Viewpoint for Tuesday — November 22, 2005

• Forget theories, arguments and focus on salvation


Forget theories, arguments and focus on salvation

By Colleen Toyama

K.Sri Dhammanand could’ve been writing to the Forum when he wrote in his book “What Buddhists Believe:”

“As to the question how all beings came into existence without a first cause, the Buddhist’s reply is that there is no answer because the question itself is merely a product of man’s limited comprehension. If we can understand the nature of time and relativity, we must see that there could not have been any beginning. It can only be pointed out that all the usual answers to the question are fundamentally defective. If it is assumed that for a thing to exist, it must have had a creator who existed before it, it follows logically that the creator himself must have had a creator, and so on back to infinity. On the other hand, if the creator could exist without a prior cause in the form of another creator, the whole argument falls to the ground. The theory of a creator does not solve any problems, it only complicates the existing ones.

“Thus Buddhism does not pay much attention to theories and beliefs about the origin of the world. Whether the world was created by a god or it came into existence by itself makes little difference to Buddhists. Whether the world is finite or infinite also makes little difference to Buddhists. Instead of following this line of theoretical speculations, the Buddha advises people to work hard to find their own salvation.

“Scientists have discovered many causes which are responsible for the existence of life, plants, planets, elements and other energies. But it is impossible for anyone to find out any particular first cause for their existence. If they go on searching for the first cause of any existing life or thing, they point certain causes as the main cause but that never becomes the first cause. In the process of searching for the first cause one after the other, they will come back to the place where they were. This is because, cause becomes the effect and the next moment that effect becomes the cause to produce another effect. That is what the Buddha says, ‘It is incomprehensible and the universe is beginningless.'”

This is what bothers me regarding this issue of teaching “Intelligent Design” alongside the evolution theory in public schools: Having grown up as a Buddhist in this Christian nation, I can attest to the fact that despite Creationism NOT being taught to me in school, I somehow have knowledge of this theory — not to mention of countless other Christian beliefs — because Christianity is so pervasive in our society. Yet some Christian fundamentalists are not satisfied. They are the most vocal as though their religion needs MORE representation in our already Christian-influenced society. Non-Christians in the U.S. know MUCH more about Christianity than the Christians know about non-Christian religions.

I understand that “Intelligent Design” is not necessarily teaching “Creationism”, but the consensus seems to be that ID is just a more politically correct way of promoting the Creation theory. Whatever you label it, I don’t believe it should be given space in any class except one teaching religion. If it is taught in science class, I think we’d better start examining every existing religion’s creation theory. There may be one with “Unintelligent Design” or what about humans coming from a galaxy far far away? It’s endless. At most, when discussing Evolution in science class, teachers should point out any gaps in it that have not been yet proven.

Of special note from the excerpt above is the advice that instead of spending time theorizing (and arguing), we should spend time working on our salvation. God knows (an expression I learned) we have a lot of saving to do: our earthly environment, the health of humankind, and our very souls.

  • Colleen Toyama is a Kapa’a resident
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