I have received a lot of comments over my article “Can you Be A Christian Buddhist?” They have brought on the two big questions I will attempt to answer next, “Can there Be A God in Buddhism?” and “Can you have a Buddhist soul?”
My talking and teaching over the past two years as taught me that there are as many types of Christianities and Buddhisms as there are people. Even within the same Church, the same family, and siblings with the same upbringing—everyone interprets their understanding of the Universe uniquely. So these next two articles are not to change anyone’s mind, but to simply offer words for contemplation.
“A faith unquestioned and untested is not a faith of conviction.” ~ Rev. Sumitta, 2010.
When I wrote that, I was in a dialogue with an evangelical Christian who said that faith was something not to be denied because it was truth engraved in your heart. But my response was that even Jesus had to fast in the desert for 40 days to explore the depths of his faith: and he was the physical incarnation of God. So please read with me with an open mind, and take what you find useful (discarding the rest).
CAN THERE BE A GOD IN BUDDHISM?
The Buddha avoided the discussion of a Creator God. It was not important to what he was teaching: the understanding of the nature of being human, the discontentment of mortality, and how to end this discontentment so that we can live the fullest life possible. This makes Buddhism one of the only non-theistic religions. Many do not consider it a religion at all, because it does not avow or disavow the idea of a Creator.
But the central tenants of Buddhism are that all things are impermanent, there is no real identity of self, and we are all discontented with the temporary nature of being (e.g. avoidance of sickness, old age and death for example). If all things are impermanent, then how could there be an infinite God?
Let me say first, I am not a Christian. I am a Buddhist with a small personal and college education in Christianity. So as I make this argument, I make it from a Buddhist perspective.
One of the interesting things about modern cosmology is that it asks the same questions theologians ask—what came before? If there is a universe that started, what existed before the universe? If there was nothing, then were did God come from? I would humbly suggest that this agnostic answer that many scientists theorize, it IS possible for a non-linear existence to exist beyond the confines of our linear universe. The rules of our universe (both in science and Buddhism) that all things that arise will pass would only apply to those things created within the universe experience that we are in right now.
To that end, it is very possible that multiple universes with different rules exist. It is also just as possible that something exists that can create these reality. Being a phenomena outside the existence of this universe, God (in the Christian sense) would not be bound by Buddha’s observable enlightenment.
The second part to this understanding of the potential possibility of God, is that God is rarely defined. The writers of the Bible use the terminology of “HIM” because no other gender is available in the language. In addition, all gods at the time of Jesus were anthropromorphized. So it is very telling in the evolution of the Christian mind that in I John 4:8, God is described, “God is love.”
It doesn’t say a being who loves mankind, but rather God IS love. Combined with the Moses passage of “I am what I am.” We could understand how an existence of something unseeable and unknowable could work for those of Christian faith. Few Christians actually believe that their actions are possessions by an omnipotent being, but influences and inspirations of grace. Christian free will states that the choices of good and evil are man’s and that would mean that our influences for doing wrong are also not possessions. So how good and evil manifest from the external if could there is free will?
If God is love, that opens up possibilities. God could be defined as a collective universal interconnection. God could be the infinite’s struggle with existing in the finite. It could be a force beyond all understanding. The point is—that the definition of God is unknowable, and therefore unassailable to reproach. An atheist, at best, can say that an anthropomorphic being has no evidence of being—but God is not a person. God is Love: definable only by the personal experience. No atheist can make arguments for nor against. The world is agnostic other than their experience in their hearts.
There is one other logical possibility for God. A Mobius God. The Bible states that God is the alpha and the omega: The first and the last. But if that is true, God would not be infinite. But this may not be the case.
Taking that the universe is considered on many dimensions to be infinite but also a sort of amorphous bubble, we understand infinite in the concept of a Mobius strip, a strip twisted so that a traveler along its plane would continue forever. God would be an essence that existed infinitely along the boundaries of the existence of the universe as long as the universe existed.
Since the laws of thermodynamics states that all things are in atrophy, God would exist only as long as the universe exists. Within those bounds, a Creator would live as long as the Creation: the alpha and the omega. Even then, this Creator essence would could theoretically be a quantum phenomenon and reappear again as a different universe.
At this point, some humanist Christians are certainly scratching their chins and thinking about arguments for and against what I have written. Many fundamentalist Christians are certainly not enjoying the idea that God isn’t an infinite anthropomorphic being, with human thoughts and focused only on Earth as HIS only interest. My goal isn’t to change anyone’s mind—only to show how God can exist within a Buddhist concept of a Universe.
GOD AND BUDDHA
So, we have talked about the possibilities of a God existing in Buddha’s understanding of the Universe. Can Buddha exist in a Christian God’s universe? My answer would be yes.
In the New Testament, God is a god of love who embraces the concepts of loving kindness (turn the other cheek), embracing everyone as a member of the universe (all are children of God), developing practices of charity and giving, being mindful, meditating (a state of grace in prayer), being a good member of the community and of family. Buddhism as a practice has helped many Christians develop their deeper understanding of their God and live a more wholesome life. Buddhism supports Christian values and Christian practice.
It does not matter to Buddha if there is a God; however, Christians who believe in God/Jesus can find Buddha’s teachings to be a pillar of support in their faith.