What Does Buddha Dhamma Say about Creator, Satan, Angels, and Demons?

Revised February 20, 2019; August 21, 2019; April 24, 2022; August 28, 2022

Unseen Beings

1. While the concept of a Creator God is absent in Buddha Dhamma (Buddhism), some living beings fit into some conventional ideas on satan, angels, and demons, such as “Seth” and “Ramtha.” Since some readers may not be familiar with “Seth” and “Ramtha,” let me first provide some background.

  • Jane Roberts wrote a series of popular books based on “Seth,” a being who could “possess” her body with her permission and spoke to her husband about various things about the world; see, for example, “Seth Speaks” by Jane Roberts (1994). Seth commented on diverse issues and made many predictions, too. I am not sure how those “predictions” worked out, but I am sure the success rate must be no better than any human making such predictions.
  • Then there is “Ramtha,” who speaks through J. Z. Knight; see, for example, “Ramtha -The White Book” by J. Z. Knight (2005). He is very benevolent, providing honest advice on living a better life. As I understand, there is a significant following for Ramtha.
Creator God and Other Unseen Beings

2. Therefore, there are two issues (or concepts) to be discussed:

  • First, there is the predominant belief in a “Creator God” in many religions. That concept is, of course, in direct contradiction with not only Buddha Dhamma but also with modern science. The principle of Causality is the basis of Buddha Dhamma and modern science. There must be a cause(s) for every effect.
  • On the other hand, modern science does not believe in “unseen beings.” Science does not attempt to tackle phenomena not measurable with physical instruments. However, the Buddha taught that there are numerous “unseen living beings.”
  • We will discuss the concept of a creator and the possible influence of unseen living beings.
Can there be a Creator God?

3. In my early stages of learning about other religions, I read various books such as “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis and “The Language of God” by Francis Collins (2007.)

4. As I understand it, one reason those two authors believed in a Creator is the existence of Moral law. How can we know and feel the truth of Moral laws unless God instilled them in us?

  • On the other side, both authors struggled with the issue of Satan (or Devil) and why there is suffering.
  • Why would God allow the existence of Satan and the associated immoral behavior by people? The main conclusion was that God chose to give man free will, and man abused it. But why didn’t God create a perfect man?
  • Lewis, in particular, worried about the existence of suffering. Why would God allow that?
One Is One’s Own Creator!

5. Now, let us see what Buddha Dhamma says about those two issues:

  • Of course, in Buddha Dhamma, there is no Creator. Everything happens due to (multiple) causes. By definition, there is no first cause (i.e., a Creator). The “world” has existed as far as one (with supernormal powers or abhiññā) can see; for details, see “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma.”
  • In a way, one is one’s Creator! The basic idea of Paṭicca Samuppāda is that one creates one’s future lives via one’s actions; see the reference in #6 on Paṭicca Samuppāda.
  • Even people without abhiññā powers can remember one or a few past lives; see “Evidence for Rebirth.” In some exceptional cases, some can recall multiple past lives under hypnosis; see the book “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss, a psychotherapist.
Good and Bad Co-exist

6. In Buddha Dhamma, “the good” and “the bad” in this world are all built into nature’s laws. Any sentient being experiences “the world” with its sense faculties, and that experience comes in the form of thoughts (citta).

  • Based on those sense inputs AND one’s gati AT THAT TIME, one generates various “good” and “bad” responses. These responses manifest as thoughts, but we may act on them through speech and bodily actions.
  • There are 52 mental factors (cētasika) that include both “good” characteristics (such as kindness, generosity, fear, and shame of wrong, etc.) and “bad” traits (such as greed, hate, shamelessness and fearlessness of wrongdoing, etc.). See “Abhidhamma” and “Tables and Summaries” sections.
  • Until one becomes one of the “aṭṭha purisa puggalā” (eight Noble Persons), one WILL have both good and bad gati. Those can lead to rebirths in the “good realms’ and the apāyās, respectively.
  • One overcomes the engagement with the rebirth process by comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paṭicca Samuppāda/Tilakkahana. SeePaṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana, Four Noble Truths.”

7. Thus, there is no “Creator God” or a “Satan.” Each person acts of their own free will and commits moral or immoral acts. A person today is the “cumulative result” of all one’s actions in the deep past. These manifest as our character (or “gati” or “gati“) or saṃsāric habits (or “āsavas”). Many posts on this issue on the site, starting with “Habits, Goals, and Character (Gati).”

  • These gati and āsavas are in constant flux; thus, one could be a murderer one day but then, through sheer willpower, can decide to be a “better person.” There is no “soul” or a fixed “self.” One cannot say there is “no-self” either because one’s “gati” or “āsava” are unique characteristics and are “one’s own”; see, “What Reincarnates? – The Concept of a Lifestream“.

8. And no one else can make that change but oneself. Even the Buddha can only show how to change, i.e., how to change these “gati” and the “āsavas” for the better. When one follows that path, one can feel the “cooling down” or ‘niveema” or the nirāmisa sukha. That is the real goal of Buddhist meditation; see “Introduction to Buddhist Meditation.”

  • The “moral code” comes naturally out of this big picture. One can lead a peaceful life by practicing “dasa kusala” (ten moral acts) and avoiding “dasa akusala” (ten immoral acts); see “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)” and the follow-up post.
Demons and Angels

9. Let us also briefly discuss “demons” and “angels” (or other gods). Most Creator-based religions have such entities. And they are supposed to be able to influence humans. Are there beings like that, according to Buddha Dhamma?

  • Yes. In Buddha Dhamma, the world is much more complicated than with just demons and angels. We can see and experience only two realms (human and animal) out of 31 possible realms in this world; see “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma.”
  • If someone develops abhiññā powers (see “Power of the Human Mind – introduction” and follow-up posts), depending on the level attained, one could “see” some or many of these other beings. Some people can do this at present.

10. However, even the majority of people with abhiññā power can only “see” some inhabitants in the lowest 11 realms or “kāma lōka.” That includes the six dēva lōka with “less dense” bodies than ours.

  • The beings in the rūpa lōka and the arūpa lōka have “bodies” even less dense than those in the dēva realms, and it is even more difficult to “see” them.
  • According to the Buddha Dhamma, the six realms in the dēva lōka are closest to a “heaven.” Those beings have bodies free from physical illnesses, and there is much more happiness there than in the human world. And they have long lifetimes. However, any being in any higher realm can end up in the lowest four planes (apāyā) in the future unless they reach at least the Sōtapanna stage of Nibbāna.

11. Some of those beings can communicate with humans with or without abhiññā powers. Some are benevolent, and others are evil. As pointed out in the posts on “gati,” a being typically communicates with a human with a similar “gati” or character.

  • Thus, an evil/malevolent being (we could say “a demon”) typically tries to communicate with a human with a similar lousy character. They may try to impress the human and fulfill their agenda.
  • A benevolent being (we could say “an angel” or “a god”) is usually a dēva from one of the six dēva realms. They like to help out people with good character but do not try to communicate directly with them. Typically, the person may not even know about it.

12. Therefore, many such beings like to “show off” and try to help people live better lives. But those beings themselves are “travelers of samsāra” who happen to have a good birth for a more extended period.

  • Then, some beings are evil or have bad intentions. I am unaware of prominent cases like those mentioned in #1 above. However, there are many reports on “hearing voices” and even committing crimes based on instructions from such voices.
Law of Attraction

13. Those beings with bad intentions cannot influence us if our mindsets are NOT COMPATIBLE with theirs. That is a crucial point to understand! See “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Āsavas)

  • One is ALWAYS responsible for one’s actions. If an “unseen evil being” influences one, that is also due to one’s lack of morality (one has cultivated bad “gati“).
  • As in common law, ignorance of Nature’s laws is not an excuse.
  • The reason for being trapped in this suffering-filled rebirth process is simple. We had not been able to understand Nature’s laws. Only a Buddha can understand those, and we should be thankful that we live in a time when that message is still available.
  • We must learn Dhamma, eliminate bad gati, and cultivate good gati. This will lead to becoming a Noble Person and thus being free of all future suffering!

14. There is an exception, though. Sometimes, a kamma vipāka can direct one to be influenced by a “malevolent being” even if one is living a moral life.

It Is a Complex World

15. This world is very complex, and we perceive only a tiny part. But the point is that no place in the 31 realms can provide permanent happiness.

  • There is no point in pursuing such demons or angels. They are in the same predicament, or worse, than we are. Those benevolent beings will help us, even without seeking help, if they see us as good.
  • As humans, we have the unique advantage of learning the truth about the dangers of this rebirth process (samsāra) and working towards getting out of it by seeking Nibbāna or “cooling down.” That was the Buddha’s message.
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