Response to Sectarianism
Some areas of Hinduism seem to hold to a non-sectarian view of religion.
This is not always the case. For example, some hold that one must be born
into a caste
in order to practice Hinduism. The excesses of caste discrimination is
outlawed but still widely practiced. Paramahansa Yogananda has said that
ignorant fanatical people can be found in all religions.
By definition, much of today's Christianity can be considered exclusive
and sectarian in theology. However, I believe that Jesus Christ's teachings
were meant to be teachings of transcendence of narrow ego identification
rather than what can be called "ego-salvation." Ego-salvation is
the widespread belief in Christianity that one will ascend into some concept
of heaven without any kind of self-transformation or transcendence
of the ego. One goes to the Father exactly "as one is." This modern concept
is transcendence through "proxy" and it is ego-consoling but not necessarily
a true teaching of Christ.
When we remove the doctrine of "exclusivity" from modern Christianity,
many complain that this is no longer a form of Christianity. I'm not sure
who has put a copyright on Jesus' words that prevent a more universal interpretation
of his words.
Yogananda has introduced many of us to the concept of non-dualism,
where these different religious forms are eventually unnecessary.What is
essential is holding on to a state of bliss and unity with the One
who is dreaming all of creation and beyond. Outer religious customs will
never be universalized, but the experience of indescribable joy found in
God-contact can be universalized. This is explored in Guruji's book, "The
Science of Religion".
In conventional religious thought, we as humans are inherently separated
from God and we are unable or not even allowed to seek transcendence of
this separation. The non-dualistic approach of Paramahansa Yogananda states
that God is far away to those who think He is far. However, He is Nearest
of the Near, Dearest of the Dear to those who think He is near. This comes
from meditative practice and not through mental gymnastics or a belief
I am not too impressed with what we believe. I am more moved by
what we, as religious people, practice in our daily lives. How does
it translate? If our beliefs cause us to be rude and narrow, then
our practice is poor. If we are expansive, perform service to this world,
and remain cheerful, then our practice can be said to be good.
I don't think these concepts can be grasped intellectually, but can be
intuitively realized through meditative experience.
Douglas F. Couch
Overland Park, KS
Jan. 2, 2000
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