UNIVERSAL DHARMA

Because I Care ~ DO YOU BELIEVE?

PEOPLE OFTEN ASK ME IF I believe in God, and I reply: In order for me to answer your question, you must first tell me what you mean by the word God. If they then say, as they often do, that God is the ‘Creator,’ who made everything, then I say that I don’t believe, for the simple reason that everything was not created, as is plain to see. There is evolution, revolution, and devolution; in other words: everything changes and becomes other than it is. It is the old thing about the chicken and the egg that even children know: which came first?

A first cause of things, said the Buddha, cannot be perceived, casting doubt on all the theories and belief-systems that are centered around this. Years ago, in Nepal, I saw fossils of sea-shells in the Himalayas, showing that what is now the highest mountain-range on Earth was once on the sea-bed. Geology has shown that, because of the movement of the tectonic-plates of the Earth’s crust, the Indian subcontinent— which was once an island-continent— was pushed northward against the Asian land-mass, and the sea-bed between squeezed and forced up to become the mighty mountain-peaks of the Himalayas. This took place many millions of years ago, when there was no-one around to observe or record it, of course, but the incontrovertible evidence is there, nevertheless. Yet so convinced are the believers in ‘creationism’ that their ideas are correct, that they are even prepared to claim that, if God could create everything else, then he is easily able to create fossils, too. And why should he create fossils, we may ask? Why, to confuse the unbelievers and harden their hearts, of course!

Nowadays, most of us know about erosion, how, by the ceaseless action of the elements— rain, wind, water, snow, ice, sunshine— rock and earth is slowly worn away, so that not even mountains last forever, but get washed back to the seas from whence they arose long ago— from mountain to sea, from sea to mountain, ad infinitum, in a cyclic process: arising and falling. Geology tells us, too, that our planet was not always a planet, spinning around the sun, but came into being from gasses and debris swirling around in Space— perhaps the remains of an exploded star or stars; nothing comes from nothing, nothing goes to nothing. Over billions of what we call ‘years,’ this cloud of hot debris coalesced, cooled, and ‘became’ our planet. Obviously, it was not created, but gradually came into being and evolved, as we can assume all the other planets, stars, galaxies and nebulae of the universe did. And, just as our planet came into being and evolved, so will it devolve and pass out of being, its component parts and particles scattering, to be absorbed into other things. We cannot talk— or even think— of a beginning or an end to all this.

And so the process goes on. A moment in Time, as the believers say, when some ‘God,’ Impulse or Force, decided to create the Universe and everything in it, is inconceivable. Most scientists now— though they may change their minds later, as they have done before— subscribe to the Big-Bang Theory, by which they say the Universe evolved from a cosmic explosion 15 billion years ago. The substance from which it all came— although they can’t say where that came from— they call ‘anti-matter,’ which they claim is so dense and heavy that a teaspoonful of it would weigh more than our entire planet! Needless to say, none of them have ever seen or handled anti-matter, and maybe this is just another idea. But even if it isn’t, it is still not new; the sages of India thought of it many centuries ago, and went further than Western science has gone by saying it is recurrent— that is, it has happened not just once, as Western scientists say, and that before which there was nothing— but countless times. The Universe explodes outwards, lasts an incalculable period, passing through many phases, and then implodes or collapses in upon itself. Hindus call this ‘the breathing-out and breathing-in of Brahma.’ When Brahma — their Supreme God— breathes out, the Universe comes into being; as Brahma breathes in, the Universe collapses. The time between the out-breath and the in-breath, and the in-breath and the out-breath, mark the periods when the Universe exists and does not exist. So, Western science has discovered, or conceived of, something that was already thought of long ago, and still has far to go.

Some people think that, without belief in God there is no basis for morality, and we cannot possibly be religious. But such thinking reveals the poverty and narrowness of their minds. Why should it be that we cannot be moral or religious if we do not believe in God? Does morality or religion really depend upon that? To think so shows that we do not have a firm basis within ourselves— which is where it must all come from— but are dependent on outside support for it. There are many Godists who are far from being moral, while many atheists live by a much-firmer code of morality than they; on the other hand, though, to be fair, there are believers who really do live religiously, and non-believers who do not. My point here, however, is that belief is not an indispensable part of religion; it can be better replaced with conviction born of knowledge, which means faith; religion would thereby have a firmer foundation.

Now, the Universe does seem to be orderly rather than chaotic; no-one can deny this. But its order has come about through chaos over inconceivably-vast periods of time; it wasn’t always this way. To ascribe its order to the controlling hand of an anthropomorphic deity, however— that is, a God or Being with human qualities like us— who might be petitioned, bribed and persuaded into changing its mind, answering prayers, granting favors, meting out rewards and punishments, taking sides, etc.— is an assumption of omniscience on our part, which is a great mistake, of course, and puts us in a position where it is very difficult to learn more about what is presently beyond us, without first retreating from our unwarranted assumptions. The best and honest thing to do would be to admit, humbly and sincerely, that we do not know, rather than fill the vacuum with myths and conjecture. We will not immediately die or disappear if we frankly and fearlessly admit what is true— that we really do not know— and will then be able to proceed again, fresh and unencumbered.

If people want to believe the Universe was created (and there are still people who believe it was created just six-thousand years ago, and that ‘Adam and Eve’ were placed on this Earth to become the first ancestors of the entire human race, with all its various colors and shades), that is up to them, of course; we are all— or should be— entitled to our own opinions, and because I hold to this principle, I dare to write my books. But it would be better to investigate, find out, discover, and know, and thereby leave behind the conflicting and tangled mass of beliefs and opinions.

At this point, while we are on the subject of Space, and much is being said and reported about UFO’s, I want to say that when open contact is made with extra-terrestrial life-forms, let us hope they aren’t hostile and aggressive, as humans often have been and are. (I say ‘open’ here because secret or clandestine contact has probably already been made). They will likely be more intelligent than us, to have got to us before we got to them, so let’s not assume that in this vast cosmos, the tiny planet we inhabit is the only one that can support intelligent life. Actually, it would be of immense importance, and very instructive for us to be visited by beings from other worlds, for it would provide us with a basis for comparison— us and them— and hopefully help us understand ourselves as human-beings, regardless of the difference in skin-color.

The impact that meeting extra-terrestrials would have on religion would be tremendous, too, and would force us to evaluate and update our concepts and beliefs. Religions based on so-called ‘revelation,’ claiming direct and exclusive access to ‘God,’ and which segregate humanity into the ‘faithful and the infidels,’ the ‘saved and the damned,’ the ‘chosen and the forsaken,' etc, would have to rethink their dogmas (or maybe try to convert the ET’s to their beliefs? I have no doubt that some would be sufficiently naïve and arrogant to try). Something would stand but much would fall under the light of new facts; evolution is like this.

It is hard to imagine now— we who live in a secular age— what a tremendous psychological shock and blow to its faith Europe underwent in the 16th century when the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo revealed that the Earth turns around the Sun, and not— as the Church had always taught and maintained— that the Earth is the center of the Universe, around which all else turns, and for the inhabitants of which, the ‘only begotten Son of God’ had given his life in atonement for their sins. Until then, Europeans, in their ignorance, had felt secure and confident of their cosmic importance and superiority, but the heliocentric— sun-centered— theory changed all this, causing many to doubt their faith, and feel infinitesimally small. They must have had to make an enormous adjustment. And contact with extra-terrestrial life, when it is made, will necessitate drastic adjustment and change to the way we think and live. Life will never be the same for us after that.

Great care must be taken, however, when we begin an inquiry into whether or not there is such a thing as Truth, or if it is just a product or projection of our wishful thinking, lest, starting with a belief, we thereafter try to make everything conform to it— snipping corners off here, shaving bits off there, adding, embellishing, bending, twisting, squeezing and distorting things to make them fit our preconceptions. For this reason, believers can never find Truth— supposing that Truth is something objective— for their minds are already made up from the start and thereby unable to see. Meanwhile, until we really do know, do we need to think, worry or speculate about how or when or if the Universe began? Have we nothing better to do with our limited time than that?

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