Hi @rossum. Maybe you could clarify what is being said here since you come from a Buddhist background.
It sounds like Buddha is saying he doesn’t deny that one can be eternal and omniscient, but yet at the same time he says it is not the end of suffering.
Doesn’t this contradict the teaching that nothing is permanent, and also if one is omniscient and eternal, wouldn’t that mean they would know how to rid themselves of suffering since ignorance is a cause of suffering?
God created the human mind. With the mind, one can imagine nearly any situation, including imaging impossible situations such as the non-existence of God. We also use our imaginations every day to help us experience God - imagination is a powerful gift that must be used responsibly.
There can be no “official” Christian perspective, since no on but Siddhartha Gautama knows what he experienced. However, one could easily say would be that Gautama deceived himself with his imagination, convincing himself he experienced something real that transcended the known universe, but which in fact only occurred within his God-given mind.
In Buddhism everything changes, hence there is no “ultimate existence” and no “source of reality”. Because our senses are imperfect we cannot sense whatever is out there correctly. We ‘see’ the water in a mirage, but that water does not have any reality. It exists purely inside our mind.
Our sense of “ultimate reality”, “being”, “nature” etc. are similar mental constructs that do not exist in the external world. There is no “ultimate reality” out there; we just think there is, in the same way as we think that there is water in a mirage.
No. Things exist, period. Things are ordinary, everyday, routine and do not have any hidden inner essence/substance/being/whatever. What you see is what you get.
A Zen story to illustrate:
On a cold winter night, a big snow storm hit the city and the temple where Dharma Master Dan Xia served as a Monk got snowed in. Cut off from outside traffic, the fuel delivery man could not get to the Zen Monastery. Soon it ran out of heating fuel after a few days and everybody was shivering in the cold. The monks could not even cook their meals.
Dan Xia began to remove the wooden Buddha Statues from the display and put them into the fireplace.
“What are you doing?” the monks were shocked to see that the holy Buddha Statues were being burnt inside the fire place. “You are burning our holy religious artefacts! You are insulting the Buddha!”
“Are these statues alive and do they have any Buddha nature?” asked Master Dan Xia.
“Of course not,” replied the monks. “They are made of wood. They cannot have Buddha Nature.”
“OK. Then they are just pieces of firewood and therefore can be used as heating fuel,” said Master Dan Xia. “Can you pass me another piece of firewood please? I need some warmth.”
The next day, the snow storm had gone and Dan Xia went into town and brought back some replacement Buddha Statues. After putting them on the displays, he began to kneel down and burn incense sticks to them.
“Are you worshipping firewood?” asked the monks who were confused about what he was doing.
“No. I am treating these statues as holy artefacts and am honouring the Buddha,” replied Dan Xia.
What is the inner ‘essence’ or ‘being’ of those pieces of wood? Are they firewood or are they sacred objects? They are neither, both ‘firewood’ and ‘sacred object’ are externally assigned and are not intrinsic to the piece of wood.
Buddhism does not deny that things exist. The problem is with the way most people see that existence.
Buddhist gods and heavens are all impermanent. Only nirvana is permanent. Nirvana is not a heaven. You have to die to go to one of the heavens, you do not have to die to attain nirvana. The Buddha attained nirvana at age 35, he died age 80, so he was in nirvana for 45 years while living his life on earth.
All descriptions of the state on the Buddha after his death (parinirvana) are incorrect.
The Buddha was neither omniscient nor eternal. The abstract state of Buddhahood is ‘eternal’ in the sense that it is possible for any human or god to attain Buddhahood, just as the Buddha did. It is always there and available for anyone who follows the path.
Nirvana changes, and so is not permanent. Nirvana has to change from nirvana-without-rossum to nirvana-with-rossum for there to be any possibility of me attaining enlightenment.
Ignorance is not the immediate cause of suffering, it plays a part, but it is not in the Four Noble Truths. Selfish desire is the immediate cause of suffering. Ignorance plays a part in the generation of that selfish desire as do hatred and greed.
Some of the Mahayana schools of Buddhism tend to emphasise the transcendent aspects of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, others schools, like Zen, tend to try to strip away the inessentials and concentrate on the essentials:
Some people come to Zen expecting that Enlightenment will be the Ultimate Peak Experience. The Mother of All Peak Experiences. But real enlightenment is the most ordinary of the ordinary. Once I had an amazing vision. I saw myself transported through time and space. Millions, no, billions, trillions, Godzillions of years passed. Not figuratively, but literally. Whizzed by. I found myself at the very rim of time and space, a vast giant being composed of the living minds and bodies of every thing that ever was. It was an incredibly moving experience. Exhilarating. I was high for weeks. Finally I told Nishijima Sensei about it. He said it was nonsense. Just my imagination. I can’t tell you how that made me feel. Imagination? This was as real an experience as any I’ve ever had. I just about cried. Later on that day I was eating a tangerine. I noticed how incredibly lovely a thing it was. So delicate. So amazingly orange. So very tasty. So I told Nishijima about that. That experience, he said, was enlightenment.
However we believe God is eternal, among other qualities. There is no time nor state where God didn’t exist. Having created the world where time started to exist, God can choose to participate in worldly events. This participation does not mean that God is subject to worldly variables because he is outside of those variables being the creator of those variables. If he couldn’t participate in his creation, then he wouldn’t be an omnipotent being, one of the necessary qualities of being God. Hence God can choose to act in time or outside of time. For a being outside of time, he can not be subject to change because change implicitly requires passage of time.
There is no time when the material universe did not exist either. The material universe, which originated at the Big Bang, is a four dimensional manifold of space (three dimensions) and time (one dimension). Since time originated at the Big Bang, along with space and energy/matter, there was no time when the material universe did not exist. It has existed for all time.
God may be a necessary cause, but He is not a sufficient cause. If god alone were sufficient, then creation would be co-eternal with God. If a sufficient cause exsts, then the effect (creation) also exists.
Choice is a change. “I will not part the sea this day” changes to “I will part the sea this day”. If your God does not change, then God’s choice is not God, it is a separate entity which does change. One single entity cannot both change and be unchanging. You now have two different entities to deal with. God as an unchanging necessary, but not sufficient cause, and God’s choice as a changing co-cause required to actually make things happen.
Of course, that leaves us with problem of the origin of a non-eternal changing entity from an eternal unchanging entity.
Outside? Of course not. The Bible God acts inside the created universe and inside created time. He is in no way excluded from actions within time and within the world. He cannot act where He is not present, and He is omnipresent. That means that He is present within time and within material creation.
Again you have God choosing. A choice for any action inside time requires change. The sea was not parted in Abraham’s time. It was parted in Moses’ time. It was not parted in Jesus’ time. God changed from not parting to parting and back to not parting. That is two changes. If God is unchanging, then some other changeable entity must have been involved. A single unchanging God cannot change. Even an omnipotent entity cannot both change and not change.
We may not have to explain another religions teachings but in the world of today where these religions exist side by side it could be beneficial to explore how they compare and contrast with the words of the Lord Jesus.
greetings to you rossum.
This is a good argument. One can’t deny that the material universe and time share one origin.therefore the universe has existed for all time. I do see it possibly having an eternal existence but not of the same order as divine eternal existence. You acknowledge an origin for the universe. Does that indicate a beginning? If that means the sudden expansion from singularity then doesn’t that limit the eternal characteristic to 'is and at best always will be? An origin seems to imply that the universe hasn’t always been.
I don’t understand why the universe would be co-eternal with God. If God alone were sufficient the eternal nature of the universe would still be subsequent. The eternal nature of the universe in that case would be ‘is and always will be’ not like the eternal nature of God existence without a cause.
Choice is a change if it is chosen by contingent beings. The existence of all contingent beings is 'subsequent to existence that is necessary for them to be. Divine acts are absolutely simple, necessary cause of the acts of contingent beings . All time is present to a being that exists necessarily since the existence of time is contingent. So the act of God is eternally parting and not parting the sea. To God all time is present and acts of God are not sequential.
A being that is the necessary cause of all existing beings is the cause of sequence, considering that time is a contingent being. If acts aren’t a sequence of events then doesn’t it follow that they don’t cause change?
No they are not. What is the “essence” of a car? If I remove one atom from the car, does the “essence of car” remain with the car or does it leave with the atom?
Assume it stays with the car. Then I remove a second atom, a third atom etc. etc. At what point does the “essence of car” leave with an atom or does it remain?
When I remove the last atom of the car, where is the essence? Does it just sit there with no car to attach itself to? It is attached to one of the removed atoms? How can “essence of car” attach itself to something that is not a car?
Essences and similar concepts are not real, as this simple and old example shows. If you disagree then show me where the essence/substance/reality/being/whatever of the car ends up after all its atoms are removed.
No. Your “potential” is one of those mirages. Things come into existence because the required conditions are present. Your imaginary “potential” is not one of them. Buddhism takes a much simpler view of reality. What you see is what you get, there are no imagined hidden depths behind reality.
I acknowledge a beginning for the material universe. The immaterial universe: heavens and hells do not have a beginning. Material universes come and go, the immaterial parts do as well, but on a much longer timescale: “a day is like a thousand years.” Also not all the parts disappear at the same time. There is always something, but it is a different something that 200 billion years previous.
If God is the creator of the material universe, then the material universe must exist. You cannot have a “creator of the universe” who has not actually created any universes; that would be a false claim. The designation “creator of the universe” is contingent on the existence of a created universe. No universe; no creator. Hence if God is eternally “The Creator” then the universe is also co-eternal with God.
This I will not accept. The sea is manifestly not parted today, we could go and look at it if we wanted to. It is not parted. Whatever parted it in the past is no longer active. That is why I described God as a necessary, but not sufficient, cause. He requires something that changes to provide the last sufficient part of the cause.
If the acts of God are not sequential then you have lost all hope of God causing anything. Causation is inherently sequential; the cause comes sequentially before the effect. If you lose that sequence then you cannot distinguish between cause and effect. As easy to say the universe caused God as to say that God caused the universe. Without the sequence you are unable to say that God existed before the universe.
You are right, you make my point for me here. Now you have to reconcile that with your earlier “acts of God are not sequential.” You are in effect saying that God does not cause change.