Universalists

“What is hateful to you, do not do to others!”

Jewish Sage Hillel c10 C.E.

 

“You must love your neighbour as yourself!”

Jesus of Nazareth c27 C.E.

 

“None of you is a believer until you desire for your neighbour what you desire for yourself!”

The Prophet Muhammad c622 C.E.

 

“When will redemption come?

When we master the violence that fills our world.

When we look upon others as we would have them look upon us.

When we grant to every person the rights we claim for ourselves!”

‘Gates of Repentance’ – A Contemporary Jewish Prayer Book

 

“Help me to see the One in all and the All in one”

Babaji Dovid Yusuf

 

Question:

Many people of different Faiths have discovered in the teachings of Babaji Dovid Yusuf something of their own Faith, yet on closer examination they also find something different – Please can you explain this?

Answer:

Of all the World Faiths, Judaism is perhaps the one which puts the greatest emphasis on differentiation. For the Jew behind all their varied concepts, lies the notion of separateness, sanctity, and holiness (1). On the other hand, Hinduism (2) emphasises ‘Unity in Diversity’ yet it’s possible to see in these opposite poles, a possibility of transcendence. It is this Transcendence which lies at the heart of the motivational, belief, and value system of the Universalist.

The Holy Book of Islam says: “There is only one religion, but man (humanity) has created many sects” (3), but it also says; “If God wished it, He could have made us of one Faith and one nation, but He did not wish it.” (4) What can this mean?

In the Arabic text of the Qur’an as above, the word which is translated into English as religion is deen. Now deen – as in the related Persian word datot which Jews use for religion (5) – has connotations of justice, and law-keeping and can be translated as transaction, agreement, or covenant. It’s a word about relationship, and for the Jew, the Hindu, the Christian or the Muslim, at the heart of these Faiths is a commitment to a Greater Reality upon which all justice and well-being is based.

It’s here that we begin to perceive what lies at the root of all religious Faiths. Peace, justice, compassion, moral leadership, are at the heart of every religion and whilst because of different cultural contexts and historical factors, there is likely to be difference on how these Universal qualities are applied, it’s still possible to discern a common core. Even when we come to what are usually considered as culturally embedded differences such as cuisine and language, upon closer examination we will discover not that the Universal core is different, but that the cultural and historical context has changed the application of the core principles, or even in some cases, distorted them (6).

To give an example: A law of Moses that says “A kid should not be boiled in its mother’s milk” (7) is based on compassion i.e., it is cruel to slaughter a nursing mother and her kid, and the principle of Chesed (8) – Mercy, or Loving Kindness in English – overrides how culinary desirable, or nutritionally valuable this dish might be. Historically, it also appears that this dish was used to induce fertility – today we would say sexuality (9) – but the inner, or core principle of compassion, overrides all these other considerations.

What began as an ethical principle became over time a defining factor in what constitutes a follower of Judaism, the culture in this case becoming more important than the core cultural principles that underlie it. So that compassion has been forgotten, and the generalised notion of not eating milk and meat together, is carried to bizarre lengths, including using different plates and refrigerators (10).

This is just one example of how cultural differences can override core principles and lead us to believe wrongly, that there are fundamental differences between World Faiths, when in fact it is the cultural context which is different and which sometimes even displaces the core principles on which these Faiths are based.

Now if we turn again to the text in the Qur’an (4) in which it says that God created differences in religion, we will see that it also goes on to say that “if (God) wished it He could have created people of One Nation” (11). In effect what its saying is that it’s cultural differences which account for differences in the One Religion (3) i.e. the basic common core that is at the heart of all Faiths.

If there is One Religion – one basic Faith that has been proclaimed from time to time in different cultural and historical contexts – it’s to be expected that laws surrounding these basic core principles must also change.

Today our world has become smaller in that virtually everywhere is accessible either literally (12) or electronically by computer. Yet it has also become more diverse in that large city complexes consist of numerous immigrant communities, each having their own languages and customs.

What this means, is that if we are to live in peace with each other there is an even greater need to emphasise core principles, rather than cultural differences. However, unless we wish to live in a totalitarian society or one in which all differences are kept to the minimum and variety discouraged, rather than emphasised – without discrimination – there must be a social and spiritual code which holds us all together.

It’s here that we begin to discover what is of value in being a Universalist. The Universalist stresses that we are all part of One Human Family and thus all should be treated with dignity. Consequently, there will be no desire to keep differences to a minimum, or even to ignore them. Equally, it must be recognised that all The World Religions Have a Common Basis: not that they are all true – How could they be when they are so diverse? But that each in a different way attempts to make contact with the Infinite, however it may or may not be defined.

Thus both of these two principles lead to a harmony of differences. Like a Grand Symphony in which many different instruments are played together to create a beautiful sound. However, this can only occur if a conductor supervises the playing of the orchestra. The core principles – like music – are given to us by the Great Composer God – but these are applied by the conductor, or the Teacher of the Age in his own way – and whose score sheet varies according to the instruments that are used – or in other words the cultural context of the time.

Today, there is a necessity to emphasise the Unity and Sanctity of Life. Humanity has forgotten this key principle that is to be found at the heart of all the World Religions (13) and as a consequence our planet’s eco-system and therefore all life – as we know it, is threatened with extinction. Only by recognising the interdependence of all life forms, and not taking life except to sustain it in a higher form, can this threat be overcome (14).

So in our time, the Great Teacher of the Age has emphasised these 3 Principles. No longer emphasising differences within religions, or attempting to convert adherents of a religion to another Faith (15), this Teacher is only asking that whatever our cultural differences might be, that we return to the core of all the World Religions, and in doing so pay special attention to the Unity and Sanctity of Life. For it’s upon this principle, i.e. the Oneness of Life and a determination to sustain it in all its forms – that the other two principles are built.

When we apply these 3 principles in this way it becomes apparent that no religion, however it may have become distorted over time – and research will show that they all have – is redundant. Each of the World Faiths has something valuable within it, and together they act as pieces in a jigsaw of Grand Design. It behoves us all to acknowledge this and rather than emphasising our differences, we should seek together to sustain our similarities. As Universalists – whether we are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or whatever – may we do our part to maintain the Unity and Sanctity of Life; this and this alone – not our endeavour to convert everyone to OUR RELIGION – will show how much we really believe in the teachings of our own culturally embedded Teacher – whether that be Krishna, Moses, the Buddha, Muhammad, or Jesus. For as the latter said, when talking to a person of another Religion, (16) “You worship God on this mountain, we (the Jews) worship God on another mountain, but the time is coming when we shall worship in spirit and in truth!”  That time, dear friends, is NOW! Please help us to bring it about.

 

References and Notes

(1) Exodus 19:6, Leviticus 20:26.

(2) Although we now see Hinduism as a distinct World Faith, in reality it’s a compound of many different local belief systems, in which there are 3 million deities – though all are considered as manifestations of the One God. This is why different families, or individuals within a family, can have different deities as their object of worship. Also, why Jainism, Buddhism, and even Sikhs – though to a lesser extent – although distinct religions in themselves, are also considered by Hindus, as part of their One Faith.

(3) Qur’an 21:92-93.

(4) Qur’an 42:1-8.

(5) In the Middle Ages, Jews were forced to debate with Christians, on pain of death. However, it became increasingly difficult as they had no word for religion, so they adopted the Persian word datot for this purpose. Deen and datot are both derived from the older Aramaic word din which = transaction.

(6) Exodus 34:26 & 23:19.

(8) The Jewish system is entirely based on the principle of Chesed, and this is the deciding factor when a conflict of interests or interpretations occurs.

(9) It is often forgotten that in the ancient world sex was not divorced from giving birth to children, and that it was usually seen in a positive, and rarely in a negative light. Sex was primarily a social function and to a lesser extent an individual one; hence the incompatibility of ancient sexual codes and taboos, with our modern individualistic culture and its technological innovations, such as birth pills, sophisticated contraceptive aids and guides, and the ease of abortion.

(10) These same Kosher strict individuals will eat, or keep animals in a state of suffering such as battery hens, or veal calves.

(11) See the continuing verse in (4) above.

(12) Its now possible to travel completely around the world in 48 hours, a journey that only a century ago would have taken 2 years or more.

(13) In Islam Tawhid, in Jainism Ahimsa, in Christianity ‘Reverence for Life’, etc…

(14) This means not taking life for pleasure, for social convenience, commerce, or nationalism.

(15) To spread a particular Faith and consequently provide a social cultural basis for civilisation was important in the past and history shows how significant all the Great Teachers were in providing this basis and impetus. However we no longer live in a time when culture and civilisation needs to be spread and dispersed, but rather live in a world civilisation in which the core principles must be recovered and sustained amongst varied and diverse cultures.

(16) John 4:21-24.