Just in case you were wondering, there is, in fact, a compelling, logical argument for the postulation that we create our own realities. That we do is a common refrain from numerous corners of the contemplative world like spiritual seekers and philosophers. These types spend time wondering how it is that we exist. Now there’s also a refrain about creating our own realities coming from those who wonder not how it is that we exist, but how we exist: scientists. Most physicists you have the opportunity to ask would pretty vigorously deny that the contemplative types are asking the same questions as scientists are in their algorithmic world, much less getting the same answers. Physicists’ stock and trade is in hard physical facts – unless they get into quantum issues, where the facts are physical all right, but a lot harder – to understand, anyway. Continue reading
Buddhists believe that the world we experience with our every-day minds is really an illusion. After following the path or the Dharma, we can become enlightened, and understand the true nature of reality. That sort of understanding about the world is said to be a form of “waking up”. When you wake up from sleep and remember a dream you were having, you realize that the mind that was dreaming was deluded about the true nature of reality: after all, in dreams we can fly and find that our hands have turned into claws or any other fantastic thing. “Waking up” into enlightenment will be like that. We’ll look back on what we experience now as every-day reality as a dream.
Buddhists also believe that all sentient beings have a Buddha Nature, and so are capable of awakening. All beings have an inherent compassion for all beings, and practicing the Dharma involves enabling ourselves to touch on that loving kindness all the time. Cultivating loving kindness and recognizing that the true source of suffering is attachment and aversion are the cornerstones to Buddhist practice.
Buddhism is not exactly a religion or faith. There is no requirement that a Buddhist believe or have faith in anything, as there is in most religions. Through various practices such as meditation, we can train our minds to concentrate single-pointedly on profound questions about the true nature of reality; of how the universe actually works. As in science or mathematics, the “proof” of the Buddhist concept of how the universe works is gained through rigorous logic and experience of the clarity of an un-deluded mind. The Buddha encouraged his students to not accept anything he said on faith, but to examine and test what he told them themselves. Most Buddhist practitioners will at some point in their practice experience “realizations”, which are leaps in understanding, allowing the person to comprehend a little more of the true nature of reality. These realizations serve to reaffirm what has been taught.
Some experienced practitioners have been known to perform feats that do not seem logically possible in our day-to-day experience of reality. This is because with the power of their minds they have transcended day-to-day reality, into a more clear understanding of the true nature of reality. These feats don’t really serve a practicing Buddhist as “concrete proof”, however, since it is understood that our day-to-day minds are deluded. Fantastic physical feats serve more to impress lay people.
Buddhists value above all else having compassion for others and causing them no harm. A fundament of compassion is ridding oneself of anger, greed, hatred and other negative emotions, for in the presence of those it is impossible to feel loving kindness. So another value of Buddhism is equanimity. Another thing that is greatly valued is reason, since it is through analytical meditation, using logic and examining cause and effect relationships that we can penetrate the misconceptions we have about the true nature of reality.
Buddhists do not believe in a single, omniscient God. The Buddhist understanding of the universe includes a recognition that there are a lot of aspects of this universe, this reality, that we don’t understand. Through analytical meditation and other practices we can understand the deeper truths about this reality; truths that can’t be understood with our every day minds. When we reach enlightenment we will understand it, and until then there is no reason to believe that there either is or isn’t a God. Buddhists aren’t atheists, but they also aren’t theists.