Is Buddhism Atheistic?

SN 12.23 Upanisa – https://suttacentral.net/en/sn12.23

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2 thoughts on “Is Buddhism Atheistic?

  1. And what is the proximate cause of ignrance? Since all has its proximate cause, that one must have also. Why nothing have said about it? Why the storyteller stoped at that, breaking his own logic?

    1. Great question. I’m not sure I can explain this with complete satisfaction, so let me offer a couple of possibilities and see what you think.

      1.) Here’s one possibility: Ignorance is sometimes understood as a LACK of wisdom or insight. If I found a Lazyboy chair at the top of Mount Everest, that would require an explanation. But if I DON’T find a Lazyboy chair at the top of Mount Everest, no explanation is required. The lack of something does not require a supporting cause. In fact, it is precisely the LACK of a supporting cause that causes that lack.

      2.) But I find that argument, in a word, lacking. I think it is “ignorance” that’s the THING that requires a supporting condition, as you say, and liberation from ignorance that is the freedom from the supporting cause of ignorance. It is wisdom that is unsupported because it needs no support. But if that’s so, what is the supporting condition of ignorance? In Buddhist thought, this is tantamount to asking, “What is the cause of the beginning of the world?” There is no satisfactory answer to that question. The Buddha not only doesn’t answer, he goes out of his way to say that it is a question that leads nowhere. Any answer is not even wrong. It’s like asking “What color is the number 4?” The fact is, we live in ignorance. Let’s go from there.

      Even at the time of the Buddha, this answer drove some of his followers and potential followers to distraction. In one sutta a young monk threatens to leave the dhamma unless the Buddha answers this question. He straightforwardly refused. In my mind, this show incredible integrity. But it is frustrating sometimes as well!

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