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Is there a God?

HH Rangjung Dorje, the Third Karmapa (1284-1339) gave a teaching entitled Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom in which he taught that "the three realms are merely mind, . . . phenomena arise interdependently."  By so locating all that exists in our minds, he showed that how our perceptions arise is a more central question than how the world got here, because the reality of an external world is a function only of mind.   

[Phenomena arise interdependently means that there is no thing that comes first; it is all a function of the aggregates in conjunction with mind.]

He also, in the better known Prayer of Mahamudra, emphasizes that we continually wander in the misapprehension that this projection of our mind is inherently existent, but even then and at the same time, we are all fully awake.

[We are all Awake, humming with pure awareness, but still we tend to believe that what seems outside this Mind is really Real.]

The historical Buddha also referred to this when, in The 14 Questions of King Milinda, he refused to answer directly any questions about the existence of a supreme being. By the way, this was one of four skilful ways of his handling queries; he did not reply to questions that were unhelpful to people, or that were irrelevant within the scope of his Teachings. 

HE Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, of the 18th-century, writes in the first book of The Encompassment of All Knowledge, that our world system is but one of many.  It is impermanent, and can best be understood as the field of beings' awakening.

[Other world systems are unlikely to be any different -- not any more Real -- than our own.]

The protector Nagarjuna (ca. 2nd century CE) in his Five Treatises on Reason explained that "I and Mind deviate from ultimate reality."   Therefore, the same is true then, of "He/Her" and "His/Hers" (in Sanskrit, the Creator -- Ishvara).  He/She could not arise from Itself because its production either already happened or will happen.  If not yet existing, how can It serve as a cause?  If It already exists, how can It possibly become Its own result?

He/She does not result from others because they are different substances from Him/Her.  Think of the following analogy:  Darkness does not come from flame, which is by nature, light.   Gods can't arise from a combination of themselves and others because both concepts are faulty. 

They don't arise from the past because that could mean that they no longer have any power (so what difference would their existence make?)  And, they don't come from the present because they can't be both creator and creation.  Also, they don't come from the future because that would make a mockery of our understanding of causality (itself an empty concept). 

These explanations can be easily found in the Perfection of Wisdom sections of Aryadeva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, and in Graduated Path texts by Gampopa, Tsongkhapa, and many other Tibetan lamas.

~ lightly edited from Dirk's comments at the Kagyu email list, in response to a question on the role of a Creator. 

Nagarjuna's concept of Shunyata or Zero-ness:

"Zero-conceptuality" should be contrasted with "unitary-conceptuality" of Advaita Vedanta [a form of Hinduism very popular around the world.]. In Advaita, the atman [self] is accepted on the strength of indubitable experience, and everything other than atman is shown to be mere appearance, because every such object conceived by us displays doubt. 

Thus, we start from the one, atman, proceed to examine the many, and in this process invariably find only the one and never the many. Thus, the one also becomes the Infinite (ananta). The Real is the One and therefore the Infinite. We may take any point in this Infinite; it. will always Point to the Infinite as its substratum. The individual is resolved in the Universal, the Infinite, and the One. Concepts always point to the unitary concept of atman. 

In contrast to this, Madhyamikas [those ascribing to one of the Buddhist views] think that any point in the infinite series is a determination with reference to its preceding point, which in its turn depends upon its own preceding point, and so on until at last the indubitable ground is achieved. Contrary to the Vedantins, this indubitable ground is not the One, because the One itself depends upon its predecessor, the zero. Instead of going forward to the Infinite, the Madhyamikas prefer to come backward to the root. If there is a one, there is the possibility of the Infinite because One is the threshold of infinity. If there is only a zero the possibility of infinite altogether vanishes. If any link in the twelve-linked circle of causation (pratitya-samutpada) is broken the entire circle ceases to be operative, because the root of it, the zero, is discovered. This origination is rooted in zero [shunya] proceeds from it, ends in it, and itself is nothing but an extension of zero. This zero is not infinite, nor is it finite, whereas the Absolute is always infinite and never finite.  ~Dr.R C Pandeya, footnote 52.

Respecting Other Religions

It is important to remember that both HH Dalai Lama and the present Karmapa's advice is that we ought to respect all religions.  For just because a philosophical or devotional system may not serve to allow its followers to escape samsara (Skt. sangsara: the flow of existence) does not mean that it is not helpful within the bounds of samsara.  An example of the respect accorded other religions follows:

KTD reported in 2001 that: 

"September 9: The Karmapa was the guest of honor at a lunch given by the Ladakh Muslim Association (LMA), where His Holiness enjoyed traditional Muslim sweets and tea.

His Holiness made a speech on the importance of beneficial relations between Muslims and Buddhists in Ladakh. He defined the meaning of the word "religion," or "dharma," as "non-violence to all and a path of peace." He urged people to embrace religion or dharma in its true sense, and put it into daily practice. He thanked the LMA for the respect they accorded him, and for the wonderful arrangements made in his honor. He noted this was the first time he had been so honored by the Muslims.

The General Secretary of the LMA expressed his gratitude to His Holiness for accepting the invitation and gracing them with his presence. He voiced the LMA's full support for all His Holiness's endeavors, especially taking up residence at his seat-in-exile at Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre."

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