Buddhist Beliefs, Practices and Experiences

Beyond God

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Beyond Transcendence

 

Amida Buddha transcends the man-made notion of any Supreme Being or Higher Power. The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life describes Amida as the teacher of Gods and humans. What does this mean? Simply, Amida transcends all Gods, all beings whether high or low, and all things, and points to that which is unborn, deathless and formless, which is ultimately and intimately ourselves. This beyond transcendence is non-dual in nature meaning there is no separation or division between her and all things; she is each and everything. That is to say, the assumption of creation and Creator is not existent. If we look closely and honestly, the notion of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God or even the numerous gods like Jupiter and Indra are dualistic in nature. There is a distinct division between God and the gods and all things, even though all things are said to have the spark of the divine or created in its image. Still, can you claim to be God or Jupiter without being chastised as insane? On the other hand, in Buddhism one can claim to be Buddha if one realizes enlightenment. In Shin Buddhism, the aspiration is to embody the nembutsu as a non-dual experience, making the Sacred Story of Amida one’s own story, and thus realizing that we are the vast ocean of immeasurable life and light. Please, refer to the web page Pure Land: a Buddhist Heaven? for more details.

 

Contrasting Pantheism, Monotheism & Atheism

    

Contrasting with Pantheism

(Nature and Ultimate Reality)

 

Pantheism strictly identifies God with nature.  On the other hand, panenbuddhism does not say that the universe is synonymous with ultimate reality (Amida), which would be the position of pantheism; On the contrary, it maintains that there is more to Amida than the material universe; the whole is more than its components, yet paradoxically they are one.

 

Contrasting with Monotheism I

(No need for Creator and Dualism)

 

There is no creator God or need for a creator because the cosmos is boundless and immeasurable in time and space. To explain further, reality-as-it-is has neither a beginning nor end but has a circular and living dimension, existing only in the timeless now. When we say boundless or immeasurable what we are affirming is the non-conceptual nature of the dharmakaya. Another problem with monotheism is its inherently dualistic perspective, in which the personal God or deity is separate from its creation. There is no unifying or transcending principle enveloping the two distinct realms. It gets even more precarious when you add the dimension of Hell and Satan. On the other hand, Buddhism sees reality as ultimately non-dual, holographic and unified (holistic). See our web page called Beyond God.

 

Contrasting with Monotheism II

(Gender and Blood Sacrifices)

 

Amida may be considered either a male or female or neither of those arbitrary designations, and more importantly, ultimate reality is certainly not a judgmental father figure. Interestingly, our Fellowship usually considers Amida in the feminine form. Another major difference is that some forms of monotheism rely on blood sacrifice as a vehicle to salvation. First of all, there is absolutely no need for one good man to die for the salvation of others; Buddhists see bloody violence as a means to salvation as a deep error. The Buddha taught in the Digha Nikaya that, “Blood has no power to cleanse…Better than worshipping Gods is following the ways of goodness.”  We believe that human salvation was not invented 2,000 years ago by any wrathful deity through a ‘sacrificial lamb,’ but instead salvation for all sentient beings in our vast universe has been part of the very fabric of existence since beginningless time. This is confirmed by our Buddha’s teaching of the Primal Vow. See segments on the Amida Buddha, the Primal Vow and the Amida: the One Life.

 

Contrasting with Monotheism III

(Wrathful, Morality and No Fear)

 

To contrast further, according to the Buddhist religion, there is no omniscient, loving yet wrathful God or deity, manipulating the destinies of all beings favoring some and condemning others. Furthermore, at the very foundation of existence, there does not exist any legalistic source of morality. Good conduct is not based on following a set of commandments of any deity but has its true source in shinjin, the experience of awakening. For this reason, Amida is not the final judge of all human beings; this would defeat the function of true compassion and wisdom, and universal salvation.  As a result of this good news, we have no fear of Amida Buddha because she is the unconditional and compassionate animating force of life itself that actively seeks to liberate all confused and suffering beings regardless of species, race, gender, moral behavior or belief. 

 

Contrasting with Atheism

(Nihilism and a Different Vision)

 

Like atheism, Shin Buddhism rejects the idea of a supreme personal God, Higher Power or deity such as Allah, Jehovah or Yahweh but for different reasons. The distinction lies in the fact that Shin is not nihilistic but experiences a different and dynamic vision of ultimate reality. Amida, as explained above, transcends any notion of a personal creator God who is dualistic, loving yet wrathful and judgmental. Shin Buddhists believe in and many intimately experience the living non-dualistic mystery of Life itself that is beyond the made-up stories of ancient mythology, and man-made dogma and superstitions.  Likewise, Shin Buddhists reject atheism, which is simply a negative reaction against the monotheistic god-idea and can offer nothing but a lifeless and purposeless mechanical universe. Shin offers a positive and deep spirituality but its religion and faith is completely different than the Judeo-Christian-Islamic notion of religion and faith.

 

The Reality of Myth

 

All religions offer a sacred or mythical story so that ordinary people can understand that which is incomprehensible. For example, there are stories of virgin births, crucifixions, visits by angels, ascensions through heavens and resurrections. Some may dismiss myth as false or just nice little stories but in reality, myth serves as the medium by which our inner deep subconscious mind interacts with our outer conscious mind and world.  Myths manifest themselves in a dreamlike manner, coming from our wisdom bodies, the human body, whose source is the ground of our biological being, the source of life.

 

One major difference between Western and Middle Eastern religions and Shin Buddhism is that we (Buddhists) freely acknowledge that our sacred story is a metaphor and not historical fact. To see it as true history would be to miss the point and be a grave error. As the Buddha said, “it is the finger that points to the moon,” The finger is not the moon but indicates the direction of the moon. So many people get confused thinking that the finger is the moon (truth).

 
 
Our Beliefs, Practices and Experiences

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Copyright 2006. G.R. Lewis, All Rights Reserved

The author grants permission to copy this document for personal uses only.