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Where is God?

                        Where is God?                        You-Sheng Li October 3, 2008

            Christianity branched off from Judaism while Buddhism branched off from Hinduism. Neither Christianity nor Buddhism succeeded in their homelands but both flourished in foreign lands to become major religions in today's world.

                Buddhism was created by Sakyamuni ( Siddhartha Gautama), the Buddha, who was born about 563 and died 480 BC. The Buddha was a prince in a small state which is inside Nepal today. He gave up the luxury life of a prince and lived as a traveling monk to preach the religious truth in northern India where numerous independent states coexisted. In the face of human sufferings everywhere, the Buddha asked, “Where is God?”

                When there was a war, wounded soldiers and civilians were left dying in the battlefield. If there was a God, why didn't he stop the war and why didn't he heal the wounded? When there was a famine, hungry farmers travelled far from their homeland in search for food. If there was God, why didn't he feed those who were starving?

                The Buddha then concluded that there is no God. The Buddha also denied the existence of the subjective I or the soul. Buddhism accepts the traditional theory of reincarnation but insists that both the world and I are illusory. Once the subjective I is lost, there is no more suffering. Thus the Buddhist religious truth resides outside God, the world, and I. Whoever realized and accepted this religious truth is called a Buddha, the enlightened one. So the pursuit of Buddhism is really a process of enlightenment. Contrast to the rigid unjust caste system suffocating the low caste talents, Buddhism emphasizes the equality of all humans in the sight of the Buddha. Everyone has a Buddha nature and everyone can become a Buddha, so they claim. The Buddha also taught whoever wanted to learn from him, regardless of sex, class, or caste.

                The Western enlightenment movement started in the seventeenth century and ended with the French revolution in the late eighteenth century or early nineteenth century. Like the Buddha, the Western enlightenment employed rational thinking to examine the existence of God. They argued that if everything, physical and metaphysical, could be well explained in scientific terms by rational analysis, we do not need a supernatural being. There is no rational evidence for the existence of God.

                Although there is no room left for God according to rational thinking, there is no proof for the non-existence of God either. Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) believed that the large secondary society of the modern human world is intended to be run by God not human beings, as he compared a colony or state with a farm or orchard. The intellectual gap between God and human beings equals the intellectual gap between man and plants or sheep or pigs. Lao Tzu said similar words, “The social world is not something humans can possess or grab in hand to meddle with. The one trying to possess it will lose it; the one trying to grab it and meddle with it will fail.” According to the textbooks of politics, the conservative parties in the Western countries were originally based on a similar belief that the master of our world is God, and human beings had better not meddled with world affairs to create an ideal world. What we can do is only to solve the emerging problems.

                The so-called fideism insists that religious truth is not, and ought not to be, based on rational knowledge but solely on faith. God exists only by faith. But why do we need such a faith to create a God who does not speak to rational minds but speaks to irrational minds with conflicting messages resulting in endless violence?

                April 15, 2005 was the Buddha's 2567th birthday. I happened to attend the ceremony in a Buddhist temple in Ottawa. A baby Buddha was located in a tank of water, and every worshiper in turn came to bathe the baby Buddha by pouring water on his shoulders while being told the story of the Buddha's birth.

                According to the custom of the day, the Buddha's mother traveled back to her mother's home to give birth. On the way she stopped to enjoy a beautiful garden, where the Buddha was born in a gesture with one hand pointing to heaven and the other to earth announcing, “In both heaven and earth, I am the only one superior to all.” He then walked seven steps where seven lotus plants grew into full bloom immediately. Such a story indicates clearly that the Buddha is a supernatural being to their worshipers.

                Then I observed, a middle-aged woman knelt down in front of the Buddha image in such a submissive way that five parts of her body attached to the floor, the head, the elbows, and the knees, and she stayed in that position for a long time.

                With the advance of science today, in the well-educated minds of the worshipers, the Buddha was thus born a God, worshiped as a God while they were reciting the Buddha's teaching: there is no God.

                During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the American writer and journalist, Edgar Parks Snow (1905-1972) was once invited by the Chinese leader Mao to join the Chinese national day ceremony. Mao was worshiped as a living God inside China. Millions of Mao's worshipers were marching in front of Mao, shouting, “Ten thousand years to Chairman Mao!”

                Snow asked Mao, “Isn't that a personality cult? Isn't that a superstition?”

                Mao was silent for a long time, and then said, “If there is no God, people will create one. What can I do?”

                In Mao, A Biography, Ross Terrill gives vivid descriptions of this Chinese living God, Mao's bitter life in his later years, lonely, being worshiped but deserted. Terrill concludes, the time of the hero is over, people live their life without a hero. Unfortunately, Terrill isn't right yet. In a recent trip to China, I noticed a little Mao's statue dangling on a colourful pendant in front of the taxi driver seat. He said, Mao's statue has the magic power to protect people from any tragic events such as traffic accidents. The driver is apparently one of those Chinese who are unhappy, because their present national leaders are not God like enough.



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