God is in the Eyes of the Beholder

“It’s not what you look at that matters – it’s what you see.” -Thoreau

no god

I have three books sitting on my coffee table waiting to be read…actually two…I finished reading one of them yesterday. It’s by my new favorite author (actually, he’s been around a while, but he is new to me). I reviewed his first book a few posts back. His name is Brad Warner. The title of the book I finished is There is No God and He is Always with You. I thought it would be similar to his other two books but I was wrong.

In a nutshell, his main premise is that he believes in God, contrary to Zen Buddhism teachings or maybe not? I think it depends on who you talk to.  I don’t have a problem with that. Ok, that isn’t exactly how I felt while I was reading it, in fact there were times I felt like putting the book down, except something nudged me on to see what else he had to say. There were times I was confused about what he was trying to convey and he made some strong statements refuting reincarnation, which is what the Dalai Lama is supposed to be a symbol of. I mean they are all about birth, death and rebirth and the goal is to reach nirvana.

I still get confused about which Buddhism practices and beliefs belongs to which sect. There is so much more to read (and remember, which isn’t easy with a chemo brain). When I figure that out, I’ll let you know (if I remember).

There are many different beliefs about Buddhism, just like most religions — even though there are on going debates that Buddhism is or is not considered a religion. Brad believes there is no life after death but most people who believe in God also believe in eternal life (I don’t know how many actually believe there is a Heaven though). I got over my suspicion that he wrote the book to share “the good news,” with his readers after he went on to write that he didn’t believe the Jesus story actually happened the way it was written down.

Let me explain further why I was suspicious. Years ago I read a book whose title made me think it would explain a variety of religious and spiritual beliefs. It did, but when I got to the last chapter, the author proclaimed that all those beliefs were wrong and anyone who believed them were damned to eternal Hell, except for his correct version of Christianity. I was pissed.

After meditating over Brad’s opinions about the existence of God, I agree and disagree with him. It’s also reasonable to believe that one can practice Buddhism and be spiritual, which is how I see myself. I think this book came in to my life at the perfect time because recently I questioned my own beliefs. How could I resonate with Zen and still be drawn to spiritual practices, that could be considered pagan?

I was always drawn to “spiritual” beliefs, although it wasn’t called that in my teens. I tried the mainstream religious circuit but it never stuck. I had too many questions about Biblical stories that didn’t make sense to me — and being told to just rely on faith (that they were true) didn’t work for me. I also felt they had too many rules and I am too much of a free spirit to conform to any dogma just because someone says so.  I know there are mysteries about life (and death) that cannot be explained. I am ok with that.

Spiritual beliefs cannot be “one size fits all” because we humans are a complex bunch. Just like meditation. What works for me may not work for you. I like Zazen and I do guided meditation when I feel the need. I also do affirmations. I believe we are what we think and if my mantra is positive then my monkey brain will have a harder time influencing my thoughts throughout the day. I am a fan of Louise Hay. Her book, You Can Heal Your Life, helped me through my cancer battle.

Brad wrote that he tried different meditations and they didn’t work for him. I get that. In case you’re wondering what Brad looks like here is a picture of him. Did I mention he’s a Zen Priest?


I also believe in what is called  “paranormal” because I experienced events myself — several times. I know it wasn’t my imagination. I choose to file those events under “mysteries” I cannot explain. I am ok with that.

Brad wrote that even Deepak Chopra doesn’t know for sure what happens to us when we die, even though he has a large following of devotees who believe he does. I agree with him about that. Although Brad made statements that he believes to be true and has no hard evidence to back it up either. Mainly, his statement “there is a God”. No one knows for sure and he can’t prove there is no life after death.  It’s all opinion and speculation.

I guess I got more caught up with him using the word “God.” I thought he was going to preach his new religion. He wasn’t, but I had to read further to find that out. You have to admit God can be an emotionally charged word. There are some so-called religious groups who kill for worshipping the “wrong” God.

Reading Brad’s book helped me clear up any confusion I had about my own beliefs. I don’t like to be labeled as this or that. I don’t join groups because one of my favorite questions is “why?” and the leaders of the group usually get annoyed with me. And that’s ok with me.

I practice Zen Buddhism because it helps me stay centered. I do understand that Zen is not taught as being spiritual, however I am a newbie, so I could run across a different author in the future who does see it that way. My other spiritual practices feed my soul or whatever it is. I only know I feel balanced when its part of my life. I guess that’s what Brad was trying to convey. His belief in God maybe makes him feel balanced. I don’t know for sure; I am speculating.

I guess it doesn’t matter what we believe — or not.  Brad practices Zen Buddhism and believes in God. I practice Zen Buddhism and don’t believe in God, but see myself as spiritual. And that’s ok.



7 thoughts on “God is in the Eyes of the Beholder

  1. There is a somewhat apocryphal story about an exchange between a Zen master as his student (paraphrased):
    Student: Master, you are wise and very knowledgeable. What happens after we die?
    Zen master: I have no idea.
    Student: But I thought you were a great Zen master!
    Zen master: Maybe I am, but I am not a DEAD Zen master.

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