Religion: ‘God’ according to Buddhist teachings…


bFrom RON EPSTEIN
Ukiah
SFSU

According to Buddhist teachings, the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not the One God, the Creator, nor is he omnipotent and omniscient. However, Buddhism does not deny his existence or the existence of his heaven.

There is no creator and there are no creations.
It is only from karma and thoughts that things are produced.
How can we know it is that way?
Because other than that there isn’t anything at all.

(FAS)

“Most religions say that there is a ruler who rules over all the ten thousand things between heaven and earth, who is the creator, and that the ten thousand matters and things are his creation. But in actual fact there is no one who can control all the ten thousand matters and things. Therefore, the Flower Adornment Sutra says, ‘There is no creator and there are no creations.’ How does it all come about then? ‘It is only from karma and thoughts that things are produced.’ Everything exists because one gives rise to doubts, creates karma, and undergoes retribution. From where does karma arise? It is created from false thinking. The very beginning, the lack of enlightenment, is ignorance. Because of ignorance, confusion and doubt arise. If there were no ignorance, there would be no confusion and doubt. Having confusion and doubt, one produces false thought. Having false thought, one creates all kinds of karma. In creating karma, if you plant good causes, you reap good effects. If you plant bad causes, you reap bad effects. If you plant causes which are neither good nor bad, you reap a retribution which is neither good nor bad. And so of all things which happen to people, there is none which is not of their own creation. No one tells them to create these things. No one controls them. They create them all themselves. Therefore, the reason you cannot get off the turning wheel of birth and death is that you follow the karma you create. According to your karma you receive your retribution. Birth after birth, death after death, death after death, birth after birth.

“‘How can we know it is that way? Because other than that there isn’t anything at all.’ If you depart from this doctrine, there isn’t another doctrine which can explain the way things are. For instance, if it were as other religions explain it, that we are controlled by a God, since there is a God in control, it has nothing to do with us at all. If in every situation we are being controlled by someone, then whether we do good or bad has nothing to do with us. But when the time comes to undergo the retribution, it is we ourselves who must undergo it. That is unprincipled.

“That is why it is explained as being our own karma. For instance, if there is a person who goes and tells another person to commit a murder, although the murderer commits an offense, half the offense lies with the one who told him to do it. If we say that God controls us, that in all matters it is God who rules, then half of the karmic offenses we create should be God’s. If it is not like that, and instead, of the things he tells us to do, those with merit belong to him and those with offenses are ours, that would be unreasonable.

“What one creates has nothing to do with anyone else. If you yourself do good deeds, then you receive a reward. If you do bad things, then you undergo retribution. That is reasonable. And so in every move we make we are certainly not being controlled by any God. If we really were being controlled by God, then he should not tell us to do all kinds of evil things. We should do all kinds of good things in order for it to be right, because God does not want people to do evil. If he doesn’t have the ability to govern right and wrong, and yet the offenses we create are ours and the merit we accrue reverts to him, that is totally illogical.

“And so we people don’t have any other person controlling us nor is there any God controlling us. It is our karma and false thinking which controls us. What proof is there of this? Take a look. If there were someone controlling us then what we do every day should be decided, but on the contrary whatever we want to do we do as we please. If people had a God controlling them, then all living beings should have a God controlling them. And in controlling them, he should teach them to do good things; he should not teach them to do bad things. And so why would God make a cat? Why would he make a mouse? Why does the cat like to eat mice? Why does the mouse like to steal things? From this it can be seen that it is all their own karma that has caused them to undergo the retributions.

“Take fish for example. They can swim wherever they want in the water. They are also very independent. But fish in the water are not aware of the water. They consider it their world. People in the air are not aware of the air. People live in the air, but they don’t even see it. To them it is invisible. That is the same way fish are in water. This all because whatever karma you create causes you to undergo that retribution. It certainly is not the case that there is a God controlling you. Nor is there a Buddha telling you what to do. Buddhas don’t pay attention to such small matters. Bodhisattvas also don’t pay attention. How much the less would a God be able to watch over you.” (FAS, lecture Oct. 5-6, 1975)
~~

9 Comments

I owe my life to Buddhist monks protecting me as I did my work with war wounded Vietnamese children. More times than I can be aware of they interceded to protect my life. Therefore, I can not carry a critique of Buddhism, even if it would be helpful. Let me just remind folks that Burma and Sri Lanka are simultaneously the most religiously Buddhist of countries and the worst violators of human rights. All religions have feet of clay.

herb

    Or you could say that the violators of human rights in Burma and Sri Lanka are no more followers of the Buddha than the crusaders were followers of Jesus.

Yes of course, Ron. Hierarchical structures always succumb to the same sort of senescence where human dry rot and parasites stake out the cover of God to do their dirtiest work. From my reading of early Christianity it was very decentralized and varied by community. There was no standard scripture. But it was popular enough for Constantine to co-opt and standardize so as to bring a peoples movement back under control of the State. Long after the passing of the Empire the Church in Rome still has the same imperialist behavior.

Numerous religions abjure hierarchy for just these reasons. The Society of Friends, for instance.

Honesty turns out to be hard to sustain in large hierarchical structures, regardless of ideology or religious belief. Honesty is a must on the spiritual journey.

ybera

Buddhist Philosophy July 22, 2013 at 1:44 pm

If there is a God, he or she is in a position to control something or someone. So are certain people in the “real” world we inhabit, in a position to control others. Some of those people do good things, others not so good, sometimes (in fact, mostly) these leaders do both good and bad. All of this affects the world in profound ways. As we are all impacted, so are the perpetrators, or “controllers”. Thus, their own deeds reflect back on them. Does this pertain to God? According to Buddhist philosophy, even a god is subject to disintegration, according to past deeds. Only through profoundly good deeds can a god continue as such.

All is illusion and impermanence. But, without illusion there is no form. Without form there is no experience of being. Therefore, the conscious spirit chooses to believe in those illusions that have beneficent effects. All else is derivative of this irony of conscious existence and it is the basic motivation for so many to wisely choose unconsciousness.

My encounters with Buddhist philosophy were first with the grey robed monks of rural Viet Nam who would guide me and shelter me in my searches through the war torn regions of Viet Nam looking for surviving families of war wounded children who would be soon returning from US hospitals, repaired and rehabilitated and ready to be targets again. Theirs was a very simple and practical philosophy. The Dharma Path of Right Everything first, philosophical speculation later.

Accepting ourselves as we are is as humbling as it gets. If one chooses to believe that ignorance is at the root of all suffering and one also believes that the ultimate goal is to return in an incarnation set to confront and heal ignorance, then there is the irony that such spirits will return to roles and places in deepest ignorance. I am guessing that the US is a preferred destination for Bodhisattvas these days. What a wild and wonderful place this is. Having grown my in consciousness in the midst of war I look around and all I see is war. Economic war. Class war. Ideological war. Religious war. Etc. Etc. Etc. All the while the great mass of people continue to believe in fantasies of safety and security. Weird. Struggle to the top. Be The Man (or more rarely The Woman). Nice guys finish last.

We live in a Hobbesian world of “war of each against all” papered over with an artificial reality constructed with electric visions. Amazing.

Yet in the midst of all this wildness and chaos, spiritual growth ironically becomes ever more possible as chaos creates openings in consciousness for actual experience to enter and push aside the programed artificial version of the world we inherited from our families. What a wonderful time to be alive.

There is a Buddhist story, that I am sure I am not giving justice to, that goes: One day the Buddha was confronted by some Brahmans to say if he was God. He said no. Then they wanted to know if he spoke for God. Again no. Then they angrily demanded to know what exactly he thought he was. He answered, “Awake.”

We are on a great boat on a tumultuous sea and only a few of us have oars.

ybera

“If you depart from this doctrine, there isn’t another doctrine which can explain the way things are.” & “if it were …that we are controlled by a God, … That is unprincipled.”
However this is also wrong: If we are suffering the effects of karma, but are not aware of the deeds that created the karma then that, too, is unprincipled.
The only philosophy that makes sense is: There are no gods, there is no karma, and things just happen. We can despair that there is nothing and no-one controlling us, and that we are here for a brief instant and then disappear forever, or we can seize the moment and choose to leave a better world behind us.

Eloquent position Rick.

I choose to believe that, if there is some sort or number of Gods, that my existence is so obscure in the context of the Universe that it would feel like being importune to have an opinion about their/his/hers/its/whatever’s existence, much less their/his/hers/its/whatever’s description or specifications. I would feel foolish. Therefore I avoid the issue, to my mind, responsibly.

ybera

‘There are no gods, there is no karma, and things just happen. We can despair that there is nothing and no-one controlling us, and that we are here for a brief instant and then disappear forever”. That sure sound like a belief to me since, as Herb explained, there is no way you can prove it. Admitting that I don’t and can’t intellectually know one way or the other seems wiser to me. Now, direct experience is another thing, likely personal and beyond easy description other than poetically. The world is a very mysterious place, both inside and out.

    Don’t you know it. Turns out that near death experiences are common in children if you look. I had one such when I was ten. The experience of that has left me head bowed to the floor in witness to an inscrutable enormity ever since. Beyond direct experience is madness. Yet we live with this story machine in our heads that keeps churning out attractive illusion. If it should finally be proven that there is a God then that God has a very severe sense of humor. Any story, to the story brain, is better than the chilling truth that there is no story. Don’t tell the children. It will frighten them.

    y

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