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jobowo
01 Jun 13, 02:19
Can anyone point me to the actual statements in the Pali Canon in which the Buddha declares that questions about god are nothing but distraction? I thought I had them once but now can't find them

Notions about heavens and hells and generally things otherwordly seem to conflict with this. Is there any actual evidence that these notions were added later?

Thanks

Element
01 Jun 13, 19:52
There are brahmans & contemplatives who hold this teaching, hold this view: 'Whatever a person experiences — pleasant, painful or neither pleasant nor painful — that is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation (issaranimmānahetū).'

Having approached the brahmans & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation?'

Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.'

Then I said to them, '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, monks, there is no desire, 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 brahmans & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views.

Tittha Sutta: Sectarians (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.061.than.html)


Issara [Vedic īśvara, from īś to have power, cp. also P. īsa] lord, ruler, master, chief A iv.90; Sn 552; J i.89 (˚jana), 100, 283 (˚bheri); iv.132 (˚jana); Pv iv.67 (˚mada); Miln 253 (an˚ without a ruler); DhsA 141; DA i.111; PvA 31 (gehassa issarā); Sdhp 348, 431. -- 2. creative deity, Brahmā, D iii.28; M ii.222 = A i.173; Vism 598.

Ishvar (Īśvar in IAST) is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or god in a theistic school of thought, or as an Ishta-deva in monistic thought.

:wheel:

jobowo
02 Jun 13, 18:50
Thanks for this reply.

Is this the only reference? The Buddha seems to be refuting the possibility of a deity here (an atheistic view) whereas my understanding was that he simply refused to discuss such issues, holding that consideration of things beyond this world (or the individual) were only a distraction from what the follower could do for himself (an agnostic view).

Element
04 Jun 13, 23:05
Notions about heavens and hells and generally things otherwordly seem to conflict with this.
In the suttas, the words commonly translated as 'heaven' & 'hell' are derived from words that literally mean: "a happy state" or "unhappy state" and also "destructive state". In the suttas, 'heaven' & 'hell' is a widespread teaching.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are very few references to heaven & hell. Thus, the source of Jesus' teachings about this, which is now pervasive in Christianity, most probably comes from Buddhism.

In short, it is unnecessary to regard 'heaven' & 'hell' as being anywhere else apart from within the human mind; and that they mean anything other than 'happiness' and 'suffering'.

Regards

Element
04 Jun 13, 23:20
Is this the only reference? The Buddha seems to be refuting the possibility of a deity here (an atheistic view) whereas my understanding was that he simply refused to discuss such issues, holding that consideration of things beyond this world (or the individual) were only a distraction from what the follower could do for himself (an agnostic view).
My personal impression is Buddha was atheist rather than agnostic. He regarded 'deities' as worldly states of mind. He regard all creation to come from natural elements (dhatu).

The Tevijja Sutta (http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh057.pdf) offers some views about God. There are various translations & interpretations on the internet.

As for creation, Buddha taught:


Monk, the four great existents (earth, water, fire, & wind) are the cause, the four great existents the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of the physical body (rupa). Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of perception. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of fabrications. Name-&-form (mind-&-body) is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness.

Maha-punnama Sutta

Element
04 Jun 13, 23:23
Can anyone point me to the actual statements in the Pali Canon in which the Buddha declares that questions about god are nothing but distraction?
This verse:


If, while he is dwelling by means of this dwelling, his mind inclines to speaking, he resolves that 'I will not engage in talk that is base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unbeneficial, that does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, or Unbinding — i.e., talk about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.' In this way he is alert there.

Maha-suññata Sutta

jobowo
05 Jun 13, 20:19
Ah, thank you Element. I think we're getting closer.

I still keep coming across references to the Buddha's agnosticism, often defined in definite distinction from atheism. The Acintita Sutta is the closest I have been able to find:

"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...[2]

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html

This too is somewhat oblique. The Buddha is referring to the origins of the world but not specifically to anything beyond the world.

jobowo
05 Jun 13, 20:25
Is this completely true of Buddhism, or just for the Pali Canon and Theraveda Buddhism? It seems as though Mahayana Buddhism developed quite extensive notions about otherworldly heaven and hells. Most seem to be temporary dwelling places between lives, but they were certainly after death. Mind you, the Mahayana generally entertained ideas about supramundane Buddhas as well which again seems to be entering a realm that the Buddha--if he was agnostic--would have seemed reluctant to pursue.

Element
05 Jun 13, 21:00
Is this completely true of Buddhism, or just for the Pali Canon and Theraveda Buddhism? It seems as though Mahayana Buddhism developed quite extensive notions about otherworldly heaven and hells. Most seem to be temporary dwelling places between lives, but they were certainly after death. Mind you, the Mahayana generally entertained ideas about supramundane Buddhas as well which again seems to be entering a realm that the Buddha--if he was agnostic--would have seemed reluctant to pursue.
Thanks Jobowo

My impression is the otherworldly after death non-mental interpretation of "the worlds" (of heaven, hell, ghost, animal, human, etc) is also predominant in Theravada.

In my opinion, it is a matter of personal interpretation because the language in the scriptures can be interpreted in two ways. The Theravada Commentaries explain:


The Awakened One, best of speakers,
Spoke two kinds of truths:
The conventional and the ultimate.
A third truth does not obtain.

Therein:
The speech wherewith the world converses is true
On account of its being agreed upon by the world.
The speech which describes what is ultimate is also true,
Through characterizing dhammas as they really are.

Therefore, being skilled in common usage,
False speech does not arise in the Teacher,
Who is Lord of the World,
When he speaks according to conventions.

(Mn. i. 95)
An example of sutta where the word "world" (loka) unambiguously refers to a mental state, is the following:


Kiṃ panudāyi, atthi ekantasukho loko, atthi ākāravatī paṭipadā ekantasukhassa lokassa sacchikiriyāyā

Udayi, is there a world of only pleasantness? Is there a course of actions to realise that world of only pleasantness?

Here, Udayi, the bhikkhu secluded from sensual desires and thoughts of demerit abides in the first jhana: Overcoming thoughts and thought processs and the mind in one point internally appeased, without thoughts and thought processes abides in the second jhana. Again with equanimuity to joy and detachment, feeling pleasant with the body too, abides in the third jhana. To this the noble ones say abiding in pleasantness with equanimity. Udayi, this is the course of actions, for realising the world of only pleasant feelings (ekantasukhassa lokassa).

http://www.vipassana.info/079-culasakuludayi-e1.htm
The teachings about heaven, hell, human, ghostly & animal worlds is a basic teaching of Buddha:


And what is the diversity in fermentations? There are fermentations that lead to hell, those that lead to the animal womb, those that lead to the realm of the hungry shades, those that lead to the human world, those that lead to the world of the devas. This is called the diversity in fermentations.

And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades, kamma to be experienced in the human world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas. This is called the diversity in kamma.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.063.than.html
Buddhists generally either interpret this teachings mentally or, otherwise, materially. The predominant interpretation is materialistic.

Regards

jobowo
06 Jun 13, 20:59
My impression is the otherworldly after death non-mental interpretation of "the worlds" (of heaven, hell, ghost, animal, human, etc) is also predominant in Theravada.

In my opinion, it is a matter of personal interpretation because the language in the scriptures can be interpreted in two ways.

An example of sutta where the word "world" (loka) unambiguously refers to a mental state, is the following:


The teachings about heaven, hell, human, ghostly & animal worlds is a basic teaching of Buddha:

Buddhists generally either interpret this teachings mentally or, otherwise, materially. The predominant interpretation is materialistic.


So there is a predominant Buddhist belief (as expressed in the Pali Canon) in material nether worlds and beings. That is, that people belief to exist outside themselves rather than as simply elements of the mind.

However, the Buddha, in referring to these, may have been speaking in the "lower truth": the language that people can grasp rather than the Buddha's higher truth.

Aloka
06 Jun 13, 21:21
So there is a predominant Buddhist belief (as expressed in the Pali Canon) in material nether worlds and beings. That is, that people belief to exist outside themselves rather than as simply elements of the mind.

However, the Buddha, in referring to these, may have been speaking in the "lower truth": the language that people can grasp rather than the Buddha's higher truth.

Hi jobowo,

This is from the book "Don't Take your Life Personally" by Ajahn Sumedho



In Buddhist cosmology the highest is the Brahma-world (bramaloka) with avici hell at the bottom. There is this structure of the devaloka (realm of the gods), the asuras (jealous gods), the animal world, the avici hell, the petas (hungry ghosts), and the human realm.

These are categories we can all relate to. We all have these six realms within ourselves, so it isn’t a matter of trying to decide if there is a Brahma-realm somewhere in the sky. –- ‘Can you get to it by rocket ship or shuttle? Should the Americans spend a lot of money trying to discover where the Brahma-world is ?’ These are really about human conscious experience. If you look at these six realms of existence, I am sure each of you will be able to relate them to experiences you have already had.“


http://www.wisdom-books.com/ProductDetail.asp?PID=22287



:hands:

Element
06 Jun 13, 22:40
So there is a predominant Buddhist belief (as expressed in the Pali Canon) in material nether worlds and beings. That is, that people belief to exist outside themselves rather than as simply elements of the mind.
hi Jobowo

I am not fluent in the entire Pali Canon, which includes books, commentaries and additions by writers, other than Buddha, such as Abhidhamma. But, in my experience, most contemporary Theravada monks and followers adhere to the notion of material nether worlds and beings.


However, the Buddha, in referring to these, may have been speaking in the "lower truth": the language that people can grasp rather than the Buddha's higher truth.
As I quoted, the language Buddha sometimes spoke (but only in certain mundane teachings) contains both lower truth & higher truth, thus is subject to the interpretation of the listener/reader.

For example, the words in the stock teaching below, such as "body" and "death", have both material meanings & mental meanings and thus can be interpreted in two ways.


'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.'

Regards

;D