World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
The Truth In Many Paths
This section gathers passages from various scriptures which affirm that others who do not share the faith of that scripture are also following the way of Truth. Thus Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism understand the various deities to be expressions of a single Absolute Reality, and the various paths to lead to one Supreme Goal. Judaism has the doctrine of the Noahic laws, God's revelation to all humankind through which non-Jews can be righteous before God. The Christian Bible contains passages affirming that God had intimated himself in the religion of the Greeks. Sikhism affirms the common spiritual origin of Islam and Hinduism. The Islamic scriptures affirm that Jews and Christians are "people of the book" who share the same God as the God of Muhammad. Furthermore, many religions teach that a nonbeliever, if he does righteousness, is acceptable before God and will receive a reward.
However, there are limits to such openness. Even if the goal is ultimately one, many interpreters of religion may consider their particular path as the best or only effective path to the goal. For example, although the Qur'an testifies to other scriptures as divinely inspired, a typical Muslim view is to regard them as having suffered corruptions and interpolations; the only accurate witness to those previous revelations is the testimony of the Qur'an itself. Christians may emphasize the uniqueness of God as revealed in Christ, and deny that the revelations of other faiths reach the essence of God's true being, even as they acknowledge that these scriptures have elements of the principles of truth, love, justice, wisdom, and morality common also to Christianity.
Then there is the problem of idolatry: when is another person's god truly the One God, and when is it a false idol? We remark that idolatry--and similarly the question of corrupt scripture--is expressing the negative judgment that certain aspects of religion are false because they are human creations which are elevated incorrectly to the status of absolutes: see Idolatry, pp. 403-07. But no genuine religion is entirely man-made. Every religion has led its sincere believers to transcendental knowledge and realization of Ultimate Reality. Could not doctrinal intolerance toward the claims of other religions itself be a form of idolatry, falsely absolutizing the beliefs of one's own group?
As men approach Me, so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to Me.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 4.11
Confucius said... "In the world there are many different roads but the destination is the same. There are a hundred deliberations but the result is one."
Confucianism. I Ching, Appended Remarks 2.5
At any time, in any form and accepted name, if one is shorn of all attachment, that one is you alone. My Lord! You are one although variously appearing.
Jainism. Hemachandra, Dvatrimshika 29
They have called him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and the divine fine-winged Garuda; They speak of Indra, Yama, Matrarisvan: the One Being sages call by many names.
Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.164.46
Rig Veda 1.164.46: Cf. Rig Veda 10.63.2, p. 367.
The Hindus and the Muslims have but one and the same God, What can a mullah or a sheikh do?
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Bhairo, p. 1158
Sometimes I [the Buddha] spoke of myself, sometimes of others; sometimes I presented myself, sometimes others; sometimes I showed my own actions, sometimes those of others. All my doctrines are true and none are false.
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 16
The Buddha declared to the bodhisattva Aksayamati, "Good man, if there are beings in the land who can be conveyed to deliverance by the body of a Buddha, then the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara preaches the Truth by displaying the body of a Buddha.... To those who can be conveyed to deliverance by the body of Brahma [God the Creator] he preaches the Truth by displaying the body of Brahma. To those who can be conveyed to deliverance by the body of the god Shakra he preaches the Truth by displaying the body of the god Shakra. To those who can be conveyed to deliverance by the body of the god Ishvara [the personal God] he preaches the Truth by displaying the body of the god Ishvara.... To those who can be conveyed to deliverance by the body of an elder... a householder... an official... a woman... a boy or girl... a god, dragon, spirit, angel, demon, garuda-bird, centaur, serpent, human or non-human, he preaches Dharma by displaying the appropriate body.... The bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, by resort to a variety of forms, travels the world, conveying the beings to salvation."
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 25
This is the land of the gods. The people should revere them. In my essence I [Amaterasu] am the Buddha Vairocana. Let my people understand this and take refuge in the Law of the Buddhas.
Shinto. Revelation of the Sun Goddess to Emperor Shomu
Say, "We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in what was given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to God do we submit."
Islam. Qur'an 3.84
Lotus Sutra 16: After revealing the eternity of the Buddha, cf. Lotus Sutra 16, p. 647, Buddha explains that he has assumed various human forms in countless different worlds to guide every possible being to the right path. Similarly, the doctrines preached by the various enlightened sages, inasmuch as they are all manifestations of the same eternal Buddha, are all true teachings. Compare Tattvarthaslokavartika 116, p. 806. Lotus Sutra 25: The Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara, see Lotus Sutra 25, pp. 566f, also assumes a variety of forms; see previous note. Revelation of the Sun Goddess to Emperor Shomu: Vairocana is the Buddha of the Sun, just as Amaterasu is the Shinto Sun Goddess. Qur'an 3.84: The Qur'an teaches that Muhammad is one of a succession of true prophets who have given God's message to diverse peoples; cf. Qur'an 4.163-65, p. 663, and 19.41-58, p. 665.
There can be no doubt that whatever the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. All of them, except for a few which are the outcome of human perversity, were ordained of God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose.
Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 111
Rabbi Joshua said, "There are righteous men among the nations who have a share in the world to come."
Judaism. Tosefta Sanhedrin 13.2
I look at all the major religions of the world as one big family.
Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-87
And I [Jesus] have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
Christianity. Bible, John 10.16
And there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them.
Islam. Qur'an 35.24
Verily We have sent messengers before you, among them some of those of whom We have told you, and some of whom We have not told you.
Islam. Qur'an 40.78
Unto each nation have We given sacred rites which they are to perform; so let them not dispute with you of the matter, but you summon unto your Lord.
Islam. Qur'an 22.67
There is not a single place in all the corners of the world where God is absent.
Omoto Kyo. Michi-no-Shiori
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Malachi 1.11
Qur'an 35.24, 40.78 and 22.67: Based on these verses, Muslims can respect the founders and teachings of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc. which are not mentioned in the Qur'an. Cf. Qur'an 2.115, p. 109; 10.47-49, p. 1037; 16.36, p. 403.
Those who believe in the Qur'an, those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Sabeans and the Christians--any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness--on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
Islam. Qur'an 5.69
Seven precepts were commanded to the children of Noah: social laws [civil justice]; to refrain from blasphemy; idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal.
Judaism. Talmud, Sanhedrin 56a
Some call on the Lord, "Rama," some cry, "Khuda," Some bow to Him as Gosain, some as Allah; He is called the Ground of Grounds and also the Bountiful, The Compassionate One and Gracious. Hindus bathe in holy waters for His sake; Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hindus perform puja; others bow their heads in namaz. There are those who read the Vedas and others--Christians, Jews, Muslims--who read the Semitic scriptures. Some wear blue, some white robes, Some call themselves Muslims, others Hindus. Some aspire to bahishat (Muslim heaven), some to swarga (Hindu heaven). Says Nanak, Whoever realizes the will of the Lord, He will find out the Lord's secrets!
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Ramkali, M.5, p. 885
Lo! We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and a light, by which the Prophets who surrendered unto God judged the Jews and the rabbis and the priests, judged by such portion of God's Scripture as they were bidden to observe, and to which they were witnesses. So fear not mankind, but fear Me. And barter not My revelations for a little gain. Whoso judges not by that which God has sent down--such are disbelievers.
And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming the Torah before him, and We bestowed on him the Gospel, wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was revealed before it in the Torah--a guidance and an admonition for those who ward off evil.
Let the People of the Gospel judge by that which God has revealed therein. Whosoever judges not by that which God has revealed--such are those who live in evil.
And unto thee We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which God has revealed, and follow not their desires apart from the truth which has come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had God willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He has given you, He made you as you are. So vie one with another in good works. Unto God you will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein you differ.
Islam. Qur'an 5.44, 46-48
Sanhedrin 56a: Since the children of Noah are the ancestors of all humankind, the rabbis have traditionally interpreted these laws, given by God to Noah after the flood in Genesis 9.3-7, as moral legislation given by God to all nations. By obeying these laws, a Gentile is accounted righteous before God.
So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'"
Christianity. Bible, Acts 17.22-28
Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai said, "Just as the sin-offering atones for Israel, so righteousness atones for the peoples of the world."
Judaism. Talmud, Baba Batra 10b
And Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."
Christianity. Bible, Acts 10.34-35
Qur'an 5.44-48: The Qur'an states that it is a trustworthy standard of truth, 'a watcher' over other revelations by which their beliefs can be tested and evaluated. Orthodox Islam goes further and regards the path laid down in the Qur'an to be the one sole path. Where the Jewish and Christian scriptures differ from the testimony of the Qur'an, the error is laid to the interpolations made by corrupt Jewish and Christian divines. But this interpretation may go beyond the letter of the Qur'an, which prohibits such disputes between religions. Each is held responsible only to the truth as found in its own scripture. Any contest between religious communities should be carried out on the field of good works. The question of reconciling different doctrines is left to God. Acts 17.22-28: Paul is quoting Greek poets; the first quotation is often attributed to Epimenides; the second is from Aratus' Phaenomena. Baba Batra 10b: On what is righteousness, see Sanhedrin 56a, p. 62. Cf. Seder Eliyyahu Rabba 1 0, p. 27 8; Sifra 86b, p. 282. Acts 10.34-35: Cf. Romans 2.9-11, p. 278.
Of whatsoever teachings, Gotamid, you can assure yourself thus, "These doctrines conduce to passions, not to dispassion; to bondage, not to detachment; to increase of worldly gains, not to decrease of them; to covetousness, not to frugality; to discontent, and not contentment; to company, not solitude; to sluggishness, not energy; to delight in evil, not delight in good"--of such teachings you may with certainty affirm, Gotamid, "This is not the Norm. This is not the Discipline. This is not the Master's Message."
But of whatsoever teachings you can assure yourself [that they are the opposite of these things that I have told you]--of such teachings you may with certainty affirm, "This is the Norm. This is the Discipline. This is the Master's Message."
Buddhism. Vinaya Pitaka ii.10
Let some worship the Truthful One [a Taoist deity], and revere the Northern Constellation, while others bow before the Buddha and recite sutras.
P'an Ch'ung-Mou says, "What is to be avoided most in our life is vacillation and frivolity; what is most excellent is a reverential heart. Therefore, we Confucians endeavor to preserve sincerity of heart and consider reverence as most essential. It is needless to say that sincerity and reverence make us companions of heaven and earth, gods and spirits. There is, however, another class of people who adopt Buddhism as their guidance. They bow before the Buddha and recite his sutras, always bent on preserving reverence and awe. They will never relax the vigilant guard over the heart, which will by degrees become pure and bright, free from evil thoughts and ready to do good. This enlightenment is called their most happy land. What is necessary, then, for Buddhists as well as Confucians is to avoid vacillation and frivolity, which will render you unreliable. Keep the heart always restrained by reverence and awe. Otherwise what can be the use of the recitation of sutras or the discourses of Confucius?"
Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way
Vinaya Pitaka ii.10: The Buddha is proposing a test that may be applied to determine the truth of any teaching. Tract of the Quiet Way: Religion in China is syncretic, combining the Three Teachings (san chiao): Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Although the Tract of the Quiet Way is a Taoist scripture, the commentator P'an Ch'ung-Mou is a Confucian, and he calls for reverence of Buddhist sutras. See Tract of the Quiet Way, p. 1027.
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