There are enigmatic questions in life that we are hard-put to find answers to. They touch on philosophical, spiritual and psychological themes that bring up fundamental questions about meaning, which, I am sure, at some point in our lives, we dared ask.
We asked with great earnestness but we never got definite, authoritative answers that should keep us quiet and content forever. We probably never will. And the answers we get seem to change over time, or perhaps it is our understanding that changes. I am not sure.
I have been asked many times what I think are the answers to some of the hard questions in life. By attempting to answer them, I know I will end up baring my spiritual soul and also my biases. I also run the risk of ticking off some readers who might find my views fit for burning.
So, dear reader, please remember that these thoughts are mine and I am in no way imposing them on anyone. And they are my answers, for now. You can stop reading now if you do not wish to be disturbed or challenged on this beautiful Sunday.
1) Is there a God?
I do not wish to answer this with anything I have learned in school or from any book I have read. I have always looked at this question as something that can’t be answered by cut-and-dried dogma. When I was younger, I was content to accept the Church’s teachings without question. But growing up makes one discover things for oneself.
I now feel that my honest answer can only come from direct experiences I have had with this question. These are the fleeting moments when I felt or intuited the answer.
Have I stayed up at night troubled, abandoned, desperate and feeling like there is no one out there listening? Yes, I have. So did I sense a God during those moments? There were times I did and there were times I did not. But when I did, it felt like a presence of love that wrapped me close and assured me that everything would be all right.
I have had more experiences in the past 15 years where I felt the intense presence of every living thing radiating in unity. Beyond everything resides a Great Unseen. During moments of what seem like True Seeing, I would sense the presence of something I wish to call God, in a blade of grass, a block of stone, the whispering wind, a person passing by. I would feel the perfect presence of the world just as it is, with its joys and sorrows, and I would be enveloped in an extremely sacred and complete experience of what I call God.
I am everything and everything is inside of me. And I have had that feeling of being wide-awake with the wonderful certainty that there is nothing at all, that is not God. The sacred, the profane, the paradox, the uncertainty — all of life itself is God manifesting.
I have had two kinds of experiences with God — a personal one and a transpersonal one. This personal God I know and understand is Someone who helps me get what I want and need. It gives me the support I need to tide me over. It gives me my “daily bread.” My personal God is a salvific God.
My transpersonal experience of God, however, is something else. This God appears when “no one is home,” meaning, my ego or “self” is not trying to run the show that is my life. I slip into a state where an experience of total presence of God happens. I am “lost” yet “found” in the Oneness, in the ever-present scheme of things that plays out in life.
Everything is sacred, including what seems profane. God’s hand is everywhere. A common thread that runs between my two types of experiences of God is that in both the personal and transpersonal, God is expansive and loving.
2) Is there an afterlife?
Religion will tell us there is, but some scientists will argue that there is no proof of life after death at the moment. But I have had glimpses of timelessness and eternity, ironically within the field of time and space called the here and now which is ever fleeting. And each time I do, I sense a consciousness that has no beginning and no end. I feel quite strongly that my own consciousness is a mere satellite of something infinitely bigger that has always been there and always will. I am certain it will overcome death, and my own consciousness will return and fuse with the Source, like a drop of water returning to the ocean.
3) Is there a hell?
I cannot believe there is a hell, at least not one where our souls will go to rot as punishment for being bad. If there is a heaven, I believe we will all end up there due to God’s unconditional love. “Unconditional” means without conditions. What is unconditional love if it means you have to be good or believe certain things or be subscribed to a certain religion to get to God? It’s a contradiction.
God is Love. That’s what I understand. And yes, we choose love mostly, or try to choose it because it is our nature to do so. We are impelled towards it. When we choose otherwise, we act contrary to our nature, brought about by self-will.
But yes, I believe there is a hell, and we create it here on earth with our choices, both conscious and unconscious. These choices are the fear-based ones that do not open us to greater love but constrict us for fear of being rejected.
This hell on earth ends when we die.
4) So why are we here? What, then, is the meaning of life?
The meaning of life is up to us to define. For some it can mean to build a career, to love, to amass wealth, power, etc. To me, the meaning of life keeps changing. There was a time when it meant work, family, etc. I used to think the meaning of life was to change the world into some ideal place. I still do sometimes. This is a lingering theme in my life.
These days, I think the meaning of life can be found in awakening to the “is-ness” of things, and grasping the truth of the world without the confusing artifice of intellectualism or any imposed standard of correctness, but simply opening up to it with fresh intuition and senses, as simply as one can. It’s like the way the little boy in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” saw through the clutter of hypocrisy. Only a “beginner’s mind” (to borrow Roshi Suzuki’s term) can be as fresh and as direct as that.
This tells me that we should probably cut through the B.S. and get to the creative power we all have, the original blessing we were all born with.
Therein, methinks, lies the mother lode of meanings.
So why are we here? It is simply to experience and be One with the great wonder, love and power of the Spirit behind all of life, and carry it with us in our every waking moment.