World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


The Revealer Of Truth

Every religion regards its founder as the revealer of the truth and the true source of the teaching for all to follow. In fact, one of the primary ways in which we encounter the founder is through his teaching. His teaching is based on his own attainments or on the revelation granted him; it is not dependent upon anyone else. It is always distinct from and superior to the beliefs which were prevalent before him; it becomes the standard upon which to measure all ideas that arise after him; and it remains as the continuing wellspring for all later expressions of doctrine.

In this section, we begin with passages which declare the founder's teaching to be the true and only way. As explained in the introduction to this chapter, the fact that several founders have made this claim is not meant to invalidate or relativize their claims; each in his own way stands at the summit of truth unrivaled by anyone else. Every reader must inevitably face this radical claim of authority and uniqueness, first by the founder of his own tradition. We should not think that we are able to arrive at truth merely by the power of our own intellects; rather we should be instructed by those guides who have seen much further than we are able.

Other passages describe the ways in which the founders have arrived at their incomparable teachings. These are mainly two: by receiving divine revelation from a transcendent source, and through extensive striving, study, and meditation. Yet even where the mode of realizing truth is through study and meditation, there is often a revelatory element. Thus the passage from the Vedas indicates that, despite their best efforts to strain and sift, only certain noted sages received the gift of divine speech.

Several passages describe the founders as teachers and bringers of light, even outshining all previous teachers. In the concluding passage, which describes the Buddha as not uttering any words at all, we recognize that these founders do not just preach a truth, but realize it, embody it, and convey it by their example. This brings us back full circle to the opening passages, where Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and others are not only the revealers of an objective Word but the embodiments of Truth itself.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."

Christianity. Bible, John 14.6

I [Krishna] am the goal of the wise man, and I am the way. I am his prosperity. I am his heaven. There is nothing dearer to him than I.

Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.12

In the sky there is no track. Outside [the Buddha's dispensation] there is no saint. Mankind delights in obstacles. The Tathagatas are free from obstacles.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 254

Muhammad is... the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets.

Islam. Qur'an 33.40

Glory be to Lord Mahavira, the source of the Scripture, supreme Tirthankara, the teacher of the world.

Jainism. Nandi Sutra, 2

Oh, how great is the divine moral law of the Sage Confucius. Overflowing and illimitable, it gives birth and life to all created things and towers high up to the very heavens. How magnificent it is! How imposing the three hundred principles and three thousand rules of conduct! They await the man who can put the system into practice.

Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 27

Qur'an 33.40: When a document is sealed, it is complete and there can be no further addition. As 'the Seal of the Prophets' Muhammad is regarded as the last prophet, completing for all time the testimony of God's revelation. For Islam, God's teaching will continue in later ages through reformers, sages, and saints, but no more through a Prophet.

The Eternal thought, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do, seeing that Abraham is to become a large and powerful nation, and that all nations of the world are to seek bliss like his? I have chosen him that he may charge his sons and his household after him to follow the directions of the Eternal by doing what is good and right."

Judaism. Bible, Genesis 18.17-19

The Truth has come, and falsehood has vanished away. Surely falsehood is ever certain to vanish.

Islam. Qur'an 17.85

Truth is victorious, never untruth. Truth is the way; truth is the goal of life, Reached by the sages who are free from self-will.

Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.6

The best of paths is the Eightfold Path. The best of truths are the Four Noble Truths. Non-attachment is the best of mental states. The best of human beings is the Seeing One.

This is the only Way. There is no other that leads to the purity of insight. You should follow this path, for this is what bewilders Mara.

Embarking upon that path, you will make an end of pain. This path has been declared by me after having learned the way for the removal of thorns.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 273-75

The whole world seeks to attain the transcendent state-- Without the true Preceptor's aid it is not attained. Exhausted with learning, pandits and astrologers Fall into sects and are lost in delusion. The transcendent state is attained only on meeting the Preceptor, Should he of his will show grace. Brother! Except through the Preceptor the transcendent state may not arise.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sri Raga, M.3, p. 68

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the father, he has made him known.

Christianity. Bible, John 1.18

Through Vyasa's grace, I have heard the supreme secret of spiritual union directly from the Lord of Yoga, Krishna himself.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.75

Qur'an 17.85: The truth was revealed to Muhammad. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.6: In Hinduism, the ancient sages who composed the Vedas while in a state of enlightenment are regarded as the sources of revealed scripture. Dhammapada 273-75: Cf. Lotus Sutra 2, p. 154. Sri Raga, M.3: Cf. Bilaval, M.5, p. 535. Bhagavad Gita 18.75: The Vedas, which were handed down in a long line of oral transmission, are said to have been collected and compiled by the sage Vyasa. Traditionally, Vyasa is also responsible for compiling the Mahabharata, the Srimad Bhagavatam, and numerous other sacred works. Yet ultimately, the sage is transparent to the divine revelation he transmits. Yasna 50.6: Cf. Yasna 33.13, p. 538; 45.5, pp. 159f. Rig Veda 10.71.1-4: Vak, divine 'Speech,' is the divine revelation in the Vedas.

To me, Zarathustra, the prophet and sworn friend of righteousness, Lifting my voice with veneration, O Wise One, May the creator of the mind's force show, as Good Mind, His precepts, that they may be the path of my tongue.

Zoroastrianism. Yasna 50.6

Stir not your tongue [O Muhammad] to hasten it [the Qur'an]. Lo! upon Us rests the putting together thereof and the reading thereof. And when We read it to you, follow the reading; then lo! upon Us rests its explanation.

Islam. Qur'an 75.16-19

It belongs not to any mortal that God should speak to him, except by revelation, or from behind a veil, or that He should send a messenger and he reveal whatsoever He will, by His leave; surely He is All-high, All-wise. Even so We have revealed to thee [O Muhammad] a Spirit of Our bidding. You knew not what the Book was, nor belief; but We made it a light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants. And you, surely you shall guide unto a straight path--the path of God.

Islam. Qur'an 42.51-53

Looking all over the world and through all ages, I find no one who has understood My heart. No wonder that you know nothing, for so far I have taught nothing to you. This time I, God, revealing Myself to the fore, teach you all the truth in detail.

Tenrikyo. Ofudesaki 1.1-3

When, Lord of our prayer! The first of Speech, and the foremost, the sages uttered, giving the unnamed a name, which was their best, and their most stainless, then they with love revealed the divine secret in their souls.

Where the sages formed the Speech with their mind, straining it as they strain flour with the sieve, therein have friends discovered bonds of friendship, whose holy beauty lies hidden in that Speech.

With worship they followed the steps of the Speech and found it installed in the hearts of sages. They acquired it and gave it at many places, and seven singers intone it together.

There is the man who sees but has not seen Speech; there is the man who hears but has not heard Her, but to another She reveals her lovely form like a loving wife, finely robed, to her husband.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.71.1-4

The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there, and I will give you the tables of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction." So Moses rose with his servant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.... Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. And Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Judaism. Bible, Exodus 14.12-18

Moses said to Israel, "Know you not with what travail I gained the Torah! What toil, what labor, I endured for its sake. Forty days and forty nights I was with God. I entered among the angels, the Living Creatures, the Seraphim, of whom any one could blast the whole universe in flame. My soul, my blood, I gave for the Torah. As I learnt it in travail, so do you learn it in travail, and as you learn it in travail, so do you teach it in travail."

Judaism. Midrash, Sifre Deuteronomy

Know then, that from time to time a Tathagata is born into the world, a fully Enlightened One, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy with the knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to erring mortals, a teacher of gods and men, a blessed Buddha. He thoroughly understands this universe, as though he saw it face to face.... The Truth does he proclaim both in its letter and in its spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation. A higher life does he make known in all its purity and in all its perfection.

Buddhism. Digha Nikaya xiii, Tevigga Sutta

The holy sages were able to survey all the movements under heaven. They contemplated the way in which these movements met and became interrelated, to take their course according to eternal laws. Then they appended judgments, to distinguish between the good fortune and the misfortune indicated.... They speak of the most confused diversities without arousing aversion. They speak of what is most mobile without causing confusion. This comes from the fact that they observed before they spoke and discussed before they moved. Through observation and discussion they perfected the changes and transformations.

Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.8.2-4

Above, he [Chuang Tzu] wandered with the Creator, below he made friends with those who have gotten outside of life and death, who know nothing of beginning or end. As for the Source, his grasp of it was broad, expansive, and penetrating; profound, liberal, and unimpeded. As for the Ancestor, he may have said to have turned and accommodated himself to it and to have risen on it to the greatest heights. Nevertheless, in responding to change and expounding on the world of things, he set forth principles that will never cease to be valid, an approach that can never be shuffled off. Veiled and arcane, he is one who has never been completely comprehended.

Taoism. Chuang Tzu 33

I Ching, Great Commentary 1.8.2-4: This describes the way in which the oracles in the I Ching were discovered, by empirical observation.

Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it you [Joseph Smith] shall be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay its foundation, and to build it up into the most holy faith. Which church was organized and established in the year of your Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April.

Wherefore, meaning the church, you shall give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give to you as he receives them, walking in all holiness before me; for his word you shall receive, as if from my own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and His name's glory.

For thus says the Lord God, "Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard."

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 21.1-7

Say, "Obey God, and obey the Messenger; then, if you turn away, only upon him rests what is laid on him, and upon you rests what is laid on you. If you obey him, you will be guided. It is only for the Messenger to deliver the manifest Message."

Islam. Qur'an 24.54

The Tirthankaras do not forcibly guide one to the good or take one away from the evil. They only preach and open the eyes of the people to the consequences of treading a forbidden path. He who listens to such preaching becomes the Lord not only of men but also of the gods.

Jainism. Dharmadasagani, Upadesamala 448-49

O Prophet, we have sent you as a witness, and good tidings to bear and warning, calling unto God by His leave, and as a light-giving lamp.

Islam. Qur'an 33.45-46

Doctrine and Covenants 21.1-7: Joseph Smith was a 'translator' of ancient documents--the golden plates of the Book of Mormon and the papyri of Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price--but not in the modern sense of one who is an expert in languages and strives for literal accuracy. His translation was by the gift of spiritual inspiration, using certain special stones called interpreters and focusing on his mind's inner eye to divine the meaning. Cf. Book of Mormon, Ether 3.21-28, 4.5; Mosiah 8.9-19. Qur'an 24.54: Cf. Qur'an 4.79-80, p. 680. Upadesamala 448-49: See Ratnakarandasravakacara 7-10, p. 637. On the hearer attaining lordship, cf. Dhammapada 181, p. 313. On individual responsibility to receive the message, compare Sutta Nipata 1063-64, p. 680. Qur'an 33.45-46: Cf. Bilaval, M.5, p. 535.

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life.

Christianity. Bible, John 12.46-50

The glowworm shines so long as the light-bringer has not arisen. But when the shining one has come up, its light is quenched, it glows no longer. Such is the shining of the sectarians. So long as the rightly awakened ones arise not in the world, the sophists get no light, nor do their followers, and those of wrong views cannot be released from Ill.

Buddhism. Udana 73

Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look on Moses' face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it.... Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Christianity. Bible, 2 Corinthians 3.7-16

Mahamati said, "It is said by the Blessed One that from the night of the Enlightenment till the night of the Parinirvana [at his death], the Tathagata has not uttered even a word, nor will he ever utter a word. According to what deeper sense is that not-speaking the Buddha's speaking?"

The Blessed One replied, "By reason of two things of the deeper sense, Mahamati, this statement is made: the truth of self-realization and an eternally-abiding reality.... Of what deeper sense is the truth of self-realization? What has been realized by the Tathagatas, that is my own realization, in which there is neither decreasing nor increasing; for the realm of self-realization is free from words and discriminations, having nothing to do with dualistic ways of speaking.

"What is meant by an eternally-abiding reality? The ancient road of reality has been there all the time, like gold, silver, or pearl preserved in the mine; the substance of truth abides forever, whether a Tathagata appears in the world or not.... What has been realized by myself and other Tathagatas is this reality, the eternally-abiding reality, the self-regulating reality; the suchness of things, the realness of things, the truth itself. For this reason it is stated by me that from the night of the Tathagata's Enlightenment till the night of his entrance into Nirvana, he has not in the meantime uttered, nor ever will utter, one word."

Buddhism. Lankavatara Sutra 61

John 12.46-60: Cf. Matthew 7.24-27, p. 161. 2 Corinthians 3.7-16: Cf. Galatians 3.10-13, 21-26, p. 163. Yet there is also continuity between the new revelation and the old; see Matthew 5.17-18, p. 662. Cf. Book of Certitude, 33-41, p. 1095. Lankavatara Sutra 61: The worldless nature of the Buddha's words is well captured by the Zen story of how the Elder Kashyapa inherited the Dharma, Mumonkan 6, p. 819. Cf. Lankavatara Sutra 76, p. 801; Diamond Sutra 21, p. 800.


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