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I do not understand. I dont like indirect comments. I didnt answer my own question or it would be appearant in a direct statement that I can learn from.
You have confused me. Why the yes/no question?
This site, I will be honest, is very rude. Its like picking my teeth trying to converse with some of you. Why did you ask if I believed in devas?
I back tracked our convo. I have no clue where you going. Dialogue helps.
This part of the conversation began, I think, when I commented that Buddhists sometimes fall all over themselves saying there is no God (which, btw, I now agree with, or that if he does exist he's a deist god), but then profess to believe in all sorts of spirits (devas and all sorts of other celestial beings that have never been proven).
You replied that, "Regardless of one's faith in the validity of devas, I think devas should, at least as an intellectual exercise, be examined as allegory to distill the practical advice they offer."
Okay, although how does an allegorical deva offer practical advice? So I asked, "Do you think devas, demons, and spirits literally exist." With the emphasis on LITERALLY exist.
Then you asked me to "Give me some context". Context? I asked if you thought devas (etc.) literally exist. Either they do or they don't. I can see Donald Trump (sort of a Mara). You can see Donald Trump. Brad Pitt can see Donald Trump. Kim Jong-un can see Donald Trump. Khomson Cherdsungnoen can see Donald Trump. Now we may not want to see him, but we can see him, touch him, smell him. He literally exists.
Kuan Yin does not exist...at least any longer. She (or he, depending on how you look at that being) may have literally existed once, but no longer exists. Buddha does no exist. I believe and assume he once did. But he no longer does. His principles do, but he as a being does not literally exist, which is why many (most?) Buddhists admit that it does no good to pray to Buddha for granting some wish/hope, because he can do nothing.
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.
I kinda liked Lobster's response here: "It is possible to experience Deva manifestations as 'real' in special states of mind. The Buddha did whilst starving himself. Bodhi Muhammad starting hearing Angels whilst starving. Bodhi Jesus too met the Devil whilst starving in the desert etc. When they come for supper, then we might think them outside the mind ...":
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 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?
Your OP reminded me of my own parents who divorced when I was 2. Once the stormy marriage was over, they got along quite nicely. For me they sometimes spent holidays or my birthday together (if my dad was home on leave). Later in life they occasionally chatted on the phone or wrote letters.
Of course I also remember the time when I was in my 20s that my father asked if my mother ever talked about him, and if so, what does she say. I responded, "Well, she says you drank too much." And my father responded, "She's right. I did. And still do. But if you lived with your mother, you'd drink, too." They were both right.
I have never understood why so many Buddhists will deny the existence of God so vehemently, and then believe in all these other "spirits". I think there's a lot of confusion between actual Buddhism and culture, and the two should not mix.
Born, raised, and bred a westerner and proud of it, I can give you an insight on that. In Buddhism it's all about the mind. In god religions-of the west- (GRW) it's all about the spirit. The mind and body is secondary. In Buddhism it's inside out. In GRW its outside in.
So think of referring to a spirit or diva in a GRW point of view. You would literally have to imagine him or her outside of yourself-meaning your mind your spirit-to which he or she intervenes on your behalf without being equal and/or have the same abilities as you (say knowing the Dhamma and listening to The Buddha).
Inside out religions put emphasis on self-growth and compassion etc is the result. Outside in religions depend on an external source to come into the person's spirit/soul so that compassion etc can result.
A raised and even a convert who knows The Buddha's words are fact will understand that the God of the west cannot be separated from the mind. Once you separate it from the mind of the Dhamma, it no longer exists.
So, one can believe in spirits, demons, and devas because they are aspects literal or not of the Dhamma and Dhamma the teachings (for lack of better words) that make up the mind. Where as God-West religions are purely external.
You would literally have to separate your mind from reality, Dhamma, beings, and community (life) in order to believe in an external being and the beings of the Dhamma at the same time.
I honestly don't think that's possible.
Do you think devas, demons, and spirits literally exist. Don't write a paragraph. Just say yes or no.
It's pretty hard to remove culture entirely. I do agree with the general sentiment of your post, @vinlyn. But even the core of Buddhism was influenced by the culture of the time. But Buddhists should be investigating these attachments to culture just like everything else, but it's easy to see that looking into other countries from afar. When you are living within the culture, it's often hard to see what is culture and to separate it out. Our attachments to our "tribe" is one of the biggest ones we have, so we are quick to condemn others' without even being able to see our own.
For me, being a Tibetan practitioner, it has been explained by several teachers/monks that references aren't meant to be seen as actual, literal beings but rather manifestations of parts of our minds and ways to visualize them and find ways to work with them. The same has been explained as the various realms etc. It's not for everyone, but some people are very visual learners and not having a visual makes things very difficult. Myself, I am someone who learns best by being able to move and do, I need practical application to understand alot of things. Others can understand just by reading or hearing. Others need a visual, so I don't think that's harmful, as long as they understand that that is what it is. Visualization like that, for me, is more often a distraction than a help in understanding.
Interesting post, Karasti. I have seen so many Thai temples with graphic depictions of hells...and heavens, all sorts of spirits, and so on. I never really thought of it as a teaching aid. However, when I have talked to some of my fairly well educated Thai friends, they seem to believe that heaven and hell are actually like that. What can I say.
I do like your view of it.
If you look at many of the strands of Buddhism, from Tibetan to Chinese Mahayana to Thai Forest, they do seem to have absorbed a lot of tendencies from local culture. But I think people are less superstitious now than say a thousand years ago, and there is less of a tendency to use explanations such as "spirits".
I was talking with the Theravada Thai monks at my temple about some of this, and they were very clear about differentiating between Buddhism and "local" culture. Of course, they had a Thai spirit house in the backyard and admitted that they believed in "phi" (spirits). But, they didn't include all that as part of Buddhism.