MCTB The God Models
On a very different tangent, we have the God Models. While Buddhism pretends to be an exception to the theological traditions, many Buddhists essentially worship the Buddha as a God just as Christians worship Jesus as a God. Further, the vast majority of the traditions that promote awakening involve some sort of theological background or underpinning, including Hindu Vedanta’s focus on the divine nature of things, Islamic Sufism’s focus on The Friend or dissolving in Allah, and Christianity’s various dissolution in God metaphors, such as the Divine Marriage. Buddhism has the same problem at times with the phrase Buddha Nature. These are interesting models to talk about, and basically the question comes down to the distance between “God” and one’s life. For those who disapprove of me writing about God in a book on Buddhism, substitute “Buddha Nature” everywhere you see the word “God”. Those who believe in a God that is a separate entity are already in trouble. Those who believe this entity is far off in Heaven or largely unavailable are really in trouble. However, those who believe in a “God” that is right here, right now, and present in all things, including themselves, have a fighting chance, and this is as practical a model for awakening as any other, if done correctly, which it almost never is.
The problem comes for those who believe in God Free Zones, that is, those places where God is not. These tend to be people who believe in a limited, abstract God. Most people who believe in God have not taken the time to consider the question of whether or not they believe in God Free Zones or a limited God. In fact, most people who believe in God in the monotheistic sense would be offended by the notion that their God was somehow limited. However, if you question them about whether or not God is in their toilet paper or in a rock, or perhaps more specifically is the toilet paper, and is the rock, is their weird popcorn fetish, is the annoying itch in their armpit, and actually is everything else, even most people who in theory believe in an omnipresent, unlimited, all-powerful God won’t go that far. This is too bad, because if they did, they would have a good working model for realizing that this is it, and so we are back to my original, simple, excellent premise and test for good models of awakening.
Here’s how this works: if you believe that you are trying to see God, and you believe that all creation is a manifestation not just created by God, but in fact is God, then you are back to basic insight practices: seeing the sensate world exactly as it is, because there you will find ultimate reality, or “God”, if you want to call it that. When the center point is seen through by your careful investigation of all these sensations, or all the aspects of God, then all that is left is just all these sensations as before, that is, all this God. Thus, if one is willing to really believe in a omnipresent God, then by truly, deeply, directly perceiving all sensations to be just part of the causal, natural unfolding of what is labeled God, all the boundaries between what were self and other can be seen through, and the phenomenal world is left doing its thing. Thus the practitioner realizes they always were part of God, in a sense, though these designations are merely terminological one way or the other.
The problem with God models typically is that people don’t take them far enough, because if they do they can get into something really good, though they could get there just as easily without them. All the other ideals that are involved in becoming God or seeing God are just more odd dreams and possible side effects of spiritual practice. I have a few friends who saw visions while on LSD in which “God” told them useful stuff, and this is fine, but this is back in the realm of the powers and has nothing to do with awakening and only a very limited amount to do with “God” in the ultimate sense.
Additional commentary on the God Models:
Bernadette Roberts is one of the best known and most accomplished of those who work in a God-based tradition, and if you are interested you should check out her stuff.