Believe It…or Not

Rock God - Photo by Frank Kovalchek

Do you believe in god?

Most people would answer with a yes or a no. My answer would be “It depends”.

“Depends on what?” You would probably again ask.

“Depends on what ‘god’ is”, I would answer.

The moment that question is asked, the one asking already assumes a certain definition of god (god is a loving creator, god is a stern judge, god is a blue-skinned woman, etc.), and he assumes that I share the same definition, which I most probably don’t.

It is like when you go to a field and see a tree, and then you tell me, “I saw a tree.” I don’t really know what you saw. I know you didn’t see dancing pigs or exploding frogs, but I don’t know EXACTLY what you saw because the word “tree” is just an abstraction of something that’s very concrete. When you say “tree” I may picture a mango tree in my mind but what you actually saw was a pine tree. In fact, we both may have pine trees in our minds but I did not see the pine tree that you saw and those are very different things.

The point is that a tree is something that is quite common that every person above the age of three probably knows, and yet, it can mean many things to many people in many different instances. If that can happen for “tree”, imagine now when you talk about “god” that people have not actually seen, heard, or touched.

What in the world (or out of this world) are you talking about when you say “god”?

People’s belief or unbelief in their concept of god is just that — a belief — a conscious choice to declare for or against something. It is something that can neither be proved or disproved. Which is why theists and atheists have been arguing (and will continue arguing) for hundreds of years without any clear resolution. It no longer is a matter of reason but of conviction, of opinion, of differing points of view.

So do I believe in god?

The most sensible answer I can think of is: “Well, I love mashed potatoes”.

What is zen?

Zen stones - Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Zen is not a religion, although it most closely follows Buddhist principles.

It is not a religion in the sense that one cannot claim to be a “zennist”. There is no formal doctrine of zen, nor is there a zen priesthood. Neither does one worship zen gods, zen masters or zen spirits.

Rather zen is an approach to life — a way of seeing — of looking beyond the illusions created by the mind, of awakening to reality, of enlightenment. And this is achieved not by a strict adherence to any dogma or set of rules, but simply by being increasingly alert and aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. The individual seeks that inner center that is unchanging and undisturbed, capable of seeing life as a mysterious and  great adventure, a grand theater, a delightful journey that has no other purpose than to enjoy and celebrate each step (or misstep) along the path.

Zen is not about emulating a messiah or a buddha. It is about becoming a buddha. It is about the full flowering of the love and compassion within all of us.

Why I Do Not Pray

Photo by Leland Francisco

I no longer pray.

At least, not in the traditional sense that people have of prayer — of verbally talking to a god, whether to ask for something or to praise or adore. Being brought up in a Christian background, I was taught that prayer is powerful and that it can move mountains. I read about great men of prayer who would spend hours on their knees each day. I learned to pray for great things and small things, for healing a relative from disease to asking for an Atari game console (my generation’s equivalent of today’s Xbox or Playstation).

Over time, I’ve had a few of my prayers were answered but many more went unanswered, and I began to ask questions. But then I was told that I had to pray “by faith”, and that prayer had to be “according to God’s will”. And then I thought, well, if it’s God’s will, why should I pray about it then? It’s going to happen anyway because, I mean, who can thwart God’s will, right? But still I was told to continue praying because God loves it when we come to him and ask in prayer.

And for a long while I just accepted that.

But then I thought, why would God want me to keep asking him for things that aren’t his will (which I only have a vague idea about)? I mean, what if I had a relative who was dying of brain cancer. And so I pray for healing. But then it is actually God’s will for this relative to pass on. Will he now change his will (as they say, his “good and perfect”  will) just to give in to my request? That would seem silly, especially since his will is already perfect. So why bother praying? Because he just wants me to ask? He wants me to keep looking and feeling like an idiot? He wants me to keep making excuses for him about why my prayer isn’t being answered?

This made me shift my attitude towards prayer, and to life. Instead of looking at life as a constant struggle between good and evil, for which I have to keep battling by praying for the good forces to win, I have come to accept life as it comes.

Everything is good, even if it doesn’t feel good at that time. The universe gives us what we need from moment to moment, and the way to live is to be grateful for each moment. Prayer is not a ritual, not a grocery list of petitions, nor fancy-sounding words of praise. The best prayer is not made with words, but in living life head-on, without regrets, always learning, always thankful.

I live — and that is all the prayer I need.

Reboot

Reboot
Photo by Kell Bailey

For the longest time, I have used zenbananas as my little repository of stories and anecdotes that have inspired me, made me think or made me wonder. Most of the material I have shared were retellings of someone else’s stories that I have made my personal stories as well. For some reason, I chose not to write in a straightforward manner as I am now.

However, as my few faithful readers may have noticed, I have hit a wall that spanned around 8 months. You may be wondering what has happened to me, whether I’m still alive or if I have taken to the mountains. The simple truth is that, well, life happened — got busy, got too lazy to write, lost inspiration, and wondering what else to do with this little blog of mine. And so like your computer does from time to time, zenbananas hanged.

So this is a reboot of sorts. In this incarnation, you’ll hear more from me in this tone. Oh, there will still be stories, quotations, posters and all of that other stuff that you enjoy. But I’ve also decided to make zenbananas my personal journal instead of just a hangout for stories. I hope to share here my dreams and my struggles as I journey through life.

To all those who have left comments in the past, I appreciate those and I thank you for taking the time write them. To those who simply enjoyed reading, thanks for enjoying my writing. Hope you will like what’s coming soon.

TopBanana