A Buddhist God: A Few Very, very Preliminary Thoughts


I’ve been thinking a little about those wondrous moments when great religions encounter each other. For instance when Indian Buddhism first encountered China. In particular I’m aware of the power of adaptation, and how when Buddhists decided to use Tao to stand for Buddhadharma, that subtle and powerful currents shifted and new perceptions emerged…

Now that Buddhism is taking root among Western cultures the first great dialog has turned out to be with Western psychology.

But there has been a lower grade conversation, encounter, clash with Western religions, lesser so for Islam, more so with Judaism, and most of all with Christianity. (Western neo-pagan and earth centered traditions and Humanism cannot be ignored, either…)

And with most of these encounters that word God keeps popping up.

I have a small collection of Buddhist polemics denouncing the Western ideas of God – for various reasons. Probably the biggest is how outsiders really see the projection of human ego on the sky in the most popular portrayals of deity.

But, also, increasingly, Buddhists find themselves using the word God as a stand in for sunyata, the great empty, the boundless.

Certainly there’s precedent within Western religious thinking, the apophatic mystics for one. And also, in the Christian scriptures that mysterious term kenosis…

There are all sorts of troubling and exciting twists and turns in using a word like God, freighted as it is with three or four thousand years of layering. How the dualism inherent in almost all understandings works with the ultimate nondualism of Buddhism is going to be rich, no doubt.

But, for me, it adds in some fascinating directions in describing our encounter with the two truths, the empty and our ordinary historical lives, as ultimately one thing, or not even one…

Where all this might go, and how important that going might be is very much an open question.

But, it certainly is worth noticing…

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