It’s unfashionable these days to believe in God. I’ve heard faith in God called the grown-up version of believing in Santa Claus. I’ve heard God called a crutch for the weak. I’ve heard God called an imaginary friend people invent and call on during hard times.
I’ve called on God pretty much non-stop these past few weeks since my husband’s sudden death. God has delivered. God is keeping my head above the surface of the ocean of despair. God is real.
How am I so sure?
Science is finding less and less at the root of matter except our own watching. Einstein said, “Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” Buddha taught the whole world is made of our thoughts.
It’s obvious if you, well, think about it. Everything changes and never stops. The electrons of the densest diamond are in constant movement. All matter is in a state of growth or decay. Nothing is the same from one instant to the next. At what point, then, is anything we see and hear “real” except in our idea of it?
Yet we can’t control the world with our individual thoughts. Our minds have to be part of something larger, like waves are part of water. Our minds must swim in a bigger mind, in the one true, unchanging mind imagining the lights and colors and music of the world. A big mind we can connect with if we loosen our grip on our self-centered thoughts, as Buddhists do in meditation and Christians do in prayer.
Buddhists don’t like to give that true, unchanging mind a human-like name or soul. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls it the ultimate dimension. The Korean Zen master Seung Sahn called it don’t-know. The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche calls it ultimate truth. Many Zen and Buddhist teachers refer to the absolute, as in the famed American Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chodron’s concept of absolute bodhichitta, or awakened heart. Taoism calls it the Tao, like an inanimate object.
Christians say God. I buy that, and I don’t think it’s just because I was raised Christian. In my young adulthood, coming out of the gay closet into a dark age of homophobia and AIDS, the Christian church rejected me, and I rejected it. I went full-on Buddhist. Through many hours of Zen meditation I learned how to detach from the sadness of how everything on earth including our bodily selves has an end, and connect with the ultimate dimension where all is united and unchanging. It brought great comfort, and it still does, now more than ever. It settled panic into something close to joy. It may have saved a life I was starting to think wasn’t worth living.
What put God back into my meditation wasn’t faith. It was logic. I never came to understand how we could be human while our source was a dimension. How we could exist with hearts and souls if we came from an inanimate object or force or “ground of being.” How we could have more personality than our creator. The water in a wave is the identical substance as the water in an ocean. Our minds and souls must be of the same nature as what they come from. For me this is what scripture means by God creating us in his own image. This is part of what Christ thundered into humanity to show.
This doesn’t mean I think of God as a white-bearded old man controlling the world like a puppet show. That’s nursery-school religion for atheists to laugh at. We move freely in God’s mind, the same way our images of others move freely in our dreams. We cause harm or good according to our connection either with our relative, temporary, illusory selves on earth or our ultimate, united, true existence with others in God.
Death isn’t an end but a safety net. The limit to our harm. God catches us. Our souls continue to exist in some way with all who were and are and are yet to be, in what Christianity calls so beautifully “the communion of saints.” My faith and reason don’t see any other way.