Buddhism and Deities

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Son » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:23 pm

Uniltiranyu wrote:I see deities as aspects of a human being, and initiation will reveal these, as you can see in the Initiation of Padmasambhava and the display of the wrathful and peaceful lineages, which I believe are the meaning behind the Buddha's recollection of his past lives/understanding of fermentations etc.. Because of this, I don't see Theravada as that far removed from the notion of deities; where a Theravada meditator might dismiss sensations in meditation as a distraction, and an arising mood as a hindrance obstructing jhana, say, a deity yoga meditator will understand both as the play of deity, and they'll give that deity form and symbolism. The Bible has its lineages as well, and, since Genesis and Padmasambhava's Initiation are very similar, I presume that these are akin to Tibetan deities.


Yes, culturally most Theravadin Buddhists are also Animistic, and this greatly influences the essence of their spiritual perspective; how they pray, bless, their spiritual mapwork, rituals, cultural phraseology, and so forth. The Dharma has always soaked up all the spiritual liquid of a culture, wherever it has gone. Because, that's what it does, being the ultimate truth of reality. This is only natural, given that "spirituality" is the study of the why of things, as opposed to the how of things.
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Son » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:24 pm

So, no one has said anything about communicating or even observing devas in any sphere, in any world, in reality... Isn't this worthy of discussion, since it would illuminate the topic more fully?
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:13 am

The ultimate goal of Buddhist teachings is to liberate. If by having Faith, Vow, and reciting Buddha, you can get a free ticket, why not do it? Unless Christian God stops you from doing so. You see the difference between Christian God and Amitabha Buddha is Amitabha Buddha's compassion and powers can actually save you from suffering. Personal savior? Well if you don't want to inherit what your father has, you can create your own wealth. But which is easier to inherit or to work for it from scratch? Now if you have some slight intelligence, you can figure that out.

If each for his own, then that is not Mahayana. All Buddhas share one Dharma body, and you are Buddhas also. There is no reason for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to abandon you as there is no reason for you to abandon one of your body organs when it is not working well. For it is a unit. Then it is not hard to understand compassion. If you understand Mahayana, you will understand Pure Land. If you understand Pure Land, you will understand Mahayana.
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Indrajala » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:02 am

Distorted wrote:Worshiping has come into question as I have seen different degrees of worshiping and veneration in Buddhism. Were is the line between worship and veneration? Is all these deities and prayers to these deities necessary to obtain enlightenment? Did Shakyamuni teach the Sangha to worship deities? I don't know if he did or not and if so, why?


If you objectively look at Buddhism in the present day and throughout history it is quite clear much of institutionalized Buddhism has concerned itself with magical rituals, appeasement of deities for worldly concerns and worship of supernatural beings for the purposes of receiving blessings or material gain. There is little in the way of original literature to support these kinds of developments, but literate westerners are prone to paint a picture of Buddhism in their minds based on prescriptive literature which is completely at odds with how things really are and have been.

We must keep in mind there is a prescriptive analysis (i.e., how Buddhists according to their own scriptures are supposed to operate) and then there is the descriptive analysis of how things really are.

Most Buddhists, Mahāyāna or otherwise, in my estimation think of the Buddha as a benevolent deity that if appeased will provide them with relief from suffering as well as bestow benefits in life. This prompts the development of extensive prescribed rituals for gaining those benefits as well as robed clergy who hold a monopoly on the rights to carry out such priestcraft. Their vows of celibacy elevate them to a higher position above ordinary people and consequently this only solidifies their largely unquestioned position as middlemen between the supernatural and mundane.

This is not how things are supposed to be, but nevertheless it is how they are.

Offerings given to the images of buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities are done with the expectation that some worldly benefit will be gained as a result. The clergymen and in some cases clergywomen are thought to amplify the power of this process with their apparent purity of conduct usually in the form of celibacy and their employment of musical instruments and other religious theatrical devices such as incense, candles and banners.

To perform such rites usually demands years of training both in the liturgy and with the instruments. In Mahāyāna traditions this is more often than not what monks and nuns train to do during their seminary years. They memorize liturgy not because it is supposed to enable them to achieve liberation from samsara, but because it is part of their profession as clergymen and clergywomen. The robed clergy are believed to be able to better prompt a positive response from supernatural forces than ordinary laypeople are. In other words, they train to become suitable priests who can proficiently work the ritual technology that laypeople demand be operated on their behalf.

It really is only a minority of individuals in the Buddhist world who even read sutras rather than simply recite them, let alone meditate regularly and/or seek liberation. Even in Theravada monks are treated as fields of merit. They are just expected to uphold the vinaya and thus be a source of merit via offerings made to them by the laity. Many of the ideas you will find on this forum alone are somewhat alien to how Buddhism as an institution really is even though there often is canonical backing for them.

So as to your original question, the Buddha taught that attachment to rites and rituals was a hindrance to liberation, though in the Buddhist context their own extensive rites are justified because they are Buddhist rather than Brahministic or of some other externalist creed. In Mahāyāna scriptures it is often mentioned that offerings to buddhas and bodhisattvas are to be commended and encouraged, though this usually has ultimate liberation and buddhahood as the aim in mind rather than obtaining worldly benefits. There are also plenty of worldly guardians of the Buddhadharma who are venerated, though their role in the institutional model is one of guardianship, not saviourship. However, when it comes to supernatural forces the lines between said roles become blurred and nebulous.

Śākyamuni spoke of the gods as being subject to birth and death, just as we are, hence they are not suitable refuges. However, as the Mahāyāna developed the extensive pantheon of buddhas and bodhisattvas with their countless names and titles came to fulfil the role of worshipped deities.

Whether you think this was justified and appropriate or not, we might consider that it was necessary. The overwhelming majority of humans do not possess the will or inclination to study such things as emptiness or to even actually read the scriptures. There is more merit to be had in contemplating the prajñāpāramitā than in building stupas or worshipping deities. However, most individuals will not and probably cannot contemplate the prajñāpāramitā. Hence, to facilitate the development of people you need figures such as Avalokitēśvara manifesting as figures to be venerated, worshipped and hopefully emulated.

At the end of the day to some degree, though not entirely, the worship of deities in Buddhism, be they buddhas, bodhisattvas or otherwise, is a means to an end. That isn't to say buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities do not exist, but just that worship and veneration of them on a mundane level hopefully directs a person in a positive direction while simultaneously letting them cultivate the merit necessary for attaining eventual liberation.
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:46 am

Dharma if not well understood and practice can too become a cause for lower rebirths. That "better than nothing idea" is slippery. Buddhadharma is not so much about your beliefs as it is about your actions and the motivation behind them. Monks who only have self gain in mind in fact are just dressing samsara in robes, not practicing Dharma.
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Dave The Seeker » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:27 pm

Buddhism is not about elitism, it's about saving everyone.


To "save" anyone, we must first work on ourselves. At least that's my understanding.
By living our practice, right speech and right actions as well as helping others where we can, we give an example. Our finding peace in samsara is reason for others who don't understand to seek out why we are at peace.
Just a beginners understanding though......... :shrug:

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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Tara » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:30 pm

Temporarily locked whilst the posts of a sock puppet are removed.

Regards,




*Topic unlocked.*

Several posts have been removed. Apologies for any inconvenience.

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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Son » Sat May 26, 2012 2:24 am

Distorted wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:
Distorted wrote:I definitely didn't feel or think that in Buddhism the deities were worshiped...

Well actually, buddhas certainly are worshiped according to the definition you gave above. Although nothing Darwid said is incorrect, there is also the fact that in a practical sense, we still acknowledge relative existence and view the buddha as a being worthy of praise. Within samsara, the buddhas have superior qualities to sentient beings.

And yes, in Vajrayana, deity yoga is a path whereby a practitioner develops the qualities of a buddha by visualizing the deity, receiving blessings, and mixing their consciousness with the deity's in order to realize that their minds have the same nature. You can't only emphasize the mixing-your-consciousness aspect of the practice. You cannot see the "inner" deity without receiving the blessings from the "outer" deity.


:popcorn: I have to let this post percolate.

Does Japanese Pure land Buddhism such as Jodo Shinshu or perhaps another such as Zen Buddhism practice the same with what is mentioned in this post and other posters above this post ?


All I know is, when I visited a Pure Land temple, in which there were both monks and nuns, there was a lot of "Buddha reverence." Avalokiteshvara was there in the form of a HUGE statue of Guan Yin under a pavilion in a lovely garden. There was Maitreya as the laughing Buddha, and several "tantric-like" beings. One of the American monks explained the meanings of the deity statues around the shrine hall. They were very involved in worshiping in that way.
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Nemo » Sat May 26, 2012 3:11 am

Huseng, thanks for your time in making that thoughtful post.

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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Nighthawk » Sat May 26, 2012 9:04 pm

I feel without the assistance of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we are all pretty much screwed. There's no question though it takes a lot of blind faith to believe in a lot of these figures due to no historical evidence of their existence. In contrast, it is much easier for Christians to believe in Jesus as there is much proof for his existence.
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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 27, 2012 2:50 pm

Nighthawk wrote:I feel without the assistance of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we are all pretty much screwed. There's no question though it takes a lot of blind faith to believe in a lot of these figures due to no historical evidence of their existence. In contrast, it is much easier for Christians to believe in Jesus as there is much proof for his existence.



There is plenty of historical evidence for their existence. We can also see some real life examples:

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Re: Buddhism and Deities

Postby Son » Sun May 27, 2012 10:14 pm

Huseng wrote:
Nighthawk wrote:I feel without the assistance of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we are all pretty much screwed. There's no question though it takes a lot of blind faith to believe in a lot of these figures due to no historical evidence of their existence. In contrast, it is much easier for Christians to believe in Jesus as there is much proof for his existence.



There is plenty of historical evidence for their existence. We can also see some real life examples:

Image



Exactly Huseng. Thank you.
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