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Devas: Roles in your practice

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  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Well I'm telling you - it isn't.
    You really need to give people more space and make far more of an allowance that what you see as hogwash, is very close to some peoples' hearts. And simply because you support a scientific approach, doesn't make that an overriding factor to the opinions, views, perceptions and beliefs of others.
    Pull your horns in, Kerome.
    They're unbecoming of a Compassionate and liberally-minded Buddhist.

  • techietechie India Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I've just provided an alternate viewpoint, it seemed a good discussion, and I didn't see any posts of people taking exception.

    I've gone over my past posts, I don't see anything particularly pushy? Lots of "I feel", "I think", quite a few 'insightfuls'. People can take it or leave it, none of it aimed at any one person other than the brief exchange with @seeker242 ... it all looks quite reasonable to me.

    Reasonable point, but for most people religion has nothing to do with science or rationalism. Religion is a coping mechanism for most people. If belief in devas/rebirth gives someone comfort, then they're gonna believe no matter what science says. Religion is all about beliefs, not reason. Buddhism is no exception. It has a different set of beliefs compared to Christianity, but the objective is the same: it serves as a coping mechanism.

    CarlitaSnakeskin
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @Carlita said:

    It is purely cultural. I believe in spirits because I was raised and saw and experienced spirits in my lifetime. They are souls of deceased individuals (probably in samsara but I never heard it described that way) where as the deity-god is not a person but an entity. When I was at the vietnamese temple, we were celebrating reverenced for our loved ones ... That caught my soul 100 percent. Whether they believe they are actually spirits or reverence to the spirit (the life and memory) of a person is besides the point. They also believe in devas and so forth. I...

    ...

    I do believe spirits literally exists. I'm not familiar with demons and devas to understand them apart from what master teacher told us (above). ...I do believe bodhisattvas exist.

    ...

    Yes. He no longer goes through samsara, so he has died. Many Buddhas died. I'm still learning what it means for those who have not to be still here. I don't know how Buddhism defines reincarnation and how its apart of the religion in general.

    Now, if you want to only say that beings such as Mara or Kuan Yin are allegorical, within your own mind, then that is fine. I have no problem with that. Similarly, if you want to represent the results of karmic action as Buddhist heavens and hells, that is fine, but if you want to say there is LITERALLY a place that is Buddhist heaven or Buddhist hell, then I want you to prove that.

    Mara, I read about when someone on the other site said there was a creator in Buddhism and I told him that Mara was an incarnation of Brahma to trick The Buddha into thinking impermenence does not exist (eternal life). The Buddha debated with Mara and won the debate. He also denounced a personal creator or god. The heaven and hell are parts of the mind. That I read in the suttas. They aren't real places.

    If they were, like many spiritual truths, the fact is not everything can be explained. That does not mean it is not true or it does not exist. Existence doesn't depend on our knowledge of its existence.

    ...

    I like Lobster's answer too. I don't know about Bodhi Jesus, though. I don't understand how one can compare jesus being tempted literally by the devil to disobey the creator and The Buddha being tempted by Mara and incarnation of Brahma (or Brahman, can't remember which) with whom all refers to the mind's temptation and not the flesh as in biblical scripture.

    Why do I think this is all important? Because I believe it is important to separate Buddhist principles from cultural principles. The monks at my Theravada temple discussed that with me, but then went on to tell me they believed in "phi" -- ghosts. Well, if a Buddhist is going to believe in ghosts, then I guess a Christian can believe in the holy ghost.

    I disagree. I feel cultural principles and "Buddhist" principles complement each other per their differing countries. ...

    How does culture change Buddhist principles ...

    I have heard quite a few Buddhists purport that Buddhism is a more scientific religion than Christianity. Okay, then let's be scientific about it. Otherwise, like another thread asked -- is Buddhism just like all the rest?

    I never got that impression with Buddhism and scientific. I do recognize online many atheist like Buddhism because there is no creator god. What they are doing is following a religion based on the disbelief of their former religion rather than Buddhist principles regardless their former faith.

    That, I can see why others have an issue with. It takes time to convert. ... But, of course, culture doesn't define Buddhism just compliments it depending on what the culture teaches.

    For example, western buddhist may not put too much emphasis in revering the dead...since christians see it as "praying to the dead" and needing evidence for everything. While Vietnamese go all out in ancestral reverence.

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to write that long response. There is clearly much we disagree on. But that's okay.

    Perhaps one thing that you have to keep in mind is that although I became a teacher and administrator, I was trained in the physical sciences.

    1. You said: "Whether they believe they are actually spirits or reverence to the spirit...is besides the point." I don't think it is beside the point. While I don't care what a person thinks about "spirits", still spirits either exist or they don't exist. It can't be both. I am truly undecided about it. On my first visit to Thailand, visiting Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) I fell while climbing the chedi (at that time you could climb about a third of the way up on very steep and narrow steps). As I was preparing to descend, I tripped and began falling and my hand grasped a step as I fell over it. I was saved by about 1 centimeter of stone...literally. If I hadn't grasped that wisp of stone, I probably would have fallen to my death. I always wondered if I was saved by a Buddhist spirit. Many years later, as my Catholic father was about to die, he went into a long tale about the spirits who were hovering around him, ready to "take" him, but couldn't until I did something. And it took me 7 hours to do that thing, and as soon I accomplished it, he passed. But therein lies the problem I alluded to in my earlier post. If we are going to claim that Buddhism is the "best" or "right" religion (and make no mistake, many Buddhists claim exactly that...and if one didn't believe it, why then would they be Buddhist), then we have to be scientific (objective) about what we believe. It doesn't seem objective, to me, for a Buddhist to say that all of our spirits are real, but the spirits Christians believe in are not real. That's why I think it's important for us to determine whether spirits exist of not. And if they do exist, why can only certain people see them, while others who may be very open-minded or even want to see them, can't see them? If we say we believe in spirits, why would we deny "haunted houses", "ghosts", "phis" in Thai spirit houses, etc. We can't have it both ways, although privately individuals may believe whatever they want.

    2. And then we get down to God and gods. I see Buddhists who say there is no creator god, thus denying the Christian god. And then I see them worshiping statues dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god creator and destroyer. Well, which is it? It can't be that there is no creator god if he is Christian, but there can be a creator god if he is Hindu. And why are Buddhists worshiping Hindu gods to begin with?

    3. The mixing of culture and Buddhism. I find this problematic. Virtually every home and business in Thailand has a spirit house where the spirits who once lived on the land where that home or business once stood lived. To appease them, Thai Buddhists build them a little house, feed them, give them flowers and gifts, etc. It's very charming. And I have had Thai Buddhists explain that those spirit houses and ghosts are part of Buddhism. No they're not. I don't think you can show me Buddhist scripture that says they are. And as a person who believes in Buddhist principles, I think it's important that we don't mix Buddhism and animism. Buddhism and animism can exist in the same culture, but not to the point where a Buddhist can't tell the difference between the two. More than once in Thailand when I have gone to temple with Thai friends, I asked, "So what were you doing?" "I was praying to Buddha." "May I ask about what?" "That the lottery ticket I bought at the temple would win." Whoa! Since when can Buddha answer prayers? I thought he was dead. And why would Buddha make one Buddhist's lottery ticket win over another Buddhist's lottery ticket? Why are we having Theravadan monks bless bombs, fighter jets, and guns? These are examples of why I think it's important to separate Buddhist principles from "other" thought.

    4. When we look at what is happening in Burma and what has happened in Burma in the recent past, we see quite a few Buddhist monks involved in the violence, prejudice, discrimination, and antagonism toward Muslim and Hindu Rohingya people. I think this is a good example of what happens when we mix Buddhism (or any religion) with culture. The two become intertwined to an extent where they can't be distinguished.

    When I go to a Thai temple and see the representations of all sorts of Buddhist "spirits" in the murals, I love it. When I see the vivid depictions of Buddhist heavens and hells in murals and in physical depictions, I love it. But do I really think that in Buddhist hell that some creature is pulling a person's intestines out and wrapping them around their neck, strangling them. Or that a loose man's penis is being bitten off by some ugly creature because the man was unfaithful in his marriage? Well, no I don't. But some do. And I think in morality (one of the main reasons we even have religions) it's important to know the difference between allegories for teaching and reality.

    And now, after writing all that, I'll close with: But that's just me.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    Does he have an equavalent to any of the Pali manifestations? Im not familar with Japan, Im assuming China, Japan, and other country's manifestations have a equavelent to manefistation or dieties in India? Or are they separate manifestationz in their own respective countries?

    Kuan Yin, whom I have usually seen as female (but there is that gender switch thing), is usually portrayed and worshipped as the goddess of mercy. Even in Theravada temples in Thailand (and my temple here in Colorado Springs) there is a statue of Kuan Yin. Try googling her. It's an interesting history.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @Kannon said:

    Religiosity is declining at a rapid pace. Especially with technology as it is nowadays. But do the two have to be mutually exclusive? I read the Scientific American, the Astronomy magazine, and watch tons of documentaries. I like knowledge and learning and knowing...but when it comes to the universe as a whole and my part in it, my vehicle of choice is the nembutsu.

    @Carlita I replied on my phone earlier so kept it short. Avalokiteshvara (how long it took to memorize that spelling!) is the original Sanskrit name of the bodhisattva.

    ...In Buddhism, the deities were interpreted differently to serve the needs of the people and culture. Is this bad? Maybe. ...Of course, it may be a matter of Mahayana versus Theravada.

    Interesting post, Kannon.

    No, religion and science don't have to be mutually exclusive. For example, the Pope is now discussing climate change! But all too often, such in discussions about evolution, religion has preached against science (just ask Galileo!). I may be going a step too far in this, but the frequent Christian disdain for evolution continued and grew into today's disdain for science in general, including climate change. America is full of science deniers at this point in our history, and I think much of it is because of latent religious beliefs.

    Yes, I feel there is a problem when religion begins to interpret reality differently "to serve the needs of the people and culture". When we get sloppy and start doing things like that, the principles taught by Buddha also can be adjusted "to serve the needs of the people and culture".

    But that's just me.

    lobsterpersonKundo
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    My own experience has been that believing in spirits stands in the way of understanding your own mind. If you have a certain experience in meditation and you chalk it up to playful spirits you may be missing significant opportunities for insight.

    Exactly.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @federica said:

    Science alone, is not responsible for those revelations. Better education, the expansion of society, and the evolution of thought also play a role. And Science (broad umbrella, isn't it?) itself is making new discoveries and revising older Theories, so to state it is a 'Gold Standard' is ever so slightly stretching it.

    ...

    Who says so? You sound as if you're an authority on such matters, and you 'KNOW' whereas others merely 'Believe'.
    It's not your place to dictate what should and should not happen.

    It's a question of interpretations and personal perception and understanding.
    Simply because you can't see something, doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't exist.
    Ever actually seen a microbe in the flesh?

    It's time to come to a cleaner, more reasonable world, and accept that it is how it appears to be, and not how some people tell it to be.

    ...

    There is an area of mystery, and it's in the depths of meditation, or what doctors call some people inducing psychosis. This is where we might contact the numinous, other spiritual realities. But these seem to me to be dimensions of consciousness, and whether we prior to death find only aspects of our own mind is still in doubt.

    I don't see gold standard as meaning ultimate perfection or permanent perfection. Right now the gold standard in some illness is a particular drug or treatment. Over time a newer gold standard will evolve.

    I don't think anyone is dictating here. Which is why in my last few posts I sometimes close with, "But that's just me". Seems to me this forum is about expressing opinions.

    Yes, saw microbes under the microscope in tenth grade biology and later in college.

    But that's just me.

  • just_sojust_so Explorer
    edited September 2017

    Apologies if this was mentioned and to those for whom this is old news.

    Quite a bit of first-hand experience with devas and other non-material entities at the highest level of practice is documented in Acariya Boowa's, "Acariya Mun Bhuridatta - A Spiritual Biography."

    Here's a link to the online version. I recommend reading the "Translator's Introduction" chapter before searching for the term "deva." Context does matter. The PDF is linked on the same page.

    Kannonpaulyso
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @techie said:...Reasonable point, but for most people religion has nothing to do with science or rationalism. Religion is a coping mechanism for most people. If belief in devas/rebirth gives someone comfort, then they're gonna believe no matter what science says. Religion is all about beliefs, not reason. Buddhism is no exception. It has a different set of beliefs compared to Christianity, but the objective is the same: it serves as a coping mechanism.

    As some wise sage put it: "You can't fight 'faith' with 'facts'.

    @vinlyn said: I don't see gold standard as meaning ultimate perfection or permanent perfection. Right now the gold standard in some illness is a particular drug or treatment. Over time a newer gold standard will evolve.

    Again, it's a question of context and interpretation. @Kerome clearly said:

    ...I also think science is the gold standard for telling us about the physical world...

    Which would appear to imply that in his opinion, THAT is the benchmark by which to gauge everything that is either in the physical world - or even, isn't.

    I don't think anyone is dictating here. Which is why in my last few posts I sometimes close with, "But that's just me". Seems to me this forum is about expressing opinions.

    Quite so. YOU do.
    It might be nice if others similarly implied, or took responsibility for their own posts also being 'just them' and didn't transmit a finality in their statements.

    Yes, saw microbes under the microscope in tenth grade biology and later in college.

    So they definitely exist then.
    But of course they do. You've seen them - proof positive, right? :+1:
    Other matters are not so clear cut - as I implied in the quotation I gave, above....

    But that's just me.

    And that's just cool. ;)

  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran

    That's funny. I say "that's just me" on the other site all the time. Haha. It's good you're okay from that fall. My friend went to, I think italy, and climbed some steep steps. She wouldn't go that far since she had a heart condition. I'd love to visit sometime when I have money, passport, medical back up and medication, and, um, money.

    @vinlyn said:

    And now, after writing all that, I'll close with: But that's just me.

    To tell you honestly, that visit at the Viet. temple is the only time I saw reverence to loved ones as a celebration. It's in the suttas about respect for parents and how one should treat parents and their spouses if one has one. Reverence is a mark of respect but whether the Viet. Buddhist believe in real spirits -or- just reversing the memory and life of their loved one is beyond me. We received colored flowers, red, white, or pink depending on if our loved one has passed or not. I received the pink one since my father is dying from internal bleeding from a liver surgery.

    If compared to christianity, since each country has their definition of spirit and I only know christianity's view, spirits are real. However, if going by what spirit actually means, it just means breathe. It's the "breathe" of life. If compared to scientific terms, it's just energy. It's what keeps our body going as we were born, age, grow ill, and pass away.

    Other cultures say that the spirits (memories of a loved one) are present in the first child born of deceased ones daughter or son. The elders souls are the children's souls. That's the research about children with Ol' Souls. My brother has an Ol' soul. A lot of what people call superstitions (common unproven beliefs) we believed they are real.

    A key factor is that we didn't need science to tell us these things. I mean, I have Epilepsy and in the early 1990s they still didn't know not to put a spoon in my mouth so I won't swallow my tongue. They still don't know the cause of many seizure disorders. They used to think we were devil possessed. So, nowadays, I don't put a lot of stock in science.

    In my opinion and experience in Buddhism, it's hard but it's more about the validation of your experiences not depending on the experiences of others to define yours. For example, Catholics believe they experience the Passion just as Jesus so everything they do is through an external party. Buddhism is all internal.

    Spirits too. When The Buddha talks to Mara about impermanence, he says his mind is tempted (I will find it. It's on the other site) to believe in something that isn't true. I can't remember how he won the debate. A lot of suttas I notice compare through analogy (and The Buddha does say they are analogies) the aspects or realms of the mind and personified temptations that lead one away from enlightenment.

    With Hindu gods, The Buddha actually believed Hindu Brahma did exist. He "believed" he exist; he did not believe "in" him. The Buddha had many talks with incarnations of Brahma. In one sutta, the person who translated the sutta-the introduction-summarized that Brahman could be compared to one's buddhanature. Though, I haven't read specifically about buddhanature in the suttas but an already present potential to be enlightened.

    Spirits, I understand but not Devas, though. I don't think The Buddha mentions spirits a lot. He clumps them as "demons, devas, brahmans, laymen, laywomen (when women started to hear the law), and bodhisttvas. In the Lotus Sutta, he uses a lot of analogy to explain that everyone can be a buddha not just himself and the boddhisattvas. In the Lotus, which is a Mahayna sutra, he treats the devas as actual persons by way of discription. The suttas, I'm not quite sure. It's hard for me to read through the dialogues sometimes.

    It's not like christianity "you're not a christian because of X but you are a christian because of Y." It's not sola sutra as a pun on sola scriptura. It's a practice. I notice people say "where in the sutta does it say that" when I think it should be "describe your experience to see understand what The Buddha has taught you through his suttas." Give us your personal experience because it's an individual practice.

    If one believes in literal spirits or not, really shouldn't be the point. Now, if they questioned if there was a literal Gautama, then I'd lift an eyebrow. But spirits?

    person
  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran

    After meditating, I think I found it about the devas. I think this is literal.

    Seeing he's won the battle
    — the disciple of the Rightly
    Self-awakened One —
    even the devas pay homage
    to this great one, thoroughly mature.
    "Homage to you, O thoroughbred man —
    you who have won the hard victory,
    defeating the army of Death,
    unhindered in
    emancipation."
    Thus they pay homage, the devas,
    to one who has reached the heart's goal,
    for they see in him no means
    that would bring him under Death's sway.

    and

    Then another deva exclaimed in the Blessed One's presence:

    Giving is good, dear sir!
    Even when there's next to nothing,
    giving is good.
    Giving with conviction is good!
    The giving of what's righteously gained
    is good!
    And further:
    Giving with discretion is good!
    It's praised by the One Well-gone:
    giving with discretion,
    to those worthy of offerings
    here in the world of the living.
    What's given to them bears great fruit
    like seeds sown in a good field.
    — SN 1.33

    --

    If they were aspects of the mind, would they be able to talk to The Buddha?

    Also, The Devas, so reading, die too and still learning about The Dhamma just as humans. I don't know exactly what a Deva is yet but I hope this gives some insight.

    paulyso
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 2017

    This, from our good ol' quasi-reliable friend, Wikipedia:

    A deva (देव Sanskrit and Pāli) in Buddhism is one of many different types of non-human beings who share the godlike characteristics of being more powerful, longer-lived, and, in general, much happier than humans, although the same level of veneration is not paid to them as to buddhas.

    The sound of the word might lead one to think that a Deva is a female manifestation; (perhaps the similarity to the Italian word, "Diva" might be a factor) however, this would be an error. I could find nothing anywhere that indicated a gender.

  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran

    Here is a good description of the role of Devas. Teacher of the Devas Devas and gods seem to play a good role in Buddhism. I know we learn from Bodhisattvas and their individual vows. What about the Devas and gods? (Of course not the same level, but in general)

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @Carlita said:
    ...I know we learn from Bodhisattvas and their individual vows.

    What do you mean by that?

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Devas: Roles in your practice

    Simple answer Devas play no role in my 'personal' practice

    If devas are 'real' great and if they are not 'real' great...either way Dharma practice is Dharma practice... Devas or no devas...

    vinlynlobster
  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran

    @vinlyn said:

    @Carlita said:
    ...I know we learn from Bodhisattvas and their individual vows.

    What do you mean by that?

    I noticed each bodhisattva has their personal vows or, I guess you can say, prayers in their worship to The Buddha.

    For example, The Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (of good conduct among similar translations) has vows:

    First, Pay homage and respect to all Buddhas.
    Second, Praise the Thus Come Ones.
    Third, Make abundant offerings.
    Fourth, Repent misdeeds and evil karma.
    Fifth, Rejoice at others' merits and virtues.
    Sixth, Request the Buddhas to turn the Dharma wheel.
    Seventh, Request the Buddhas to remain in the world.
    Eigth, Follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times.
    Ninth, Accommodate and benefit all living beings.
    Tenth, Transfer all merits and virtues universally."

    -

    I guess if one wants to follow the examples of a said Bodhisattva as a manner of honoring The Buddha, he or she could take individual vows of that Bodhisattva in addition to the main one's of The Buddha himself.

    That is what I get from it.

    Kundo
  • @Carlita. Every day at the various Chinese way places I lived in we would recite Samantabhadra vows every day and every evening. A fond memory. For some reason the Chinese refer to Samantabhadra as Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.

  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran

    @grackle said:
    @Carlita. Every day at the various Chinese way places I lived in we would recite Samantabhadra vows every day and every evening. A fond memory. For some reason the Chinese refer to Samantabhadra as Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.

    I noticed that. When I first came across him, the translation was Good Conduct. I can't remember which country, though. I didn't know some of the Bodhisattvas had personal vows. Do you still recite them?

  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    @Carlita Amida Buddha made 48 vows when he was still the monk Dharmakara. Through several lifetimes on several planes he became Enlightened and thus Amida Buddha.

    https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Amitabha's_forty-eight_vows

  • @Carlita. Well as far as recitation goes I can still clearly hear and remember the recitation. I follow it internally. It is today as clear as it was years ago. Many times of circumambulating the many thousand armed Kuan Shih Yin. In the company of Dharma brothers and sisters. You never forget. I wish you may know the joy of being with good companions on your journey.

    Carlita
  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran
    edited September 2017

    @Kannon said:
    @Carlita Amida Buddha made 48 vows when he was still the monk Dharmakara. Through several lifetimes on several planes he became Enlightened and thus Amida Buddha.

    https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Amitabha's_forty-eight_vows

    Hmm. I don't know any thing of Amida Buddha but the vows read extensive. I was looking up Bodhisattvas that follow the Zen sect and ran across your name Kannon. Did you choose that from a Bodhisattva's name or probably coincidence?

    Kannon Bodhisattva

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited September 2017

    @Kerome said:... it all looks quite reasonable to me.

    And to me. I think you are one of the more open-minded posters on this forum actually.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @SpinyNorman said:
    And to me. I think you are one of the more open-minded posters on this forum actually.

    It's a good thing the Moderator here isn't heavy-handed, isn't it? ;)

    Kundo
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