My conclusion, the God in not a sufficient cause, does follow. You agree that God was in existence when the universe was not. How can the universe not exist when its sufficient cause is present? If the universe did not exist, then it’s sufficient cause was not present. The universe can only have come into existence when its sufficient cause was also in existence.
If X exists and Y does not exist, then X cannot be a sufficient cause of Y.
The correct term is “emptiness”, (nisvabhava) not “nothingness” (abhava). Emptiness does not mean non-existent. It means empty of the non-existent mental overlays we all too often apply to the raw sense data:
The emptiness of emptiness is the fact that not even emptiness exists ultimately, that it is also dependent, conventional, nominal, and in the end it is just the everydayness of the everyday. Penetrating to the depths of being, we find ourselves back on the surface of things and so discover that there is nothing, after all, beneath those deceptive surfaces. Moreover, what is deceptive about them is simply the fact that we assume ontological depth lurking just beneath.
– Jay Garfield, “Empty words, Buddhist philosophy and cross-cultural interpretation.” OUP 2002.
Things exist, it is our assumptions about them that are empty.
It is not the existence of reality that I have a problem with. I do have a problem with your addition of “ultimate or essential” to reality. Those are two examples of reified mental concepts with are not part of reality, but originate in our imperfect internal models and which we project onto our perception of reality. To quote Mark Siderits: “The ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth.”
Based on my experience of using Buddhist techniques of (mainly) meditation and also of morality. I am not enlightened, but so far my practice of meditation has delivered many of the promised benefits. So far the guide that Buddhism provides has proved accurate. I am climbing a mountain in mist. I have not seen the peak, but I have seen something looming through the mist that could well be the peak. My guide book has been accurate so far, and I have found all the landmarks expected for this part of my journey up the mountain. I trust such a guide.
Faith is a virtue in Buddhism as well as in Christianity. As with Christianity, Faith is no longer required once you have reached the goal, though the Buddhist goal can be attained while you are still alive.
My understanding, correct me if I am wrong, is that in Buddhism and probably much of Hinduism, our identification with ego, personality, thoughts, fears, desires and all that fills our minds is the illusion, the Maya, the mistake we are born into, the Original Sin (if you will). [Perhaps a Christian could interpret as false self, grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die?]
The truth being that the foundation of all this individual ego stuff is a universal consciousness that is beyond any description and yet also all that exists. [Perhaps a Christian could interpret as the Kingdom of God, the mind of Christ, the New Jerusalem?]
I think you are trying to say that principles derived from observation of physical processes (eg causality which describes change in terms of before (potentiality) and after (actuality) are somehow invalid or useless because they are “artifices” rather than “real”.
That does not seem to be totally fair to what is being discussed.
All perception is of course a “construct”.
Yet the principles we live our lives on do work quite well 99% of the time.
Just because a “truth” is not absolute but rather a “model” does not mean it isn’t useful and one is arbitrarily free to discard it.
The concept of causality is as “real” as any other imperfect perception derived from the senses.
The only difference is a further level of abstraction where we no longer speak of consistent “things” but rather the consistent behaviour of things over time.
As to causation, I note that you use “cause” in the singular.
In classic Greek Western philosophy it does not assume singularity.
In fact our tradition is based on causation involving four distinct types of cause always involved.
We lost that tradition with the “Enlightenment” and basically reduced causation down to a efficient cause and a material cause.
I find Eastern philosophy of causation interesting when compared to our “lost” ancient Greek causation legacy. The former is more about flux, the latter about reification when describing change.
That is something Christian mysticism, and my own experience to date, would deny.
I personally believe the “Buddhist goal” cannot be attained in this life and Buddha at the latter stages of his life was not in a perfectly “enlightened” state. Obviously he was more enlightened than he was at earlier times.
His perfect Enlightenment is obviously a very tempting mental construct his not yet enlightened followers (or even himself) would want to disseminate to keep everybody trying.
I suppose it depends on what is meant by “Enlightenment”.
If simply climbing the road is itself reaching the destination then yes he was perfectly Enlightened.
But then aren’t we all who are on that road even if we possess different degrees.
Both Christianity and Judaism have similar concepts in this regard whether it be John the evangelist’s “realised eschatology” (by grace we are already in heaven by anticipation) or the Jewish theology that states “the Messiah is coming” and yet also asserts he will never arrive.
Its more about the extrapolation of a true principle from observation of nature which nevertheless cannot actually be demonstrated in this nature. For example Newton’s laws of inertia. Nobodu denies they are not true. Yet there never will be a meteor that will move forever at a constant speed once pushed…because even in space there is some minute friction from gas particles.
So Newton’s law cannot be fully vindicated by experiment at its extreme conclusion even though, mathematically we can see it must be true given the trajectory of how it works in imperfect conditions.
In this I believe Buddhism is mistaken in believing this goal is achievable in this life.
Not that it matters one bit to the practice.
This seems a somewhat materialist view on causality.
If you accept it is valid to speak of a widely applying principle called causality when abstracting from the individuality of concrete things changing…then there is nothing inherently illogical about abstracting a bit further and abstracting from time as well.
We then come to the notion of “logical priority” where there is no time…but logic itself still justifies the predication. For example:
A man stands before a mirror. Freeze time. What comes first, the man or the image?
A chess piece (say a bishop) made of plasticene. Freeze time. What comes first, The form or the matter that supports the existence of the form.
Those questions do seem to have sensible answers and this is a form of timeless cause and effect.
Yes causality may be a “mental construct” but no more so than our sense perceptions themselves.
I think there are different categories of “mental constructs”.
Buddhism seems to be speaking more of morality (desire/aversion) based ones rather than metaphysical ones.
If the sufficient cause exists, then the effect also exists, because all the requirement for it to exist are met. God has existed for eternity. The material universe has not existed for eternity, hence God alone is not a sufficient cause – if He were then the universe would be co-eternal with God.
That’s an interesting logical contradiction. I think there is a flaw. You use the word “eternity” of God in the same way that you use it of the universe…as if they are on the same timeline along the bottom of a blackboard.
I think we all know that is not the case. The “eternity” of God is “without time”. The “eternity” of the universe is “all time”.
Its also good to remember that a “sufficient cause” is not really singular. It means a set of conditions which together necessitate an effect.
People also confuse “necessary cause”.
If there are three different sets of sufficient conditions can cause the same result (say the flu) and each of those sets has a common condition (eg the flu bacillus) then that condition is called necessary. But that condition alone, simply by being in play, does NOT mean the flu will be caught.
So necessary causes are not always sufficient to cause an effect.
BUT sufficient causes always produce their effect.
Thank you for that. It confirms my point about God not being a sufficient cause for the universe, or indeed for any effect that is limited in time. If God is a sufficient cause for X, then that X must be as eternal as God. Hence God is not a sufficient cause for any non-eternal X, such as the material universe.
I have no skin in this game of necessary and sufficient causality re God - just observing that people often use the words inaccurately.
Re your eternity “argument”.
Its does seem to have issues greater than that of “mental constructs”, it seems to be inconsistent as well.
Your use of the word “eternity” re the world is not the same as that you applied to “God”.
So the logic of connecting the two does seem to fail.
Yes, I can see why even the ancient Greeks including Aristotle saw the universe as eternal. That still didn’t logically stop them from speaking of the necessity of an Uncaused Cause being logically prior. Aquinas agreed it is the more intellectually satisfying view. However he saw nothing illogical with a Creation view as seems to be demanded by Genesis.
This would be true of strictly non-personal or material entities, although necessary and sufficient would be more accurate. However, you are discounting completely the place of willed intention or, at least, assuming willed intent on the part of God operates in a strictly causal or deterministic manner. This is why defining that nature of God according to our own limitations is problematic because it leads to a view of God which is restricted by the limitations of our human intellect.
In Jewish and Christian tradition God reveals truths about himself, and one of those truths is that he is not comprehensible to human beings except by self-revelation. We can argue to the existence of God from the observable world, but we cannot know everything about God, as he is, from the observable world.
Your position is, in fact, self-contradictory since you argued that we cannot access the way that things really are in themselves by our perceptions which mediate our access to reality around us. And yet, here you are using our mediated and limited understanding of causal interaction to make definitive statements about God, whom we cannot know as he is in himself.
Judaism and Christianity bypass this by reference to the historical fact that God has revealed things about himself that we could not have come to know of our own accord. Since you have no such grounds upon which to assert anything independently of human experience, and that mostly to reach conclusions of its unenlightened limitations, it seems peculiar that you would at this point use that very limitation to make what you assume are definitive statements about God.
There is a story of him being beheaded by a prince. His severed head began to speak.
“I shall now go to Tushita heaven, but later I shall return in this very same body.”
Afraid, the prince, threw the head far away. However both the head and body of Nagarjuna turned into stone and it is said that the head, slowly but surely, moves closer to its trunk and that eventually, when the two reunite, Nagarjuna will revive and perform vast deeds for the benefit of the Doctrine and beings.
My question is how, if this story is true, does it not contradict Nargajuna’s own teachings that nothing in this world is permanent?..If he resurrects from the dead, which he seems to be claiming here, that means his bodily existence is permanent.
All I assume about God’s will is that it changes. “I will the sea to part” and “I will the sea to close”. Implicitly, I assume that God’s actions are guided by His will, rather than random unguided actions, or that they are guided by some other entity.
From the observed changing of God’s will, I make the obvious logical deductions about change and eternal existence. This is a standard Buddhist argument about things which change: anything that changes cannot be eternal. AIUI the same is true in Western philosophy also.
There are two Nargajunas in Buddhism. One was the Madhyamika philosopher, the other was a Tantric Master. Looking at your web reference, there are three pieces concatenated, the first by Alexander Berzin about the philosopher, the second Mathieu Ricard mainly about the Tantric Master and a third anonymous section about the philosopher again.
Your story is about the Tantric Master, and is typical of the stories told about the magical powers of Tantric Masters.
Because they share a name some stories about the two got mixed up, as did the attribution of some texts. For example, the commentary on the Guhyasamaja Tantra is probably by the Tantric Nagarjuna, not by the philosopher.
The ancient Greek view (the basis of Catholic philosophy of change) is that when a thing changes from one form to another form it happens in stages over time. That means there must be an unchanging but hidden substratum for the morphing to take place. This substratum is commonly called “matter”. The change is in its “form”. Clearly “form” means more than dimensions (shape) but includes all other qualities as well…
“Matter” of course cannot be seen in its raw state (it has none) but is inferred from observing changing forms. How can change happen if there is nothing linking the starting form from the ending form.
That is the role of “matter” which itself has no form of its own except the ability to be formed.
It is eternal and like water does not change because it is itself formless…or rather “all forms” potentially.
So yes, “form” (“organisation”) is fleeting, but the underlying substratum cannot be created or destroyed. So this Buddhist argument, at least at a metaphysical level, is not ironclad. its as much a mental construct, a hypothesis as this “hylomorphic” view of Aristotle.
You also assume that the manner in which God’s will functions is essentially the same as your conception of the way in which a human will functions, i.e., that God’s will is moved by factors outside of him which, in effect, change him. That, in fact, is not true according to theistic conceptions of God since God is the source and origin of all that exists, including things that have secondary causal power, so he is not within that causal chain as a moved mover or caused cause, but rather an Unmoved Mover and Uncaused Cause. He is not changed from without but changes everything from within his perfectly actualized essence.