Not so long ago my buddy Paul wrote and asked a pertinent
question (though I'm sure he meant it to be impertinent)
regarding the prayers that I'm saying on this trip::
"To whom are the thoughts being directed?"
Here's an edited version of my response, with a clincher at
As for "To whom are the thoughts being
directed?": Exactly. You may recall that my
philosophy is that there's something there, but
anything we say about it is merely metaphor. So it
doesn't matter if I'm directing them to the Buddhas, or the
Shinto gods, or the universe. Last night (September
14th) I more or less directed them to Lake Ashinoko.
As I mentioned in my journal
of 9/12, "I don't know if my prayers help the people I
pray for, but they definitely help me." Cultivating
a prayerful attitude improves me, whether anybody out there is
listening or not.
Jung spoke about living "as if." Does God
exist? Who knows? But living "as if" God
exists can be ennobling. (I know what you're going to
say--it can also cause war, terrorism, etc. Personally I
think people who do such things are living "as if"
God DOESN'T exist.) Is there such a thing as "true
love"? Who knows? Even though the evidence
seems to be against it, most of us live "as if" it
exists. To put it in your terms [Paul's a huge baseball
fan]: every baseball fan goes into the season "as
if" their favorite team is going to win the pennant.
As the season progresses, if this becomes unlikely, they still
keep faith to the extent that they live "as if" the
team will win today's game.
Call it faith. Call it hope. Call it
self-delusion. But whatever you call it, I think we live
richer, deeper lives because of it.
One more, merely human, result of this prayer thing: people
have been revealing to me their deepest hopes and fears.
People I've known for years, who never said much, have come to
me and told me the most amazing, heart-wrenching stories about
family problems, illness, etc. It has opened up new
dimensions in relationships that were hitherto pretty much
moribund. It has been very fulfilling.
And as I mentioned in the Sept. 10 Logbook,
even monks asked me to pray for them! Totally
Finally, a joke about who's listening:
A guy falls off a cliff and catches a bush on his way down.
He starts yelling for help, "Is anyone up there?".
After a few moments a deep voice like thunder says, "I'm
here." And the guy says, "God?" and
God answers "Yes." So the guy says "What
should I do?" and God says "Trust me. Let go
of the branch." And after a minute of thought the
guy yells "Is there anybody else up there?"
.That's the end of the letter to Pauly. Now here's the
A few days later, at Mishima Taisha (Grand Shrine) I picked
up a pamphlet that said something intriguing about the gods.
"In ancient times people looked at the beauty of
nature with admiration and held it in awe and respect.
As a result of belief in it and thanks for it, the gods of
Japan were formed in the hearts of the ancient Japanese
Oh, my gods! This major religious institution says
that the gods were created by people. Blasphemy!
Everyone knows that God created people! I'm a Western
man! This goes against everything I've been taught.
But wait. Didn't some ancient Greek say, "If
triangles had a god, he would have three sides?"
And hasn't the question long been asked: "Did God make us
in his image, or did we make God in ours?"
So the question has been on the table for quite some time.
I guess it's just the matter-of-fact way the pamphlet states
it: "So the people made up the gods." Wow.
But look again. It doesn't say "made them
up." That's a mental thing. It says they were
formed in the people's hearts. There's something
that rings true about this.