A glimpse into the culture:
Let us take a moment to understand why this question is asked often. Swami Vivekananda said, “Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose the path that suits him best”. In fact, in his speech at the parliament of world religions in 1893, he said, “Whosoever comes to me (Krishna), through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me (Krishna)”. The point being, there is only one God, but many ways to get to God. (according to Swami Vivekananda)
I believe he was quoting from the Gita 18:66 “Sarva-dharman parityajya mam EKAM saranam vrajaí. .”
The word for word translation is; Sarva-dharman = all religions; Parityajya abandoning; Mam = unto me (Krishna). Ekam = ONLY; Saranam = surrender; Vraja = go;
On close observation, we notice that Swami Vivekananda has his emphasis on Sarva-dharmaní (all religions) and has omitted the word ekam (ONLY). Several popular scholars and teachers have gravitated towards this type of thinking. We often hear statements like, “All rivers flow into the ocean, so all the religions are different paths to the same God” Or the famous story of the “Six blind men and the elephant”.
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, summarizes this sort of thinking, “Mankind stems from one origin from which it has figured out many forms. It’s now striving towards reconciliation of that which has split up”. In a world that is downplaying exclusivity, even in its own original teachings (like the omission of ONLY); making an exclusive statement definitely appears intolerant and even foreign.
There has been so much bloodshed and distress over differences in religions that there is a great outcry when an attempt is made to differentiate between them. The sad part about all this desire to remain non-exclusive is that somehow we have lost the true meaning of God. We have made a human version of god, defined according to our thinking.
Truth be said, God is the ultimate reality. We cannot confine God by our definition. God remains God despite our lack of understanding. The rest of the article will be focused on trying to re-discover some aspects of God using the God-given ability to reason.
The idea of exclusivity itself is not foreign to our culture, but it has become foreign when it is applied to religion. A simple example of an exclusive claim is; “I have only one biological mother”. No one else can claim that they are my biological mother, except for my own mother. If ten people came and said that they are my mother, I might have to resort to some sort of reasoning/testing, perhaps DNA testing to know who my TRUE (exclusive) mother is. Of course, foster parents can express sincere love, but no one gave birth to me except my mother. I have stretched this to lay the groundwork for the next statement.
Using the same type of analogy; God is our Creator, no one else can claim to be our creator. If there are several entities that lay claim to being God, I have to resort to some sort of reasoning to get some clarification. I don’t presume I can get far enough to prove my point, I leave that to God. But we can definitely use common sense guiding principles to gain a better understanding of what the right way should look like. I understand that this is against the prevailing thoughts in our culture. So, please tolerate me, I am being different.
So let’s begin
In the interest of keeping this short, I am just going to take two out of many principles to establish a position. I am hoping that they are reasonable principles to examine the known ways to God. The reader is free to evaluate any of their ways by these standards and come to their own conclusions. The guiding principles I will be using are:
- The approach to God should not compromise universal Dharma
- The vehicle used, should have the uncompromising moral strength to sustain the journey to God.
Letís expand of them.
1. The Dharma Factor:
In order for any of the ways to be viable, it has to sustain universal Dharma no matter what the cost is. The unwritten law of Dharma cannot be broken. For example; when evil actions occur, Dharma temporarily seems to get compromised. But ultimately Dharma’s will be restitution is certain. I think most of us should be able to believe that.
Let’s pick a well-known story to illustrate how even a human at times desires to uphold the uncompromising principles of Dharma.
One of the Chola kings was Manu-niti-kandaí (keeper of Manu Dharma) was known for his exemplary demonstration of justice. According to the story; the great impartial Chola king had a sincere desire to exercise and uphold justice even at the expense of personal loss. He wanted to ensure that every commoner in his kingdom had equal access to call upon him to exercise his impartial justice. So he hung a bell in his courtyard that was accessible to anyone. On one occasion, a cow is said to have rung this bell to seek justice. The great king’s son had run over the calf and the cow was seeking justice for the loss of its offspring. The king responded impartially and ordered the chariot to run over his son to compensate for the adharma (unfairness) against the cow. When no one dared to execute the prince, according to the story the king took it upon himself to carry out the action.
I personally think that the punishment overcompensated for the loss, as loss of an animal’s life, though tragic does not demand human life. However, the story is remembered for the king’s zeal to keep Dharma even at the expense of losing his son.
If a human king has that much zeal to restore Dharma for carelessness, can we even imagine the extent God, the King of Dharma will go, to ensure that Dharma is restored. Since God is the founder and establish-er of Dharma, would God be able to accept a way where Dharma is compromised?
Since God upholds Dharma, God is able to judge all our actions; even the secret ones. Further, God is acutely aware of even our secret thoughts. In front of such an omniscient God, which human in the right mind can claim that they are pure and have never compromised Dharma even in their thought life? Even our conscience knows that some of our distortions in this life are premeditated. So, if Dharma has to be upheld on our own merits, can anyone of us with a clear conscience claim that we deserve salvation? Even simple distortions like an exaggeration (lying) have serious consequences.
Since we don’t even have the awareness to assess our level of imperfection, how can we even know how much prayaschit (compensation) is required? So, no matter how ingenious and brilliant our ways are, ways devised by humans are not even capable of grasping the depth of restitution required for our own transgressions. How can we even be sure that the man-made prayaschit can satisfy the Dharma of God?
If God were simply the keeper of the universal principle of Dharma, despite the fact that we are God’s offspring, we ought to be run over for our own Karma. God cannot let Adharma go uncompensated.
But God is more than just a judge. God knows that we are incapable of bearing the true praischit that is required for restitution. So out of Krupa (kindness) for us, God came as Yeshu or Jesus to pay for all our Karma. Yes, God has chosen to bear our punishment. God became human (Jesus) to die for our Karma. Can we mere mortals think of any other form of prayaschit that is better than that?
No matter how ingenious and brilliant the ways are; ways that do not honor this principle cannot be from God. But let’s go a step further. How can ways that diminish this principle be true if they dishonor what God stands for? Yet many of our new age teachers teach this. People settle for some form of enlightenment or peace etc, but ignore the fact that Dharma is diminished. If you feel you are considering ways that disregard Dharma, please start using your God-given conscience and ask serious questions.
2. The vehicle’s capability (persistent moral strength):
This is the part that most of us ignore. The vehicle is key in the journey. No matter how good the road is, if the vehicle is not worthy of the journey, we cannot be certain about reaching the destination.
When we study the life of our noble Rishis (sages) or individuals like Yudishtra, Mahaveer, Buddha or even recent spiritual giants like; Mahatma Gandhi, Ramakrishna Parahamsha, Swami Vivekananda, etc. We cannot miss the extraordinary moral strength and character they possess. Honestly speaking if we have to make any progress spiritually we have to possess the serious desire and persistent moral strength to carry out the journey. Spiritual growth is deliberate and needs constant nurturing. The drive should be persistent enough to keep us all the way until we reach God. Adi Shankara in his famous devotional Baja Govindamí, emphasizes this sort of persistence. Now the question is, are you and I that persistent? Are we able to constantly stay connected with God? Even when we study the spiritual giants (they are the best among us), even they would admit they do not have such persistence. Human frailty has caused them to fail at times. So if we are to trust in our own strength we are bound to fail. So, if we ourselves are the vehicle, we cannot be assured of reaching the destination.
Fortunately, what is humanly impossible is possible for God. God does this by becoming the vehicle for us. When we believe in God’s provision (Jesus’s death for our Karma, paid in full) God is able to impart His Spirit, to come and live in us. Now the Spirit takes up the responsibility to help us finish this journey while we are still in the body. In fact, we in Yeshu Samaj often refer to the indwelling Spirit as internal Guru. When God becomes the vehicle, our responsibility is to simply trust in God’s capacity to keep us safe through the journey.
God not alone showed the way, and become our prayaschit. God also became the means (vehicle) for us to connect with God. Without procrastination, please take time to make your own assessment.
If we take all the known ways and classify them based on these two points alone, I think they will fall in one of the two; Category 1: Our way (dependent on human effort, a vehicle not worthy of the journey) or Category 2: God’s way (dependent on God’s effort, a reliable vehicle that will reach the destination). Even though we have many paths, there are only 2 different vehicles to choose from. We simply have to determine which type is best suited for finite human beings like us.
Oh! There is so much more I can write about this journey Yeshu has chosen for us. If you have the ‘Ear to Hear’ and have heard this with faith, with the confidence you can invite Jesus to come and live with you today and experience the new beginning. Since God knows even our deepest thoughts, you can sincerely utter a prayer like this in your, ‘Jesus, thank you for all you have done. I surrender my life to you, please come and live in me’. We know that God will respond to a sincere request like that. So, if you earnestly requested that of Jesus, the new life has begun in you. You will begin experiencing the joy and transformation Jesus promises.
If you want to discuss this further please write to us to let us know how we can be of help.