Thursday, May 10, 2007

Conversations: Where is God?

And does God even exist? Is the word "God" a window into a realm of thought and action that leads us to truth and fulfillment? Or is the word a distraction from those ends - an omnipresent metaphor that sucks all other orbits of thought into its powerful gravitational pull?

Each of the excellent posts below have something to say about the essential nature of life, and where it might be found.

The Buddhist Blog, Buddhism and Atheism
Being a Buddhist Atheist...does NOT--I repeat--does NOT mean that Buddhists are nihilistic (and I do not meant to imply that non-Buddhist Atheists are all nihilists either). Yes we believe that all things are empty but that simply means empty of any independent existence. It is a concept that propels us to act in a benevolent way toward others, animals and non-living things as our happiness is directly connected to the happiness of others and non-living things., Meditation and Intimacy
The Mahamudra texts point to [the subtlety of meditation] beautifully when they state that we fail to recognise the true nature of the mind for four reasons: it is too close; it is too ordinary; it is too profound; and it is too excellent. So often, when I have been having difficulty with meditation, it is because I have not recognised these things.Li
Lindsey in Lawrence, God is In the Rain
There's a passage in Living Buddha, Living Christ, and I wish I had my book here so I could reference it but I don't, so bear with me as I try to paraphrase.

We call things by names when we don't truly understand what they are. For example we call a mountain a mountain without truly understanding what "it" is.

Then we realize that it isn't actually just a mountain-it is sunshine and air and all the people who have climbed it. Its arising was interdependent on everyone and everything else.

Once we realize this, we can go back to calling it a mountain.
It might also be interesting to find out about Jonathan Miller's "A Brief History of Disbelief," a personal exploration of atheism that was discussed on Bill Moyers Journal last Friday night. Unfortunately, the series is not being shown here in L.A. but you might find it "in your neck of the woods." It looks to me, from what I saw, to be an extraordinarily interesting piece of work.


carly said...

Well, you know what I think, P. I'll take another shot at it to hear myself think and to test it before your wise counsel.

I prefer the word 'spirit' because of the burden of meaning of God, the ugliness of the argument over the word, and the history of turmoil in its name, plus a general favor given to the word spirit as all-encompassing and not being contested.

George Carlin said he decided to worship the sun. Funny.

I've decided Spirit is the make-up, the sublime geometry of that which underlies everything including the sun - in any discussion of science, geometry, biology, sociology, earth, air, fire, water, etc. I especially like water. The Water Spirit. though my astrological sign is air.

I liken Spirit to when we die, and our bodies are cremated. The mass of our bodies is heated until it evaporates into the air, becoming one tiny part of the general super-matter of particles which make up everything. A little ash residue, the waste byproduct of the fire, is often scattered to the winds for complete re-assimilation into the elements. "Dust to dust". For me, this is the simplest and most religious ceremony, because physically and potentially non-physically we are changing form in the universe. To me, that's a major event.

side-note here: Whether our awareness reconstitutes in another new body is the stuff only the gifted of mind MIGHT know, the seers. I have seen a smidgen of evidence. And I never met a seer who saw any gods, only spirits.

If our awareness goes too, into a new abstract form or state, THAT'S where we will learn the meaning of "God". There's not much use in going on about it now. Only fools, with certain risk of being rude, think they know or believe they can know.

So our bodies and the inevitable particles scattered in the elements our bodies will become, are now only a metaphor for what our awareness, (not consciousness which I consider a social phenomenon) but awareness, the feeling of being alive - are now only a metaphor for what our awareness is. Hence God has usually taken the form of an old, wise, venerated man. At first a cancerous slave, but at a certain point in religious history, he became iconic-ally, a sexy, beautiful good-lookin' guy. That's advertising!

Therefore at this point, the God we all know and love, is a form of art, a sublime idea, with insufficient knowledge of form or awareness, A REPRESENTATION OF THAT WHICH I SPEAK ABOVE. And the Bible is also, a metaphor - about a metaphor, a work of art, not an encyclopedia. Only a fool thinks otherwise, one who conceitedly pronounces he knows the unknowable, which when forced to give it a name, Lao Tzu reluctantly called 'Tao', the underlying, unfathomable essence of everything, the invisible origin behind all things manifest, the essence which is ironically - unknowable. How can a 'know-it-all' know the unknowable?

But that's just me. I like knowledge which is siimple and clear and can be communicated just like that.

It just kills some people to think there's something they don't (can't) know.

PeterAtLarge said...

Carly, I think we think along much the same lines, and I appreciate your thoughtful response, as always. By the way, in Buddhist thought--so far as I understand it--it's not "certain People" that suffer, it's all of us. Which does NOT mean, as is often mistakenly purported, that "life is suffering." Rather, the Buddha said that suffering is inevitable for us humans: birth, aging, illness and death all involve some element of suffering. That recognition is the first of the Four Noble Truths, and is the prelude to everything that comes thereafter. Cheers, PaL

carly said...

P: I respectfully disagree with Buddha. Or is Buddha God and knows more than I?

Sufffering is not inevitable. It's a condition of man's consciousness, his inability to accept, his stubborness to move with the forces of fate, his insistence to defy his core, his insistence to knowingly and willfully commit his sins, his conscious will in making mistakes he knows instinctively he should not make. And many more risky and inferior reasons. Yes, Buddha, "inferior".

I have no one, no concept, and most certain of all, no angry god, to blame but myself. I do not suffer. I only accept. I bear the responsibility for the the natural consequence of my foolish behavior and inability to listen to my own sense of thoroughness. Our destinies are in our own conceited hands in our microcosm of a larger system.