There are many paths leading to liberation. We simply need to choose the one that seems to fit us best. Three of the most widely practiced ideologies are Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In this article I intend to demonstrate how these three religious ideologies, when viewed in the absence of morality, are actually a life philosophy that are saying basically the same thing. Furthermore, the concepts presented are parallel to what we see in psychology and science. When viewed in this way, we can decipher the true meaning behind the teachings and gain practical advice to use in our daily life.
Buddhism the Philosophy
Beginning with Buddhism, which is really a philosophy more than a religion, the premise of the Buddha’s teachings are the three “refuges.” When the refuges were accepted, the initiates were considered disciples. As part of the initiation, the new disciples were asked to state,
“I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life. I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love. I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.”
After reading the above quote it occurred to me that the three refuges are comparable to the heart, mind, and body as a path from the psychological self, conditioned from a lifetime of experiences, to the authentic self, or moving from living from the place of the ego to living from Spirit. In other words, the “Buddha” is the authentic self inside each of us, and when we come from the place of the heart we access the Buddha nature from within. The mind, when viewed correctly, can lead us to Christ Consciousness, which is available to us all and can be accessed with pure awareness, independent of egoic thinking. Finally, the body can be thought of as the “body world” of each of us, including not only those who we come into contact with, but also the environment we find ourselves in, which is why nature can be such a powerful teacher of the truth. Simply stated, our external environment is a reflection of our inner psyche.
Commonalities in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity
In Hinduism, the “Destroyer” is the one who can “destroy” the ego, which is why it is described in the ancient Hindu text as “Dissolution/Restoration,” which to me means rid us of illusion and restore our remembrance. When we return our mind to the perfection it was at birth, only now with the wisdom of experience, we can help others find the “Way.” The Way is considered the path to liberation, or freedom from the conditioned ego. This is why Christ is referred to as the “redeemer,” as his teachings are meant to show us a path away from fear and toward love.
The information above explains what Christ meant when he said unless we have the mind of a small child we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the here and now. Incidentally, the term “Lucifer,” which is often interpreted in the Christian literature to be another name for “Satan,” actually means “light-bringing,” or “morning star.” Here, we can see the parallel to the Hindu concept of “Destroyer,” or “Dissolution/Restoration.” In practical terms this symbolism is instructing us that whether we turn toward the darkness or the light, both will eventually lead to liberation. However, the darkness leads to liberation through fear and suffering and typically takes much longer, while the light leads directly to freedom.
The opposite of remembrance is ignorance, when we forget our divine nature. In addition, ignorance stems from the shadow side of the human ego, which blinds us by placing a veil over our authentic self. It is the conditioned ego that causes us to ignore what we intuitively knew at birth, that there is no real “self” at all. This is why a child does not distinguish self from other, until object permanence sets in that is. Ironically, object permanence itself is the beginning of ignorance because nothing is permanent. The Buddha once said,
“The cause of suffering is ignorance, a false way at looking at reality. Thinking the impermanent is permanent, that is ignorance. Thinking there is a self when there is not, that is ignorance. From ignorance is born greed, anger, fear, jealousy, and countless other sufferings. The path of liberation is the path at looking deeply at things in order to truly realize the nature of impermanence, the absence of a separate self, and the interdependence of all things. This path is the path that overcomes ignorance. Once ignorance is overcome, suffering is transcended. That is true liberation. There is no need for a self for there to be liberation.”
Moving Beyond the Ego in Everyday Life
In order to become liberated from the ego we must first learn to recognize it, and then stop reinforcing it. Fortunately, this can happen in everyday circumstances. For example, once I walked into a sandwich shop and as I approached the counter, I looked down and spotted a ten dollar bill. Since a man had just left that spot, I thought it might be his, so I picked it up and walked it over to him to ask if it was his. He said it was and thanked me.
I returned to the counter and my friend asked me if I knew that man, seemingly to have missed that I found the money and returned it to him. I felt a part of me that wanted to tell her about my good deed, but I chose not to. In addition, as I stood there I wondered if the two employees working behind the counter noticed the good deed, and realized there was a part of me that wanted them to have witnessed it as well.
After we left and were walking down the sidewalk, I again felt a desire to tell my friend about what happened. However, because I knew it was ego, and because the Buddha’s teaching was fresh on my mind, I chose to hold my tongue. This is a good example of seeing egoic energy for what it is, dropping it, and moving on, rather than acting on it, thereby reinforcing it. In turn, we will reinforce the inner desire of performing good deeds for the sheer joy of it, rather than reinforce the extrinsic reward of receiving praise from others.
The more we can learn to notice and act independent of the ego, the more we can evolve in consciousness, and in turn, move from a normal human to what is often referred to as a “superman.” Typically, great masters like Krishna, Christ, Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Yogananda, amongst many others, are thought of as super human, because they came to understand the true nature of reality and were, therefore, walking in complete God-Consciousness.
Evolution of Consciousness
According to Paramahansa Yogananda, plants are freed from the inertia of minerals, animals are freed of that and the fixity of plant to experience locomotion, and “sentient consciousness,” while man, because he is conscious of self, can also understand the thoughts of other humans and can project his “sensory mind” outward by the power of imagination. The master went on to suggest,
“Spirit expresses Itself as beauty and magnetic and chemical power in minerals and gems; as beauty and life in plants; as beauty, life, power, motion, and consciousness in animals; as comprehension and expanding power in man; and again returns to Omnipresence in the superman.”
This is a clear and concise way to describe the evolution of consciousness, and as can be seen by Yogananda’s interpretation, is parallel to the evolution described by science in the physical world. What must be remembered is that spirit, or life energy, is simply the other side of the coin from the material world, and both are necessary to have any experience whatsoever.
Christ Consciousness is in “every speck of space,” as Yogananda put it, and therefore, when we consider the evolution of spirit, or consciousness, as described above, it is the experience of spirit that varies within the different species, and not spirit itself. According to Yogananda,
“What is necessary is for the cosmic wisdom and divine perception of Jesus to speak again through each one’s own experience and understanding of infinite Christ Consciousness that was incarnate in Jesus. That will be his true Second Coming.”
Science and Theology: It’s All About Vibrating Energy
According to Yogananda, the “Holy Ghost” is the “Cosmic vibration,” imbued with the “Cosmic Intelligence” (or Christ Consciousness). He writes,
“The designation in the Hindu scriptures of this ‘Holy Ghost’ as Aum signifies its role in God’s creative plan: A stands for a kara, or creative vibration; u for ukara, preservative vibration; and m for makara, the vibratory power of dissolution.”
In explaining a similar concept in scientific terms, the physicist Brian Green posited,
“Just as a violin string can vibrate in different patterns, each of which produces a distinct musical tone, the filaments of superstring theory can also vibrate in different patterns… A tiny string vibrating in one pattern would have the mass and electrical charge of an electron; according to the theory, such a vibrating string would be what we have traditionally called an electron.”
The above quote reminded me of the idea that in an atom, electrons are like “ghosts” flickering in and out of existence in the nose bleed seats of a giant stadium. The nucleus of the atom (stadium in this analogy) would be like a BB placed at midfield, with everything else being empty space. Because the interaction of electrons are what creates experience, this is comparable to the idea of the “Holy Ghost” being the “word of God” or Aum, which became the sacred word of Hum of the Tibetans, Amin of the Moslems, and Amen of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Christians.
Consider the following: Although the light shines equally on a diamond and a lump of coal, only the diamond reflects brilliantly that light. Still, the coal possesses all the qualities that would allow it to reflect the same as the diamond, given the right pressure. Humans have all the qualities that allow them to reflect the “light of God.” At times, it takes the right pressure (life experience) to allow each to express that light. In other words, when the ego is looked at (or we “shine the light of God” on it) it can be dissolved (i.e., Dissolution/Restoration or Christ the Redeemer) so that the authentic self (Buddha Nature, Christ Consciousness, Atman) can shine through.