Monday, October 27, 2003

Well, many more bombs were set off in Baghdad during the night. It would appear that the bomb which hit the Rashid Hotel over the weekend, where Wolfie was staying, was just the kickoff. It looks like Wolfie was not the target, they probably didn't even know he was coming when they were planning the attack, or they would have been more precise, maybe. As it is, he was not even hurt, which is a blessing: all we would need to hop things up really, really hot, would be to have a top U.S. dignitary hurt.

Among today's hits is the Red Cross. If ever any organization could represent goodwill to all, that surely is it, above and beyond all other humanitarian services. Attacking the Red Cross is a hellish thing to do and if anyone needed such a distinguishing definition, it clearly sets the perpetrators in the category of people in the lowest of the ten worlds, the world of Hell, and also in one of the lowest circles of Hell.

There are two worlds of Hell, the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual world of Hell is actually in the heart of man. Nobody is immune: that is why it is important to choose what one believes in. So, let's talk about religion today.

Most people come into religion at their mother's knee: they will be raised in the faith adopted by their parents, which will either be the same as that of their grandparents, or something different, in the case where their parents were converted.

To keep it simple, religions are to a great extent split into two major factions: one that believes in a Creator God, and the other that believes in the Buddha.

Let us set aside those who believe in more than one God, to keep things simple, and deal with the largest of monotheistic religious blocks, those based on the Bible, the religions of the Book. The three main groups included here are the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims, who all practice a religion started by Abraham, who it is said came out of Iraq. Geographically, that is: at the time, Iraq did not exist as a state, country, region, etc.

The defining belief of these three large monotheistic groups is that they all believe in one single Creator God, omnipotent, omnipresent, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-merciful. According to this belief, nothing and nobody ever existed unless it was created by God.

Begging the question why such a compassionate God should ever have created imperfect beings in the first place, one other question remains unanswered in my own mind, and that is why this same God also created a Devil to tempt His frail creature, Man, into wrongdoing.

One could also ask why such a God should have revealed His laws, rules and regulations, to just a chosen few, and why, if His intention really was to make all equal in His sight, He created some with deformities, ill health, mental aberrations, etc., and why He set some down in physical paradises and others in arid, inhospitable lands, and why some were born with a "silver spoon" in their mouth and others to impoverished families.

The main point about monotheistic religions is that it is roundly set in time: There was nothing, and presto! The world was created in all its imperfection--in the image of its Creator, it is said, although the nagging thought does occur to me, since all religions are originally started by one single man, in the monotheistic case, Abraham, it does occur to me, I say, that even when passing along the Creator's word there might be room for some kind of misinterpretation or discrepancy, leading to some form of "Chinese whisper" effect, resulting in man in fact creating God in his own likeness, which actually would explain a lot more than the "other way around" theory...

Monotheistic believers are required to believe that belief in this One God is the only means to their salvation. Belief also encompasses following all the rules and regulations set down by God, via His chosen spokesperson, praying to such a God in order to propitiate His favors, mindful at all times that it is only through God's grace, i.e. favoritism, that man can perfect his imperfections. In other words, a believer must believe at the same time that he was created perfect, and that he was created imperfect and must complete himself more perfect than God's creation. Man the subservient, the creature, must outdo his maker.

Any form of resentment from the imperfect creation towards its Creator, any form of complaint with respect to perceived injustices in the divvying up of any kind of goodies, is to be denied expression in the same way that a rebellion against the will of an autocratic tyrant might be. Everything is the will of God" and must be accepted as such, not only that, it must be embraced joyfully as the indication that the Creator really, really loves you, and that is why He has singled you out to test your faith so harshly.

Little surprise that such religions can lead to glaring injustices: but we won't go there. There are, after all, many believers who do not use these religions to manipulate and dominate others, and we will only look at the very basic premise of a monotheistic religion.

It is set in time: there was nothing and at a certain moment in time, God created everything.

Time is a linear event having an originating single point, one original point, a primary cause, God's creative act.

The most superficial examination of God's creation, however, reveals that not all things are created equal: there are sentient and insentient beings. Among the sentient beings, life forms have many differentiations, from very simple units, to fishes, to birds, to mammals of various intelligence, finally to the apes and at the summum, Man.

Man is superior to all the animals in that he philosophizes. No other animal questions: "What is birth? What is death?" No other animal asks "What is the purpose of life?" All others are ruled only by instinct and biological imperative.

Man may accept a monotheistic belief, and this will usually lead him to find comfort at the prospect of his inevitable death, in the thought that if he obtains God's approval, after death he will go to Heaven. Worship God, keep all His rules, obtain His approval, you go to Heaven. Don't worship God, however, break all His rules, fail to obtain His approval, and go to Hell. You do have a choice, it's up to you: it may indeed be Hobson's choice, but you must make it.

I sometimes wonder whether anyone really believes in God's judgment with respect to this matter, because no people on earth actually leave it up to Him to make a final judgment, almost all peoples take matters into their own hand and dispense their own form of justice, as if God couldn't be trusted somehow.

Let's set that aside! Let's say only God judges, only God determines who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. In this eventuality, it is all up to the personal relationship the individual has established with the Godhead. In human terms, it is all negotiable, full of quid pro quo, compromises, sleight of hand, bargaining, double-talk and manipulation, sometimes last minute deals.

Ergo, there are "strangers", "estranged parties", "more favored peoples" and "most favored nations".

Interpretations of monotheistic religions are often updated to reflect the accepted scientific discoveries of the times. For instance, everyone knows that under the Inquisition, claiming that the earth moved around the sun was punishable by a most public death at the stake. In the more recent past, some two hundred years ago or so, believing and stating that the earth was billions of years old was contrary to the Church's belief in a world created by God a mere few thousand years ago, to the denial of all fossil evidence, and a contrary stance could have one excommunicated. Theilhard de Chardin was silenced because he favored the notion of evolution, deemed contrary to the Church's teachings that Man was created in God's image, with an immortal soul, at a specific moment in time in one fell swoop, and that happened in our own modern times. So one may conclude that even if we still deny the evolution of man, we cannot deny the evolution of religion.

Monotheistic believers use their faith to bolster their courage in the face of their expected death. It can be summarized simplistically as: "Don't worry, when you die, you will go and enjoy your life forever in a beautiful Heaven."

The skeptics who cannot believe this, for whatever reason, can take comfort from science, as stated in the two facts: "Before birth, nothing! After death, nothing! You don't have to worry about a thing, it's all a big Zero. Enjoy life as much as you can while you can, and then die."

So now we come to Buddhism. What's different?

What's very different is there is no Creator God, it's all Cause and Effect. There is no point of origin, before which there was nothing and after which there was something. There is only a continuum, eternal life without beginning or end. It is a transformation, a constantly recurring of appearance and disappearance. It has three phases: it is physical, or it is spiritual, or it is both. But it is also all three at the same moment, because it is never only just one of the three.

Anything, whether physical or spiritual, is the effect of a previous cause, and each effect becomes the cause of the next effect.

Time is also a continuum, past, present and future, but it is always NOW!. You only know the past because of the effects you see in the present, and you can foresee the future by looking at the causes you are making in the present.

The balance of accounts is stored in your Karma, the Eighth Consciousness.

The Law of Cause and Effect is absolute, in impartiality, justice, application, etc. Make a bad cause, you get a bad effect, make a good cause, you get a good effect.

Because linear time is just a partial truth, it sometimes appears as if a cause did not have an effect, as when a crime goes unpunished. In fact this is not so, however, because the unpunished crime goes "on the books" of Karma, and retribution will occur when the time and circumstances are right. Under the Law of Cause and Effect, there is always perfect justice: just be aware the retribution might come when you had totally forgotten your transgression--or even, in your next, or some future, lifetime!

There is no way to avoid your Karma: there is only one way to handle it, and that is to accept it and recognize it as your own, your responsibility, and to determine to change it. The law of Karma works like any other law, whether you know it or of it or not, whether you agree or disagree, whether you love or hate it, believe or disbelieve.

Just like the Laws of Electricity, Thermodynamics, Relativity, Gravity, Nuclear Physics, etc, they all of them apply whether you understand them or not, whether you agree or disagree, love them or hate them.

The only difference is that these small, partial laws only apply to the physical realm. Only the Law of Cause and Effect applies both to the physical and the spiritual realms.

For a Buddhist, there are no coincidences, no accidents, no luck, good or bad, no fate determined by some outside entity: everything we experience is determined by only one thing, our Karma, which is the repository of all the words, thoughts and actions we have had in this and our previous lifetimes, and our future lives will likewise be determined by the causes we are making now. There is no Supervising Deity to negotiate with, there is only the perfect justice of the Law of Cause and Effect.

So, a practicing Buddhist is mindful of the fact his future life is in his hands, and his inevitable death, instead of presenting a stressful uncertainty, may be anticipated with the calm confidence that he has done all in his power to assure a happier rebirth in more favorable circumstances than he experiences now, by the transformation of his Karma. He also knows that the messy world which he thinks he is leaving behind, he will find again, sooner than he thinks, he may even become part of a mine removal squad sometime in the future, removing things he thoughtlessly put down in this lifetime, because he is not going to be whisked away to some pristine, unspoiled-by-human-hand paradise. The fact of the matter is, it's not only your grandchildren who will be paying the bill for your feckless waste of the environment, you will be among them too, you are in fact creating your very own future!

This is a simple statement: Buddhism is actually most complicated and there are some provisional teachings that resemble in part monotheistic teachings. The reason for this is that there are two ways of teaching Buddhism.

The first is to explain theory in a manner appropriate to the student's understanding. This is called "Zuitai", "According to the people's minds". The second is to teach the truth regardless of the student's capacity for understanding. This is called "Zuiji", "According to the Buddha's mind'.

It is easy to understand by way of analogy: If you were to explain the Law of Electricity, or the Law of Gravity, or the Law of Physics, to a child in kindergarten, junior high school, senior high school, college, or post-grad at M.I.T., you would explain it differently, wouldn't you? That is "Zuitai".

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any religion, it's just some of them are most decidedly kindergarten: not lies, but not the whole truth, either. They are provisional and preparatory, they point and lead to the truth, they are true, as far as they go, but they are not complete.

It is only the Buddhist Law, the Law of Cause and Effect, which covers both the physical and the spiritual realms, which explains the theory of Buddhahood and is consistent with science. But even this theoretical truth is not complete.

It is only True Buddhism, which reveals the perfect justice of the Law of Karma, the Law of Cause and Effect, and which teaches "according to the Buddha's mind", "Zuiji", which is the only teaching which reveals the seed of Buddhahood, thus enabling every single human being to achieve Buddhahood without fail in this very lifetime, it is, therefore, the only teaching which is complete.

(Potential Buddhahood had been revealed by Shakyamuni in theory more than 3,000 years ago; but the time was not ripe for him to reveal the "seed". It was only Nichiren Daishonin, in 13th Century Japan, who fulfilled Shakyamuni's predictions and actualized his own Buddhahood in such a way as to enable each one of us to awaken our own potential. It is only Nichiren Daishonin who gave us all the seed of Buddhahood. But that is another story.)

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