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The Buddha Was NOT Silent On God and Metaphysics

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Tathagata, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. Tathagata

    Tathagata Freethinker

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    It seems that is has been discussed briefly before, but I want to clarify this once and for all. Many have claimed Buddha was Agnostic and some went so far as to say he was Theistic, with no scriptural evidence to back this up whatsoever. My position is that Buddha was Atheistic and in some cases, Anti-Theistic, but never Agnostic or Theist.

    The Buddha's Direct Words from Scripture on the Subject of God

    Buddha:
    "Others think that God is free creator of all things; clinging to these foolish notions, there is no awakening." [Lankavatara Sutra]

    Buddha
    : "All such notions [of a] ...personal soul, Supreme Spirit, Sovereign God, Creator, are all figments of the imagination and manifestations of mind." [Lankavatara Sutra]

    Buddha: “This position rises the question of a first cause which the philosophers meet by asserting that their first cause, God and the primal elements, are un-born and un-annihilate; which position is without evidence and is irrational.” [
    Lankavatara Sutra]

    Buddha:
    "In this same class the disciples are the earnest disciples of other faiths, who clinging to the notions of such things as, the soul as an external entity, Supreme Atman, Personal God, seek a [belief] that is in harmony with them. ...But none of these, earnest though they be, have gained an insight into the truth of the twofold egolessness and are, therefore, of limited spiritual insights as regards deliverance and non-deliverance; for them there is no emancipation. They have great self-confidence but they can never gain a true knowledge of Nirvana." [Lankavatara Sutra]

    Buddha: "
    The doctrine of the Tathagata-womb is disclosed in order to awaken philosophers from their clinging to the notion of a Divine Atman as transcendental personality, so that their minds that have become attached to the imaginary notion of "soul" as being something self-existent, may be quickly awakened to a state of perfect enlightenment." [Lankavatara Sutra]

    Buddha: "Is it true that you hold that whatever a person experiences is all caused by a Supreme Being's act of creation? Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a Supreme Being's act of creation. A person is a thief, unchaste, a liar, a divisive speaker, a harsh speaker, an idle chatterer, greedy, malicious, a holder of wrong views because of a Supreme Being's act of creation. "When one falls back on creation by a Supreme Being as being essential, there is no desire [motivation], no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my second righteous refutation of those priests & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views." [Tittha Sutta]

    Buddha:
    "Others see the eternally of things in the conception of Nirvana as the absorption of the finite-soul in the supreme Atman; or who see all things as a manifestation of the vital-force of some Supreme Sprit to which all return; and some, who are especially silly, declare that there are two primary things, a primary substance and a primary soul, that react differently upon each other and thus produce all things from the transformations of qualities; some think that the world is born of action and interaction and that no other cause is necessary;" [Lankavatara Sutra]


    Buddha's Discourse On God, the Absolute, the First Cause, and the Nature of Reality

    From the Culla Vagga of the Tipitika:

    "After taking his seat Anathapindika expressed a desire to hear a discourse on some religious subject.

    "The Blessed Lord responding to his wishes raised the question, Who is it that shapes our lives? Is it God, a personal creator? If God be the maker, all living things should have silently to submit to their maker's power. They would be like vessels formed by the potter's hand. If the world had been made by God there should be no such thing as sorrow, or calamity, or sin; for both pure and impure deeds must come from him. If not, there would be another cause beside him, and he would not be the self-existent one. Thus, you see, the thought of God is overthrown.


    "Again, it is said that the Absolute cannot be a cause. All things around us come from a cause as the plant comes from the seed; how can the Absolute be the cause of all things alike? If it pervades them, then certainly it does not make them.


    "Again, it is said that the self is the maker. But if self is the maker, why did he not make things pleasing? The cases of sorrow and joy are real and objective. How can they have been made by self?


    (Note: I think he is referring to a supreme spirit/soul [like a Holy Spirit I guess] because in English, "the self" refers to the Hindu notion of a soul [atman].)


    "Again, if you adopt the argument, there is no maker, or fate in such as it is, and there is no causation, what use would there be in shaping our lives and adjusting means to an end?


    "Therefore, we argue that all things that exist are not without a cause. However, neither God, nor the Absolute, nor the self, no causeless chance, is the maker, but our deeds produce results both good and evil.


    "The whole world is under the law of causation, and the causes that act are not un-mental, for the gold of which the cup is made is gold throughout.

    ^^
    (This is a very interesting point.)

    "Let us, then, surrender the heresies of worshiping God and praying to him; let us not lose ourselves in vain speculations of profitless subtleties; let us surrender self and all selfishness, and as all things are fixed by causation, let us practice good so that good may result from our actions."


    [Culla Vagga 6:2]


    (Note: For those who think the word "God" wasn't in his vocabulary, the Sanskrit/Pali words for God are "Ishvara" and "Brahma" referring to God/Supreme Being/Lord/Creator/First cause, etc.)

     
    #1 Tathagata, Jul 31, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
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  2. dogsgod

    dogsgod Well-Known Member

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  3. Breathe

    Breathe Hostis humani generis

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    Your position, yes. Until you are an ordained monk or enlightened, I will regard your view as only your view, whether it is an educated and scripturally based view, or not. No offence meant.

    Not really: the term of atman as we know it today in Hinduism is not the same as it was in the Buddha's time.

    "The pre-Buddhist Upanishads link the Self to the feeling "I am." Among the religious thinkers of the time, and in common usage, the concept "self" entails the notion of "I am". However, following the Buddha, later Upanishads like the Maitri Upanishad write instead that only the defiled individual self, rather than the universal self, thinks "this is I" or "this is mine"." - From Wikipedia "Atman (Hinduism)". Information itself taken from Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 34.

    "As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will stay just as it is for eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

    Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations

    37. "So teaching, so proclaiming, O monks, I have been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans: 'A nihilist[38] is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'[39]

    "As I am not as I do not teach, so have I been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans thus: 'A nihilist is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'

    "What I teach now as before, O monks, is suffering and the cessation of suffering.

    38. "A nihilist" (venayiko). Comy: satta-vinaasako, "destroyer of a being's (personality)"; a denier of individuality.
    39. "The annihilation of an existing creature" (sato sattassa ucchedam). Sub-Comy: "One who speaks of doing away with a being that has existence in the ultimate sense (paramatthato), would actually be one who teaches the destruction of a being. But I am speaking of what does not exist in the ultimate sense. I am using that (term 'being') only in the conventional sense as done in common parlance (yathaa loke voharati)."

    Alagaddupama Sutta: The Snake Simile


    I think would be good if you, for non-Buddhists, explain the difference between Buddha-nature/Tathagata Nature and the soul, and what happens when one reaches Nirvana and what, in effect, anatta entails, and how it is different from both eternalism and annihilationism, and what moves from body to body and how this is different from a soul and a self.

    You're not too clear in what you write, here.

    From Wikipedia: "Ishvara is Para Brahman endowed with innumerable auspicious qualities (Kalyana Gunas). Ishvara is perfect, omniscient, omnipresent, incorporeal, independent, creator of the world, its active ruler and also the eventual destroyer. He is causeless, eternal and unchangeable — and is yet the material and the efficient cause of the world. He is both immanent (like whiteness in milk) and transcendent (like a watch-maker independent of a watch). He is the subject of worship. He is the basis of morality and giver of the fruits of one's Karma. He rules the world with His Māyā — His divine power.". I believe the closest to the Ishvara of Buddha's day was this, and Ishvara was more an infinite and loving being - probably close to the Abrahamic concept of God.

    Brahma is the creator deity. He was popular in the Buddha's time, but he is not a popular deity of worship today. Most Hindus believe Brahma will eventually cease to exist.

    It should also be pointed out that in Buddhism there are many Brahmas. In fact, Brahma is effectively a term for a group of deities within Buddhism.
     
  4. Tathagata

    Tathagata Freethinker

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    You aren't an authority on who does and who doesn't properly understands the dharma. Being a monk isn't a requirement.

    And as Thich Nhat Hanh said: "There is no enlightenment outside of daily life."

    And since you only find the views of a monk acceptable, I can show you several venerable monks from the two most authoritative Buddhist websites confirm that Buddha was an Atheist.

    Buddhism and the God-idea

    Do Buddhist believe in god?

    My view is actually quite irrelevant when the scripture is so blaringly and blatantly clear on Buddha's position on God. So, you cannot simply call it my view. It's a fact, a fact straight from scripture.


    I don't know what your point here is, but regardless, he rejected a soul and a supreme spirit.

    "As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will stay just as it is for eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

    Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations

    Ok... I don't know what point you're stressing here.

    37. "So teaching, so proclaiming, O monks, I have been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans: 'A nihilist[38] is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'[39]

    "As I am not as I do not teach, so have I been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans thus: 'A nihilist is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'

    "What I teach now as before, O monks, is suffering and the cessation of suffering.

    38. "A nihilist" (venayiko). Comy: satta-vinaasako, "destroyer of a being's (personality)"; a denier of individuality.
    39. "The annihilation of an existing creature" (sato sattassa ucchedam). Sub-Comy: "One who speaks of doing away with a being that has existence in the ultimate sense (paramatthato), would actually be one who teaches the destruction of a being. But I am speaking of what does not exist in the ultimate sense. I am using that (term 'being') only in the conventional sense as done in common parlance (yathaa loke voharati)."

    Alagaddupama Sutta: The Snake Simile

    I don't see how this is relevant. I never called him a Nihilist.

    "The Blessed One replied: No, Mahamati, my Womb of Tathagatahood is not the same as the Divine Atman as taught by the philosophers. What I teach is Tathagatahood in the sense of Dharmakaya, Ultimate Oneness, Nirvana, emptiness, unbornness, unqualifiedness, devoid of will-effort. ...The doctrine of the Tathagata-womb is disclosed in order to awaken philosophers from their clinging to the notion of a Divine Atman as a transcendental personality, so that their minds that have become attached to the imaginary notion of a "soul" as being something self-existing, may be quickly awakened to a state of perfect enlightenment." [Lankavatara Sutra]


    I see no problem with this.

    I understand the distinction between the two, but they both have the qualities of omnipotent, omniscient, creator Gods.
     
    #4 Tathagata, Aug 1, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
  5. zenzero

    zenzero Its only a Label

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    Friends,

    Here are few articles on the subject:
    http://www.hinduwebsite.com/buddhism/essays/buddha_on_god.asp
    http://www.hinduwebsite.com/buddhism/buddhaongod.asp
    also read the links given below the articles, if you wish.
    Personal understanding is that God is or is not is a question and all questions are mind matter and Gautama's way is all about the individual's own understanding/experiencing/transcending. of the very mind itself.
    When the mind is transcended all question too are including god's are transcended.

    Love & rgds
     
    #5 zenzero, Aug 1, 2010
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  6. Breathe

    Breathe Hostis humani generis

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    You don't know whether or not I understand the dharma, since you do not know me nor my history. If I do not "properly understand the dharma" as you say, then the same could also be said for you. If not, why would you think you are any different to myself?

    Which was not written down until 500 years after Buddha lived, so there is no way to know if he truly said it, or if it is a fraud. Unfortunately.

    Plus, you have once said that you choose to follow both Theravada and Mahayana scriptures, but only Mahayana scriptures that suit you.

    That atman of today is not the atman of yesteryear.

    According to Lankavatara Sutta, yes. However, did he say that?

    Buddha denied that there was a self and that there was not, as saying there is no self is still clinging to a concept of self.

    I never said you did. It shows that Buddha was not a nihilist or an eternalist, although I do feel as though you do turn Buddhism into a more nihilistic view than what Buddha was after.

    I've never met nor heard of a Hindu who says that Brahma is omnipotent or omniscient. Brahman yes, but Brahma no.
     
  7. Anti-religion

    Anti-religion Well-Known Member

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    Buddha may be athesitc , anti-theistic or whatever , but would it only be futile to see Hindu concepts of Atman/Brahman from the viewpoint of Buddhism.
     
    #7 Anti-religion, Aug 1, 2010
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  8. Tathagata

    Tathagata Freethinker

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    You misunderstood my words. I didn't say you don't understand the dharma. I said "You aren't an authority on who properly understands the dharma." (Though, it no longer says that, I changed it to make it more clear.)

    My point is that you aren't on authority to decide who properly understands Dharma and who does not.


    The Buddha is defined by the scriptures for they are the only records we have of him. If there was another man who said things contrary to scriptures, he was not the Buddha and I probably could care less about that man.

    Perhaps it would be more appropriate to call him "Buddha, as defined by scriptures" to avoid this sort of unproductive dialogue.

    No, actually I did not say that (I guarantee you won't find a post of me saying that anywhere). I named Mahayana Sutras that I draw from the most, only because I have been primarily exposed to them. Not that I chose them selectively.


    Actually, according to nearly every Buddhist scripture on the matter. You will find that he always denied a soul (and rather angry when people asserted that he did).

    From the Tipitaka [Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta]

    Sati: "Yes, venerable sir, as I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences."

    The Buddha: "Foolish man, to whom do you know me having preached this Teaching. Haven't I told, in various ways that consciousness is dependently arisen. Without a cause, there is no arising of consciousness. Yet, you foolish man, because of your wrong grasp, blame me, destroy yourself, and accumulate much demerit."


    I know.


    In what way? I don't recall ever indicating that Buddhism is Nihilistic.


    I know, but we're talking about Brahma in Buddhism. And in Buddhist scripture in the Kevaddha Sutta it says this:

    'I am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'
     
  9. Breathe

    Breathe Hostis humani generis

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    Apologies, I just noticed it and I was about to remove that part. :D

    I never said I was. However, that doesn't change my opinion that it's only your opinion. :)

    That is true, there is nothing on him outside of his scriptures. However, how do we know they are all what he claimed? What if these are not the things he said? Then what? Siddhartha Gautama is no longer the Buddha?

    Sounds good to me.

    This is what gave me that impression:

    I apologise I've misunderstood.

    Um, I don't see this as denial of soul. I see this as denial of consciousness transmigrating, which is not the same. Buddha pointed out consciousness is not the self and is dependently originated - unless you use the term consciousness and life-force the same, although I'm not sure about the accuracy about translating viññana as life-force..

    Honestly, I don't know how to explain it. It just does seem like you make Buddhism somewhat nihilistic, for some reason. :shrug:

    [/QUOTE]
    True, but we have both established the Brahma of Buddhism is a class of devas.

    However, I get the feeling that you do not take this event as a historical one that actually happened, am I correct? Additionally, this Brahma does not seem to fit into the Hindu style of Brahma very well, either, especially my own, but that's not for this thread.
     
  10. Tathagata

    Tathagata Freethinker

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    No prob. :)

    Well, I equate Siddhartha with the Buddha. So I would also say that if there was a man who spoke contrary to scriptures he is not Siddhartha the Buddha.


    Yeah, I can see how you got that from that post. Though, I suppose my approach is twofold. The two Mahayana Sutras that I did list as ones that I primarily draw from are because they are the ones I am primarily exposed to, are in the most accessible and easiest format to read, and many other Sutras are simply hard to find on the net or elsewhere. But, I find that the two Sutras that I have found most accessible are also favorable to me, as opposed to the couple others I briefly browsed.

    "[Buddha] once said 'Only through ignorance and delusion do men indulge in the dream that their souls are separate and self-existing entities.' ...The Buddha countered all soul-theory and soul-speculation with His Anatta doctrine. Anatta is translated under various labels: No-soul, No-self, egolessness, and soullessness."

    What Buddhists Believe - Is there an Eternal Soul? (BuddhaNet)


    Well, this point here I stressed as an interesting assertion made by the Buddha:

    "The whole world is under the law of causation, and the causes that act are not un-mental, for the gold of which the cup is made is gold throughout." -- the Buddha

    It does seem that he used a negatory or nihilistic way of affirming a non-nihilistic notion. :p

    (You may find it funny that Nietzsche apparently thought Buddhism was too Nihilistic, lol.)


    Well, I find that Buddha sometimes used an ironic approach to make a point.

    As far as I've read from Wiki, Brahma is at least considered the creator of this universe (not every universe), but is a God who gets destroyed by Brahman correct?
     
    #10 Tathagata, Aug 1, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
  11. Breathe

    Breathe Hostis humani generis

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    But if Siddhartha the Buddha did not author these sayings and spoke contrary to them, and they were attributed to him falsely (either intentional or unintentional) would he still be the Buddha? Would you put faith in his teachings, or the teachings you know today?

    Ahh, I see. :) No worries, then. Can you elaborate on the last sentence, though?

    What is the term used in the original text here, for separate and self-existing? What did the Buddha mean that their souls are separate and self-existing entities? Self-existing from what? From matter? From mind? From samsara?

    How does anatta fit with Buddha-nature, though, and who goes to Nirvana? I don't like the term of 'no-soul' or 'soullnessness', though. Egolessness seems like a nice term. Soullessness I don't like, and selflessness wouldn't work, although it sounds kind of sweet. :D

    Speaking of anatta, what atman was he denying? The Hindu "I am" or the Jain one? Any idea?

    Would you kindly elaborate upon this more?

    :D

    Hehe, really? I've not really read anything from Nietzsche as I'm not a fan of nihilism. If you've read anything from him, is there anything you would suggest reading?

    Agreed. :)

    Something like that. It can vary from school to school as Hinduism is a very diverse faith.

    From my own, leaning towards Advaita perspective (although I've not totally decided on my philosophy, it leans closest to Dvaitadvaita or Vishishtadvaita, if not Advaita): the gods are just roles, manifestations, personalities, aspects--that are anthromorphised--of the One, who, what is beyond terms, names, or description - it is everything, in the same way everything is seen as empty in Buddhism, everything is the One in my opinion. I'd say it is consciousness, but to a Buddhist it implies viññana, which I don't think is accurate. If I'm correct, the term is turiya/chaturtha, but I don't know for certain if this is the right term. That's cutting my views short though, since it's off topic. :)
     
    #11 Breathe, Aug 1, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
  12. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    A little off topic, but Nietzsche wrote virtually the same thing about the same mistake of western philosophy in Will to Power.




     
  13. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    I get the distinct impression that he was only critiquing Buddhism from a second-hand or more popular representation of it rather than examining the writings himself. I suspect his interest in Buddhism was mainly because of Schopenhauer's, but that he never really took the time to read and understand it to see how similar it was to what he was writing about.
     
  14. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    Though in defense of those who may lack understanding, everything I know about Buddhism I learned from watching "Dharma and Greg."
     
  15. YmirGF

    YmirGF Bodhisattva

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    What I am interested in is why, exactly, Buddha's view is more important than yours, Odion's or Tathagata's. (Spoiler: There is a lot more to that statement than the casual reading may understand. I am so very wicked....) :D
     
    #15 YmirGF, Aug 1, 2010
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  16. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    To the extent that it is (which is in fact not that much), because more people will attempt to reconstitute and emulate it.

    Of course, at least by the current understanding of the Pali Canon, that view emphasizes the need to be one's own reference, so there is a bit of inherent contradiction in making too big a point of knowing what Siddhartha Buddha said. As a matter of fact, such respected Buddhist leaders as Bodhidharma basically chose not to care too much.
     
  17. Guitar's Cry

    Guitar's Cry Verisimilitudinous

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    Good point! Each individual must find their own enlightenment that fits their worldview.

    I actually tend towards Hinduism more than Buddhism in my own personal research because I find the former to be traditionally more open to interpretation. Buddhism suggests a more "straight and narrow" approach whereas I find the mystical depth of Hinduism intoxicating, and the ritual traditions highly artistic and subject to creative personalization.

    But then, this is a Westerner's approach to these traditions and may be somewhere in left field (hehe).

    How does this fit the OP? Hinduism can be interpreted in both atheistic (Gods and Self as illusions that ripple from Brahman--the Ultimate Reality) or theistic. Buddhism can as well, though Tathagata's point is very well taken when it comes to his namesake's view of God and Self.

    It's all perspective.
     
  18. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    To them, there's is the only important one.
    Though mine is by far the best of the aforementioned.*




    *This claim was independently verified in a J.D. Power satisfaction survey in 2009, (MOE +- 100%)
     
  19. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Advocate of letting go of theism. Buddhist with an emphasis on personal understanding.
    Love that MOE +/- 100% bit. One can't get more truthful than that. :)
     
  20. Anti-religion

    Anti-religion Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
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    1,411
    Ratings:
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    Buddhism is more against the notion of "Creator God" and "Seperate Self/Soul" ...I have highlighted my points on the post affirming the same.

    Now idea of self is very clearly put forth Mahaparinirvana Sutra



    My point is one must come with correct definition of "God /Soul " (certain traditions do have non-creationist god ),to say that whether Buddhism is atheistic/thesitic.To say that atheistic view alone is correct only narrows down scope of the religion.
     
    #20 Anti-religion, Aug 2, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
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