How To Find The Common Principles of Religions
The Common Principles of Religions
The sages of religions, Lao Tze, Sakyamuni Buddha, Kon Tze (Confucius), Jesus Christ and Muhammad, were enlightened to their pure and absolute nature. They understood the cause of mankind’s endless dilemmas and suffering and taught that to free ourselves we must grasp the Absolute Truth completely. They utilized numerous methods of self- cultivation, but all of them taught that there is only one path that leads to eternal salvation.
The sages taught and lived amongst people with a wide variety of social, cultural and racial origins. The methods and emphasis of their teaching varied to suit the time, place, consciousness and culture of the people being taught. Though the emphasis and methods varied, there are common principles that all religions share.
A common belief is, that when the divine subtle essence of human beings first descended from the heavens to the physical world, our pure and absolute nature was unobstructed. Gradually, attachment to form, desire and an evil mindset manifested, clouding our minds and hindering the illuminating power of our pure and absolute nature. The veil of delusion blocked our infinite view of reality. An unbalanced deluded confusion resulted.
It was the intention of the sages to guide us back to reality and absolute truth. It is beyond the scope of this book to illustrate the common principles of every religion known to man. Instead I will illustrate the commonality using the five religions of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucism, Christianity, and Islam.
In this article, we will cover a brief background of the founders of these religions. The lives of the sages are presented in chronological order, beginning with Lao Tze, then Sakyamuni Buddha, Kon Tze (Confucius), Jesus Christ, and Muhammad.
Lao Tze is regarded as the founder of Taoism. Lao Tze is not a proper name; rather, it is a descriptive term meaning Old Philosopher or Venerable Philosopher. His real name was Li Er and his date of birth is in dispute. It is believed he was about fifty years older than Confucius who was born in 551 B.C.
Very little is actually known about Lao Tze; his life is mostly a mystery. However, we do know he was a native of Chi’u in Hunan province and he was entrusted as the keeper of the archives at the Court of Chou. Lao Tze was also the court librarian and historiographer; as such, he was privy to the daily workings of the state.
The Court of Chou was corrupt and in decay; the people were suffering needlessly. Unable to affect a change in the rulers, Lao Tze decided to leave China. The legend states that as Lao Tze approached the Han Gu gate at China’s western border, the warden of the gate, Yin Hsi, saw a special purple ‘chi’ (universal energy) shining in the sky. Yin Hsi, himself a man of cultivation, realized the chi was a sign from Heaven that a great sage was nearby. When he saw Lao Tze riding on his ox toward the gates, Yin Hsi knew China was about to lose a great sage. Yin Hsi begged Lao Tze not to leave but was unable to prevent Lao Tze’s departure. He pleaded with Lao Tze to show mercy on the many virtuous people who would be left behind in China.
Lao Tze, moved by Yin Hsi’s sincere compassion, took pen in hand and composed the five thousand characters classic, ‘The Tao Teh Ching’ or Way of Virtue. The Tao Teh Ching can be read in less than an hour, yet its parables and subtleties can only be fully understood with the direction of a master and with the student’s intuitive insight:
Lao Tze taught in order to transcend the cycle of life and death one must enter through the door referred to as the ‘Mystic Pass’ or Valley. The Tao Teh Ching and the Ching Jin Jing are canons to direct us to the Mystic Pass and to help guide us through the process of self-cultivation.
The purpose of cultivation according to Lao Tze, is to diminish our desires, simplify our lives, and purify our spirits, minds and bodies. Followers of the teachings of Lao Tze believe they can restore their pure and absolute nature, fulfill their destinies, and return to the Divine Origin.
Lao Tze spoke of the ‘Five Performers’ of wood, metal, fire, water, and earth, which correspond, to the five chi and the five organs. In Taoism, the science of alchemy is used as a parable for the cultivation of absolute nature.
Sakyamuni or Gautama Buddha was born in northern India in 560 B.C. He was born as a prince, the son of King Shuddhodana and Queen Maha-Maya. Disturbed by the suffering of mankind and alarmed by his inability to transcend his own suffering, Sakyamuni, at the age of nineteen, fled his family and his kingdom.
Sakyamuni wandered throughout the country searching for a master who could show him the way to salvation. For many years he followed the disciplines of meditation, self-mortification and fasting. Although he followed the disciplines of his master to an extreme point, he still had not found the secret of ‘Right Dharma Eye’, the ultimate enlightenment.
One day, weak from hunger and deprivation, Sakyamuni cried out to Heaven for guidance. According to a Buddhist legend, Burning Lamp Buddha appeared to Sakyamuni and transmitted the Heart to Heart, Mind-to-Mind transmission of light. At midnight, under the Bodhi Tree, Sakyamuni became enlightened to his self-nature and became a Buddha.
Sakyamuni, as an enlightened being realized the essence of mind or the Buddha Nature. Buddhists believe he understood the absolute truth, and was no longer bound to the cycle of life and death.
Sakyamuni Buddha preached for more than forty-five years throughout India. After his death, his disciple, Ananda, blessed with excellent memory, recited Buddha’s teachings to Sakyamuni’s students. They compiled more than five thousand Buddha Sutras including the Diamond Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Heart Sutra.
Although there are more than five thousand volumes of Buddha Sutras, the fundamental teaching of Buddhism is to enlighten to one’s absolute nature, transcend the cycle of life and death, and to restore self-nature to perfection by maintaining the Five Precepts of not killing, stealing, committing adultery, lying, or taking intoxicants.
Kon Tze (Confucius)
Kon Tze is regarded as the founder of Kontzeism (Confucianism). Kon Tze was born in Shantung Province, China in 551 B.C. His father was the famous Su Liang Huo, a soldier whose great strength and heroic deeds are legendary in Chinese history.
Kon Tze began his career in government shortly after his marriage at the age of nineteen, whereupon he was granted the unimpressive title of ‘Keeper of the Stores of Grain’. Kon Tze soon left his position in government and opened a small private school. His great wish was to educate people and restore their virtue.
He looked upon the ancient sages, King Wen and Duke Chow (11th Century B.C.) as examples of classic virtue. He taught his students in accordance with their ideals. In order to bring proper understanding of the Tao (the Way) to his students, Kon Tze gave instruction in music, poetry, literature, history, natural science, proprieties and government.
The school flourished and eventually attracted more than three thousand students. Because of Kon Tze’s success as an educator, his reputation brought him to the attention of the state. He was appointed Chief Magistrate of his town. Within a short period of time his abilities were recognized and he advanced to Chief Justice of the State.
Kon Tze was a man of great learning and wisdom. Still, even with all the knowledge he had acquired, he had not yet discovered the secret to transcend the cycle of life and death. Kon Tze understood from his study of history that he must find a master to transmit the Tao to him.
Based on the teachings of ancient Chinese masters, Kon Tze realized the entrance to ‘The Highest Excellence’ was through the Yellow Court or Yellow Center. He derived this understanding through the relationship of the five elements to a cross. Red at the top of the cross signified the element of fire. White on the right side of the cross represents metal. Black at the bottom of the cross represents water. Green on the left side of the cross represents wood, and yellow in the center of the cross represents earth.
Kon Tze understood by the relative position on the cross of the elements, that the yellow center of the cross was the entrance to the ‘Highest Excellence’. Some historians suggest that Kon Tze, seeking a master to enlighten him to the transmission of the Yellow Center, sought out Lao Tze. It is believed, Lao Tze received the Heart to Heart, Mind to Mind transmission or transmission of the Tao from Tai Yi Jen Ren and was qualified to transmit the Tao or secret of the Yellow Center to Kon Tze.
According to the Mission of Tao-Confucism, after Lao Tze transmitted the Tao to Kon Tze, he understood the origin of heaven and earth and became enlightened to the absolute truth.
At the age of fifty-five, five years after receiving the Tao, Kon Tze left government in order to accomplish his great task. It was at this time that he began to preach his principles to society.
He gathered his students about him and began traveling throughout northern China. It is indeed fortunate that during this period Kon Tze began collecting and editing ancient Chinese classics. Because of his efforts, we have available to us today the Shu Ching or Canon of History, the I Ching or Canon of Changes, the Shi Ching or Canon of Poetry, the Li Ki or Book of Rites, the Chun Chiu or Spring and Autumn Annals and the Hsiao Ching or Book of Filial Piety. The Hsiao Ching was compiled by Kon Tze’s students and along with these other important works constitutes the Classic Books of Kontzeism.
Kon Tze died at the age of seventy-two. After his death, a devoted group of his pupils collected and edited ‘The Great Learning, Kontzeism Analects and The Doctrine of The Mean.’ One other book must be mentioned in the study of the Kon Tze Classics—it is ‘The Book of Mencius’, compiled and written by Men Tze’s (Mencius’) students.
Kon Tze instructed his followers to ‘Rest in the Highest Excellence’ or to ‘Hold fast the Tao-Yi.’ The ‘Highest Excellence’ means Absolute Heaven or Paradise. To hold fast the Tao-Yi means we should seek for the Tao and maintain the balance and harmony of our inner self.
Kon Tze held the Classic Books in high esteem because they are a guide to help us cultivate the Eight Constant Virtues. It is a basic belief in Confucianism that by cultivation of our inner self we may restore our nature to its original formless form.
The Eight Constant Virtues are Filial Piety, Fraternity, Loyalty, Sincerity, Propriety, Righteousness, Frugality and Humbleness.
Christians believe Jesus was immaculately conceived by the Virgin Mary in 4/6 B.C. He was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth. We know little of Jesus’ early life, but it is written that even as a child Jesus was possessed of great wisdom. For example, there is the famous story of the twelve-year-old Jesus explaining the Torah of Judaism to the Rabbis in the synagogue.
Christians believe Jesus was able to explain the deeper esoteric meanings of the Torah because of his intuitive understanding of the truth. Followers of Jesus believe His understanding of Divine Truth contributed an invaluable well of spiritual knowledge.
Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and in order to fulfill his mission on earth he sought out the twelve disciples and began to preach the gospel in the synagogues and to the people in the countryside.
As the people became aware of Jesus and the miracles attributed to him, his fame and teachings spread. Multitudes began to follow him and proclaimed him as the Messiah.
Later, when Jesus was seized, and turned over to Pilate (governor of Judia) and crucified, his last words were “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus taught that the only way to heaven is through the ‘Narrow Gate’. Jesus is quoted in Matthew 7:13-14:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Jesus taught the transformation of our nature and the purification of our mind are dependent upon the Seven Christian Virtues—Fortitude, Temperance, Prudence, Justice, Faith, Hope and Charity.
The founder of the Islamic religion was Muhammad. He was born in Mecca in 570 A.D., and died at the age of sixty-three in the year 633 A.D. His father Abdallah, died before his birth and his mother, Aminah, died when he was only six years old.
When Muhammad was young he was very poor and had no opportunity for a formal education and was therefore illiterate. As Muhammad grew up, he would frequently withdraw from society and go to Mount Hira to pray, fast and meditate. It was during a long and difficult fast that Muhammad fell into seizure. As the seizure overcame him, the angel Gabriel appeared to him carrying a scroll from the Heavenly Book. Gabriel commanded Muhammad to recite the Sura, and although Muhammad was illiterate and uneducated, miraculously he was able to recite it.
The Sura Gabriel commanded him to recite is the ninety-sixth in the Koran: “Recite in the name of your Lord who created, created man from clots of blood! Recite! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One, who by the pen taught man what he did not know.
Indeed, man transgresses in thinking himself his own master; for to your Lord all things return. Observe the man who rebukes Our Servant when he prays. Think: does he not follow the right guidance or enjoin true piety? Think: if he denies the truth and gives no heed, does he not know that Allah observes all things? Let him desist, or We will drag him by the forelock, his lying, sinful forelock. Then let him call his helpmates. We, in our turn, will call the guards of Hell. No, never obey him! Prostrate yourself and come nearer.”
Over a period of time, Muhammad received many revelations from the angel Gabriel, and at the age of 40, became enlightened to the Absolute truth. The compilation of Gabriel’s testament became the Holy
Koran. Compare Matthew 7:13:14 to Sura 90:6 through 12 in the Koran: “He may say (boastfully) ‘wealth have I squandered in abundance!’ Thinketh he that none beholdeth him? Have we not made for him a pair of eyes? And a tongue, and a pair of lips? And shown him the two highways? But he hath made no haste on the ‘path that is steep.’ And what will explain to thee the ‘ path that is steep’?”
Some scholars believe the ‘Path That Is Steep and the ‘Narrow Gate’ are one and the same; they are both parables describing the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven.
The purpose of the Koran is to warn mankind of the final judgment and for true believers to rejoice in the news. It is also given to mankind so we may learn to cultivate ourselves through self-surrender and unconditional obedience to God. Muhammad taught us to transform the mind and stabilize our nature through prayer, temperance and charity.
Although the Five Sages are each considered a founder of separate religions, their purpose on this earth was to preach the ultimate fundamental truth. The common root of Taoism, Buddhism, Kontzeism, Christianity, and Islam can be demonstrated by the similar teachings of the Five Sages.
Lao Tze taught us to cultivate the mind and refine the nature and to embrace the subtle Origin. He referred to ‘The Door of Mystery’ and ‘The Golden Pill’.
Sakyamuni Buddha taught us to see into one’s nature, enlighten the mind, and absorb countless dharma into one. He referred to ‘The Door of Subtle Truth’ and ‘The Diamond’.
Kon Tze taught us to restore the conscience, acknowledge our nature, and hold fast to the center. He referred to ‘The Door of Tao-Yi’ and ‘The Golden Mirror’.
Jesus Christ taught us to cleanse the mind, transform our nature, and to pray. He referred to ‘The Door of Lamb’ and ‘The Golden Lamp’.
Muhammad taught us to confirm our mind and stabilize our nature; to purify our heart and restore the One. He referred to ‘The Door of Purity’ and ‘The Golden Light’.
Regardless of the religion, all sages teach cultivation of virtue. The sages taught self-cultivation is necessary if we are to enlighten ourselves to the fact that as children of God, our self-nature is intrinsically pure. As we become enlightened to the pristine condition of our self-nature, our delusive attachments and seemingly real hindrances naturally disappear like thin clouds in a bright summer sky. The value and importance of cultivation and enlightenment may be best illustrated in a verse from the I Ching (Book of Changes), Chapter 4, verse 4: “(Through the Yi)1, he comprehends as in a mold or enclosure the transformations of heaven and earth without any error; by an ever-varying adaptation he completes (the nature of) all things without exception he penetrates to a knowledge of the course of day and night—it is thus that his operation is spirit-like, unconditional by place, while the changes which he produces are not restricted to any form.”
Religious doctrine and mysticism are common threads in the fabric of religion. Religions teach that we can achieve the unrestricted freedom realized by those original human beings of long ago. In Eastern terms, it means to be free from the never -ending cycle of life and death, free from delusion and suffering, free from the constraints of time, space and dimension. We can go beyond the boundaries of ego, race, language, sex, mentality and acquired conditioning. Religions teach us that we have the ability to climb onward to the infinite.
See my previous article: The Tao of Five Religions.
See my next article: Awakening To Enlightenment