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June 22, 2006

A Bone to Pick with the Buddha -- 2

Was my dispute with the Buddha based on a misunderstanding?

That quote I attributed to the Buddha, to which I took exception -- that the question of the existence of the gods "does not edify" -- I found in Jennifer Michael Hecht's comprehensive book, Doubt: A History. Been working to get closer to the quote's origins and, so far, have not found another reference to it.

The parable of the fire is mentioned: In it the Buddha, on being pressed to support one or another possibility for where the soul does or does not go after death, finally explains that this would be like asking whether the fire goes east or west when extinguished. And my researcher, Kaylan Connally, has found this answer/nonanswer, presumably by the Buddha, to the question of whether the gods -- devas -- exist: "It is firmly accepted in the world that devas exist." But "Buddha," "gods" and "edify" don't seem to spend much time in the same sentences.

Guess this supports Jay Saul's point about the difficulty of confirming anything that the Buddha or Jesus said. Though I sure would like to find at least some sort of vaguely legit source for this quote.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at June 22, 2006 5:49 PM


don't know much about ... ; but in 'the pocket zen reader' (ed. thomas cleary) I've been reading of late, in an entry on 'no' by master Ming-pen, there's an interesting statement resembling (w/out a direct mention of gods) your quote -- offered only as a possible remote research lead:

"... At present it is only necessary for you to keep up the feeling of doubt at the saying you're looking into [no ironies here!]. You do not need to think about anything at all; any thought you conceive apart from the saying you're looking into, no matter whether it is a thought of Buddha or a thought of the teaching, is not right mindfulness, but a seed of birth and death.

"People who are really and truly doing the work are intent on it 24-hours a day, as intent as if they were saving their heads from burning, as if they were facing ten thousand adversaries single-handed. When would they find the lesisure time to be obsessed with their personal lives or worldly conditions? And what lesiure do they have to seek edification from others? What idle time, furthermore, do they have to question others, to look for sayings and statements, to seek interpretation and understanding?..."

The bib lists a book _Dhammapada: the sayings of the Buddha_ ('rendered' by Thomas Byrom). Perhaps there's a lead in here somewhere for your assistant to pursue..... however antithetical this may be to buddhism ;) .

Posted by: JM at June 22, 2006 7:12 PM

It is as though you have an eye
That sees all forms
But does not see itself.
This is how your mind is.
Its light penetrates everywhere
And engulfs everything,
So why does it not know itself?

Posted by: Jay Saul at June 22, 2006 10:24 PM

Here you can leave your mark

Posted by: warren at July 5, 2006 4:59 PM

The sutta below is one where the Buddha addresses what is 'edifying' to contemplate and not.
I don't particularly like the translation, but the first item referring to the eternity of the cosmos might also be interpreted as 'is there any entity in the cosmos that is eternal (ie. God )


Posted by: Michael at July 21, 2006 7:13 PM

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