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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
THANISSARO BHIKKHU 75 any worldview in which all experience of pleasure and pain can be attributed to previous actions, to the will of a creator god, or to pure chance. As the Buddha points out in the Tittha Sutta, such views don’t provide any grounds for claiming that there’s a difference between skillful and unskillful actions, or even that there could be such a thing as a path of practice. The Buddha’s provisional worldview also makes reference to heavens, hells, and rebirth. This means that his concept of nature contained what we would call a supernatural dimension. But it’s worth noting two things: one, that his sketch of the cosmos, as revealed in the discourses, wasn’t simply picked up from the world- views of previous Indian religions; and two, that he deprived the supernatural dimension of the authority it enjoyed in other religions of the time. The Buddha’s view of kamma, and of the places where beings can go after death, was distinctly his own. Compared to previous thinkers, he gave a much larger role to kamma in shaping both the process of rebirth and the worlds to which beings are reborn. Those worlds, especially in his sketch of the higher heavens, correspond to what he learned about the levels of the mind he encountered in the course of bringing his mind to awakening. Although he affirmed the existence of some of the devas mentioned in the Vedas, he also put them in their place, demoted to the lower heavens and sharply downsized in importance. In the Brahmajala Sutta, even the Great Brahma, the highest god in the brahmanical pantheon, is assigned to a middling level of heaven, reigning there over the ignorant—not because of any innate greatness but because he had exhausted the merit that would have allowed him to stay on a higher level. This means that the Buddha’s audience would have found his worldview just as novel and strange as Western audiences do now.