..."However, your argument of how did God come to creation is a classical self-contradiction. If you admit or assume that God is the creator of this universe, then you can’t make him a creation in the same question, i.e if he is the creator, he wouldn’t be governed by the laws of his creation.." and you also said: "If you assume God created man body and soul, then it won’t be that difficult to imagine He’s also capable of giving him conscience to judge his world and act by"
The belief in God is noted that he is the creator of all things and the all his works are his creations. He is a ruler and above of all things. This GOD is a powerful force who creates all things and intelligent beings, whom these beings return to worship and praise God's mercy.
But, this is not the case in Buddhism. Buddhism has recognized the the Universal powerful all-sustaing force which itself the source of all physical and spiritual phenomena,what we call the " MYSTIC LAW ",which is the force and wisdom inherent in the entire cosmos.It is what u may call GOD, but it is different from God in that it is perfectly immanent in the cosmos and "within' our lives.It is not a force outside the COSMOS. It is the COSMOS itself.
Buddhist concept of "Sunyata" or "Ku', mentioned before,is one aspect of "the character and essence of all thing(or life and its manifestions)". Ku help us understand how the universe could remain "Lifeless' for some billion years after its formation, yet still be called Alive: it's life-force was in the condition of Ku, not manifest, but profoundly shaping the design of the space and time universe as it evolved, down to the very Laws that govern it. As soon as condition allowed it to- and it's a sure thing that conditions would- Life emerged from a Latent state to manifest state, and proceeded to evolve into sentient, intelligent beings who could appreciate their roots in universal life and worship it's ESSENCE. And that ESSSENCE- that subsumes all other laws, that has been driving and shaping reality since time without beginning and will never cease to do so- is " MYSTIC LAW ", the Life essence of the cosmos which is the ultimate principle or the totality of universal existence.It is called Mystic Law because it explained the Mutually inclusive relationship of all Life and Phenomena.
The concept of shunyata (Sanskrit), or ku (Japanese), has been variously translated as latency, non-substantiality, emptiness and void. One of the first detailed articulations of this idea comes from the Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna, living in India between 150 and 250 C.E. Nagarjuna believed that the state of "neither existence nor nonexistence" described in this concept expressed the true nature of all things. The paradoxical nature of this idea, however, makes it somewhat foreign to Western dualistic logic, and has helped contribute to a stereotype of Buddhism as a detached, mystical philosophy that sees the world as a grand illusion. The implications of ku, however, are much more down-to-earth, and are in fact consistent with the findings of contemporary science.
Modern physics, in attempting to discover the essence of matter, has arrived at a description of the world that is very close to that of Nagarjuna. What scientists have discovered is that there is no actual, easily identifiable "thing" at the basis of matter. Subatomic particles, the building blocks of the physical world that we inhabit, appear to oscillate between states of being and nonbeing. Instead of a fixed "thing" in a particular place, we find only shifting waves of probability. At this level, the world is actually a highly fluid and unpredictable place, essentially without substance. It is this non-substantial nature of reality that the concept of ku describes.
Ku also elucidates the latent potential inherent in life. Consider how, when we are in the grip of a powerful emotion, such as anger, this expresses itself in our entire being--our glaring expression, raised voice, tensed body and so on. When our temper cools, the anger disappears. What has happened to it? We know anger still exists somewhere within us, but until something causes us to feel angry again, we can find no evidence of its existence. To all intents and purposes, it has ceased to exist. Memories are another example; we are unaware of their existence until they suddenly rise into our consciousness. The rest of the time, as with our anger, they are in a state of latency, or ku: they exist and yet they do not.
In the same way, life (in all its manifestations) contains vast potentials and possibilities that are not always apparent or obvious, but which, given the right circumstances, can become manifest. This infinite potential is, in fact, the very nature of life.
An understanding of ku, therefore, helps us to see that, despite how we may see them, things--people, situations, relationships, our own lives--are not fixed, but dynamic, constantly changing and evolving. They are filled with latent potential which can become manifest at any time. Even the most seemingly hopeless situation has within it astoundingly positive possibilities.
The true nature of the cosmos and of LIFE is the fusion into entity of the physical law of life and the spiritual law of life. Nichiren Daishonin said: " Earth is comparable to the physical law of life; cosmic space is compareble to the spiritual law of life. The two are inseparable. " Cosmic space", the Buddhist concept called in Sanskrit "sunyata" or in japanese called "Ku", has been translated as nothingness or the Void, but is actually the Spiritual Law of Cosmic Life as a whole. Perhaps the best way to understand this interpretation is to consider that nothing exist except in relation to everything else, which is to say the totality of the cosmos.The universe and everything in it are in flux, arising and ceasing, appearing and disappearing, in an unending cycle of change conditioned by the law of causation. All things are subject to the law of cause and effect, and consequently nothing can exist independently of other things. This Buddhistic concept of causation is also known as "dependent origination."
Buddhism holds that nothing exists in isolation, independent of other life. All beings and phenomena exist or occur only because of their relationship with other beings or phenomena. Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions. Nothing can exist in absolute independence of other things or arise of their own accord.
Shakyamuni used the image of two bundles of reeds leaning against each other to explain dependent origination. He described how the two bundles of reeds can remain standing as long as they lean against each other. In the same way, because this exists, that exists, and because that exists, this exists. If one of the two bundles is removed, then the other will fall. Similarly, without this existence, that cannot exist, and without that existence, this cannot exist.
At its essence, this interconnectedness transcends passivity and is dynamic, holistic and generated from within. More specifically, Buddhism teaches that our lives are constantly a synergy of the internal causes within our own life (our personality, experiences, outlook on life and so on) and the external conditions and relations around us. Each individual existence contributes to creating the environment which sustains all other existences. All things, mutually supportive and related, form a living cosmos, a single living whole.
To return, in the above passage as Nichiren said: " Earth is comparable to the physical law of life; cosmic space is compareble to the spiritual law of life. The two are inseparable. " thus, means that the Spiritual law of life,then, is one and the same as the Spiritual Law of the cosmos. Nichren Daishonin's meaning was that the universe is performing rhymical movements in which physical world and the cosmic spirit are one.
The universe may appear to be a purely material existence, but there is within it the world of the Life-Force inherent in all physical wonder of the cosmos. If we see MYSTIC LAW, as the fundamental source of all universal phenomena, i think we understand the fusion of the physical and spiritual laws of life.
Nicheren Daishonin said the two laws " are inseparable aspect of every single life " if we consider this in from practical viewpoint, it becomes evident that as Human beings we are special manifestations or eternally One of the Fundamenatal Life-force, the universal truth, of the cosmos.
What most clearly distiguish Buddhism from other god-oreinted religions is that Buddhism sees the cosmos itself as being the " LAW ". A "Buddha" is someone who has recognized his identity with the cosmic Law. This is much different from postulating an absolute deity who creates and dominates the Law. And the difference Between Buddhism and other religions are evident in their cosmological theories. Moreover, in this kind systems of thought Leonard Swidler, professor of inter-religious dialogue and Catholic thought pointed out that there two major paradigms of thought: the "Substance pararadigm", which stresses the the permanence, being and separateness; and the "Relational paradigm", which stresses transience, becoming, and relatedness. Judeo-Christian and the islamic religion are examples of the former and Buddhism the Latter.
You wrote: "And every misfortune of life through which a believer goes with patience and faith, will be rewarded. This is a beautiful point in Islam, that every for hardship, God will either erase a sin or give you a higher place in heaven, which is very comforting in times of crisis."
HUMAN BEINGS HAVE LONG ASCRIBED TO FATE, destiny or even God’s will problems they felt powerless to resist, resigning themselves to these perceived forces. The ancient Greeks envisioned three elderly goddesses—the Fates—who controlled people’s lives. The goddess Clotho determined birth, spinning the thread of human life; Lachesis dispensed that thread, steering the path a person would follow in life; and Atropos cut the thread thus determining an individual’s moment of death.
This attitude—that all in life is predetermined or inalterable—is not limited to people of old; it exerts an influence on the hearts and minds of many living today. Expressing frustration over this tendency, British author and essayist George Orwell wrote: “For the ordinary man is passive. Within a narrow circle . . . he feels himself master of his fate, but against major events he is as helpless as against the elements. So far from endeavoring to influence the future, he simply lies down and lets things happen to him.”
The idea that something other than ourselves controls our destiny can in one sense be seen as a form of avoidance—a rationalization to escape facing and challenging real problems and suffering. It may also be an expression of a deep, subconscious sense of helplessness.
Buddhism teaches the solution to human suffering and provides a way to overcome or transform this sense of helplessness. Ultimately, it teaches that the cause of misery lies not with any external force or circumstance, but with ourselves. Buddhism looks nowhere beyond the sufferer for both the cause and the solution to suffering.
According to Shakyamuni Buddha: “If a person commits an act of good or evil, he him-self becomes the heir to that action. This is because that action actually never disappears (Udana).”
The Sanskrit word karma means action. And Buddhism divides the actions that constitute karma into three categories: actions of the body (behavior), actions of the mouth (speech, language) and actions of the mind (thoughts).
ONCE committed, any human action, whether good or bad, does not simply vanish into the past with time. Each act remains in one’s life at the present as a potential force or energy, influencing the course of one’s existence from the point of that action forward. In this sense, rather than simply viewing karma as “action,” it may be more appropriate to think of it as action plus that action’s potential influence on one’s life. Or, in simpler terms, karma may be seen as life’s ingrained habits, leanings or tendencies—actions that tend to repeat themselves, or that we tend to repeat.
Buddhism teaches of the eternal or unending nature of life as a cycle of birth and death. So when people speak of “past karma,” they really mean the present influence on one’s life of actions taken in the past (in past lives). Buddhism also teaches that actions (karma) can be either good or bad; good actions (good karma) give rise to happy, positive effects, and bad actions (bad karma) give rise to unhappy, negative effects.
Further, some actions yield specific results that will appear at a set time—this is known as fixed or immutable karma. Other actions yield results that are not set or specific in their nature or timing—this is non-fixed or mutable karma. Immutable karma is often used to describe a person’s life span, because the time of one’s death is viewed in Buddhism as fixed or set by the influence of past karma.
What kind of actions form immutable karma? In the Buddhist scripture A Treasury of Analysis of the Law (Jpn. Kusha Ron), they are described as:
Actions arising from strong earthly desires (delusions, illusions); or conversely, actions arising from a very pure heart and mind.
Actions that are continually repeated over time.
Actions taken toward the correct teaching of Buddhism.
Actions taken toward one’s mother or father.
While human beings cannot avoid the results of their actions in past lives, Buddhism does not teach that we should simply resign ourselves to the effects of karma, be they good or bad. Submission to fate, to “one’s lot in life” or to some will outside our own is not a correct Buddhist view. Rather, Buddhism is correctly understood as a forward-looking, empowering teaching that stresses personal responsibility and hope. “If I am the one who made myself what I am today, then I am the one who will create the ‘me’ of the future,” is the ideal attitude of a Buddhist.
Karma, then, does not so much apply to our circumstances as to our thoughts, words and deeds. Things do not happen to us, we make them happen—or we act in a habitual way when they do happen that leads us to habitual situations. We made what we are and experience now, and we are at this moment making what we will be and experience in the future. That is karma. So to change karma means to change our lives right now; that is, the way we think, speak and do things. The best way to positively transform the effects of our past bad karma, enjoy the effects of past good karma, and create good karma for the future is to inform our actions with fresh life force and wisdom.
Fortunately, the Daishonin’s Buddhism provides us with a way to bring forth this powerful life force and wisdom. The power of our Buddhist practice also enables us to trans-form negative karma or circumstances into a motivating force for creating great future benefit and reward.
THE key to breaking through the wall of our bad karma(unpleasant life) and creating future happiness lies only in ourselves—in our own actions.Thus, Buddhism hold a strong self-reliance than giving it up to someone's else.
you wrote: "I don’t understand your notion of heaven and hell. How did this heaven come to being?"
Heaven(paradise) and hell in Buddhism are not mythical places where one does go after death but rather, these are conditons or states of life(mind) that one may experience in every aspect of their lives.
One of the Buddhist principle of life is known "the oneness of self(life) and environment (esho funi)". It means that life (sho) and its environment (e) are inseparable (funi). Funi translates as "two but not two." This means that although we perceive things around us as separate from us, there is a dimension of our lives that is one with the universe. At the most fundamental level of life itself, there is no separation between ourselves, naturally to say the lives of all being, and the environment.
Buddhism teaches that life manifests itself in both a living subject and an objective environment. Nichiren wrote, "Life at each moment encompasses . . . both self and environment of all sentient beings in every condition of life as well as insentient beings--plants, sky and earth, on down to the most minute particles of dust."
"Life" means the subjective self that experiences the effects of past actions and is capable of creating new causes for the future. The environment is the objective realm where the karmic effects of life take shape. Each living being has his or her own unique environment. For example, a person whose inner life is in a state of hell may perceive the environment of the inside of a crowded subway train as being hellish, while a person in the state known in Buddhism as bodhisattva might manage to feel compassion and a sense of camaraderie with fellow passengers.
People also create physical environments which reflect their inner reality. For instance, someone who is depressed is likely to neglect his home and personal appearance. On the other hand, someone who is secure and generous creates a warm and attractive environment around them.
According to Buddhism, everything around us, including work and family relationships, is the reflection of our inner lives. Everything is perceived through the self and alters according to the individual's inner state of life. Thus, if we change ourselves, our circumstances will inevitably change also.
This is a liberating concept as it means that there is NO need to seek enlightenment or happiness outside ourselves or in a particular place(like heaven after death). Wherever we are, in whatever circumstances, we can bring forth our innate Buddhahood, thus transforming our experience of our environment into "the Buddha's land"--a joy-filled place where we create value for ourselves and for others.
As Nichiren wrote, "As to the question of where exactly Hell and the Buddha Land(is like concept of heaven and paradise) exist, one sutra reads that Hell exists underground and another sutra says that the Buddha's Land is in the west. However, closer examination reveals that both exist in our five-foot body." (Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page 271.)
Also in other writings, he also wrote: "If the minds of the people are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure and impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds." (Here "evil" means self-centered and shortsighted actions based on greed, arrogance, fear and aggression.)
You wrote: "We don’t have any ranks in Islam, no priests, monks or anything of the sort. We’re all just Muslims."
I think we should consider the distinction between priesthood and laity, between professional clerics and lay followers, not as one of essence but of function; not as one of rank but of roles.But, whatever that may be whether you are monks or lay followers it doesn't matter. What matters most is the sincerity and honesty of one's practice, the correct path they follow. After all, we are all equal human beings. This View of Equality is the affirmation of Buddha's teaching in which the Lotus Sutra, quintessence of Buddha's enlightenment, reveals of absolute equality - it affirms that all people, whether you are monks or laity, regardless of station/status, gender or background, are potentially Buddhas or can attain enlightenment/absolute happiness.