What are the references of God about in the Suttas? What is heaven? What is hell?
Thank you for your help, I am very new to Buddhism.
What are the references of God about in the Suttas? What is heaven? What is hell?
in a tiny and simplistic nutshell
in the Buddhist Teaching no special place is allocated to such an entity as God in the Judeo-Christian monotheistic sense, i.e. a creator God which is eternal, all knowing, all-mighty
instead there’re gods or deities, some of them are creators, like the Brahmas, but like humans they’re mortal, albeit living immeasurably longer than humans
heavens are the realms where the gods/deities dwell, there’re quite a few heavenly realms each one being loftier than the preceding one
beings who acquired much of good kamma over the course of their many existences can be reborn as gods, extremely spiritually advanced beings can be reborn as the creator Brahmas
hell or a plane of misery is obviously the opposite of heaven, a place of retribution for evil deeds committed in previous lives
just like virtuous beings are destined to birth in heaven, depraved individuals destined to birth in hell which there’re a few levels of just like there’re of heavens
however no one remains either in heaven or in hell forever, as soon as their kamma which brought them this type of birth is exhausted they’re reborn at other places, on a higher or a lower plane according to their remaining kamma
all this is Samsara
the concept of God is unimportant as s/he plays no role in the Buddhist concept of emancipation, the genesis of creation isn’t a point of interest of the Buddhist soteriology either, it’s acknowledged that Brahmas do it and it goes on cyclically repeating itself with each new cycle of creation and destruction of the Universe, no mystery and no miracle, it’s also said that the string of reincarnations of any given being has no traceable beginning, what’s important is getting out of it for good
This implies that Brahma is a/the creator which he is not according to I think DN.1 (Brahmajala Sutta). Brahma is said to think so due to his being in that realm for a very long period which is his own ignorance. He too is conditioned and dependently arisen.
Again, if my understanding is right, the genesis of creation is a hypothesis which Buddhism does not subscribe to because Samsara is without a beginning.
i don’t insist i’m right about this, i only would think that the Brahmas create at least everything that’s under them while themselves arising through dependent origination
i distinguish between creation (prakriti in Samkhyaic terms, the matter) and Samsara in a sense of transmigration, which occurs within the creation and for which the Brahmas aren’t responsible being themselves its subject
but maybe it’s all just my heresy
It was helpful, just trying to get the basics down.
I was reading MN 119, " and even if the god does not send down showers upon it from time to time, yet the current of cool water having welled up from that pool will drench, saturate, permeate, suffuse that pool with cool water."
That sparked the question.
the word used in the Pali text is devo and the 2nd meaning listed for it in the PTS Pali-English dictionary is 'the sky, but only in its rainy aspect, i.e. rain-cloud, rainy sky, rain-god’ so in this context the meaning might as well be only figurative
I hope it brings you a lot of peace and benefit.
There are references to gods in the Pali suttas, which my friends here have addressed. I can expand a bit on the “theology” of the question. I can see two reasons why the texts mention beings like the devas. First, Buddhism grew out of (and was a reaction to) the early Vedic/Hindu culture in which gods play a vital role. They were part of the cultural imagination and religious vocabulary of the time. Second, it is explained in the suttas that even supernatural beings like the devas are subject to the laws of kamma and the dhamma. I’m roughly reminded of the character Q in Star Trek, if you’re a fan. (He, too, has his limitations.) To put it in other words, the suttas subjugate these beings under the Dhamma, which emphasizes the power of the Buddha’s teaching.
I’m part of a traditional Theravadin temple: I can say with certainty that deity worship is not part of the practice. Such a thing would miss the point. Other Buddhist traditions (for instance, Tibetan and various Mahayana ones) may emphasize deities as an integral part of scripture and practice.
With respect to the specific powers and properties of the gods, I would refer you to the Simsapa Sutta of the SN. To use the language of the sutta, focus on the leaves in your hand. That is the essence of the teaching. And this is what turned me into a Buddhist!
Crazy Cat Man.
In Buddhism Brahama refer to fine material world and hell refers to states of deprivation.
Gods refer to Devas in happy destination.
This described in 31 planes of existence. Nibbana is not part of this.
There are many different kinds of references to ‘gods’ in the suttas. Often, it refers to those who behave morally, as follows:
Bhikkhus, a god, a human or any other good state would not be evident from actions born of greed, hate and delusion. Yet, bhikkhus, from actions born of greed, hate and delusion a hellish being, an animal birth a ghostly birth or some other bad state would be evident.
Householders, there are these four ways of living together. What four?
A wretch lives together with a wretch; a wretch lives together with a female deva (god); a deva (god) lives together with a wretch; a deva (god) lives together with a female deva (god).
The husband is immoral,
miserly and abusive,
but his wife is virtuous,
She is a female deva (god) living
with a wretched husband.
The husband is virtuous,
but his wife is immoral,
miserly and abusive.
She is a wretch living
with a deva (god) husband.
How has a monk attained/arrived at the state of a deva (god)?.. A monk enters & dwells is the first…second…third…fourth jhana…
How has a monk attained/arrived at the state of a brahma (god)?.. A monk pervades the entire world with loving-kindness… compassion… appreciative joy… equinimity…
As for ‘heaven’ & ‘hell’, these generally refer to dwellings of ‘happiness’ & ‘unhappiness’.
I have seen, bhikkhus, the hell named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable.
I have seen, bhikkhus, the heaven named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is desirable, never undesirable; lovely, never unlovely; agreeable, never disagreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is desirable, never undesirable; lovely, never unlovely; agreeable, never disagreeable.
Thank you, that makes it much clearer.
I will read it, thank you.
Does that mean that with each cessation of a universe, the karma of each individual being in that universe is gone as well? Or is that karma transferred into the next following universe?
I’m new too
AFAIA the suttas don’t offer an answer to that and the Buddha wouldn’t approve dealing with this kind of unanswerable questions, but as a speculation i’d say that logically it must, since everything is destroyed, literally everything
at the same time the Buddha’s statement about the absence of traceable beginning in combination with his possible recognition (which merits further confirmation) of the concept of cyclical creation leads to conclude that the kamma isn’t erased, otherwise he could have said that the beginning coincides with the new creation cycle
well, the above said does look like what’s deemed the thicket of views, endless speculations, so it’s best to put the issue aside
Thank you LXNDR!
Where in the suttas can I read more about the beginning and ending of the universe?
I would suggest reading MI 426-432, culamalunkya sutta. A monk named Malunkya demands that the Buddha tell him about the origin of the universe, the soul, life after death, etc. The Buddha basically tells him quite strongly that those questions don’t lead to liberation from dukkha, so he wasn’t concerned with them and never promised to answer them.
Sorry @Soleil i couldn’t offhand give references to suttas which describe the structure of the Buddhist Universe and its life cycle
when trying to look for such i’ve come across the stock passage in which the Buddha enumerates bestial topics of conversation unbecoming of monastics who follow his Dhamma
It isn’t right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation 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.
despite it being addressed to monastics, in my opinion it’s generally relevant regardless of a person’s ecclesiastic status
So heaven and hell is based on whatever my attitude is? These are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
I love this simile! I have heard it in dhamma talks but this is the first time I have read it. I’m not to worried about the creation of the universe I am more interested in getting away from suffering. I feel like I am suppose to question but at the same time questioning everything has gotten me no where spiritually. I’m happy to follow blindly at this point.
Thanks Squeaky Cat