Deity Worship in Buddhism.

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Heart&Mind, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. Heart&Mind

    Heart&Mind Religious Humanist

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    Many secular western Buddhists claim that God (at least in the idea of a creator God) is incompatible with Buddhism. That the millions of Buddhist worldwide who revere and pray to the various gods/Devas/Boddisattvas are superstioius and completely going against what Buddha taught.

    Yet, those beings that many Buddhists pray to may be gods, but they are not God. As such, with it's general non-theism, is there anything inherently wrong with any Buddhists who prays to or reveres any Deva or Boddhisattva? Or any deity that was assimilated into Buddhism from various cultures (Hindu, Shinto, Chinese Folk, etc.).
     
  2. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Deity-worship is a common form of human behavior. It is seen in all the major religions.

    But worshiping a deity is mainly for the human's benefit. (I do not think the deities themselves benefit from human worship.)

    To answer your question, I think it is perfectly fine to not worship any deity.

    There is something wrong with deity-worship when it becomes cult-worship (which I have seen in Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions.) It is said that Buddha and Jesus have the largest cult-followings the world has ever known.

    For an example of a Buddhist cult, please read the book The Buddha From Brooklyn.

    http://www.amazon.com/Buddha-Brookl...10142513&sr=1-1&keywords=buddha+from+brooklyn
     
  3. Heart&Mind

    Heart&Mind Religious Humanist

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    So, what I'm understanding is that it's fine to do either? At least from an objective standpoint?

    That's very interesting. So basically, cult-worship is when people worship a human as a divine being? Wouldn't you say that's different than someone who simply reveres a being for the sake of having a focus point in their practice of Dharma?
     
  4. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Yes, either one is okay up to a point.

    For example, there is the issue of people who have personal issues (unreasonable fears, anxiety, depression, etc.) and they pray to a deity to cure them. There are two sides to this issue. One is that religious devotion can cure personal issues (which does happen and is good). But the other is when people rely on a deity to "cure" them, when what they really need is psychological intervention (and praying to a deity in such cases can be very bad).

    For an example of where a preacher uses religion to justify terrible toxic behavior, please watch the movie Inherit the Wind.

    Inherit the Wind (1960) - IMDb

    "...cult-worship is when people worship a human as a divine being?"

    --> It is more than that. A cult is defined by mainly two things. One is that the human leader is seen as infallible, and the members are punished for questioning the leader's teachings. Another, bigger example is when members are not allowed to quit the group, and are hunted down and punished when they do quit the group.

    "Wouldn't you say that's different than someone who simply reveres a being for the sake of having a focus point in their practice of Dharma?"

    --> Yes, it is. Using a religious leader in such a way is very good. I see Buddha as a Learned, Elder Brother, not a deity, and I am sure that is how he would want to be seen. Buddha does not say we should follow the Dharma because Buddha is a deity telling us what to do and we should follow him no matter what, he says we should follow the Dharma because the Dharma is a wise and good philosophy.
     
  5. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Yet, those beings that many Buddhists pray to may be gods, but they are not God.

    Whose to say those beings are not God. There's plenty of people who will tell you that they are not God. But what superior knowledge do they have that you do not. They may think they have such but they cannot prove it. No one can prove a single thing about Gods. When all is said and done, everyone is in the same boat. They have an opinion based on belief and faith. An opinion. Nothing less and nothing more.
     
  6. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I don't think there is such a thing, all is opinion.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Heart&Mind

    Suffice to say there are plenty here who will tell you what is and what isn't, and assume a rather elite view of those who do not possess the capacity to hold to what one might describe as 'metaphysical principles', or deride people for their rather 'naive' beliefs ... spiritual elitism is most 'unbecoming' in man.

    And there are those who always look for the worst in others, and define the many according to the few.

    Luckily for us the Gods, and their Oracles, are not so high-minded as many of their exponents, and spoke in ways the common folk could understand.

    What is sometimes hard to understand is the faith of a simple man in God can far surpass the faith of the clever man in his knowledge.

    In short, the Gods are not nearly as dumb as some suppose them to be, nor are we nearly so clever as we think we are.
     
  8. Heart&Mind

    Heart&Mind Religious Humanist

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    Thank you so much for the answers, everyone. :)

    Yeah, I've always assumed that it was a form of spiritual elitism for someone (especially from the west) to say that the way millions of devotees practice their religion is "wrong". Being from the west, it's just so disheartening to hear people from a secular society that people from the east are "stupid" or "superstitious".
     
  9. Heart&Mind

    Heart&Mind Religious Humanist

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    Fair enough. :)
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Oh, they think the same about people in the west, too!

    There's also a tendency to revise doctrines to make them more appealing to a western consumer mindset. Hence Buddhism is declared 'a philosophy, not a religion'. All notions of 'God' are dismissed as 'stupid' or 'superstitious', while the same voices blether on about 'Buddha-nature' or what have you ...
     
  11. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    One word often used to speak of the Dharma is ehipassiko (Pali) which means "come and see (for oneself)".

    Seeing for myself, I note that the biggest division of the Buddhist Faith in the world is Pure Land Buddhism.

    Pure Land Buddhism has much to do with Amida, often thought of as "him out there".

    In my own attempts to "go" and "see" for myself, I've noted that the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, intitiator of the central philosophy of Buddhism (the madhyamika) also wrote hymns of praise to Amida.

    A fact worthy of attention.

    :)
     
  12. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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    Shamanistic practices are ancient and pervasive around the globe. So many Buddhists make use of these beings for their own & others benefit.

    As long as one does not take refuge in these beings, but only in the Triple Jewel, it is no problem - even if it dilutes (in my view) and weakens ones cultivation.
     
  13. theophony

    theophony God Sounds. Agape.

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    Taking refuge in the "Triple Jewel..."

    Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, right?

    My question is, is "Buddha" as part of the triple jewel the idea of being an Awake person, or in the person of Siddartha Gautama himself? If the former is the case, then might it be okay to take refuge in the shaman, so long as that shaman is a proven bodhisattva?
     
  14. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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    The Dharma refuge is the teachings and realizations of Buddha Shakyamuni, the Sangha are the advanced Arya Bodhisattvas that are disciples of Buddha. So refuge in Buddha means Shakyamuni, who is our source for Buddhism.

    If the shaman has taken refuge in the Triple Jewel, and is therefore a Buddhist, then he could be a spiritual friend or teacher. If he lives and practices as a bodhisattva, with bodhisattva vows and also is an 8th Ground bodhisattva or greater, then he would be part of the Arya Sangha.
     
  15. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    As I understand it the Buddhist path is one that leads to the experience of awakening. Faith, as far as Buddhism is concerned, is that such an awakening leads to "the end of suffering", and such was experienced by Siddhartha, the Buddha of our own time.

    So this holy life.......does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood, and its end. (From the Theravada Pali Canon)

    From a Pure Land Buddhist perspective, Shinran stood history on its head and understood the historical Buddha as being a "type", one who expressed in his life and teachings and awakening, an eternal reality, Reality-as-is, represented in Pure Land Buddhism as Amida.

    There is, monks, a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned. If, monks, there were no not-born, not-brought-to-being, not-made, not-conditioned, no escape would be discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned. But since there is a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned, therefore an escape is discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned. (Again, from the Theravada Canon)

    Amida - the unconditioned - is understood, in part, as convenient means, "apaya", eternally seeking and saving the lost.

    In Pure Land Buddhism there is a wide spectrum of understanding, from Amida as "him/her up there", his Land as being "out to the West", and that he/she takes us there after death.............to Amida as being a personification of Reality-as-is, the Pure Land is here, now and will be known and lived, with awakened eyes/mind/heart.

    Where we are on the spectrum is of less importance than our capacity NOW for empathy, compassion and love, which is often found in the most unlikely places, in the most unlikely circumstances, in the most unlikely people. How we awaken, and our path to it, is beyond formulae. Which is why Pure Landers speak more of Grace (the Vow) than of any particular practice.
     
  16. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Theo,

    You asked,

    "...is "Buddha" as part of the triple jewel the idea of being an Awake person, or in the person of Siddartha Gautama himself? If the former is the case, then might it be okay to take refuge in the shaman, so long as that shaman is a proven bodhisattva?"

    --> I think you are asking if it is okay to take refuge in any Bodhisattva, or if we should only take refuge in Siddhartha Gautama himself. I'm not sure what you mean by a 'proven' Bodhisattva. I'm not sure how you would 'prove' someone is a Bodhisattva.

    Also, the word Bodhisattva has various meanings, and one meaning refers to a person who has achieved enlightenment, is no longer required to make compulsory incarnations, and now incarnates only because he is trying to help the rest of us who have not yet achieved enlightenment. A person who has achieved this minimum requirement is not really capable of giving high-enough teachings to be used as a refuge. Only someone at Siddhartha Gautama's level (or higher) can do that, and Siddhartha Gautama's level is much higher than a minimally-qualified Bodhisattva.
     
  17. Ammonius

    Ammonius New Member

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    Western secular Buddhists are the most deluded persons on this earth. Tibetan Buddhism has hundred peaceful and wrathful deities who literally exist and are not symbolic creations of the human mind. In fact they exist independent of the mind.

    All these Buddhist deities should be seen in an emanationist sense not in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic sense of a sky god. These are deities who exist both in the Mircocosm as well as in the Macrocosm. This tantra was taught by the historical Buddha.
     
  18. theophony

    theophony God Sounds. Agape.

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    I don't believe that "western secular Buddhists" are any more deluded than their Tibetan brothers and sisters. There are many schools of "eastern Buddhism." Some have deities, and some do not. The "western secular" that Heart&Mind talks about probably has its roots in a form of Japanese Zen that, if it has any deities at all, it gives very little attention to them.
     

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