Monday, March 2, 2009

God concepts - Part 8

At a retirement home for blind people, three daring citizens decided to go to the Zoo.
Being blind, the Zoo management gives the three men a guided tour and the opportunity to meet some animals up close and personal.
After the visit the three adventurous blind men return to the retirement home full of wondrous excitement. All the other residents gather around to share the experience.
The three blind men begin telling the story of the Zoo visit starting with the first animal they encountered; the elephant.

- The elephant is a snake like animal. A big rubbery hose…
Said the first man, who obviously touched the trunk of the elephant.
- No, no, no! That is completely wrong. The elephant is a big and round animal like the trunk of a tree.
Interrupted the second man who touched the elephant by its leg.
- You both are complete idiots! – Interfered the third man who touched the tail of the elephant – You got it completely wrong. The elephant is a whip lashing rope like animal!

This is pretty much how the dialog between the Christian, Muslims, Buddhists and all the other theist people is going at this time. Of course we have the atheists who say the pink elephant doesn’t exist at all.
Pretty much we all are interested in proving the others wrong by supporting our own concept of God and never consider that we could be just as blind as the next person.
After all we all agree that there is only one God, so only one God concept would be true. Right?

God is not a concept. You can have as many concepts as you like. It makes no difference.
God is not a religion or a church either. You can have as many religions and churches as you want. It wouldn’t change what God is or is not, at all.
The bible is not God either. Nor are the Sutras the Torah or the Koran.
The holy texts are the story of the people and how they relate to God. They are a guide for the future generation not an object of cult, not an icon or idol for worship.

Who gave God to Moses?
Nobody. He found God in the mountains by himself.
Who gave enlightenment to Buddha?
Nobody. He found enlightenment meditating under the Bodhi tree.
Who gave Allah to Mohamed?
Nobody. I don’t know how he got it, I am not very good at religious history, but I bet he did not get it by studying the sacred texts. He found God by himself.

I searched for God for many years and after years and years of searching and studying all I got was bullshit! – OK, I got some wisdom too, but not God. Spiritual teachings are good as long as you don’t mistake the finger for the moon. Concepts are good maps to take you toward enlightenment but a crutch is only good if you can’t walk by yourself, after that it becomes an obstruction.
The only way to know God is to know God and the people that know God know that is the truth.

So my question to you is: Who gave you God?
You’ve been conned my friend! Give it back and start looking, really looking.
– Hint: try looking inside for a change :)


Rob R said...

The problem with the elephant parable is that the one telling the story supposes that he is the zoo management. Anyone who suggests that there is no priveledged religious perspective must do so on the basis that they have a perspective that is sufficiently advantaged to make that assesment.

Christian Apologist said...

A very few men through the history of the world have had God reveal himeself to them; i.e. Moses, and Muhammed.
Others have sought out God and been able to grasp some of the truths of Gods nature; i.e. Aristotle, Buddha, Confusius..
One man was God incarnate himself who took on flesh in order that through his obedience and self-sacrifice we might be purified from the taint of the corrupted world and enabled to come near to God as children to a loving father.

All these men had one thing in common. They all had supernatural revelation as to the true nature of both God and man. This is not to say that all these men were correct about the inferences they made from their particular revelations, but they provide useful roadmaps to knowing God.
The bible says over and over again that if you seek God you will find him but you must seek him with all your heart, soul, and mind.
Though regular folks like me and you should not presume upon God that he give us a unique or special revelation, I affirm with you that if we will accept the testimony of those whom he has, we can come to know Him.

molly said...

No one gave me god. I was baptised a lutheran and taken to church when I was a child, but it never resonated. In my early twenties I began feeling that strong loving pull in my heart, perhaps my first conscious recognition of it. And when I started meditating I realized the possibility of living more in tune with this ultimate truth.

Psiplex said...

God, as it turns out, has dissolved away from the historical, mental and popular meme that had trolled through this existence and became known directly to this being in direct experience. Know what? No lighting bolts, smoke, parades or tweets transpired. A direct and deep sense of thankfulness rendered by grace, a sense of peace with NOW and the total lack of a condemning past or uncertain future. Right now, Love is operating and the SUpreme Source is alive and dancing this life. Nothing for a 'me' to do or care about doing. ""Who Am I", this question brings mire revelation than anything and reveals the purpose and path to the the one conncectedness we all are.

Anonymous said...

God says "I am"
Accept it or not! Every persons choice.
And it's God's choice to reveal himself however he chooses ... ie in a burning bush to Moses. Through Jesus Christ to others, Mother Theresa to others, etc. etc.
This seems logical to me simply because God is more than any ONE person or idealogy can grasp.

Alice said...

"This is pretty much how the dialog between the Christian, Muslims, Buddhists and all the other theist people is going at this time. ... After all we all agree that there is only one God, so only one God concept would be true. Right?"

Each Buddhist practitioner is free to believe what they want about God, but fundamentally, Buddhism is non-theist. It is silent on the issue of the existence/non-existence of (one) God, so it would neither be in agreement or disagreement with the above statement. The reason for the silence is because pondering stuff like this is a waste of time.

I agree that God is not a concept. It's beyond that, and is only knowable through direct experience. You know the famous "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." Concepts only go so far - the rest of the journey is up to us.

"I searched for God for many years and after years and years of searching and studying all I got was bullshit!" That's what the Buddha found too! And he found this out all by himself, just like you. And that's what I've found too, with the guidance of the teachings of course, but ultimately on my own.

Another famous quote: "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha." Whatever concepts we have of what God/Enlightenment, etc., is, we need to kill it because those are all mere ideas that get in the way of directly experiencing truth.

Coincidentally, I just read the blind men and the elephant story recently as told by the Buddha in Thich Nhat Hanh's "Old Path White Clouds." Here's what the Buddha's-via-TNH's commentary was regarding this parable:

" ...what you see and hear comprises only a small part of reality. If you take it to be the whole of reality, you will end up having a distorted picture. A person on the path must keep a humble, open heart, acknowledging that his understanding is incomplete. We should devote constant effort to study more deeply in order to make progress on the path. A follower of the Way must remain open-minded, understanding that attachment to present views as if they were absolute truth will only prevent us from realizing the truth. Humility and open-mindedness are the two conditions necessary for making progress on the path."

Great post ~ Thanks!

Brigit said...

I think searching is the wrong idea. I think 'god' is everywhere. You need to see from your heart. I spent years looking, deperately wanting god to make 'his' precence felt. It wasn't until I hit the end of a road, and faced a cliff edge. I couldn't go back, the road had disappeared. All there was, was this cliff edge. I could jump, or I could close my eyes, huddle in a fetal position and just be. Time passed and my heart began to heal, and as my heart unfolded, god was everywhere. I no longer felt the pull of the cliff's edge. Instead, over a period of time as I opened my eyes, it has become an awesome place that I have the privilege of being on top of.

Perhaps I'm still only experiencing the elephants tail, but does it matter? What would matter is if I insisted that standing on that cliff edge was the only way, or that my experience of the elephants tail was the only one to have, or worse still that there was no elephant.

The Acolyte Tao said...

Who gave me God? I am God. ;)

And as always Buddha, nice interesting post. I often have trouble expressing myself and what I think and you do it pretty good for me I have to say.
I nominate you to be my mouth. Haha.

Terra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Praise be to AllaH!

Bill Cooney said...

C.A., Do you honestly mean to suggest that if we merely accept the testimony of those whom this supposed supreme being has allegedly revealed himself to, we can come to know it?

You must have been Pope Joan Paul II's editor for his infamous manifesto Fides et Ratio. If you build it, they will come? If you believe in him, he will reveal himself to you?

The Doctrine of Revelation is one thing and one thing only: convenient!

Fides et Ratio: Making Sense of the Senseless> Take a gander.

Talon said...

I am thinking that if any of the blind men had had the opportunity to spend more time with the elephant, all the pieces would have fallen together and they would have had a more cohesive, clearer image of the elephant.

Lydia said...

Yes, look inside and also really see.

A wondrous post, sparking introspection and also communication.

Ted Bagley said...

Hi there!
The three blind men each said the truth of the elephant, just not the whole truth as that would be impossible for them. Without the truths, no elephant, though.
The elephant could also only be described by each blind man by substituting the elephant with what it is not, therefore, no elephant except by the one that gave them the guided tour and could see all the parts together, an elephant. No not-truths, no elephant also.
Either side of the truth taken as real annihilates the other side. The real(the elephant) can't be described by one side(my side/symbolic) or the other(your side/imaginary). That would be a nihilistic war over what the elephant means to us as the post shows.

Rob R said...

@ Rob – My assessment is that if there are 1000 divergent opinions about one subject, at least 999 of them are wrong. So of course I am looking for a better perspective. Don’t you?

I guess it depends upon how they diverge. If they are all contrary opinions like so many religious claims, you'd be right, but I suppose there may be more than one way to diverge with 1000 beliefs.

I'm not one to say that there is one religious perspective that is totally right while all of the others are totally and completely wrong. Religions do say many things and many things are held in common. But I also reject that the differences are unimportant and that we should brush them off and focus only on the similarities, or at the very least, allow the differences to stand without dealing with the disjoined view of reality held by different people.

For example, we agree that God's love is unconditional, but we may disagree on the content and the form of that love. I for one don't believe that God's unconditional love means that God doesn't judge, so the content of his love isn't just filled with peace and happiness but the love is accompanied with sorrow and grief for those who will use their free will against his grace.

But while I disagree with the notion above, one view totally right, all of the others totally wrong, I do believe that many views are better than others (after all, Buddhism is light years ahead of radical Islam, yes no?). and I do believe that there is indeed a privileged religious point of view through which to discern the claims of all the others. Of course most of us have different views on which the privileged point of view is but I think that only highlights the importance of getting into the details and doing the hard work.

C. Om said...

Excellent way to illustrate the point!

I have realized that one must kick away the ladder once he is high enough not to need it. The tools are only good for the job that needs to be done. After that, they are worthless hinder.


Ted Bagley said...

Is love conditional or not? What does God's love have to do with it if it is unconditional already? What is conditional love, anyway? Is that almost Tina Turner or am I almost hearing voices?

Buddha said...

@ Lydia – You are too nice to me. Don’t ever change :)

@ Ted – Why can’t we just accept that there are many views, concepts, opinions and beliefs and leave it at that without fighting over who is right?

@ Rob – I am not promoting Buddhist views – that is just my personal choice.
All I want to promote is tolerance, understanding and dialog.
It seems I undertook a much more difficult task that I expected.
By telling all people you are not quite as perfect as you think, I did not create the ideal venue for discussion but rather I antagonized a lot people.
Fortunately I found a few open minded enough to start a dialog and that is great achievement.

@ Com – I call it a “crutch” but the idea is the same :)

@ Ted – Unconditional love is unconditional love.
Conditional love is one that says: “If you love me you should …”

Ted Bagley said...

Buddha1- Because unity is an overwhelming desire. Who wants to be alone with their view?

Buddha2- If Love is conditional is it love, then?

Rob R said...

All I want to promote is tolerance, understanding and dialog.

Sounds good to me. I do find that Buddhists are generally more tolerant than your typical so called champion of tolerance liberal. (this is not the first Buddhist blog I've participated in) Of course it should be understood that disagreement, even sharp disagreement is not identical to intolerance.

Fortunately I found a few open minded enough to start a dialog and that is great achievement.


Chatty Crone said...

Okay, I've been reading your posts - and I have to tell you it goes against what I believe.

It almost seems to me that you are angry at God. Did anything happen to make you so angry?

Also there is a book called 'Evidence That Demands a Verdict' - by Josh McDowell. I heard him years ago - there are a lot of good answers in there.

Well, that is what makes the world such a wonderful place. Hopefully we can agree to disaggree.


Buddha said...

@ Chatty – The God that I feel in my heart goes against the God I have read in the scriptures.
Which one should I follow?

I have no choice but to burn down my idols.
Does destroying the idols offend God?

The only God I recognize is the living God.
My church is my heart and my scripture is my soul.

You shouldn’t feel bad.
It is I that have caused trouble and alienated my friends.

Chatty Crone said...

Well, I do. Wish I could help more. Just never give up looking. What do you mean you've alienated your friends?
Do wish you;d look at that book - it absoultely changed my life.

Barb said...

Charles Colson tells of coming to faith in Christ in his book Born Again. He thereafter started a wonderful prison ministry that also ministers to the families of prisoners.

Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell also have written books that encourage faith in Christ.

C.S. Lewis (Narnia author) wrote Mere Christianity about his rationale for faith after growing up atheistic.

Jesus said He was the only way to God --the way, the truth, and the life --and "no man comes to the Father except through me."

I believe him --and that belief changes people for the good --when we seek and find His holy spirit --HIs daily presence in our lives.