The Barnes and Noble I currently sit offers little comfort my from the muscle aches and pains I endure. Literally, some days wrench my life with true exhaustion. While I am not some fanatic guided by overbearing and miserable thoughts, my wonder of the hereafter often cruise through my brain on such days. The basic question is similar to those who probably sit around me, “If there is indeed an afterlife, is it really any better? Does the sum of your days condemn one to an afterlife of pain and anguish or does a merciful God await one’s soul near life’s end?”
Would that merciful God appreciate all the deaths from Ireland’s Catholic/Protestant wars, the anguish Catholic Priests caused during sexual scandals, the genocide of Hitler, Rwanda, suicide bombers, fake evangelical television preachers and the like? Would God allow politicians utilizing demagoguery to pervert the very nature of kindness and love a wonderfully filled heaven with incense and mirth? Would God call me, the most vile of humans, to live at all?
Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn’t believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn’t think that a spirit or soul survives the body’s physical death. Profoundly, his thought is that we have a profound effect on those who live beyond us, that many of the things we now regard as worth doing would no longer seem to us worth doing. And by living beyond us, we are ensured for moments, maybe even years, that our spirit lives on.
The Rev. Gabriel Salguero suggests we as people have learned to live together, despite difference and despite our cultural backgrounds. This means that acts performed over the centuries in the name of faith (i.e., God) will become washed away. A right relationship with God here on earth, and also in eternity. So we’re going to see people from across the geographic spectrum, and across the racial/cultural spectrum, and we’ll all be one.
I am not sure if either of those perspectives would comfort any of those whom surround. Most would certainly follow those often chimed words, “Everyone wants to go to heaven – just not today!”
Truthfully speaking, here and now, I know exactly where I will end after my days close. How I know will be set for another writing. But being Buddhist, I believe what God really wants all of us to do is to develop and invest in the right relationships. For some, that may be through the Christian faith. For others Muslim. And others, leading a wonderfully beautiful atheist life. I believe any right relationship established here lasts throughout eternity.
I am befuddled by those who despise such an earth as elitism or socialism. Yet, almost to a word, that’s almost how they perceive God’s view of heaven.
But being a Buddhist, what if we built heaven now? What if we built our heaven here? What if we built a world where there’s no concept of power or money. The hungry eat, the thirsty drink, no iPhone APP, nothing to kill or hate, no one to rape or abuse. No one to politicize. No wars. No unnecessary death. All receive healthcare. All are cared?
Buddhists believe that there is a deeper, more complete understanding of reality than the one we think of and participate in every day. Having partially seen part of the next world, I can say our bodies may die, but our minds will live. Like a river running through several countries, we continually pass through one boundary into another. That river never changes.
I suggest we life heaven now. As Kevin Spacey quotes in the movie K-Pax:
“Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision, but nobody’s paid much attention to them, not even the Buddhists or the Christians. You humans. Sometimes its hard to imagine how you’ve made it this far.”
How did you make it this far?