Is the Buddha’s Teaching theistic, atheistic or agnostic?

*To be theistic is to assert God and to be atheistic is to deny God, while to be agnostic is to affirm that the existence of God cannot be known.

Man is free to act and to affirm God is to voluntarily limit one’s freedom of action for the sake of a “common good” or a “public truth”. However, this implies a denial of full accountability with regard to one’s actions and choices and is unfortunately necessarily rooted in fear and avoidance of life’s discomfort. God becomes a false sense of security and in extension we often see the good/fortunate as attributed to God while the bad/misfortunate as attributed to the not-yet-good.

On the contrary, to deny God in order to assert man’s freedom of action is to have an inverted picture, to falsely assume that that’s a valid way of going about things because the idea of bearing the potential repercussions of one’s own actions and choices presents a huge discomfort—the non-existence of God (as asserted) becomes an excuse for performing unwholesome actions (i.e. greed, aversion, delusion).

It is only when one shoulders the full weight and responsibility of one’s own actions and any potential outcome that may result from it can one come to terms with one’s inherent freedom. For it is through this freedom in the first place that one pursues the pointless endeavour of either affirming or denying God while to arrive at true understanding is to be able to ignore God altogether (making it non-agnostic as well for the knowledge about man’s inherent freedom is certain). To accept any positive answer (i.e. yes, no, ‘who knows?’) about the existence of God is to make the mistake of assuming that the question was ever relevant.

The Buddha’s Teaching is existential and to understand it correctly requires one to first acknowledge that existence is inseparable from pain, discomfort and personal responsibility for one’s actions and choices in life. It is also phenomenological in that it points one to one’s own intentionality and to understand this ‘inner world’ completely is to comprehend: ‘there is no outside of this’.

“I am the owner of my actions, heir to actions, born of actions, related to my actions, and I have actions as my shelter. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I become the heir.”

Aṅguttara Nikāya 5:57

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s