Vol. XLIX, No.9                          September 2004
The Impulse to Diety

I once was on a panel of an inter-religious gathering where I was asked to present our point of view of
Buddhism. Following my presentation, a representative of the Hare Krishna Society presented his view that the
Buddhists had mistakenly made the Buddha a God when he was only a man and not truly divine as is Krishna. I
of course unbuddhistically argued with him that that was not the case and that the Buddha Amida was not a
creator God. This seemed not to make any difference as he continued with his presentation. We ended by
agreeing to disagree.

The accusation I suppose is partially accurate, given the varied forms of prayer, exorcisms, invocations
blessings, etc., etc., that exist in the varied traditions of Buddhism. Serious students or followers of Buddhism
however, would be hard pressed to defend the idea of a creator God and an eternal individual soul whose
relationship to that God is one of worship and belief. Amida Buddha is in anthropomorphic form a human
being, whether a picture or sculpture. In a more abstract form it is represented by the expression
“Namoamidabutsu – I take refuge in the Buddha Amida”. Namoamidabutsu is the moment when two
seemingly opposite things become one – while still maintaining their separate realities. Namo is me, a human
being who fancies himself this and fancies himself that, a competent minister, educated, etc., etc., but who, in
terms of the deeply factual and real, know nothing at all. I am like a man throwing the dust of his shortcomings
away into the wind – only to have it come back on him. Amidabutsu – Amida Buddha is that which is
ultimately, deeply, and profoundly true and real and beautiful. It not only surrounds but embraces me
constantly – and yet I don’t get it. I can’t see the forest for the trees. And I want a handle I can turn and change
everything for the better – not realizing that my need to turn the handle keeps everything the same. When I let
go, I can float; when I relax, I see beauty; when I don’t try to defend, I don’t feel attacked; when I let go of
control, I suddenly flow.

And yet for all this experience, and all this understanding – I don’t seem to learn for the next time. It’s not
a collective, or cumulative experience. Each Namoamidabutsu is as if for the first time; and I still try to replace
it with more ego-gratifying things, and “it” still manages to break open that protective shell. One is definitely
not the same as the other – and yet here we are.

Its not about rewards and punishments, its not about control or predicting the future, its not about long life
and health. Its about here I go again, looking for the right thing in the wrong places. Scientifically I suppose,
everything moves towards the light. Religiously, the Light moves towards everything, no matter what we do to
avoid it. Namoamidabutsu – Hot Damn.

Gassho, Rev. Mas