Is it god or God?

Continuing the discussion from Teacher of the devas:

Dear Bhantes

Are their specific places in the EBTs where the Buddha refutes the notion of a supreme creator God?

Many thanks and metta

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Dear Kay,

I guess the Bhantes will provide a more exhaustive answer. I just wanted to bring AN 3.61 (one of the readings for Wk/shop 3 of the Karma&Rebirth course) to your attention. There it says:

"“Those who fall back on God’s creative activity as the essential truth have no desire to do what should be done and to avoid doing what should not be done, nor do they make an effort in this respect. Since they do not apprehend as true and valid anything that should be done or should not be done, they are muddle-minded, they do not guard themselves, and even the personal designation ‘ascetic’ could not be legitimately applied to them. This was my second legitimate refutation of those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view. "

and a bit further down…

“These, bhikkhus, are the three sectarian tenets which, when questioned, interrogated, and cross-examined by the wise, and taken to their conclusion, will eventuate in non-doing.”

“But, bhikkhus, this Dhamma taught by me is unrefuted, undefiled irreproachable, and uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins. And what is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, irreproachable, and uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins?”

The Buddha does not directly state here, that there is no Creator God. If I am not mistaken, he actually cannot do that, because he only speaks about what he has seen with his own eyes. Looking back countles past lifes he could not see a beginning of Samsaara. Since he did not see a beginning, he cannot say what the initial cause was, that brought Samsaara into existence.
As far as I understood Ajahn Brahm, it could very well be that time behaves very different on large scales than what we observe in our daily life. So time might be curved and might even be cyclical (just like the space of a Universe is assumed to be curved). From that perspective, there would be no need of an initial cause and hence no need for a Creator God.

Ajahn Brahm also often says that introducing the Creator God does not solve the problem, because if the Creator God is the initial cause for Samsaara, then the question remains, what is the initial cause for creating the Creator God. If one then says that the Creator God was always there, then one could equally well accept that Samsaara was always there…

However, I also think that the Buddha said that questions such as “Why am I?” or “Who or what created Smasaara?” are fruitless. I guess the Buddha said so, because there is a very slim chance that we will ever know and see the answers ourselves. So most of our thinking around these things will be hypothetical fantasies and there is a certain chance that we will spend a lot of time being entangled in pondering about these things. We can dream up the most sophisticated thought-models to answer such questions, but at the end, they all hang in the middle of thin air, because they lack the solid foundation of being test-able against reality.

I once heard someone say once: “Life has no purpose, but there is an opportunity - an opportunity for awakening!”

For me it is also hard not to get sidetracked by such questions and it is good to ponder about them once in a while to see what such pondering leads to (and what it does not lead to), but I try not to spent too much time on that.

Sorry, I probably wrote many things which you already heard yourself from Ajahn Brahms teachings. Also, I realize that your question was about the aspect of a Creator God being refuted in the EBT. I just wanted to give a comprehensive reply (I hope I did not repeat too many of the arguments being given by others earlier…).

With much mettaa,
Robert

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:pray:

Dear all,

Nothing is better than god” :heart_eyes: Love that saying LOL

Ajahn Brahm would often tell a story about a monk who through psychic feat went through the many levels of heavens asking who would know the end of the universe. Eventually he came to the great brahma’s abode. He then inquired through the other devas living there and they said that the great brahma would know the answer if he would wait awhile. After waiting awhile, the great brahma appeared. So the monk proceeded in asking his question, “Do you know the end of the universe?” But the great brahma would only say “I am the GREAT BRAHMA, THE FIRST, THE CREATOR” :grin: . Twice more the monk asked the question.
And twice the great brahma answered the same way. When the rest of the devas went about their way, the great brahma then confided in the monk, that he too did not know the answer to that. :sweat:

The Bhagava said that the very ending of the universe can be found within this fathom long body and that one need not search for it elsewhere.

:pray:

May all beings be free,
russ

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Dear Kay,

Robert has referred to what is probably the most important sutta on this topic (AN3.61). The Buddha makes it clear that if everything we experience is the result of a god’s creativity, then we will have no reason to act to change our circumstances, that is, practice a path to awakening. Because the Buddha says there is a path to awakening, he is in effect saying that this view is wrong.

It seems to me that idea of a creator god is just a projection that is due to our sense of self, sakkāya-diṭṭhi. Because we perceive ourselves as existing entities with a real solid self, we tend to project the same idea onto the world. The idea of a creator is therefore just an extension of our wrong understanding of the five khandhas. Once you see non-self, the idea of a permanent creator god becomes equally meaningless. So I would say that anyone who has had full insight into the Dhamma will know that a creator god cannot exist. (This is known in the suttas as anvaya-ñāṇa, inferential knowledge. Once you see non-self, you can make an inference on that basis that permanent entities cannot exist.)

With metta.

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Hi Kay!

I also like the way the Buddha describes how the illusion of a creator god comes to be, in both the god himself and then the “created beings” in DN1 (III.2).

With metta,
Raivo

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Hi Kay,
Lately I was reading a blog written by Bhante Sujato on this ‘God’ topic. I found it quite interesting and helpful, of coarse including the healthy discussions and resourceful links. As most notable sutta ( AN 3.61) has already been shared by Robert. You may check this out too : Why we can be certain that God doesn’t exist by Bhante Sujato

With metta,
Shivam.

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Dear All

Thank you so much for all your comprehensive replies! :smile:

Shivam, I had actually read the blog article and one of the comments made was what inspired my question…

I did address the Bhantes but I am most grateful for all your comments, as well as of course Ajahn Brahmali’s! Thank you again.

I had forgotten about that DN sutta Raivo…is it an EBT? I think that’s the same one Russ is referring to? Is that right?

I’ve been pondering more seriously about the notion of “God” recently… And yes, I tended to agree with everything Ajahn Brahmali said… But lately, especially after reading Bhante Sujato’s blog and comments, I felt myself questioning these things further…

I guess I wanted to know what the EBTs stated and have this inform my own perceptions.

Though…I admit…even before I asked this question here… I had a funny moment about a week ago… Where I suddenly decided to feel what it felt like to not believe in a God. It was a scary and liberating moment.

I am not saying that I ever did believe before… But rather, I have always had this belief and view that there are Brahma gods and somehow I found this comforting. And when those who did believe in a creator spoke of God, I either thought of Brahma type gods or I thought of all beings, connected by energy, time, causes and possibly other things too…a sort of perception of a sort of non-self ‘allness’…

Yet last week I realised I was holding onto these notions too much and thus not surrendering enough to the reality that I am responsible for myself. It was a sort of psychological crutch for someone who doesn’t really believe in the notion of a God.

It’s interesting Robert that the Buddha never seems to have come out and said that God doesn’t exist. I kind of wish he had! It would be so much more comfortable to just trust his word! Lol! :smile:

However, in a way, it’s better that the Buddha never said this. Because the consequence is that one really has to trust oneself even more…really be responsible for oneself.

Once again, thanks everyone for all your wonderful input!

With metta and gratitude

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The DN is certainly regarded as an EBT, allthough there does seem to be a bit more cutting and pasting in it than the other Nikayas (I guess because of the longer length of the suttas) and also there’s a lot more “magical fairy tale” type stories in it, in my oppinion. But the first sutta seems to be quite pure in that respect.

And no, it’s not the same sutta that Russell was referring to…thats DN11.

With metta,
Raivo

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Dear all, I had this thought which is somewhat related to this : the great monotheistic religions venerate a God who created the world we live in (which, in Schopenhauer’s phrase, is the worst of possible worlds - and hence they face the problem of evil). In Buddhism, on the contrary, we pay our respects to a man precisely because he showed us how to escape from this world by putting an end to samsara…

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Thanks so much Raivo…

If I may ask a follow up question to yourself or anyone else that may know… Is DN11 considered to be an EBT too?

With metta

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Maybe Bhante Sujato or Ajahn Brahmali can give some additional information on specific suttas but it’s my understanding that when it comes to the Sutta Piṭaka, the whole Dīgha Nikāya, Majjhima Nikāya, Samyutta Nikāya and Anguttara Nikāya along with some earlier books of the Khuddaka Nikāya are considered Early Buddhist Texts.

With metta,
Raivo

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Thanks Raivo, yes, I’ve heard that too… I was wondering if there were some that were considered to be obviously earlier… Also, cos of the whole discussion about the place of narratives and so on…much of the Digha seems to be narrative like…so I was wondering if perhaps it’s older…

Thank you though.

With metta.

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Thanks to everyone for this interesting and useful discussion. I’ve been hard at work doing various SC tasks, so not able to take part as much as I’d like.

But just on that question of what is an EBT: it’s a useful notion, but not one that can be pushed too far. We’ll never be able to draw up a definitive list of what was taught by the Buddha and what wasn’t. However, we have to be clear about what we can say and what we can’t say.

The sceptics will argue from this uncertainty that we can’t know anything about what the Buddha taught. But that argument is invalid. Compare with the weather: we can’t say for certain whether it will rain tomorrow, or what the temperature will be. But we can say with a high degree of certainty that it will rain more in winter than in summer, and that it will be warmer in summer than in winter. These are solid, if not absolute, facts. How relevant they are depends on your purpose: do you want to carry an umbrella, or plant a crop?

In the same way, we can, I think, say with a reasonable degree of certainty that we have a corpus of Early Buddhist Texts: these being, generally speaking, the 4 nikayas and corresponding agamas, the 6 early books of the Khuddaka (and parallels), and the early portions of the Vinaya (at least the patimokkhas and so on, more loosely the entire Vinayas except for the Parivara and similar).

Within that corpus, we can distinguish some early and late strata. Identifying later portions is often easy, while establishing an early date not so. In certain cases we can drill down and say that a certain sutta, or a certain passage, must be earlier or later. But mostly this is not the case. At the fine-grained level of the individual sutta or passage, even more so the word or phrase, we frequently cannot make any solid text-critical argument, just as we frequently can’t say whether it will rain in the next hour.

In these specific cases, I would say that these texts have certain features that are characteristic of EBTs: the immersion in the Brahmanical world, including both ideas and verse forms; the tone of gentle satire; the analysis in terms of familiar EBT concepts, and so on. Unless someone mounts a counter-argument, then, I would take these texts to be authentic.

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