Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

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Johnny Dangerous
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Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

There are a lot of these out there. I've found that Facebook groups in particular are full of "experts" with all kinds of dubious ideas about Dharma, but I was reminded of one particular myth I've seen often, it goes something like this:
some guy on an FB Buddhist group wrote:it is bunk that The Buddha did not acknowledge a Creator, he only refused to debate the subject!!
So, anyone who has put much time into Buddhism knows the above is patently false, but I have heard it a bunch. I think I've even seen Sadhguru or some other Hindu guru types say it. I mean, I guess that someone could argue that since Buddha acknowledged Brahma he "acknowledged a creator", but that leaves out some major context, to say the least, lol.


Does anyone know if this myth has a particular origin?
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Ayu »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Sun Mar 03, 2024 4:50 am ...
Does anyone know if this myth has a particular origin?
I read it years ago in a Palicanon-based discussion. I cannot figure out the source anymore.
But the evidence was given due to one PC sutta, where the Buddha said neither Yes or No to the question, if God exists. (I think, that's the usual polite way to handle that question, if you're speaking with a god seeker.)

I'm sorry, I cannot reproduce this correctly from my memory. At least I agree, the textual source is not clear enough to make the idea a firm fact.

There are some more myths, people were trying to create as facts by endless online discussions, like:
- karma wasn't valid due to emptiness (this is clearly wrong),
- unwholesome, unethical deeds were pure due to pure view,
- a Mahayana aspirant gives up enlightment in order to stay on earth and help the suffering beings. Which is a complete misunderstanding. Giving up Nirvana is not giving up Bodhicitta.

All these horses have been beaten to death already. Some people believe, the assumptions are facts.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Queequeg »

On reddit, there are often these posts labeled Dharma Talks. smh. Like there was one glorifying self-immolation and relating it to the fire sermon. Just some really bad ideas out there. More specific examples don't come to mind, but next time I see one, I'll share it here.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by DNS »

Quite a few references in the Pali Canon about there being no creator-god. See this long thread over at DWT:
https://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=24247
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Genjo Conan »

Was the original from the conversation with Vacchagotta, maybe?
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Genjo Conan wrote: Sun Mar 03, 2024 5:04 pm Was the original from the conversation with Vacchagotta, maybe?
There are a few suttas regarding Vacchagotta where the Buddha explains to Ananda that Vacchagotta is “bewildered” and that answering either yes or no to various questions of existence will only confuse him further.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

So with regards to the OP, the Buddha did not endorse the view of a creator. The whole idea contradicts dependent arising. But there are sutras where he is more or less acknowledging that this is part of people’s samsaric reality.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by It'sYa1UPBoy »

I imagine a good portion of the "the Buddha didn't deny theism" stuff comes from universalists wanting to fit the Buddha neatly into their idea that all religious leaders teach about the same god--- like Hindus who say he was an incarnation of Vishnu, or Baha'is who say that the Buddha was a theist because Baha'u'llah said he was a Manifestation of God. Another portion, of course, is probably from people who can't comprehend the idea of a non-theistic religion and thinks we "worship Buddha" and just replace "God" with "Buddha" and "Heaven" with "Nirvana". These sorts conveniently ignore, if they know of it, that the Buddha didn't want to confuse and distress Vacchagotta, which affirming theism and atman wouldn't do.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by yagmort »

just to note that i have talked to 2 eastern orthodox chirstians and they told me they have no idea of god as an entity. also, there is the video of Lex Fridman interview with the catholic bishop where he literally says: "god is not an entity". so i think the whole idea of some ultimate entity, a father figure, which created existence attributed to chirstianity is a misconception. after all, Buddha lived some 500 years prior to Christ. could be different when it comes to islam and judaism.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by It'sYa1UPBoy »

Well, if you think that the creator deity is a false conception, you're certainly in good company here, yagmort!

As for what various individual Christians believe... There's a stark difference between what individual practitioners might believe and what their leaders teach as the orthodox beliefs. (Like any religion, really.) I wouldn't say that a non-entity God is orthodox Christian belief--- the Bible very much speaks of God the Father as an immortal, eternal entity which created the world, and Christian teachings from the religion's inception have, more often than not (that we know of) affirmed this sentiment. (Of course, there are many writings from competing "heresies" that have been lost to time, some of which may very well have spoken of God as a non-entity.)
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Grigoris »

yagmort wrote: Mon Mar 04, 2024 4:12 pmjust to note that i have talked to 2 eastern orthodox chirstians and they told me they have no idea of god as an entity.
Come to Greece, and I will introduce you to a few million Greek Orthodox Christians that believe that God is an entity.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by climb-up »

There are many Christianities. Sometimes my kids ask me questions about Christianity and what Christians believe (which is so surreal to me still that, not having grown up Christian, they don't know) and I always have to preface any answer I give that there 27 bajillion Christian sects (more or less, if you round up) and many have very different understandings of things, not to mention that many Christians believe things that are not part of their particular sect's official doctrine (Daphne La Hechicera talks eloquently, for example, on the faith of (many, though not all) Mexicans being a simultaneous deep belief in Catholicism, and rejection of any authority of the official church).
Certainly many Christians believe in a god as a dualistic, separate creator entity, and many who might not view "him" as an entity separate from the universe, but definitely as an eternally existing being. In Sunday school I remember being taught that all existence was God (or, at least, that God was present in all creation; we didn't get into the finer points), but was also a real being who we could pray to and communicate with.

One thing that confuses a lot on non-Christians, so I've been told, is the trinity and as three co-existing eternal persons, existing as one God.
In terms of the finer points of that, here are a few simple analogies! :rolling: :rolling: :rolling:
(I know it isn't 100% related, but it is a funny video, and maybe a little relevant)
"Death's second name is 'omnipresent.' On the relative truth it seems we become separate. But on the absolute there is no separation." Lama Dawa
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by climb-up »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Sun Mar 03, 2024 4:50 am There are a lot of these out there. I've found that Facebook groups in particular are full of "experts" with all kinds of dubious ideas about Dharma, but I was reminded of one particular myth I've seen often, it goes something like this:
some guy on an FB Buddhist group wrote:it is bunk that The Buddha did not acknowledge a Creator, he only refused to debate the subject!!
So, anyone who has put much time into Buddhism knows the above is patently false, but I have heard it a bunch. I think I've even seen Sadhguru or some other Hindu guru types say it. I mean, I guess that someone could argue that since Buddha acknowledged Brahma he "acknowledged a creator", but that leaves out some major context, to say the least, lol.


Does anyone know if this myth has a particular origin?
I keep trying to think where I first read this. I kind of feel like Lama Surya Das might have said it (I could be wrong about that), and I even feel like I saw it mentioned in a Buddhist magazine article on Buddhists and believing in God. Wherever it was it was definitely cited as being one of the 10 unanswered questions (which it isn’t). Perhaps some early translations were misunderstood? 🤷🏻‍♂️
It would be very interesting to find out where it started.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by yagmort »

Grigoris wrote: Mon Mar 04, 2024 7:47 pm Come to Greece, and I will introduce you to a few million Greek Orthodox Christians that believe that God is an entity.
you sure? because one of the guys i inquired was a monk at mount Athos for 6 years.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

yagmort wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 3:44 am
Grigoris wrote: Mon Mar 04, 2024 7:47 pm Come to Greece, and I will introduce you to a few million Greek Orthodox Christians that believe that God is an entity.
you sure? because one of the guys i inquired was a monk at mount Athos for 6 years.
Are you sure they were sharing your definition of entity?

Part of the doctrine of all the Abrahamic religions is God consciously creating the cosmos, how could a non-entity do that?
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by yagmort »

well the gist of my question was about ultimate being.
like there are microorganisms, insects, plants, animals, humans, dolphins, angels, archangels etc up until that ultimate being which creates everything.

my question was: "hey, in christianity, do you have any fixed, dogmatic definition of god? so any newcomer can open a book and read: "God is...". it seemed the question made the guy cringe somewhat. he told me that the God is a mystery which is unveiled to each by the grace of God as the response to aspirations, prayers and practice. it is therefore the knowledge/experience which is very intimate to each and cannot be obtained through books. from what i understand the guy was hesychasm follower, which is mystical christianity at the core of eastern orthodox christianity. so maybe they got it different from the lay people.
the other guy said they haven't been taught of god as an ultimate being and the easiest way to say would be "God is Love". unless we have our definitions different, love is not an entity. there is the book related to this subject names "The Cloud of Unknowing".

as i mentioned, later i stumbled upon this video of Lex Fridman and the bishop, who says "god is not an entity" which corresponds pretty well with what i heard from these monks i asked.
here's the link (with timecode) if anyone want to hear it for themselves


what lay christians people believe may be some other things altogether.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Grigoris »

yagmort wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 3:44 am
Grigoris wrote: Mon Mar 04, 2024 7:47 pm Come to Greece, and I will introduce you to a few million Greek Orthodox Christians that believe that God is an entity.
you sure? because one of the guys i inquired was a monk at mount Athos for 6 years.
Dude. I was brought up in a religious minded Greek Orthodox Christian family. Went to Sunday school. Served as an altar boy and was seriously considering becoming a priest.

I live in Greece, surrounded by professed Greek Orthodox Christians.

I am sure.

The former monk LEFT the monastic community of Mt Athos, I am sure his beliefs/realisation would have played a role in his desicion.
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"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by yagmort »

he was still a monk, just no longer on mount Athos.
anyways, i got my answers from 3 separate people, 2 eastern orthodox monks and 1 catholic bishop.
i guess christians dont have uniform beliefs? bummer)
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by PeterC »

yagmort wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 5:18 am as i mentioned, later i stumbled upon this video of Lex Fridman and the bishop, who says "god is not an entity" which corresponds pretty well with what i heard from these monks i asked.
here's the link (with timecode) if anyone want to hear it for themselves
From a theologian, that was a rather curious non-definition of 'god'. A mystic's definition could get away with a lot of hand-waving, but really a theologian should be able to offer something better?

Anyway, I would suspect the "Buddha didn't deny a creator god but just refused to discuss it" comes from a misreading of the famous MN72. He specifically says that other religions don't lead to liberation in DN21, and several other places.

The unique teaching of the Buddha, which other systems do not hold, is interdependent origination. Nobody ever talks about that, though.
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by Grigoris »

yagmort wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 9:16 am he was still a monk, just no longer on mount Athos.
anyways, i got my answers from 3 separate people, 2 eastern orthodox monks and 1 catholic bishop.
i guess christians dont have uniform beliefs? bummer)
Gee... 3 people out of 2.4 billion expressed a particular view. Sounds to me like a solid basis to draw a conclusion. I mean, why would you bother with commonly accepted dogma to understand what the vast majority of Christians think, correct?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde
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Re: Silly but persistent pop-culture myths about Buddhism.

Post by yagmort »

Grigoris wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 9:48 am Gee... 3 people out of 2.4 billion expressed a particular view.
don't equate yourself with 2.4 billion people. so far that's 3 vs your opinion

Grigoris wrote: Tue Mar 05, 2024 9:48 am why would you bother with commonly accepted dogma to understand what the vast majority of Christians think, correct?
i was interested to hear what qualified representatives of christianity have to say about my questions. wasnt really interested what lay people think or believe. so far i got the impression the answers i got is not commonly accepted dogma, after all.
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