Mysticism in World Religions
Saturday, June 27, 2015, 6:05 PM
The word God, as used in English, is Allah in Arabic, Brahman in Sanskrit and ha-Shem (the Name) in Hebrew. God is Theos in Greek, the first written language of the New Testament. Nirvana in Buddhist Sanskrit can also mean absolute Truth: ultimate Reality.
Hinduism had no one founder; the Vedas advanced orally about 200 years before being recorded in Sanskrit from ca. 1300–600 BCE. The Hebrew Bible developed at least 300 years after Moses, ca. 1000–400 BCE. Gautama had been born a Hindu and taught in Prakrit; Buddhism’s first written canon was in Pali nearly 400 years later, ca. 17 BCE. Jesus was born a Jew and preached in Aramaic; the New Testament had evolved from ca. 100–367 CE. Muhammad spoke Arabic; the written Qur’an was formed within 30 years of his death in 632 CE. Scholars do not agree on those dates.*
Hindu scriptures also refer to Isvara, a more personal aspect of Brahman, and often to Vishnu and Shiva, two of Brahman’s trinity, plus incarnations in Krishna and Rama. The Hebrew Bible uses the sacred, unspoken, YHVH (YHWH) for God; Adonai replaces it when reading Jewish scriptures. Ha-Shem is used in conversation. Mahayana and Vajrayana vehicles may consider the Dharmakaya (“dharma-body” or Buddha- nature) more correct than Nirvana, final realization of the Theravada. In the first written New Testament, Jesus referred to God as Abba (Father) and Lord applied to both the persons of the Father and the Son in the Trinity. In the Qur’an, al-Haqq (the Truth, the Reality) is supremely the title of Allah. Islam has “99 Beautiful Names” for Allah’s perfection; other faiths credit many attributes to God.
Many other religions have different words for God and a few, as in Buddhism, do not include a Supreme Being or Creator. Some give God personal qualities, while most speak of God as a spiritual omnipresence or an all-pervading force. Among the other religions which are still practiced today: Aboriginal traditions, African tribal beliefs, Baha’i, Druze, Jainism, Native American faiths, Polynesian spirit worship, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Yoruba, and Zoroastrianism. There are hundreds of religions and faiths.
* Some scholars say that the oral traditions of Hindu and Jewish texts were first written in the 3rd Century BCE and the New Testament in the 1st Century CE (AD). Comparative religions use BCE or CE, Common Era, for the Christian BC or AD; ca. means approximate dates.
Note: Five of the largest religions are mentioned in order of their usual historical origins. All had originated in Asia (India and the Near East), but Judaism, Christianity and Islam are herein referred to as “Western” (yet the biggest Muslim populations are in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India). Shinto of Japan - larger than Judaism - worships “kami,” heavenly and earthly divine powers shared by some humans.
Saturday, June 20, 2015, 2:13 PM
“Conscience” is a misused and misunderstood word. “Have you no conscience?,” ask people of a person who does something which seems to them to be so obviously wrong. Each person has a dual conscience and, occasionally, these two sides do engage in a duel.
Socrates said that conscience was the inner warning voice of God. Among Stoics it was a divine spark in man. Throughout the Middle Ages, conscience, synderesis in Greek, was universally binding rules of conduct. Religious interpretations later changed in psychiatry.
Sigmund Freud had coined a new term for conscience; he called it “superego.” This was self-imposed standards of behavior we learned from parents and our community, rather than from a divine source. People who transgressed those rules felt guilt. Carl Jung, Freud’s famous contemporary, said that conscience was an archetype of a “collective unconscious”; content from society is learned later. Most religions still view conscience as the foundation of morality.
Sri Aurobindo said “...true original Conscience in us is deeper than constructed and conventional conscience of the moralist, for it is this which points always towards Truth and Right and Beauty, towards Love and Harmony and all that is a divine possibility in us.” Perhaps conscience can be viewed as a double-pane window, with the self in between. On one side, it looks toward ego and free will to obey community’s laws. On the other side, it is toward the soul and divine will to follow universal law. They often converge to dictate the same, or a similar, course of conduct...and sometimes not.
The moral dilemma is when these two views conflict. Disobey the laws of society and you might be ostracized and/or go to prison. Disobeying divine law is a sin in most Western religions and causes bad karma, negative consequences, in Eastern faiths. Divine law, or dharma in Sanskrit - logos in Greek - is fundamental within both Hinduism and Buddhism. It has many definitions and applications.*
The laws of our community, or religion, should be followed only when they do not conflict with divine law. Intuitive, innate and interior conscience tells us, without words, what divine will dictates. Reasoned, learned and exterior conscience tells us, with words, what society or religion expects, or demands, of us. Mystics listen to the divine silent voice. It requires listening beyond the self.
Divine conscience is “knowing in your heart” rather than in your mind. In these essays it does occur three times. “It motivates you to respond to the divine will which the soul, through your conscience, tells you is right.” It is that critical observer of our self: innate with respect to the divine, not the superego related to our community. “Surface soul is a self’s reflection in the divine; conscience opens the soul’s depths to reflect the divine essence in this self’s life.”
*Dharma, or logos, can also mean the source of world order, cosmic reason, moral teachings, individual duty, etc. Unlike dharma, logos more commonly refers to human reason, e.g. logic. In Christianity, Logos is God’s Word (wisdom) incarnate in Jesus.
(29 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life" at suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Saturday, June 13, 2015, 7:46 PM
If you are to truly understand mysticism, and integrate it into your life, you must learn how to feel, think and act “outside the box.” You cannot remain within the confines of traditional notions or the commonly accepted ways of approaching this world. Escape from that prison! The divine life is without constraints or limitations.
The imagery here is quite appropriate. What if you had to make all your decisions about living while detained in a jail cell? The cells may be open for brief periods each day, but the prisoners are still surrounded by walls. There are also walls around cells of everyday life. We are restricted by our ability to control our emotions, mind and body. Even with full command of our “self,” we must live within the restraints of Nature and society. Freedom is relative.
“Free will” is really quite limited, despite belief that we control ourselves and our lives. We think we have endless choices...until we try to make them. Each decision must not only be based on what we “want to do,” but also on our own capabilities and what is expected of us. Nature and society imprison us, whether we like it or not. The key to release is mystical realization. All in One and One in All, the divine unity, opens the gate between a universal consciousness and most people’s constrained awareness.
When you live outside the box of everyday life, even momentarily, you become aware of how those around you are confined. It is like being the only sober person at a cocktail party. You might not have as much fun now, but you will certainly feel a lot better tomorrow. Breaking out of mundane sentiments, worldly thoughts and mortal body enables you to view life more objectively. You see things as they are, not just through the haze of intoxicated egoism or partying individuality. True Reality is much more impressive than “realities.”
The feeling of being “boxed in” is common. Sometimes we feel that our emotions are ruling our life, at least for the moment, even though we know that they ought not. At other times our endless thoughts seem to be in command, when we should be doing what is required. Our body often holds us back from complete living; we are too hungry, too tired and/or too sick to perform our best. We frequently become our own jailer. Mystics can break free.
Outer walls are the boxes of Nature and of society. Inclement weather, lack of sunlight, gravity, and/or other natural phenomena may restrain our movements. Our own natural aptitudes, practiced talents and learned skills are always lacking in some areas. Human nature is controlled mostly by society. What we believe that other people expect of us greatly influences how we feel, think and act. Considering the reactions of our family, friends, business associates, community, and/or nation determines much of what we do. Those “laws” of Nature and society govern our lives, usually more so than we wish. Mystical awareness can allow us to obey divine law here and now.
In the divine life - during this life - those boxes themselves do not disappear. They are discerned simply as temporary shells, rather than jail cells. You are then conscious that the divine essence flows within, over, beyond, through, and around them. You feel that in every aspect of your being: each sentiment, each thought and each action reflects that divine light. Your worldview becomes universal, encompassing a wholeness which transcends individual differences.
(25 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life" at suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf my free ebook on comparative mysticism)