If you say that God Number One was created by God Number Two, the question remains the same: “Who created God Number Two?” You can go on and on and on. But whatever the number, the question will still remain relevant, “Who created this God?” And this is the same question from which we have started, “Who created the universe?”
So God has not been of any help. The hypothesis has not done any service. God is simply a futile hypothesis. It is just a pretension of an answer, but it is not a true answer because the question remains the same. A true answer means the question should disappear. That is the criterion.
In Buddhism there is no god. In the place of god is the ultimate awareness, the buddhahood, the buddha-nature. This is only a different language.
Now the disciples are asking: We can understand that the buddha-nature and all virtues have awareness for their root. But from where has the ignorance come in? Why in the beginning the ignorance? Why not the awareness from the very beginning? This is the same question, only a different theological framework. And any answer to it – without any exception, without knowing about it – I can say is going to be wrong.
We have simply to accept the mystery that we are born in ignorance and the possibility is intrinsic in us to dispel this ignorance and become aware. We are born in misery, but with an intrinsic potential to overcome it, to transcend it, to become blissful, to become ecstatic. We are born in death, but with the possibility of going beyond death into immortality.
But if you ask from where the death comes in, from where the ignorance comes in, from where the misery comes in, you are asking an ultimate question. There is no answer for it. It simply is the case. It is better to use Buddha’s expression, “suchness.” Such is the case.
But Bodhidharma could not say that. He started answering. The only right answer would have been, “I don’t know.” And Bodhidharma would have done a tremendous service to humanity. He missed! Whatever he is saying is very childish. It has to be very childish, because it is not possible that a man like Bodhidharma will not be aware of the fact that he does not know the answer. Nobody knows the answer. Nobody can know the answer because nobody can be before the beginning.
Just think of it for a single moment: you cannot be before the beginning. If you are before the beginning, then it is not the beginning. You are already there, so the beginning must have been before you were there. And unless somebody can be before the beginning, there is no witness who can say, “God created the world.”
Who can say from where ignorance came? All that we can say is that existence is drowned in ignorance and slowly, slowly, a few courageous beings are moving into awareness, rising above the darkness of life and attaining to the light which is eternal.
In another reference, Gautam Buddha makes it clear…although he also never recognizes at any point that it is a mystery and he doesn’t know.