Ask A Buddhist II

The first thread was so much fun. I feel we have formed a true ecumenical community of friendship so let’s continue on.

Does anyone want to Ask A Buddhist about the dhamma? Even if it was covered on the other thread, I am sure Bakmoon, Rossum and others will be glad to go over anything again that someone might of missed in the 72 pages of the other thread.

There are many topics that haven’t been covered that may be interesting to discuss.

I’m going to start with a very basic question. Sorry if this had already been asked :blush:

Is Buddhism a religion or an atheist spirituality blend? Most people I know who became atheists were attracted to Buddhism because, according to them, it is a philosophy and not a religion, but apparently from what I could read from the previous thread, Buddhism has all ingredients of a religion.

Thank you for your reply.

Minichibi, Alan Watts has a book entitled “Buddhism, the Religion of no Religion.” Also, in many instances Buddhism resembles psychological therapy. However, there are elements that do make it into a religion of sorts. So, the answer to your question is - it is and it is not. It all depends what aspect of it you’re wondering about.

Are there any miracles associated with the Buddhist faith to indicate support of this same faith from the Creator?

I find those terms to be very vague.

When atheists say that Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion, I don’t know what they’re really saying. Does that mean philosophy doesn’t involve supernatural stuff? Yet philosophy is full of the supernatural and Buddhism is full of the supernatural as well. Do they mean that a philosophy is something you loosely adhere to and a religion is an organised body that you sign up to? Yet, philosophy is something that many people stick to ‘religiously’, because philosophy is close to their heart. And Buddhism has its organised body as well, the Sangha.

So when people say that sort of stuff to you, I’d encourage you to ask them what they precisely mean by philosophy and religion. There is something about those two terms that attracts and repels atheists, and it’d be interesting to see why.

Of course, in the end, they’re all just empty labels. Does it matter what Buddhism is called?

Buddhism without practice is just blather. The same goes for any religion or philosophy.

Buddhism is a religion without a creation story or creator god. There are non-human beings called devas, but they are mortal and die. This word is translated as “god” but devas are not gods in the Western sense of the word. Buddhism talks about rebirth and its causes so there is an “afterlife” teaching. Rebirth makes Buddhism a religion.

There is no part of Buddhism that must be taken on blind faith. If one doesn’t understand a concept one is free to put it aside and work on other aspects. One can revisit difficult concepts again and again over the space of years. Since one is not obligated to profess a faith, Buddhism is a moral philosophy.

For one to study and practice seriously one does have to have confidence that the effort is worth while. One has to have confidence that the teachings will lead to happiness. As one puts the teachings into practice, the confidence grows and deepens. But for atheists, there is a whole pile of woo to figure out first. This creates what Buddha called skeptical doubt. The way to overcome it is through analysis and practical experience leading to realization. Skeptical doubt is not considered bad or condemned. It is something that is accepted and faced head on. The teachings say that it isn’t completely overcome until just prior to enlightenment; that time when knowing becomes realization.

One knows how to ride a bicycle by reading instructions. One can have doubt about the accuracy of the instructions so one has to test the instructions by actual physical effort, practice, experience. Then one realizes how to ride a bike.

It all depends on your exact definitions of terms. If you define religion as a system of beliefs and devotional practices focused on worshiping a central figure or figures, then no. If you define it more broadly, then it is a religion. I personally don’t care one way or another how you define it.



Although the ancient texts record several miracles of the Buddha, they are not prominent, and the Buddha himself rejected the idea that a belief system could be proven correct through miracles.

Buddhism rejects a belief in a creator, by the way.

I agree that such terms are often left undefined. I don’t personally care how it is classified, only that its practices work.

Good answers, and thanks for staying involved!
_/|_ Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!

Count me in again. :smiley:

Well, as others might tell you, Buddhism is not ‘atheistic’ in the Western sense (which is usually of a materialistic bent). One could argue that the term ‘atheistic’ is also slightly inaccurate since (1) while Buddhists do not believe that any god created the world, they do believe in superior god-like beings called devas (based on Vedic deities); and (2) describing Buddhism and Jainism as ‘atheistic’ in contradistinction to ‘theistic’ Brahmanism (and later, Hinduism) are incorrect translations of the Sanskrit terms astika (‘it is so’) and nastika (‘it is not so’), which does not describe whether one believes in a god or not but whether one accepts the authority of the Vedas or not.

Devas are invisible beings who live in heavenly realms but don’t respond to prayer or ritual. They are mortal and as they are dying, they hope to be reborn as human so they can practice the dhamma. This desire to be reborn as a human being sort of undercuts the idea that they are gods in the Western sense of the word or even the Vedic/Hindu sense.

patrick, :slight_smile:

Then Brahma is a deva or a god? Or not all Buddhists accept Brahma as a creator God, I understood from thread I that Brahma is often ignored because he(?) can’t help one achieve Nirvana (Nirbana?), but Brahma is the creator, is he(?) not?

Hindus consider Brahma a god in the Western sense. Buddhists do not consider him an immortal god/creator. He is a mortal deva.

Hindu/Vedics use the same or very similar terms but these terms usually have different meanings. Yes, it does get confusing if one is studing Hinduims and Buddhims at the same time.

Brahma only thinks he is the creator. He claims to be omnipotent and such, but is in fact quite deluded on this point. He is mortal and one day he will die and be reborn just like everybody else.

That’s very much alike the gnostic theology! With the Demiurge claiming to be omnipotent and such but being delusional. That sounds like a fine solution to the “why there are so many creator gods” problem.

There is a sutta where Brahma admits that he isn’t the creator. It’s late and I can’t find the sutta right now, but I’ll check in the morning.

About the word deva:

If one is talking to a Hindu or about Hindu beliefs, the word deva means immortal god who responds to prayer and offerings. Brahma is the creator god and is worshipped as God.

If one is talking to a Buddhist or about Buddhist belief, the word deve means heavenly mortal being does not respond to prayer or offerings. Brahma is a mortal deva and is not worshipped.

Thanks. You jogged my memory about that Sutta. I can’t remember which it was, but I remember there was one like that.

I believe the god Brahma is actually worshiped or venerated as part of the folk religion in Thailand as a beings to ask favors from. He is known as “Phra Phrom”.

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