Aliens and Religion, Part 6 - Dharma Religions
Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism; as well as a Risen Update
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Religion and Aliens
Fallen and Risen Spoiler Free!
This post continues a series of objective, non-judgement views of various religions’ views on the potential of extraterrestrial life. See the previous posts on Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Other Christian Faiths, Islam, and Judaism for more.
Dharma: Maybe You Were or Are Going to Be an Alien
First, I want to thank everyone who has helped me study the Dharma religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Without their help, discussions, and debates between themselves, this post would be impossible.
One interesting note is that in the cycle of reincarnation that Dharma followers believe in, humans can be reincarnated as higher or lower beings. According to Dharma practitioners, if aliens were real, a human could be reincarnated as an alien and vice versa. The thin line in Dharma between “spiritual beings” and alien life, let alone the connections between mortal life, complicates what is considered an alien.
Hinduism: A Very Different Understanding of the Universe Beyond Western Understanding
One thing that became painfully clear when researching and discussing Hinduism with Hindus is that the faith is a loose confederation of particular devotions. The topic of the possibility of alien life is wide open in a religion where sacred texts are not universally recognized as infallible. Heck, there is open debate within Hinduism about whether the faith is monotheistic or pantheistic. However, below is a general understanding of the possibility of alien life that would be acceptable to most mainstream Hindus.
In Hinduism, three realms exist: the human realm of the physical universe, a mental plane in which spiritually advanced creatures like supernatural beings reside, and a spiritual realm where Hindu gods reside. The Hindu belief in a cycle of reincarnation, known as samara, places no physical limit on where one may be reincarnated in the physical universe. A big question of whether there is alien life out there is how Hindus would classify it. Whether an alien species is more plant, animal, or human-like, Hindus may view it as more spiritually advanced (better) than a human or lesser creature. As such, Hindus could view the aliens as something to be wary of as they are spiritually less advanced, something to help guide them to obtain higher knowledge, or even a possible mentor. An interesting side note brought up to me was that if aliens were deemed as advanced in technology and culture, some Hindus might view them as a minor form of deity.
However, there is a significant section of mainstream Hindus who understand creatures such as devas, typically considered a supernatural creature, as an “alien” that can move across loka or “planes of existence,” whether in a sort of layered universe of the three realms or a segment of our own physical universe.
Outside of the mainstream, one gets more acceptance of alien life to the point of it being a fact. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Kirshnas, wrote in his commentary of a Hindu sacred scripture that the Hindu god Priyavrata created seven different types of planetary systems, with 400,000 species of living beings in the universe with humanlike forms.
Buddhism: Aliens Are a Given
The Buddhist concept of the physical world is described in the Anguttara Nikaya, the written discourses of the faith's founder known as the Buddha. In 1.227 and 228 it describes the universe as "In it there are thousands of suns, thousands of moons, thousands of inhabited worlds of varying sorts." The Buddhist Publication Society states aliens are subject to the same laws of reincarnation and the need to reach nirvana (the spiritual endpoint in Dharma) as humans.
Tibeten lama Sogyal Rinpoche taught that aliens existed and a human may be reincarnated as an alien to learn valuable lessons on the way to nirvana.
Jainism: Silent on the Issue
Every practitioner I talked to, and everything I researched indicated Jainism does not take a stance on the possibility of alien life.
If we discovered alien life, the Jainists would practice non-violence towards the creatures, valuing their life as sacred. Janists believe all life, including plants and bacteria, has value. Practitioners of the religion would then study and rate the aliens’ level of consciousness by the “levels of senses” it has. From least advanced to most advanced, the senses are touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. One form of sense would place aliens in the area of plants, while five would make them equal to humans. The level of senses the aliens have would drive Jain interaction with the creatures. Regardless of senses displayed, Jains would believe people could be reincarnated as aliens.
Sikhism: A Religion for Earth in a Populated Universe
Sikhism is open about its belief in life on other worlds in this dimension as well as other realms.
The Guru Granth Sahib, the central holy text of Sikhism, mentions the vastness of a universe and the life therein.
It describes many locations in the universe: “[God] formed the planets, solar systems, nether regions and brought what was hidden to manifestation.”
Another passage states,
Many are the moons, sun, and stars.
Many millions are the demi-gods, demons, and Indras...
Many are the beings of so many descriptions...
Many millions are created in various forms.
And a section of praise within the text praises god for creating so much life,
I see none as great as You, O Great Giver;
You give in charity to the begins of all the continents, worlds, solar systems, nether regions, and universes.
Extraterrestrial life is reaffirmed throughout the book.
So many worlds beyond this world - so very many! What power holds them, and supports their weight? The names and the colors of the assorted species of beings Were all inscribed by the Ever-flowing pen of god.
While other life elsewhere garners karma through its actions, the five Ks or commandments of Sikhism are very much focused on human behavior. Despite repeated mentions of extraterrestrial life, Sikhism is Earth-centered. The Sikhs I discussed with indicated god would have a different set of commandments for aliens for their own interaction with Dharma.
Sikhs believe humans rank above animals and plants in the cycle of reincarnation. If humans do not obtain attachment to god, they are either reincarnated as human, animal, or plant. Depending on how aliens are categorized, a Sikh could consider being reincarnated as an alien as a positive or a negative.
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Until Next Time
Thank you for reading this newsletter post. Next time, I will post a podcast I was on talking about religious thoughts on aliens, Tucker Carlson’s thoughts, and critical thinking. After that, we will continue the religion and aliens series by looking at several ancient religions including Egyptians, Greeks, Zoroastrians, and more (see previous editions of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism and other Christian Groups, Islam, and Judaism).
As always, please leave a comment with any questions, reviews, thoughts, whatever about Fallen, Risen, or whatever else I have discussed. I promise to reply!