How To Understand The Tao of Five Religions
In ancient times it was believed in some cultures that all human beings possessed supreme enlightenment, lived in peace and harmony, and, at the end of life, were able to return to the Origin. It seems, as time progressed the human race became contaminated, complicated and confused. Along the way, we had lost something. Our human civilization, in an effort to regain what was lost, invented belief systems, religions, cultures and societies with the hope of restoring some kind of harmonious order.
In our troubled and confused contemporary world, there are religions, philosophies, and sciences—all believing they possess the teachings to cure our ills. Religions, philosophies and science teach us the principals to lead a good life. In addition, mystics tantalize us with parables—pointing to something greater, perhaps divine secrets.
By studying religions we can examine various systems to understand supreme truth. Followers of religion believe if we sincerely strive to understand the common elements of religious principles and doctrines, we will become enlightened to our self-nature.
Religions such as Taoism, Kontzeism (Confucianism), Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam are based upon the enlightened teachings of their founders. Their followers believe the wisdom of the sages is derived from a single, supreme source. Like branches on a magnificent tree, it is believed they share a common root.
Great sages like Lao Tze, Kon Tze (Confucius), Sakyamuni Buddha, Jesus Christ and Muhammad taught the people of the world universal truth. How they taught depended upon the time, place, culture, and mentality of those who would receive their teachings.
The holy books of the various religions provide us with detailed methods and instructions which all people can use to nurture wisdom and human virtue. Although we may diligently study the teachings of religion, often we remain plagued by the same questions: What is absolute truth? Is there a God? Who is God? What is God? Is there a heaven and hell? Where did I come from before I was born? Where will I go after I pass away from this world? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Why is life full of suffering? How can I end my suffering? Is there a way to attain eternal peace?
The followers of the world’s religions believe the answers to these questions have already been answered within their doctrine and oral teachings. However, even the most pious admit that many of the answers are shrouded in parables incomprehensible for all but a few.
Religions hide their secret doctrines in parables in order to protect their secrets from those who seek to destroy or from those who are unqualified by their lack of virtue to understand the truth. They believe the evil or ignorant may hurt themselves or others with an incomplete understanding of the truth.
With few exceptions, the followers of the world’s religions believe it was the great wish of the sages to point directly to our Origin and to lead us to a true understanding of reality. Lao Tze, an ancient Taoist sage said, “There was something in a chaotic state whichexisted prior to heaven and earth. Invisible, inaudible; independent and immutable; it pervades and generates inexhaustibly. It can be regarded as the Mother of the universe. Its name is unknown; I simply call it ‘Tao’”
In the Gospels according to John, Chapter 1 through 4: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
In the Koran, Sheba Chapter 34:1: “Praise be to Allah,to whom belongs all that the heavens and the earth contain! Praise be to Him in the World to come. He is the wise one, the all-knowing. He has knowledge of all that goes into the earth and all that springs up from it. All that comes down from heaven and all that ascends to it. He is the Forgiving One, the Merciful.”
Subhuti, a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha, asks in the Diamond Sutra, “World Honored One, when theTathagata [Buddha] speaks of worlds, they are not, but are (expediently) called, worlds. Why?” “Because if they really exist, they are just agglomerations. The Tathagata speaks of agglomerations which are not, but are (expediently) called agglomerations of the Truth. Subhuti, that which is called an agglomeration of the Truth cannot be spoken of, but the vulgar man has longing for an attachment to this thing.”
In The Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter 12 (Kontzeism), it is said, “The way which the superior manpursues, reaches wide and far, and yet is secret. Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the ordinary standard of character, can carry it into practice, yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage is not able to carry into practice.
Great as Heaven and Earth are, men still find some things in them with which to be dissatisfied. Thus it is that, were the superior man to speak of his way in all its greatness, nothing in the world would be found able to embrace it, and were he to speak of it in its minuteness, nothing in the world would be found to split it.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, ‘The hawk flies up to heaven; the fish leap into the deep.’ This expresses how this way is seen above and below. The way of the superior man may be found, in its simple elements, in the intercourse of common men and women; but in the utmost reaches, it shines brightly through Heaven and Earth.”
Religions teach that God is the Absolute Truth. Within religion, God is referred to as Allah, Jehovah, Heavenly Father, Lao Mu (Old Mother), The Creator, The Origin, The Tao and many other names too numerous to mention.
Religious followers believe God is the root of the universe, the creator of the world, the fountain of all lives and the source of all creation. God is unchangeable and permanent; uncharted, nameless; above all, through all and in all. God is without limit, infinite, ultimate being and non- being, The Alpha and The Omega, the beginning and the end. God is the evolving force that operates throughout the universe. It is the formless form, the imageless image. God is profound and unfathomable; boundless light; the primal origin. In heaven, God is the Supreme Absolute Truth. In man, God is the light that unifies our spirit, mind and body. God is the source of our pure and absolute nature, and we, in His image, are the children of God.
Western religions state that God is the ‘Word’ and the ‘Word’ is the Way. In Chinese, the word ‘Way’ is represented by the Chinese character you see in the picture above. The English pronunciation of this character is ‘Tao’, (pronounced dow). Literally, it means road, path or way. In the East, the Tao is known as The Law of the Absolute, The Law of Truth, or The Law of Nature.
Tao is the Way and the Way is God. Whichever language one speaks or doctrine one follows, the name or word for God is only an expedient. It can be used as a symbol that guides the cognitive process beyond the limits of the intellect and opens a doorway to higher realms of knowledge that dwell within the intuitive mind.
The Chinese term, ‘Tao’ means the way back to our original home. The Tao (God, the Universal Law) is the Absolute Truth. Tao cultivators hope to find the Great Path back to the Origin and restore their nature to its original pristine state. According to Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, to restore our original nature and return to the Origin means to end the never-ending cycle of life and death.
Buddhists believe there is a mystical ceremony called the ‘Heart to Heart, Mind to Mind’ transmission that opens the door to the soul and allows the soul to return to Absolute Heaven and end the cycle of life and death. Through this transmission of Divine Light it is believed that one can find the ‘Narrow Gate’ and enter into Nirvana. (See the Parable chapter of the Lotus Sutra)
Kontzeism (Confucianism) and Tao-Confucionists believe to ‘Receive the Tao’ is to find the Gate of Heaven to enter our Original Home. Confucianism describes the return to the Origin as one who can rest in the ‘Highest Excellence’.
Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism, describes in parables the foundation of all Taoist teaching, the secret of immortality, sometimes referred to as the secret of the Golden Pill. It is the Taoist reference to the Path that leads to the Origin. In Chapter Six of the Tao Teh Ching, Lao Tze writes, “The valley spirit never dies. It iscalled the mystic female. The gate of the mystic female is called the root of heaven and earth. Constantly and so forever the function of it is inexhaustible.”
The Valley here is not a valley on earth; rather it is a parable for the Valley that lies between two mountains on our face. Initiates say this Divine Valley is another name for the Narrow Gate of Christianity and Buddhism and the ‘Path that is steep’ referred to in the Holy Koran.
The wise men of old say it is by the ordinance of God, that the founders of religions could only direct us to the Origin with parables. In order to find the Path to God and to understand completely the methods of spiritual cultivation, we must read between the lines and use our intuitive minds to grasp the subtle truth of the parables.
Religious followers of many Eastern religions believe the Origin, is God, and the root of heaven and earth is God. Further, they believe if we can find our way back to the Origin, we can end the cycle of life and death. It is their belief that originally we all lived in the heavenly realm as pristine creations of God, but through attachment to desire we fell from grace. In addition, they believe it is our destiny as God’s children to return to our original home to enjoy everlasting life and divine enlightenment.
Go to next article: Common Principles of Religion.