Buddhism and realms

This could totally work for a tradition, but the realms are more "solid" in that usually, even if, in rare cases, you can change realms, you can't belong to 2 of them.

One example akin to what you're proposing is shown in a book: A dragon who had a revelation and became a Divine creature as a consequence (Serf's Parma).

The thing that comes closest to that is the Infernal, with its abilities to both corrupt and masquerade, but even then, even infernal might and auras are realm specific.

tl;dr: You could set up a tradition aligned to both Divine and Magic, with restrictions similar to holy mages. Outside of that, I'd say it's house rules territory


The rule by RAW is that entities with might can only belong to one realm, but humans can straddle them. Of course aside from the Buddhavista (sp?) Buddhism has a distinct paucity of entities compared to other traditions, so I suspect that would come with a certain amount of freedom regarding realms.

In some ways the best description of buddhism in terms of AM realms would be a religion which pulled the curtain back on faerie and proclaimed that none of it is real.

I agree with @The_Fixer . A buddhist monk, just like a holy magus or a merinita, could have powers granted by any or every realm. A buddhist deity, if such exists, is born of only one realm. An entity of a different realm could masquerade as the deity, but would then pretend to belong to a realm different from its true one. Everything has a true nature. If nirvana is a place, it has to be in one of the realms (Arcadia, Heaven, Twilight Void, etc., or maybe the Fifth Element); how could it possibly exist in two places?

I am not sure a buddhist creature makes any sense. Would a Divine creature associate with one human religion? That does not make sense to me. Human religion is mere shadow of real divinity, and Divine creatures are supposed to be pure, true forms so to speak. But at this point we bang into what has been a major challenge since Ars Magica players started to discover that Islam and Judaism were part of Mythic Europe too, some time around 3ed. It is not easy to consolidate a world true to legend with a myriad of conflicting legends.

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The other aspect of this that complicates the realms is that Buddhism simply is not structurally like monotheistic or polytheistic religions. Realistically the divine, as written originally was associated with one religion, now it is associated with monotheism. Polytheism was simply not a part of it and western atheism was simply a foregone conclusion that it would not be included.
Buddhism on the other hand is an atheistic religion- a religion which does not have a God figure at all. Aside from this feature it has a lot of similarities (in general) with western "divine" religions- the purging of desire sits very close to the avoidance of the seven deadly sins. The idea that the worldly is corrupt also matches between the beliefs.
Similarly unlike heaven Nivana is literally defined to be nowhere- not a place, but is somehow transcendent of the idea of place. It is reached by realizing that the idea of places is itself a construct and an illusion. Ironically within the game this is factually correct- the entire game takes place in the imagination, and when the characters travel from France to Greece they are not in fact going anywhere. However if we take this to the logical conclusion then the way for characters to achieve Nirvana in the game is for the players to stop playing the game.
Of course the same way a churchman can be a secret diabolist Buddhism is not completely pure in its implementation either, and in some ways depending on the branch it can run very counter to traditional western faith. The idea, for example, that one can expunge lust by indulging in it until sex is something you no longer desire makes sense from a Buddhist perspective while the idea is completely contrary to the idea of how sin works for a western religion.

Does that make a difference?
Arcadia is already transcendental to the point that the distinction between somewhere and nowhere is blurred.

Now, there is precedence for widespread in character beliefs which are simply factually wrong in the world. When it concerns the Criamon, it is fiction and they can actually write it. When it comes to buddhists (or any other religion for that matter), it would be offensive and unpublishable, even if it be the only solution to make the world consistent.

Gödel's incompleteness theorems, or something very similar, seems to apply to game worlds. When you play it to its limits, it will break down, and even if it can be mended, we are on our own.

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There is an alternative here.

Taking a step back and looking at the world as a whole and going back to its old (and now non-canonical) links to Mage the Ascension.

The Medieval Paradigm is the European paradigm of this time and only exists within Europe and places heavily occupied by Europeans.

Stepping sufficiently outside of Europe, one might expect to encounter other dominant paradigms such as in the Far East.

There you may find that traditional Divine auras are nearly absent, but that there exist auras associated with Buddhist temples unknown in Europe that obey different realm interactions. They superficially resemble divine auras, but provide no benefit to holy magi or people of True Faith.

Attempting to travel too far outside the known world makes it increasingly likely that you will fall into Faerie regios about distant lands or the edges of the world.

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The problem with this is that the Mongols brought Buddhism to Asia minor, and it definitely would be in the levant at least durring teh early part of their occupation, so this isn't really about a long, long ays away, it's coming into Mythic Europe, at least briefly.

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As was suggested earlier in the thread, Buddhism - like the Mongol invasion - can be ultimately presented as rooted in any of the four Realms, or even in the "fifth" realm, Mundanity.

Bhuddism is Divine. The seven Virtues are in fact nothing but the Perfections (Pāramitā). Cultivating them allows one to escape from craving (Taṇhā) and suffering (Duḥkha) - essentially the Infernal, or at least the "flawed" state that men inherit at birth (e.g. as a result of Original Sin). The result is salvation and oneness with God, viewed as ultimate enlightenment (Bohdi and) purity (Nirvana). Shaolin Kung Fu is a Tradition favouring Meditation, Purity, and Trascendence.

Bhuddism is Infernal. A subtle corruption associated with Pride and Sloth, Buddhism preaches that everything, including the world and even God - is but illusion. Man can achieve "salvation" by rejecting it, ceasing to strive (the quintessence of Sloth!), and finding enlightenment within himself (the quintessence of Pride!). Shaolin Kung Fu is an Infernal Tradition favouring, among others, Debauchery and Malediction.

Bhuddism is Faerie. The practices of Bhuddism are ways to generate vitality for Faeries, and the quest for salvation is the Ultimate Story. Many wise old monks are, in fact, Faeries, some of whom may once have been humans. Shaolin Kung Fu can be a Faerie Pretense, or Clesrada by another name.

Bhuddism is Magic. Criamon is the Bhudda, Repose is Nirvana, most Criamon Paths are the way to escape Illusion and the eternal cycle of reincarnation (with a focus on Apt Action, and becoming a Bhodisattva to aid others). Did I mention abstinence from meat and worldly ties? Shaolin Kung Fu is, ultimately, nothing but Labyrinth Meditations plus the Path of the Body.

Bhuddism is Mundane. Just as in the real world! Shaolin Kung Fu is a mix of Concentration, Athletics, Medicine, Brawl, and Single and Great Weapon.


I'd like to redouble the point that while creatures are seemingly universally mono-Realm by default, supernatural traditions and metaphysics don't have to fall along such neat lines. Let's take Ancient Egypt within Ars Magica as an example - it has mainly Faerie gods and Faerie-aligned priests, yet they also canonically have their afterlife (whose conditions are produced by their religious rites surrounding death) in the Magic Realm, inhabited by their Magic spirits. Or the several traditions and sub-traditions within and outside the Order whose powers/spells count as multiple Realms and let you pick the most favorable alignment for Realm Interaction purposes.

I think I best like the argument that Buddhism is Magic-aligned, since its focus is on the inward processes of spiritual development rather than devotion to an external power (as Divine or Faerie), striving towards purity and enlightenment (antithetical to the selfish, impulsive, or evil motives of the Infernal). And while this may be spurious, my general understanding of the even more general category of "Buddhist mysticism" is that pursuing an existing Magic Aura to perform that spiritual pursuit within is more on-brand than solely generating a Divine, Faerie, or Infernal Aura through fervor.

And yet, Buddhism is also so in line with everything about the Divine Realm and its functioning and demands of practice except for the worship part. You can make silly arguments for the Buddhist lifestyle being one of Sloth or Pride, but only in definitions that would brush every Christian monastery with the same paint. They are both fundamentally about separating oneself from the distracting temptations of mortal flesh in pursuit of moral and spiritual clarity that will allow one to transcend the intrinsic suffering and evil of earthly existence. So if you include Buddhist supernatural traditions, I would consider it every bit justifiable, perhaps even the best option, to give them the Holy Magic-esque "functions as Magic or Divine for Realm Interactions" feature. They could very believably have an Enlightenment Major Virtue that functions similarly to True Faith, which incidentally could help a lot if you want the Buddhist mystics to be scarier to magi, but with its own set of trials to maintain attached. This will be every bit alarming as it ought to be to Christian mystics who are used to their enemies' abilities being weakened on their turf.


Since it's entirely possible that I might have a Buddhist in my game some day, I think it would be unbelievably obnoxious to tell them that their religion belongs in the Infernal Realm. Or the Faerie Realm. Or even in the Magic Realm.

True Love is stated to come from the Divine Realm, and it has not at all to do with monotheism. So I also find the Divine Realm = monotheism argument to be uselessly glib.

It hurts nothing in the game to say that Buddhism contacts the Divine Realm, and then proceed from there to figure out the in-game details of how that might work. And that has the benefit of not being obnoxious to potential (or actual) players.

Ars Magica is inherently obnoxious. I've had polytheistic players who were affronted by the "all the polytheistic religions are just fair folk constructs meant to feed on human stories and creativity" thing.

Also, True Love isn't divine, that's just the popular Hermetic assumption. Those guys are wrong about stuff all the time. Their own Magic-aligned familiar binding process creates True Friendship.

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I've been deeply involved in international interfaith work for about 30 years. (I also worked in a Buddhist bookstore - Shambhala Booksellers in Berkeley - for over 15 years.) In that time I have encountered a LOT of Buddhists and I have to say that it is the most internally diverse major religion on the planet. Most of the teachers are completely non-theistic, while most of the day-to-day believers are thoroughly polytheistic, with everything in-between. The teachers decree magic as illusion, while the believers buy charms and spells from specialists right and left. "Buddhism" as one thing - if that even exists - could not be shoe-horned into a single existing Realm.
I always understood "Mythic Europe" to be Europe as 13th century Europeans "believed" it was - magic works, God (the Christian, or at least Abrahamic one) is the ultimate authority in His Heaven, there is an edge of the world off in the West somewhere, you can't go too far South or you burn up, etc. In that paradigm, shamanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. would all be Infernal, or, as an Evangelical friend explains to me... Infernal to the extent that they "work". He has little problem with me being a Wiccan in my beliefs, but if my magic works, that's the Devil deceiving me.
So, perhaps in a Mythic Europe framework, Buddhism etc. doesn't have a Realm, but someone working healings or spells in a Buddhist framework... that's Infernal.
Once again... in a Mythic Europe framework. I obviously don't think any of this of Buddhism in real life.


Hmm. While I agree with the Infernal being the least likely association for Bhuddism, I would disagree with the statement above.

Bhuddism could be associated with sloth because it suggests that the natural impulse of man to strive in the world is an evil impulse that should be purged; while in most declinations of all four religions of the Book (Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism) striving for the world's good is a Virtue and lack of it a clear mark of spiritual failure. Note that Christian monks, even the most ascetic ones, do strive for good through prayer - and the Benedictines through a lot of work too!

You may think this Bhuddism-sloth association is a "silly argument", but it's roughly the argument made by the previous catholic pope, Benedict XVI, against Bhuddism, that he described as "spiritual onanism" because it "seduces, appearing as a way to touch infinity and happiness without any concrete duty". Please note I am not endorsing (or condemning) this view. I am just saying that it's at least conceivable to look at Bhuddism with this perspective, and having Bhuddism as Infernal in your Ars Magica games does not really break the cosmology.

In the same vein, Buddhism could be associated with pride because it can be seen as fundamentally ascribing the power and duty of salvation to man himself, without any intervention from God. While only Protestantism as far as I know goes so far as to say that God's Grace alone is sufficient to achieve salvation, every religion of the Book (and the Divine as pictured in RoP:D) strongly claims that God's Grace is at least necessary.


Nah. Of all religions, Bhuddism is the one most likely to warmly laugh this off. Magic, Faerie, Infernal, Divine - none of the four is more "meritorious" than the others; in fact, the distinction is illusion, and you worrying about it is Duḥkha :slight_smile:


I guess I was being a bit imprecise when I called it a silly argument. It is a perfectly plausible argument from a strictly Catholic perspective that upholds Catholic spiritual meditation as producing a greater effect than the spiritual meditations of any other religious group, because they're all infidels, heretics and the like who worship nothing at best and Satan in all other cases.

But Buddhism (again, I must speak broadly, for there are many denominations which disagree on quite a bit) is by no means against effort. It is not against striving to better the world - Buddhist temples have always been at least as focused on charity and community aid as Christian institutions were, and rather less expecting of recognition for it. Buddhism is against striving for material things, to benefit oneself or to fulfill desire; and in that I think it has much in common with Christian ideals.


And yet the authors of 5th ed never thought about how practicing pagans might feel about exactly this issue.

Mythic Europe has the Abrahamic faiths with a strong hold in many places, with all of it's prejudices (and in the context of this thread, it's dislike of Pagans and Buddhists). Lets accept that some possible options of the Mythic Europe world could offend, and those who are offended by options provided don't use them.

People can tweak their Mythic Europe however they want, removing anything that bothers them. If I, an atheist, want no gods, I could do that. Someone could decide religions such as Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc swept Europe instead of the Abrahamic faiths. One could say the Romans, Greek, Norse, Egyptian pantheons are still going strong. Mithraism, Zoroastroism, throw it in there. One could say Paganism was dominant. Go wild.

One could completely rebuild the Abrahamics. Have god create a polyamorous 10 person group in the garden of Eden instead of Adam and Eve. Have Jessica, not Jesus die for our sins, after she gave birth to a child, and the living descendant is still around. Khadija was visited by Metatron, instead of Mohammed by Gabriel. Those would change up the Abrahamic faiths a bit.

A devout person of faith might be mortified by the above paragraph. To that person I say, it's just a thought bubble fiction concept, and it shouldn't take much to accept fiction does not need to be taken so seriously. Just the same as Paganism being fae, or Buddhism, having a possible infernal interpretation (amongst options for the other 3 realms I would like to add) does not need to be taken seriously.

And if there is someone in a gaming group who would be mortified by certain religious interpretations, who will take it too seriously, make sure to remove it. That's the obligation of any good Story Guide.


I actually quite like the "buddhism as infernal" idea, since, given its good public image, that's something my players would never expect. Which is a great way to provide temptation to sin and character drama


Or maybe they did, causing them to explain the basic assumptions and at least try to explain their logic.
Personally, I'm staunchly atheist (some agnostic leanings) and a-religious. Yet I'm perfectly comfortable with the christians being right in this setting. How does that work?


Each time a new belief or religion is added or modified, one should not loose sight of the purpose in-game of the Divine: there is the background aspect, but there is also a mechanical one, that is being the big tool to keep in check mages, literally a Deus Ex Machina. It is the reason why Europe is not a magiocracy, it is the reason why the Order choose to police mage's behaviour with a Code that has an article as broad and as all-encompassing as "you shall not endanger your sodales or the Order", that makes the delight of any lawyer/politician since there is so many ways to read it.
Setting the Divine as the all-powerful force, yet having it works in mysterious ways support both the background and propose a cohesive system supporting the background by providing both a tool for the ST to control PCs and a solid reason why mages decided to live and behave as they do.

Any changes to the Divine, like allowing another non-Abrahamic religion to exist and be equally powerful will require some serious shenanigans to make it fits with the existing setting since either God is "sharing" his power with another deity/belief or He allowed a very different path to exist, which if ever discover will create quite a shock amongst the Churches (all three religions) and their believers, and usually ends up in war/pogrom/inquisition.

So I will pitch an additional option to fit Buddhism in the setting: using an approach similar to Criamon paths - reskinning the Path of Walking Backwards or the Path of Seeming by renaming some elements, creating specific skills and adjusting the background, opening it to non-Gifted character. Finally selecting the stations that fits the best with the Buddhism belief - it looks like some are inspired by this philosophy (although I will admit my knowledge of Buddhism is very superficial).

And if people are offended by the way a belief is depicted in a game (which, by the way, does not pretend to educate people nor convert its readers), then maybe they should look for an alternative game with a different setting, there are plenty available.