Buddhism and realms

After the Mongols invade the middle east, and there are Buddhist rulers of Muslim territory- how does Buddhism fit into the four realms, or does it somehow comprise a fifth realm? Is Nirvana divine?

Religion among the 13th century Mongolian invaders was manifold, and with Kublai Khan encompassed Buddhism as a religion of state.

So if you wish to play in the late 1260s or 1270s, perhaps following the footsteps of Marco Polo and his family, you might think Buddhism over for your saga - with verrry little help from the ArM5 books. If you wish to make it a subject in your saga, you should have the PCs interact with Buddhist monks, though - and not just with Mongolian commanders following the religion of state.

People from the Mythic Europe of that time might use Friedrich II's handling of religion as a familiar model for religion under the Yuan dynasty.

1 Like

For the purposes of realm interaction even a shrine or monastary established by a Mongolian khanate would be enough for the question to be raised. Certainly it is neither polytheistic (Fairy) nor monotheistic (divine)

If faerie is polythestic and the divine is monotheistic, I guess atheistic has to be magic ...

infernal, after all, is just anti-everybody else.

Not a Buddhism expert by any means, but isn't one of the tenets something along the lines of all the world is an illusion?

If it focuses on illusion and glamour, then surely it would be Faerie.
If it focuses on denying Creation, then it would seem to be Infernal.

A magus asking a Buddhist monk from such a monastery might learn, that the monk is just not overly interested in that kind of realms or realm interaction. That is all meaningless Saṃsāra to be left behind.

Burn your books, magus! Strive to find the path to escape Saṃsāra! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Crush your dice, player! No more reincarnations in PCs for starters! :flushed:

There may be a reason why ArM5 doesn't have Buddhists, and the only Ars Magica approach to the Far East that I know of tried to have it inhabited by Faeries.

Buddhist Magic (shambhala.com)

So clearly there is a mystical side to Buddhism, so the "abandon your magic it is all illusion" route doesn't fit.
I suppose I could reskin the idea of "all the realms are the same realm" from Mythic Zoroastrianism, honestly I feel like this is one more place where the four realms model breaks down and would like to do it as a fifth realm (which to be fair, Oriental Mysticism also has elements that don't occur in Western Mysticism as well- like wood and metal, and is arguably the source of spirit as element in modern magical traditions, so a new realm being associated with that different a culture might fit...

1 Like

Did you read the book of Sam van Schaik? Or did you just drop its title into this thread, without knowing what the book is about?

Let's say, that every culture has its magic - and that culture is more than religion.

The core of Buddhism for the individual is to leave Saṃsāra behind, and with that this magic too.

EDIT: Sam van Schajk writes a lot about Buddhist Tantra and its tradition: see e. g. here. You find there disquisitions like:

If we accept that the Dunhuang manuscripts containing vinaya texts were used by Buddhist monks, then an interesting issue arises: were these monks also writing and making use of the many tantric manuscripts also to be found in the Dunhuang collections, including those Mahāyoga texts containing violent and sexual imagery? If they were, then the problems involved in monks practising tantric rituals must have come up here, before they were explicitly discussed by Atiśa, who famously addressed the issue a century later.
Looking at the manuscript again recently, I noticed some text that had been added to the end of the ritual, either by a different scribe, or by the same scribe writing less carefully. This text turns out to be a summary of the vinaya, beginning like this:
The vinaya of the hearers is divided into eighteen different sects. Of these, the one that exists in Tibet is the system of the Mūlasarvāstivādins.
Fair enough — this agrees with what the Tibetan historians say, and indeed the fact that the massive Mūlasarvāstivādin vinaya is the version of the monastic vows that was preserved in the Tibetan canon. On the other hand, I think this is the first time I have seen the fact mentioned in a Dunhuang manuscript. The text goes on to enumerate the different classes of vows in the vinaya of the Mūlasarvastivādins. Maybe it was a kind of primer for new monks.So why is this text written on the last pages of a major Mahāyoga ritual? Perhaps so that the monks performing the ritual should do it in the context of their Buddhist vows (and thus certainly not taking the violent and sexual imagery of the texts literally). Or as a rebuke to the text by a shocked monk: this is what Buddhism is about, not that! I don’t know, but I suspect the former is more likely than the latter.

I have taken college level classes on Buddhism, and while i have not read the entire book if you even read the reviews of it, it is clearly intended to dispel viewpoints such as your own which are described as westernizing or appropriating Buddhism.

The key point is, without trying to qualify or disqualify as authentically Buddhist the practices of the time, that the practices did exist, and the question of realm association remains.

You can find some Mahayoga practices here:

The Guhyasamāja is a Mahayoga class of Tantra, which features forms of ritual practice considered "left-hand" (vamachara) such as the use of taboo substances like alcohol, consort practices, and charnel ground practices which evoke wrathful deities.[18] Ryujun Tajima divides the tantras into those which were "a development of Mahāyānist thought" and those "formed in a rather popular mould toward the end of the eighth century and declining into the esoterism of the left",[19] this "left esoterism" mainly refers to the Yogini tantras and later works associated with wandering yogis. This practice survives in Tibetan Buddhism, but it is rare for this to be done with an actual person. It is more common for a yogi or yogini to use an imagined consort (a buddhist tantric deity, i.e. a yidam).[20]

If - after some study - you should ever introduce such practices to Mythic Europe, you have to decide who is responding on the charnel ground or as a yidam there.
Faries and/or Chthonic spirits?

But this has nothing to do with getting Buddhism to ArM5.

Buddhism appears to be as conflicted over magical practices as Christianity in ars magica- except that being based on a monotheistic divine which either empowers or opposes magical practices in Buddhism the divide is based on whether it is working with or against Karma. Which means (IMO) that either the divine needs to be reworked so that it is not tied to monotheism (which I have favored for a long time) or there needs to be a new karmic realm to deal with the issue (which I have also long favored new realms).
Incidentally I knew a tantric practitioner who discussed the charnel house practices in terms of trying to shock people into recognizing the illusion of reality, so even there I suspect things are not as easily categorized as some might hope for them to be.

I don't see any need for a further or reworked realm. In essence, leaving Saṃsāra behind would also leave behind the Divine realm.

EDIT: Why would Karma require a realm? It is tied to the individual: so wouldn't it be rather a characteristic, that is in 1220 unknown to the denizens of Mythic Europe?

The first self-declared, well-armed, well-horsed and commanding 'Buddhists' should appear near Mythic Europe in the 1270s.

At the same time, rational Thomism is fully developed and takes over European universities. It claims, that the theological truths do not need faith, but only reason to understand and accept. So any intelligent and diligent individual should be able to study and understand them: also this is tied to the individual.

This provides a perspective to the development of Mythic Europe, doesn't it?

I think before addressing that question, one has to first answer the question of what is the Dominion. If the Dominion represents the true creator of the world and all within it which is what most of the game line hints at, it wouldn't disturb me to see a Dominion aura in some churches in Asia who have a form of monotheism without connecting it to the judeo-christian god per se. On the other hand, if the Dominion can only be connected to the judeo-christian god, who may or may not be the creator, then yes it seems plausible other Realms that's not quite Faerie may exist. Hinduism doesn't shock me as Faerie, however. Or even that some eastern religion could be seen as magical mystery cults gone mainstream, in some cases. The Infernal makes no sense to me in Asia if the dominion is absent, but makes sense to include if its present. I think its plausible to connect Buddhism to the Magic Realm, a new realm, or the dominion (from most plausible to less plausible). Infernal and Faerie makes no sense to me.


I think that it will simply be alligned to whichever realm makes sense for the saga, much like the monhol horde.

Purely mundane, it is just a philosophy and has no specific aura.

It is right and divine, just like Christianities or Zoroastrianism.


Atlas, obviously, could not suggest that it be infernal. They would just come across as racist.

But when you tell you own saga, draw the curtains and lock the door, Buddhism may just as well be Infernal. Or the realm of reason, even if nobody in their right mind would admit to that in this forum.


Yeah that is exactly why I chose those as worked examples.

maybe a aura of the type divaernal ?

How I envision Ars Majica cosmology is initially it's like our Earth, Big Bang, Cambrian explosion, Dinosaurs, etc.The only difference is there's magic.

Magic is subject to thought. If enough sentient beings think something, it becomes true. Man created God, God didn't created man. Also man created Ra, Zeus, etc.

Magic makes contradictions work. Ra is driving the sun across the sky, and so is Apollo. Maybe there's a huge Regio around Egypt and another around Greece that no degree of second sight sees through, but it doesn't really matter. Can an all powerful god make a stone too heavy he can't lift it? Yes. it's our weak monkey brains that doesn't understand how that works....

All realms are just the magic realm that is tweaked. When Rome was all powerful, maybe there was a Jupiter aura?

In the current AM setting, the thoughts towards God, Allah, YHWH, etc is so strong it manipulates magic nearby, thus the Divine and Infernal auras. Where Jupiter, Zeus etc may have once been strong enough to have a specific aura, now they are just echoes of the once mighty degree of human thought manipulating the magic, and become just a generic fairy aura.

In that cosmology design, adding a new realm effect is simple. Buddhism could get it's own realm, with realm effects the SG decides.

This opens many options. One could decide a core of Diedne survived and have been using human sacrifice magics to hide themselves and strengthen Crom Cruach. When they emerge to strike vengeance on the order, any magi trying to strike Diedne in their stronghold have to deal with a Crom Cruach aura. One could make Crom Cruach infernal, but Crom Cruach sounds better.

While I think I've made it clear this is all just an idea of mine, just to make sure, there is nothing in any book I know of that even comes close to suggest this is canon.

1 Like

Side note- Karma is personal, so is faith. That doesn't mean that you an't have a divine realm tied to faith, or a realm tied to karma, even if you don't care for using karma as the name. BTW karma can also be described as a system- it isn't like each person in Buddhism has their own rules for reincarnation and how karma works.
That being said one could in theory also assign different realms to different forms of Buddhism- Mahayana buddhism would make sense for the divine, Tantric may have some sects which are faerie and others infernal, etc.
There would still be branches of Buddhism which do not fit into the 4 realms model, but I am uncertain how period they would be...