Sunday, May 14, 2006

Universal Religions?....

Of late I've had a few thoughts on the nature of religions and their various claims to truth. All the major religions of the religion all assert that their religion is the exclusive possessor of the truth and thereby understanding of the true reality. They furthermore assert that their faith is the universal faith, that the Divine spoke to their people and to their people alone espoused the truth. Now, lets try and examine this claim. So in essence, the one supreme all powerful all knowing Being who is the foundation of all existence chose such and such people in all the universe/s to the exclusion of others to know and propound the truth? There is a certain level of hubris and irrationality to such a view.

Let's try and take Christianity and Judaism and see how this idea above is exemplified in it. According to Christianity and Judaism (here i'm refering to almost all branchs of Christianity including catholicism and orthodox), God created the universe and chose out of the infinite number of universes and planets to build a special relationship with one group of people and they are considered the chosen people, favored by God. Given the vastness of existence/universe, it flys in the face of logic, probability and the idea of a universal Supreme Being to behave in such a manner. In otherwords, all other peoples and beings in the universe are conversely not the chosen people and as such they are denied entry into the kingdom of God.

Considering the role of Jesus in Christianity makes the universality of Christianity even harder to accept. If you can only get to the Father through Jesus then what happens to all the people in the world who haven't heard of jesus? The church takes the stance that people before Jesus will be judged by their hearts and deeds but people after Jesus must accept Him in order to be granted the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. The true key to a universal religion is that it must be universal, surprising? Any person anywhere should have a chance at having access to the Divine in order for the religion to be universal. An hypothetical alien on the other side of the universe must be able to gain that divine access if the religion is to be considered universal. Such isn't the case with Christianity, Islam and Judaism because they are throughly dependant upon the history and personalities (Jesus, Mohammed and Moses) that were born on this earth in a specific time and culture.

This begs the question if a faith isn't universal then can it accurately present the truth and can it have the true understanding of reality? I think the answer is no, a claim that involves a universal truth such as the nature of reality or God must necessarily not be limited by time, location or people. What was true at the beginning must also be true in the middle and the end. What is true to earth must be true to the rest of the cosmos. This is why science is accorded the status of a universal method of reasoning because it establishes rules/principles that govern the natural world. The principles that are true for earth are true for mars, or any other planet in the universe.

Hinduism and Buddhism would be more universal faiths in that regard because their history, personalities or culture don't limit their view of reality and the Divine. Krishna and Buddha are the two personality associated with the respective faiths. The difference between these two personalities and the above mentioned ones are that Krishna and Buddha did not require others to accept their divinity or status to have a connection to the divine. Krishna says unequivocally in the Gita that however anyone worships the Divine (Krishna claims to be that Divine Supreme Being) in that same way the Divine will appear before them. In essence, Krishna even affirms the perceptions of divinity that Christianity, Islam and Judaism because he states that he is the source of all divinity and as such appears in an infinite number of manners based upon the experiencer. Buddha is different because he isn't concerned so much with the theological and metaphysical views of the universe but is more concerned with the way to end suffering. As such he approaches divinity as freedom from suffering and bondage of dualities. This is the same goal in Hindu thought freedom from what is known as samsara or the cycle of bondage/ignorance. The goal isn't salvation from sin but the goal is knowledge and through knowledge the intuitive understanding of reality which will free one from the perspective of mundane existence.

This is not to say that Hinduism and Buddhism do not have religious experiences to them. They have very strong religious experiences such as worship and prayers to various divinities. Hinduism has strong adherence to the Vedas or Puranas or Agamas. The Vedas are considered apaurushya or "unauthored by man". They are considered the very breath of the Supreme because within them is considered to contain the understanding of reality. They are not dictated by God but are viewed to have been the eternal truths experienced by ancient seers, who in deep commune with the Universe experiences these truths. Furthermore, the Vedas themselves say that they can only give one an outline of reality because reality is beyond words and language.

The difference is that both Hinduism and Buddhism recognize that there are infinite paths to the same location and the paths are based upon the capabilities and inclincations of the individuals. In other words, revelation is not limited a specific people or accepting a specific set of beliefs or specific time or place. An alien outside the milky way galaxy can gain the same insight as someone from our own world whether or not he knows of or accepts Krishna or Buddha or any of the other personalities or divinities accepted by Hindus or Buddhists. For in Hindu or Buddhist thought does not require such acceptance. In other words, FREE YOUR MIND and allow it to inquire and question existence, find your kernel of truth but know its only a part of the truth. Even if there is an objective external reality or truth outside of us, we will never know it if we continue to stay confined to our specific perspective.

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