By Alison Page
The Buddha rejected the idea of God, an omnipotent being or a single energy as the creator of the universe, including the physical and non physical realms.
The teachings suggest that the universe is too energetically complex to have originated from once source. As a result, the Buddha dismissed the commonly held Hindu belief that we need to reach outside of ourselves to connect to God, the supreme being, in order to reach enlightenment. Instead, the Buddha taught us to turn all of our energy inward to reach—or uncover—the enlightened state instead of connecting to anything outside of ourselves to reach enlightenment.
The Buddha also rejected the Hindu belief in an atman, a permanent soul or self which transmigrates, or “jumps,” from life to life. Instead, the Buddha taught about the stream of consciousness which continues unfolding from life to life and realm to realm until the ignorance and karmic tendencies of that mind are erased and subsequently freed from rebirth and samsara. The Buddha rejected the idea of soul or self since nothing permanent can be found within our experience.
Feelings change, thoughts change and mental formations change. The physical world that our senses contact—including our own body—is constantly morphing, changing, and breaking down; there is nothing permanent within our experience that could be identified as a “self.” Both Buddhism and some lineages in Hinduism believe that individual will, effort, and energy are necessary to reach enlightenment and that God is not the ultimate decider of our fates, sitting in judgment of our actions, as is often taught in Christianity and other Abrahamic religions.
Buddhism teaches that we each create our karma with our intentions and our actions, and we are responsible for ourselves. Our individual karma merges to form collective karma, which is currently manifesting within our society and our world.
People often refer to God as “love” or “divine love,” or a pure heavenly presence or energy. My understanding of the Buddha’s teachings is that once we develop this embodied compassionate love for ourselves and every sentient being that we come in contact with (without discrimination) and through our own effort, we come closer to enlightenment. This love, which we extend to every conscious being equally, is unattached and indiscriminate. Couple this love with the understanding of the suffering tied up with the ego and the idea of a permanent self, and the loss, pain, and suffering inherent within our ego driven physical existence, and I believe that we move closer to pure enlightenment.
Instead of reaching a “God” outside of us, we have created a sanctuary of love and wisdom within us—within our own mind and heart. We can rely on ourselves and this internal space instead of searching outside of ourselves for security.
Chogyam Trungpa says that our karma, that which is reborn, is our neurosis. This neurosis will manifest in our relationships to ourselves and others until we learn what we need to learn. These habit patterns are what block each of us from loving ourselves and others fully. They manifest as fear of rejection, abandonment, or feelings of shame and guilt about not being worthy, and these feelings are constructs of the ego which attaches itself to the misunderstandings that stem from our experience of a permanent embodied self, “me” or “you.”
Ultimately, I believe that we are striving to evolve towards the unobstructed luminous mind, which is blocked by our senses through thoughts, feelings, and contact. They merge to create an uninterrupted stream of experience which we cling to as “self.” The misunderstanding is that we are our form, or body, and our experience within the body instead of the formless, spacious, timeless, loving, luminous state that is the enlightened mind.
The enlightened mind “holds” these streams of consciousness, engulfing every sentient being, from life to life, until we work out our own individual karmic patterns, erase ignorance and are released from physicality, rebirth and samsara.
Alison Page lives outside of Boston, MA and is an artist and a Buddhist. She enjoys watercolor painting, writing, camping, the ocean, and being around compassionate and open-minded people. Check out her website, Creative Buddhism and also visit her Etsy shop: WaterBrushPaint .
Editor: Dana Gornall
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