The God Concept of Buddhism
The great weakness in the cosmology of Buddhism was twofold: its contamination with many of the superstitions of India and China and its sublimation of Gautama, first as the enlightened one, and then as the Eternal Buddha. Just as Christianity has suffered from the absorption of much erroneous human philosophy, so does Buddhism bear its human birthmark. But the teachings of Gautama have continued to evolve during the past two and one-half millenniums. The concept of Buddha, to an enlightened Buddhist, is no more the human personality of Gautama than the concept of Jehovah is identical with the spirit demon of Horeb to an enlightened Christian. Paucity of terminology, together with the sentimental retention of olden nomenclature, is often provocative of the failure to understand the true significance of the evolution of religious concepts.
Gradually the concept of God, as contrasted with the Absolute, began to appear in Buddhism. Its sources are back in the early days of this differentiation of the followers of the Lesser Road and the Greater Road. It was among the latter division of Buddhism that the dual conception of God and the Absolute finally matured. Step by step, century by century, the God concept has evolved until, with the teachings of Ryonin, Honen Shonin, and Shinran in Japan, this concept finally came to fruit in the belief in Amida Buddha.
Among these believers it is taught that the soul, upon experiencing death, may elect to enjoy a sojourn in Paradise prior to entering Nirvana, the ultimate of existence. It is proclaimed that this new salvation is attained by faith in the divine mercies and loving care of Amida, God of the Paradise in the west. In their philosophy, the Amidists hold to an Infinite Reality which is beyond all finite mortal comprehension; in their religion, they cling to faith in the all-merciful Amida, who so loves the world that he will not suffer one mortal who calls on his name in true faith and with a pure heart to fail in the attainment of the supernal happiness of Paradise.
The great strength of Buddhism is that its adherents are free to choose truth from all religions; such freedom of choice has seldom characterized a Urantian faith. In this respect the Shin sect of Japan has become one of the most progressive religious groups in the world; it has revived the ancient missionary spirit of Gautama's followers and has begun to send teachers to other peoples. This willingness to appropriate truth from any and all sources is indeed a commendable tendency to appear among religious believers during the first half of the twentieth century after Christ.
Buddhism itself is undergoing a twentieth-century renaissance. Through contact with Christianity the social aspects of Buddhism have been greatly enhanced. The desire to learn has been rekindled in the hearts of the monk priests of the brotherhood, and the spread of education throughout this faith will be certainly provocative of new advances in religious evolution.
At the time of this writing, much of Asia rests its hope in Buddhism. Will this noble faith, that has so valiantly carried on through the dark ages of the past, once again receive the truth of expanded cosmic realities even as the disciples of the great teacher in India once listened to his proclamation of new truth? Will this ancient faith respond once more to the invigorating stimulus of the presentation of new concepts of God and the Absolute for which it has so long searched?
All the world is waiting for the proclamation of the ennobling message of Michael, unencumbered by the accumulated doctrines and dogmas of nineteen centuries of contact with the religions of evolutionary origin. The hour is striking for presenting to Buddhism, to Christianity, to Hinduism, even to the peoples of all faiths, not the gospel about Jesus, but the living, spiritual reality of the gospel of Jesus.
--Presented by a Melchizedek of Nebadon, from the Urantia Papers.
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