The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky as a Spiritual Tool, Part 2 of 5
Despite what conventional scientists might assert, the question of the existence of God is not dead. The human race, as it exists today, is still deeply affected and directed by how we ask and answer the question of whether or not God exists. Despite the scientific revolution, every individual human asks and answers the question of God in his or her own way and there are many models, called religions, that can be followed in the process of the answering.
Science is the guiding and structuring principle for modern society but its attempts to deny the existence of God are not accepted by a large portion of the human population and its attempts are not deeply investigated by many of the humans that do accept it. The end result is that the question of whether or not God exists is a live one for every human, no matter how they are currently asking and answering it.
The fact that there are so many different religions answering this question in different ways testifies to the difficulties inherent in even asking the question of God. Unfortunately, it is easier to pretend that it is not a relevant issue to you or to just blindly accept one religion’s version of the answer than to personally wrestle with the question itself. Even many of today’s “spiritually” oriented people have yet to get into the ring and really fight to determine how they truly feel about the question of God. That is why I feel that Dostoevsky’s treatment of this question within his novel “The Brothers Karamazov” is so valuable. It frames the question in a way that everyone can relate to and leaves the answer open to the reader.
What is needed in order to answer the question of God is actually not the answer but a well-worded version of the question; that is, we need to ask the question in a way that unlocks all of our feelings. What Dostoevsky does so well is to give a voice to some of the deeper feelings that lay hidden within all of us and are secretly driving our stance on the issue.
The Buddha taught that asking the question of God is not the goal but is actually a distraction to the natural process of receiving the answer. He taught that the most important thing is finding the right method that will prepare ourselves to receive the answer when it comes. Dostoevsky’s words do a lot to help us with the first part of the Buddha’s recommendations. We need to get clarity on the question itself in order to truly see how complicated, difficult and important the question is. Only then will we be motivated enough in order to engage the practices that will prepare us to receive the answer. Otherwise we may live most of our lives pretending that we don’t care about the question or pretending that a religion can provide the answer without any effort on our part.
In my last blog entry I recommended you read the two chapters entitled “Rebellion” and then “The Grand Inquisitor” from Dostoevsky’s novel. “Rebellion” deals with the question of the existence of God and then the “Grand Inquisitor” deals with the question of religion as a pre-formulated way of approaching the answer. In the next 2 blog entries I will discuss “Rebellion” and “Grand Inquisitor” individually.
For now I hope I have made my point that no one can escape the bite of this question and the confusion that can come from the wide variety of pre-formulated ways available to avoid its consideration. Not even the most atheistic scientist is living a life free from the influence of the deep feelings we all hold around this question. It is one thing not to believe in God but another to be free of the anger that results from consideration of the circumstances of life and death. We cannot separate the quest for happiness from the question of God because it is impossible to obtain a lasting happiness within an existence that is fundamentally unfair and unjust. As you will read within “Rebellion” it is our basic human nature to reject even the possibility of happiness if it rests upon the existence of injustice and unfair cruelty. This is the issue I will examine with Dostoevsky’s help in my next blog entry.