Does God exist?

Dec 14, 2020

QUESTION

Hello dear Ven Robina,

My question: I lost interest in going to church many years ago as there was not much in that for me. I seemed to have come to a brick wall, so to speak. There was nothing tangible that I could apply to life experience. I find in Buddha’s teachings things that help me awaken to myself and I can help others awaken too.

Ven. Robina, does God exist? I heard stories that Buddha gave two different answers to this. So I just don’t know. 

Perhaps where there is compassion and intelligence and wisdom, there is God. Perhaps in every bird sound or the rain that falls there is God. What do you think? 

I half imagine this question must be similar to Virginia’s “Is there a Santa Claus” and I wonder if it’s the same and if the answer is the same? 

And if God exists can God ignore suffering and not feel the pain of seeing it? For the
most part I feel that God can’t be anything that I am not. Do you understand?

This subject is the one question Buddhism doesn’t answer as it seems I must decide for myself but there is fear in that choice as to abandon God would be so far from the nature of compassion. Wouldn’t it?

Thank you and I apologise if my questions are complicated.

Kind regards and always with love
T

ANSWER

Dearest T,

As always, good to hear from you.

You could say that the qualities attributed to God, a creator, those of infinite wisdom, infinite compassion and infinite power, are also attributed to a buddha. 

I gave a talk at a conference at the Catholic University in Melbourne, my home town, a few years ago. I decided to talk about “The Similarities Between the Definition of God and Buddha.” God is said to have three essential qualities: infinite wisdom, infinite compassion, and infinite power. Well, that’s exactly the same for a Buddha.

The radical difference is that Buddhism says that 1. we can all become a buddha and 2. that a buddha doesn’t function as a creator.

In fact, for the Buddha, we don’t need creating! He posits that our consciousness (he doesn’t use a word like “soul”) is beginningless and endless and that we create our own happiness and suffering from life to life. He calls this the law of karma, a natural law of cause and effect: whatever we think and do and say sows seeds in our mind that will ripen in the future as our own happiness and suffering. We create ourselves, in other words. This is a fundamental difference, I’d say.

It seems to me that over the centuries the various human beings in different cultures and religions have seen many similar things; one of the difference is how they interpret these things, what they say the causes are.

So, yes, there is perfect energy that pervades the universe that is infinitely compassionate, infinitely wise and infinitely powerful – Christians and Muslims call that energy “God” and Buddhists call it “Buddha.”

And in that sense there is only one God or one Buddha. Once you become your own buddha and I become mine, there is only one: we all become the same buddha, if you like.

The differences are the point at which the historical Buddha diverged from the views that prevailed in India at the time. The key differences relate to the ontological status of things, how things – a buddha, a person, things – actually exist. As I mentioned Buddha would agree with the idea that there is infinitley wise, infinitely powerful, infinitely compassion energy, but he disagrees with the concept of a creator. Not only does he say we don’t need creating but that it’s just not feasible. Of course, to prove this we need to do the twenty-five years of study that they do in the Tibetan Monastic Universities!

The other radical difference of each one us having the natural potential to become a buddha is experientially very powerful, very proactive. Even the lowest level bodhisattva of the ten levels of development – a trainee buddha, if you like – is driven by such compassion for suffering sentient beings that, accompanied by their incredible wisdom, they are able to manifest their own mind in at least 100 forms simultaneously, solely for the benefit of others. 

By the time they become a buddha they’re effortlessly manifesting in countless bodies throughout countless universes for the sake of countless sentient beings for as long suffering exists. That’s the job of a buddha!

I remember having a discussion with a group of Christians in Kathamndu one year, such nice people. When I told them about how this wish to benefit others based on such compassion compels buddhas and bodhisattvas to never give up being reborn in countless forms, he was depressed. “No!” he said. “I don’t want that! When I die I want to go to Heaven with God!”

So the motivation that drives the different practices is quite different, isn’t it?

What do you think, T?

Love,
Robina

QUESTION

Dear Ven Robina, 

What do I think? I think what you have said is true. 

Can I put it another way? Buddha or God is not different than we. If mind has the potential to be one then are we not already one? Mind is the creator. Is it not? 

And that puts responsibility for my life and experiences onto me. 

This is wonderful. It makes fear an illusion. Now when I feel fear or anger or frustration I see immediately my attachment. And I’m able to let it go and let things be as they are. Attachments keep us here and keep us returning. Is this correct? 

In fact, when attachments fall away there is nothing to be me about. We thought a fire was coming. Previously having experienced major fires I got myself ready to evacuate. And I thought there isn’t anything more valuable than what I have learned from the Buddha. If this house and everything in it were to disintegrate, no matter. I could give everything away. Anything people want I can give them. Jesus said, “take no thought for tomorrow.” Buddha said, there is only this moment. Both have said the same thing.

Thank you. You have made sense, yes. I’m sure there is more to experience. Much yet to learn. I will keep listening. 

Much love 
T

ANSWER
Well, dearest T, we all have different “lineages” as the Tibetans put it. And you certainly seem to have a Buddhist one! The teachings make sense to you.

Keep moving, dear one!

Love,
Robina

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