What is a Buddhist point-of-view on the New Age concept of God or Universal Consciousness?

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    Buddhism doesn't have a Creator God who made the universe, also doesn't have Universal Consciousness (consciousness is dependently arisen in Buddhism), and is not related to the New Age movement. In other words, your question is unrelated to Buddhism. – ruben2020 Mar 22 '15 at 4:07
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    how could a 2500 year doctrine have anything to say about new age? – Thiago Mar 22 '15 at 7:18
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    I'm not inclined to close this as you are clearly asking for a Buddhist point-of-view, but maybe you can explain to us or link us to some information on the concept you are talking about? – yuttadhammo Mar 22 '15 at 18:30
  • +1 for an explanation of "new age concept of God" – Thiago Mar 23 '15 at 22:51

By the way the question is framed it implies that buddhism accepts a creator God or Universal Consciousness. Buddhism do not accept any of them. The Buddha refuted both the eternalist and annihilationist view as being 2 extremes that cannot take place. A creator God and the Universal Consciousness belongs to the eternalist view.

By saying that there is a creator God one is saying that there exists a first cause.

That can never be true since it will break causality by asking "what preceeded this first cause?".

And further "what cause preceeded that cause which preceeded the first cause?". One can do that endlessly and will thereby stumble into infinite regress.

In short your question is not related to buddhism.


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    Strictly, a first cause doesn't have to create an infinite regress if the first cause is necessary (as opposed to contingent). But I agree with your conclusion that this is not a question pertaining to Buddhism. – tkp Mar 22 '15 at 18:27

Excellent question, allow me to debrief about New Age-ism:

Sometimes, during the evolution of a spiritual culture, due to authorities lacking any training (2nd or 3rd Training) but ending up as leaders, saying nice fruity things to attract the masses, messing up the definitions, and oftentimes exchanging the Quest for Enlightenment for something easier.

That is, until someone comes along who corrects the concepts.. Until then, smart people will dislike New Age for its vague, mixed, multitudinous definitions.

But to be too attracted or repelled by something, which is all due to ignorance, is a "sin" (being off-mark) in Buddhism, a sign of lacking bodhisattva attributes and being able to exercise one's independent thought and skillful means to understand and assist people of any background.

Thus, my argument to pedantic Buddhists: why don't we accept ALL religions, ALL cultures, despite how backwards some may be (at this stage in their development). For example, Islam and Judaism both have an inner sect called Sufism and Kaballism--yet do the masses practice them? No, because of many reasons, including that they are out-of-date models for people to follow and succeed on and need the rejuvenation of many people succeeding in that style of practice.

We all know that spiritual development is a very real thing just like mental and emotional development... so like I always say "Let's just know what "spiritual cultivation" is and Practice meditation, yoga, and self-mastery so we too can gain the benefits as cross-disciplinary studies have shown us! Let's get started and just keep adding things that are correct, and automatically letting go of that which is unbeneficial and incorrect."

New Age has a lot of concepts borrowed from Buddhism and is why New Age is a great non-religious spirituality to introduce to someone who you would like to practice meditation and yoga--especially to someone who is fervently fearful of other religions, like a Catholic!

Nonetheless, Buddhism is still by far the most accurate, comprehensive and trustworthy spiritual system to follow! It is just not for everyone in the beginning.

13 years ago, when I was 13, I was a Muslim devoutly praying five times a day, developing my concentration abilities. I eventually bumped into New Age and it helped explain the bioenergetics I was feeling, especially through Linda Goodman's books.

Over the years, I pored over New Age topics like hypnosis, chi cleansing, affirmations and noticed that not only are they very positive concepts but that they are related to psychology.

Eventually, after reading "How to Measure and Deepen Your Spiritual Realization" and realizing that only Awakening ultimately mattered, I completely dropped everything New Age, Islam, and everything and studied Buddhism with a fervor for the next few years, figuring out what the Path entailed.

Now what is Awakening?

It is waking up beyond our little ego to realize the vast ocean that we are. To realize that the ego that we are was just a bubble of foam. I am seen this same analogy in one of Linda Goodman's spirituality book and in my early childhood days it is what made me feel that Buddhism and New Age are philosophically similar.

This is a concept reflected in the idea of a personal, shared God Consciousness.

This is also almost like the concept of a self-less container for all karma... an 8th consciousness in Buddhism--which the Buddha warns not to mistake for a self.

In Buddhism, they say that there is only Mind. This is similar to what New Age is saying with Universal Consciousness. In Buddhism, the Yogacara school of Buddhism and Mind-Only schools, are both reflective of these ideas.

But what if this "universal consciousness" is another "mistake for a self" as the Buddha would call it? How can we know?

Well, I would argue, and many New Agers would argue, that there is no fixed definition because the truth is beyond words and hard to explain--how can we possibly expect a perfect definition right away? Oftentimes, explanations are not only very contextual but also take time to form the perfect explanation.

Thus, New Age, would respond to my question by saying "Well, dude come on that's what I meant--whatever Buddha was saying about that un-knowable but experiencable thing-that-is-beyond... that thing that our Heart Sutra talks about, too.. I just call it "Universal Consciousness" even though it is beyond all those things."

This is the typical "wishy-washy"-ness of New Age that many scholars despise and the masses love. The masses love this because of the reason I stated in my 2nd paragraph as well as because it can be a chance for us as mankind to develop a global culture that is beyond any denomination (religion).

Basically, even if I am wrong, New Age will be able to adapt and evolve its opinion to match with the correct definition that Buddhism outlines.

In conclusion, the New Age concept of Universal Consciousness, even if the specifics are not as specified as Buddhism does.. the idea that we all have a fundamental shared thing that We Are... is the same as in Buddhism and goes by other names like Mind or Buddha Nature.

Also, both in Buddhism and New Age, there are angels and other deities. New Age Buddhism of course goes into many hazy definitions whereas the Buddha's definitions are clear as day as apparent in The Thirty-One Planes of Existence.

New Age spirituality also has a special emphasis of the chakras and nadis from Hinduism and Taoism. In Buddhism, this is called the fire element and is not gone into excessive detail because thinking about chakras can block your chakras! So the Buddha avoided the topic entirely.

Anyway, I have been rambling about the two in the hopes that I vaguely encourage people to be more open towards New Age because it is flexible! Buddhism is not flexible. The instructions are plain and simple in Buddhism and there is no argument about what to do. Unlike New Age, Buddhism comes from a single author, Shakyamuni Buddha who managed to Awaken fully and bothered to record the systems that he used/should have used throughout his spiritual process.

New Age on the other hand, is a spirituality (no one within the New Age community would look oddly at you if you said you were all religions, especially "a lot of Buddhism"), above all a spirituality that we are defining more clearly for ourselves and also collectively as we all are all spiritually evolving and becoming more accepting of each others' cultural backgrounds.

I enjoyed writing this, I hope you enjoyed reading it. I didn't reference enough primary evidence for this answer to count as a stand-alone answer but know that there are some well-written texts out there which already do that job extravagantly, especially the book I mentioned.


I'd guess it's probably a "mental formation"; or perhaps it's a (presumably non-Buddhist) dharma.

  • Or maybe a wrong view? A delusion... – Joshp.23 Mar 22 '15 at 14:55
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    @Joshp.23 I don't honestly even know what the "New Age concept of God or Universal Consciousness" is: and therefore that phrase sounds to me like it's Not even wrong – ChrisW Mar 22 '15 at 15:29
  • Think Deepak Choprah... – Joshp.23 Mar 26 '15 at 22:37

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