World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


The Person And Character Of The Founder

This section contains passages which describe either the divinity of the founder as a manifestation of God, or the humanity of the founder as a person with a unique and striking personality. In some religions the founder, as the human being who is completely one with Absolute Reality, is described as divine. The concurrence of humanity and divinity in a single person is a mystery which is described in various ways: Christology is the theological and doctrinal reflection by which Jesus is characterized as fully God and fully man. Jainism holds that the Tirthankara has realized the state of param-atman, or perfected soul, who alone is divine and absolute. Hinduism understands the concurrence of divinity and humanity through the doctrines of the avatar and the indwelling of divinity in the soul of the Sage.

Jesus Christ is also recognized as the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity: three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--united, and manifesting the creative, redemptive, and sanctifying activity of God in the world. The comparable Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of the Trikaya, the Buddha's three bodies, holds at one the Dharmakaya, Eternal Buddha, which is the substance of Enlightenment and Truth itself; the Sambhogakaya, the compassion and wisdom of the Buddha by which people are led to salvation; and the Nirmanakaya, the bodily manifestations of the Buddha, the latest being the historical Siddhartha Gautama. The Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer is not strictly comparable; it deals with a three-fold manifestation of the God head quite apart from any incarnation.

In the orthodox traditions of Islam, Judaism, Theravada Buddhism, and Confucianism, on the other hand, the founder is a human being and emphatically distinct from deity. The majority of traditions about the founder in these religions describe his character in very human terms, in order to avoid any attempt to make him into a god. And yet, mystical and popular strands in many of these religions cherish traditions about the founder's person that recognize in him qualities like unto Ultimate Reality.

See Vishnu Purana 1, p. 82.

The Divine Person

Whoever sees me [Muhammad] has seen God.

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim

He who sees the Norm, he sees me; he who sees me, he sees the Norm.

Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya iii.120

Do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, "Show us the Father?" Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?

Christianity. Bible, John 14.9-10

Says Nanak, "The Master is the Lord's image; The Lord in the Master pervasive--

Brother! between these lies no difference."

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Asa Chhant, M.4, p. 442

Glory be to Lord Mahavira, in whose mirror of enlightenment are reflected vividly the terrestrial and the extra-terrestrial, and whose complexion resembles the interior of a blooming lotus and burnished gold.

Jainism. Virasena, Jayadhavala 3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father.

Christianity. Bible, John 1.1-4, 14

Samyutta Nikaya III. 120: `Norm', that is, the Dhamma. Jayadhavala 3: Cf. Ratnakarandasravakacara 7-10, p. 637. John 1.1-4: See note on p. 150.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Christianity. Bible, 2 Corinthians 13.14

The supreme, complete enlightenment is the realm of Nirvana. The realm of Nirvana is the Dharma-body of the Tathagata [the Eternal Buddha]. Attaining the absolute Dharma-body is [attaining] the absolute One Vehicle. The Tathagata is not different from the Dharma-body. The Tathagata is identical with the Dharma-body.... The Absolute is unlimited and unceasing.

O Lord, the Tathagata, who is not limited by time... is without limita- tion. His great compassion also is unlimited, bringing peace and comfort to the world. His unlimited great compassion brings unlimited peace and comfort to the world. This explanation is a good explanation concerning the Tathagata. If one again speaks of the inexhaustible Dharma, the eternally abiding Dharma which is the refuge of all worlds--this is also a good explana- tion concerning the Tathagata. Therefore, in a world that has not been saved, a world without a refuge, there is an inexhaustible, eternally abiding refuge equal to the utmost limit: the Tathagata, Arhat, Completely Enlightened One.

Buddhism. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 5

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

Christianity. Bible, John 8.58

Outwardly, we are last of all, but inwardly we preceded everyone.

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari

I have been Manu and also Surya, I am the wise rishi Kakshivat, I have befriended Kutsa, Arjuni's son, and I am the poet Usanas; behold Me!

Hinduism. Rig Veda 4.26.1

2 Corinthians 13.14: This Trinitarian benediction suggests the distinctive activities of the persons of the Trinity: the grace of Christ, who died as atonement for our sins, leads us to the love of God, and the Holy Spirit manifests God's love through producing fellowship with God and among people. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 5: A statement of the Trikaya doctrine: the Tathagata is at once the realm of Absolute Suchness, or the Dharmakaya, the Dharma of compassion that fills the world, or Sambhogakaya, and the person of the human Tathagata, the Arhat. For texts on the Dharmakaya, cf. Garland Sutra 37, p. 96; Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 12, p. 96; for a visual depiction of the Sambhogakaya, see Garland Sutra 2, p. 99. John 8.58: As the pre-existent Word, Jesus preceded Abraham, even all human beings. Hadith of Bukhari: This refers to Muhammad, who is outwardly the last of the prophets but inwardly preceded them. Rig Veda 4.26.1: As the 'Poet of poets' God (Indra) infuses the Vedic sages and gives them their holy utterance. This is the Vedic foundation for the later Hindu doctrine of avatars.

Whenever truth is forgotten in the world, and wickedness prevails, the Lord of Love becomes flesh to show the way, the truth, and the life to humanity. Such an incarnation is an avatar, an embodiment of God on earth.

Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shown like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Christianity. Bible, Matthew 17.1-8

O Krishna, it is right that the world delights and rejoices in your praise, that all the saints and sages bow down to you and all evil flees before you to the far corners of the universe. How could they not worship you, O Lord? You are the eternal Spirit, who existed before Brahma the Creator and who will never cease to be. Lord of the gods, you are the abode of the universe. Changeless, you are what is and what is not, and beyond the duality of existence and nonexistence....

Sometimes, because we were friends, I rashly said, "Oh, Krishna!" "Say, friend!"--casual, careless remarks. Whatever I may have said lightly, whether we were playing or resting, alone or in company, sitting together or eating, if it was disrespectful, forgive me for it, O Krishna. I did not know the greatness of your nature, unchanging and imperishable.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 11.36-42

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed."

Christianity. Bible, John 20.24-29

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1: See Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8, p. 662, the classic statement on avatars. Cf. Srimad Bhagavatam 10, p. 637; Ramayana, Bala Kanda 15, p. 625; Kularnava Tantra 13, p. 817; Swaiyya Guru, Kala, p. 663. Matthew 17.1-8: This is the Transfiguration, when Jesus' disciples first become aware of his divinity. Cf. John's vision of the resurrected Jesus in Revelation 1.9-19, p. 100. Bhagavad Gita 11.36-42: Arjuna spoke these words just after being awe-struck by a vision of Krishna's transcendental form in Bhagavad Gita 11.3-34, pp. 102f., 1044f. For other of Krishna's transcendental manifestations, see Srimad Bhagavatam 10.5, p. 764, and Srimad Bhagavatam 10.16, pp. 626f.

When Confucius returned from his visit with Lao Tzu, he did not speak for three days. His disciples said, "Master, you've seen Lao Tzu--what estimation would you make of him?" Confucius said, "At last I may say that I have seen a Dragon--a Dragon that coils to show his body at its best, that sprawls out to display his patterns at their best, riding on the breath of the clouds, feeding on the yin and yang. My mouth fell open and I couldn't close it; my tongue flew up and I couldn't even stammer. How could I possibly make any estimation of Lao Tzu?"

Taoism. Chuang Tzu 14

At one time the Lord was journeying along the highroad between Ukkattha and Setabbya; so also was the brahmin Dona. He saw on the Lord's footprints the wheels with their thousand spokes, their rims and hubs and all their attributes complete, and he thought, "Indeed, how wonderful and marvelous--it cannot be that these are the footprints of a human being."

Then Dona, following the Lord's footprints, saw that he was sitting under a tree, comely, faith-inspiring, his sense-faculties and his mind peaceful.... Dona approached the Lord and said, "Is your reverence a god?"

"No indeed, brahmin, I am not a god."

"Then an angel?"

"No indeed, brahmin."

"A fairy, then?"

"No indeed, brahmin, I am not a fairy."

"Then is your reverence a human being?"

"No indeed, brahmin, I am not a human being."

"You answer No to all my questions. Who then is your reverence?"

"Brahmin, those outflows whereby, if they had not been extinguished, I might have been a god, angel, fairy, or a human being--those outflows are extinguished in me, cut off at the root, made like a palm-tree stump that can come to no further existence in the future. Just as a blue, red, or white lotus, although born in the water, grown up in the water, when it reaches the surface stands there unsoiled by the water--just so, brahmin, although born in the world, grown up in the world, having overcome the world, I abide unsoiled by the world. Take it that I am Buddha."

Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya ii.37-39

John 20.24-29: This is the account of doubting Thomas. The resurrection of Jesus in a tangible body is one proof of his divinity; cf. Luke 24, pp. 616f. Others prove Jesus' divinity by citing his miracles, such as walking on water, see Matthew 14.24-31, p. 759. Chuang Tzu 14: Chuang Tzu often casts Confucius in the role of a poor and benighted sage whose wisdom cannot compare with that of the Taoist masters. Such was then the rivalry between the two schools. Anguttara Nikaya ii.37-39: The Buddha's transcendental nature cannot be comprehended by conventional notions of divinity, for the Hindu gods are merely another class of creatures, as are gandharvas (angels) and yakkhas (fairies) . He is beyond any form or phenomena of existence. Cf. Dhammapada 93, p. 531; Sutta Nipata 1072-76, p. 532. Majjhima Nikaya i.318: The Buddha lays himself open to inquiry by inviting others to observe his behavior and judge his mental purity. He invites them to judge him as a man. Mark 10.17-18: Cf. 1 John 1.8, p. 383; also Qur'an 12.53, p. 383; Hadith of Muslim, p. 508. Qur'an 5.75: Muslims consider the belief that Jesus is God, or the son of God--'son' understood in the sense of procreation or partaking of divinity--as one of the chief errors of Christian theology. In Islam there is an absolute distinction between God and human beings. Cf. Qur'an 21.26-29, p. 377 and note.


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