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Is there a God? Steve Colbert put it succinctly, “Jahweh or NoWay.”There are only two possible answers to this question, so you have a fifty/fifty chance of getting it right.

Jahweh – There is a God

The universe and life as we know it was created in some manner by an all-powerful being we call God. God has always existed and is outside and inside of time, and will always exist. Everything in the universe or beyond the universe exists because of God. Some believe this God may have a family of gods, possibly including powerful, evil enemies.

No Way – There is no God

The universe or energy has always existed with no beginning. This “force” has always existed. It is evolving and is the force that triggered all we see. We don’t know if it will continue to exist forever, but since it had no creator, seemingly, it will exist in some form forever. Our conscious existence will probably end at our death, and we will be absorbed into the force which is the universe.

The world’s religions fall into these two groups. Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that the universe and all life in it was created by a God who always existed. Humans were created in the image of this God. Animism holds that there is a Creator and many sub-gods and goddesses.

Hindus and Buddhists may seem to fit this category, because they believe there are many gods. But the underlying concept of Hinduism and Buddhism holds that we humans are on a path to becoming a “drop of water in the ocean of the universe.” Indeed, the goal of meditation is to lose a sense of self.

This release, called moksha, is ultimate salvation. The individual is absorbed in the ultimate, Brahman, in the same manner that a stream or a river (a metaphor for the individual atman) is absorbed into the ocean (Brahman). http://www.patheos.com/Library/Hinduism/Beliefs/Afterlife-and-Salvation.html

So who is right? Are we individuals created by God, or are we temporary characters evolved from the universe whose highest goal is to be reabsorbed. Is there any evidence for a creator?

Clue #1

The complexity of the universe hints of an infinitely complex first cause. We don’t know how atoms combined to form matter. We are still trying to figure out what “junk” DNA does. How did time begin? Will it end? Some scientists humbly admit they don’t have all the answers: others are not so humble.

A couple of scientists were talking to God one day. They said, “God, we can create life. We don’t need you anymore.”

God said, “Wonderful! Let’s see you do it.”

The scientists leaned down and picked up some dirt.

That is when God interrupted them and said, “Get your own dirt.”

This is not a debate about evolution. The big question is who or what produced the particles that resulted in life? Jocobo Konigsburg, a physicist who is a Fermilab spokesman says, “My mother calls me all the time and asks, ‘Have you found God yet?’” Parade Magazine, July 16, 2009 p. 5 If the Fermilab physicists find the Higgs boson particle, sometimes called the “God particle” we may have a clue how the “big bang” formed matter. But we will still have no clue who or what created the Higgs boson particle.

Clue #2

The most complex life form we know of – humans – are individuals with intelligence, creativity, power, and moral sensitivity. All of us, in every culture, have a sense of fairness. Perhaps most significantly, we bond with others and love them. Do you aspire to have all that is YOU absorbed into the “ocean” that is the universe? Some of us might feel that is akin to having our souls burned on a funeral pyre – not our highest goal. Why, after all, did we evolve to this level only to be reabsorbed into the ocean?

Richard Dawkins writes, “Indeed, evolution is probably the greatest show in the entire universe.” Dawkins, Richard .“Man vs. God”, The Wall Street Journal, Sat-Sun, Sept, 12-13, 2009 Of course evolution is “the greatest show in the universe.” But the bigger question is, “Who or what was the producer of this amazing show?”

 

 

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3 thoughts on ““Jahweh or NoWay”

  1. Hi Paula.

    I very much (but respectfully) disagree that uncorrupted forms of Hinduism and Buddhism hold that we humans are on a path to becoming a “drop of water in the ocean of the universe,” or that the goal of meditation is to lose a sense of self, since the implicit assumption behind those statements is that a permanent self or soul exists in the first place, and that the transcendental insight of Buddhism can be reduced to conceptual terms. According to Buddhism (and in my own opinion), consciousness is utterly incapable of even comprehending its very own nature; thus, conceptual thought, which can only convey superficial insights into the nature of reality, can never begin to express the transcendental and transformative insight attained by people like Gotama Buddha or Ramana Maharshi.

    With regard to the inaccurate characterization of Buddhism that you quoted (with good intentions), I think the following observations, from Laurence Walsh’s introduction to The Long Discourses of the Buddha, are very much applicable:

    Begin quote…

    One cannot too often and too emphatically stress the fact that not only for the actual realization of the goal of Nibbana, but also for a theoretical understanding of it, it is an indispensable preliminary condition to grasp fully the truth of Anatta: the egolessness and
    insubstantiality of·all forms of existence. Without such an understanding, one will necessarily misconceive Nibbana – according to one’s either materialistic or metaphysical leanings – either as annihilation of an ego, or as an eternal state of existence
    [such as becoming a “drop of water in the ocean of the universe.”]

    Nibbana is the ‘unconditioned element’ (asankhatadhiitu),
    but with no attempt at definition. Nibbana is indeed the extinction of the ‘three fires’ of greed, hatred and delusion, or
    the destruction of the ‘corruptions’ (iisavii) of sense-desire,
    becoming, wrong view and ignorance. Since the individual
    ‘self’ entity is not ultimately real, it cannot be said to be
    annihilated in Nibbana, but the illusion of such a self is destroyed.

    [Nibbana] (Nirvana) is precisely the one and only transcendental element in Buddhism, for which very reason no attempt is made to define it in terms of a personal god, a higher self, or the like. It is ineffable. It can, however, be realised, and its realisation is the aim of the Buddhist practice [although its realization is impossible if sought for one’s own benefit]. While no description is possible [due to the limitations of the intellect]; positive references to Nibbana are not lacking: thus at Dhammapada 204 and elsewhere it is called ‘the highest bliss’ (paramam sukham) [which cannot be attained by seeking bliss for oneself], and we may conclude this brief account with the famous quotation from Udana 8.3 [one of the early suttas]:

    ‘There is, monks, an Unborn, Unbecome, Unmade, Uncompounded (ajiitam abhiitam akatam asankhatam). If there were not this Unborn … , then there would be no deliverance here visible from that which is born, become, .made, compounded. But since there is this Unborrn, Unbecome, Unmade, Uncompounded, therefore a deliverance is visible from that which is born, become, made, compounded [impermanent, subject to decay and death, and even in its temporary moments of apparent happiness is form of suffering compared to deliverance]./”

    An important and often overlooked aspect of the Buddhist
    teaching concerns the levels of truth, failure to appreciate which
    has led to many errors. Very often the Buddha talks
    in the Suttas in terms of conventional or relative truth (sammutior
    vohara-sacca), according to which people and things exist
    just as they appear to the naive understanding. Elsewhere,
    however, when addressing an audience capable of appreciating
    his meaning, he speaks in terms of ultimate truth (paramatthasacca),according to which ‘existence is a mere process of physical and mental phenomena within which, or beyond
    which, no real ego-entity nor any abiding substance can ever be
    found’ … The full understanding of ultimate truth can, of course, only be gained by profound insight, but it is possible to become increasingly aware of the distinction. There would seem in fact to be a close parallel in modern times in the difference between our naive world-view and that of the physicist, both points of view having their use.

    End quote…

    The Long Discourses are part of the original Buddhist cannon, preserved in the Pali language. Gotama Buddha spoke a form of Pali that was used before the texts were put into writing. The entire Pali cannon, or most of it, has been preserved. It also includes The Middle Length Discourses, the Connected Discourses, the Numerical Discourses, and the Minor Discourses (five separate volumes). The original suttas have been preserved without substantive alteration for 2,000 years. The earliest substantial fragments of a good sampling of suttas we have are dated 25-50 AD and 125-150 AD, in a langauge called Karsothi, which was used in Gandhara (modern-day Peshwar — a region where Buddhism had been strongly established for hundreds of years). The Karsothi texts are nearly identical to the copies of copies of copies of the very same texts that were preserved over 1,800 years in Pali, in Chinese translation, Tibetan translation, and Sanskrit translation. There are absolutely no differences in doctrine in the translations of those original texts that were passed down in three different languages over 1800 years. The Pali cannon of Theravada Buddhism that existed in India — and which has remained preserved in Southeast Asia — accepts only these original texts as canonical. Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism recognize the original texts as canonical, but also recognize additional texts that were written over the next thousand years as canonical.

    There are “gods” in Buddhism, but they are mortal. These “gods” are beings who were reborn in realms of pure consciousness. They live for eons, but they are subject to rebirth, like human beings. So they are nothing like the gods of Animism.

    The Buddhism practiced in Tibet includes texts written a thousand years after the Pali canon, and also includes tantric practices incorporated from popular (exoteric) Hinduism that are completely inconsistent with the original form of Theravada Buddhism preserved in Pali. So it’s not possible to make accurate generalizations about Buddhism unless you specify which tradition you are talking about. If you wish to discuss the teachings of Gotama Buddha, the gods and tantric teachings of Tibetan Buddhism are inapplicable.

    Sincerely,
    Anthony

  2. Anthony, you are always your brilliant self. I remember still 50 years after my comparative religions class our professor saying, “Hinduism and Buddhism are extremely complex religions. I will not be able to cover them completely, and I respect them immensely.” This was a Christian man who had served as a protestant missionary in India, so he knew what he was talking about, as do you.

    You know I have a gift of dumbing things down. I try not to make the points so dumb that I miss the point. In my next blog I plan to take the next step – explaining further what led me to believe in Christianity. I don’t think we will ever have an answer to whether there is a god or whether we are a part of the universe, until we look for further evidence of either perspective.

    • Hi Paula,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and kind-hearted comments.

      Perhaps you realize this already, but the view that “we are part of the universe” is consistently rejected in all branches of Buddhism except perhaps some fringe or new age forms of Buddhism that have little in common with the original teachings.

      According to the introduction to the Middle Length Discourses:

      Leaving aside from different sects of Hinduism, The Pali Canon frequently mentions six teachers in particular as contemporaries of the Buddha, and as they are each described as “the head.of an order … regarded by many as a saint” (MN 77.5), they must have been quite influential at the time. The Majjhima Nikaya [Middle Length Discourses] mentions both the set of six and, separately, states their individual doctrines; it does not, however, correlate the names with the doctrines. The connections between names and doctrines are made in the Samannaphala Sutta of the Digha Nikaya [Long Discourses]. These six teachers were among a group of known as samanas — a diversified group which, lacking a common scriptural authority, promulgated a plethora of philosophical doctrines ranging from the diabolical to the superdivine.

      PuraDa Kassapa, who is always mentioned first in the list,
      taught a doctrine of inaction (akiriyavada) that denied the validity
      of moral distinctions (MN 60.13, MN 76.10). Makkhali Gosala was the leader of the sect known as the AjIvakas (or AjIvikas),
      which survived in India down into the medieval period. He
      taught a doctrine of fatalism that denied causality (ahetukavada)
      and claimed that the entire cosmic process is rigidly controlled
      by a principle called fate or destiny (niyati); beings have no volitional control over their actions but move helplessly caught
      in the grip of fate (MN 60.21, MN 76.13). Ajita Kesakambalin
      was a moral nihilist (natthikavada) who propounded a materialist
      philosophy that rejected the existence of an afterlife and
      kammic retribution (MN 60.5, MN 76.7); his doctrine is always
      cited by the Buddha as the paradigmatic instance of wrong
      view among the unwholesome courses of action. Pakudha
      Kaccayana advocated an atomism on the basis of which he
      repudiated the basic tenets of morality (MN 76.16). Safijaya
      Belatthiputta, a sceptic, refused to take a stand on the crucial
      moral and philosophical issues of the day, probably claiming
      that such knowledge was beyond our capacity for verification
      (MN 76.30). The sixth teacher, the Nigantha Nataputta, is identified
      with Mahavlra, the historical progenitor of Jainism. He
      taught that there exists a plurality of monadic souls entrapped
      in matter by the bonds of past kamma and that the soul is to be
      liberated by exhausting its kammic bonds through the practice
      of severe self-mortification.

      The Pali suttas are generally cordial but critical towards
      the brahmins [especially concerning their claim that they are uique or chosen, similar to the claims of Judaism]. In the Buddha’s age the caste system was only beginning to take shape in northeast India and had not yet spawned the countless subdivisions and rigid regulations that were to manacle Indian society through the centuries. Society was divided into four broad social classes: the brahmins, who performed the priestly functions; the khattiyas, the nobles, warriors, and administrators; the vessas, the merchants and agriculturalists; and the suddas, the menials and serfs. From the Pali suttas it appears that the brahmins, while vested with authority in religious matters, had not yet risen to the position of unchallengeable hegemony. Whenever the Buddha or his disciples were confronted with the brahmins’ claim to superiority, they argued vigorously against them, maintaining that all such claims were groundless. Purification, they contended, was the result of conduct, not of birth, and was thus accessible to those of all four castes (MN 40.13-14, MN 84, MN 90.12, MN 93). The Buddha even stripped the term ”brahmin” of its hereditary accretions, and hearkening back to its original connotation of holy man, he defined the true brahmin as the arahant [the equivalent of a Buddha] (MN 98).,On the other hand, the Pali suttas are trenchant in their rejection of the rival doctrines of the samanas (a diversified group which, lacking a common scriptural authority, promulgated a plethora of philosophical doctrines ranging from the diabolical to the superdivine). In one sutta (MN 60) the Buddha contends that the firm adoption of any of the first three doctrines (and by implication the fourth) entails a chain of unwholesome states generating evil kamma strong enough to bring a descent into the lower realms. Similarly the venerable Ananda [one of the Buddha’s closest followers] describes these views as four “negations of the holy life” (MN 76). The scepticism of Sanjaja, while not regarded as so pernicious, is taken as an indication of its proponent’s dullness and confusion; it is described as “eel-wriggling” because of its evasiveness, and classified among the types of holy life that are without consolation (MN 76.30-31). The Jain doctrine, though sharing certain similarities with the Buddha’s teaching, was held to be sufficiently mistaken in basic assumptions as to call for refutation, which the Buddha undertook on several occasions (MN 14, MN 56, MN 101).The repudiation of these erroneous views was seen, from the Buddhist perspective, to be a necessary measure not only to sound a clear warning against tenets that were spiritually detrimental, but also to cut away the obstacles against the acceptance of right view, which as the forerunner of the Buddha’s path (MN 117.4) was a prerequisite to progress along the road to final deliverance.

      Regarding Hinduism.. The word brahma, going back to the Vedic period, originally meant holy power, the sacred power that sustains the cosmos and that was contacted through the prayers and rituals of the Vedas. Though the word retained its significance of “holy” or “sacred,” by the Buddha’s time it had undergone two distinct lines of development. One culminated in the conception of Brahman
      (neuter) as an impersonal absolute reality hidden behind and
      manifesting through the changing phenomena of the world.
      This conception is the keynote of the Upanishads, but the word
      brahma never appears in this sense in the Pali Canon. The other
      line of development culminated in the conception of Brahma
      (masculine singular) as an eternal personal God who creates and
      regulates the world. This conception was held by the brahmins
      as depicted in the Pali suttas. The Buddhists themselves asserted
      that Brahma was not a single creator God but a collective name
      for several classes of high deities whose chiefs, forgetting that
      they are still transient beings in the grip of kamma, were prone
      to imagine themselves to be the omnipotent everlasting creator
      (see MN 49).

      In the original form of Buddhism, there are six heavenly planes of existence (mortal god-realms), including the gods who delight in creating [and who fall under the delusion that they are eternal and the sole creator] and the gods who wield power over others’ creations [which would include any god who harmed a sentient being]. The gods who wield power over other’s creations are likewise mortal but deluded, and are said to be in the abode of Mara, the Tempter in Buddhism, who be besides being a symbol for Desire and Death, is also regarded as a powerful deity with evil designs, keen to prevent beings from escaping the net of samsara [the cycle of death and rebirth].

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