I want to thank John for asking me to provide a guest ramble on his blog, and send out a g’day to all fellow Buddha Dharma followers reading this wonderful blog! [ *blush* ~ The Management]
I’d like to touch on the topic of issaranimmanahetuvada (quite a mouthful eh?). This is the belief that all of our suffering and all our unhappiness is controlled by a supreme being or a god. In effect this is a misinterpretation of the Buddhist teaching of karma.
There is a common misconception that Karma is pre-determinism or some kind of retribution for ill-deeds dished out on us by an otherworldly being intent on controlling mans every move. It is not. Karma is simply an act for which there will be a result. The Buddha said, “Intention is karma. Having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind.”
We humans are a curious lot, always wanting to know the cause of events and the reason for things being as they are. The Buddha wanted to know why we suffer and why we cause ourselves so much grief and unhappiness. Through his very own effort and perseverance he discovered that WE are responsible for our own suffering and our own unhappiness. He realised that there wasn’t any supernatural or otherworldly factor involved in our suffering and unhappiness.
It is very easy to take the easy path out and blame all of our suffering or unhappiness on external forces, be it a god’s will, or the weather, the stars, or some other superstition. The causes of some events in our lives are sometimes obvious, and we are able to easily attribute the cause and hopefully negate its effect. Other times the effect seems to have simply happened and is seemingly unaccountable.
Rather than rely on a man-made “God’ – which was the teaching of the religious elders of the time, the Brahmins – the Buddha taught that we should turn our attention to creating our own happiness and realising what it is that brings us unhappiness and self-imposed suffering. Change and suffering are inevitable, but we ourselves can overcome and control the effects of our own suffering and unhappiness. Every living thing on our little rock suffers, we are not alone in this.
“Oh shit, I’m having such a bad month, my car isn’t working, I’m putting on weight, my partner has left me, I have a sickness….it must be the will of God/Allah/Thor/Shiva.” Or, “Crikey, I didn’t get that job, it’s my fate, my pre-destination, the will of the universe.”
This isn’t what the Buddha discovered and later explained in his Dharma 2,550 years ago. These are superstitions, which the Buddha was trying to eradicate from people’s minds. He was trying to help people see that the old religions of animal sacrifice and belief in higher powers weren’t getting them anywhere as they were superstitious beliefs used to explain things that were actually just natural occurrences or self-imposed.
The Buddha repelled any doctrine that taught dependance on external fabricated beliefs and supernatural beings. He maintained that events have a cause and that the cause was either the result of our own actions or natural laws of nature. What is the use of man’s intelligence if he continues to believe in supernatural causes?
There cannot be any event which is supernatural in its origin. This would deny the very teachings of the Buddha Dharma – that all is conditioned by cause and effect. This is the central teaching of Buddhism. To believe in god/s or supernatural beings/events is simply NOT Buddha Dharma. A religion based on belief in higher powers is based solely on speculation and superstition – neither of which are of any benefit to us. It is unprofitable.
Working hard to reinvigorate Buddhism in Japan and eradicate metaphysical nonsense from its practice, I am a bodhisattva monk following an open path (non-sectarian) influenced somewhat by the pragmatic teachings of warrior-Zen Master Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi (b:1579 – d:1655). I live in Japan with my wife, two children and a dog. I believe that we should strive to adapt the body of teachings of the Buddha to this time and that countries and cultures in which we live actually have little to do with Buddhist practice. Buddhist practice is to be realised in our everyday lives in all that we do. I believe that we should be able to make any necessary adjustments where needed to better suit our modern society.