Two weeks ago I started this series, “God and Buddhism.” If you have a moment please see last week’s post for a general orientation on the series.
To be clear the first point of this series is to establish that, in general, by the declarations of leading Buddhist teachers that Buddhism is an atheist culture. The second point is to establish that within core Buddhist texts and in the comments of leading teachers there are many comments that contradict the view that Buddhism is an atheist culture.
What I am sure is confusing to many people about my views in such matters is this.
If someone wishes to be an atheist and feels this is the truth of life, then by all means become the most dedicated atheist you wish to be. If someone wishes to be a Buddhist in one of the many Buddhist traditions, then be all means be the highest integrity Buddhist you can be. If someone wishes to be a conservative or progressive Christian then by all means be as faithful and dedicated as you can.
What I do ask anyone in any tradition to do is this: Look carefully at the house of your beliefs. You will see that like all houses your house of beliefs rest on the foundation of a few key doctrines or a central vision of what this life really is. Once you identify what those foundation beliefs are, then start asking the toughest questions you can about whether those foundation beliefs are true.
It is not that I am suggesting that a person only become a questioner, or dis-mantler, of beliefs. There comes a time to stop asking questions and to stop seeking answers to tough questions and simply allow the word and concept building functions of the mind to take a holiday.
It is just that this process of investigation of core beliefs, and finding the contradictions and unanswered questions of your core beliefs is very helpful. It will become easier to see how important it is to be less rigidly attached to the notion that your belief system is somehow perfectly consistent. This process will also highlight how important it is to develop the skill in meditation of a simple pure awareness, at least in some sessions, without the clutter of words and concepts.
From this process you will also gain some humility. You will stop being so cock-sure that the beliefs of your tribe, or the beliefs of the tribe you have moved to, are the only true beliefs. You will be able to see that the profound truths of the tribe you are running with are interlaced with as many foolish and dangerously dysfunctional tendencies and errors as all the core beliefs of all the other tribes.
When this insight is gained the shell of your vanity and conceit and false-self will crack open. What is revealed, the pure awareness and being that remains, will be of real importance to your journey.
What I find to be disturbing about western Buddhists, in general, is that they are not asking the tough questions about their new faith that they ask of the Christian or Jewish religion they were raised in.
Before continuing next week, let me offer a couple of quotes from the Dalai Lama as another indication that high profile Buddhist teachers claim Buddhism is an atheist culture.
By the way, whatever critiques I make of some of the teachings in this book, I still believe it is an excellent work with many high quality insights and interesting research ideas.
“In Buddhism, there is no recognition of the presence of something like the “soul” that is unique to humans.”
The Universe in a Single Atom The Convergence of Science and Spirituality Three Rivers Press 2005 New York by His Holiness the Dalai Lama 2005 page 107
Regarding Karma certainly one of the foundation beliefs of Buddhism there is this comment:
“In Buddhism, this Karmic causality is seen as a fundamental natural process and not as any kind of divine mechanism or working out of a preordained design.”
The Universe in a Single Atom The Convergence of Science and Spirituality Three Rivers Press 2005 New York by His Holiness the Dalai Lama 2005 page 109
Here are two examples of questions that Buddhists and others tend to not ask about Buddhism:
Is karma a true description of a “fundamental natural process” or is it just a system of probabilities but not an iron clad law of nature?
If karma is a “fundamental natural process” (and I am not conceding it is), then who or what created it and why?
Please let me know what you are thinking or studying in these matters. All constructive comments will be posted and responded to.
More next week.
will at meditation practice dot com ( spelled out to limit spam)