The Stonewater Zen Centre is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently meeting regularly online, please see our Online Zendo page for further details.

“I am godless, mindless and clueless” – Maurice Shokatsu George

Here are some reflections from Maurice on his perspective on faith and religion:
At the grammar school which I attended from the age of 11 to 18, every day started in the hall with a religious ceremony. We recited the Lord’s Prayer and sang a hymn. Then the head teacher gave a talk on a Christian topic. This ritual was obligatory – no-one dreamed of asking to be excused. I should add that the school was ‘non-denominational’ in theory, but not in practice. Then there were classes called ‘religious knowledge’; so I can still remember the name of Esau’s father and the geography of Israel.

I recall that during my time as a sergeant doing two years of National Service, every Sunday the whole regiment was marched to a church for a dose of religion; no-one took it seriously – it was simply a part of the scenery in those far-off and innocent days. It was unquestionable. Of course, we all knew that Yahweh created the seven-day week and declared that every shop had to close on Sunday, the seventh day.

It was only later that I realised that this brainwashing had had no effect at all. I was not a Christian or any other kind of believer. I never prayed, read the bible, attended any god-oriented events except funerals. I am godless and aimless. I certainly do not believe in any kind of god.

I don’t want to disparage any other faith or belief system. Nor do I feel the need to proselytise or claim that my faith is better than anyone else’s. So why do I follow the Buddhist Path rather than another? This implies that it’s the only believable one. And of course new religions may arise. I’m going round in circles. This is fruitless so I won’t say any more.

I’m not tempted by metaphysics: the Buddha warned us against it : ‘In the seen, only the seen; in the heard, only the heard; in the cognised, only the cognised’. But there’s at least one Buddhist tradition which states that every object in the world has a consciousness : every stone, tree, dog, every sentient being – everything. This is very similar to another recent strand in the search for an explanation of consciousness : panpsychism.

This means, roughly, that everything everywhere has consciousness; this is not the same as saying that everything is alive, obviously. To understand this, we have to go down to the sub-atomic level of electrons, protons, positrons and so on. We’ve learnt that all matter is composed of atoms which are in constant motion. This includes organic matter like our brains as well as stones and all non-organic material in the whole universe. It would be rash to claim, therefore, that only organic matter can generate consciousness. (Let’s leave Quantum Theory out of this.)

Even further into the jungle of my mind, there are cosmopsychists who claim that consciousness is simply an inherent characteristic of the universe…

I don’t wish to boast but I’m very well educated: O-level, A-level, B.A. Oxford U., Postgrad London U. etc. But that doesn’t alter the fact that I’m clueless. Who am I? Why am I here? Where is ‘here’? What’s the point? Is there a point? Why am I writing this? Who are you? What will happen next? When is ‘now’? Why is the answer 42?

We talk about ‘existential’. Wikipedia tells us ‘While the predominant value of existentialist thought is acknowledged to be freedom, its primary virtue is authenticity. In the view of the existentialist, the individual’s starting point is characterized by a sense of disorientation, confusion, or dread in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.’  but that doesn’t answer my questions. Any suggestions please?

Finally, I come to aimlessness. Some people set themselves a whole programme of life aims and set out to achieve them. This is fine for anyone who has enough experience of life to know where they’re going. But a premature set of aims may mislead and frustrate. I have no desire to suggest what might suit you. I only know that I’ve lived all my life with no aims or objectives. I’m happy and well.