Author Topic: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?  (Read 21735 times)

yontenjamyang

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As a Buddhist, we are always confronted with the idea of God. Is Budhha God. Why so many Buddhas but there is only one God! God created everything including us.

I would like to hear from everyone in this forum. Hope that we can have a better understanding to be able to explain to other, especially non Buddhist the idea of God in Buddhism.

triesa

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2012, 04:14:33 PM »
Thank you Yongtenjamyang for asking this question.

I was a Christian baptised when I was 1 month old. I was educated in a Christian school and my mum used to ask me to go Sunday school at the church. All these did not fascinate me and as a matter of fact, I was always the one in class who questioned the teacher, "Where did God come from? Why was there only one God? And if he is so mighty and great, I want to become like him? Can I?" The teacher never gave me a satisfactory answer and just said "God is God, he is the mighty one."

Then I would go and asked, " Why did he make some good person suffer?" The teacher would answer " Becasue God loves those and wants to test their patience." Again,  I was not contented with the answer.

So I guess you would know why I am a buddhist now, becasue Buddhism provides me with all the logical answers. If I want to be a buddha, I can be one by practising the path, the law of karma provides answers to all my questions.

Sometimes it is hard to explain to a real born again Christian that God perhaps is just a label cos in Buddhism we have the God realms which is just one of the realms of existence. It may be best to tell them, I respect your religion as long as you find solace and peace in the belief and that it propels you to do good things for the society, others and yourself.

Of course, this approach is aimed at those born again Christian whose head is a bit hard ;)

Positive Change

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2012, 09:50:39 PM »
I too like triesa was baptised a catholic when I was born and I must say, it was not a choice I would have made if I had the choice. As beautiful the bible and the teachings of catholicism are, there are for me, fundamental "flaws" in its interpretations (what can one expect if it is done by man). Two things that do not make sense for me are:

1. If there was truly one God and he loves us equally, why are we then not literally created equal? Why the disparity? Why create suffering in your own creation? Would it not be better to create complete and utter equality? Then again, that would be "boring" as hell and the question would then be why create more than one if we were all utterly identical... this never quite gelled with me from the start.

2. The Act of Contrition. Whereby in confessing one's sins one is given absolution after some recitations of prayers. Surely it cannot be as simple as that? I can steal and then go to church on Sunday, confess, say a few prayers and then I am all pure again? This made no sense to me as a child. Yes I was a strange child in that I never liked the easy way out. If there was one, I would question why this and why that.

On the other hand, the 10 commandments are beautiful interpretations of how we can live our lives without harming ourselves or others. So lets take the good and not dwell too much on the bad...

Then again let me add by saying, Catholics believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit... sounds awfully close to the 3 jewels if you ask me... ;) :P

hope rainbow

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 04:23:56 AM »
As a Buddhist, we are always confronted with the idea of God. Is Budhha God. Why so many Buddhas but there is only one God! God created everything including us.

I would like to hear from everyone in this forum. Hope that we can have a better understanding to be able to explain to other, especially non Buddhist the idea of God in Buddhism.

My thoughts on the subject:

I think we must be skillful when we discuss these questions with fellow spiritual practitioners of other faiths.
This is not about us being right or wrong, or about us winning a debate over the existence or non-existence of a creator God...
This cannot be about us being right (and the other being wrong), and the reciprocity.
This cannot be a debate that reinforces our ego and pride.

Sometimes I do not find it useful or constructive to debate God with Christians or Muslims, as they see Him.
Why?
Because it sharpens their perception of apparent "contradictions" between their faith and mine and sometimes leads to animosity towards the Buddhist faith and even concern over an "evil" practice.
NOT constructive.

When I sense that, I try to find a constructive way to discuss God.
How?
We find that the qualities of God (*) and the qualities of a Buddha are similar.
We  find that when the teachings are translated into practice, these practices are just the same.
When we find that our practices are just the same, we can practice together.
How can we practice together? By engaging together in actions of compassion and love, in actions of spiritual education, in actions that see further than my flesh and pleasures, further than the life of this body.

True spiritual practitioners get along without any conflict.
Whatever war arising between practitioners of different faiths always arises out of worldly causes, not spiritual causes.

And even as worldly persons practicing a faith, whatever conflict we find ourselves in will be easily resolved if all parties refer to the teachings of their respective faiths with humility and with an open mind.

I do not recall ever seeing any Rinpoche debating with a Cardinal on why did God created us with inequalities? or on who created God? or that a God is not the most reliable refuge, etc...
If I have not seen more qualified debaters than me doing it, why should I do this with people I meet and potentially damage their faiths?

We live in a world where faith is in a pitiful state, and I personally think we should protect other people's faith valuing it equally with our own. And instead of discussing the "differences", discuss what we have in common and encourage each other in PRACTICING whatever faith they are engaged in.

(*) I refer here to the qualities of compassion and love, omniscience and wisdom to common aspects. On purpose, I do not touch on the aspect of "creation" or "monotheism".

Mana

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2012, 10:29:24 PM »
The Wheel of Life can answer this very clearly.

Gods, not God, exist, they are one of the 6 realms.

They do die and reincarnate into any of the 6 realms depending on their karma, unless they practice and achieve liberation from samsara.

Therefore, Buddha is not God because Buddha is already out of the 6 realms.

There is no creator God, there is not only one single God, these are false theory made up by other religion because they cannot explain many things in the universe, so they attribute it to GOD, made up in their own mind.

negra orquida

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2012, 11:31:11 PM »
Sometimes I think the Christian belief in God is actually another way of belief in Karma.  Just substitute the word Karma for God in some quotes or sayings of God and it sounds like a Buddhist saying e.g. God works in mysterious ways, only God can judge us, God loves those who love themselves, God does not play dice, God:  The most popular scapegoat for our sins...

I've tried explaining the God realm in Buddhism to a Christian friend (she asked about whether there's God in Buddhism) but I don't think they'll be able to accept it if they only believe in 1 human life and 1 eternal life in heaven / hell.

As for what Mana said
Quote
these are false theory made up by other religion because they cannot explain many things in the universe
I have a Muslim friend who is apparently very staunch and well versed in his religion, he himself commented that the Imams/Islam just can't explain some things about life and death and the workings of God satisfactorily.

kurava

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 03:37:44 AM »
I agree with you, Negra Orquida.

Whenever people of the Christian faith can't answer questions such as  -
If God loves us all, why does he want to punish us who are His children?
If we are all created by God in his image , why some are born blind, handicapped ,etc?

A Christian will reply " it's God's will" , " God has a mysterious purpose". As Buddhists we understand and accept karma and this universal law explains all these questions perfectly and logically.

Buddhists know that we are responsible for our own happiness, we can create the causes for all the results we want and even when particular seemingly negative result ripens, by changing our own view our experience of the result can turn from negative to positive.

Buddhists understand that everything depends on our mind and that the only way to true happiness is through controlling our own mind. There is no external creator or destroyer. We create our own hell and heaven.

I also agree with HR that as a true practitioner of Buddhism, we must be skillful in explaining the difference of Christian god and Buddhist gods. Instead of focusing on the difference, we should emphasize on the similarities between different religions i.e. love, compassion, moralities etc. If religions can't bring about harmony and peace to humanity then atheism will prevail over spirituality.

yontenjamyang

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2012, 04:50:37 AM »
It is very clear in Buddhism that there is no creator God. All gods are are gods because of their "good" Karma. However, once their "good" karma is exhausted they fall the lower realms. Gods do not practice Dharma because the have great enjoyments and spent all their times enjoying themselves. There are small exceptions of course.
Thanks Mana for being very clear about this.
Negra Orguida, is also very true in my opinion that if we replace the word "God" with Karma, then Buddhist and non buddhist can have some common ground. However, I don't think non buddhist religions, preach karma.

For me I tell my non Buddhist friends that I believe in Karma instead of the one Creator God. Gods exists in Buddhism ie the gods realms. Many gods, not just one. Beyond that, I do not directly, point out the differences. I try to find common grounds. Surprisingly, many non buddhist can believe in Karma if we make it not so mysterious. Just use some examples of cause and effect that happens in this life.

That is all for now.

hope rainbow

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2012, 12:45:02 PM »
There is no creator God, there is not only one single God, these are false theory made up by other religion because they cannot explain many things in the universe, so they attribute it to GOD, made up in their own mind.

Dear Mana,
I would personally try not to use / repeat the word "false theory", for it might be perceived as an hostile observation.

God, as I found out discussing this very topic with some Christian friends, is not understood by all Christians as an "entity" or a "person", but more as a universal concept placed onto a reality too mysterious for us to understand fully.

Where God then created the world or not takes a different light....
If the concept "God" emphasizes our collective and individual karma, then indeed God created the world.
The pitfall is to think that I had nothing to do with it and it was only God's decision for me to be black or white.

At the end of the day, we can simply put it like this:

CHRISTIANS:
Many Christians do not understand God as an "individual" that "created" the world, but have a more mystical, more inter-dependant view on the concept of "God".

AND BUDDHISTS:
Many Buddhists see the Buddha just as many Christians see God: as an independent powerful individual that we can rely on for help (with no further insight on the matter).

So I do not think that this a matter of one religion being right and the other one being wrong.
I don't think so.

hope rainbow

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2012, 12:57:09 PM »
Something else that I think is good discussing with Christians, and that I do discuss with Christians is how some saints, and to start with Jesus Christ matches PERFECTLY the description of a bodhisattva.
Jesus has all the qualities of a bodhisattva, all the way to sacrificing even his body, a very powerful act of generosity.
The claim to be the son of God can be understood in many ways, and maybe that was a way that was suitable for the people that he was preaching to, skillful means...

Same parallel can be done with other figures, like saint Francis of Assisi or even Mother Theresa... and also pope Jean-Paul II!

I would certainly not want to confuse the "genres" here and get my mind mixed up, but neither would I wish to approach this topic with a mind trying to distinguish one "genre" as right and the other as wrong.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2012, 04:46:23 AM »
As Buddhists, we must never put down followers of other faiths or their religion. Actually I believe some of the ' criticisms' mentioned here are based on superficial understanding of others religion.  No religion including  Buddhism is immune from critics . For example, non Buddhists accuse us of praying to idols, imagery and statues.  Many who called themselves Buddhists also do not know how to explain it. The point is  many religious followers are not true practitioners . Therefore  those who ask questions from these people will not be able to get a satisfactory answer. Besides,  spiritual matters cannot always be explained through logic etc. even in Buddhism.
Valid reasoning is useful to remove intellectual doubts which erode one's faith in one's practice. However, the Truth is beyond ordinary conceptions and hence if God , Nirvana , Universal consciousness,  Emptiness taught by the holy masters and teachers has   the same meaning , then debating and finding faults through rational thoughts will be futile although it is useful as knowledge and to cultivate an open  mind.
HHDL was quoted as saying , I can accept the existence of a creator God as long as he arises from mind.

Poonlarp

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2012, 07:06:32 AM »
As I can see between Christianity and Buddhist, God is equal to Karma like negra orquida mentioned.

Christian says God is the answer of all the questions you have, Buddhist says it's your own karma for all the questions you have. If you replace 'God' to 'Karma' every time people says "Oh my God" is actually making sense.

Although in Christianity says there's only one lifetime, it didn't state the life ends when we die, they also believe the life after death. If you believe in God, you go heaven, and if you are not, you go to hell. So when you believe in God, you follow what the God says ie to do good etc, this is actually similar to the karma concept.
 

Q

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2012, 05:18:35 PM »
 I have no idea what religion I was practicing for the past 20 years, but recently I turned Buddhist.

I don't know how to explain God in Buddhism... because as far as I know, I don't pray to a 'God' but take refuge in the Buddha, a wise teacher that shows me the path to liberation.

As I can see between Christianity and Buddhist, God is equal to Karma like negra orquida mentioned.

Christian says God is the answer of all the questions you have, Buddhist says it's your own karma for all the questions you have. If you replace 'God' to 'Karma' every time people says "Oh my God" is actually making sense.

Although in Christianity says there's only one lifetime, it didn't state the life ends when we die, they also believe the life after death. If you believe in God, you go heaven, and if you are not, you go to hell. So when you believe in God, you follow what the God says ie to do good etc, this is actually similar to the karma concept.
 

I've read somewhere before that states Christianity do have text that talks about reincarnation... but it was taken off the general bible so that the mass public that receive the teachings will not delay seeking redemption due to the believe that 'this is the only life they have on earth'...

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2012, 05:35:29 AM »
I like Poonlarp's basic explanation.
At the level of doing good and ascending to the heavens,whether one follows the principles of cause and effect in Buddhism or the advices of their saints/gods which talk about the same thing , all religions are the same.This is also the most practical and universally acceptable aspect of religion because it is essential to ensure harmony of the world.

What makes Buddhism stands out from the other religion is its profound knowledge beyond heaven and its gods and this worldly life to attain permanent happiness and peace.
Buddhist philosophy has no problem with dealing with the existence of gods as in the heavenly realms.The idea of a creator god or one god that is responsible for existence of everything is in conflict against fundamental Buddhist concepts . It is not about just being a name one can use interchangeability as mentioned above. Eg God and Emptiness or Karma.
The creator god concept cannot satisfactorily explain many human situations and conditions which we can observe and experience which can be answered only through adopting Buddhist views. Most importantly , it is consistent. When we practice these views we get the result. This is the ‘ proof’ of Buddhist teachings becos it is about the Truth that Buddha discovered, not mere doctrine or some smart ideas.


DSFriend

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Re: Who is God? Why so many believe is God? How to explain God in Buddhism?
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2012, 02:43:08 PM »

I've read somewhere before that states Christianity do have text that talks about reincarnation... but it was taken off the general bible so that the mass public that receive the teachings will not delay seeking redemption due to the believe that 'this is the only life they have on earth'...

The main stream Christian faith do  not preach reincarnation for the reason you stated.

However what you are referring to regarding the text on reincarnation came about from the early christian writings which revealed that there are more than just the gospels we are familiar with in today's bible.

There is a collection of gospels known as the Gnostic Gospels which comprises of many more other gospels which are hidden. These text were written down from the secret teachings given by Jesus to a smaller group of disciples.

These writings were discovered at different times but a huge collection of it was discovered in Nag Hammadi Library (by chance) in the 1950s. These writings dates back to the 2-4th century.

Interestingly, Gnosis means knowledge/enlightenment.. indicating that the Gnostic believers know the deeper meaning of resurrection that it is about attaining spiritual rebirths which cannot be attained in just one life time...thus, the believe in many rebirths, based on logic and not just faith.

« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 12:44:32 PM by DSFriend »