I face “High Noon” this Sunday. And nobody from town will help me deal with whether I’ll live or die in the outcome. None can, because the confrontation is something I knew for some time that I would have to face alone.
Christianity versus Buddhism. Is there a God as we know Him? Will my spiritual “life” seeking the greatest good through a Buddha come to an abrupt end, for lack of a real and honest accommodation of the two points of view?
“Buddhists don’t believe in a God who is creator of the universe, and who is a participant in history,” announced the newsletter I received this week from the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. I heard similar things like this from some Christian friends, but I felt this was something I must discover for my Self. I believe God can exist with the scientific “Big Bang” theory of Creation. I also believe in the elevation of man through biological evolution as well as Social Darwinism.
But, can I be a Buddhist and still believe in the Almighty, the Supreme Being as I was raised to see God? Can the Apostle’s Creed stay true while accepting the tenants of Buddhism, particularly the very first sentence of the prayer: “I believe in God, Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?”
Ah, the word “Creator.” There’s the rub. Perhaps Buddhism uses a different lexicon than most English-speaking seekers are familiar with. Could the word “Creator” mean something different in, let’s say the Tibetan, Japanese or Chinese languages? What about Vietnamese, Burmese or any other Eastern language you can name ending in an “ese.” Sri Lanka-ese? Korean-ese? Malaysian-ese?
My point is, that I will be open to a definition of God from some spiritual influence other than the Judea-Christian one. Buddhism may not acknowledge an “Originator” while teaching of cause and effect. My training as a lawyer, however, will enable me to not only read the “fine print,” but also examine the “letter” of the law against the practical application of the “spirit” of the law. And I think I may find some “precedents” to keep my spiritual path through the “East” still on track.
“. . . [I]s there any similarity between what we call the “Dharmakaya” and the theist mystic’s understanding of God?” questioned the Buddhist newsletter announcing the discussion planned for Sunday. You can bet that I’ll discover what “Dharmakaya” actually means in laymans’ terms, as well as learn the specific definitions for “theist,” “mystics,” and “understanding of God.”
I have already uncovered some evidence to use in my cross-examination on the subject of God. I hope to use it at the most opportune moment. Here is my “zinger” for whether a Buddhist can believe in God and the hereafter:
“‘Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly underworld, which is possessed of the state of bliss.’ This is the first solace found by him.
“‘Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.’ This is the second solace found by him.
You know who spoke these words? The Buddha himself. Now if that ain’t enough to allow for the “belief” in God, then I don’t know what to say. Don’t think the gods of Mt. Olympus or the priests of Zarathustra could have said it any better.
Hey Michael, hello all. I composed this very late last night, and just now got up to send it, and found all these great responses already here. I found my musings similar to Nancy’s, but see what you think
Fascinating post, Michael J, and thought-provoking. And I love the Buddha verses you found….genius!
As I think about it, in practical terms, I’m a Buddhist….the path seems clear, and I am seeing the end of suffering, however, incremental, by mindfulness and metta and skillful means….and yet, like you, raised a Christian, I honestly have to admit I haven’t fully resolved or “put down” the whole “God thing” yet….but in terms of practice, and growing in love and wisdom, that doesn’t fact seem to get in the way! 🙂
So, I walk down this path, growing in love, growing in freedom from attachment to “me and mine,” and if “God” or “good” or some “Presence” exists, then should He/She/It start to become evident at some point with ever-increasing freedom? If there is indeed a Love that Love Me, that Loves Us, then surely that Love will in some way, somehow, make itself known. And if I’m its Beloved, then surely there will be something reciprocal growing to me. I’ll sense a Love Affair, no?
Honestly, at times, I feel and sense there is a Love that Loves Me, that Loves All of Us, but it doesn’t yet appear or feel nearly as powerful as the love I feel for life, for nature, and for others—my bodhisattva heart that is awakening. What does this mean? I don’t know. I just cant’ stop loving, for this love is life itself.
So, beloved Michael J, what I say is, let’s just keep on loving…and leave the “end game” to where that love takes us. 🙂
Michael, you’ve connected your concept of a creator God with the word ‘hereafter’ given in the Buddhist text. I don’t see that such a connection reasonably exists. Buddha speaking of a possible hereafter hardly gives credence to the idea of a “God who is creator of the universe, and who is a participant in history.” To my mind, the only thing Buddha is saying here is that following the path is a win-win situation, regardless of whether there is a hereafter or not. He does, with this terminology, open up the possibility of there being a hereafter, but that doesn’t mean that Buddha is stating any belief in a hereafter, nor do we know what he means by the word. Perhaps he was only speaking in hypothetical terms, perhaps he was only responding to some commonly held beliefs.
I’ll keep my opinions regarding the idea of a ‘God the Creator’ to myself here. I’ll only say that I hope you are not stressing too much over it. You are a seeker of truth, and so it will all work itself out just fine eventually.
You caught it, right away.
But, you also helped fashion the “possibility” of a hereafter envisioned by Buddha.
Isn’t that what a lot of our spirituality is actually based on? The belief in the “possibility” of: love for each other, a more perfect world without wars, a cure for hatreds of any kind!
Don’t have it nailed down yet. I got until next week to fit God into Buddhism, or would that be Buddha into Goddism?
Always happy to hear it again! 🙂
Good morning, Michael,
Do you really need to “choose”? I struggled with similar questions a while back (although I’d already decided long before that that I don’t need to “call” myself anything, even though Buddhism teaches a way of living that has always been much more in line with what I feel is “right” for myself than Christianity ever did, and I’m quite certain that the world would be a much more wonderful place if everyone tried to live that way). I don’t think it has to do with what you call yourself; it’s about how you live your life and how you treat everyone and everything around you.
God isn’t concerned with the rituals we come up with in our fumbling, mortal way to honor the “Divine” (God desires mercy, not sacrifice). We can pray 20 times a day, stand on our heads naked (probably not a pretty sight, in most cases!) and chant, fast for months at a time, slay and offer all kinds of innocent creatures as “offerings”–whatever. God is concerned that we value love above anything else, and that’s what all of the true teachers tried to teach (I often want to tell people, “What part of ‘Love God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself’ don’t you understand?” Yeshua made it perfectly clear, but ten minutes after he died people were already at work trying to make it all about other things–perhaps because the simplest thing is just too hard, and it’s easier to worry about which “way” is “right” and who understands the nature of God better than whom.
A post on my blog (the one that asks pretty much the same questions you’re asking) entitled, “Listening to Love” ends, “Maybe the best thing to do is to think that God is literally love, act on that basis, and leave the rest alone.” That’s how I’ve pretty much settled it for myself.
It’s clear that you already know the way. Don’t let the details obscure things. Leave the showdowns to others 🙂 .
Have I told you lately how much God loves you?