God is Not One

The following first appeared on Religion Dispatches. Read more and sign up for their free daily newsletter here.

An interview with Stephen Prothero

What inspired you to write God is Not One? What sparked your interest?

In some ways it’s a follow-up to Religious Literacy, which argued that while the United States is one of the most religious nations on Earth we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of others. Here I wanted to provide some basic literacy about the world’s religions, and do a little ranting along the way.

I think the rant goes back to my college and graduate school days, when I repeatedly heard from professors that all religions were different paths up the same mountain. That sentiment never made any sense to me. I had Jewish and Muslim and Christian and atheist friends, and none of us was under the illusion that we agreed with each other. Still, we seemed to get along just fine despite (and perhaps even because of) our differences.

What’s the most important take-home message for readers?

The main argument is that the world’s religions are climbing different mountains with very different tools and techniques. One perspective that new atheists and liberal multiculturalists share is that the religions are essentially the same (false and poisonous on the one hand, and true and beautiful on the other). I think this view is dangerous, disrespectful, and untrue.

Christians do not go on the hajj to Mecca, and Muslims do not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity. Moreover, going on the hajj is not peripheral to Muslims—in fact it is one of Islam’s Five Pillars. And the belief that Jesus is the Son of God is not inessential to Christians—in fact it stands at the heart of the Christian gospel.

The notion that all religions are in essence one seduces us into thinking that we can send 160,000 troops into Iraq without reckoning with the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam or, for that matter, between Sunnis and Shias. It prevents us from seeing the role that religions plan in many of the world’s hotspots: from Israel and the Palestinian territories to Nigeria and Kashmir. Equally importantly, it prevents us from seeing and appreciating the unique beauty of each of these religions. If I am a Christian and all religions are essentially the same, what do I have to learn from reading the Daodejing or from attending a Hindu wedding?

The bottom line? Tolerance is an empty virtue if you don’t even understand what you are tolerating. In God is Not One, I try to present as best as I can my own understanding of the world’s most influential religions.

Anything you had to leave out?

I am the adviser for the Sikh Association at Boston University, so I regretted not dedicating a chapter to Sikhism. I regretted it even more after I heard that the Republican gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley (who was raised a Sikh) was denounced recently as a “raghead.” There are likely 25 million or so Sikhs in the world, and from the start they have been engaged in a fascinating conversation with both Hinduism and Islam. But I had to draw the line somewhere, and I drew it on this side of the Sikh tradition.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?

That religious differences necessarily lead to conflict. Samuel Huntington has been widely criticized in liberal circles for his thesis that the Christian and Muslim worlds are fated for a “clash of civilizations.” Yet many liberals join Huntington in assuming that if there are fundamental differences between the world’s religions they are fated to clash. That’s why they elide those differences, in many cases, to the point of erasing them. I think that’s a mistake. We do not assume in our relationships that our partners or spouses are essentially the same as us. In fact, we say that variety is the spice of life. Here we say differences are enriching. Why can’t we respect and even revel in differences when it comes to religion?

Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?

I’m writing for general readers rather than academics. Some academics who have read the book have said I’m coming late to the party—that religious studies scholars have been rejecting the so-called perennial philosophy for a generation. That is largely true. But not many religious studies scholars write popular books on religion, so the most widely-read books on the subject still preach pretend pluralism. What good does it do our soldiers in Iraq to tell them that Sunni and Shia Islam are essentially the same? Or our diplomats in the Middle East to tell them that the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are inconsequential. So I’m for those soldiers and those diplomats—curious readers who know you can’t understand the world without understanding the powerful role the world’s religions play in it.

Are you hoping to just inform readers? Give them pleasure? Piss them off?

All of the above. I have certainly done my share of pissing people off, and I do think some of the writing in the book will bring readers pleasure, but the main goal is to inform. The world’s religions are in my view not so much repositories of unchanging dogmas as they are repositories of unanswered questions. “How do we get rid of suffering?” ask the Buddhists? “How do we stop being reborn?” ask the Hindus. “What must I do to be saved?” ask the Christians. So I want to inform readers about the questions these great religions have asked, and about how practitioners have wrestled with various answers.


About the Author

41 Responses to God is Not One

  1. I am happy about this book. Actually, I picked it up the other day at the bookstore and appreciated it very much. I also studied religion in college and got tired of the monistic apologetics. Its not all the same…thank god.

  2. Stephen Prothero: “In God is Not One, I try to present as best as I can my own understanding of the world’s most influential religions.”

    We all have a similar approach, even as we may have arrived at different conclusions. Comparing world religions can be interesting, especially when we are trying to understand the practical consequences of various religions, not merely the metaphysical or doctrinal differences between them.

  3. Without knowing the answers he claims to have provided for all the questions the world religions have posed and pondered, it would be very difficult to evaluate the book.
    Does anybody know what his answers to all these big questions are?

    He says:

    So I want to inform readers about the questions these great religions have asked, and about how practitioners have wrestled with various answers.

    What kind of thought is bring promoted here?
    Do his answers correspond to the Rupanuga Gaudiya siddhanta or does he advocate some alternative philosophy of living?
    I would need to know that before I bought the book.

    • Your questions could only be answered by a good book review, not a promotional interview. If Gopakumara has the time and inclination, perhaps he could write one.

  4. Finally someone who acknowledges that there are different mountains!

    • Actually, there is an endless mountain chain out there. All trails lead into the mountains 😉

      • Exactly–it’s a whole range of mountains, one of which happens to be taller than the others.

      • Not really, some trails lead to the beach and the great ocean of truth and it’s endless waves of bliss.
        Mahaprabhu didn’t head for the hills. He was very fond of Puri by-the-sea.
        I try to remember Mahaprabhu at Puri every time I go to the beach to ride my boogie board on the waves.
        I once consecrated my favorite beach with Ganga water, so now when I go there it is like going on pilgrimage to the Ganges.
        But, if you remember that the Ganga spills into the ocean in the Bay of Bengal and purifies the oceans of the world, then you can understand why the Vedic injunction is that if one cannot bathe in the Ganga then he should bathe in the Sea because the Ganga spills into the oceans of Earth and carries spiritual purification to the whole planet and keeps this miserable planet alive.
        The fact that the Ganga water spills into the ocean and is carried all over the world is what makes the beach and the ocean such a fascination for the people who love the beach, the beach air and Sunrises and Moonrises over the ocean, whether they know it or not.
        This is something like a post card from beautiful Florida, my chosen place under the Sun.
        Got Beach?

    • It is a good acknowledgement on the author’s part. However, we need to understand that God is indeed one at the same time. Everybody in some tiny village has their own conception of God and people have fought over trivial matters like how the tilak should be worn ( good fight between Madhavas and Ramanujas). And history of Christianity and Islam is not great either. The point is that all of these different religions glorify their own religion at the expense of everybody or else. They even go to the extend of murdering people because of the absolute faith in their religious conception that includes the idea of denouncing and ridiculing everybody else. They highlight the difference so much that they can’t even respect other faiths at all. There is a reason why people have moved towards oneness. To ignore that is a folly. “God is one, he cannot be two” that is what SP said. Obviously we can say God is dyad of Radha and Krsna. In fact, GV can be termed as theistic monism (vasudeva sarvam iti) where only Krsna and his energies exist and nothing is outside of him.

      The comment by KB das for instance explain why people move to oneness. Nothing explains it better.

      PS-Kindly take of the previous post.

      • However, we need to understand that God is indeed one at the same time.

        I have to disagree. Just because people have a concept of god, doesn’t mean that this expression of god is real. I outright reject the possibility that certain deities, by virtue of being called so, automatically coincide with an expression of divinity. Having extensively studied the personality of YHWH, I outright reject that this is an expression of divinity. In fact, the Judeo-Christian Satan (read Satan: A Biography) is much further in line with my own humanistic values than YHWH. I know this sounds dramatic, but I think you will find that with some research, it is not so off base.

        I have said before, Chaitanyadeva’s personality –although not formally studied– is blameless. This is a deity worthy of saranagati.

        • I appreciate your concern, but others may say the same about the millions of deities in vedic culture that spark of in almost every village. Anyway I will just say what BVT says in his Jaiva dharma where the character goracanda babaji responds to the query of islamic scholar about deity worship. I kind of balances both views.

          He whom you refer to as Allah, we call Bhagavan. The Supreme Lord is one, but He is known by different names in the Qur’an, the Puranas, and in different countries and languages. The prime consideration is that the name which expresses all of the Supreme Lord’s characteristics should be given prominence. For this reason we have greater esteem for the name Bhagavan than the names Allah, brahma, and Paramatma. The word Allah refers to that Being who has no superior, but we do not consider that greatness or supremacy is the highest characteristic of the Lord. Rather, the characteristic which evokes the highest degree of wonder (camatkarita) and sweetness (madhuri) is worthy of the utmost regard.

          Mullah: There is no fault if one performs internal bhajana of God in a mood of love, and externally engages in the worship of the Deity. However, how can worshiping a dog, a cat, a serpent, or a promiscuous person be considered worship of God? Our revered prophet, Paigambara Sahib, has vehemently condemned such worship of material objects.
          Goracanda: All human beings are grateful to God. No matter how many sins they commit, occasionally they become aware that God is the supreme entity, and when they are endowed with this belief, they bow down before the extraordinary things of this world. When ignorant people are inspired by their gratitude to God, they naturally offer respect to the sun, a river, a mountain, or to enormous animals. They express their hearts before such things and display submission to them. Granted, there is a vast difference between this type of worship of material objects, and transcendental affection toward the Lord (cinmaya bhagavadbhakti). Still, when such ignorant people adopt a mood of gratitude to God and reverence toward material objects, it gradually produces a positive effect. Therefore, if one examines the situation logically, one cannot ascribe any fault to them.
          Meditation on the formless, all-pervading feature of the Lord and offering namaz or other types of prayers to an impersonal aspect of the Lord are also devoid of pure transcendent love, so how are these methods any different from the worship of a cat, for example? We consider that it is essential to arouse bhava towards Bhagavan by any means possible. The door leading to gradual elevation is firmly shut if people on any level of worship are ridiculed or condemned. Those who fall under the spell of dogmatism, and thereby become sectarian, lack the qualities of generosity and munificence. That is why they ridicule and condemn others who do not worship in the same way as they do. This is a great mistake on their part.

          Anyway I understand your concern and your faith that only the worship GV is correct and others are false, but it is not bad to be generous because God is one also, in fact. Christians are no less a part of Krsna than us.

        • Also I disagree that we can analyse the deity with our mind and no for sure that who is blameless and who is not. According to many people Krsna is not blameless, neither is Rama. So I don’t think a psychological analysis of God’s personality is a reason for his/her non-existence. Certainly you can say that someone is less appealing or more appealing, but it means nothing about their actual existence. We just hope things we feel most satisfied in the mind exist and those that don’t sit with our mind don;t exist. It would be good if that is true.

        • Yahweh was the god of the southern Palestinian tribes, who associated this concept of deity with Mount Horeb, the Sinai volcano. Yahweh was merely one of the hundreds and thousands of nature gods which held the attention and claimed the worship of the Semitic tribes and peoples. This deity and designation evolved in the Hebrew culture to eventually become the one God of the monotheistic faith. So, as of today Yahweh is the word symbol designating Supreme God in the J/C religions and has more intrinsic spiritual value as such. The Paramatma considers the meanings and intentions in the use of word symbols. So, there is value to the concept now as a word symbol denoting a monotheistic deity.

          Satan was not a devil as in the traditional imagery. He is a demigod and so is Lucifer. They are two different people.
          Satan was the cohort of Lucifer when Lucifer attempted to defy Vishnu, Brahma and Siva and deviate a number of constellations from Universal law and order.

          They are both interned now on a certain planet awaiting judgment of the Universal authorities. But, their third partner in conspiracy is still free to travel and has been seen on Earth in the last 100 years. This personality was at the time of Jesus the official designated by Lord Brahma as the chief Governor of Earth.

          • Citta Hari dasa

            They are both interned now on a certain planet awaiting judgment of the Universal authorities. But, their third partner in conspiracy is still free to travel and has been seen on Earth in the last 100 years. This personality was at the time of Jesus the official designated by Lord Brahma as the chief Governor of Earth.

            I got a good laugh out of this. Very entertaining indeed!

  5. Do his answers correspond to the Rupanuga Gaudiya siddhanta or does he advocate some alternative philosophy of living? I would need to know that before I bought the book.

    I believe it is just as good, if not better, to read counterpoints or alternative positions to our own… it ensures that we do not become fossilized and fanatical. I suggest you read the book….then you might know the answer to your question about what thought is being promoted therein.

    • Well said Gopa-kumara. It’s been my experience that reading the thoughts of others, even when they don’t correspond to Rupanuga Gaudiya siddhanta–and sometimes especially because they don’t– have brought me to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the tradition I’m a member of.

      • That is a nice thought, but Srimad Bhagavatam unequivocally states:

        Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.10

        na yad vacas citra-padam harer yaso
        jagat-pavitram pragrinita karhicit
        tad vayasam tirtham usanti manasa
        na yatra hamsa niramanty usik-kshayah

        SYNONYMS

        na — not; yat — that; vacah — vocabulary; citra-padam — decorative; hareh — of the Lord; yasah — glories; jagat — universe; pavitram — sanctified; pragrinita — described; karhicit — hardly; tat — that; vayasam — crows; tirtham — place of pilgrimage; usanti — think; manasah — saintly persons; na — not; yatra — where; hamsah — all-perfect beings; niramanti — take pleasure; usik-kshayah — those who reside in the transcendental abode.

        TRANSLATION

        Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered by saintly persons to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows. Since the all-perfect persons are inhabitants of the transcendental abode, they do not derive any pleasure there.

        This stricture is often taken lightly by devotees, but none the less the fact remains the same.

        I think this verse from Srimad Bhagavatam should be the guideline for any GV publishing or publication.

        • Pujyapada Sridhara Deva Goswami:

          “But generally I mix with Western philosophy when I say anything. I try to mix with Western philosophy, with that dress, garment I try to give delivery, both Eastern and Western combined. Prabhupada (BSST) was that type. I could assimilate from him that type. When I read newspapers Bon Maharaja in the beginning had some objection. But after coming from England he said, “I have taken two things from you: One, newspaper reading.” When I was in Madras, I read newspapers uptodate. When we were preaching, it should be up to date, living, not dead. So newspapers are necessary to survey what is the wave of the present time. Bon Maharaja did not like it in the beginning but after returning from London he said, “Yes, I appreciate this from you.” Madhan Mohan one day told that for Sridhara Maharaja, reading of newspaper is not less than reading of the Vedas because he can utilize everything and anything for religious purpose. He collects news from here and there and utilizes it for the purpose of preaching. So his view is always to collect materials to make his speeches enlivened, up to date. For that purpose, no other purpose but to enliven his speaking.”

    • I am quite up to date with the New Age ideas. I am not fossilized or fanatical. I read and study about everything that is relevant nowadays in the New Age movement which is about the only thing that matters in the USA apart from the traditional religions and their boring dogmas.
      My point is simple; if this site is supposed to be a preaching arm of Tripurari Maharaja’s missionary work, then I am curious as to how and why non-Gaudiya views on spirituality are being presented on his website?
      Should Tripurari Maharaja be associated with some of these non-Vedic ideas of spirituality are being promoted by some form of new age thinker?
      I don’t think so.
      By the way, the disciples of Tripurari Maharaja are not the only ones who have some stake in Tripurari Maharaja!
      We, many of his junior Godbrothers served him and respected him as siksha-guru for several years before he even accepted disciples.
      He has been our guru longer than yours, so please understand that we also have deep spiritual and emotional capital invested in Tripurari Maharaja. His disciples don’t have any monopoly on a spiritual love and connection with Tripurari Maharaja.
      I hope all his disciples can understand and accept that.

      • Citta Hari dasa

        KB, you say that you are up to date with the New Age ideas and so directly contradict the Bhagavatam verse you quoted against reading ideas other than Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

        No one ever said Tripurari Maharaja’s disciples have a monopoly on him, but you might consider that there are some who have lived with him for many years and who know him pretty well.

        You claim to be a siksa disciple of his, which makes me question your conception of what constitutes a siksa relationship. If you were really paying attention you would know that he has no love for New Age thought.

        • Maharaja “has no love” for New Age thought?

          I would have to hear him say that himself first and know exactly what New Age ideas he is referring to before I could accept that.

          I think Maharaja would love any teachings or thought that explicitly promote pure devotion to Lord Hari. The idea of bashing New Age is quite lame as most of the sincerest and open-minded seekers in society today are associated with the New Age movement.
          Most Hare Krishna devotees have a tunnel vision which keeps them from searching for other truths or revelations outside the Hare Krishna canon. That is quite fine, but it does render them ignorant of new revelations and new discoveries in the realm of revealed knowledge.
          I’d be happy to see some modern New Age ideas showing up on the front page of Harmonist, but unfortunately what frequently gets priority is the stuff more affiliated with the secular academics and other such stale material.

          As far as my relationship with Tripurari Maharaja as a siksha disciple, all I can say is that during my early years in ISKCON I did serve under Tripurari Maharaja and set through many of his classes and also take some personal siksha from Maharaja. The last time I saw him was in Badger California around 15 years ago.
          Maybe Maharaja will remember back to the late 70’s when he took me to the airport to fly out to India when he also told me he wanted to start a farm in southern Illinois and make me the temple president when I got back from India?
          As a matter of fact earlier this year I tried to get the temple authorities here in Alachua to invite Maharaja here for a week of sanga and classes. Sadly, they said they can only allow ISKCON devotees in good standing to preach here. I wrote them that such an attitude was offensive and constitutes Vaishnava aparadha.
          As well, Maharaja might remember back around 12 years ago when I contacted him about sending a young boy to him for training and service? Unfortunately, the boy’s mother blocked my efforts.
          Anyway, I am no qualified disciple of Tripurari Maharaja or Srila Prabhupada but I love and admire them both.
          I am not surprised that my sincerity is in question, as I question that sincerity myself constantly.
          My efforts are lame and foolish, but I have a special kind of affection for Tripurari Maharaja.
          I am getting older and closer to retirement. In the coming years I would like to try and be of some service to Maharaja. He might remember that about 12 years ago I was writing him about coming to this area and preaching around this devotee community. I still have an idea to try and put that together sometime in the future because I think the devotees here would really benefit by Maharaja’s holy association.
          So, don’t write me off yet, I still have a little time to try and be of some service to Swami Tripurari.
          I might even turn my house into a little temple in the coming years and offer Maharaja a cabin where he can meet and sanga with some of many devotees in this area.
          That is an idea I have that might come to be in the next few years.
          I was a Godbrother, so I have the right to disagree with Maharaja on some small details. But, was a junior Godbrother who revered and admired Tripurari Maharaja as a siksha guru. Certainly, Maharaja is way more learned, spiritual and pure than me, so I respect his siksha on Rupanuga Siddhanta, but I might not agree with the editorial policy he allows here on the web site and I feel that some of it is too boring, dated and secular to make an exciting preaching package.
          Still, that is no reflection on how I regard Tripurari Maharaja as a master of Gaudiya theology and siddhanta and a practitioner way beyond my level.
          Prabhupada accepted Sridhar Maharja as siksha-guru, but as well he disagreed with Sridhar Maharaja on some things that happened with the Gaudiya Math after the passing of Srila Saraswati Goswami Thakur. So, the idea is that one does not always agree with his siksha gurus on every detail of every issue. I think that is quite reasonable and practical as well.

  6. Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter “Mystic Viewpoints” in my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org on comparative mysticism:

    Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

    Conflicts in Conventional Religion. “What’s in a Word?” outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

    Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

  7. Those who believe the kinship of faiths should join the social network of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Look at http://www.peacenext.org/profile/RonKrumpos and I would be happy to be one of your first friends there.

  8. I have standards myself too, but I know that my standards cannot make something true or false. That is all I said and you agreed.
    Regarding BVT, I would be the person who would share his generous wish. Allah is not the same as Bhagavan is made clear by BVT above, but he is same at the same time. Eventually the prayers to Allah have to be heard by Visnu in some form. Visnu is Brahaman and Paramatama too. Same non-dual absolute is paramatama, bhagavan and paramatama. I don’t think you read the above excerpt so clearly where BVT talks about not condemning worship of nature etc by people even though their worship is not perfect. Perhaps you don’t want to extend that generosity to them. I take BVT’s “relative” and “deliberately accommodating”, writings at some face value and not as preaching strategy. I am perhaps alone in the world perhaps who does that.
    I don’t believe in the Kantian compartmentalization where each deity is isolated from others. Again my subjective perception.

    Perhaps Rama’s banishment of Sita and killing of Vali and Krsna’s treatment of the Gopis or his role in Karna’s killing by deception or his need to use a lie to kill Dronacarya( and Narayana’s killing of Bhrigu muni’s wife for giving shelter to asuras) may look like ornaments to you, but to others they will look like defects in character. In fact, people give the example of Jesus and say how he is more ideal person than Krsna and so a better candidate for incarnation.
    I felt uncomfortable initially with many acts of Krsna ( even SSM felt that), but I understood Krsna’s absolute reality is not dependent on my perception of him. Certainly, like you I have made my choice of going to GV. But I feel Absolute is one in fact, vasudeva sarvam iti. So other people are worshiping Krsna, albeit in an indirect way. Everyone follows his path in all respects. That is what Krsna says.
    As per as Zeus is concerned, people draw the comparison with Indra for him. Why believe in any Vedic deity at all(including Siva etc who are insane by Western personality tests). I don’t know how Rama will not be a male chauvinist by today’s standard and how Krsna will be not called the most deceptive and cheating got by western personality standard.
    Again I am alone in this understanding and that is ok. Now I don’t mind being alone.

  9. I like the confidence with which you speak about all these details about Satan, Lucifer and Jesus. Just love it.

    • Yes, I am glad you noticed. However, something happened to me in the last few years and I got recruited into cosmic consciousness after I had already been recruited into Krishna consciousness by Srila Prabhupada..
      So, what I know and can teach about Lucifer, Satan, Jesus, Moses etc. etc. has to do with cosmic consciousness and not Krishna consciousness, so I must state such.
      I know the whole thing about Jesus, Lucifer, Satan, Abraham, Moses and so many things.
      The revelation is there and it is real.
      I can answer all the questions about the truth about Lord Jesus whom I know as a personal guru.
      It is not in the Bible.
      The truth about Jesus is something else and I know what that is, now after a lifetime of confusion and doubt.
      I can tell you that the truth about Jesus is beautiful beyond imagination.

  10. Each of you is talking about the personal divine you worship in your religion. In a further quote from my e-book on mysticism:

    Prophets, messengers and incarnations. Buddhist mystics may venerate Buddha, arhants, bodhisattvas, or others who had realized or neared enlightenment. Christian mystics are devoted to Jesus Christ and admire the apostles who spread his Word. Hindu mystics adhere to teachings of Krishna, Rama and/or other manifestations of Brahman. Islamic mystics said that Muhammad was the Perfect Man, who taught the secret of true Reality underlying Allah. Jewish mystics are in awe of Moses as their paragon and honor many other biblical prophets. Although mystics revere these perfect exemplars, most believe that each person must seek their own unity with the divine, perhaps with guidance from teachers in this life.

    Allah, Buddha, God, ha-Shem, Ishvara. Most religious people do worship a personal deity, a non-theistic ideal or an intermediary. Unlike most of those in the mainstream, faith alone is not sufficient for mystics. They expanded to a search for oneness with the divine essence. Mystics, and later their followers, sought an underlying Reality, or divine ground, which some may call al-Haqq, Brahman, Dharmakaya/Nirvana, Ein Sof, Godhead, or other words. It is One: transcendent to and immanent in all existence; the absolute nature of being itself. Their “faith” is that union is possible during this life.

    • God is simultaneously one and different. That is philosophy of Gaudiya Vaisnavism to which the site is dedicated. You are talking as if differences are unreal and there exists only oneness. Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Sri Vaisnavism or other schools like those of Nimbarka don’t deny the oneness of everything( vasudeva sarvam iti) but they simultaneously acknowledge the difference as well.

    • You state in your post:

      It is One: transcendent to and immanent in all existence; the absolute nature of being itself.

      In the Vaishnava society they never refer to the Supreme Absolute Godhead as “it”. The Vaishnava devotees of the Lord would only ask that “it” be changed to “Him”.
      The Vaishnava followers of the Vedic authority always place Him above it when it comes to the Godhead.

      Is the absolute a person or a field of undifferentiated energy?
      What do you think?

  11. “…religious studies scholars have been rejecting the so-called perennial philosophy for a generation.”

    Thank God!

    • But in doing so do they give more credit that is due to non-mystical or non-experiential, belief-based religious expressions. I think there is more truth to perennialism than not, in as much as it is identified with the idea of Sanatana Dharma, which under scrutiny acknowledges significant differences in experience of the Absolute. As Gaura-vijaya has commented, vasudeva sarvam iti. All is (difference), and all is one (identity).

  12. I showed this article to a professor of mine and we talked a bit about it. It was interesting.

    He said: “The main argument is that the world’s religions are climbing different mountains with very different tools and techniques.” This of course invites the response: “the sky pretty much looks the same when you reach the top.”

    I replied: “I have mixed feelings about this article. Something about it seems to appeal to the anti-perennialist part of me, and the grave danger in dumbing religions down and saying, “oh, they’re all talking about the same thing.” The other part of me feels this article (and possibly his book in general), while certainly well-meaning, once again pits one religion against another leaving us back in the sectarian boat again.

    I think perhaps the various “tools and techniques” which perennialists are often all to eager to disregard because they claim they are only seemingly relevant when we have yet to reach the mountain top (where we will look back and see them in a more objective light), are the VERY things which ARE of the most importance.

    I can agree with the notion that all the world’s religious traditions are in search of Absolute Truth and Wisdom (God), but the variegated “tools and techniques” employed by the different traditions will certainly yield variegaated experiences of that “one” Supreme Reality. I know you (my professor) are fond of saying, “…different experiences of the same Reality”, and I think there’s something here to be worked out. Could it not be argued that there is an optimal experience; one that is inclusive of all other possible experiences. This may be a poor example, but for instance, 2+2=4. Basic math is undoubtedly correct. But isn’t Algebra a little more comprehensive of that same basic math truth? Moreover, isn’t Calculus still more comprehensive than Algebra? Yes, 2+2=4 and that does not change, but isn’t it plausible to suggest that quantum physics “gets at” the same math truth even more systematically and with more detail and nuance without compromising the basic underlying truth of 2+2?

    Maybe there is a case to be made, hopefully without too much arrogance, that some religious philosophies in face DO express the same Truth, in more comprehensive ways than others. It need not mean they are talking about a completely different Reality, simply that they have “worked through” things to a greater degree than some other philosophy has.

  13. It is rather difficult to follow these comments because they are not in exact chronological order. Gaura-Vijaya, are you responding to my last post?

  14. Hello Harmonists,

    I am the proverbial horse’s mouth and I am now gifting you with the long sought-after solutions to these ancient symbolic mysteries. By the way, I liked your mention that all religions were a different path up the same mountain. Do you understand what that actually means symbolically?

    Here is comprehensive proof that the symbolism of many ancient texts, canons, and concepts is an advanced and extremely ancient spiritual and philosophical technology that predates all extant religions and mystery schools. Consequently, here is proof, beyond disproof, that all three so-called “Faiths of Abraham” are purposeful deceptions.

    Accordingly, related esoterica, mystery schools, and the New Age are rife with error caused by undue reliance upon the assertions of these religions and their leaders. Throughout this book, I present verifiable proof that ancient sages and prophets opposed religion and wisely never trusted religious leaders. As comprehensive validation of this, they redundantly encoded stunning proof of why throughout pivotal symbolic narratives and related concepts.

    Following is a link to a draft-preview of my upcoming new book for parties like yourself, who are more likely to make good use of the information. Please excuse the ads on this site, it’s a free file storage site and I’m not ready to post it to E-Book sites yet.

    Finishing the Mysteries of Gods and Symbols

    Peace and Wisdom,

    Seven

    • Hi Seven,

      Thanks for contributing. Having not yet followed the link you posted, proof beyond dis-proof is a tall claim. Also, one way to understand religion is simply the overt practices and lifestyle of those pursuing a spiritual path. I am suspecting you might be equating religion with bad religion across the board, and thus concluding that truly spiritual people are anti-religion. I think this is a large error by way of generalization.

      Without religion and the association of like-minded spiritualists, the “lone ranger spiritualist” tends to move further and further into an imagined enlightenment, compounded with a sense that they are one of the few people (or only person) to attain such a high state. What this practically means is that the ego of being the center of things is expanding, rather than contracting. Traditions and groups have their flaws no doubt, but what is a flawed group but a conglomeration of flawed individuals? Can we say they would always be better off on their own?

    • I understand your dissatisfaction with the Abrahamic religions and suspicions of deception. I too felt that way most all my adult life. However, attacking the authenticity of the Abrahamic faiths is an approach that will soon prove futile, ill-conceived and malicious. I am not one to cast stones at you for it, but I have to honestly say that I think the effort to debunk the authenticity of the Abrahamic religions is misguided, unproductive and divisive.
      Your book will not be well-received by the yoga world. Some of the New Age people might agree, but even there you will ultimately find that most of them are respectful of the Abrahamic religions because most all the Indian gurus who came in the 60’s spoke highly of Jesus.
      So, you say that you are the Horse’s mouth, but anyone that comes out and attacks the authenticity of the Abrahamic religions publicly will more likely be viewed as the Horse’s ass.

      I hope you can find the truth someday that will halt such maliciousness towards these religions.
      You lack many keys that you don’t have right now and you probably shouldn’t be writing a book that you might someday come to regret. You still have time to grow spiritually in life.
      If you grow enough you will get to the point of NOT attacking the faith and the religions of others.

      It wasn’t that long ago I would have agreed with your assertions and claims. But, a number of angels changed my mind very profoundly and now I have to say that you and I are both fools for practicing such hatred and contempt for the world religions.

      Your best bet is to lose the book, the topic, the effort and the attitude and spend all your energy in trying to do good to your fellow man in some other way.

      • Your best bet is to lose the book, the topic, the effort and the attitude and spend all your energy in trying to do good to your fellow man in some other way.

        You have your moments, KB. 🙂

    • I am the proverbial horse’s mouth

      I am the walrus! Koo-koo ka-choo!

  15. Harer Nama Harer Nama Harer Nama eva kevalam
    Kalau nasteva nasteva nasteva gatir anyatha!

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