The Common Root of Religions

Posted: 02.04.2014
Updated on: 30.07.2015

8th International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action


The Common Root of Religions

Recently I saw a boy on the street somewhere with a T-shirt saying: “Kill Religion”. I can understand why. Religions have given rise to strife, war, massacre and discrimination or at least disdain in word and thought. Today we have the terrorist problem in name of religion. In the past - let’s hope not in the future - there have been innumerable religions wars. Millions have been slaughtered, disabled, families left in disarray, children orphaned, wives widowed, not to speak of the environmental harm and the suffering among animals of which is hardly spoken in the world press. All this in name of God, the Savior, the Merciful One, the Just One, the Compassionate One. WHY? Do not all religions speak of peace, brotherhood, non-violence, non-killing, forgiveness, respect for one’s neighbors and kin?

Why did not Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad or Shankara take this human character of wanting to be better and superior than others into account? Why is Jesus the ONLY born son of God? Why did Mohammed turn against those who worship idols (in our times Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Roman Catholics and others)? Why do Mahayana Buddhists not allow one to stay in the house of a Hinayana Buddhist for more than a short time? Why did Krishna the Hindu Avatar say that all paths will ultimately lead to Him? Why did religious groups split into sects, within Islam and Christianity, Jainism and Buddhism and already in modern movements who do, at the least, refuse to talk with each other in true openness, and at worst have battled, killed and pestered each other for thousands of years?

Still, the very motivation of all true spiritual preceptors - whether Buddha and all other the earlier Buddhas, Mahavira and the earlier tirthankaras, Mohammad, Jesus and earlier prophets or saviors, Kukulcan and the other Feathered Serpents of Meso and South America, the Zoroasters of Persia, a messenger like H.P. Blavatsky and other Theosophists, the Dalai Lamas and many other great souls - was and is COMPASSION. In a Buddhist-Theosophical text known as The Voice of the Silence COMPASSION is called the LAW of Laws.

We must take in account that all these great teachers of whatever category lived in a particular time and a particular place in a particular culture. When Jesus said that he was the only born son of god, he did not mean to say that he was superior to other genuine teachers like the Buddha or Krishna, because the people in Palestine in those days had probably never heard of them. He meant, in the worldly sense, that one should recognize him as more genuine than any local priests or more or less learned but limited people. It was, among them, at that time, Jesus alone who was a true initiate and had by experience gone through all hardships and challenges humanity can possibly go, who had gone 'to the other shore' (as the Buddhists express it) of spiritual insight and life. In a still deeper sense Jesus was an avatara, i.e. the vehicle of a higher divine being than Jesus as a man. As such he was a son of man with all features that very good human being can have; but spiritually his buddhi or true spiritual intuition which transcends the speculative mind, which is faultless and which is characterized by unlimited love and compassion, self-sacrifice and justice, had awakened: his buddhi principle was the 'son of God' unborn and undying and independent on physical existence. Buddhi in turn is the vehicle of a still higher Atmic essence.
Mohammed did not mean that Muslims should violently destroy all images of other religions without distinction wherever they would encounter them, he merely meant that the people of Mecca and elsewhere should turn to pure Truth, Mercy and Forgiveness in stead of serving and fearing all kinds of local fancied deities. The One God of Islam (Allah) is the One Universal Principle for all humankind and the living Universe, not the one God excluding all others.

It seems that religions tend to prescribe and forbid too much. Orthodox religions leave no freedom. The naturally inquisitive soul - our most beautiful true nature, especially of young people and races, tends to escape from under counter-intuitive rules and suppression of natural tendencies. Or it keeps the rules, but is cunning enough to find loop ways out - such as vowing not to grasp material goods beyond a certain limit and then setting ourselves a limit that we will not reach anyway. Or by splitting the human psychology in two simple sections: the good and the bad. Of course, I (or my religion) is the good and you or yours is the bad.
True, there is the always calling and pushing tendency towards the animal nature within each of us that we still have not overcome - our body, our low social coziness and our drive to physical self-preservation, for example as contrasted with the higher, spiritual, universal and blissful nature in us: this is the very battlefield of each human and of humankind. But all of us are on that same battlefield and all of us have to make our own self-conquest - not the conquest over others.

But what we do is to judge and condemn each other, while we should regard each and all of us, including criminals as brother and sister pilgrims who fully need each other’s support and sympathy in fulfilling the difficult task of crossing the ocean of samsara.

Than would the world be better without religions? Should we all become opportunistic materialists with a humanistic morality? Would that make humans happy and self-realized? Religions, as they have been misused throughout the millennia, have ever again become sources of suppression, discrimination and suffering, fear for hell for example, for ever in eternity or at least in inestimable long time cycles, or for divine or devilish repercussions) or for horrible rebirths. Religions in practice sometimes “taught” in their days of decline indifference to others' suffering because it is their own karma - and no compassion should interfere with karma or the will of God or preordained destiny!

Then, why religion?

True religion forbids nothing. It only appeals to the higher or divine in man which is as naturally present within him as the animal. It is our life-essence, our divine essence, our true self. It is our future, whereas the animal inside us is the past. The first will ultimately lead us to superhuman happiness, the last to suffering, depression and gloom.

True modern religion EXPLAINS. It helps us to find our own Path, not by following prescriptions or by repeating dogmas, by absolutized rules and their punishments and rewards. True religion appeals to the human heart by using and exemplifying non-violence, compassion, justice, right mental disposition, by turning away, step by step if need be, from the physical and emotional animal, and from anger, hatred, passion. We must learn to recognize the true, the just, the beautiful, the compassionate, the lovable and all that is noble within ourselves and all other beings and follow that spiritual intuition as our guide - because the guide is our own essence and attractor towards a better human and ultimately post-human state.

The human soul is on a Path or Pilgrimage to godhood, or rather to recognition of one’s Self or Spiritual Essence, one’s true nature; and then self-conscious unification with his own deepest, noblest essence.

Religious preceptors always appear, teach some time, and then disappear from physical existence. According to our intellectual and intuitive understanding we can follow their advices. If they would stay and take us by the hand, how would we ever become Gods ourselves? Own learns to drive a car properly only after the driving instructor leaves us alone, isn’t it?

Different teachers seem to teach different things at different times at different places. At least, they SEEM to teach different things: either a God-the-Creator, or a divine trinity as God-the Creator, God the Sustainer and a God the Destroyer, or no God at all, or a God not outside, but as the life-essence within each of us. Some deny a Creator-God, while others say that without believing in such a God, salvation or eternal heaven is impossible. In truth, creation takes place continuously every split second within a universe which is eternal. Beginnings and ends run in long cycles within eternity. If scriptures talk about the creation of a the world or the universe, they mean only our world or universe, a great event subdivided into innumerable smaller cyclic events. There are many worlds, there have been many worlds before the creation or re-awakening under intelligent guidance of our earth or solar system or galaxy. Some religions preach one hell and one heaven, others teach a multitude or even millions of such ‘places’, or as many hells and heavens as there are conscious beings. These teachings are not contradictory - they are just different ways of efforts to teach universal truths to the people. Some call these hells and heavens and in-betweens ‘places’, others call them ‘states of consciousness’, still others say that these can not be talked about because we in our present mundane consciousness can principally not understand other states of consciousness. Though such views represent different phases of philosophical refinement of the human mind, all of them are true, but non of them are the whole truth, because the whole truth transcends the possibilities or understanding by the human discursive mind.

True religions don’t talk about concrete rewards and punishments in the here-after, but only mention that logic of karma as a way pointer to understand the relation between life before and after death. There are also those who say that death does not exist, and that all life is a continuous cycle and movement - in which we may recognize particular remarkable, but not essential, events, such as birth and death. Some teach re-embodiment or reincarnation, others don’t pay any attention to this subject openly. Some religions don’t teach karma openly, because if wrongly understood it may cause indifference towards others' suffering. Moreover karma can by a limited intelligence be interpreted in a too materialistic way, whereas in truth all subtle living forces of the inner being of conscious entities and of the planet/ solar system/ galaxy/ universe are involved in it - thus involving  the most subtle strata of divine ethics. Some do not teach reincarnation openly, because if misunderstood this may give rise to laziness or irrational fantasies depending on the intelligence of the people to whom they have to present their message. What is of importance to a true teacher is the effort to guide humankind and spiritual progress, and further the wellbeing and evolutionary progress among spiritual lines.

We need religion. Always. The human soul, when left alone, becomes confused. We lose our way. The one person would advice this, the other would advice that, but such advices can never be greater than the ‘wisdom-of-the-day’ (or ‘the stupidity-of-the-day’).

Our inner soul in its evolution does not and can not grasp anything until it asks a question from within, until it has reached that particular stage of unfolding of human consciousness.  It makes no sense to give an animal that begs for food, or a three year old child, a lesson in higher mathematics - though a few animals are, on their own level, quite curious to learn some human things. Because, to be human is THEIR future. During the progressive unfolding of the evolution of our consciousness new questions rise up from within continuously. They become our higher desires to knowledge and expression - true science and true art. Our minds at present and in our culture can understand more after ages of cultural and intellectual training than in the past. Still we on average understand but a trifle of what we once in the future will know and understand and feel. An adult can mentally understand things which  a child can impossibly understand in its infantile stage. The teachings of the gods or the prophets, messiahs, buddhas, tirthankaras or what not depart from esoteric wisdom and they translate that into suitable exoteric systems - which are, however, always but a veil behind or within which Universal Truth is hidden.

Philosophically it is unacceptable and untenable that the truly wise preceptors teach contradictions. They are omniscient, or messengers of the omniscient, who know and have experienced everything a human can experience and who have left behind mental clumsiness and delusions. If something is universally true in New Zealand, it is also true on Fiji, in Alaska, Japan or India. Humanity itself has its spectra though, and accordingly its different paths to reach Godhood - and even the gods themselves, though each of them humanly omniscient, need not at all be the same in all respects. Truth is that what we all seek, and what They have found to an immensely larger extend than average humanity has discovered at present. They all feed themselves on, or rather reflect, the same Universal Truth, which is infinite in its aspects, but One in its essence. Therefore Islam, for example, can, in its essence NOT be different from Buddhism or Jainism. In general Islam and Christianity speak more to that part of humanity and individual souls who are devotional by nature, to people who wish to be good people and serve the divine purpose. They firmly counteract the old magic practices and superstitions, relics of religions that have served their terms in the past. They emphasis Justice, Mercy, Goodness etc. Buddhism and Jainism speak more to the intellectual mind and the innate purity of heart, though devotional and also magic (lower tantric) aspects have crept in strongly at times. One needs a great deal of intellect to understand the complexities and intricacies of their teachings. Mahayana Buddhism is the only religion so far that is teaching true selflessness, the absence of an independently existing, separate ego - and thus kills philosophically, when rightly understood, every rationale for egotism. What one does to oneself, one does to all consciousness existence - doing good for others is doing good for one’s own consciousness, and causing suffering is causing suffering to all conscious being, and most emphatically to one’s own center of conscious, the place from where the bad or good impulse was caused or left unchecked, and returns.

Buddhism and Jainism teach that the soul is eternal. They reject a creator-god. But creative forces, wisdom and intelligence are constantly at work with a center of consciousness and guided by it, even if we do something like trying to compose a lecture. How otherwise could they, logically, teach a doctrine of responsible action or karma?

This is the true meaning of anekantavada or multiplicity of viewpoints or doctrines: universal truth and omniscience show themselves as diversities and differences to and through the human mind within its temporary limited scope.

The best thing we can do, as I see it, it is abandon the absoluteness of one’s own religion and direct ourselves beyond that to all things that really touch the heart, unhindered by a biased mind. That then, is the best way to grow spiritually. The true mantra to avoid religious separateness and strife is to accept and constantly remember that there is but One spiritual Sun or Heart to all existence, and that the number of Paths is as numerous as there are creatures. Every creature can strive forwards (towards divinity and selflessness) or backwards (towards separateness and selfishness) but ultimately no-one can escape the divine reality of the universe.

Theosophy teaches that to all religions - called exoteric, i.e. the religions of the eye or mind - there is (and was originally) an esoteric side, or religion of the Heart - the heart symbolizing the spiritual intuition or buddhi or ‘third eye’. This is the True Religion which can not be taught to any worldly involved mind because such mind is too polluted and confused, but can be taught only to the ethically absolutely pure mind, unbiased by preconceived beliefs, the mind as clear as a motionless lake and only involved in true philosophy - love towards wisdom.  That is where the real Life of a human being begins. In that Mind their can be no contradictions, no mistakes, even if they appear so to the ‘common’ human mind. Whatever is taught to the world - to us - is a reflection and a handout for deep contemplation, entering the teaching until one reaches its Source.

This is why all exoteric religions teach ethics, i.e. truthfulness and compassion which indeed for the Heart alone would not need further explication. Ethics is the door towards higher, inner knowledge. The mind must be pure without any connection with personal wishes - though fulfilling one’s given duty is a spiritually compulsory discipline for those who understand karma. - and step by step become more subtle and deep, more at one with the One Universal Mind or Consciousness.
Theosophy, in whatever form, may have many names and many expressions. It has always been there and will always remain, because it is Truth itself, not this or that Truth. That, no doubt, is what Kṛṣṇa meant when he said that all religious paths ultimately lead to Him alone. He did not mean that we all become Hindus, nor did Jesus mean that he himself as a person was the only true teacher, excluding all others. Jainism teaches that Rishabha, or Adinath, the first Lord or Tirthankara who lived millions of year ago, taught but one religion, but that due to limited understanding of disciples, 363 other, minor, religions came into existence. Of course each of us, also when we are Jains, are but following the derived or secondary disciplines, simply because our human mind can as yet not grasp the true esoteric religion. The true Allah has no name and can not be depicted. An idol is but a false replacement of the True - which is beyond form and name, however useful it may be for psychological and devotional reasons. No speculation is possible about the ultimate nature of true esoteric knowledge or kevalajñana.

There are often no scriptures by the hand of true teachers to our disposal. Only later disciples tried to write down their understandings and memories - but the ultimate truth can not be written because it is far beyond words - all of which are but formed by the worldly mind. Only hints can be given, and it is to each of us to qualify to enter the mandala or postpone it. Whatever one’s creed may be, it is limited. It is a first hand-out, a first arrow pointing towards the Heart, a feeble help - but every true religion - or even Nature itself - contains enough for an aspirant to prepare himself for entering the first doors of the arcanum or the mandala - the true Goal. No evolution of consciousness can be forced, as little as we can forge iron into gold by external force.
It has been and is the explicit task of the modern Theosophical effort to add some esoteric hints and thus give more depth for the intuitive and studious mind to teachings which exoterically where already extant. Theosophy is not a new religion, not a new interpretation, but is a significant handout for those who wish, for compassionate reasons among suffering humanity, to evolve and understand more, and thus acquire some ‘skillful means’ to stretch out a helping hand.

In this dark age of materialism and suffering a start can but be made by aspirants on the path to Truth. The resistances and delusions are exceedingly strong. But all of us will sooner or later wish to wade to the other shore - there where true life is.

Let us, as a summary of this lecture, remember just this: there is but one religion for humanity and all life, and many are its prophets. All of them reflect or teach an aspect, and in each aspect the imperishable diamond is hidden. Find it! We are all Brothers in the truest sense of the word.

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