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Nahla, On My View Of Deity(2)

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Posted by Glenn on July 5, 2003 12:59:59 UTC

Dear Nahla,

Here are my response from your message forum.

You wrote:
..."If you mean by this the evolution of the universe after the big bang, then what was there before the big bang? How did this point of small volume and infinite density come into being? My answer is that God created it." and "Another creation of God, HUMANS. You’re directing us to a web site about Evolution (I visited the web site before), to stress the point that man and all other living organisms could have evolved from a simple living cell, without the need of external interference. Again, how did this ‘first cell’ come into being?

If this transcendental God created the universe and everything in it? Who or where does this God came from? I believe that the Buddhist explanation of life(the universe), that Life itself is Latent(what we call "Sunyata" (nothingness/void) in nature.In other words, inanimate matter carries the potentiality of manifesting life, and this potentiality only requires the fulfillment of certain conditions to become actuality.

Life exists simultaneously with the universe. It did not precede the universe, nor did it come into being after the universe took form, either by chance or as someone's creation. The universe itself is life; it would be a mistake to view life as exclusively limited to the planet earth.

Some may deny my view of eternal life, asserting that man and other creatures evolved from unicellular life forms. But I would counter, why did these one-celled forms come into being, where did they come from, when our red-hot planet had cooled?
Be it on our own earth or on other worlds, when conditions are right for unicellular life forms to appear, then they appear. And when the soil and climate are right for moss or algae to flourish, they proliferate. I am not denying the evolutionary theory of their development, but because the universe is itself life, wherever conditions are right, primeval life forms will appear. Therefore it is in no way strange to think that thousands of billions of years ago the human race may have inhabited other Stars and is now flourishing on earth. Moreover, we imagine that somewhere on other worlds exist animals striving to evolve into human beings. I have heard from astronomers that certain forms of plant life may exist on the planet Venus. Not being an astronomer, I am in no position to prove it, but I am inclined to believe that it may be so. Nor can I accept the view that proteins or other substances somehow combined at a particular time to produce life. The presence of proteins and the like may provide a condition necessary for life to emerge, but Life itself is forever inherent in the cosmos.

I don't believe that life can be created.The buddhist concept of eternity is similarly to the scientific view of the universe that matter and energy- in which life encompasses both- cannot be created or destroyed, they are ETERNAL. Life is n essential property of the universe and the laws of conservation apply.

Our great teacher Nichiren, 13th century japanese buddhist monk, clarifies this concept Eternity or "Kuon" in his 'Ongi Kuden' stating: "Kuon means being neither created nor adorned but remaining in the original existence".

"Being neither created nor adorned" means that life or the universe itself is not something created at a certain fixed time, but that it exists originally- ever since th infinite past it has been inherent within the universe. "Remaining in the original existence" means that life or the universe itself keep existing eternally. Therefore, in buddhist view of life, it keeps existing from the infinite past to the infinite future, taking the two alternatives forms of reality we call life(birth) and death.

Moreover, the buddhist concept of life extends beyond the convntional defintion.Inanimate objects-paper, stones, mountains, water, air, are also in the defintion of life.Aditionally, celestial objects such as the moon, sun and the entire universe are considered living entities that possess a life-force.. Some scientist even consider the earth a living planet GAIA. Since the natural environment is part of this universal life, it was possible for biological life to evolve from the sea about four billion years ago. To consider that the universe is itself Life is a Fundamntal view of Buddhism.

You wrote:
...."It’d simply be very devastating if life were all about the 70 years or so one spends in this world, in which no one finds real or long term happiness, complete satisfaction, or rest. And then you die. Is that it? If it is, then we’re all great losers, except those who knew no limits to satisfy their greed, and that wouldn’t be fair. But the universe has a creator who made sure everything in it is fair. Those who have done their duty will be rewarded. And those who chose to ignore his messages will meet their judgment. We, humans, can’t put rules for ourselves. We need help from the creator who knows best....."

Thus,this kind western religions in general consider a man's destiny is determined by the God's will, and the fate of a man's soul in afterlife to be subject to God's judgement. The Oriental faiths,represented by Buddhism on the other hand, believe that man's destiny is determined by his KARMA, and thus it is the natural result of the laws of cause and effect.
Buddhism is particular sees the joys and sorrows of the present life as being determined by causes accumulated in previous lives. furthermore, it sees the causes being accumulated in present life as determining factors in our future lives throuhout eternity.
It seems to me that if one leads a life of agony from the day one is born to the day one dies, all one can do is to reproach GOD for his lack of mercy. Logically speaking, it must be GOD who creates evil as well as good. If we accept Buddhism, however, we become aware that the essential causes of our troubles lies within our lives. It is thus possible by accepting responsibility for our own sufferings, to allay them and arrive at an indestructible state of peace and happiness. When people discover themselves are the masters of their destiny, they also find a bright star of hope enabling them to see through veil of illusion. In my opinion, the Buddhist concept of Life far more sense to modern man than the idea that everything is up to GOD.

Moreover, The immortality of the soul is linked with the concept of creation by an almighty deity. But i don't think that "life" is to be created or destroyed like the "energy" nor it can be created or destroyed. If we look into the body, there is a greek term called "pneuma": something whose presence within the body give life, and whose absence means death. So, it's just like postulating that the soul ,which created by a deity, outside of man's own existence.If man were made to live by some outside force or power, his body would indeed be no more than a machine,and he himself a mere puppet.

I believe that the principle or LAW that unites the cells and organs into living beings exist or immanent "within" life and "within" the body, and there's no need to set up a deity or pneuma outside of man's own exitence. We must look into the body as the manifestation of LIFE, for the LIFE-FORCE is inherent in the body/matter . It is this force which among other things, harmonizes the body's parts and enables man to absorb from without that which necessary to maintain LIFE. This active positive LIFE-FORCE within the body is the fundamental essence of life-force, and it is one with the life-force of the universe.

You wrote:
..."From my simple knowledge, Buddhists believe that in their next lives, human beings may be reborn as mice or cattle. To me this is very unacceptable and is contrary to human honoring in Islam..."

Buddhist teaching and Quranic islamic teachings differs fundamentally of eternal afterlife. One is transmigration and othe others is the belief of the immortality of the "soul". Your view on the eternity of life or belief life after death, it hold only one ressurrection, after which the soul continues to exist eternally into some mythical heaven/paradise or hell world which classify it on Occidental or Western concept. In Eastern view, represented by Buddhism, is that to die means to arrive at the end of the page of the book and turn to a new one; in western concept, to live is to read through the book one time and come to an end. Christianity/Islam and other major religions of the Occident teach that manner in which one lives out a limited life span- the manner in whic one reads one's book- dtermines one's destiny once and for all. The Oriental religions, on the othe hand, regard a human lifetime as being only one act in never-ending drama. The transmigration which Buddhism hold, the idea that LIFE itself, being Eternal, passes through an endless chain of deaths and rebirths. Physical death is not a final ending, but merely a transformation of the factors and functions that collectively make and susttain and individual life. LIFE itself is unbroken and extends from the infinite past to the infinite future. Though a given life as like a page in a book, the book itself is without beginning or end. NO matter how many pages are turned, the story continues on indefinitely.

In addition, those who believe in a god or gods usually claim that before an individual is created, he/she does not exist, then he/she comes into being through the will of a god. He/she lives their life and then, according to what they believe or do in their life, they either go to eternal heaven or hell. There are others, humanists and scientists, who claim that the individual comes into being at conception due to natural causes, lives and then at death, ceases to exist. Buddhism does not accept either of these explanations. The first gives rise to many ethical problems If a good god really creates each of us, it is difficult to explain why so many people are born with the most dreadful deformities, or why so many children are miscarried just before birth or are still-born. Another problem with the theistic explanation is that it seems very unjust that a person should suffer eternal pain in hell for 60 or 70 years of non-belief or immoral living. Likewise, 60 or 70 years of good living seems a very small outlay for eternal bliss in heaven. for what he/she did in those years on Earth The second explanation is better than the first and has more scientific evidence to support it but still leaves several important questions unanswered. How can a phenomenon so amazingly complex as consciousness develop from the simple meeting of two cells, the sperm and the egg? And now that parapsychology is a recognised branch of science, phenomena like telepathy are increasingly difficult to fit into the materialistic model of the mind.

How does the mind or can we say the life itself go from one body to another? We'll, think of it being like radio waves. The radio waves, which are not made up of words and music but energy at different frequencies, are transmitted, travel through space, and attracted to and picked up by the receiver from where they are broadcast as words and music. It is the same with the mind. At death, mental energy travels through space, is attracted to and picked up by the fertilised egg. As the embryo grows, it centres itself in the brain from where it later broadcasts itself as the new personality.

Life itself,both sentient and insentient beings including human life, pervades everything in the entire universe.Is one always reborn as a human being? No, there are several realms in which one can be reborn. Some people are reborn in heaven, some are reborn in hell, some are reborn as hungry ghosts and so on. Heaven is not a place but a state of existence where one has a subtle body and where the mind experiences mainly pleasure. Some religions strive very hard to be reborn in a heavenly existence mistakenly believing it to be a permanent state. But it is not. Like all conditioned states, heaven is impermanent and when one’s life span there is finished, one could well be reborn again as a human. Hell, likewise, is not a place but a state of existence where one has a subtle body and where the mind experiences mainly anxiety and distress. Being a hungry ghost, again, is a state of existence where the body is subtle and where the mind is continually plagued by longing and dissatisfaction.

So heavenly beings experience mainly pleasure, hell beings and ghosts experience mainly pain and human beings experience usually a mixture of both. So the main difference between the human realm and other realms is the body type and the quality of experience.

Buddhism offers the most satisfactory explanation of where beings come from and where they are going. When we die, the mind, with all the tendencies, preferences, abilities and characteristics that have been developed and conditioned in this life, re-establishes itself in a fertilised egg. Thus the individual grows, is re-born and develops a personality conditioned both by the mental characteristics that have been carried over. And by the new environment, the personality will change and be modified by conscious effort ;and conditioning factors like education, parental influence and society and once again at death, re-establishing itself in a new fertilised egg. This process of dying and being reborn will continue until the conditions that cause it, craving and ignorance, cease. When they do, instead of being reborn, the mind attains a state called Nirvana/Buddhahood and this is the ultimate goal of Buddhism and the purpose of life.

This kind of realms of existence whereby beings born is known as "the ten worlds." These are ten states or conditions of life that we experience within ourselves and are then manifested throughout all aspects of our lives.

The ten worlds were originally thought of as distinct physical realms into which beings were born as a result of accumulated karma. For example, human beings were born in the world of Humanity, animals in the world of Animality and gods in the world of Heaven. In Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, the ten worlds are instead viewed as conditions of life that all people have the potential to experience. At any moment, one of the ten will be manifest and the other nine dormant, but there is always the potential for change.

This principle is further expressed as the mutual possession of the ten worlds -- the concept that each of the ten worlds possesses all ten within itself. For example, a person now in the state of Hell may, at the next moment, either remain in Hell or manifest any of the other nine states. The vital implication of this principle is that all people, in whatever state of life, have the ever-present potential to manifest Buddhahood. And equally important is that Buddhahood is found within the reality of our lives in the other nine worlds, not somewhere separate.

In the course of a day, we experience different states from moment to moment in response to our interaction with the environment. The sight of another's suffering may call forth the compassionate world of Bodhisattva, and the loss of a loved one will plunge us into Hell. However, all of us have one or more worlds around which our life-activities usually center and to which we tend to revert when external stimuli subside. This is one's basic life-tendency, and it has been established by each individual through prior actions. Some people's lives revolve around the three evil paths, some move back and forth among the six lower worlds, and some are primarily motivated by the desire to seek the truth that characterizes the two vehicles. The purpose of Buddhist practice is to elevate the basic life-tendency and eventually establish Buddhahood as one's fundamental state.

Establishing Buddhahood as our basic life-tendency does not mean we rid ourselves of the other nine worlds. All these states are integral and necessary aspects of life. Without experiencing the sufferings of Hell ourselves, we could never feel true compassion for others. Without the instinctive desires represented by Hunger and Animality, we would forget to eat, sleep and reproduce ourselves, and soon become extinct. Even if we establish Buddhahood as our fundamental life-tendency, we will still continue to experience the joys and sorrows of the nine worlds. However, they will not control us, and we will not define ourselves in terms of them. Based on the life-tendency of Buddhahood, our nine worlds will be harmonized and function to benefit both ourselves and those around us.

The continuity of life(rebirth)is closely associated with the Oriental belief of KARMA, the sum total of the causes accumulated in particular life, which determine the future of that life.
The word karma means action and refers to our intentional mental actions. In other words, what we are is determined very much by how we have thought and acted in the past. Likewise, how we think and act now will influence how we will be in the future.

The gentle, loving type of person tends to be reborn in a heaven realm or as a human being who has a predominance of pleasant experiences. The anxious, worried or extremely cruel type of person tends to be reborn in a hell realm or as a human being who has a predominance of painful experiences. The person who develops obsessive craving, fierce longings, and burning ambitions that can never be satisfied tends to be reborn as a hungry ghost or as a human being frustrated by longing and wanting. Whatever mental habits are strongly developed in this life will continue in the next life.

You wrote:

.."You’d get confused with all the religions there is. But as I said before, we believe there’s only one God and He sent many prophets through out history, from Abraham to Jesus to Mohamed.."

It seems to me that this kind of religious thought that only the chosen one can access the truth as revealed by God.Also, to say that this ultimate truth comes from a unique existence and says the entire universe including heaven and earth derives from one Ultimate truth which governs all other existence. However, in Buddhism all of us equally can access the truth of life within the depths of our lives because Buddhists perceive the ultimate reality(truth) of life equally within all human beings, naturally to say the reality of all beings, and accordingly respect the dignity of all life.In the Lotus sutra, the quitessence and highest of shakyamuni buddha's enlightenment, reveals that universal truth pervades the entire universe and is ONE with all phenomena. According to this sutra the ultimate truth is not something confine to a unique existence, and therefore, the universe does not begin with the one truth, not is it governed by the one truth, the truth is ubiquitous in all existence in the universe.

Unlike other religious philosophies or systems of religious thought, Buddhism makes no clear distinction between divinity and humanity. Its teachings enable people to attain enlightenment, to become Buddhas themselves. But specifically, the Lotus Sutra alone makes Buddhahood accessible to all people. The Buddha can in no way be defined as a transcendental or supreme being. "Buddha" means the Enlightened One; a Buddha is a person who perceives within his own life the essence, or reality of life. This ultimate reality supports and nourishes humanity and all other living beings. Those who have perceived this ultimate reality inherent in their own lives truly know themselves; they are Buddhas.

..."Buddhism, the life of monks and nuns are very difficult and they are limited to very small property.."

One of the 3 treasures of Buddhism is the Sangha(Buddhist Order)originally refers to all followers of Buddhism- both laity and monks/nuns. However, in local Buddhism like Japan it refers to priest or monks. It is called one of the treasures because they preserve and inherit(to teach) the dharma(Law)- the Buddhist teachings for the future genertions

You wrote:
.."Since Buddhism lacks any faith in an eternal afterlife, it does not urge its devotees to be better or develop themselves, to beautify their environment, or to advance culturally.."

I think you misrepresented buddhism with your prejudiced views.Since buddhist view of life continous eternally, one is more likely to do to his best for the self-perfection and for the good of his environment.The purpose of Buddhist practice is to transform our basic life tendency in order to realize our total human potential in this lifetime and beyond. As one of the ancient Buddhist texts states:

"If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present."

Karma is thus, like everything, in constant flux. We create our own present and future by the choices we make each moment. In this light, the teaching of karma does not encourage resignation, but empowers us to become the protagonists in the unfolding drama of our lives.

In addtion to, Buddhism’s view of eternal life(past, present, and future), however, posits that one’s life or essence has no real beginning or end. We live many lifetimes, repeating the cycle of birth and death. Like going to sleep at night, we refresh our bodies and wake up anew.

Buddhism explains that our lives possess an eternal and unchanging aspect. When we die, our life functions may stop, but the essence of our lives -- our eternal identity, with myriad causes engraved in it -- continues in a form that cannot be seen. Death then becomes the potential for life. Again, death is just like a rosebush in winter, which contains the potential for flowers (life) within and when the correct external circumstances are present, the roses will bloom (birth).

Everything we’ve done until this moment adds up to who we are. This is the law of cause and effect. For every cause, there must be an effect. This is karma. We make myriad causes every day through our thoughts, words and deeds, and for each cause we receive an effect.

Buddhism says that, in essence, this law of cause and effect is simultaneous. The moment a cause is created an effect is registered like a seed planted in the depths of life. In fact, this law is symbolized by the lotus flower, which seeds and blooms at the same time. While the effect is planted the same instant the cause is created, it may not appear instantly. When the correct external circumstances appear, the effect will then transform from potential to actual. Looked at another way, our karma is like a bank balance of latent effects we’ll experience when our lives meet the right environmental conditions.

As we live our lives (making causes), effects reside within us, and when we die, those effects dictate the circumstances of our birth in the next life. When we are reborn, therefore, we still face the same problems or karma from causes we have made. This goes a long way to explaining why people are born under such different circumstances -- in other words, why people have different karma.

This principle suggests we can change our karma or destiny that we may have thought unchangeable. This is the great hope and promise offered by Buddhist practice. While in theory all we have to do is make the best causes to get the best effects, many times we feel we have little control over the causes we make. A prime example is when we get angry at and say something we don’t really mean to people who are close to us. At such times, the condition of anger may seem more powerful than our general nature. When we practice Buddhism, however, we can establish Buddhahood as our basic condition of life and face our circumstances filled with wisdom and compassion.

Moreover,Buddhism is win or lose. The essence of Buddhism lies in challenging and winning life's obstacles and each of us possesses that potential . Within us is the ability to live with courage, to have fulfilling relationships, to enjoy good health and prosperity, to feel and show true compassion for others, and the power to face and surmount our deepest problems.

Crucial to living a winning life is to undergo an inner transformation that will enable us to bring out our highest human qualities and change our circumstances. This process is a revolution of our own character, an individual human revolution.

Consider the following scenario:

Perhaps you feel under-appreciated at work. Maybe your boss is belligerent or ignores you. After a while you develop a chip on your shoulder. Though you may be an expert at hiding negativity, every once in a while it rears its ugly head. Perhaps your co-workers or boss perceive you in turn as not being entirely committed to the success of your job, or that you have a bad attitude. Of course there are myriad reasons for your attitude and all of them "valid." But whatever the reasons, you miss opportunities for advancement because of the poor relationship. This is a common scenario in today's working environment.

But suppose you start coming to work with a new attitude that is not just a mental adjustment but an outlook bolstered by a deep sense of vitality, confidence and compassion, and based upon serious self-reflection. Your compassion leads you to have empathy for your boss's situation. Armed with a new understanding, you treat your boss differently, offering support and finding yourself less and less discouraged by any negativity he or she may display toward you.

Your boss begins to see you in a new light. Opportunities present themselves.

This is obviously a very simple example and many of us would say this is a natural thing to do, but to live this way every day requires a basic change in our hearts and character. Once the change is made, like a never-ending domino effect, we can have continual impact on the people around us.

The practice of Buddhism as taught by Nichiren Daishonin is a catalyst for experiencing this inner revolution. It provides us with immediate access to the unlimited potential inherent in our lives by which we can live a winning life.

It is the promise of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, that i follow, that we can attain a state of freedom and unshakable happiness for ourselves while creating harmony with others.

Buddhism is a way of life that — on the most fundamental level — makes no distinction between the individual human being and the environment in which that person lives. Like a fish in water, the two are not only inseparable, but each serves as a catalyst for the other. Thus, to a Buddhist, self-improvement and enhancement of our circumstances go hand in hand. The two are actually so interlocked that it is incorrect to consider them separate entities. In treating the sufferings and delusions of human beings, there is the accompanying benefit of better social conditions, since the one is the source of the other Ö for better or worse.

While the word Buddha may conjure up images of a specific person from history or world religions courses we have taken, it is also a description of the highest state of life each of us can achieve. Buddha actually means "awakened one," and the historical Buddha (known as Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama) discovered that all humans have a potential for enlightenment or "Buddhahood" in the depths of their lives. This could be likened to a rosebush in winter; the flowers are dormant even though we know that the bush contains the potential to bloom.

Similarly, by tapping into our potential, we can find unlimited wisdom, courage, hope, confidence, compassion, vitality and endurance. Instead of avoiding or fearing our problems, we learn to confront them with joyful vigor, confident in our ability to surmount whatever life throws in our path.

Buddhism also shows us the most satisfying way to live among others. It explains that when we help others overcome their problems, our own lives are expanded. When our capacity increases and our character is strengthened, the source of our problems comes under our control. Because we make an internal change, our relationship with our problems changes as well, wresting positive resolutions in any number of astounding yet tangible ways.

Through this process of inner reformation, we can also fulfill our dreams and desires. Rather than calling for the eradication of desires, Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism recognizes that to be human means to have desires and that as we proceed in our human revolution, we elevate our state of life, "magnetizing" our lives to attract that which will further our happiness.

Not only do we fulfill our desires as we change ourselves through Buddhist practice, but the very pursuit of those desires through our practice is like rocket fuel propelling us toward our enlightenment. Life is ever-changing, moment-to-moment. The only constant in life is change. Our minds are constantly in flux, and while one minute we may have the courage to conquer the world, the next minute we can be overwhelmed by even the simplest occurrences. But through our steady, daily practice, we continually strengthen our resolve and ability to live a winning life. Winning in life, however, is not the absence or avoidance of problems. Being human, almost by definition, means we will constantly meet up with challenges. True happiness or victory in life is having the tools to take on each hurdle, overcome it, and become stronger and wiser in the process. Inside each human being is a storehouse of all the necessary traits to tackle every problem that confronts us. Buddhism is the practice that allows us access to this storehouse and unleashes our inherent power to take on all of life's challenges and win.

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