Wednesday, 3 June 2015
God and Buddhism
written by Denis Kurmanov
I believe in God. I am a Buddhist. Are these two views compatible, truly? Do most Buddhist sensibilities tend to go against any possibility of believing in God? Does it matter if we do believe in God or not as Buddhists? If we do, what kind of God would we believe in?
These are all questions that many of us westerns face since God is always in our face somehow.
The idea of God and Buddhism has been explored by many scholars and has sat on the back of my mind and many of our readers, for sure.
I will not attempt to spell out or construct some kind of Buddhist theology because I don't think that's possible and that's how God likes it.
So why can't we construct a Buddhist theology? Are Buddhist questions and problems completely alien to the incorporation of Divinity?
There are two answers to this question and they both differ according to the way one views/believes in God. If one believes in God that is somehow above and separate from the world, is unchanged and can't change, is eternal and houses spiritual realms, then one has entered into fallacious and deluded ground. I do not believe there is much room for supernaturalism in the mind of modern folk. I state this across the board for any believer of anything. Supernaturalism not only enters into language it cannot speak, makes claims it cannot validate, damages the existential "make-up" of the person but also, strangely perpetuates conflict.
The question now that I am begging is: is God necessarily a supernatural belief, and are all faiths that are theistic necessarily supernaturalistic? The obvious is no if one looks at an introduction to religious thought, or speaks to many modern believers. Yet, we must also not be under the misconception that every sensible person has the truth. (Not that I do....)
Buddhism does not escape supernaturalism often and remains atheistic in the same occasion making it another example that theistic belief is not an necessary part of any supernaturalism. Now that we have dismissed God from the corruption of supernaturalism where does God go?
This is where Buddhist "checks" can be setup to avoid ignorance, suffering, hate, and greed. The annihilation of supernaturalism is a big step in the process of clearing ignorance. We must constantly dig deeper, our endeavor is never over; we must constantly search for deeper premises.
What kind of check ensures we do not suffer because of a faulty view in God? (All things are connected.) Can God decide to act in this world, intervening on certain occasion? Is God a player in history? The Buddhist answer is no. Is God a player in history is much more complicated and and a short no will not suffice. Buddhism demands transparency, proclaims temporality and an intensity of Life in the moment and those things are only "part" of God. I will come back to this.
Does God demand? Does God demand things that are not God's? Does God perpetuate a greed---my prayers are more and better than your prayers. Does righteousness, which is a combination of greed, hatred, and ignorance have any place within Buddhism?
We have setup a huge roadblock for God. There are a lot of things God cannot be:
1) a "being" outside the world.
2) Completely absolute with no connection to life lived in the moment.
3) the answerer of the traditional, or more supernatural intended prayers.
5) an understood concept that is exhausted by words. We have no such capability. If we have any honesty at all then we ought to know that our most intense and mindful endeavors in the pursuit will only lead us to Wisdom and not always to answers.
6) God cannot be described in any anthropomorphic terms. No male, no female, no thinking....you see where this is going? (The heart sutra)
So if God cannot be certain things then it is not God. It goes against the very definition of God to be limited outright in so many ways. This is a valid point. Creating a God of the gaps, a concept that places God in any moment where "mystery" pops up in language that is alien, or damaging. God is not the explanation for any astronomical mystery, however twisted, from creation onward. This is just as reductionist as limiting God.
So what now? I stated earlier that we are on a constant pursuit for premises. Buddhism gives us tools to avoid certain blocks that will lead us away from a vision of awareness and mindful community. God must be a center, no, the center of all of this. From the depths of the abyss in the complexity of the Heart Sutra, the great call to Live Life on the Path comes with such assurance that it is a path worth walking. We know this because we breath every moment and think-I made it here-then breath again and stop thinking. The intensity of all experience that is felt only partially by humans is felt by all of the Universe itself, fully, in its transparency, in its awkward Absoluteness, in its totality.
Must we believe in God? No. Some would say that we do no matter what, some proclaim an entirely pluralist vision, I'm not sure where I stand.
None of this is supernatural; it is more than humanistic because it affirms life with a grounding in reality itself and no temporal contract that we have written up.
We check as Budddhists that God can only be God if God is completely present in every single experience while being completely transparent as such. The absoluteness of God is language that Buddhism doesn't really speak, and that's okay. Yet God can be the center of it all, the confidence in the life of the path, the (for me, also Jewish) the burning bush dynamically burning my feet as I tread incinerating paths of wisdom.
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