What is holy and divine?

Does anything in the entire cosmos deserve this designation? Are they not just cultural and linguistic contraptions? Were they ever necessary? Apparently. Are they necessary today? Will they be necessary forever?

Unbinding, liberation, these require work. That, we know. Of course none of these can occur without wisdom and wisdom must originate (in/through the sequences we know as beings) and take a communicable form, somehow. I understand the reason behind the elevation of wisdom, the need to be grateful for it. But forms of the kind, we also know, are conventional. What then is objectively, ultimately holy and divine in all this?

I mean, I can expressly state: I am thankful for as long as I live for the gifts and the wisdom, and do it wholeheartedly and exactly once, internalize it and make it an inseparable part of a path, without the need to turn such path into a lifelong practice of reverence and veneration. Revere what? Venerate what? I live thankfully, without many other burdening qualifiers. Must I hold these other conventional concepts as real? IMO, this would entail duty and obligation where duty and obligation are not unbinding, quite the contrary.

With respect.

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Whom do you feel the most indebted to? The Buddha? Perhaps Him then.

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Depends on your cultural background and how you relate to those words.

Holy and divine in the western worldview seems to point to God. There’s no such thing according to Buddhism, but we have some close ones, devas, brahmas. They do deserve to be called holy for needing to be good to get there, and divine for being more powerful, longer lived etc compared to humans.


The Absolute Divine is what one may be looking for, and finding such is a personal journey. I don’t think Buddhism is against such a search, in fact, it may be the case where when you get to where you are going, in culmination, Enlightenment may open up your eyes to the answer. Hehe :slightly_smiling_face:.

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This is exactly my point. If divinity is not an objective characteristic (which I think agrees with the Buddha’s instruction) and is instead “nothing in particular”, then the cultural approach to the search for enlightenment (rites and designations) may be, in fact, no longer necessary for some, and instead, unnecessarily burdensome.

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Divinity is not initially in a framework of philosophy or religion, instead it reflects in how someone Loves others, and in turn, Loves what is referred to as the Divine. Then do the frameworks and philosophies or religions become full in themselves, in the mind, able to understand the Absolute. It’s a lifelong search, often a search throughout many, many lifetimes. The Buddha calls His Disciples Holy, and He gives respects to the Devas as Divine. But if you are looking for the Supreme Absolute Truth, I think you will find it in the unsurpassed Enlightenment that the Buddha Himself possessed, and to Him it must be very objective.

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This I agree wholeheartedly with. The question remains: in the frame of enlightenment, is religion and all of its trappings (including holiness and divinity), necessary? Furthermore, seeing how conceptual devices can culturally become heavy and unwieldy, may a non-religious approach be, in fact, today, for some, more conducive to enlightenment than a religious one?

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Religion can have it’s own Dharma, there is the Buddhadhamma, but there are also many other Dhammas according to the Buddha. Even you have your own “Dhamma”, this is the culmination of understanding of Anatta and Sunyata, in you, as well as your infinity. It is a certain type of Dhamma. The principles of Religion are reistableshed by the Buddha, but the personal Spiritual Path can be taken from a framework of Religion if it is instilled by Spiritual knowledge, but it is not necessary to accept any Religious principle that goes against your sense of truth. You can take the senses of truth from the Suttas, or from the infinite Wisdom that the Buddha has to offer, but when you find all of this within yourself you will find the Light of the others all around you, the potential for an Enlightened one in everyone, for those both following a Religious Path, and those deciding to abstain from the frameworks of Spiritual organization that the modern world has to offer, in order to take a more personal approach. Enlightenment is my personal goal, and the long road ahead I know has a certainty, because the certainty in the Buddha is absolutely real.


Things beyond the senses but of the mind that are wholesome states - kindness, generosity, non-harming, non-attached love. Stuff like that. When they come into the world as like charity, solidarity, sila etc.


I think you’re on an interesting track, but let’s not treat a linguistic issue as a philosophical one.

Holy is usually a translation of Brahmanical. So what is the brahmanical life? Generally, one revolving around listening to and repeating vedas, talking about a virtuous life, philosophising about life, living with ethics and restraint, performing rites and services.

There’s also Divine which is Dibba means Shining, as something that refers to devas and above. It’s used to things like Dibba-sota (divine ear), dibba-cakkhu (divine eye).

These are meditation enabled extraornidary sights and sounds that are accessible only to the mind.

While I understand and generally am sympathetic to the anarchist tendency to not be a blind fool to anything, has anyone or anything touched you so deeply as to shake you to your core? Filled you with a sense of gratitude that burst out of your lungs?

Religion and Buddhism is a bit like that. It’s not like that one amazing song that you can’t stop listening to, sharing with all your friends overenthusiastically. It’s not like that one great food you saw on YouTube and decided to give it a go to make for your friends.

It’s literally the actuality of all your pursuits so far up to this point, the realisation that all you’ve ever done in your life was to (skillfully or otherwise) trying to fight of suffering. This is the ultimate content, the final content, complete liberation from suffering, the dispelling of delusion, anger and greed. It’s the cultivation of at least 14b of life and probably even more depending on your perspective, each moment serving to get you now to heart The Problem expounded as it is.

It’s natural people can get a little dramatic, even though guarding our sense doors and restraining our over-enthusiasm is a good thing too.

But like you’ve demonstrated, critical discernment is an important factor of the path so why is reverence useful?

Because, if you know who’s inclined too foolishness and who’s inclined to wisdom, you can seek better support when you’re lost. Perhaps they both have something valuable to say, but our time is limited and can be wasted easily on the fools who don’t respect your time. So, we can conclude that it’s better to follow people who values your time appropirately rather than those who are prone to waste it.

That’s one step. Think of it in the most intimate terms, such as fooding, lodging, spiritual guidance and so on, and with the limited resources, we need to make best of what we have.

In those situations, people and concepts that invoke reverence and veneration in you are things more likely to be beneficial for you. It’s good to know who and what deserves your attention, especially in today’s age when everyone is fighting for it literally.

A monk who is a friend to admirable people — who’s reverential, respectful, doing what his friends advise — mindful, alert, attains step by step the ending of all fetters. - Iti17

As he was seated to one side, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues.”

"Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

"And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops right resolve… right speech… right action… right livelihood… right effort… right mindfulness… right concentration dependent on seclusion… dispassion… cessation, resulting in letting go. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.

“And through this line of reasoning one may know how having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life: It’s in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.” SN45.2

Interesting point again. Let’s take a look at a poem:

[The enlightened person] doesn’t speak of purity in terms of view, learning, knowledge, habit or practice.

Nor is it found by a person through lack of view, of learning, of knowledge, of habit or practice.

Letting these go, without grasping, one is independent, at peace.

Sn 4.9

An enlightened person doesn’t define himself with the things he does -such as being reverential to figures, prayers, homages, etc. But he doesn’t define himself with lack of those things either. Rather than being burdened with “the obligations of reverence”, he’s free to feel reverence where appropirate, because he recognises true practice and true practice, true practician as true practician, he respects the time and effort.

In a broad stroke, entire holy life can be summed up as learning to pay proper attention to things that deserve it and learning to not pay attention to things that don’t deserve it. In this way, our sense of respect should be refined as we go, sometimes losing respect for the people we thought were holy (think, rockstars and pornstars) and learning to respect the simple monk who’s content to eat a bowl of rice everyday and meditate blissfully.

Not that the monk would properly care if you respected him or not, and rockstars/pornstars are addicted to your veneration (which itself is a barometer to guide your senses anyway) but one of those things are beneficial to you and one of those things are harmful to you.

tl;dr it’s good for you, not for the object of your veneration and respect.

Then you’ve replace the word “Holy” with “Enlightenment” and treat the object the same so nothing changes.

Now you’ve a categorisation of “Conducive to Enlightenment” and “Not-conducive to enlightenment”, just more words for “Holy / Mundane”.

So, we’re going to make a distinction nevertheless. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you call it. You can call it “Bunnifying” and “Not-Bunnifying” if the words ring good to you. You’re still using the same “Holy/Not-Holy” dichotomy (as you should, it’s helpful for you), you just don’t like the specifics of the word, probably due to past baggage.

Whether holding on to your gripes about specifics of the word you use should matter or not, why you’re (as an example, to no doubt many people thinking your question) so obsessed with this differentation, why you need to make another differentiation if you’re bored of differentiations to begin with, etc. etc.

I think it’s much better and simpler to say “There’s a good and there’s a bad way to conduct your life, and there’s the holy life above and beyond.” Wraps up my ideas neatly, I think. People generally understand that I’m more interested in being alone contemplative, reading books rather than going out partying. It’s not a trapping for me, it’s an immense convenience to have some simple words that I can use to explain to anyone not-buddhist that I’m into a life of religious discussion, ethics and all that fun stuff.

Even if we go along and start to talk about less-religious new terms, then in due time, those terms will become religious sacraments, and next generation Juan Pablos will question why we use terms with a heavy baggage like “Conducive to enlightenment?”

So, it’s quite a futile war.


Keeping precepts leads to a holy life and the divine that’s been there from the start, may or may not be called upon when one knows how to make the call.

So, activity is holy


Thank you. Thank you. :pray:

Truly, where’s the boundary between these two? I am being taught that “there is no enlightenment” and “there are no beings”, that we only call them that. A life based on the essential truth that these are only conventional designations basically disregards that philosophy and linguistics are even separate things.

If I could summarize the processes that most make me feel like this, they would be when I realize how wrong I was regarding something, how partial my wisdom is, while at the same time recognizing what is more truthful. But generally speaking, I quickly move to a dispassionate state, realizing that it is also somewhat useless to keep thinking about such things in terms of right and wrong and that the entire history that has brought me to this place has been founded on the same type of misgivings about the world. Why should I name it anything? Why should I give it a distinct importance other than acknowledging the automatic effect of it leading me to a better life? I am grateful, but I don’t tack on additional characteristics to an experience that can only be universal and natural.

I once heard a Lama say that there’s a distinction between karmic fruition and arrogance. I am aware of this, every second. But that does not mean, if we take the teachings to be true, that one cannot, absolutely cannot, find independence and self-reliance with little or no additional support (of words and performances).

I absolutely agree with this. Liberation looks like this. You don’t do things because you have to, you do things because you’re grateful and because you’re mindful of the attention everything deserves. I just do not appreciate when “reverence” becomes a dry staple of any concerted spiritual effort, and worse, when it becomes a demand. My teacher does not forewarn his students: you may rise when I enter the room or you may not. He actually expects us to. He instructs his attendants to have us do it. What good is a rite without the proper framework? I’ve seen the effects. A lady worried that she wouldn’t be able to utter 10,000 mantras in the alloted timeframe sets her mind at ease when the teacher tells her that 5,000 would be enough.

I’m sure we agree on this. Practice with phenomenological features and practice without them. The fact remains that it is my current belief that the current shape of widely disseminated practices with those features, even if you remove the enlightenment label, is not helping modern people as much as they intend to. Often they are presented as “absolutely necessary” for the goal, it is not instilled that well that they are for the benefit of the practitioner. They become demands.

And this is where we slightly disagree. To use my favorite tenet, a bad outcome is possible, not necessary. Obviously we can say the same of a good outcome. But… we haven’t tried, have we? To use another one of my favorites, nothing is insignificant. The world is moving far more quickly than, IMO, most monks and teachers are able to appreciate. While these wise people may be wise to the foundations of the behaviors, they may be blind to the current capabilities and dispositions of individuals, just assuming that ritualistic is better for them. Then again, just because I find such attitudes patronizing doesn’t mean that I’m seeing the entire picture, either. I may as well be the blind one.

Again, thanks.

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The term Enlightenment, although it is Empty, too, like everything, holds a special significance because it points towards the Gateway by which you figure out all this stuff, and ultimately open yourself to a whole new world. Although for a Buddha, conventions, designations, and illusions such as “self” hold no ultimate significance, the terms “Enlightened” and “Buddha” sit at the center of the Buddhist Tradition, under the Bodhi Tree, beckoning for you to come and do the same. These terms are actually Divine and Holy if you feel. So with such a powerful framework, there is still value in these terms, thanks to Emptiness, thanks to the Buddha, and thanks to His Enlightenment.

Those are interesting Mahayānā attitudes. I’m not sure I want to tackle those, they would be quite off topic, and not sure if fruitful to our discussion here…

There was a Zen Koan that basically tells of a novice monk who runs up to his teacher and says “I’ve found it! All is one! Everything is same!” then the monk proceeds to first slap him gently on the cheek, then he crushes a tree trunk on the back of the student then says “If everything’s one and the same, I’m going to beat you randomly with either a backhand or a tree trunk everyday.”

I think there’s different levels to non-duality (haha!), there’s a useful way and a useless way. Something similar is told when Buddha meets a nihilist.

Just because everything is suffering doesn’t mean we can’t make a distinction and build ourselves a raft out of suffering to travel to the other shore, and leave the raft behind. This I think is a healthy non-dual perspective, because it results in less suffering. But there are actions that result in more suffering, and those are to be abandoned.

If you can completely detach from external communications and are able to sustain your life without communicating to others what you’re doing, then I guess you don’t need it. Again, it’s only good if it’s practical to your daily life, if it doesn’t serve that purpose, discard namings altogether, since we’ll do that at some point anyway.

I’ve heard less than desirable things about monks, especially some Vajrayana / Zen masters being pointedly difficult and potentially abusive to their students.

I think again though, your sense of reverence is oddly enough, your saving point. You realise how and what respect should look like, and you recognise that said Master doesn’t deserve it effortlessly as you would revere a truly holy person.

Again, my words are loaded. “A truly holy person”? What does it look like? I don’t know, but one knows these things instinctively I think. Some people’s patience, compassion and metta are such that they stun you.

You bring up important points, we should never stop to scrutinise our masters and hold them to the highest standards. “Truly holy person” (like Buddha) would welcome such an inspection and interrogation with open heart, patience and love, as he does repeatedly in the suttas.

Good companions is very important, but so is walking alone like a rhino. Better to be left alone than keep company with fools.

I think it’s important that you’re critical of institutions, dogma and rituals. I think such things are against the spirit of Buddha’s teachings.

But I think it’s equally important not to let fake-holy gurus take away the importance of teachers and the value of good behaviours, such as being mindful of teachings, having some daily habits of practice, lots of meditation of course.

Going back to the poem earlier, we don’t define ourselves with these actions, but we don’t not do those things either.

While I understand that all these bureaucratic details of religious trappings might seem superficial and useless (and vast majority of it useless too, to be honest), still, such adherence to the tenets consistently for over 2600 is what lets us have the Buddhadhamma today. Let us always be critical of monastics, of people holding power and influence over others, but let’s not altogether dismiss entire structure that helped us hear the dhamma today.

My thanks actually, it was an interesting topic and quite important lines to consider.

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Sorry, had to come back to this. Everything is one and the same for those with access to “ultimate” reality, the only one “seeing” a difference would be the stubborn monk, wouldn’t it? The one asserting sameness would be beyond even feeling anything.

Assuming one is a follower of the Buddha’s Teachings, one would take the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha) to be holy and divine in the sense of being “worthy of the highest veneration.” What I’ve noticed learning about the highly-regarded Thai Forest Tradition masters is that they all venerate the Triple Gem. For example:

If you knew how to bow, you’d have tears in your eyes every time. If you really knew the meaning of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and you really felt that when you bowed, you’d have tears in your eyes every time.
-Ajahn Jayasaro quoting Ajahn Chah in 2556.08.04 talk Practicing Positive Emotion

And the Buddha Himself revered the Dhamma and said those who live without reverence live in dukkha (SN 6.2):

So I have heard. At one time, when he was first awakened, the Buddha was staying in Uruvelā at the root of the goatherd’s banyan tree on the bank of the Nerañjarā River.

Then as he was in private retreat this thought came to his mind, “It’s unpleasant to live without respect and reverence. What ascetic or brahmin should I honor and respect and rely on?”

Then it occurred to him:

“I’d honor and respect and rely on another ascetic or brahmin so as to complete the entire spectrum of ethics, if it were incomplete. But I don’t see any other ascetic or brahmin in this world—with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans—who is more accomplished than myself in ethics, who I should honor and respect and rely on.

I’d honor and respect and rely on another ascetic or brahmin so as to complete the entire spectrum of immersion, if it were incomplete. But I don’t see any other ascetic or brahmin … who is more accomplished than myself in immersion …

I’d honor and respect and rely on another ascetic or brahmin so as to complete the entire spectrum of wisdom, if it were incomplete. But I don’t see any other ascetic or brahmin … who is more accomplished than myself in wisdom …

I’d honor and respect and rely on another ascetic or brahmin so as to complete the entire spectrum of freedom, if it were incomplete. But I don’t see any other ascetic or brahmin … who is more accomplished than myself in freedom …

I’d honor and respect and rely on another ascetic or brahmin so as to complete the entire spectrum of the knowledge and vision of freedom, if it were incomplete. But I don’t see any other ascetic or brahmin in this world—with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans—who is more accomplished than myself in the knowledge and vision of freedom, who I should honor and respect and rely on. Why don’t I honor and respect and rely on the same Dhamma to which I was awakened?”

Then Brahmā Sahampati knew what the Buddha was thinking. As easily as a strong person would extend or contract their arm, he vanished from the Brahmā realm and reappeared in front of the Buddha. He arranged his robe over one shoulder, raised his joined palms toward the Buddha, and said:

“That’s so true, Blessed One! That’s so true, Holy One! All the perfected ones, the fully awakened Buddhas who lived in the past honored and respected and relied on this same teaching. All the perfected ones, the fully awakened Buddhas who will live in the future will honor and respect and rely on this same teaching. May the Blessed One, who is the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha at present, also honor and respect and rely on this same teaching.”

This is what Brahmā Sahampati said. Then he went on to say:

“All Buddhas in the past,
the Buddhas of the future,
and the Buddha at present—
destroyer of the sorrows of many—

respecting the true teaching
they did live, they do live,
and they also will live.
This is the nature of the Buddhas.

Therefore someone who cares for their own welfare,
and wants to become the very best they can be,
should respect the true teaching,
remembering the instructions of the Buddhas.”

I think it’s worth reflecting upon why the Buddha taught this, why the Buddha Himself continued to have reverence, and why great masters continue to revere the Triple Gem.