God and Zen

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  • JohnsonCM
    Member
    • Jan 2010
    • 549

    God and Zen

    No gods, no epic heroes nor clouded view of the world.

    Reality is what we must learn to see, even if it's hurtful and at the same time beautiful.

    That's why I am in Zen.
    Gassho,

    Morelos Ky?nin (Choco)
    I have always been a spiritual person and always wanted to know if there was a god or not. In Zen, there doesn’t seem to be much mention one way or the other. There are, to be sure, some references to “Gods and Buddhas” and some of the Indian deities like Indra, but no real sense of abiding faith in the existence or lack of existence of a Creator Being.

    In looking at things, I have to believe in the existence of some form of “god”. And I mean study on things from Intelligent Design to the historicity of Jesus and such, all the way to the theory of the Big Bang and how the universe, matter and anti-matter were formed. I mean, how could everything in this world function in such complete synchronicity without a “plan” or “design” of some sort? There’s too much that is in complete and perfect harmony to say, “eh, simple chance.”

    Personally, and I’d like to hear from others, I do believe in a God, but more in line with the Sikh version of Waheguru (interesting that the most profound and equitable religions have come from the area around India) as a being far beyond my ken and understanding. Now the Sikh’s are extremely devout and I don’t know that that type of all consuming faith should be the reason or modality of life – why give us free will and the ability to make choices and decisions if all we were supposed to do was live every second in abject worship?

    But in the end, God or No God, there should be no difference in my mind, in my practice. I don’t sit for God or Buddha or myself or you. I sit for the you that is me and the god that is Buddha and the Buddha that is us all. I think that such is a good view.

    So, do you suppose that the lack of a God-head in our Way is the result of a lack of belief that there could be a supreme being? Or do you think that it is because the greatest of our teachers said, “God, no-God, heaven, hell. Practice, drink your tea, wash your cup, and save the many beings. Live life, be in every moment, and experience this world through a clarity that does not require God to be, does not refute in God’s existence, and is in accord with the Precepts. God or No-God, who could find fault in that?”
    Gassho,
    "Heitetsu"
    Christopher
    Sat today
  • jefftos
    Member
    • Mar 2012
    • 28

    #2
    Re: God and Zen

    One of the things that drew me to Buddhism, and then to Zen was how wonderfully agnostic it could be. Sure there are schools that focus on the Gods and the more speculative. But I've found that so far as I can tell, the question of God is left to silence. If God exists, if God doesn't exist, it doesn't seem to make much difference on a practical level, if God exists, I will still need to go to work today, if he doesn't, I will still have to go to work today. I am comfortable just leaving it alone, I know others are not and the seems to be okay as well. Just my thoughts on it.

    Gassho,

    Jeff

    Comment

    • alan.r
      Member
      • Jan 2012
      • 546

      #3
      Re: God and Zen

      Hi. I think you've pretty much answered this question yourself in those last two paragraphs.

      Another way of putting it: God is often a distraction for some people, worrying about what he thinks, etc.

      Another way of putting it: God is often the accountability guy. When we humans do something wrong, we like to go, "Oh, that was wrong, terribly wrong, but I'm only human. I feel bad now, God will forgive me." In Buddhism, there is 100 percent accountability. Nobody is going to forgive you except You. You're not only human; you are, but You're not.

      Also, lastly, the idea of God is often just a comfort. Our discriminating mind likes to look at the world and go: Hey, where did all this stuff come from, it can't simply Be (we often say, like you said, It can't just be a matter of chance?), right? But this is just small mind trying to figure stuff out. To me, it's not about the idea that our teachers said, "Just be, don't worry about God or Not, just be in the present moment." I mean, that's all good, but I'm not sitting because I'm the universal You, Buddha, God or because a teacher told me to. I'm sitting because everything is sitting. Being because everything is being. If being is Being what is left to chance or God?
      Shōmon

      Comment

      • Ekai
        Member
        • Feb 2011
        • 664

        #4
        Re: God and Zen

        To me God is the Dharma with being awake to reality and the way things are. It's exists in the air we breath, the ground we stand on and is alive in every moment in our hearts and mind with interconnectedness between all beings that flows through each and everyone of us. We see God, Dharma, the Universe when we let go of the ego and see our true innate nature that embodies our compassion and lovingkindness towards all sentient being with an understanding that all things in life are ever-changing and impermanent. It exists in the here and the now, past, present and future, in the good and the bad and is in on the earth and in the cosmos.

        I look at the grass and trees, I see God/Dharma right there

        I look at the sunny blue sky, I see God/Dharma right there

        I look at the stars and moon, I see God/Dharma right there

        I look at the my child, I see God/Dharma right there

        I look at the grocery store clerk, I see God/Dharma right there

        I look at the homeless man, I see God/Dharma right there

        I look at the dying, I see God/Dharma right there

        I put my hand on my heart, I see and feel God/Dharma is always right here

        Gassho,
        Ekai

        Comment

        • Dosho
          Member
          • Jun 2008
          • 5784

          #5
          Re: God and Zen

          Hi Chris,

          Can't be of much help here because I don't think very much about whether or not there is a God. I do think it is a big issue for many who have come from other religions to buddhism because of their disatisfaction. Disatisfaction, we can deal with here, but questions of God I don't think are all that important. But I didn't grow up with any particular religion and didn't think much about the topic at all until I hit my 30s. I once told somene who was a devout christian that if Jesus showed up tomorrow and said that God had indeed created us, I would be grateful...but I would not become his servant for teh very reason you stated...I have free will and can choose. And if there is a God that was the greatest gift of all.

          So, I carry water and chop wood whether there is a second coming or not.

          Gassho,
          Dosho

          Comment

          • Omoi Otoshi
            Member
            • Dec 2010
            • 801

            #6
            Re: God and Zen

            I used to be an agnostic, but after sitting regularly I'm not so agnostic anymore! :lol:
            It's not that I have started to believe in and worship a personal God, but I have much more understanding for people who do. If I had a different upbringing/background, I would probably say that in moments of blissful unity with everything, God was present. But God is just a word, just as Dharmakaya is just a word. There are many such words in buddhism, for what we can't describe and define.

            Gassho,
            Pontus
            In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
            you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
            now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
            the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

            Comment

            • JohnsonCM
              Member
              • Jan 2010
              • 549

              #7
              Re: God and Zen

              Originally posted by jefftos
              In Buddhism, there is 100 percent accountability. Nobody is going to forgive you except You. You're not only human; you are, but You're not.

              Also, lastly, the idea of God is often just a comfort. Our discriminating mind likes to look at the world and go: Hey, where did all this stuff come from, it can't simply Be (we often say, like you said, It can't just be a matter of chance?), right? But this is just small mind trying to figure stuff out. To me, it's not about the idea that our teachers said, "Just be, don't worry about God or Not, just be in the present moment." I mean, that's all good, but I'm not sitting because I'm the universal You, Buddha, God or because a teacher told me to. I'm sitting because everything is sitting. Being because everything is being. If being is Being what is left to chance or God?
              I like this answer. It's true that religion has been called the "opiate of the masses", and that people do tend to lay it all on God's shoulders. But I've met people who said they were Buddhist and claim that athiest ideals are what Buddhism is all about. That I don't agree with.

              Originally posted by Dosho
              I do think it is a big issue for many who have come from other religions to buddhism because of their disatisfaction. Disatisfaction, we can deal with here, but questions of God I don't think are all that important.
              This, I find interesting. The dissatisfaction, I think, is really disillusionment. It isn't that a God or a lack of God has caused people to be come dissatisfied with a religion, but that the dogma of that religion (the rules and regulations made by man) cannot be explained or related in a way that creates a deep and abiding answer. Thus the illusion of understanding is broken.

              The accountability factor of Zen buddhism does, however, put it all on you. It says that we should be aware of the world, aware of our responsibility to our fellows and thereby ourselves, the world in general, and each member of our sangha - be they a monk in Japan, a school teacher in San Diego, or a bodhi tree in India. Our Way teaches, I feel, that we should be aware, and accept our responsibility for how we act and the karma it creates. But I also feel that our Way leaves room for the unexplained, for the presence of divinity. Simply put, we say "If there is a God, sit. If there is no God, sit." As was said above, everything is sitting. This is not a denial of the existence of God, however; this is an acceptance of the co-dependant existence of God and practice, holy and nothing holy, the statues of the Buddha and firewood for the temple. God, whether there or not, sits with us - realized and actualized with every thought we have to save the many beings, every bow at the zendo door.

              I suppose that might have been my point - though I often take the "scenic route" to get there. Zen, in my mind, does not deny the existence of God, and so as Buddhists, neither should we; however Zen does not teach us to slough off the robe of the Bodhisattva. Zen teaches us that God, real or otherwise, is not our karma, is not our practice, is not a stick to be held above our heads waiting to fall should we falter, but should be included as a member of our sangha, none the less.
              Gassho,
              "Heitetsu"
              Christopher
              Sat today

              Comment

              • Hans
                Member
                • Mar 2007
                • 1853

                #8
                Re: God and Zen

                Hello,

                I find that five people mean ten different things when they say/write the word God, which is why I find these kinds of discussions both very rewarding but also difficult, because a lot of time is inevitably spent on talking past one another (just my experience).

                Even within the vast expanse of just one religious current like Hinduism you will find every conceivable degree of believing/not believing in a personalised God...or in Gods that are supposed to be living aspects of reality that might experience themselves as persons but are no more existentially real than human beings...right down to something very close to atheism.

                One's own experiences and gut feelings cannot easily be explained logically due to their complex genesis , but these are IMHO ultimately what decides these questions on a personal level - this and the strength of the cultural indoctrination one had to endure.

                If a part of oneself needs a personal god, then one is likely to hold onto that belief, no matter how illogical or indeed true/untrue it might be.

                I think it was Miyamoto Musashi who once said that one should respect the Gods and Buddhas, but at the same time one shouldn't rely on them. That's where I stand. Now...who knows what my life will lead me to given enough time.

                We all have to find out for ourselves it seems. This humble Unsui currently believes however, that to truly face what is, one has to be prepared to accept any kind and taste of suchness...not just the one that one is hoping for. To truly face this great show we have to abandon even this lovely fantasy called hope in an ultimate sense.


                Gassho,

                Hans Chudo Mongen

                Comment

                • Hans
                  Member
                  • Mar 2007
                  • 1853

                  #9
                  Re: God and Zen

                  Hello Chris,

                  just a little P.S. to my last post. No one will decide the existence or non-existence of a personl God through an internet discussion, but a sentence like

                  "...Zen, in my mind, does not deny the existence of God, and so as Buddhists, neither should we;..."

                  has to be put into a bit of a historical perspective for those individuals new to Zen and the Buddhadharma I feel.

                  It is absolutely true in normal doctrinal terms of almost all streams of Mahayana Buddhist tradition that the practise itself should not be about wasting time on actively affirming or denying anything...but that includes your idea of God as much as the idea of the many tentacled Cthulhu or the Spaghetti monster.

                  We have to be careful that we don't follow our own dislikes or likes too much (no matter how subtle and convincing they might seem). If we are in the process of truly waking up, we do not get to choose what we are waking up to. Put another way round one could also say that as long as we still choose, we do not wake up properly.

                  Just a few unsui cents to be taken with a pinch of salt.

                  Gassho,

                  Hans Chudo Mongen

                  Comment

                  • Jinyo
                    Member
                    • Jan 2012
                    • 1957

                    #10
                    Re: God and Zen

                    Christopher wrote

                    I have always been a spiritual person and always wanted to know if there was a god or not. In Zen, there doesn’t seem to be much mention one way or the other

                    I seem to be having the opposite experience in that the word/concept God is refered to quite a lot in some of the texts I'm reading. Much to my surprise I would say there is definately a God-conception in Buddhism (including Zen).

                    At first I felt uncomfortable with this because of past associations with a concept of God that I'm not comfortable with (traditional view) - but now I feel Zen has returned me 'home' to a much freer view and connection with 'the absolute'.
                    - which in Buddhism is conceived as a 'principle of higher unity'.

                    I feel if we take this principle on board (and experience rare glimpses of it in practice) we may connect with a spirituality that is truly immanent (not requiring us to get bogged down overtly philosophizing about transcendence - if there is an afterlife, etc, etc).

                    I don't think there can ever be an adequate answer to the question 'is there a god'? Spirituality seems to be about 'relationship' - our relationships with others, our 'selves' and the universe. When we're at peace with all of that something 'just is' - (the 'suchness' - or 'being such' ). If recognising this, feeling this - is to recognise God - then even as an agnostic - forever tottering on the fence - I'm comfortable with this expression of faith/belief.

                    Gassho

                    Willow

                    Comment

                    • Heisoku
                      Member
                      • Jun 2010
                      • 1338

                      #11
                      Re: God and Zen

                      Put another way round one could also say that as long as we still choose, we do not wake up properly.
                      So, red pills all round?
                      Heisoku 平 息
                      Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

                      Comment

                      • Heisoku
                        Member
                        • Jun 2010
                        • 1338

                        #12
                        Re: God and Zen

                        Spirituality seems to be about 'relationship' - our relationships with others, our 'selves' and the universe. When we're at peace with all of that something 'just is' - (the 'suchness' - or 'being such' ).
                        Wholeheartedly agree Willow.
                        We (generalising of course :wink: ) have used the word God in the past as an expression for this 'absolute suchness', but I think we now use the word God without this relationship. I think developing our 'relationships with others, our 'selves' and the universe' is something I have found in zazen through opening the hand of thought. Just my deluded point of view.
                        Thanks for this thread Chris and the host of really useful views from you all.
                        Heisoku 平 息
                        Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

                        Comment

                        • Jiken
                          Member
                          • Jan 2011
                          • 753

                          #13
                          Re: God and Zen

                          Originally posted by Ekai
                          To me God is the Dharma with being awake to reality and the way things are. It's exists in the air we breath, the ground we stand on and is alive in every moment in our hearts and mind with interconnectedness between all beings that flows through each and everyone of us. We see God, Dharma, the Universe when we let go of the ego and see our true innate nature that embodies our compassion and lovingkindness towards all sentient being with an understanding that all things in life are ever-changing and impermanent. It exists in the here and the now, past, present and future, in the good and the bad and is in on the earth and in the cosmos.

                          I look at the grass and trees, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I look at the sunny blue sky, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I look at the stars and moon, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I look at the my child, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I look at the grocery store clerk, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I look at the homeless man, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I look at the dying, I see God/Dharma right there

                          I put my hand on my heart, I see and feel God/Dharma is always right here

                          Gassho,
                          Ekai

                          Im with Ekai on this one. I try not to attach to the concepts or God or the word or what the word means to me. I see the things Ekai sees and try not to attach.

                          Shunryu suzuki said, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ”


                          Endless. Just my opinion. Interesting post.

                          Daido

                          Comment

                          • alan.r
                            Member
                            • Jan 2012
                            • 546

                            #14
                            Re: God and Zen

                            Originally posted by Hans
                            Hello,

                            I find that five people mean ten different things when they say/write the word God, which is why I find these kinds of discussions both very rewarding but also difficult, because a lot of time is inevitably spent on talking past one another (just my experience).
                            Yes, I agree. How would the answers change if we posed it thusly: "Do you believe in God defined as a being, like a man or a woman, but not either, a sole diety, who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent (yet also existing outside of time), and omnibenovelent, the eternal creator of the universe?"

                            I think many of us might say: No. And then the thread would just be lame. To be honest, this how I approached the question because it's how I imagine most conceive of god.

                            Part of what is interesting here is that with God one typically needs to "believe." One doesn't typically experience God, one believes in the dude. Ekai's conception is neat because there's not really a "belief" factor there.

                            I like all the answers here, but at some point "defining" God does feel like words filling in for other words. Again, Ekai's poem is lovely, and yet I feel like many other words could be put in there with some other slashes. Tao would work. For instance:

                            Look, and it can't be seen.
                            Listen, and it can't be heard.
                            Reach, and it can't be grasped.

                            Above, it isn't bright.
                            Below, it isn't dark.
                            Seamless, unnamable,
                            it returns to the realm of nothing.
                            Form that includes all forms,
                            image without an image,
                            subtle, beyond all conception.

                            Approach it and there is no beginning;
                            follow it and there is no end.
                            You can't know it, but you can be it,
                            at ease in your own life.

                            -Section 14 of the Tao Te Ching.


                            Anyway, a fun game and good sharing this.

                            Alan
                            Shōmon

                            Comment

                            • Geika
                              Treeleaf Unsui
                              • Jan 2010
                              • 4971

                              #15
                              Re: God and Zen

                              Originally posted by Morelos Ky?nin (Choco)
                              No gods, no epic heroes nor clouded view of the world.
                              Sometimes I wonder if what is meant by "God" or "gods" in many writings is strictly the idea of a personified, humanoid being in the sky, and I feel that there is an alternate version of the old fable that might have some basis in reality-- but I am no saint or scientist, so all I can do is speculate based on my intuition and various things I read, Life After Life by Dr. Moody being one of those texts, along with the Dao De Jing. All I know is that the idea of a huge, loving intelligence plays a major role in my life, and is a question that I am naturally urged to explore. I have found prayer and even folk magic very useful at times-- there have been results that have caused me to undoubtedly believe at times, but still I have made no decisions, because it seems like once I feel I've pinned down "God," some other aspect that I had not even dreamed of may become present in my questioning. Maybe it's all just a part of my wiring, and the concept is something in my biology...

                              Originally posted by JohnsonCM
                              I mean, how could everything in this world function in such complete synchronicity without a “plan” or “design” of some sort?
                              Though I am inclined to believe that there is an intelligence to it all, perhaps the plan, synchronicity, and design are only perceived based on the way our brains work... or this branch of the universe just got lucky.

                              Originally posted by JohnsonCM
                              There’s too much that is in complete and perfect harmony to say, “eh, simple chance.”
                              Maybe it is not chance, and maybe it is not design either... how can we know? Everything that we know, see, and feel is based on how we function. Perhaps there are levels to existence that we can't even fathom in our imagination because we have no concept of it. I'm thinking of Plato's cave.

                              Originally posted by JohnsonCM
                              ...“God, no-God, heaven, hell. Practice, drink your tea, wash your cup, and save the many beings. Live life, be in every moment, and experience this world through a clarity that does not require God to be, does not refute in God’s existence, and is in accord with the Precepts. God or No-God, who could find fault in that?”
                              _/_

                              Originally posted by Ekai
                              To me God is the Dharma with being awake to reality and the way things are. It's exists in the air we breath, the ground we stand on and is alive in every moment in our hearts and mind with interconnectedness between all beings that flows through each and everyone of us.
                              _/_
                              求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                              I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

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