God complex

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Buddhism | One Comment

Many people think there is no god in Buddhism. This isn’t true.

There are, in fact, loads of gods in the Buddhist cosmological view.

One of them in each ‘world period’ even thinks they created the universe.

There’s heaven too. Seven of them in fact.

You can get reborn in a heaven. You can also become a god.

Buddhism, gods and heaven

Gods in Buddhism are beings who have accrued a lot of positive karma. Being born a god is a result of that. It’s a really pleasant life to have. You’re in a good mood all the time. You don’t have a physical body to worry about. Some of them hardly even have a mind.

You live a really long time – many gods even think they’re immortal. (I’ve never actually met one. So what I’m recounting here is just what it says on the tin. May well all be a pile of nonsense).

Interestingly, you can visit the heavens in meditation. The heavens mirror mental states. In fact the entirety of Buddhist cosmology mirrors human mental states. So you could take the whole thing to be a teaching about human psychology. That’ wouldn’t be a traditional reading of it though.

No one meditates at a party

Anyway, the key downsides of being a god are that you don’t really achieve much, in terms of spiritual development. No one meditates at a party.

Eventually, the good karma is exhausted, you die, and you’re reborn somewhere less fun. This is why the goal of Buddhism isn’t heaven, it’s enlightenment.

You see god-type humans wandering around too. The ones that have had an easy ride. Born into privilege, surrounded by beauty and ease. Their folks are beautiful and powerful. So are their friends’ folks. They live in amazing pads and do amazing things.

Like the gods in Buddhist cosmology, many of these people think they’ll be in this state forever. Lots of them think they’re somehow special too – not like the other beings with whom they occasionally share a tube with (when they can’t get a cab and it’s raining). Or on the odd occasion when the nanny’s sick and they have to take their own pesky child to the park.

The importance of failure

Old age, sickness and death don’t respect background, wealth or power. And you can’t hire someone to do them for you.

Suffering comes to everyone. Not getting what one wants, getting what one doesn’t want, having something and losing it.

Personally, I think failure and humiliation are vital experiences. Until you’ve had them you don’t know your arse from your elbow. They’re like little deaths. They force you to open your eyes. They allow you to connect with other people. They make you re-assess your values and behaviours.

So if and when you fail, rejoice. Think of all those poor sods who have everything going their way. Merrily sailing along, en route to Niagra Falls.


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