By Jayaram V
Monks, that sphere should be realized where the eye (vision) stops and the perception
(mental noting) of form fades. That sphere is to be realized where the ear stops
and the perception of sound fades... where the nose stops and the perception of
aroma fades... where the tongue stops and the perception of flavor fades... where
the body stops and the perception of tactile sensation fades... where the intellect
stops and the perception of idea/phenomenon fades: That sphere should be realized.
— Samyutta Nikaya XXXV.116
Buddhism neither believes in the existence of God nor of soul.
It is basically a religion of the mind, which advocates present moment
awareness, inner purity, ethical conduct, freedom from the problem of change,
impermanence and suffering and reliance upon one's own experience as the sole teacher, rather than an
external authority, on the Eightfold path.
Unlike other major religions of the world, Buddhism is not centered around the concept of
God or an universal supreme
being, who is responsible for the creation and dissolution of the world and the existence
of sentinel beings.
Buddhism does not even support the existence of an external and unchanging soul.
According to Buddhism the whole existence is in a state of flux and there is
nothing that is either permanent or unchanging. The Buddhist scriptures, however
do confirm the existence of devas or celestial beings, bodhisattvas or pure
beings, both heavens and hells and other planes of existence. But none of these
are permanent entities. They all are subject to change and evolution. It is said
that the Buddha either maintained silence or discouraged questions when he was asked to
confirm the existence of a Supreme Being.
When Ananthapindika, a wealthy young man met the Buddha at the
bamboo groove at Rajagriha, the Buddha made a few statements about the existence
of God and the real cause behind the creation of beings in this world. These views
are summarized as below:
1. If God is indeed the creator of all living things, then all things here should
submit to His power unquestioningly. Like the vessels produced by a potter,
they should remain without any individuality of their own. If that is so, how can
there be an opportunity for any one to practice virtue?
2. If this world is indeed created by God, then there should be no sorrow
or calamity or evil in this world, for all deeds, both pure and impure, must come
3. If it is not so, then there must be some other cause besides God which is
behind Him, in which case He would not be self-existent.
4. It is not convincing that the Absolute has created us, because that which is
absolute cannot be a cause. All things here arise from different causes. Then can
we can say that the Absolute is the cause of all things alike? If the Absolute is
pervading them, then certainly It is not their creator.
5. If we consider the Self as the maker, why did it not make things pleasant?
Why and how should it create so much sorrow and suffering for itself?
6. It is neither God nor the self nor some causeless chance which creates us.
It is our our deeds which produce both good and bad results according to the law
7. We should therefore "abandon the heresy of worshipping God and of praying
to him. We should stops all speculation and vain talk about such matters and practice
good so that good may result from our good deeds.
The Buddha did not encourage speculation on the existence of Iswara, (God) among
his disciples. He wanted them to confine themselves to what was within their field
of awareness, that is, to understand the causes of suffering and work for its mitigation.
He preached that initially each being was a product of ignorance and illusion
and subject to suffering, karma and transmigration. He therefore urged his disciples
to contemplate upon the Four Noble Truths, practice the Eightfold path, lead a virtuous
life by performing good deeds and works towards their final liberation from all
becoming and changing.
Suggested Further Reading