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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Is the Belief in Angels Anti-Buddhist?

J. wrote:

I believe in angels.

Is this anti Buddhist?

Just as Glenda the Good Witch of the South,

in the Wizard of Oz,

asked Dorothy,

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch.”

The question

as to whether or not the belief in angels

is anti Buddhist

depends upon two things:

FIRST what flavor is your faith,

and SECOND what do you do with the angels.

A hundred years before the advent of the Buddha,

Lao Tzu dictated the eighty-one chapters

of the Book of the Beneficial Way,

or Tao Te Ching if you prefer Chinese.

In it he warned against the aggression, fear, rigidity,

and coercion of toxic masculinity (or yang)

and lauded the peace, flexibility, compassion, and acquiescence

of healing femininity (or yin).

So if an idea or an emotion

is something we rigidly grasp at

with white-knuckle intensity

then that could be problematic.

However, if we merely enjoy an idea

and are not attached to it

it is neither good nor bad.

For instance,

although I like the idea

that the four fundamental forces

of the universe

are gravity, electromagnetism,

the strong nuclear force

and the weak nuclear force,

I am also comfortable with the idea

that there might be more,

or that the truth may be utterly different

and far more interesting.

The trap of yang

is that it values the convenience of certitude

more than the inconvenience

of intellectual integrity.

And as such yang views authority

as the source of truth

whereas yin views truth

as the source of authority.

But why could this matter?

Let us return to first principals.

A tale is told

that in his first discourse,

the Buddha taught

the four noble truths.

From a certain point of view

FIRST – there is stress

and plenty of it.

SECOND – humans have the inconvenient ability

to take whatever stress life throws at us

and make it much worse.

How do we do that?

By neurotically indulging

dread’s impulse to shove things away

and desire’s impulse to pull things toward us.

THIRD – there is a state

where in one is free

NOT from the presence of dread and desire,

BUT merely from their tyranny.

FOURTH – the good news

is that the attainment of this liberation

is not dependent upon the caprice

of a real or imagined entity

but merely the result

of having mastered

the techniques of the eight-fold path.

So if an idea

is something you violently shove away

or hungrily reach for

then it could undermine your peace and love.

The presence of absence

of celestial beings

is NOT an issue

according to the Buddha’s teachings.

The SECOND thing that determines

whether or not our belief in angles

is anti Buddhist or not

is our relationship to them.

It has been observed

by wiser folk then myself

that when adults are subject

to a sufficient degree of stress

they will sometime reach out

for a real or imagined

celestial parent

which can force them

to relate to this entity

in the role of a child,

which is NOT terribly resourceful.

That is the trap of the dynamic

of devotion between

a parent and a child.

However an antidote exists:


Love for all beings

as our peers

grounds us

and roots us

in the role of adult,

which is far more resourceful.

When angels,

real or imagined,

serve as quasi parents, aunts, uncles,

older siblings, or older cousins,

that can undermine

our resourcefulness.

But the good news

is that when angels serve as archetypes

whose iconography support…

our contemplation of love

and the wisdom of letting go

then this can aid

our personal evolution.

Far too often

in Tantric Buddhism

patriarchy views the male and female buddhas

as literal objects of faith, worship, and supplication

like a great celestial father Christmas

which feed the dreads and desires

that exacerbate their stress.

Fortunately matriarchy’s minority

has always viewed the Buddha’s

as archetypes whose iconography

supports our contemplations.

This could become less theoretical

and more visceral

in this morning’s guided meditation

beginning momentarily.

Let us conclude

with a simple

call to action

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