3. "GOD" AS USED
IN CONVENTIONAL LANGUAGE
God in conventional language
refers to God as a personility with emotions like man, such as anger and
love. He cannot be in such things as excrement because they are
dirty and smelly. They are too low for the highest to dwell in or
to have anything to do with. As for God in the sense of Dhamma, that
is, the law of Karma, the law of cause and effect, the law of creation
and destruction and so on, he is impersonal, having no feeling as man.
This kind of God knows no cleanliness, no dirtiness. Therefore this
God can be in everything, even in the dog excrement.
Here we should say something about certain terms that some Buddhist sects
use. They are: Buddha-nature(Buddhabhava), voidness or emptiness(Sunnata),
suchness or thusness(Tathata), etc.
They are applicable to everything
including dog excrement. This is simply because these terms do not
have reference to a person. The word Buddha in Buddhabhava implies
voidness(meaning absence of a self) of the person called 'Buddha'.
The Buddha-nature is but 'Dhamma' or a reality characterized as different
stages of development of knowledge. Here knowledge signifies
understanding of voidness of 'I' or 'self' at different levels.
Development of this knowledge is comparable to the germination of seed
into a full-fledged tree. It(Buddhabhava) may be in latent
or dormant state like ungerminated seed or may be beginning to sprout,
or growing up, or fully-grown as in a man who has attained enlightment.
Each stage of this development can be called the Buddha-nature. Each
stage has equally the characteristics of voidness or emptiness.
It is hidden deep and cannot be taken by appearance or seen on the surface.
The Buddha says: "He who sees the Dhamma sees me" (Itivuttaka, Khuddaka-Nikaya).
It means that he who sees only the person of Buddha has not really seen
him. Only when he has seen the true Dhamma, which is in the
Buddha's body and is in everything including his own body, only then can
it be said that he has seen the Buddha in a way that the Buddha would approve.
So he who has seen the body of the Buddha has seen him only in the conventional
meaning of the word 'see', but he who has seen the Dhamma has seen the
Buddha according to the religious meaning of the word 'see', and it is
the true Buddha that he has seen. But
the Buddha, in the religious meaning of the term, can be everywhere
at all time. Just in the same way, Dhamma in the sense of God, can
be in every place even in the excrement of a dog, in its capacity as the
law of Karma, the law of cause and effect, and the law of impermanence.
to put it in other words, God in conventional language is simply a word
which is used when speaking to children. Or it is used by grown-up
people who, being intellectually immature, feel and think like children.
They will use the word 'God' in that way until they are intellectually
matured enough to understand, as it were, the meaning of 'God' according
to the religious language.
GOD Always Conveys a Hidden Dharmic Sense. The Idea is that GOD, as Spoken
of in the Layman's Language, Whereever Found in the Scriptures of any Religion,
could be turned usually into the Sense of the DHARMIC GOD.
God's creation as described from previous session,
was creation with regard to the spiritual(Dharmic) side, as known to Buddhists.
This implies that man, in the process of evolution, developed his mental
faculty, from the stage of a low animal to a higher stage whereby he was
no more considered an animal. That is to say, he became a real man
both in the physical and spiritual sense. According to scientific
theory, man in physical structure is believed to have appeared approximately
two hundred thousand years ago, whereas the age of our physical world
is not less than a billion years. Calculating from what has
been said in the Bible, the creation of the world could
have taken place in roughly eight to ten thousand years.
In Genesis 3/24, we are told how God failed in forbidding man to take
the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and how He succeeded
in preventing him from taking the fruit of the tree of life.
This means that , prior to that time, man had lacked
human consciousness in so much as being unable to distinguish good from
evil, male from female, the clothed from the naked, and husband from wife.
Even in normal sexual intercourse between the male and female, the
attitude of being husband and wife did not creep in as it did with man
in the age of "taking the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil". Because
of the very discretion man owned as a result of his being so developed
in mind, he has prided himself as a perfect man, which has consequently
raised in him still more conflicts concerning good and evil, so much so
that it has given rise to another kind of suffering which is solely
with man and is not found in animal. This is exactly the death penalty
which man deserved from God as a result of his taking the forbidden fruit.
Man has burdened himself with the task of having to tackle his life-problem
regarding birth, growth, decay and death, which is due to his failing to
take the fruit of another tree known as the tree of life whose fruit
of immortality would have given man an everlasting life---as everlasting
as God Himself.
In the Thai version of the Bible,
the "tree of life" is translated as " the tree of prosperous life", which
in my opinion, falls short of the original sense. It should
be translated precisely as "life" which in itself means " not dying"; for
life is what doea not die. The moment man has taken the fruit
of this tree, he will not die, that is, he will secure the wisdom known
in Buddhism as "Amata-Dhamma"--the Deathless State, or the seeing of non-self.
Thus, there is nothing which can die, be born, grow old and get sick.
In a way, he is said to attain the Aranhantship in Buddhism, which is characterized
by certain expressions such as Gaining the Deathless or Entering the Great
Immortal City, that is, Attaining Nirvana within this very life-time as
consciously felt by an individual. The Genesis also contains what
we call in Buddhism the Lokuttara-Dhamma or Amata-Dhamma. If the
translation of the Bible is done correctly in Thai, the Buddhists will
surely hold as great a love and a high reverence for the Bible as they
do for their Tripitaka. For this reason, a new and careful revision
of the Bible in the Thai language is recommended. The term "prosperous
life" according to Buddhist concepts involves a never-ending series of
still more refined and more subtle forms of suffering. To put it
precisely, "life" would refer to another kind of life known in Dhamma
as the Eternal life which Christ often talked of in his discourses and
which is known in Buddhism as "Amata-Dhamma" or as Eternity or Immortality.
What I have so far said, is sufficient to show that whether
it is the word "GOD", or "the World", or "the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil", or "the tree of life" -----all these can be given a Dharmic
sense apart from hte literal meaning. Then one will see that
Christianity has also presented a sublime form of Truth on the Ultramundane
plane as Buddhism and as other religions of like Dharmic principles, and
is not a mere "ancient Hebrew tale" as it is called by some.
Genesis 2/7 we find : "And the Lord God formed man from the dust of
the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man
become a living soul." "The man of the dust of the ground" here refers
to man in the remote past who, despite his possession of a human body,
nevertheless lacked human consciousness. He was a dumb animal, no
better than an earthen structure in human form. Down to the period
when he had undergone certain developments which enabled him to distinguish
himself from all other animals, God was then said to breath into nostrils
the breath of life. This act can be taken as another new creation--the
creation of the spirit or the mind which is the reason for our belief that
the creation of the world must be one with regard to the creation of the
Genesis 2/21-22 we read: " And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to
fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up
the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God
had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
No one would be willing to accept the above passage as it is written, without
expecting a concealed meaning, and one worth looking for. From
the Buddhist viewpoint, it conveys the idea that woman has not got the
same right and function as man. This is supported by another
statement in Genesis 6/2 which calls man "son of God" and woman "daughter
of man"-- an inference to show that man and woman are not equal.
Man was created from earth, a symbol of strength of character and that
is why he is called "man", whereas woman was but a part of his body and
hence called "woman" which means part of a man. Man ranks himself
as the son of God but woman is just the daughter of man; so how can the
two be equal both their rights and their functions? It should be
borne in mind that God ( or nature) did not intend man and woman to possess
the same likeness and the same potentiality. A woman
will have to bear children and feed them from her breast. The
attempt in our modern days to assign to both sexes the same office is striving
against the will of God or blindly going against nature.
Genesis 2/16-17 we also find: " And the Lord God commanded the man,
saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in
the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." It
can be simplified by this explanation. Any suffering that arises in man
is a result of his getting attached to what is considered good and evil.
Sometimes he is so harrassed by feelings of dislike of evil that he dare
not put his hand to anything. Sometimes he is so occupied with the thoughts
of doing good as to be unable to sleep at night. Some go so far as to commit
suicide to escape being accused. This attachment to good and evil generates
desire and craving and illusion which rate as suffering itself. It may
also account for the all-round growth of greed, anger and delusion which
causes man to suffer. As soon as man rids himself of the attachment to
good and evil, releases himself from the idea of virtue and sin and lives
entirely beyond the conception of good and evil, he is said to attain Arahantship
or the State of Nirvana according to the Buddhist.
5. GOD THE SON
the Son, Jesus Christ may be considered in four different lights:
1. As a Son of David
2. As a Prophet
3. As the Son of God
4. As God Himself
(a) Jesus as a son of David
This is his physical state, much in the same way as the Lord Buddha being
the son of King Suddhodana, and his little dharmic value. Jesus himself
discounts the significance of this relationship when he reported by Matthew(12/49)
and Mark(3/34) as saying: " For whosoever shall do the will of my Father
which is in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother". Hence,
the attempt to trace the genealogical relationship back to David, an ancestor
of Joseph, who is not his true father any way, must have been of later
fabrication in order to enhance Jesus family status.
(b) Jesus Christ as the Prophet
The term "prophet" has also been applied to Jesus Christ in his own
words as quoted by Matthew 13/57: " A prophet is not without honour save
in his own country and in his own house". Similarly, Lord Buddha
is also recognized as one of the religious teachers. Some even
refer to the Buddha as a pagan, as distinguished from heathens when referring
to outsiders. In the Thai language, pagan is applied to all
outsiders, as if we don't have a pagan among ourselves. A religious
teacher or a prophet also belongs to a pagan class. The reason
I mention this is that there are some ignorant Buddhists who refer to Jesus
as a pagan in a degrading sense.
used parables to get his points across in his Sermon of the Mount and
so did Lao Tsu in Tao Teh Ching. The parable of the sower of seeds
mentioned in Matthew 13/3-9 very much resembles the sayings of Lord Buddha.
Take for instance, "They that mourn are happy, they that hunger are contented,
and they that are persecuted are blessed."(Matthew 5/4-6-10). Very
much the same thing appears in Buddha's sayings. And just as Jesus,
Buddha also gave such startling injunctions such as "Kill thy father and
thy mother", "Be thou ungrateful"(DHAMMAPADA). These statements have
special meaning by themselves, for they are similes in the Dharmic language.
The Christian principle of kindness as taught
by Christ in Matthew 5/39-40: "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil;
but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him on other
also and it any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let
him have thy cloak too", represents the highest form of forbearance.
The counter-part in Buddhism is Lord Buddha's saying: "Hadst thou been
captured by a robber, who cutteth thy flesh with a saw unto thy bones and
thy bones unto the marrow, and should any of thee, O Bhikkus, feel even
as much as the least enmity towards the robber, thou art not of me." Let
anyone compare these two statements in all their subtleties. It is
safe to imply that these two religious are the religions of mercy.
It is pity that religious men in modern days have again succumbed to the
law "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". That is why the world
is constantly harassed by wars and crisis of enduring permanence.
always been the most baffling issue in all religions. For those in constant
fear, who havenot quite grasped the Dhamma yet, miracles must of course
be resorted to, otherwise they would never pay any attention to religion
at all. Even a common act
like a persuasion which has convinced a man against his former convictions,
may rightly be spoken of as a miracle. The
Lord Buddha himself had made use of, and has recommended to others to make
use of this sort of miracle. He disapproves of, and has forbidden,
the use of witchcraft or other supernatural means, which, he points out,
can be performed by any magician. Had Lord Buddha resorted to magic,
he could have easily been regarded as one of the magicians, just like Jesus
who, upon having expelled the devils, had become known as owing his success
to the Prince of the devils, rather than as the son of God.
For instance, by "causing the blind
to see," we interpret blindness as ignorance, so that the Lord Buddha,
by virtue of his being enlightened and thus ridding himself of ignorance
or blindness, has also prescribed a remedy for the world to follow.
The world has thus been saved from blindness when the way becomes clear
or the means to eliminate sufferings becomes understood, etc.
We may however conclude that what is considered
miraculous, whether in Buddhism or in Christianity, presented in fairy-tales
for children or child-like adults must be reinterpreted in the Dharmic
sense, otherwise it would only make us seven times more ignorant as if
seven more devils have entered our spirit.
(d) Jesus Christ as God Himself.
The New Testament contains suggestions
that Jesus Christ also possesses heavenly messengers and kingdom.
This might show that Jesus Christ is here referred to as God Himself.
We might reason, for instance, that in Jesus Christ is godhood. His
body contains the soul of God, and that soul is endowed with the attributes
of qualitive faculties of God. Lord Buddha says: " He who sees
the Dhamma sees us; he who sees not the Dhamma, sees us not, even as he
be holding our robes." (Itivuttaka, Khuddaka-Nikaya) This means that
those who see the Buddha are those who see the Dhamma in his mind,
not just his body or his mind only. For that which lies in
his mind, is the Dhamma or God. "Buddha"
is the "Dhamma", and "Dhamma" is the God.
Hence, Jesus Christ in his fourfold role as a son of David, a historical
teacher of religion, a son of God and God, may then be understood in the
same way as we Buddhists are familiar with our Lord Buddha.
6. God the Spirit or God the Soul
From what John 1/1-5 said in the New Testament:
1. In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2. The same was in the beginning with God.
3. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing
made that was made.
4. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended
What then is 'the Word'? I
think the Word is what may be referred to as the Spirit, which has
been rendered into Thai by 'the Holy Ghost' or 'the Soul'. Such rendition
has caused a great deal of misunderstanding among the Thai readers.
The 'Spirit' being wrongly conceived, the concept of God the Spirit must
consequently be also misunderstood. God has therefore been taken
in the sense of consciousness or soul. "The Word" signifies
Life and Light as clearly shown in the above passage. What we call
the Spirit comprehends Life and Light in full measure. Hence it cannot
be the equivalent of 'the Holy Ghost' or 'the Soul' as rendered in Thai,
unless these two words are defined to reflect the special meaning not present
in the ordinary sense of the words in Thai, or even in Pali from which
these two words are derived.
7. God the Trinity
In order to explain the Trinity to a child, we might use such analogies
in the language of the layman as follows:
The Father in Heaven may be thought of as
the owner of an enormously vast quarry of gems.
The Son - Jesus Christ - is the man who brings forth the gems for distribution
to all mankind.
The Spirit ( or the Soul) represents those gems.
These three are one. They all have gems in common.
Their functions are in unison and inseparable. They resemble
the Buddhist Trinity - the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.
Buddha discovers an immense resource of gems.
The Dhamma is all the gems that exist.
The Sangha brings the gems to the whole world.
Thus defined, let anyone see for oneself the relationship between the Trinity
of the Buddhist and that of the Christian.
The Trinity, viewed from this angle, would enable Christians and the Buddhists
to work together side by side in a way that has never been possible before.
This will enable one to know the real God in the Dharmic sense and enjoy
the company of God for successively longer periods until one lives with
God, without leaving his company even for a moment.
result of this would be the same as that of realization of the Dhamma
by the Buddhist, that is, making the mind clean, clear and calm.
as the Law of Karma is to be seen in the performance of action culminating
in the end of both good and bad Karma. The end of good and
bad Karma is to bring the cycle or wheel of becoming to a standstill, which
refers to the very state of peacefulness.
God the Son, i.e. Jesus Christ, whether in the sense of a son of David,
or a historical Teacher or the Son of God, or even as an embodiment of
perfection, has strangely enough a career in resembling that of Lord Buddha.
God the Spirit should be viewed as the NIYYANIKA-DHAMMA of Buddhism as
the best gift to mankind the spiritual gem which is the most gratifying.
The concept of God the Trinity is common to all religious known to man
in some form or the other.