Updated: Jul 12, 2020
As expressed in the last post, I spent years desperately searching for a teaching that would end my pursuit for a "higher" state of consciousness. Deep down I knew that my suffering was tied to my seeking. Yet, I was convinced that the seeking and suffering were necessary for arriving at some imagined Truth. For years I scavenged through religious literature looking for any nuggets of wisdom I could use to formulate a new spiritual view of reality. Eventually, something dawned on me. All of these religions, when reduced to their core, were essentially saying the same thing. Many people will disagree with this notion, and that’s completely fine; but I see what I see, and a common teaching pervading nearly all religions is clear as day to me. Of course, each religion has its own cultural and linguistic package in which it expresses itself; but beneath their surfaces there is undoubtedly a profound connection. I’m obviously not the first to see this, Aldous Huxley called it the Perennial Philosophy. Theosophist Samael Aun Weor once said, “Each religion is a precious jewel on the golden string of divinity.” Carl Jung built an entire career in psychology by deconstructing a wide variety of religious mythologies, which gave birth to his theory of archetypal forms emerging from the collective unconscious. Sri Yukteswar Giri dedicated a large chunk of his book The Holy Science to the reconciliation of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. I could continue, but I think you get the point. The belief that all religions are nudging us towards the same realization is nothing new. Each of them is like a finger point at the moon, and as Bruce Lee say’s in his 1973 film Enter the Dragon, “...Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
Each religion is attempting to convey a truth of some kind, a picture of reality. When viewed exoterically, these conveyances appear very different to the viewer. To see the core message we need to distill them down to their essence, down to simple modern terms. As a guiding light, I like to refer to this core underlying teaching as Non-duality. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what we call it, this is just what I prefer. The reason I like the phrase non-duality is because it eliminates the notion of separation, which is in my view the universal core message. No matter which teaching we are looking at, the idea of a separation between Self, world, and God is always the suggested cause of ignorance within the individual. When the interpretation of whichever scriptures we are reading seems to say that there is a separate self, in a world, apart from God, we can be fairly certain that we have not boiled the teaching down to its intended meaning. If we do feel the need to study religious doctrines, I'd suggest we look deep beneath the modern interpretation. This is where the intended meaning shines forth like gold, underneath the years of accumulated muck and sludge. This is specifically important when studying Judeo-Christianity.
There is no substantial difference in my opinion between the revelations given by Christ and Buddha. In 1945, Archeologists found a bunch of scrolls in some caves near Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt. Among them was a scroll called the Gospel of Thomas, thought to be Jesus’ brother. Declared by the orthodox church as non-canonical, they were hastily discredited as authentic biblical scriptures. Why? Nobody knows for sure. Maybe it disagreed with the church’s narrative and subverted the controlled interpretation they had over the bible? Maybe it's because the earliest found dating of a "Thomas" scroll wasn't until 60AD, putting it a little late in the "writing down what Jesus said Business". But who knows. Either way, I highly suggest reading it. It’s a simple compilation of 114 sayings of the alleged Jesus Christ, and they are basically a bunch of middle eastern koans. Many of the sayings in the scroll are found in the canonized bible nearly word for word, so there is a reasonable amount of authentic overlap; but the interesting thing about these 114 sayings is that they sound Buddhist. For example, the third saying within the scroll reads, “If your leaders say to you look, ‘the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds will precede you. If they say ‘it is beneath the sea’, then the fish will precede you. Rather the Kingdom of heaven is within you and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.” Another quote, line 5 says, “Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you.” I see very little difference between quotes like these, and the teachings of Buddha. Additionally, there is nothing mystical or metaphysical being asked or given to us here. Jesus, or rather the author of this particular Gospel is simply saying if we stay in the moment what's real will become obvious. Just as Buddha says, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” All is revealed in this moment.
In my eyes, Buddha and Jesus were inspired by the same mission: to correct where the dominating religions of their time had begun to fall short. Christ gently tried to correct the rigid orthodoxy of the Jewish law and it's spiritual misunderstanding; while Buddha attempted to free the people of his time from the oppressive caste system produced by Hindu fundamentalism, by reminding them they were already free. They were both fingers, pointing at the heavens. Heavens being an analogy for the inherent psychological freedom each one of us possess within (and without.) Jesus explicitly stated that he spoke in parables, so it’s important to always find the underlying meaning of his words. I admit, it’s not a casual task to see this overlap through the tinted glass of modern religion. Layer after layer of intellectual interpretation has obscured the heart of each teaching. To recover this axiomatic interpretation, we must view the literature through the context of their original languages. For example, in the Old Testament, what was the name of God, given by God, to Moses? In Aramaic Hebrew it is YHVH. Yod Hey Vav Hey. The closest translation into plain English for this would be Self-existence, Eternal Being, or I Am that I Am. With this in mind, how would an accurate interpretation of something like “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me” look like? Well, if the Father is the Biblical God, YHVH, or I Am that I Am, and this I Am that I Amness is inside Jesus, and Jesus is conversely within that I Am that I Amness… I hope you’re able to see what I’m seeing here. I Am that I Am is word for word one of the highest mantric prayers used by Vedantic Hinduism. In fact, Advaita Vedanta, literally translated as Non-duality, holds that the presence of I AM within us is the presence of God, or Brahman. God, Brahman, Consciousness, Awareness… in Vedantic culture these are all synonymous.
My goal here isn’t to declare any authoritative translation of the Bible, Veda Sutras, or Upanishads. I only wish to hand you an alternate interpretation of these religious materials. I firmly believe that with this non-dual perspective, we can revitalize and reconcile just about every major religion known to man. Let's remember what religion was meant for. The Latin root for the word religion is religare, meaning “to bind, or tie”. This is identical to the root meaning of Yoga, or in Sanskrit “yuj”, meaning to connect, join, or balance. So what is it that we are meant to bind with or connect to? I would suggest it’s referring to the connection of ourselves to our Self. Hence the phrase 'finding oneself'. Self with a capital S refers to awareness itSelf. The eternal, unbroken awareness that gives rise to a mind that then distinguishes itSelf from the world and produces concepts about a separate thinking self (ego), a world opposed to that ego, and a God looking down upon the world from a place called heaven. This is all just the mind at play. Theory. Duality. To move beyond this duality, all we must do is refer back to our intrinsic sense of self-awareness. An awareness that is ever-present, completely unchanging, and always wide awake. An awareness that has been personified and deified by the beautifully poetic minds of our ancient ancestors and expressed through mythology and religion. This awareness is all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be; and as Nisargadatta Maharaj used to say, “That is God, and You are that.”