Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rely on God or rely on the self?

It is funny, but neither answer is fully reliable.  In Buddhism we are often told that salvation, if we want to call it that, is a self-help project, yet we are also taught the reality of no-self.  This is one of the implications of the primary insight of the Buddha-dharma, that is, emptiness.  So we have to really look at what exactly it means to be responsible for ones self.  Of course, no-self doesn't teach that we aren't real, just that we aren't static and that we have no intrinsic (fully separate and self-sustaining) existence that is unconnected to the rest of reality.  We have to therefore be careful of reifying this sense of our self, of setting it too much apart and in some ways replacing what is a dynamic and wondrous reality with an idol, a false and lesser image to cling to.  The thing is, we have to avoid making all of these same mistakes with God. 

Reliance on God, in as much as it helps us to break down a self-centered and stunted perspective, can be a blessing.  It can free us from a lot of the preoccupations and fears that blind us to the potential in our lives and let us "offer up" these limitations rather than cling to them.  Yet reliance on a narrowly defined preconception of God, such as God as a super-being whose will is merely a list of thou shall/not's, emotional cosmic judgments, or predestined fates, can encourage and nurture these limitations.  This is not the case with a view of God as the source, substance and sustainer of reality; of God as not being constrained by our conception of "person" or "non-person"; of God that is transcendent to our intellectual understanding but immanent in/as the world and in our hearts; of God whose nature and will are relational in nature, that is, they consistence of creating potential and opportunities.  In this understanding, God is persuasive but not coercive.*  We are still responsible, then, for our lives and how we choose to live them.

So, rely on God or rely on the self?  Yes!

*much of this is old-hat for this blog; this particular sentence inspired by a book I am reading called Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian

1 comment:

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