August 12, 2019
1. The concept of eternal future life is built into most of the religions today. It comes in two varieties.
- In Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), one is born only once. Then at the end of this life, one is either taken to heaven or hell for eternity.
- In Hinduism, one has born before, will reborn again and again, until one is born in the Mahā Brahma realm. Then one will live there forever.
- Both varieties require a Creator (God or Mahā Brahma).
- (Please note that the intent of my post is just to lay down the facts (to my knowledge). If I have miswritten something, please post a comment at the discussion forum or send me an email at [email protected] I would be happy to correct any errors.)
2. In the time of the Buddha, there was only the latter view associated with a future eternal life. However, in both the above cases, the expectation is that one will have eternal life at the end. Such a view of eternal life was called sassata diṭṭhi by the Buddha (“sassata” means eternal).
- As we recall from my previous post, “Views on Life – Wrong View of Materialism,” this is the opposite of the wrong that life ends with death in this life. That was called uccēda diṭṭhi (“uccēda” means cut off) by the Buddha.
- As we know, the Buddha explained 62 types of wrong views in the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1). However, the two main wrong views REGARDING LIFE are the above. Some of those 62 wrong views are on whether the world is eternal or not, and whether the world is finite or not.
Eternal Life in Hinduism and Abrahamic Religions
3. In the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1), the Buddha explained how some people at that time concluded eternal soul or atta (ātma in Sanskrit/Hinduism).
- There were yogis, even before the Buddha, who could attain (anariya) jhāna and with them the ability to recall past lives. Some were able to recall hundreds and thousands of past lives. One may change the form of birth (human, deva, etc.), but each birth associated with “oneself.”
- Some of them had cultivated abhiññā powers to higher levels, where they could “see” very far back. They could see many destructions/re-formations of the world (i.e., many mahā kappās). Even for such long times, they could see their “ātma” or “atta” taking different forms, but it was the “same self” who acquired such various forms.
- The Buddha gave an analogy in the Brahmajāla Sutta. A person may live in a particular city for several years during childhood, move to another to go to school, get a job in a yet another city, and eventually retire in yet a different country. But that person has the perception that it was “me” who was at all those different places, with different physical bodies. Going through different lives is similar; there is a perception of “me” or “self” or “soul” (ātma/atta).
4. Now we can see a difference in views of Abrahamic religions and Hinduism.
- The concept of rebirth is firmly in Hinduism. That is coming for a long time even before the Buddha Gōtama. It is based on the experience of ancient yōgis who had cultivated the ability to look at past lives.
- On the other hand, rebirth is entirely absent in Abrahamic religions. So, the origin of human life in Abrahamic religions is purely materialistic. The only requirement is to have a zygote created by the union of the mother’s egg and father’s sperm. Therefore, there is some overlap here with the materialistic view of life; see, “Views on Life – Wrong View of Materialism“.
- However, as far as the end of life is concerned, both Abrahamic religions and Hinduism have a similar view. That one attains eternal life at the end.
Issues Only Relevant to Abrahamic Religions
5. The other difference between Abrahamic religions and Hinduism is that in the former, one is born only once AND gets only this life to work towards getting eternal life in heaven. If one misses that opportunity, one will be committed to the hell for eternity.
- The Bible clearly says one dies only once and then faces judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible never mentions people having a second chance at life or coming back as different people or animals. Matthew 25:46 says explicitly that believers go on to eternal life while unbelievers go onto eternal punishment. As I understand, Judaism and Islam have the same concept.
- I wonder what happens to a baby dying very young. Does it go to heaven or hell? What about a mentally disabled person? It does not seem to be fair if they are committed to hell for eternity. If they do get qualified to be born in heaven, it would be better to skip this life (be killed as a baby) and be born in heaven right away.
- I may not be aware of the details on that issue. But it is an important issue. As I mentioned earlier, I welcome comments. The goal is to have a clear and correct picture of different world views.
6. Since this is the “first life” for any human alive today (since there is no rebirth process in Abrahamic religions), the following question arises. Why is it that people are born healthy/with disabilities, poor/rich, beautiful/ugly, etc.?
- To put it another way, is each of us a “new creations of the Creator”? If so, why did he choose to create some of us with disabilities, for example? If we did not have prior lives, there was no basis to differentiate among new births.
- Furthermore, was the “soul” of an existing individual created at the time of his/her conception or birth?
- There are simple questions that need answers, in my opinion.
7. I do understand that the Creator God is supposed to have “breathed life” to Adam and Eve made them in his image. But not to animals; they do not have a soul in Abrahamic religions).
- Animals are made of the same “stuff” as humans. As I discussed in the previous post, many animals have DNA that is 99% the same as those for humans; see, “Views on Life – Wrong View of Materialism.”
- Animals are supposed to be there for the consumption of humans. That also does not seem to be logical.
Issues Only Relevant to Hinduism
8. The Purush-Sukta, a section of the Rig Veda, describes the divine origin of human beings into the four social groups, or castes, that comprise Hindu society: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra. According to the Purush-Sukta, brahmins born from the mouth of the Brahma, kshatriya from the arms, vaishya from the thighs, and sudra from the calves.
- This categorization comes at the beginning of the Agganna Sutta (DN 27). Vāseṭṭha, himself a brahmin, tells the Buddha that other brahmins say to him that he should not associate with lower-caste people. Followers of the Buddha came from all four castes. They tell him that, “Only brahmins are genuine children of Brahmā, born of his mouth, offspring of Brahmā, created by Brahmā, heirs of Brahmā.”
- The Buddha tells Vāseṭṭha that all people today are womb-born.
- Then he proceeded to give an account of how all “first humans” at the beginning of this Mahā Kappa were born instantaneously (ōpapatika births) with brahma-like bodies, and how they “evolved” over the past several billions of years to end up with “womb-born births”; see, “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“.
- The current series on the “Origin of Life” will provide more details from that sutta. Darwin’s theory of evolution is somewhat correct for the appearance of increasingly complex animal species over time. It is not right to say that humans have “evolved from animals.” Furthermore, a “first living cell” can’t evolve from inert matter to form the primitive animal species either, as we have discussed in recent posts.
9. As in the case of a Creator God in Abrahamic religions, why did Mahā Brahma create four classes of humans at the beginning, per #7 above? Why not create them all equal?
- Did Mahā Brahma also create animals as well? Can humans be born as animals? If so, do animals have a ātma?
- I may be ignorant of these issues. One problem that I have had with Hinduism is that there are so many different versions. One good example is that in some Hindu temples animal sacrifice is carried out regularly. On the other hand, there are other Hindus who abstain from eating meat, let alone killing animals!
- The best way to clarify these issues is to start a discussion at the discussion forum. Then I can revise this post based on that discussion if needed. I have opened a new topic to discuss any of the posts in the “Origin of Life” series: “Questions on Posts in the “Origin of Life” Subsection“.
I will discuss apparent problems associated with all creator-based religions in the next post.