All paths lead to God?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by brian, Jul 12, 2003.

  1. brian

    brian Administrator

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    The "popular" saying "All paths lead to God" is one of my personal principles.

    Just as there is one world, one sky, one sun - each with many names and expressions - so I see that there is only one Divinity, with a myriad of expressions and names.

    However, this is not a belief everybody will share. :)

    I'm curious as to how many people here see the world's religions as existing to explain one Divinity, but through different means that make most sense to different people.

    Or is there only one True Path to God, that a single Religion - perhaps even denomination - has sole privileged rights to?
     
  2. Iacchus

    Iacchus God of the Mask

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    There are as many gods as there are people on this planet or, do I mean "interpretations of God?" ;)
     
  3. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Brian,

    thank you for another provoking thread topic :)


    before i respond, i should make a few things clear, i think...

    i practice a particular form of Buddhism which adheres to a particular philosophical school and as such, the opinions expressed by me do not, necessarily, jibe with ones that may be expressed by a practiconer of Zen or Theraveda or other Mahayana for that matter...

    the particular philosophical school is called Prasangika-Madhyamika and all 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism uphold this school as the highest philosophical school.

    nevertheless, on with the posting...

    in our tradition we consider all world religions that espouse compassion and morality to be valid refuges. a refuge is a technical Buddhist term that means a valid practice that is capable of generating spiritual progress within the individual. as with all religions, we consider ours to be the Final Refuge.

    thus we tend to encourage people to stay within their own religious paradigm instead of becoming a Buddhist unless they have the strong desire to do so. sometimes, it seems, that people in the West are eager to become Buddhists simply because it's so antiethical to the Western value system. this type of motivation is typcially not going to be sufficient to achieve progress along the path, for it is difficult and fraught with hardship. in most cases, people are better served to say within their own tradition and deepen their own practice.. really mining the depths of their tradition, as it were, instead of starting a new mine somewhere else.
     
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  4. Arch

    Arch New Member

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    All paths lead to God? Actually, I'm not buying that. Every cultural view is so different that the commanalities on broad concepts aren't even matched. And that's before we get to the details which are so different!
    If there's one God being looked at then only one's looking at the right God, yes?
    Otherwise how could so many people be so wrong about so many basic ideas?
    Reincarnation or salvation? One God or many? Which book to read? Which path to follow? It all seems so incongruous. I don't see the connection though I'm maybe the athiest side of agnostic.
    :D
     
  5. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    If only one particular view of God is "correct," then God must be pretty limited.

    Personally, I'm of the opinion that God is so vast and complex that it's impossible for any human or group of humans to "pin Him down." All we ever grasp are parts, never the whole.

    And who is to say that what different religions are grasping about God is the same part, the same facet of that vast incomprehensible God?

    It's like the story about the five blind men and the elephant. Each touches a different part of the animal and thinks they understand what the animal is really like, when each can only understand but a small part.
     
  6. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    The trouble about the elephant analogy is that, in itself, it defines an absolute reslity - that of the elephant.

    Theoretically, would it not be possible for any of the blind men to actually realise the actual form of the elephant?

    In other words - although for the most part it's suggested in previous posts that God cannot be defined - even "properly" understood by the human mind - is it not possible that at some point, someone, somewhere, is able to comprehend God absolutely??
     
  7. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    Even if there is an "absolute reality" of a Divine Being who is responsible for creating everything, how can any mortal philosophy with its inherent fallibility claim to have the whole truth?

    Most people struggle their whole lives with attempting to truly know themselves, because people constantly surprise themselves with hidden strengths and weaknesses that they didn't know they had. Knowing that, how can anyone really say they truly know all there is to know about another human being, let alone something which supposedly transcends human understanding like a Divine being?

    The elephant analogy is just an analogy, but I think it does a good job of getting the point across. Can a blind person ever truly know what an elephant is, since they can't perceive the colour, appearance, how it looks at a distance, how it behaves in settings far enough removed that sound, touch, smell, (or taste) aren't sufficient? Compared to a Divine being, aren't we humans as blind people in comparison?

    Just some things to think about. I'm sure there will be disagreement.
     
  8. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    I absolutely agree with you, Ben - I was simply being pedantic, for the sake of discussion. :)
     
  9. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    No problem, Brian. I wasn't taking it personally at all. I just leaped at the opportunity you presented so well to make my point a bit more obvious.

    ; )

    Ben G.
     
  10. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    i'm with the sufis on this - "there are many roads up the mountain". however, this does not mean to say that all roads go up the mountain. for a start, i have a problem with belief systems that think that you can worship G!D through murder, like, say, thugee, to choose a random example. as far as i'm concerned, the idea that "everything is valid because nothing can be proved to be true" is a product of the european enlightenment and is, moreover, effectively useless, because it doesn't permit distinction or, indeed the exercising of human judgement or wisdom. in judaism, both are fundamental to holiness - the word "QeDuShaH", meaning 'holiness' is also connected to the idea of separation, as between the permitted and the forbidden.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
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  11. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I think it's a mistake to assume that the idea "there are many roads up the mountain" means that all paths are considered perfectly equal, or that one should not make personal judgements about whether one road might be more appropriate (at least for you) than another. And while many of us, including me, consider spiritual paths that embrace violence and even horrific practices such as human sacrifice to be far less likely to lead to G!d, who are we to tell G!d which paths are valid? I seriously doubt that any human system of morality is perfectly aligned with G!d's morality, as we are fallible humans.

    Only G!d truly knows the answers to everything (if we assume G!d is truly omniscient.) No human, no group of humans, is omniscient so the best we can hope for is our best guess about things.
     
  12. Blue Heron

    Blue Heron Gaurds the Gate

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    It is interesting that some make the case of violence doesn't lead to God. In my studies of many religions it appears to me that many practice and glorify such violence. A review of the big three religions of today...all of them espouse some type of violence in both their past and in their prophecies. In fact, they seem to require human sacrifice on some scale. Just thinking about makes me wonder how these three religions could be so deeply embraced?
     
  13. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    by "some" i assume you mean me

    well, i can't speak for the other "big two" (although i think they're with us on this), but it is completely false to say that judaism "practices and glorifies" violence. war has been a part of human society since the very beginning and we can't ignore that. however, the primary innovation of judaism was to introduce both monotheism and the idea that society should be *just* and not founded on might-equals-right - and that peace is an intrinsic good for all humanity, not just one's own tribe via victory in war. furthermore, judaism's first response to the human sacrifice common at the time (that of one's own children) was the revolutionary *rejection* of it and its replacement by animal sacrifice - which is what the "binding of isaac" episode is all about. furthermore, in the post-Temple period animal sacrifice has been replaced by prayer; of course, if you can give me some more specific examples rather than generalised accusations, i'd be happy to address them.

    i don't think you are aware of the full range of jewish thought - merely reading an english translation of the so-called "old testament" will not give you the context that a knowledge of the oral tradition that accompanies the written law does. this is part and parcel of the nature of halakha - jewish law. the pentateuch you have in your 'old testament' is the Written Law. however, parallel to that is the Oral Law, which depending on who you ask was either pre-existing, delivered at the same time or developed in tandem with the written part. the oral part, which is rabbinic commentaries on the Written Torah in the form of discussion, stories and legal arguments, was written down and codified about 2000 years ago in the Mishnah and the Gemara, a commentary on the Mishnah. the two taken together are known as the Talmud. that was not the end of commentary by any means, nor was everything that was around at the time included in the Talmud compilation. and then there are esoteric texts, allegories, you name it.

    to cut a long story short, the Oral Law is there to explain the Written Law. for example, the written bit contains some laws of divorce. it was left to the oral law to define the laws of marriage. anyway, to answer the point you are probably making (i dare say the bit about "an eye for an eye") the rabbis would say things like - 'OK, what happens if a bloke with no arms presses a button with his foot and as a result something chops your arm off? eh? eh?' this is what happens in a religious system based on legal precedent and opinion, as opposed to creedal dogma. but you won't find these arguments in your king james, of course, which is why fundamentalist literalists appear so ridiculous to jewish eyes.

    furthermore, although the Written Law prescribes, for example, a large number of offences requiring capital punishment, the rabbis of the talmud were a) not in favour of it for exactly the reasons that rightly persist today and b) living under roman military occupation. so at the time, executions had to be approved by the romans. secondly, even if there *was* a jewish court that had the authority to pass a death sentence, they put in all kinds of caveats and safeguards, for example; a court that passed more than one every 75 years was considered a 'murderous court' and was disbanded. this tended to limit the willingness of the court to do so. for this reason, alternative sentences were instituted, including exile, excommunication, fines - the whole gamut of options. it's the same with 'an eye for an eye'. to have capital punishment would have caused innumerable problems without the same problems as mandatory sentencing does today.

    now, if you're talking about the history of our relationship with the "seven nations", or the amalekites, or anyone else i am religiously obliged to take exception to, i am happy to explain how that works in practice and has done since the time the laws were first applied.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  14. pseudonymous

    pseudonymous Obtuse Kineticist

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    "Do all paths lead to God?"

    All paths do not lead to God directly, but to the next expanded state of awareness. A physical path can take you to a spiritual/religious path. A spiritual/religious path can take you to a mysticism/transcendent path. A mysticism/transcendent path can take you to Causal awareness. Each expanded awareness is necessary to get there, but no one path leads direct in my understanding. It is not possible to skip any state either, because only a healthy ego can be transcended into the next state. An unhealthy ego will be a brick wall that the delusional "enlightened" will eventually strike. Of course, I could be daft too.

    pseudonymous
     
  15. Nogodnomasters

    Nogodnomasters New Member

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    There are about 33,000 gods out there. They are very diverse and cover all areas of the spectrum. This does not count the big A's- agnosticism and atheists. Yet somehow I am to believe that all paths will unite us in the concept of the one divinity or Monad, never mind the Duad or Triad.

    I would be a gonad to believe it.
     
  16. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    That's make me realise I should amend the Parable of the Sea - not sure how to apply it properly yet - simply added an extra line at the end:

    http://www.comparative-religion.com/articles/parable_sea.php

    A person had never seen the sea before, and wanted to know more about it, so asked three people what the sea was.

    The first was an American, who said: "The sea is merely a place of recreation, for I go there to play: I jetski and surf the wave, and water-ski from fast boats. Truly the sea is a place just for recreation, though I must beware of sharks."

    The second was a Filipino, who said: "The sea is a place of life that only sustains us, for I fish there to feed my family. I swim out to the reefs and catch all manner of foods. Truly the sea is a place just for harvest, though I must beware of sharks."

    The third was an Inuit, who said: "The sea is a frozen wasteland covered by ice, though I fish in holes to feed my family. There are seals, and walruses, and polar bears roam the snowy ice sheets. Truly the sea is a frozen wasteland, though it sustains us. There are no sharks there."

    The American turned to the others and said: "I agree with the Filipino that there are sharks, but there are no reefs in the sea, and neither is the sea a place for harvest, for I get all of my food in fast food chains and café-bars. As for the Inuit, I can only say that there is no ice in the sea, nor polar bears or walruses, though there are seals. Truly you have never seen the sea and you are wrong."

    The Filipino turned to the others and said: "I agree with the Amercian that the sea can be a place of play, but there are no jetskis or surfers and there are no fast boats, but it is not simply a place for recreation, for I play with my children only on the safety of the shores. As for the inuit, I can only say that he has never seen the sea, for it is not icy of cold, but warm anf tropical, and I have never heard of bears or walruses or seals. Neither of the others has seen the sea properly, and are mistaken in their views."

    The inuit turned to the others and said: "I agree with the Filipino that the sea may be a place of harvest, but you would die to swim in it, for it is a freezing place and not warm or tropical in the slightest. There are no boats, no jetskis, and there are no sharks at all. As for the American, I can only say that he lies, for there are none of those things he says in the sea at all. Only the ice plays on the water, for I have seen this."

    Who has spoken the most truth? Who should the person who asked believe most? Organised belief insists you believe only one.

    Of course, for those who live in a desert, why should they even believe in the sea?
     
  17. aged hippy

    aged hippy drifting gently

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    The Seas of Faith

    I would recommend that one looks carefully at each puddle.

    Warmest Regards,
    malcolm


    "All descriptions of reality are temporary hypotheses." - Buddha Gotama
     
  18. Nogodnomasters

    Nogodnomasters New Member

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    Brian, your parable is based on an unproven a priori that god exists and people who make the claim as having found him/her have really done so. While the sea can be proven to exist by simply leading one to the shore, with god it is not that easy.

    I use an invisible elf parable to explain Christianity. I have an invisble elf on my shoulder who is also massless so you can't touch him. My invisible elf makes it rain. Proof that my elf exist is the fact that is rains.

    Oh by the way, if you do not believe in and worship my elf, send me 10% of your income you will burn for all eternity because my elf loves you.
     
  19. sachetm

    sachetm New Member

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    Not unless man and God can be, essentially, one and the same--at least to the extent that's relevant for humans to know. (I cede there may well be aspects that are simply irrelevant to human life and if so, they don't matter, anyway--not to us.)

    During Creation, did God implant within humans--maybe other forms of life and even non-organic matter--some sort of "Godhead" with which to access or comprehend Him? Some capacility to bridge the gap between Creator and creation (e.g., time and timelessness)? Sort of like recursion?

    Personally, I believe it's possible. I also think it explains who Jesus was--a man who came to know himself--his essential essence--and began to manifest his "Godhead."

    This explanation, to my mind, does a better job of reconciling the concept of "free will" with "divine intervention." There is no free will if there's divine intervention and vice versa. Free doesn't mean sometimes free but sometimes not, depending on God's fancy.
     
  20. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    A problem to note immediately that is that as God cannot be quantified, God therefore cannot be proven or disproven. Hence why analogy is often required to even begin to address the Concept of God.

    The same would apply to your elf - unless there is a definite way to quantify it then there is absolutely no logical argument for claiming that it does not exist.

    Btw - I would sincerely hope you recognise that the sometimes aggressive nature of Protestant Christianity in the United States of America, is in no way the definitive guide and judgement to all things that either are or may be Divine. In other words, there is more to looking to the Concept of God that the Southern Baptist tradition. :)
     

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