Sunday, November 8, 2009

After Sharing Thoughts - Buddha and God

Today we had a sharing session by Ven Bodhi and Shi Xiong (Brother 4 Bear) regarding Buddhist perspective of God and what we Buddhist believe. For years, Shi xiong and I had shared the same topic in camps and our perspective were generally limited to stories of interaction between Buddha and Maha Brahma. Venerable Bodhi shared the same topic in different light. It made me draw lessons from the scriptures and put it to good use in our daily lives.

Brahma or God(s) in our context are beings that are highly cultivated in meditation and has reached various Jhanic or absorbtion states. They reside in 16 hevenly realms depending on their Jhanic achievements. They exist with natural glow and radiance. Living off their jhanic rapture, they have no need for food and posses various psychic powers. However, they too undergo decay and impermance which result in death after a long long long...long long..... very long time.

One of the discourses that had always struck a chord in my heart was:

Conversation with Gods

Once a bhikkhu with psychic powers visited the various celestial realms seeking an answer to the question, "Where do the great elements — earth, water, fire, and air — cease without remainder?" An exhaustive inquiry led him from one realm to the next, until he finally came to Maha Brahma. The first three times the monk asked his question, Brahma replied evasively: "Monk, I am Brahma, Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-seeing." Exasperated, the bhikkhu demanded a decent reply, "Friend, I did not ask if you are Brahma... I asked you where the four great elements cease without remainder."

At this point Maha Brahma took the monk by the arm, led him aside, and told him, "The brahmas of my entourage believe there is nothing Maha Brahma does not see, there is nothing he does not know, there is nothing he is unaware of. That is why I did not speak in front of them." Admitting his ignorance, he advised the monk to return to his Master, the Awakened One, who rephrased the question and gave the appropriate answer.
In this discourse we have more evidence that a Buddha is far beyond Maha Brahma in power, teaching skill, and understanding, and much of the proof is volunteered by the Great Brahma himself (DN 11.67-85).

After listening to the story, in the words of a innocent 13 year old boy sitting beside me, "what a joke". Due to the fact that Brahma(s) are beings that are very highly accomplished (but not fully enlightened), they live long lives, way longer than one can ever imagine, to an extent that they have a concept of permanance. They too possess many forms of physic power due to their previous cultivation and good Khamma. As such, they are temporarily unable to understand the concept of impermanace and ceasation to exist.

Imagine yourself as a being descibed above. You could have anything that you wanted just by your thought - food, clothing, house, servants, etc. Also you have lived billions and billions of years. You are always happy and everyone listens to you and obeys you. Literally a king, monach, leader and father to all. Would you be able to understand that you'll die one day? that everything that you once own would just go away? Even if you did have such a thought, after years of sensual pleasure, you'll just forget and put that thought aside, basking in the joy and happiness of heavenly bliss.

Putting this story into perspective of our human lives, have we seen rich, powerful or egoistic leaders blinded by power and influence over his/her people? Have we seen people who once gain social and financial status no longer humbly mix with others of "lower" status? You might find it familiar when I bring out the example of Dao Ming Shi from F4 (A rich "prince" who had everything and any thing he wanted). What happens to these people? Being blinded by power and ego, there is only one outcome - downfall.

However, it is also improtant to note that Brahma(s) are highly cultivated beings and we too can learn from them. Brahma-vihara as we Buddhist commonly know are virtues that is possess by Maha-Brahma or gods. These are, Metta (Loving-kindness), Karuna (Compassion), Mudita (Appreciative Joy) and Uppekkha (Equanimity - Balanced state of mind). By cultivating these virtues, we too can experience the joys and happiness of great beings.

As Buddhist, our relationship towards Lord Buddha and Sangha members is a teacher - student relationship. We should look up to our teacher(s), seek guidance from them, learn and practise good virtues and values. As such, even if one day when we become rich and powerful, we will have the constant will to learn and grow in wisdom and compassion. These are virtues of a good buddhist and leader.


Some reference can be found here:
1) 31 relams of existence -
2) Conversation with Gods and psychic powers (miracles)-

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