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What Is a Religion?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 4

Hindus believe there is one Truth, we just all don't agree on the name and nature of God. To compare Hinduism with other religions, you need to ask the orthodox practioners what their beliefs are. For example, one Christian minister explained that he believes we are fallen beings, not inherently good and need to be redeemed or face eternal Hell. Hinduism believes the opposite: we are divine beings with instinctive, intellectual and intuitive natures. Everyone will eventually become a spiritual being and attain God realization. That is about as far apart as we can get in beliefs. There is really no way that the two can be compared.

Path to Siva, Lesson 4.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

Reading again from Path to Siva, Lesson 4.

"What is a religion?

"A religion is a system of belief about God, soul and will. Though out history seekers around the world have tried to understand the nature of things. They struggle to unravel the mysteries of the mind, of ultimate reality and the purpose of life. We puzzled about the cause of suffering and the way to relieve it. To analyze good and evil, virtue and vice. These quests for truth have produced various systems of thought. Those based on a belief in God or a holy presence are called religions of faith. Today there are about a dozen major religions in the world and hundreds of smaller ones. Of Earth's 7.4 billion people, 6 billion are followers of a religion. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion and Buddhism are the five largest. Many traditional cultures have ancient faiths. Most religions have sacred texts called scriptures. Hinduism's primary scriptures are the Vedas. Buddhists have the Dhammapada. Christians look to the Bible and Muslims have the Koran. Scriptures and the teachings of saints through history define how life should be lived and what happens when we die. Each faith has its places of worship, priesthood and holy rites. Religions are not all the same. There beliefs and practices differ, often greatly. Of Earth's major religions Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism are eastern. The religions Zoroastrianism, Christianity and and Islam are western. There is a vast difference between eastern and western religions. The eastern goal is being unity and introspective and western goal being dualistic, extroverted. Eastern faiths tend to see God in all things and everything is sacred. Western faiths tend not to believe that God pervades everything and make a strong distinction what is sacred and what is profane. While eastern faiths hold to karma, reincarnation and liberation the western postulate a single life for the soul followed by reward or punishment."

And Gurudeva's quote:

"Religion is the connection between the three worlds and temple worship is how you can get your personal connection with the inner worlds."

Of course the major point on this with Hindus is that many Hindus believe that all religions are the same. Well that came up recently at the Hindu Mandir Executives Conference, right? That was hot topic there for a while. Interesting concept and was probably based on the idea that: "Truth is one, paths are many." That's where Hindus believe there is a one Truth, one God and as I've spoken before Hindus just don't agree on the name and the nature of that God. That there is just one. So the idea that there is one supreme being that's stated, they say well therefore all religions must be the same cause there's just one supreme being. But they're quite different and to see how different they are all you have to do look at the orthodox of any religion and see what they say about their religion and compare it to Hinduism. They're the ones who know, right?

Well, for example, few years ago we had an interfaith gathering in Midland Texas. There were five of us on the stage. Judaism, Episcopal, Hindu, Catholic and Baptist. That's the group and the question was this. "In your faith is humanity a one family?" That's the question. I answered it with the Hindu point of view that Hindus believe every one is a divine being. The soul is in there even if it's covered up. Not really manifesting in someone's action. Even criminals and terrorists are divine beings, just hidden. But everybody is a divine being therefore the whole world is one family as we say. Cause we're all divine beings. And Hindus, Hindus don't believe that some people are intrinsically evil. So they believe everybody's a divine being and should be guided on that basis.

But, of course, we also have an instinctive and an intellectual nature. In Gurudeva's teachings we talk about instinctive, intellectual and intuitive nature. Our nature is three-fold. So it's not just a divine being, we also have instincts, usually in a physical body, we have an intellect. So the instinct is what, if it's not controlled, causes people to act in destructive ways, we're not controlling the instinctive nature. But still the person is a divine being.

So I said something like that and then the Baptist minister came on next. His idea was so foreign, I have to write it down to remember it.

"We do believe in the oneness of humanity, that we are all a fallen people, not inherently good. We are inherently selfish and self centered and that's why we need to be rescued or redeemed."

So it's a very different idea. We've fallen. We're not divine beings. We're out of grace. We have to be fixed and if we're not fixed then we remain fallen. Well very interesting idea. So that nature of human beings is looked at differently in different religions; that's the point. To say we're fallen beings and we're divine beings is about as far apart as we can get in belief.

And then I was looking at some of the notes from the Hindu Mandir Executive Conference. And the swami there from Guyana, Aksharananda is that it? was speaking a bit strongly on this topic, got fired up about it. He had some YouTube videos on it from previous talks he's given. So if you want to hear a fiery talk, Swami Aksharananda, all religions are not the same. Something like that. On YouTube. So he was saying any religion that believes in eternal Hell is certainly different than Hinduism. So that's also an important point.

That as you've heard in my story of the ten year old from school, he was, a ten year old Hindu was approached by a Christian boy. And in Texas the Christian youth are taught to be aggressive even at ten years of age. So the Hindu boy was told he was going to go to Hell because he didn't believe a certain way. He came home and told his father; his father got upset and talked to me at the satsang. And I said: Well the problem is the boy doesn't have an answer. Doesn't know what to say so you need to give him an answer that works at the ten year old level. And then when he's fifteen he needs and answer that works at the fifteen year old level and so on. The answer, we get more sophisticated as we get older. At the ten year level the answer was: Well, "Hindus believe that everyone eventually goes to heaven." In other words which religion would you like, where there's a good chance you would go to Hell or a religion that guarantees, you know, you're eventually going to get to heaven. Well, it's a nice answer at the ten year old level. And that's it. We believe everyone will eventually become a spiritual being and attain realization. It's just not at the same time cause we didn't all start at the same time. But eventually, everyone will get there and that's, that's a big difference. In actually believing people are going to go to eternal Hell, eternal. Verses everyone's going to eventually achieve God realization and be a very spiritual being.

So those are just a few of the differences, that you can see that, when you think about it, it starts to fall apart. And if you just look at the beliefs of orthodox members. You know, if you look at pastors for example for Christianity and see what they say, you'll see right away that it's really different in Hinduism and there's really no way that the two can be compared.

Well thank you very much. Wonderful day.