmal wrote:
Kyosan wrote:
nirmal wrote:Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

No. We are for the most part responsible for or own enlightenment; we have to walk the path. Others who are more advanced than us can assist us by pointing the way. The gods (devas) in Buddhist cosmology aren't enlightened beings so how can they help us?



Yes Kyosan, I'd fully agree that we are for the most part responsible for our own enlightenment.No doubt about that. Ok, devas aren't enlightened beings. That is a fact.But are we in any way more advanced than the devas? Are we more advanced than Jesus? Surely no, not yet but perhaps one day we would be.Even though our Buddha's powers were primarily the result of Enlightenment, still we find on many occasions the devas also helped him.If they can help our Buddha, then why do you say that they cant help us.We are in no way going to church to pray to Jesus.No, it's out of the question.


nirmal wrote:Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?

No. We don't need to believe in them at all. The real teaching of Buddhism isn't about gods; it's about realizing the real (nirvana) nature of all things. Whether we believe in gods or not, they are unimportant in Buddhism.

Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva (Guanyin) is considered a goddess by many even though he is a male bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra. In what I said above about gods, I don't mean to diminish the importance of him.



I also agree that we don't need to believe in them at all.But could we just respect them? Sakyamuni had far more merits than any of the gods, yet in every lifetime they served him.It is simply that many gods feel that it is their duty to help one who declares that his aim is nothing less than Full Enlightenment.We don't have to pray to them, just respect them


For me it's not a matter of respecting them or not respecting them because I don't believe that they exist as real beings. I guess some people would have a problem with that because the sutras mention them. Well, I don't believe every word in the sutras literally. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the dharma though.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:07 pm

Kyosan wrote:
For me it's not a matter of respecting them or not respecting them because I don't believe that they exist as real beings. I guess some people would have a problem with that because the sutras mention them. Well, I don't believe every word in the sutras literally. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the dharma though.


Well, whatever you believe, I don't think others who believe differently about the realms have a 'problem' at all, and neither do you.
It is for us to respect the beliefs of others based on the Buddha's teachings. The 'problem' arises when we deny the validity of each others' paths and the ensuing posts then generate more heat than light.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sat Dec 25, 2010 10:16 pm

Yeshe wrote:
Kyosan wrote:
For me it's not a matter of respecting them or not respecting them because I don't believe that they exist as real beings. I guess some people would have a problem with that because the sutras mention them. Well, I don't believe every word in the sutras literally. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the dharma though.


Well, whatever you believe, I don't think others who believe differently about the realms have a 'problem' at all, and neither do you.
It is for us to respect the beliefs of others based on the Buddha's teachings. The 'problem' arises when we deny the validity of each others' paths and the ensuing posts then generate more heat than light.

"It is for us to respect the beliefs of others based on the Buddha's teachings."

Are you saying that I should never suggest that some part of the sutras aren't literally true?

"The 'problem' arises when we deny the validity of each others' paths."

Perhaps I'm blind, but don't see how I denied the validity of others paths. If I did that please explain how. Thanks.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Individual » Sat Dec 25, 2010 10:39 pm

nirmal wrote:In the Avatamsaka Sutra, Lord Buddha has said that many gods and even minor deities assembled to protect him.

Buddha was once asked by his disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernatural powers?" The Enlightened One gave two answers,"By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods."

It is said that gods will obey and help anyone bound for Enlightenment while demons will hinder.

Do Buddhists need gods' help on the path to Enlightenment?

Do we need to respect gods and minor deities as Buddhists?

No, but it is skillful.

And at least some of them deserve it.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:03 pm

Kyosan wrote:
Yeshe wrote:
Kyosan wrote:
For me it's not a matter of respecting them or not respecting them because I don't believe that they exist as real beings. I guess some people would have a problem with that because the sutras mention them. Well, I don't believe every word in the sutras literally. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the dharma though.


Well, whatever you believe, I don't think others who believe differently about the realms have a 'problem' at all, and neither do you.
It is for us to respect the beliefs of others based on the Buddha's teachings. The 'problem' arises when we deny the validity of each others' paths and the ensuing posts then generate more heat than light.

"It is for us to respect the beliefs of others based on the Buddha's teachings."

Are you saying that I should never suggest that some part of the sutras aren't literally true?

"The 'problem' arises when we deny the validity of each others' paths."

Perhaps I'm blind, but don't see how I denied the validity of others paths. If I did that please explain how. Thanks.



I don't see how either, and wrote no such thing. If I ask folk to be careful not to slip on the ice, how does that become a statement that they have already done so?

You did not deny the validity of others paths, just stated that some may have a 'problem' with yours, which was rather an assumption about their capacity.

I simply reminded you that others do not need to be described as having the 'problem' to which you alluded, and neither do you unless you choose to do so. ;)
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:27 am

Yeshe wrote:I simply reminded you that others do not need to be described as having the 'problem' to which you alluded, and neither do you unless you choose to do so. ;)

Thanks Yeshe. Sometimes I need to think more about what I'm posting.

This is a little off topic but, I was involved in a discussion about "gods in Buddhism" on a non-Buddhist forum a few months ago. I said that, though there are gods (devas) in Buddhism I didn't believe in them myself but didn't think that other Buddhists would consider that important and they wouldn't consider me to be less of a Buddhist because of it. Do you think that statement is generally true? I'm asking because after I made that post I wasn't 100% sure that it was true. :smile:
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby nirmal » Sun Dec 26, 2010 3:46 am

In every Sutra, whether Theravada or Mahayana, all the eight kinds of supernatural beings such as Gods, Nagas, Yakshas, Grandharvas,Asuras Garudas, Kinnaras, Maharajas and a group of demons have joined the assembly of the Dharma

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra states :"Of the eight kinds, Ananda,of these assemblies,which are the eight? Assemblies of nobles Brahmins,householders and wanderers and of the angle hosts of the guardian kings of the 33 maras and Brahma."

The five sun gods of Hinduism were there too besides divinities of light and water. There were also gods of other religion like Jehovah of Judaism, Jesus of Christianity,Ra of the Egyptian religionn, Allah of Islam,Isanmi-no-Mikoto Of Shintau, Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrianism, Tien of Confucianism, Sen-Chin, Sen-Wong, Sen Dee of Taoism. None were left out of the assembly of the Dharma.

Buddha has taught us the evidence of God in a certain reasonable limitation and often denies blind faith even in himself. Buddha does not hold that every deity has absolute ego but admits that there is a God of every religion in a shadow-like appearance.

Other religions are religions of a part while Buddhism is a religion of the whole.Gods of all religions respected our Buddha and as disciples of the Buddha,should we look down on them? The least we could do is maintain the respect, just respect, for them.

I don't see how it could hurt me if I were to nod my head a little as a sign of respect every time I pass by a temple or a church.The Buddhas will be happy, the Gods will be happy.
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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 26, 2010 3:46 am

Kyosan wrote:No. We are for the most part responsible for or own enlightenment; we have to walk the path. Others who are more advanced than us can assist us by pointing the way. The gods (devas) in Buddhist cosmology aren't enlightened beings so how can they help us?


Was it not Brahma who appeared before the Buddha after his enlightenment and asked him to teach the dharma to humanity?

No. We don't need to believe in them at all. The real teaching of Buddhism isn't about gods; it's about realizing the real (nirvana) nature of all things. Whether we believe in gods or not, they are unimportant in Buddhism.


The idea of "believing in" in this context amounts to saying one thinks something exists without any solid proof for it.

From a strictly Buddhist point of view, the Buddha taught the existence of deva among other non-physical entities. Moreover, in any canon you find constant reference to deva having audience with the Buddha. It isn't even an isolated single case. Deva constantly appear. This cannot be denied. On that note saying deva and the whole cosmic cosmology are unimportant to Buddhism is sheer arrogance on your part.

Now from a broader perspective if you want evidence suggestive of the existence of such beings you could look into academic studies of the paranormal. Deva would probably be classified as ghosts or apparitions.

Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva (Guanyin) is considered a goddess by many even though he is a male bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra. In what I said above about gods, I don't mean to diminish the importance of him.


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Re: Gods protected Buddha

Postby Kyosan » Sun Dec 26, 2010 8:27 am

Huseng wrote:On that note saying deva and the whole cosmic cosmology are unimportant to Buddhism is sheer arrogance on your part.

I don't agree that thinking this is arrogant because as Buddhists we are supposed to judge for ourselves what to believe. That is my judgement and there's nothing wrong with my making judgements like this. In fact, that is what i MUST do. I think that all beings who are seeking the truth need to use their own judgement in finding the truth and shouldn't rely too much on faith. Faith in a good teacher is important but not blind faith.

Perhaps devas exist in some way. I don't believe that they exist as actual beings but perhaps they exist in our minds somehow. There are many things in the sutras that I don't understand.
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