If this is a blog about the big religious questions, which it is, then I guess I’d better address the matter of God. And while I’m at it, why not the afterlife, too?
First, though, not all religions worship an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is separate from us and oversees us. If we grew up in a culture that was predominantly Christian, Muslim or Jewish, we expect religion to be all about worshiping God. But some religions don’t give a hoot about a god or gods. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are three examples. Hinduism and Shintoism have a more nuanced and complex relationship with a god or gods.
In an often-told story, a young monk kept bugging the Buddha with metaphysical questions. Finally, the Buddha had enough. I’m trying to end suffering, said the Buddha. If you are hit by a poisoned arrow, you want to remove the arrow. You don’t waste time by pondering who made the arrow, who launched it, what kind of bow was used, how the wind speed affected it, and so on. My teacher Thich Nhat Hanh put it this way: “Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.”
It doesn’t matter to me whether you believe in a God or not, or whether you believe in the God described in the Old Testament, or the New Testament, or the Koran, or whether you worship Native American spirits, Wiccan gods, or Shinto ancestors. What matters to me is your internal belief structure and how you act in this world. To draw on Thich Nhat Hanh again, Heaven is anywhere where there is compassion, and hell is anywhere where there is no compassion.
Nevertheless, if I’m going to write about religion, you’re entitled to know my beliefs about God and an afterlife. I believe that God is a name we give to a force we don’t understand and perhaps never will. I don’t believe that force is separate from us with its own consciousness and created us, but rather it’s something within all living things – an Inner Light, a Buddha Nature, an island of peace, a soul – that has the ability to resonate with the corresponding inner cores, or souls, of other living things.
So I believe that prayer sometimes works and miracles happen – not because a supreme being intercedes, but because our prayers come from our soul and resonate with others to make something happen, something we couldn’t do on our own. We humans, being what we are, needed to create an intentional being called God who controls that force, but I find it easier to believe that it comes from something within all of us
After all, as the Buddha seemed to understand, everything in our universe is made of the same cosmic dust particles that are ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-dancing, and always connecting and reconnecting. My Buddhist faith teaches me that thinking of myself as a discreet entity is an illusion anyway. I’m just a collection of cosmic dust that does a dance with your collection of cosmic dust that does a dance with everything else in our universe. I hesitate to tread into physics that I don’t truly understand, but I’ll suggest here that just maybe something like the principle of quantum entanglement means we are connected and communicate in ways we don’t understand.
One bit of Buddhism that I have difficulty with is the idea of reincarnation. But if we are all made of the same cosmic dust and it resonates and communicates in a world with no beginning and no end, then everything we are may indeed come together again. Whether that’s true or not, I have no doubt that something of us remains in the resonating mass of cosmic dust after death. That’s why so many of us have experienced a connection with a lost loved one that’s hard to explain away as wishful thinking.
This morning, just after I decided to tackle this subject, I read a post called Letting Go…To the Heart in an excellent blog called We Are Starlings, written by a woman names Amie. Although her subject wasn’t God,it seemed to fit my mood. If you like my blog, check out hers. She also posted a link to the video below, a TED Talk that once again (to my thinking) shows how on-track the Buddha was 600 years before the birth of Christ.
Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine