Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nine Questions About God

[Here are my answers to an email I received asking me about God.]

Thanks for asking what it is I mean when I use the word “God.” God has been at the center of my life since I was sixteen years old. Meditating on the shore of a lake in Cape Cod the while visiting a friend during summer vacation “Rami” died. What happened during that time—however long or short a time that was—is unknown to me, for the “me” that could know was dead. All I know is that when “I” returned I did so in a state of ecstatic joy, aware of the absolute nonduality of all things as the One Thing. I have never doubted the reality of what happened that day, and I have had similar experiences since then. It is my experience that shapes my thinking about God.

Here are brief answers to your questions.

1. Did God create the universe? No. The universe is to God as a wave is to the ocean. While God is greater than the universe, God is not separate from the universe. I do not believe in a Creator God or in an Intelligent Designer, for both imply separation. I believe that the design itself is intelligent, that the universe is a living process seeking self-awareness. We humans are a way the universe awakens to its true nature as God.

2. Did God write the Bible? No. All scriptures are human creations reflecting the biases and moral limitations of the people who wrote them. Yet there are strands of truth in every scripture reflecting a level of human awakening that transcends the limitations of time and tribe and speaks to the universal truth of God and godliness. These teachings are worthy of serious contemplation and study.

3. Do you pray to God? Yes and no. My spiritual life centers on mediation, both walking and sitting. When I walk and chant the Hebrew Names of God I find myself in dialogue with God, whom I experience as Shekhinah, the Divine Mother. When I sit in silence there are moments when “I” dissolve and only God is present.

4. If God is all, is God both good and evil? Yes. God contains evil as well as good. Good and evil go together like convex and concave. You cannot have one without the other. God is the One in whom there is no other.

5. If God is evil as well as good what is the point of worshiping God? I don’t worship God; I seek to realize God in and as all reality. When I awaken to God I realize my own capacity for good and evil. When I see all things as God I have compassion for everything, and act with an open heart even towards those with whom I am struggling.

6. What is the point of religion? At its best religion serves as the collective memory of God realization. We tell stories of saviors, sages, and saints and remind ourselves that God realization is possible. We see how they embraced the world with justice and compassion, and seek to do likewise. We learn the tools of awakening that they used, and wake up ourselves. At its worse religion is a grand and often violent delusion rooted in fear. Unfortunately religion is rarely at its best.

7. Do we need religion? Yes, but only at its best. We need storytellers who can remind us of the best of which we are capable. We need masters of contemplative practice who can teach us how to use the tools of God realization. And we need a community of seekers with whom to share the path and the struggle to walk it.

8. Are all religions true? All religions are true when they speak to the nonduality of God and the universality of justice and compassion. All religions are false when they claim to being the exclusive carriers of God’s love and truth. Religions are like languages. No language is right or wrong, true or false. Yet each brings a valuable and unique understanding of life from which all people can benefit. The more languages you know the more nuanced your understanding. Our goal should not be to find the right religion, but to learn from all of them.

9. Is Jesus the son of God? Yes. And so are you. When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” he is like a wave realizing its relationship with the ocean. Jesus was a God-realized human being. He is not to be worshipped, but imitated. What the world needs is fewer Christians and more Christs.

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