Thursday, June 19, 2008

Buddhism Is Nontheistic Not Atheistic

Buddhism Is Nontheistic Not Atheistic Image
WQ edit of Wikipedia entry ("nontheism")God and gods do not figure prominently in the Dharma. Whether they exist or not, the Dharma remains the same: The problem (DUKKHA) remains the same. The CAUSE of the problem remains the same. The solution remains the same (NIRVANA). The PATH to nirvana remains the same. In that sense, Buddhism is nontheistic. It is entirely incorrect to say that it is atheistic or agnostic.

Although Buddhism has a vast number of scriptures and practices, the fundamental core teachings of Buddhism -- the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path -- are distinguished in the world of religion for not having any mention of God(s) or any notion of worship of any deity. These truths are not dependent on the existence or will of a higher being.

They are purely ethical and meditative guidelines based on the truths of impersonality, unsatisfactoriness, and impermanence. These are the Three Marks of Existence. Since the time of the Buddha, the refutation of the existence of a "Creator God" has been seen as a key point in distinguishing Buddhist from non-Buddhist views (Ref). There is, nevertheless, a great deal of talk about MahaBrahma (a great superior being who may boast or adopt the false view that IT -- not he or she since such beings, and there are more than one, have transcended sexual dimorphism -- is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, the alpha and the omega, and so on).

The Buddha said that many subtle beings-of-light, "godlings" or "gods" (devas), exist. But he portrayed them as mortal and deluded much like other beings. He did not center the Dharma (Teachings) around deities of any kind, but instead around the elimination of dukkha (a multivalent term encompassing ill, unsatisfactoriness, woe, or suffering) and the attaining of freedom from all suffering (nirvana).

Although the Buddha affirmed a positive belief in the "existence" of deities (devata), he encouraged people to be virtuous and thus attain the status of devas rather than encouraging the worship of them, a common practice in India to this day. They should be recalled ("deva-anussati"), brought to mind, their virtues ("kusala-"karma) emulated, and rebirths comparable to them gained. Some "devas" are earthbound nature beings, others live as extraterrestrials, and yet others are exalted and reside in high celestial worlds. Most are themselves, however, not liberated. Like other unenlightened beings, they are reborn again and again in the cycle of Samsara. A few, however, are enlightened to some degree, such as Sakka and "devas" residing in the Pure Abodes "(suddhavasa")"."

The question of an actual "Creator God," however, was answered by Buddha in the Brahmajala Sutta. The Buddha dismissed the view that there is such a being responsible for everything that happens. Such notions are related to the false view ("miccha-ditthi") of eternalism and run counter to freewill and choice. Like the 61 other views mentioned in the discourse, belief in such a being causes suffering when one is attached to it and relates to it with desire, aversion, and/or delusion. At the end of the discourse the Buddha states that he is familiar with these 62 prevalent views and he also knows the truth that surpasses them.

Elsewhere the Buddha states that he is personally acquainted with light beings more exalted than the sun and stars (MN 79.11). These "brahmas" and "devas" would surely qualify as "gods" in the Greek and popular sense of the word. However, they do not affect Buddhism. Whether they exist or not, intervene or not, boast or not, there is still SUFFERING, a CAUSE of suffering, and END OF SUFFERING, and a PATH to the end of suffering.

* God in Buddhism

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