An objective analysis of all great religions reveals that Christianity and Islam are the most aggressive about proclaiming their faith as the Only Way to salvation. The Christians insist Jesus is the Messiah and Moslems insist Muhammad is the prophet. Other religions have their respective avatars, incarnations and exalted teachers, but historically, the reputation of other faiths has not been anywhere nearly as imperialistic, intolerant, extreme, or self-righteous as Christianity and
[A guest editorial from the Ojai Valley News, March 8, 2002]
The recent horrors perpetrated by fanatical Moslems have helped some introspective Christians understand how the indigenous people of the Americas must’ve felt under the crushing force of the Spanish Conquistadors. One does not need to go to Sunday school to grasp how outrageous it is for any faith to use politics, economics and especially violence, for the purpose of coercing others to their religious allegiance! The fact that Catholic Dominicans forgot the injunction, “Love Thy Neighbor” and blessed the genocide of the Mayan civilization “… in the name of Christ” does not go unnoticed by intelligent individuals striving to comprehend the atrocities committed by huge factions of the Christian faith.
Disgraceful behavior is not only a moral travesty, but it is also psychologically irresponsible and spiritually bankrupt. It is therefore quite understandable why educated people would be reticent to participate in anything that appears even slightly similar to the religious dogma that fuels unprovoked assaults against humanity. Those who reason this way often adopt alternative philosophies, beliefs or doctrines and, in doing so, avoid the litany of rationalizations that Christians and Moslems must use to assuage why their faith invalidates other pious traditions.
The faux pas of poorly reposed faith leads some to non-denominational fellowships that honor the canon of goodness consistent among all faiths. Although this path is an improvement for those serious about living a consciously responsible life it quickly loses its luster for the astute. The flaw here is the erroneous suggestion that “All religions teach the same thing.” This is an absurd myth but it satisfies the spiritual yearning of those who do not want to take the time to understand how various religions differ. Those who do so carefully often find themselves facing the Far East.
One important reason why people become attracted to the traditions of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism is because these religions are based on “ahimsa” which is Sanskrit for “non-violence.” Those who are repulsed by the numerous bloodbaths that have repeatedly disgraced Christianity and Islam find that these faiths have had a much better track record when it comes to actually demonstrating compassion and reverence for all life. However, the atheistic foundation they also sit upon is a hard pill to swallow for the active soul that craves a tangible relationship with a personal God.
This brings us to the “Science of Self Realization” clearly explained in the Vedas from ancient India. Like the Buddhists, the Vedantists do not feel compelled to impose their traditions on people from other nations, however, they are divided into two fundamentally different schools.
The Advaita Vedantists teach that the only reality is “Brahman,” which can be understood as the ubiquitous cosmic energy underlining, coordinating, and animating everything. This also happens to be the origin of the solipsism that migrated to the Orient and emerged as Buddhism. It becomes more evident when one understands that Advaita literally means “non-dual.” Those who accept this interpretation insist that there is no individuality and no God. They contend that both of these things are manifestations of man’s creative imagination, illusionary and merely permutations of the “one” Brahman.
The more philosophically consistent interpretation of the Vedas however, confirms that we are eternally unique and so is God who resides on the other side of Brahman and is the origin of it! Unfortunately, poorly informed ministers who have little or no understanding of Vedanta, have misled many to think, “Hindus” believe in “many Gods.” They fail to appreciate that what Christians refer to as “divine angels,” the Vedas call “demi-gods.” Those sacred texts clearly explain that these celestial managers are always subordinate to the one supreme personality of Godhead! None-the-less bigoted people, who prefer to divide instead of promote understanding, like to espouse this misleading propaganda.
Unlike the vengeful god portrayed in the Old Testament, the supreme lord described in the Vedas is extremely tolerant, generous and endlessly forgiving. Those who are seriously intent on restoring their lost relationship with mim will recognize how wonderfully systematic the universe has been designed to help them accomplish that! But despite all this, there will always be the pugnacious who are simply too proud to surrender to God even when there is nowhere else for them to philosophically hide. These are the people who proclaim some flavor of: “I don’t follow any particular religious tradition, but I am a very spiritual person.” This makes absolutely no sense but works well as a euphemism for: “The pericopal approach to scripture appeals to my own delusional conditioning. Now leave me alone!” These are the people who disparage the idea that the science of the soul can be taught, understood and practiced with the same type of rigor as any other field of study.
The fad of non-commitment may seem reasonable to those who only consider the Christian or Moslem model for religiosity, but there is an old proverb that warns: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” The congregation of the fashionably uncommitted gadabouts provide numerous embarrassing examples of how true this old adage is.
William Roberts is a computer systems analyst for the U.S. Navy in Port Hueneme. He began studying Vedic philosophy in 1973 and assimilated the works of eminent Vaishnava saints while living in India for several years. He became an ordained Brahman priest under the tutelage of the world’s most respected authority on Bhakti Yoga, HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He welcomes comments at 640-0405.