All is Buddha & Buddha is All

One of the tensions with which I continually struggle is trying to reconcile two ideas, both of which I believe to be true, and yet seem contradictory.

Buddhists will say "All is Buddha, Buddha is all." Does that mean that rape and murder and torture are Buddha??! And many theists will say, "EVERYTHING that exists exists only because of God. Otoh, we want to say that God is GOOD." Again, does this mean that rape and murder and torture are good? If not, why does a good God allow bad things?

Can something - whether "Buddha" or "God" - be both "everything" and also only "good"?

The response I've often heard from practitioners of the Eastern traditions is that "good" and "bad" are only concepts created by the mind and have no reality otherwise. I accept that in theory. But in practice I don't accept that this means it's all the same. I don't think that the Buddha was saying that it's all the same. If he believed that, why would he bother to teach us the Dharma? Suffering is real. Intentionally causing suffering and intentionally relieving suffering are NOT the same. Even if ultimately good and bad are only concepts, there is a usefulness to these concepts in identifying what is the ideal and what is not.

So we are still left with the conundrum, if Buddha/God/the Ultimate is EVERYTHING, is It also those things from which we seek to deliver ourselves/society? How can Buddha/God/the Ultimate be both EVERYTHING and the IDEAL?

Another response I often hear is that goodness is like light and evil is like darkness. Both must be in balance with each other. Does that mean that there must always be evil? What implications does that have for social justice? Should we all just give up now?

Long ago a professor, William Chittick, tried to explain to me that it's a mistake to equate goodness with light and evil with dark. I believed him but didn't fully understand why until now.

Light isn't "goodness" and dark isn't "evil." We don't want 100% light all the time, or if we do we are sorely mistaken. (Anyone out there seen Insomnia?) What we actually want is for it to be light when we need it to be light and dark when we need it to be dark. We want the correct balance between light and dark.

What we call "goodness" is that balance, whereas what we call "evil" is the lack of balance. I can affirm then, that the universe is basically and inherently good. In the grand scheme of things, the Universe is always balanced. But it can become unbalanced locally and temporarily. And we can work to balance it again. It does matter what we do.

So.... all is indeed Buddha, and Buddha is the ideal. Both are true.

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