Was Gautama Buddha an atheist 1

  • 12-06-14, 07:55 AM#1

    Chews the Cud

    Was Buddha an atheist?

    I'm finding bits and pieces of information which lead me to believe that if Buddha wasn't an atheist, he was at the very least agnostic. He did accept that there were enlightened beings, but did not necessarily view them as gods, but rather a class superhumans who had attained a higher state of existence -- all of whom are in the same cycle of death/rebirth as everyone.

    From Wikipedia:

    God in Buddhism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    ...

    Reflecting a common understanding of the Buddha's earliest teachings, Nyanaponika Thera asserts:

    In addition, nowhere in the Pali Canon are Buddhas ascribed powers of creation, salvation and judgement. In fact, Buddhism is critical of all theories on the origin of the universe[69] and holds the belief in creation as a fetter binding one to samsara. However, the Aggañña Sutta does contain a detailed account of the Buddha describing the origin of human life on earth. In this text, the Buddha provides an explanation of the caste system alternate to the one contained in the Vedas, and shows why one caste is not really any better than the other.
    From a study of the discourses of the Buddha preserved in the Pali canon, it will be seen that the idea of a personal deity, a creator god conceived to be eternal and omnipotent, is incompatible with the Buddha's teachings. On the other hand, conceptions of an impersonal godhead of any description, such as world-soul, etc., are excluded by the Buddha's teachings on Anatta, non-self or unsubstantiality. ... In Buddhist literature, the belief in a creator god (issara-nimmana-vada) is frequently mentioned and rejected, along with other causes wrongly adduced to explain the origin of the world.[68]
    Gautama Buddha rejected the existence of a creator deity,[1][2] refused to endorse many views on creation[3] and stated that questions on the origin of the world are not ultimately useful for ending suffering.[4][5]

    Buddhism, instead, emphasizes the system of causal relationships underlying the universe (pratītyasamutpāda or Dependent Origination) which constitute the natural order (dhamma) and source of enlightenment. No dependence of phenomena on a supernatural reality is asserted in order to explain the behaviour of matter. According to the doctrine of the Buddha, a human being must study nature (dhamma vicaya) in order to attain personal wisdom (prajna) regarding the nature of things (dharma). In Buddhism, the sole aim of spiritual practice is the complete alleviation of stress in samsara,[6][7] which is called nirvana.

    Some teachers tell students beginning Buddhist meditation that the notion of divinity is not incompatible with Buddhism,[8] and at least one Buddhist scholar has indicated that describing Buddhism as nontheistic may be overly simplistic;[9] but many traditional theist beliefs are considered to pose a hindrance to the attainment of nirvana,[10] the highest goal of Buddhist practice.[11]
    As scholar Surian Yee describes, "the attitude of the Buddha as portrayed in the Nikayas is more anti-speculative than specifically atheistic", although Gautama did regard the belief in a creator deity to be unhealthy.[25] However, the Samaññaphala Sutta placed materialism and amoralism together with eternalism as forms of wrong view.[25]

    As Hayes describes it, "In the Nikaya literature, the question of the existence of God is treated primarily from either an epistemological point of view or a moral point of view. As a problem of epistemology, the question of God's existence amounts to a discussion of whether or not a religious seeker can be certain that there is a greatest good and that therefore his efforts to realize a greatest good will not be a pointless struggle towards an unrealistic goal. And as a problem in morality, the question amounts to a discussion of whether man himself is ultimately responsible for all the displeasure that he feels or whether there exists a superior being who inflicts displeasure upon man whether he deserves it or not... the Buddha Gotama is portrayed not as an atheist who claims to be able to prove God's nonexistence, but rather as a skeptic with respect to other teachers' claims to be able to lead their disciples to the highest good."

  • 12-06-14, 08:02 AM#2

    Pitter Patter

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    Well technically everyone is agnostic if go with the definition that Agnostic means you don't have the information to prove or disprove a higher power.


  • 12-06-14, 08:14 AM#3

    Big Scary Liberal

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    Likely he was Hindu or protohindu

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  • 12-06-14, 08:30 AM#4

    A sinister place...

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    You could argue that Buddha was an atheist, but that would be a bit of a problem as it only applies to one context.

    What Buddha rejected was the of worship of a God in the sense of moral obligations and adherence to social control (or "religious authority") here in this life as a benefit for afterlife reward. The only sense then that Buddha can be called an atheist is the rejection of an omnipotent God who as a creator gave us a set of rules to abide by. However, in just about every other sense Buddha was not an atheist. Buddhism as a means of spiritual teachings in a higher moral law is in itself a rejection of materialistic literalism as a doctrine. At its core scientific materialism as a source for answers is incompatible with just the suggestion of a higher means of human interaction. Thus in today's sense of what atheism is, Buddha and Buddhism would hardly qualify.
    Originally Posted by Amadeus

    I'm finding bits and pieces of information which lead me to believe that if Buddha wasn't an atheist, he was at the very least agnostic. He did accept that there were enlightened beings, but did not necessarily view them as gods, but rather a class superhumans who had attained a higher state of existence -- all of whom are in the same cycle of death/rebirth as everyone.

    From Wikipedia:

    God in Buddhism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    ...

    Last edited by OrphanSlug; 12-06-14 at 08:36 AM.

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  • 12-06-14, 02:36 PM#5

    The Expert

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    My finding is that the Buddha and his teachings are very much different then the man-made Buddhism.

    Just like Jesus Christ and His teachings are very much different then the man-made Christianity.

    The man-made stuff still has their place and value but they are still very different from the original.

    As such the Buddha did believe in God as he was a Hindu, but I would agree that he rejected the ceremonial worship and the orthodox pretensions of religions.
    Originally Posted by Amadeus

    I'm finding bits and pieces of information which lead me to believe that if Buddha wasn't an atheist, he was at the very least agnostic. He did accept that there were enlightened beings, but did not necessarily view them as gods, but rather a class superhumans who had attained a higher state of existence -- all of whom are in the same cycle of death/rebirth as everyone.

    From Wikipedia:

    God in Buddhism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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  • 12-06-14, 02:46 PM#6


  • 12-06-14, 03:18 PM#7

    Sage

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    I am not sure what the Buddha believed when it comes to gods. That may depend on what sect of Buddhism one belongs to. I will say this, all things are impermanent, so too would be the gods. There is a sentient ladder or realms in which one could be reborn in which consists of: 1. Gods 2. Humans 3. Animals 4. Titans and demons 5. Hungry Ghosts 6. Denizens of Hell. But in all cases one can build up karma in order to move up the ladder or acquire enough bad karma to move down. But all realms are both imperfect and impermanent.
    Originally Posted by Amadeus

    I'm finding bits and pieces of information which lead me to believe that if Buddha wasn't an atheist, he was at the very least agnostic. He did accept that there were enlightened beings, but did not necessarily view them as gods, but rather a class superhumans who had attained a higher state of existence -- all of whom are in the same cycle of death/rebirth as everyone.

    From Wikipedia:

    God in Buddhism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia






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  • 12-06-14, 03:23 PM#8

    Guru

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    A/Gnostic asks where you claim to know or admit you don't know. A/Theism asks what you believe/don't' believe.

    Your (not you specifically, but anyone) claim to knowledge or lack thereof is what A/Gnosticism addresses where as A/Theism address what you believe. So we are all some combination of these 4 positions, one of each group, A/Gnostic (pick one) and A/Theist (pick one). I guess there is one more possibility and that is that you've never given "god/s" a thought and you don't care.
    Originally Posted by CMPancake

    Well technically everyone is agnostic if go with the definition that Agnostic means you don't have the information to prove or disprove a higher power.

    Last edited by csbrown28; 12-06-14 at 03:26 PM.

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  • 12-06-14, 05:16 PM#9

    The Expert

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?

    My understanding is that the Buddha rejected Hinduism but that does not include rejecting God or the Higher Power by whatever name.

    It could be said that the Buddha created a reformed type of Hinduism, or at least a break-off religion from Hinduism.

    I do believe that you are correct that the vast majority of Hindus consider the Buddha as one of their own.
    Originally Posted by Amadeus

    My understanding is that Siddhartha rejected conventional Hinduism. He was born into that belief system, but his beliefs and teachings differ greatly.

    Hindus believe that the Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu.

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  • 12-07-14, 06:10 AM#10

    Banned

    Re: Was Buddha an atheist?



    I like to let Alan Watts explain these issues. Remember that Mr. Watts said to not take anything he says seriously.