Buddhism and God

in #buddhism4 years ago


Christianity is a God centered religion. It sees God as the focus of
meaning in human life and history as the unfolding of God's plan. It comes
as a suprise to most Christians that there are relgions, such as Buddhism,
that are not God centered and have comparitively little to say about Him.
The purpose of this essay is to clarify Buddhist ideas about God and make
them seem reasonable to the non-Buddhist, even if not persuading him. In
this essay instead of talking about "God" I will use the term "the
absolute" to avoid confusion. The word "God" carries too many asociations
that are difficult to lay aside when discussing the subject from a fresh
(Buddhist) perspective. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines the absolute
as "the ultimate source of reality regarded as one and yet the source of
variety; as complete, or perfect, and yet as not divorced from the finite,
imperfect world."

First, Buddhists believe that the absolute is not someting you believe
in, or worship, but instead something you experience. The experience of the
absolute is called enlightenment. Because of this emphasis on experience,
the terminology of Buddhism is often elusive. More attention is given to
how to attain the experience of the absolute than to a specific description
of its character. Indeed Buddhism teaches that no verbal description of the
absolute is possible. That is, Buddhism insists that the absolute is

While no positive description of the absolute is possible, Buddhism
does teach that the absolute can be defined negatively by refuting false
ideas of the absolute. Buddhist philosophy is therefore resolutely
critical, showing the contradictions inherent in the concepts of their
opponents. But while Buddhist philosophy is a critical philosophy, it is
also a rational philosophy in that it believes that no contradiction can
exist in the absolute. This is in contrast to those forms of mysticism that
teach the nature of the absolute is contradictory and paradoxical.
Finally, Buddhism teaches that the absolute is the true nature of the
relative. On the question of the transcendence or immanence of the
absolute, Buddhism come down on the side of immanence. Only because we
misperceive the true nature of the world do we think of it as relative,
when we truly understand the world then we see it as the absolute. But this
process of perceiving the relative as the absolute is not one of addition,
but one of subtraction. That is, one does not gain a new sixth sense from
the practice of meditation enabling one to see everyting as godlike
(whatever that might be). Instead one strips away the false concepts about
reality which makes the absolute appear as the relative. When one sees the
absolute things seem more "ordinary" than before. Thus the enlightened
person is not unworldly and impractical, but more grounded in reality and
better able to deal with the humdrum details of life than anyone else.


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