A couple more 'BIG' questions ...
Oh, I will open that Pandora's Box.[The] thought that the universe might be random and unintended makes me sad. I feel that if this were the case it would have implications for life, implications that I don’t feel I can ignore. Two areas that I feel would be affected by this are the nature of suffering, and the foundation of ethics, but I do not wish to open that Pandora’s Box here...
Even if reality were random and unintended and utterly 'pointless' (I am not saying it is, by the way ... more about that in a second), there's still a firm foundation for ethical conduct. Namely, whatever the case, we still need to all live together on this planet, and in society, and that means we should act well toward each other. God or no, societies needs rules and laws, whereby peace and safety, kindness and compassion are to be preferred for all our mutual sake.
Further to that, our Buddhist practice allows us to see that we are all connected, and are truly one. Doing violence to another being is much like your left hand punishing your right hand. It is no other than 'you' doing violence to 'you'.
As well, people who do violence, steal, abuse themselves or others are not at peace. A murderer, terrorist, rapist, gambler or jewel thief must lack within, and be suffering within. A person who knows inner peace and contentment simply will not act in such fashion. In this way, I certainly believe that human beings make "hells" for themselves, at least in this world, and in their own lives, through their harmful conduct. Questions of an afterlife aside, people certainly can create "heavens" and "hells" for themselves, and for other people around them, by their actions in this life. Thus, God or not, people should choose the course that reduces their own suffering.
I am not an atheist, but I happened to recently read a review of this book ...
Now, on the question of 'random' 'unintended' and 'pointless', this was noted ...Title: Atheism, Morality, and Meaning, by Michael Martin.
A professor emeritus of philosophy at Boston University, Martin [seeks to show] that morality is possible absent any assumption of the existence of any gods, to show that human life can have meaning and purpose absent those same assumptions, and to show moreover that traditional theistic beliefs don’t do a good job at grounding morality, meaning, or purpose — just what believers claim to be true about atheism.
http://atheism.about.com/od/bookreviews ... rality.htm
Far from being "empty" and "futile", living life for the sake of living life, right in this moment, is the very essence of "full" and fulfilling".So it’s not so such much that I’m demanding that the universe be other than what an atheist might say it is. It’s that the thought that it might be leaves me feeling kind of empty and futile... and not empty in the positive Buddhist sense...
To borrow a mountain climbing example, nothing is more ridiculous than crawling up a great hunk of rock. Or running a marathon in cirles. Or making art or writing poetry that few will see. Yet most people would consider such activities far from "empty" or "futile", and instead, living life fully. Each step by step up that mountain is complete unto itself.
When viewed as such, living life moment by moment is complete unto itself. One does so "because it is there", not because of any true destination.
Let me say again for the record, that I do not think our being born as sentient beings, on a strange spinning ball in the middle of time and space, was something "random" and "unintended". Too much seems to have been required for that to occur, an incredible string of a priori events ... and it simply seems to me very much more likely that we should not have been born at all if the universe were truly random (I am writing a book on the subject, the incredible chain of events over the billions of years that led to our being alive to read these words now). My deep sense is that we are serving as an organ for something that requires our services.So yeah, I kind of thought that Zazen might lead to knowing that the universe is ‘divine’ directly. Or rather, I thought Zen might help you to realise what the universe is NOT i.e. not random and not unintended! But perhaps it is true that these kind of questions simply have no answers, or that the answers given are just pretty stories, and that I have to give up this egotistical need for 'answers'. Perhaps the universe is really beyond all descriptions. Beyond the labels ‘intended’ and ‘unintended’, ‘divine’, or ‘random’. After all, if emptiness is anything, it’s surely empty of attributes. Or perhaps I’m really missing the point! I think that’s highly likely, and I thank you for your patience.
To get back to the rowboat on the river ... I feel it is a wonder that I have awoken, alive, sitting in a rowboat in the middle of this river, oar in hand. The boat, the water and air and trees, the wood of the oar ... all seems too well matched to be mere happenstance. In a random world, I feel that I should not be sitting in this boat. In fact, I feel that I am supposed to be sitting in this boat because, quite frankly, I think that there being a boat and a river is too much a lovely outcome.
I believe the River Tao has a direction, and that this boat is meant to be sailing upon ... and is not apart from ... the river.
But when Suzuki Roshi or any religious figure of any creed says something like the following, well, they are either guessing or going on faith ... (In fact, the following from Suzuki Roshi is a very general statement, and he doesn't try to fill in the details. The Buddha also refused to fill in most of the details. Almost all religions start to go wrong when they try to fill in the details, usually based on human imagination alone):
Suzuki Roshi is making a very nebulous statement, open to wide possibilities for what the driving force may be ... And that's how Zen folks like it: open and nebulous with all life's possibilities!Here is a quote by Shunryu Suzuki from Zen Mind, Beginners Mind:
‘So it is absolutely necessary for everyone to believe in nothing. But I do not mean voidness. There is something, but that something is something that is always prepared for taking some particular form, and it has some rules, or theory, or truth in its activity. This is called Buddha nature, or Buddha himself.’
I remember Suzuki saying in the same book that whatever is manifesting now is manifesting for some reason, though I can’t find the page right now...
Please understand my conclusion:
I think Suzuki Roshi was right, but Suzuki Roshi would also teach you that he does not need to be right ... In other words, whether we were placed in the boat with an oar, or just happened to pop up there, no matter ... get on with the trip!
I think that, since I have an oar in my hand, I was meant to row. If you were to press me, I would say that it is no accident, not in the least, that I am in a boat, alive, self-aware, with an oar in hand. In other words, since we are alive, I think that we were placed here to live, we were meant to live. I feel that in my heart. So, I row and row.
But, if it is all random and meaningless ... still, I row and row. No difference. Each stroke of the oar, like a step up the mountain, is reason enough. Beautiful enough, all on its own. So, I row and row, complete and fulfilled. Thus:
A - If there is a God, and if she had wanted us to know the details, she could have told us much more clearly (but she did not) ... so, I row row row.
B - If there is a God, but the details are too hard for a human mind to grasp ... I row row row.
C- If there is a God, and he did tell us the details (in the Koran, Bible, Upanishads or other old book), but I am just too closed minded to see it ... still, I row row row ... trying to live as best I can.
D - If there is no "God", but some other mechanism at work that uses us for purposes all its own ... I row row row
E - If there is no God or mechanism, and no details ... I row row row.
F - Whatever ... I row row row
Everything is "manifesting for a reason" (to borrow what you think Suzuki Roshi said) ... whether or not there is a "reason" apart from the manifesting itself.
If you were asking me to tell you what I think I sense, it is something like A,B or D ... not C or E. But, also I sense that it just does not matter, and I do not care.
In each case, all is fulfilled and complete.
Am I saying too much?
PS - You asked ...
More about Karma maybe next time.It seems to me that what is manifesting now is manifesting for some reason. And this question has occurred to me: How could Karma exist in an unintended / random universe?