Christianity is a God centered religion. It sees God as the focus of meaning in human life

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Christianity is a God centered religion. It sees God as the focus of meaning in human life and history as the unfolding of God's plan. It comes as a suprise to most Christians that there are relgions, such as Buddhism, that are not God centered and have comparitively little to say about Him. The purpose of this essay is to clarify Buddhist ideas about God and make them seem reasonable to the non-Buddhist, even if not persuading him. In this essay instead of talking about "God" I will use the term "the absolute" to avoid confusion. The word "God" carries too many asociations that are difficult to lay aside when discussing the subject from a fresh (Buddhist) perspective. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines the absolute as "the ultimate source of reality regarded as one and yet the source of variety; as complete, or perfect, and yet as not divorced from the finite, imperfect world." First, Buddhists believe that the absolute is not someting you believe in, or worship, but instead something you experience. The experience of the absolute is called enlightenment. Because of this emphasis on experience, the terminology of Buddhism is often elusive. More attention is given to how to attain the experience of the absolute than to a specific description of its character. Indeed Buddhism teaches that no verbal description of the absolute is possible. That is, Buddhism insists that the absolute is ineffable. While no positive description of the absolute is possible, Buddhism does teach that the absolute can be defined negatively by refuting false ideas of the absolute. Buddhist philosophy is therefore resolutely critical, showing the contradictions inherent in the concepts of their opponents. But while Buddhist philosophy is a critical philosophy, it is also a rational philosophy in that it believes that no contradiction can exist in the absolute. This is in contrast to those forms of mysticism that teach the nature of the absolute is contradictory and paradoxical. Finally, Buddhism teaches that the absolute is the true nature of the relative. On the question of the transcendence or immanence of the absolute, Buddhism come down on the side of immanence. Only because we misperceive the true nature of the world do we think of it as relative, when we truly understand the world then we see it as the absolute. But this process of perceiving the relative as the absolute is not one of addition, but one of subtraction. That is, one does not gain a new sixth sense from the practice of meditation enabling one to see everyting as godlike (whatever that might be). Instead one strips away the false concepts about reality which makes the absolute appear as the relative. When one sees the absolute things seem more "ordinary" than before. Thus the enlightened person is not unworldly and impractical, but more grounded in reality and better able to deal with the humdrum details of life than anyone else.


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