Why it does not make sense to be a Buddhist and believe in God

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Dharmasherab
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Why it does not make sense to be a Buddhist and believe in God

Post by Dharmasherab »

Buddhism as we all know is a non-theistic religion. Provided that one’s conviction in the teachings of Buddhism are sincere it is not possible to follow another religion whiles following Buddhism. It goes without saying that following another religion whiles following Buddhism breaks the Refuge Vows. But let us look a more deeper as to why it is not logically, rationally or even spiritually possible to accept a theistic God whiles following Buddhism.

Before we begin let us ask ourself as to what this word ‘God’ really means especially the way most people mean when they use that term.

God means a universal spirit which creates, maintains and destroys the universe according to its will. This universal spirit (God) sends down instructions to humankind to obey and follow (Revelation) as well as decide what happens to each an every being based on their beliefs and actions (Judgement).

As for Buddhism let’s look at some core principles which are common to all forms of Buddhism and compare this with the belief of God.

Buddhism is a set of teachings/practices which help sentient beings to escape from suffering. Suffering/dissatisfaction can come in various forms. If God was all powerful and had control over all things then this should also mean that God deliberately creates our suffering. But does it make sense to follow a path to escape suffering (such as Buddhism) whiles accepting God who is meant to be the creator of all things including being the creator of our sufferings? Wouldn't it be an act of defiance in the eyes of God to avoid his suffering which he deliberately created for us by following a path to escape the suffering he was meant to give us? Could this be seen as a frustration of the will of God by denying him the chance to make us suffer when he wants to?

In the first of the 4NT which is the Truth of Suffering it says that birth is a form of suffering. If birth is a form of suffering then why do we look for the help of a creator god who caused our birth in the first place which is the reason why all our suffering began in the first place? If we are stuck in a prison and hope to escape from prison then is there any any point in hoping that the person who made the prison would be of any help? Because the biggest help such a person would have given is to not build a prison in the first place.

Buddhism is a path to escape/transcend from Samsara. But if God is the creator of all things then he is the creator of Samsara including the many different lower realms such as the different hell realms, animal realms and hungry ghost realms not to mention that there is enough suffering in this human realm already with wars and famine. Is there any point in asking for the help from the creator of Samsara, when we are actually trying to escape that?

Within the Truth of Suffering, our desires with attachments is a cause for our sufferings. Our desires can arise within us as desire for other beings, desire for the what is around us and desire for pleasurable activities just to name a few. But if one hopes to look for help towards God then why did god create all these things for us to develop desire towards? If desire is a cause of suffering as Buddhism claims, then does this mean that the God is a source of hindrance by creating objects and phenomena for us to be attached by which are obstacles to the path of our own enlightenment?

The experiences of suffering arises from the 6 sense bases of eyes (vision), ears (sound), nose (smell), tongue (taste), body (tangible sensations) and mind (mental objects). We experience stimuli which trigger our attachment through these 6 sense bases. According to theistic view, God being the creator, is also the creator of these 6 sense bases which leads us to be attached. In addition to creating things which trigger attachment God also creates our 6 sense bases through which attachment allows to take place once it reaches the mind that is covered by Moha (Ignorance). So if one was to accept the truths of Buddhism as well as accept a theistic view of God then one cannot deny thay God is also the creator of suffering.

According to the Truth of Suffering, Ignorance (Moha) is the ultimate cause behind all forms of suffering. Ignorance means not being able to see the true nature of all things which is non-self, impermanence and dissatisfaction. If God created us, then despite creating all these intricate and sophisticated creations, did he deliberately make us Ignorant so that it would allow him to make us suffer as he wishes? Or was this a failure on God’s part where he made a mistake where he forgot to make us fully aware to cut through Ignorance where it would saved billions of lives from suffering? So if the Truth of Suffering as explained in Buddhism was true, then that would imply that to accept God as a creator also means that he either a sadist by deliberately making us Ignorant or that God is incompetent as the ultimate cause of suffering was because of God’s failure where he forgot to dispel our Ignorance.

So looking back we can see that God creates suffering on three different levels. Firstly to create the objects of desire which trigger our attachment or aversion. Second to create the 6 sense bases from where we experience various forms of attachment or aversion. And finally to create a mind that is covered by ignorance (Moha) which is the root cause of suffering. Therefore for such individuals who make an attempt to incorporate the theistic God view with Buddhism it is most appropriate to consider the theistic God as Mara.

Within the N8FP there is the Right View (Samma Ditti). This is the opposite of Wrong View (Micca Ditti). The Brahmajala Sutta explains 62 different kinds of Wrong Views which blocks the path to Enlightenment. One of these Wrong Views is ‘eternalism’. A belief in an everlasting God who is all powerful is part of the eternliastic view which blocks the path to Enlightenment. The belief in a permanent God contradicts Anicca (Impermanence) of Buddhism. According to Buddhism all things in Samsara are impermanent. If there is a God which interacts with his creation then he too is a part of Samsara. If God was not part of Samsara then he would not have a reason to create a Samsara. Because Samsara is suffering. There is no suffering outside of Samsara.

For these reasons mentioned above, the view of God contradicts the core Buddhist principles of the 4NT and N8FP.

ADDENDUM

Even though Buddhism is a non-theistic religion is does not mean that Buddhism is materialistic. Materialism is also one of the Wrong Views (Micca Ditti) which did exist in Ancient India which Buddhism clearly rejects.

In Buddhism we do accept the existence of ‘spirits’ in higher realms such as Devas and Brahmas. When English translators came across these Pali/Sanskrit terms, some of them decided to use the English word ‘gods’ to describe Devas. But given that words like ‘gods’ have theistic connotations such terms were inappropriate as use of such terms did lead to some misunderstandings as to whether Buddhism was polytheistic. The Devas and Brahmas of Buddhism do not have any theistic functions. They do no create, maintain or destroy the universe at their will. They do not send revelations as instructions for humankind to obey. They do not judge humans and make decision as to where they should be sent to after they die. It is true that the Buddha did teach some Devas and Brahmas, where those beings later revealed those teachings to people (in the form of Abhidharma, Tantra and Mahayana Sutras) but this should not be mistaken for revelations which inherently arise from Devas/Brahmas because the original source of those teachings were from Buddha (speaking from a purely orientalist and non-academic viewpoint).

In Vajrayana Buddhism there are ‘deities’ (Tibetan: Yidam, Sanskrit: Ishtadeva). But Vajrayana is the tantric class of Buddhism where there is plenty of symbols which mean different things to those who are within Vajrayana and those outside of Vajrayana. As for Yidams, they are one of the Tantric methods of practice. Regardless of whether physical Yidams exist the sky or cosmos, the yidam meditation is for the purpose of helping the mind become one with the truth of emptiness. For a perfect full body visualisation of a Yidam to occur, the practitioner has to accept that she is empty as well as the Yidam being empty and non-existent according to the ultimate truth.

Buddhism also rejects the pagan view of God where God is not seen as separate but a part of his creation where it is accepted that God lives within his creation. This viewpoint contradicts the Anatta (non-self) nature of all things as well as the contradicts the Sunyata (lack of inherent existence in all things). The pagan view of God is even more contradictory to the Buddhist path much more than the Abrahamic view of God (such as in Islam, Christianity and Judaism).

The term ‘theistic Buddhist’ is an oxymoron and terms such as ‘non-theistic Buddhist’ or ‘atheistic Buddhist’ are inappropriate retronyms. As for those who say they are ‘atheist Buddhist’ because they don’t accept karma or rebirth, this an entirely different topic altogether. It’s just that denial of karma and rebirth already existed in Ancient India under materialism which the Buddha rejected. Karma and rebirth are essential parts of the Right View as explained by the N8FP and those who consider themselves ‘atheist Buddhists’ are not following a N8FP because denial of karma and rebirth nullifies the Right View.

For all the above reasons, what appears as ‘theistic’ in Buddhism are actually not theistic after all. As for theistic religions, they have good teachings too. It’s just that the theistic worldviews are incompatible with the Buddhist path and Buddhism is a non-theistic religion from the level of its core teachings.

SUMMARY

1. If a theistic God exists, then he creates the objects and phenomena which leads to our suffering.

2. If a theistic God exists, then he is the creator of our 6 sense bases through which all things are experienced for us to form attachment or aversion once those experiences reach the mind which is covered by Moha (Ignorance).

3. If a theistic God exists and if he is a competent creator, then this means he has deliberately made our minds covered with Moha (Ignorance) so that we experience suffering due to developing attachments or showing aversion. This implies that he deliberately created our minds covered with Ignorance to make us deliberately suffer which means that he is a sadist.

4. If a theistic God exists and if he is an incompetent creator, then this means that he has made our minds covered with ignorance (Moha) due his failure in creating. It brings into question whether it is worth believing in such an incompetent creator who's incompetence is the reason why all sentient beings suffer.

5. Buddhism is a non-theisitc religion. But this does not mean it is materialistic/atheistic either. The view of materialism (including the denial of karma and rebirth) did exist in Ancient India and the Buddha rejected such views. It is accepted that there are celestial beings do exist (such as Devas and Brahmas) even though in Buddhism they do not theistic functions.

6. Buddhism rejects the view that God is part of it's own creation (paganism / pantheism). This contradicts Anicca (a lack of permanent essence in any aggregated or frequently abbreviated as 'non-self') and Sunyata (the true nature of emptiness in Mahayana schools of Buddhism).

7. One requires a lot of unawareness of basic teachings in Buddhism or a lot of cognitive dissonance to hold a theistic view of God whiles accepting the truths of Buddhism. 
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Lotodelsol
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Re: Why it does not make sense to be a Buddhist and believe in God

Post by Lotodelsol »

I think that a person can start Buddhist práctice regardless of previously held beliefs...this could be a realization of práctice, I agree with your point, but personal realization of this is much better I feel... Buddhist práctice works just as physical exercise and results aren't dependent on beliefs.. they come with práctice
Naturally, morality, such as observing precepts and trying to get a básic understanding of Buddhist teachings is also important.
One should become the master of one's mind rather than let one's mind master oneself.
Riju
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Re: Why it does not make sense to be a Buddhist and believe in God

Post by Riju »

God created this universe and in the process of creation and annihilation repeatedly, He experiences the short comings in the process of creation. As a result he develops the WISDOM (BUDDHISM).
If you read the introduction chapter in Lotus sutra ......
20000 times the creation went into annihilation before WISDOM appeared and first Buddha was formed.
So Buddha system is the part of creation of God.

A true buddhist will never believe in God . His birth linage starts from EMPTINESS (MAYA). His journey will end in emptiness(nothingness). He will become one with Lotus sutra (nirvan) where all Buddhas end their journey.

Lotus sutra is the creation of God as a result of His experiences in creation. In hinduism maya means illusion.
God initially created by dividing His body, and as the creation went down to smallest particles. The cause and effect created chaos and suffering in His body when the creation got to small particles of cosmic energy.

Later on HE replaced the SELF with MAYA (EMPTINESS) . This is a mirror image of HIMSELF (Illusiion) . The sufferings now would not reach HIM. In this way he is extending the creation and then the part which is free from sufferings is followed in HIS body.

Lotus sutra given the history of extension in PHANTOM CITY (chapter 7) of EMPTINESS, till it reaches on our earth with the help of its 16th son named Guatam Buddha.
Chapter 15 EMERGING FROM THE EARTH further confirms this process of extension.

Treasure Tower Buddha (chapter 11) is the counterpart of Buddha . Both came out of EMPTINESS, same way as EMPTINESS came out of God.

Creation existed in the form of Suns and moons and later on as a result Buddhahood formed. These are the words of Guatam Buddha in the Lotus sutra. Creation is the second name of God.
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Dharmasherab
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Re: Why it does not make sense to be a Buddhist and believe in God

Post by Dharmasherab »

Lotodelsol wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 6:28 pm I think that a person can start Buddhist práctice regardless of previously held beliefs...
People are free to pick and choose which practices they like to be involved in. But that does not mean they do it with a sense of commitment. Taking Refuge in an important part of Buddhism for those who want to fully commit and surrender to the Buddha's teachings. Taking Refuge in the 3 Jewels means that one no longer takes spiritual refuge in anything or anyone else outside of the 3 Jewels. In Asian countries when people take part in belief systems as part of their ancient forklore, that may be very visible from an observer's viewpoint in a superficial manner, but the deeper sense of commitment is for Buddhism. I say this as being a Buddhism who is from an Asian country that is predominantly Buddhist.
Lotodelsol wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 6:28 pm I agree with your point, but personal realization of this is much better I feel...
The entire point of trying to follow the Buddhist teachings is for realisation. But before that one needs let go of wrong views that prevent them from realisations. Also the Buddha explains about the arising of wrong views, and not all of them are based on views outside of realisation. He criticises the wrong grasp of realisations that can arise in meditation. It shows that being developed in meditation practice doesnt make one immune from wrong views. We should forget the reason why we suffer is because of wrong views about who we are and the world around us. This is why in all forms of Buddhism there is the Right View, and following the belief of an eternal God is wrong view.
Lotodelsol wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 6:28 pm Buddhist práctice works just as physical exercise and results aren't dependent on beliefs.. they come with práctice
Before one does exercise one needs to convinced that physical exercise leads to benefit. Likewise before doing practice, one needs to understand the purpose of practice. The purpose is that the Buddha practiced himself and became Enlightened. Taking Refuge in the 3 Jewels means one believes that the Buddha was really Enlightened. If I did not believe that the Buddha was enlightened then from a Buddhist point of view, I dont have a reason to practice the practices as outlined in the Buddhist teachings. Therefore beliefs are important in the earlier stages to cut away wrong views from taking place in the mind. Then with experience when looked at that through the Right View, the faith develops even more and more. Practicing without Right View is like driving a vehicle with a pair of blindfolds on.

If belief was not required, then the Buddha would not have taught anything to do with belief. If one looks at the teachings the evidence that belief played an important part even in Early Buddhism is too strong to be ignored.
Lotodelsol wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 6:28 pm Naturally, morality, such as observing precepts and trying to get a básic understanding of Buddhist teachings is also important.
Isnt this obvious :shrug:
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Dharmasherab
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Re: Why it does not make sense to be a Buddhist and believe in God

Post by Dharmasherab »

Riju wrote: Sat Jul 24, 2021 3:14 pm God created this universe and in the process of creation ......
The creation of the Universe by Brahma is his own delusion. The Buddha explains Brahma's own delusion to him. Just like in our human realm that our delusions make us convinced that we have a solid self-identity, a delusion that exists among some Brahmas is that they believe that they created the Universe when they actually didnt.

Hinduism held onto this view, while Buddhism transcends this delusion also.

Your post is more appropriate in 'General Dharma Comparisons' because this subforum is meant to be within Buddhist schools (and not Hinduism).
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