Friday 25 January 2013, Pullahari
This morning I learned that Tibetan Buddhist philosophers have a term for the kind of God posited by traditions like Judaism, Christianity & Islam. They call it sam minchi chepo (tib. བསམ་མིན་གྱི་བྱེད་པོ་) – an inconcievable creator . This is probably a translation of an older sanskrit term, but we didn’t cover that. It refers to philosophical systems that posit a creator god without any reference to valid cognition or logic. In other words, a sam minchi chepo is a creator whose existence can’t be established by verifiable observation nor through inferential cognition.
There’s something satisfying about seeing this oppressive topic packaged up with a simple label. In western cultural dialogue, so much of philosophy, religion, metaphysics and discourse about spiritual paths is dominated by this single question about whether the creator God exists. Meanwhile, the Buddhists wander through that field and say “Oh. You believe in a བསམ་མིན་གྱི་བྱེད་པོ་. That’s problematic. Let’s move on – so much else to cover!”
3 thoughts on “Inconcievable Creator”
That’s pretty awesome. I like it.
That is pretty awesome. But — genuine question: Is it problematic, from the Buddhist perspective? Or is that simply a way to describe that type of god – a label, but not necessarily a judgement?
The Buddha explicitly discouraged bothering with the question of a creator god at all. It’s possible to completely extinguish suffering without addressing the idea of a creator god, and Buddhism is solely interested in the goal of alleviating suffering for sentient beings.
People often cite the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow as a summary of the Buddha’s views on the topic. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Poison_Arrow) The wikipedia entry on God & Buddhism currently opens with a pretty concise explanation: “Gautama Buddha did not endorse belief in a creator deity, refused to express any views on creation and stated that questions on the origin of the world are worthless.”.
So Buddhists think it’s the wrong question to ask. Wasting time on the wrong questions is problematic because it needlessly distracts and confuses. In that sense, the actual belief in a creator is not problematic but it would become a problem if the belief leads you to ignore, dismiss, or misunderstand observable facts and valid logical analysis. Further, it would become a “wrong view”, or unvirtuous view, if it led you to do things that are harmful to yourself or others.
Here’s the underlying point though: these pitfalls also apply to almost any other belief. Unlike the question of a creator god, the Buddha DID spend a lot of time attacking tons of other beliefs like the belief that material wealth will make you happy because beliefs like that actually do contribute to the suffering of sentient beings in observable, preventable ways. More to the point, you can completely alleviate suffering purely by addressing those beliefs, without addressing the idea of a creator god at all. It’s in this sense that that it’s just the wrong question to be asking and therefore problematic.