Dear Doctor Trinh,
I have not (yet) taken refuge, although I recognize the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, etc. Something is holding me back... I can't detach myself from the idea of a creator God, at least of a force, of an original energy, of the One, in short, something and maybe even THE one and only thing that does not fall under the principle of impermanence. Another thing, the individual soul which would not exist, it is difficult to conceive… Thank you in advance.
Doctor Dinh Hy Trinh: Dear Laurent,
I understand very well your questions, your doubts, which are shared by many Westerners who have approached Buddhism.
It would take too long to develop here the Buddhist points of view (because there are several) on the notion of God or the Absolute, on the self or the individual soul, etc.
I would just like to tell you that everything depends on you, that is, on your practical attitude towards God (or the One, the Eternal Absolute).
If you are content to think that he exists, that he created the universe, that he permeates everything, that he is everything, that he is eternal, immutable... And that you yourself live according to the precepts of the Buddha, training your mind to get rid of afflictions, defilements, being responsible for yourself, never asking God for anything, then you are already a Buddhist. This does not contradict Buddhism in any way, as Gautama Buddha never spoke of God, he never affirmed or denied his existence, or he simply dismissed all metaphysical questions he deemed unnecessary.
On the other hand, if you believe in God and you ask him, through prayer, that he brings you everything you desire, and that after your death he welcomes you into his world, then we can say that you are not a Buddhist, because you have not deeply understood - even if you know them - the teachings of the Buddha, that is to say the 3 characteristics, the 4 truths, the eightfold path and the conditioned co-production.
You see, I didn't answer your question. It's up to you to answer.
Dr Dinh Hy Trinh