Buddhism - "So, Who is Your God?"

by Florence Baingana, The Monitor (Uganda), April 27, 2008

Kampala, Uganda -- I get asked this question so often, every time I mention that I am a Buddhist..."So, who is your God, who controls all aspects of your life?" Coming from a Christian background, I do understand where the question is coming from, but having practiced Buddhism for 14 years now, I no longer find it strange to say, "I am responsible for all that happens in my life, I am God, if you will". This is almost like blasphemy to some, but not to me.

So I decided to write an occasional piece that answers some of the frequently asked questions. I hope it will also stimulate a discussion; dialogue is a big thing in the Buddhism that I practice. So, I do not have a God who is external to me; the God-nature, or 'Buddhahood', is within me, and within all living beings.

For those of us who practice it, we know we are Buddhas, but for most other people in Uganda, those who have not met Buddhism or who choose not to practice, they are inherently Buddhas.

That is, every single person has this potential within them, and so every single person must be treated with the utmost respect.

One aspect about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin that can be taken as an overarching guiding principle, that can be equated to who has oversight in what we do on a minute to minute basis, is the law of cause and effect.

A synopsis of this law is that for anything that you think, say, or do, its 'cause', will have an 'effect'. So, if I think, say, or do a positive thing, it will have a positive effect and if I think, say or do something negative, then it will have a negative effect. Once one internalises this, it makes it so much easier to determine what is right and what is wrong, how I should act in this or that situation. If I do something that is likely to harm another human being, then I know for sure that it will have negative repercussions in my own life.

In whatever situation, when I may feel I have been wronged and the urge is for revenge, the important thing to remember is that the other person is responsible for the things they think, say or do and so the law will take care of things. This Law is universal, just like gravity, so it works, whether you are Buddhist or not. Let me give an example; let us say I am in a que at the bank and someone cuts in. My first reaction is to push in ahead of them, begin a physical struggle/fight, but after 14 years of practice, and on a good day, I will quietly chant/pray for their happiness. If they are happier, they do not push in, do not cause others pain, so other people will eventually not have to deal with this behaviour.

However, for today, they will inevitably have to deal with the negative cause they will have created, that will inevitably have negative effects. I do not have to create a negative cause in my life by doing something hurtful to them. This is what makes me the overall controller of my life, I have the will to determine the quality of my life, whether good or bad, happy or sad, fulfilled or bitter; I am God in this sense. We say that one has to look at the causes one is making today, to know what sort of future you will have.

I will wait for questions and hope that this will grow into a discussion where we will all come to appreciate how to live lives that contribute to peace and happiness for all, through whatever spiritual path we choose to follow. Regular Buddhist meetings are held in Entebbe at 11.00am every Saturday morning, and in Kampala and Jinja most weekends.