Author Topic: New Student Questions  (Read 1046 times)

Offline Gray Cloud

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New Student Questions
« on: October 29, 2018, 03:25:16 pm »
As a new student of Buddhism, I am still struggling with the god-Buddhism issue, and I have several questions that I need help with:

(1) Does Buddhism specifically reject the god concept, or is god simply irrelevant?

(2) When Buddhists pray, to whom or to what are they praying?

(3) When Buddhists express gratitude, to whom or to what are they expressing gratitude?

If these questions have been answered before, please refer me to those answers.  Thank you in advance for your help.

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2018, 05:31:13 pm »
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(1) Does Buddhism specifically reject the god concept, or is god simply irrelevant?

Buddhism rejects a "Creator God" (but does not reject "gods", who are people with special powers, such as mystics, compassionate beings, kings, queens, politicians, oligarchs, military leaders, parents, etc). A Buddhist scripture below:

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"Having approached the brahmans & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being's act of creation. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being's act of creation.' When one falls back on creation by a supreme being as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my second righteous refutation of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.061.than.html


Scripture below about parents and political rulers as "gods" (Brahmas, devas & asuras):

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"Living with Brahma [God] are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. Living with the early devas [gods] are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. Living with the early teachers are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. Living with those worthy of adoration are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. 'Brahma,' bhikkhus, is a term for mother and father. 'Early devas' and 'early teachers' and 'those worthy of veneration' are terms for mother and father. For what reason? Because mother and father are very helpful to their children, they take care of them and bring them up and teach them about the world."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.4.106-112x.irel.html#iti-106


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The Blessed One said, "Once in the past the devas & asuras were arrayed for battle. Then Vepacitti the asura-king said to Sakka the deva-king: 'Let there be victory through what is well spoken.'

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn11/sn11.005.than.html


Buddhism says the mind creates the (conceptions of the) world:

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For it is in this fathom-long body with its perception and mind that I describe the world, its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation.

https://suttacentral.net/an4.45/en/sujato


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The Blessed One said: "And what is the origination of the world? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. This is the origination of the world.

"Dependent on the ear & sounds there arises ear-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact... Dependent on the nose & aromas there arises nose-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact... Dependent on the tongue & flavors there arises tongue-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact... Dependent on the body & tactile sensations there arises body-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact... Dependent on the intellect & mental qualities there arises intellect-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. This is the origination of the world.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.044.than.html

This article by Thailand's foremost scholar monk may help:

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Buddhism teaches that all things, both material and immaterial, are entirely subject to the direction of causes and are interdependent. This natural course of things is called in common terms "the law of nature," and in the Pali language niyama, literally meaning "certainty" or "fixed way," referring to the fact that specific determinants inevitably lead to corresponding results.

    The laws of nature, although uniformly based on the principle of causal dependence, can nevertheless be sorted into different modes of relationship. The Buddhist commentaries describe five categories of natural law, or niyama. They are:

    1. Utuniyama: the natural law pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment, such as the weather; the way flowers bloom in the day and fold up at night; the way soil, water and nutrients help a tree to grow; and the way things disintegrate and decompose. This perspective emphasizes the changes brought about by heat or temperature.

    2. Bijaniyama: the natural law pertaining to heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."

    3. Cittaniyama: the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.

    4. Kammaniyama: the natural law pertaining to human behavior, the process of the generation of action and its results. In essence, this is summarized in the words, "good deeds bring good results, bad deeds bring bad results."

    5. Dhammaniyama: the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things: the way all things arise, exist and then cease. All conditions are subject to change, are in a state of affliction and are not self: this is the Norm.

    The first four niyama are contained within, or based on, the fifth one, Dhammaniyama, the Law of Dhamma, or the Law of Nature. It may be questioned why Dhammaniyama, being as it were the totality, is also included within the subdivisions. This is because this fourfold categorization does not cover the entire extent of Dhammaniyama.


http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/good_evil_beyond.pdf


 :namaste:

 
Quote
(2) When Buddhists pray, to whom or to what are they praying?


The original Buddhists (today loosely called "Theravada") don't pray but Mahayana Buddhists often pray.

Quote
(3) When Buddhists express gratitude, to whom or to what are they expressing gratitude?

The Buddhist word for gratitude is "katannukatavedi", which literally means "what others do for me; what I must do in return". Because each person in this world receives benefaction (gifts) from others or other things (such as from parents, teachers, wife, husband, friends, society, employer, employee, the environment, etc) gratitude is shown towards those who give benefaction. However , since a "Creator God" does not exist, why would a Buddhist express gratitude towards something that does not exist? In the New Testament Bible (1 John 4:20), there is the saying: "How can you hate your brother who you see; but claim to love God who you don't see?"

Since I tried to help you here, you can feel & express gratitude towards me. Since you helped me develop my skills in explaining Buddhism, I can feel & express gratitude towards you. Thank you for asking your questions here and making this internet forum a beneficial place.

  ;D :pray: :namaste:

« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 05:51:46 pm by VisuddhiRaptor »

Offline Rasputin

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2018, 06:00:42 pm »
I was taught that the “prayers” are not so much a prayer to something, but more an affirmation to train the mind.

Offline Gray Cloud

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2018, 06:25:24 am »
Thank you for your very thorough response. Now I will attempt to understand it.

I still have one problem, though. Throughout my life I have become accustomed, when beneficial events occur during my daily life, to say, "Thank god for small favors." It has reminded me to be grateful for the many blessings I have and continually receive. So now, should I be grateful to the world of which I am a part? Or nature? Or karma? I think I'm correct in saying that the Buddha teaches us to be grateful; if so, where do I direct it?

Thanks again.

Offline Gray Cloud

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2018, 08:32:49 am »
After a meditation session, I have reconsidered my previous question.

We relieve our suffering by accepting the Four Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path. Would I be correct in saying that all of the "wholesome" (good or beneficial) events in life result from abiding in the Truths and following the Path? Therefore, I might properly express my gratitude to these teachings of the Buddha? Thus my "prayers" and "gratitude" simply may be affirmations of the Buddha's lessons? This would accord with Rasputin's suggestion that prayers are "affirmations to train the mind.

I see gratitude reflected in several of the steps on the Path--right understanding, right action, etc.--so I know it's important.

Thanks.

Online Chaz

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2018, 12:44:15 pm »
After a meditation session, I have reconsidered my previous question.

We relieve our suffering by accepting the Four Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path. Would I be correct in saying that all of the "wholesome" (good or beneficial) events in life result from abiding in the Truths and following the Path? Therefore, I might properly express my gratitude to these teachings of the Buddha? Thus my "prayers" and "gratitude" simply may be affirmations of the Buddha's lessons? This would accord with Rasputin's suggestion that prayers are "affirmations to train the mind.

I see gratitude reflected in several of the steps on the Path--right understanding, right action, etc.--so I know it's important.

Thanks.

Something else you might consider is "non-referential" gratitude.  This would be gratitude, not directed towards anything.  Just gratitude.  It's a Mahayana thing, associated with something called "3-Fold Purity". An emptiness practice.

Offline Gray Cloud

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2018, 03:57:00 pm »
I did some reading today about "Three-Fold Purity", but in the process came across this quote:

“Continuous practice, day after day, is the most appropriate way of expressing gratitude. This means that you practice continuously, without wasting a single day of your life, without using it for your own sake. Why is it so? Your life is a fortunate outcome of the continuous practice of the past. You should express your gratitude immediately.”  — Dogen (Kazuako Tanahashi, trans.)

Maybe this is what I've been looking for. I interpret it to mean that I might express my gratitude to karma. Would this be accurate?

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2018, 04:39:16 pm »
So now, should I be grateful to the world of which I am a part? Or nature? Or karma? I think I'm correct in saying that the Buddha teaches us to be grateful; if so, where do I direct it?

The Buddha taught to be grateful towards the small gift or favour. Gratitude is directed to:

1. People who give us things

2. Nature

3. When suffering dissolves, the 'Nirvana element'.

 :namaste:

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2018, 04:59:48 pm »
We relieve our suffering by accepting the Four Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path. Would I be correct in saying that all of the "wholesome" (good or beneficial) events in life result from abiding in the Truths and following the Path? Therefore, I might properly express my gratitude to these teachings of the Buddha? Thus my "prayers" and "gratitude" simply may be affirmations of the Buddha's lessons? This would accord with Rasputin's suggestion that prayers are "affirmations to train the mind.

In Theravada Buddhism, there is Morning Chanting and Evening Chanting. The Evening Chanting in particular has the following verses of gratitude:

Quote
The Buddha, the truly worthy one, endowed with such excellent qualities,
Whose being is composed of purity, transcendental wisdom and compassion,
Who has enlightened the wise like the sun awakening the lotus —
I bow my head to that peaceful chief of conquerors.
The Buddha, who is the safe, secure refuge of all beings —
As the First Object of Recollection, I venerate him with bowed head.
I am indeed the Buddha’s servant, the Buddha is my Lord and Guide.
The Buddha is sorrow’s destroyer, who bestows blessings on me.
To the Buddha I dedicate this body and life,
And in devotion I will walk the Buddha’s Path of Awakening.
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
By the utterance of this Truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.
By my devotion to the Buddha, and the blessing of this practice —
By its power, may all obstacles be overcome.

The Dhamma is excellent because it is ‘well expounded,’
And it can be divided into Path and Fruit, Learning and Liberation.
The Dhamma holds those who uphold it from falling into delusion.
I revere the excellent Teaching, that which removes darkness —
The Dhamma, which is the supreme, secure refuge of all beings —
As the Second Object of Recollection, I venerate it with bowed head.
I am indeed the Dhamma’s servant, the Dhamma is my Lord and Guide.
The Dhamma is sorrow’s destroyer, and it bestows blessings on me.
To the Dhamma I dedicate this body and life,
And in devotion I will walk this excellent way of Truth.
For me there is no other refuge, the Dhamma is my excellent refuge.
By the utterance of this Truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.
By my devotion to the Dhamma, and the blessing of this practice —
By its power, may ail obstacles be overcome.

Born of the Dhamma, that Saṅgha which has practised well,
The field of the Saṅgha formed of eight kinds of noble beings,
Guided in body and mind by excellent morality and virtue.
I revere that assembly of noble beings perfected in purity.
The Saṅgha, which is the supreme, secure refuge of all beings —
As the Third Object of Recollection, I venerate it with bowed head.
I am indeed the Saṅgha’s servant, the Saṅgha is my Lord and Guide.
The Saṅgha is sorrow’s destroyer and it bestows blessings on me.
To the Saṅgha I dedicate this body and life,
And in devotion I will walk the well-practised way of the Saṅgha.
For me there is no other refuge, the Saṅgha is my excellent refuge.
By the utterance of this Truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.
By my devotion to the Saṅgha, and the blessing of this practice —
By its power, may all obstacles be overcome.

https://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/30/Chanting-Book-Vol-1-Web.pdf

 :namaste:

Online Chaz

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2018, 12:38:34 pm »
I did some reading today about "Three-Fold Purity", but in the process came across this quote:

“Continuous practice, day after day, is the most appropriate way of expressing gratitude. This means that you practice continuously, without wasting a single day of your life, without using it for your own sake. Why is it so? Your life is a fortunate outcome of the continuous practice of the past. You should express your gratitude immediately.”  — Dogen (Kazuako Tanahashi, trans.)

Maybe this is what I've been looking for. I interpret it to mean that I might express my gratitude to karma. Would this be accurate?

No.

Just be grateful.

If you can't do that, be grateful to your mother for a Precious Human Birth.

You're really overthinking this.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2018, 01:34:33 pm »
As a new student of Buddhism, I am still struggling with the god-Buddhism issue, and I have several questions that I need help with:

(1) Does Buddhism specifically reject the god concept, or is god simply irrelevant?

(2) When Buddhists pray, to whom or to what are they praying?

(3) When Buddhists express gratitude, to whom or to what are they expressing gratitude?

If these questions have been answered before, please refer me to those answers.  Thank you in advance for your help.

If Zen Buddhists have a concept of "God" it's usually not something separate that you can have a that kind of a relationship with-- and the questions you have could only be answered through insights that result from your own ongoing meditation practice.

I did some reading today about "Three-Fold Purity", but in the process came across this quote:

“Continuous practice, day after day, is the most appropriate way of expressing gratitude. This means that you practice continuously, without wasting a single day of your life, without using it for your own sake. Why is it so? Your life is a fortunate outcome of the continuous practice of the past. You should express your gratitude immediately.”  — Dogen (Kazuako Tanahashi, trans.)

Maybe this is what I've been looking for. I interpret it to mean that I might express my gratitude to karma. Would this be accurate?

Dogen is speaking to fellow monastics – urging them to repay their debt to the tradition that has come down to them and the society that supports them. It can also mean one’s debt to this world that has brought us into being.

« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 01:56:38 pm by zafrogzen »
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2018, 02:20:15 pm »
If Zen Buddhists

This thread is "New Student Questions". Being so, I encourage you to read my answers.  :namaste:

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2018, 02:22:52 pm »
Precious Human Birth.

In original Buddhism, the term "precious/rare human birth" means the realisation of the Noble Truths and living a life of complete non-violence or "humaneness". In other words, it does not mean being born into this socially immoral and often evil world we live in.   :namaste:

Quote
44. Who shall overcome this earth, this realm of Yama and this sphere of men and gods? Who shall bring to perfection the well-taught path of wisdom as an expert garland-maker would his floral design?

45. A striver-on-the path shall overcome this earth, this realm of Yama and this sphere of men and gods. The striver-on-the-path shall bring to perfection the well-taught path of wisdom, as an expert garland-maker would his floral design.

46. Realizing that this body is like froth, penetrating its mirage-like nature, and plucking out Mara's flower-tipped arrows of sensuality, go beyond sight of the King of Death!

Dhammapada

Quote
“Bhikkhus, suppose a man would throw a yoke with a single hole into the great ocean, and there was a blind turtle which would come to the surface once every hundred years. What do you think, bhikkhus, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole?”

“If it would ever do so, venerable sir, it would be only after a very long time.”

“Sooner, I say, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole than the fool who has gone once to the nether world would regain the human state. For what reason? Because here, bhikkhus, there is no conduct guided by the Dhamma, no righteous conduct, no wholesome activity, no meritorious activity. Here there prevails mutual devouring, the devouring of the weak. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, they have not seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

https://suttacentral.net/sn56.47/en/bodhi
« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 02:26:24 pm by VisuddhiRaptor »

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2018, 02:57:44 pm »
If Zen Buddhists

This thread is "New Student Questions". Being so, I encourage you to read my answers.  :namaste:

GC is YOUR student?

I do read your answers, although it's usually words I've already read elsewhere. I used the term "zen" Buddhists as a qualifier because that's where most of my formal training came from.

Anyway, I need to move on to more productive work.

« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 03:09:27 pm by zafrogzen »
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline KathyLauren

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Re: New Student Questions
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2018, 03:19:43 pm »
I did some reading today about "Three-Fold Purity", but in the process came across this quote:

“Continuous practice, day after day, is the most appropriate way of expressing gratitude. This means that you practice continuously, without wasting a single day of your life, without using it for your own sake. Why is it so? Your life is a fortunate outcome of the continuous practice of the past. You should express your gratitude immediately.”  — Dogen (Kazuako Tanahashi, trans.)

Maybe this is what I've been looking for. I interpret it to mean that I might express my gratitude to karma. Would this be accurate?

Directing your gratitude somewhere is like putting legs on a snake: a totally unnecessary complication.  Just be grateful.  You don't have to deliver it anywhere.

If you feel you have to do something with your gratitude other than just being, send it on to someone who needs it.  The secular term for this is "paying it forward".  When someone does you a favour and expects nothing in return, instead of "returning" the favour to the originator, pay it onwards to someone else by doing them a favour.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy

 


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