Three Manifestations, One Heart

I’ve always thought that Christianity is monotheist: one God above all. It seems that this Christian God is not only above all, watching every leaf fall from every tree, but within every falling leaf; within what Buddhism calls “the ten thousand things”: all those manifestations that stimulate the attractions and distractions that occupy most of our attention. When we read in the Gospels that God cares not only for us but for every sparrow, it seems that for this Greater Being no corner of the cosmos is hidden.

Who does not hope that our world is not just a jumble of isolated things, each confined to its own boundaries? I expect that even people who call themselves atheists or agnostics like to believe that their own individual being is held within some coherent wholeness. They just hold back from religious beliefs about how this wholeness came to be and how it is now being governed. I’ve yet to run into anyone who envisions that a community of gods, like the gods of ancient Greece–quarrelling over territory and their own scope of authority–controls our world. Of course, we all sometimes behave like them.

Wouldn’t it be comforting to feel that small gods and spiritual helpers are keeping a look out for our enterprises and adventures? If there were minor deities, with no pretention of being in charge of anything but their own small domains, then we wouldn’t have to bother the Creator of the universe with our own small, but sometimes urgent concerns.

In Buddhism, there is no God; although there is a vision of everything being woven out of a single, shining cloth. In fact, the god realm is just one of six realms and not even the one presented as the most desirable place to be. The human realm is considered better than the god realm because it leaves room for us to become more than we have been up until this moment. The main problem with the god realm is that in the eons of comfort and pleasure it provides, beings lose their capacity for effort and their ability to face difficulties. As a consequence, when their positive karma finally runs out, they plunge straight into dark despair, unable to deal with anything even a little bit challenging.

I find myself somewhat confused about the monotheism of Christianity. Christianity appears to have inherited the monotheism of Judaism; continuing the vision of One God, present here and everywhere, now and always. At the same time, this Christian God also has three manifestations: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I wonder if the Christian vision of a Creator God, as well as continuing the monotheism of Judaism, has also absorbed some Buddhist influence. (There are ancient documents recording that Jesus travelled to India). The relationship between the Son and the Father seems to reflect, as do Buddhist teachings, what we are all called upon to do in our own lives: bring spiritual understanding into the life we are actually living, with all its dramas, inconsistencies, and uncertainties.

Personally, given a choice between a God that is above everything and one that is in everything, I would chose a divinity that permeates not only every human soul but every drop of water and every grain of sand.

4 comments to “Three Manifestations, One Heart”
  1. I believe God permeates everything, including far more than we can sense or ever know about. I believe the Trinity exists, but our dualistic minds have a hard time grasping the concept.

  2. Wondering if Buddhism believes there in no god how it can be said being human is better than the god realm.

    I believe in one god comprised of three people. Father, son and Holy Spirit. God is all powerful, all knowing and a God of love and caring for all things. God allows evil, yet it is our response that is the key. I do not see myself heading into an abyss should things go very wrong.

    God, for me does exist in everything, God is everywhere, all knowing and all powerful. It is human’s response to God that matters.

  3. Good Morning, Carolyn,

    I’ve been meaning to thank you for your recent comment on my blog post, where you share:

    > I believe in one god comprised of three people. Father, son and Holy Spirit. God is all powerful, all knowing and a God of love and caring for all things. God allows evil, yet it is our response that is the key. I do not see myself heading into an abyss should things go very wrong. God, for me does exist in everything, God is everywhere, all knowing and all powerful. It is human’s response to God that matters.

    I have to say your beautiful and heart-felt expression of faith corresponds to how I view my own life–that there is a spirit of love and caring for all things which I hope to contact and honor in how I live my life. The difference between us seems a minor one: namely that I’ve never encountered a valuable way of visualizing a God who has any human characteristics or even a particular way of looking at the meaning of human life. Some inconceivable presence must have created this world with us in it, but I don’t know how to visualize it, other than that I want to be true as much as I can to the human potential for goodness and understanding, which is only rarely honored in our society: caring for others, especially those who have no voice; and not forgetting our own values.

    And you ask a question that gets to the heart of a difference between Christian and Buddhist perspectives on human life:

    > Wondering if Buddhism believes there in no god how it can be said being human is better than the god realm.

    The “god realm” really has very little to do with what we mean by the One God, which is an understanding I believe is also present in Buddhism–not as a Being who has created everything (that seems to remain a mystery)–but as an essential wholeness in everything, like the ocean that supports and nourishes all the life within it. “The god realm” is just one of six realms (or states of being) among which most of us cycle: the hell realm when we are angry, paranoid, vengeful, etc; the hungry ghost realm when we are envious and crave things that life is not providing us; the animal realm when we are sleepy and don’t use our god-given minds to guide how we live; the titan realm when we feel we deserve to be in the god realm and want to invade it; the god realm when our karma has entitled us to live in a peaceful realm where all our wants are fulfilled as soon as we feel them; and the human realm in which sickness, death, old age, and unfulfilled wants characterize our days. Perhaps unexpectedly, the human realm is considered the best place to be, because in the human realm we have an opportunity to learn things, including how to deal with pain and adversity without becoming bitter, envious, and full of pride. But in the god realm, we grow lazy, lose the power to form intentions, have no reason to care for others because everyone we see is also rolling in clover; and when, perhaps after eons, our positive karma runs out, we will have lost the ability to meet challenges or deal with unexpected adversity.

  4. If God is omnipresent, we might see God as pervasive as Space.

    If God is omniscient, we might see God as Knowledge

    If God is omnipotent, we might see God as Time

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