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.

              Paramahansa 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 system.

              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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