The Harmony of Religions

by Charles (Prana) Feldman
For a while now, I have categorized political tendencies as those that seek predominantly either liberty, equality, or solidarity. I have come to believe that we need a balance between the three for the best kind of society.
As I have gotten older, I have turned more to religion for meaning in life, and being a philosopher by nature, I have tried unsuccessfully to categorize religions in a similar manner . . . until the other day. Now I think I have come up with a way to think about different religious tendencies that has made things easier for me to understand.
While all political tendencies seek some form of justice, I think all religions seek some form of unity, usually with God. There are three ways that religions go about seeking unity: through diversity, through hierarchy, and through mutuality.
Hinduism is the main religion that seeks unity through diversity. For most Hindus, it is okay to worship God (or not worship God) in whatever way brings you closer to God (or to your ideal). So Hindus, who mostly believe in an ultimate unity beyond the material world, seek this through a celebration of diversity.
I am generalizing here, but the trend of the Abrahamic religions is to seek unity with God through hierarchy. There is a hierarchy with a separate God at the top, the prophet(s), messiah, or other religious leader(s) at the next rung, then I believe comes humanity, then angels, then other sentient life forms. In this view, and again, this is a generalization, God is the source of all good, so any diversion from the scripture that represents God, is a rebellion or innovation, and thus bad. There are many in the Abrahamic religions who are not “fundamentalists” and who may not follow this view, but the highest ideal of the Abrahamic religions is the all good scripture, which comes from an all good God.
Finally, there is an attempt to bring about unity through mutuality, which represents many Buddhists (especially Mahayana), and many secular “religions” such as Marxism or humanism. In this tendency, people are all viewed as essentially equal and will in some way all support each other, either through leading each other to spiritual liberation or through having the same vested interests in a just society.
Keep in mind that all of these portrayals are generalizations. Hindus may believe in hierarchy (follow the personal God and the guru) and equality (we will all eventually reach the same goal). Liberals in the Abrahamic religions may accept other religions as paths to God and may seek some form of social justice where we are all equal. And Buddhists may look at people as having different karma (making them unequal at the moment) while communists may support a temporary hierarchy with the goal of eliminating all hierarchy.
As in my political view, I think a balance of the religious ideals is best. Diversity is good to allow people to follow whatever path brings each person closer to God or to their ideal. It is best to have a vision of God and to have spiritual teachers who may be higher up in the hierarchy, from whom we can eventually reach their state or reach union with them. And mutuality is important so we will not count anyone out as being important in the scheme of things.
I have always wanted an ideal ever since I have begun to philosophize. It is important to remember that all spiritual or religious paths, whatever their tendencies, seek some form of unity.  When we see that, we can accept the goal of all paths as valid. May we each find that unity in our own way.


By s. chaitanya

Last Saturday, the last of 2012, it snowed 8 inches here in Providence. Late night it stopped but temperatures were dropping more and more. Early morning, when it was still quite dark, I casually looked at the snow in the backyard of Vedanta Society of Providence.  A very unusual thing, close to one of the cars covered with snow, caught my attention.  Wow! Someone had made a snow-man last night! A closer look revealed that the artist has put in a good deal of effort to make the sculpture as perfect as possible in the given situation. The arms were there with gloves, the eyes were well-made and glasses were put on them; a muffler adorned the neck (the snowman wanted to stay warm too!), the mouth held a pipe and so forth.
As Bhagavad Gita says (18/61) , “God, the Creator-Controller-Destroyer is in heart of all beings. …”
That makes everyone crave to create, to control and to destroy. Children and grown-ups, men and women, rich and poor, all like to express the divine creativity etc in their own way. To the extent the divinity is manifest in that individual, the creativity etc of that individual also has the divine expression. And as many scriptural sayings tell that God made us in His Own image, people too take special interest in creating images similar to them. People too want to be perfect as God is perfect.
Of course, logically speaking, this whole link between God and us can be put in a reversed manner too! One can surely say, because we crave to create, control, destroy, our God, our ideal gets pictured as the supreme creator, controller and destroyer. Because we crave for perfection, our god is, by definition perfection supreme, absolutely free from any blemish or defect. Our god has to be, by very definition,  the absolute ultimate of what we wish to be.
That is why Vivekananda has said that it is man who has made god in his own image.

The Opening

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to let you know that a blog of Vedanta Society of Providence has been created. The goal of this blog is to provide a forum to share one’s opinions, thoughts and experiences on topics related to spirituality so that the participants can benefit thereby. This blog is open for all who are interested in spirituality irrespective of one’s own religious, cultural or national background. To maintain decorum in this forum, I request you to go through the Rules and Guidelines for posting on this blog and follow the same in all your posts. I hope this blog will provide an opportunity for all of us to have a meaningful discussion worth contemplating upon and also implementing in our spiritual journey. May Lord bless us all.

Yours lovingly,
Swami Yogatmananda