Where are the Gods?

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Where are the Gods?

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:07 am

Traditionally it is described that gods live on mount Meru and above in the sky. There are actual distances given and so on. But where are the gods now that we have no mount Meru and even the sky ends at one point and there is just empty space left? This is also a question because gods below the formless realm have some kind of physical body thus they're supposed to be somewhere. But where is it?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby SonamZangpo » Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:32 pm

I'm just seeking clarification on the nature of this question- is it a legitimate inquiry, or more rhetoric to stimulate thought on the subject?
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 14, 2011 1:05 pm

I think it is a legitimate inquiry. The gods within Buddhism are often forgotten although they're integral part of the religion. Since our current view of the world is radically different from those of ancient India and who came after them the traditional Buddhist cosmology is put aside as irrelevant. But cosmology forms the basis of a couple of other doctrines, especially the six worlds. Of course, it could have been possible to ask where the hells are but I assume - based on my own limited knowledge - that we're more familiar with the sky above than the earth below and their modern understanding.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Apr 14, 2011 1:06 pm

Astus wrote:Traditionally it is described that gods live on mount Meru and above in the sky. There are actual distances given and so on. But where are the gods now that we have no mount Meru and even the sky ends at one point and there is just empty space left?

Who says there is no mount meru?
MeruMap.jpg
MeruMap.jpg (196.11 KiB) Viewed 1874 times

This is also a question because gods below the formless realm have some kind of physical body thus they're supposed to be somewhere. But where is it?
Below the formless realm?
Ever considered that it is all metaphorical?
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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: Where are the Gods?

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 14, 2011 1:37 pm

Well, it doesn't look like thousands of yojanas high and there are no surrounding mountains of different metals plus the inner oceans, etc. So it is mount Meru in name only.

Being all metaphorical, well, no, I don't think it was all intended as a big over-complicated metaphor. And metaphor for what?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby SonamZangpo » Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:13 pm

Astus wrote: especially the six worlds. Of course, it could have been possible to ask where the hells are but I assume - based on my own limited knowledge - that we're more familiar with the sky above than the earth below and their modern understanding.


From my understanding, the various 6 realms (is that what you are referring to by worlds?) of existence are all the same place, merely separated by karmic perception of samsara.
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:21 pm

Astus wrote:Traditionally it is described that gods live on mount Meru and above in the sky. There are actual distances given and so on. But where are the gods now that we have no mount Meru and even the sky ends at one point and there is just empty space left? This is also a question because gods below the formless realm have some kind of physical body thus they're supposed to be somewhere. But where is it?



We have a Mt. Meru -- it is Kailaish.
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:26 pm

Astus wrote:Well, it doesn't look like thousands of yojanas high and there are no surrounding mountains of different metals plus the inner oceans, etc. So it is mount Meru in name only.

Being all metaphorical, well, no, I don't think it was all intended as a big over-complicated metaphor. And metaphor for what?



No, Kailash is Meru. Geography mythologized until it was not very recognizable in comparison with landscape features.

The inner oceans are not oceans, they are lakes and rivers.

Meru in traditional maps is surrounded by a box like shape of mountains. That certain describes the Tibetan plateau in general.

Ptolomey, for example mentions the Uttarakurus.

So we can understand that Meru and four continents is a mythologized understanding of terrestrial geography and that is all.
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 14, 2011 4:03 pm

I'd say that there is no Mt. Meru on Earth because none can fit the description. It makes little difference if we identify any ordinary mountain as the "real Meru" since there are no terraces on it where gods live their lives, etc.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 4:16 pm

Astus wrote:I'd say that there is no Mt. Meru on Earth because none can fit the description. It makes little difference if we identify any ordinary mountain as the "real Meru" since there are no terraces on it where gods live their lives, etc.



Well, you would be wrong. You are being to literal.

For example in the Mahabharata, it is regularly described as a place where, for example, Arjuna can picnic, etc.

And for example, the Uttarakurus live to the north of Meru. Ptolemy mentions a people called the Kurus that live to the north of the region of Afghanistan.

So it is pretty cetain, I would say. Ancient Indo=-Aryans always selected an Axial mountain to center their cosmology around. There is a mountain in Iran that is described in similar terms to Meru, four rivers coming from it in the four directions, etc etc.

These myths always have a basis.
Last edited by Malcolm on Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 4:20 pm

Astus wrote:I'd say that there is no Mt. Meru on Earth because none can fit the description. It makes little difference if we identify any ordinary mountain as the "real Meru" since there are no terraces on it where gods live their lives, etc.


Not that many Indians in the old days every trekked to Meru. For them it was a distant mountain, seen from the plains of India. easy to imagine terraces.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:01 pm

Astus wrote:This is also a question because gods below the formless realm have some kind of physical body thus they're supposed to be somewhere. But where is it?


Deva are said to be shining ones or beings of light. One might imagine their physical bodies are composed of light.

Some adepts claim to be able to see them.

One senior monk I spoke to India visited a mountain and in his meditation he said he sensed them. He described them as goddesses who long ago had been present at the Buddha's teachings and being in their presence was an indescribable joy.

I don't think you'll find much more of an answer than that. You cannot go out into the mountains with a camera and hope to snap a photo of a deva.
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby plwk » Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:16 pm

And I tot Greg would append a map of Olympus.... :tongue:
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:24 pm

Huseng wrote:
Astus wrote:This is also a question because gods below the formless realm have some kind of physical body thus they're supposed to be somewhere. But where is it?


Deva are said to be shining ones or beings of light. One might imagine their physical bodies are composed of light.

Some adepts claim to be able to see them.

One senior monk I spoke to India visited a mountain and in his meditation he said he sensed them. He described them as goddesses who long ago had been present at the Buddha's teachings and being in their presence was an indescribable joy.

I don't think you'll find much more of an answer than that. You cannot go out into the mountains with a camera and hope to snap a photo of a deva.


Their bodies are composed of light.

Achieving the ability to see devas is a result of change in the optical nerves, etc., under the influence of dhayna, etc. This is not a path phenomena, but a mundane phenomena.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:03 pm

plwk wrote:And I tot Greg would append a map of Olympus.... :tongue:
Astus asked for Mt. Meru, he got Mt. Meru (in Kenya to be exact)
As for Mt. Olympus, in every region in Greece the highest mountain is called Mt. Olympus. Here in Lesbos it is 1000m tall and believe me only a god could live at the peak. Mind you, with the tv broadcast towers which have been built there recently the price of divine real estate has dropped to a rock bottom low.
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Last edited by Sherab Dorje on Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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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: Where are the Gods?

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:08 pm

A being cannot see those who live in a higher realm except by magic or other aid, says the Kosha in reference to gods of different heavens. This is actually the answer for not being able to see them normally.

But my question touches upon the issue of the relationship between cosmology and theology (god-lore). As we have a different view of the world where can we position the beings of other realms?

As for the literal nature of the teachings on the realms of gods, in vol. 2 p. 463-464 of the Kosha, Vasubandhu discusses at length the spread of the fragrance of the flowers of a certain magnolia tree situated in the world of the Thirty-Three Gods.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:45 pm

Astus wrote:A being cannot see those who live in a higher realm except by magic or other aid, says the Kosha in reference to gods of different heavens. This is actually the answer for not being able to see them normally.

But my question touches upon the issue of the relationship between cosmology and theology (god-lore). As we have a different view of the world where can we position the beings of other realms?

As for the literal nature of the teachings on the realms of gods, in vol. 2 p. 463-464 of the Kosha, Vasubandhu discusses at length the spread of the fragrance of the flowers of a certain magnolia tree situated in the world of the Thirty-Three Gods.



The Kosha says that someone who is in dhyana can see the beings belonging to the equivalent realm because their organ of sense has been subtly transformed by dhyana. See the discussion at verse 1:45c-d.

I.e. their body can belong to the kamadhātu, but their organ of sight can belong for example, to the first dhyāna, etc.
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:46 pm

Astus wrote:A being cannot see those who live in a higher realm except by magic or other aid, says the Kosha in reference to gods of different heavens. This is actually the answer for not being able to see them normally.

But my question touches upon the issue of the relationship between cosmology and theology (god-lore). As we have a different view of the world where can we position the beings of other realms?

As for the literal nature of the teachings on the realms of gods, in vol. 2 p. 463-464 of the Kosha, Vasubandhu discusses at length the spread of the fragrance of the flowers of a certain magnolia tree situated in the world of the Thirty-Three Gods.


Right, but this chapter three of the Kosha, and we know that the kosha's cosmology cannot be taken literally as written.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:21 pm

Namdrol wrote:Right, but this chapter three of the Kosha, and we know that the kosha's cosmology cannot be taken literally as written.


Yes, that's my point too, that we can't take traditional view literally. So the question, what is it that we can accept?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Where are the Gods?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:57 pm

Astus wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Right, but this chapter three of the Kosha, and we know that the kosha's cosmology cannot be taken literally as written.


Yes, that's my point too, that we can't take traditional view literally. So the question, what is it that we can accept?


Meditative experience.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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