World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
Transcendent, All-Pervasive Reality
This and the following sections describe the various attributes of Ultimate Reality. We have selected passages on the essential nature of Ultimate Reality as transcendent and beyond all phenomenal existence. They teach that at the same time, Ultimate Reality is all-pervasive and immanent, the "ground of being," the source of the energy within every atom and the life in every creature. Yet God's involvement with the world, even His immanence in all things, in no way limits or affects His essential, absolute nature. God's glory fills the world, but the world cannot exhaust God. Finally, we conclude with some well-known theophanies which reveal, in a manner far more vivid than is possible through theological conceptions alone, the transcendence of divinity and the all-pervasiveness of Truth.
Beyond the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, higher than the intellect is the Great Atman [the totality of all minds], higher than the Great Atman is the Umanifest. Beyond the Unmanifest is the Person, all-pervading, and imperceptible.
Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 2.3.7-8
Katha Upanishad 2.3.7-8: The specific meanings of these successive levels of reality are in some dispute. The mind is the seat of emotion, perceptions, and consciousness. The intellect (budhi) is a finer faculty of enlightened discrimination. The Great Atman is understood by some as the Ego, by others as the collective consciousness of all minds. The Unmanifest is either the undifferentiated consciouness of reality or Brahman in his attribute as the seed of the causal realm. The Person (Purusha) may be Brahman or the Supreme Being. For other Upanishadic discussions of four levels of reality, see Katha Upanishad 3.13, p. 840; Mandukya Upanishad, p. 834. Compare the Hadith of the veils, p. 87; the mystical interpretation of Qur'an 24.35, p. 116; and the Zohar's discourse on the nut garden, p. 324.
God! there is no God but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there who shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-high, the All-glorious.
Islam. Qur'an 2.255: The Throne Verse
The Self is one. Ever still, the Self is Swifter than thought, swifter than the senses. Though motionless, he outruns all pursuit. Without the Self, never could life exist.
The Self seems to move, but is ever still. He seems far away, but is ever near. He is within all, and he transcends all.
The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self, Indivisible, untouched by sin, wise, Immanent and transcendent. He it is Who holds the cosmos together.
Hinduism. Isha Upanishad 4-8
Some sing of His noble attributes and exalted state. Some express Him through philosophical intricacies and ratiocination. Some tell of His giving life and taking it away. Some sing of His taking away life and giving it back. Some sing of His transcendence; To some is He ever manifest. Millions upon millions discourse endlessly of Him. Eternally He doles out gifts; Those receiving them at last can receive no more. Infinitely the creation receives from Him sustenance. He is the Ordainer; By His Ordinance the universe He runs. Says Nanak, Ever is He in bliss, Ever fulfilled.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 3, M.1, p. 1-2
Isha Upanidhad 4-8: Vv. 4, 5, 8. Compare Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.11, p. 80, Chandogya Upanishad 7.25.2, p. 530.
"In what does the Infinite rest?" "In its own glory--nay, not even in that. In the world it is said that cows and horses, elephants and gold, slaves, wives, fields, and houses are man's glory--but these are poor and finite things. How shall the Infinite rest anywhere but in itself? "The infinite is below, above, behind, before, to the right, to the left. I am all this. This Infinite is the Self. The Self is below, above, behind, before, to the right, to the left. I am all this. One who knows, meditates upon, and realizes the truth of the Self--such a one delights in the Self, rejoices in the Self. He becomes master of himself, master of all worlds. Slaves are they who know not this truth."
Hinduism. Chandogya Upanishad 7.23-25
Caesar said to Rabbi Gamaliel, "You state that whenever ten Israelites are assembled, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is found. How many Shechinahs are there then?" Rabbi Gamaliel summoned the ruler's servant, struck him on the neck, and asked, "Why did you permit the sun to enter the house of your master?" Thereupon the ruler replied, "The sun shines over all the earth." Rabbi Gamaliel then said, "If the sun, which is only one of the hundred million servants of the Lord, can shine over all the earth, how much more would this be true for the Shechinah of the Lord Himself?"
Judaism. Talmud, Sanhedrin 39a
There was something undifferentiated and yet complete, Which existed before heaven and earth. Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change. It operates everywhere and is free from danger. It may be considered the mother of the universe. I do not know its name; I call it Tao. If forced to give it a name, I shall call it Great. Now being great means functioning everywhere. Functioning everywhere means far-reaching. Being far-reaching means returning to the original point.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 25
Any and everything of this universe is all the body of God.
Tenrikyo. Ofudesaki, 3.40
God's mind is not only in His Word, but also in everything He created. God's mind exists wherever we go in heaven or on earth.
Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 12-13-59
The one that is visible begins from the invisible. The invisible consists of three ultimates, and their essence is infinite.
Korean Religions. Chun Boo Kyung
Sanhedrin 39a: The saying about ten Israelites refers to the minyan, the minimum number of men required to start a synagogue. But the holy spirit (Shechinah) can come among even two gathered together in God's name; cf. Abot 3.2, p. 271. Tao Te Ching 25: Cf. Doctrine of the Mean 26, p. 80; I Ching, Great Commentary 1.10.4, p. 121. Chun Boo Kyung: God as the cause is one body, but three in function. These three spirits appear in the world of phenomena as three poles: sung (character), myung (life), and chung (energy). Since the essence of the one is infinite, the three poles are divided and yet undivided. It is everywhere self-existing and omnipresent. Another interpretation: the three ultimate poles are manifest in the invisible world as internal character or mind, external form or substance, and their unity as substantial beings; and they are similarly manifest in the visible world as proton, electron, and neutron. Cf. Vishnu Pura na 1, p. 82.
Divinity is that which was there before the appearance of heaven and earth, and which gives form to them; that which surpasses the yin and the yang, yet has the quality of them. This Divinity is thus the absolute existence, governing the entire universe of heaven and earth, yet at the same time, it dwells within all things, where it is called spirit; omnipresent within human beings, it is called mind.
In other words, human mind communes with the Divinity which is ruler of heaven and earth; mind and Divinity are one and the same. Divinity is the root origin of heaven and earth, the spiritual nature of all things, and the source of human destiny. Itself without form, it is Divinity which nurtures things with form.
Shinto. Kanetomo Yoshida, An Outline of Shinto
Buddha abides in the infinite, the unobstructed, ultimate realm of reality, in the realm of space, in the essence of True Thusness, without birth or death, and in ultimate truth, appearing to sentient beings according to the time, sustained by past vows, without ever ceasing, not abandoning all beings, all lands, all phenomena....
How should enlightening beings see the body of Buddha? (Dharmakaya) They should see the body of Buddha in infinite places. Why? They should not see Buddha in just one thing, one phenomenon, one body, one land, one being--they should see Buddha everywhere. Just as space is omnipresent, in all places, material or immaterial, yet without either arriving or not arriving there, because space is incorporeal, in the same way Buddha is omnipresent, in all places, in all beings, in all things, in all lands, yet neither arriving nor not arriving there, because Buddha's body is incorporeal, manifesting a body for the sake of sentient beings.
Buddhism. Garland Sutra 37
The Tathagata... is the essence which is the reality of matter, but he is not matter. He is the essence which is the reality of sensation, but he is not sensation. He is the essence which is the reality of intellect, but he is not intellect. He is the essence which is the reality of motivation, but he is not motivation. He is the essence which is the reality of consciousness, yet he is not consciousness. Like the element of space, he does not abide in any of the four elements. Transcending the scope of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, he is not produced in the six sense media... He abides in ultimate reality, yet there is no relationship between it and him. He is not produced from causes, nor does he depend on conditions. He is not without any characteristic, nor has he any characteristic. He has no single nature nor a diversity of natures. He is not a conception, not a mental construction, nor is he a nonconception. He is neither the other shore, nor this shore, nor that between. He is neither here, nor there, nor anywhere else....
Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 12
Garland Sutra 37: The teachings in this sutra are: (1) all beings equally possess Buddha nature when viewed from the standpoint of the Ultimate Truth; (2) all phenomena come into being due to their interdependence with other phenomena; (3) each experience contains all experience due to their interdependent relationship. Cf. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 5, p. 652. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 12: The transcendence of Buddha is comparable to the Jain doctrine of the Paramatman, see Niyamasara 176-77, p. 22 6. Cf. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.15, p. 91; Mulamadhyamaka Karika 25, pp. 91f.
This Teacher of mine, this Teacher of mine--he passes judgment on the ten thousand things but he doesn't think himself severe; his bounty extends to ten thousand generations but he doesn't think himself benevolent. He is older than the highest antiquity but he doesn't think himself long-lived; he covers heaven, bears up the earth, carves and fashions countless forms, but he doesn't think himself skilled. It is with him alone I wander.
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 6
God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love.
Science reveals Spirit, Soul, as not in the body, and God as not in man but as reflected by man. The greater cannot be in the lesser.... We reason imperfectly from effect to cause, when we conclude that matter is the effect of Spirit; but a priori reasoning shows material existence to be enigmatical. Spirit gives the true mental idea. We cannot interpret Spirit, Mind, through matter. Matter neither sees, hears, nor feels.
Christian Science. Science and Health, 465, 467
The Supreme Being (Purusha) is thousand-headed, thousand eyed, thousand footed; and, pervading the earth on all sides, He exists beyond the ten directions.
The Supreme Being, indeed, is all this, what has been and what will be, and the Lord of immortality as well as of mortal creatures.
Such is His magnificence, but the Supreme Being is even greater than this; all beings are a fourth of Him, three-fourths--His immortality--lie in heaven.
Three-fourths of the Supreme Being ascended; the fourth part came here again and again, and, diversified in form, it moved to the animate and the inanimate world.
Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.90.1-4
My material world is eightfold, divided into earth, water, Fire, air, ether, mind, the faculty of meditation, and self-awareness. This is the lower nature. My higher nature is different. It is the very life that sustains the world. Do not forget that this is the source of all existence. I am the genesis and the end of the entire world. There is nothing higher than I am, O Conqueror of Wealth! The world is strung on me like pearls on a string.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 7.4-7
Science and Health: The capitalized words 'Spirit' and 'Soul' are among the Seven Deific Synonyms for God. Rig Veda 10.90.1-4: Cf. Rig Veda 1.164.45, p. 806; Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.7-10, p. 582.
Thou art the fire Thou art the sun Thou art the air Thou art the moon Thou art the starry firmament Thou art Brahman Supreme; Thou art the waters--thou, the Creator of all!
Thou art woman, thou art man, Thou art the youth, thou art the maiden, Thou art the old man tottering with his staff; Thou facest everywhere.
Thou art the dark butterfly, Thou art the green parrot with red eyes, Thou art the thunder cloud, the seasons, the seas. Without beginning art Thou, Beyond time and space. Thou art He from whom sprang The three worlds.
Hinduism. Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.2-4
Tung-kuo Tzu asked Chuang Tzu, "What is called Tao--where is it?" "It is everywhere," replied Chuang Tzu. Tung-kuo Tzu said, "It will not do unless you are more specific." "It is in the ant," said Chuang Tzu. "Why go so low down?" "It is in the weeds." "Why even lower?" "It is in a potsherd." "Why still lower?" "It is in the excrement and urine," said Chuang Tzu. Tung-kuo gave no response. "Sir," said Chuang Tzu, "your question does not touch the essential. When inspector Huo asked the superintendent of markets about the fatness of pigs, the tests were always made in parts less and less likely to be fat. Do not insist on any particular thing. Nothing escapes from Tao. Such is perfect Tao, and so is great speech. The three words, Complete, Entire, and All, differ in name but are the same in actuality. They all designate the One."
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 22
Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.2-4: Cf. Rig Veda 6.47.18, p. 77.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said,
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 6.1-5
Then the Buddha, wishing to enable all the enlightening beings to realize the spiritual power of the boundless realm of the Enlightened One, emitted a light from between his brows. That light was called the Treasury of the Light of Knowledge of All Enlightening Beings Illuminating the Ten Directions. Its form was like a cloud of lamps with jewellike light. It shone throughout all buddha fields in the ten directions, revealing all the lands and beings therein. It also caused all networks of worlds to tremble. In every single atom it revealed innumerable Buddhas showering the teachings of all the Buddhas of all times, in accord with the differences in character and inclination of the various sentient beings. It clearly showed the Buddha's ocean of transcendent ways, and also rained infinite clouds of various emancipations, causing the sentient beings to forever cross over birth and death. It also showered clouds of the great vows of t he Buddhas, and clearly showed, in all worlds in the ten directions, the universally good enlightening beings' congregations at the sites of enlightenment. Having done all this, the light swirled around the Buddha, circling to the right, then went in under his feet.
Buddhism. Garland Sutra 2
Chuang Tzu 22: Compare Mumonkan 21: "A man asked Umman, 'What is Buddha?' Umman replied, 'shit-stick (Kanshiketsu)!'" See Mumonkan 18, p. 590. Isaiah 6.1-5: This vision of God's glory in the Temple is the prelude to Isaiah's call to be a prophet. Garland Sutra 2: In Buddhist scriptures, these visions of the Buddha's transcendent reality generally introduce a sermon or a teaching. Here what follows is the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra explaining the heavenly domain of the Buddha Vairocana. The vision itself vividly depicts the Buddha's grace, as his light of compassion, the Sambhogakaya (see Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 5, p. 652), shines in all directions revealing the true Reality (dharmakaya). Cf. Udana 49, p. 535, and comparable passages on enlightenment.
Jacob... came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you." Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 28.10-17
"I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos, [exiled] on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet... Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands was one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, 'Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter.'"
Christianity. Bible, Revelation 1.9-19
The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and the fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the form of men, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.... As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man in front, the four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle at the back. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above; each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. In the midst of the living creatures there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving to and fro among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like a flash of lightning.
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel upon the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of chrysolite; and the four had the same likeness, their construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. The four wheels had rims and they had spokes; and their rims were full of eyes round about. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose... for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of a firmament, shining like crystal, spread out above their heads. And under the firmament their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another; and each creature had two wings covering its body. And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of a host....
And above the firmament over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated on the throne was a likeness as it were of a human form. And upward from what had the appearance of his loins I saw as it were gleaming bronze, like the appearance of fire enclosed round about; and downward from what had the appearance of his loins I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness round about him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Ezekiel 1.3-28
Genesis 28.10-17: Jacob's vision of a ladder extending to heaven confirmed God's grace upon him as he was about to embark on twenty lonely and burdensome years of exile. It is also the founding legend of the shrine and city of Bethel, 'House of God,' the royal sanctuary of the northern kingdom of Israel. Revelation 1.9-11: This is a spiritual manifestation of the resurrected Jesus. Jesus also appeared transfigured before his disciples in Matthew 17.1-8, p. 653
Ezekiel 1.3-28: This vision of God's chariot throne has been the inspiration for a school of Jewish mysticism called merkabah (chariot) mysticism. It emphasizes the unbridgeable distance between God and man. The mystic journeys ever higher, through heaven after heaven and glory after glory, approaching the divine throne but never reaching even to its footstool. The faces of the four living creatures have become, in Christian tradition, symbols for the four Evangelists.
Arjuna: O Highest Lord, I wish I could see you, your form as Lord, Just as you yourself say you are, Supreme Divine Being. O Lord, if you think it is possible that I might see you-- Then, Lord of mystic power, show me your changeless self.
The Lord: Open your eyes and see my hundreds, my thousands of forms, In all their variety, heavenly splendor, in all their colors and semblances.
Look upon the Gods of Heaven, the Radiant Gods, the Terrifying Gods, the Kind Celestial Twins. See, Arjuna, countless marvels never seen before.
Here is my body, in one place, now the whole world-- All that moves and does not move-- and whatever else you want to see.
Of course, with the ordinary eye you cannot see me. I give you divine vision. Behold my absolute power!
Samjaya: With these words, Vishnu, the great Lord of mystic power, Gave Arjuna the vision of his highest, absolute form--
His form with many mouths and eyes, appearing in many miraculous ways, With many divine ornaments and divine, unsheathed weapons.
He wore garlands and robes and ointments of divine fragrance. He was a wholly wonderful god, infinite, facing in every direction.
If the light of a thousand suns should effulge all at once, It would resemble the radiance of that god of overpowering reality.
Then and there, Arjuna saw the entire world unified, Yet divided manifold, embodied in the God of gods.
Bewildered and enraptured, Arjuna, the Pursuer of Wealth, Bowed his head to the god, joined his palms, and said,
Arjuna: Master! Within you I see the gods, and all classes of beings, The Creator on his lotus seat, and all seers and divine serpents.
Far and near, I see you without limit, Reaching, containing everything, and with innumerable mouths and eyes. I see no end to you, no middle, and no beginning-- O universal Lord and form of all!
You, Wearer of Crown, Mace, and Discus, You are a deluge of brilliant light all around. I see you, who can hardly be seen, With the splendor of radiant fires and suns, immeasurable.
You are the one imperishable paramount necessary core of knowledge, The world's ultimate foundation; you never cease to guard the eternal tradition. You are the everlasting Divine Being.
There is no telling what is beginning, middle, or end in you. Your power is infinite; your arms reach infinitely far. Sun and moon are your eyes. This is how I see you. Your mouth is a flaming sacrificial fire. You burn up the world with your radiance.
For you alone fill the quarters of heaven and the space between heaven and earth. The world above, man's world, and the world in between Are frightened at the awesome sight of you, O mighty being!
There I see throngs of gods entering you. Some are afraid, they join their palms and call upon your name. Throngs of great seers and perfect sages hail you with magnificent hymns.
The Terrifying Gods, the Gods of Heaven, the Radiant Gods, also the Celestial Spirits, the All-Gods, the Celestial Twins, the Storm Gods, and the Ancestors; multitudes of heavenly musicians, good sprites, demons, and perfect sages All look upon you in wonder.
When the worlds see your form of many mouths and eyes, of many arms, legs, feet many torsos, many terrible tusks, They tremble, As do I.
For seeing you ablaze with all the colors of the rainbow, Touching the sky, with gaping mouths and wide, flaming eyes, My heart in me is shaken. O God, I have lost all certainty, all peace.
Your mouths and their terrible tusks evoke the world in conflagration. Looking at them I can no longer orient myself. There is no refuge. O Lord of Gods, dwelling place of the world, give me Your grace.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 11.3-25
Bhagavad Gita 11.3-25 This is the climax of the Bhagavad Gita, when Krishna allows Arjuna a glimpse of his transcendent form. This magnificent theophany continues with a vision of the fate of all the combatants in the Mahabharata War, who rush headlong to destruction into Krishna's multifold gaping jaws or sharp tusks; cf. Bhagavad Gita 11.26-34, pp. 1044f. God is omnipotent and controls all worldly phenomena; thus with the theophany comes insight into the future, and Arjuna can have confidence in victory. But such a theophany is rare, and only given to those who have eyes to see. Once before, in front of Duryodhana and the assembled lords of the Kauravas, Krishna had displayed his transcendental form in an effort to make peace; but they utterly ignored it and showered him with insults (Mahabharata, Udogya Parva 43).
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