The Scientific Spirit #3: Russell on Unity and Plurality

The Scientific Spirit #3: Russell on Unity and Plurality

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell

One of the most convincing aspects of the mystic illumination is the apparent revelation of the oneness of all things, giving rise to pantheism in religion and to monism in philosophy. — Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays, “Unity and Plurality”

Thus Bertrand Russell begins a chapter on Unity and Plurality in which he explores the metaphysical or mystical concept of “oneness”.

The words “unity” and “oneness” are much-used in both religion (or mysticism) and philosophy, but are also prominent in science. As Baha’is believe in the unity of God and the oneness of mankind, physicists seek a “grand unified theory”, a principle of everything, as they seek the origins of the Universe we inhabit. It would be easy to argue that these two related terms do not mean the same thing within these disciplines. Easy, but possibly inaccurate.

Russell comments that:

An elaborate logic, beginning with Parmenides, and culminating in Hegel and his followers, has been gradually developed, to prove that the universe is one indivisible Whole, and that what seem to be its parts, if considered as substantial and self-existing, are mere illusion. The conception of a Reality quite other than the world of appearance, a reality one, indivisible, and unchanging, was introduced into Western philosophy by Parmenides, not, nominally at least, for mystical or religious reasons, but on the basis of a logical argument as to the impossibility of not‑being…. (ibid.)

The first sentence of that comment seems to me self-evident and leads, inexorably, to a place where several blind men sit arguing the reality of an elephant. To suppose that any part of the Universe is self‑existing is to suppose that one can have a trunk or a leg or an ear without the rest of a living elephant being present. It seems to me that the semantical tangle occurs around the word “illusion”.

galaxiesI am told that my name, “maya”, means “illusion.” But when I research the word in Sanskrit, I find it to be far more nuanced that that simple English word implies. It refers to the creative power through which God (the first Cause) created Life, the Universe, and Everything. The illusory quality of this (like the illusory quality of the independence of an elephant’s trunk) is relative. The trunk seems to have a mind of its own, but it doesn’t; the elephant’s massive brain is driving its movements, in addition to the movements of the rest of the elephant. Our galaxy seems to be doing its own thing off in its splendid little corner of the cosmos, independently of other galaxies, but “seems” is the operative term. Its independence is limited and relative. It is responding to the larger movements of the rest of the Universe—the Milky Way is not not dancing alone.

Krishna’s warning about mistaking His “divine maya” as the substance of reality has to do with mistaking the external manifestation of a thing as its ultimate reality. In practical terms, it’s like assuming the candy shell on the outside of the M&M is the substance of the candy. To bring this point home in as visceral a way as possible, imagine that a candy-seeking mammal—assuming the exterior of his M&Ms to be their ultimate reality—licks off the shell and tosses the creamy chocolate interiors into the trash.

‘Nuff said.

Humans make this mistake in much more significant ways all the time. We chronically judge books by their covers or human beings (including ourselves) by our external appearances or lowest commonalities. We assign worth to people based on how physically pretty or sexually attractive they are, how much wealth they command, how well they dress or on credentials that proclaim them to be well-versed in certain disciplines.

Russell notes that:

Belief in a reality quite different from what appears to the senses arises with irresistible force in certain moods, which are the source of most mysticism, and of most metaphysics. While such a mood is dominant, the need of logic is not felt, and accordingly the more thoroughgoing mystics do not employ logic, but appeal directly to the immediate deliverance of their insight. But such fully developed mysticism is rare in the West. (ibid.)

blindmenandelephant1I guess so, because in writing that paragraph above about the movement of our galaxy, I employed reason to explore the intuition that the galaxy—which seems to be a self-contained whirligig floating in the emptiness of space—is a separate, independent, self-existing entity. Reason, by walking into the room with the blind dudes and the elephant and circumambulating them, reaches a different conclusion: that the seemingly diverse bits of elephantine splendor are part of one indivisible Whole. Ditto, the galaxy.

My question is, why do we attach such dogmatic zero sum score‑keeping to the concept of unity and  plurality? Why is this even a binary question: Is the Universe / God / mankind one OR is it a collection of federated parts / aspects / units?

If that’s the question, then it seems to me the answer is “Yes, it is.”

Krishna is quoted in the Bhagavad Gita as saying that:

“Others follow the path of jnana, spiritual wisdom. They see that where there is One, that One is me; where there are many, all are me; they see my face everywhere.” — Bhagavad Gita 9:15, Easwaran translation)

The Gita describes the mystical Moment in which Arjuna intuits (or sees through jnana) that “within the body of the God of gods, Arjuna saw all the manifold forms of the universe united as one” (ibid 11:13)

This Moment—which is expressed in a rapturous metaphor—leads the Avatar’s cousin to exclaim: “You are the Lord of all creation, and the cosmos is your body.” (ibid 11:16)

To a Baha’i, this oneness is a given, but it should not cause the believer to become “malicious” (a word that Russell borrows from philosopher George Santayana) of the “divine maya” or the physical cosmos that results from it. Nor, I should add, is there reason for the believer to be malicious of the study of that physical reality; in a word, science.

HIdden galaxy

Krishna speaks of a God that pervades and upholds Its creation. Likewise, the Torah asserts that:

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. — Psalm 19:1-4

The Baha’i sacred texts echo this:

“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light. Methinks, but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist. How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

It is not surprising that the impulse to acquire knowledge about our universe and ourselves has been felt so strongly in the religious community or that religious sacred texts propose a rigorous detachment. We should, Krishna says, approach this knowledge with neither “attachment or aversion.” To this, Bahaullah adds:

“He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth” — idid. 

By now it is no surprise that Russell concurs. He writes, thusly, of the “defects which are inherent in anything malicious.”

“The logic which thus arises is not quite disinterested or candid, and is inspired by a certain hatred of the daily world to which it is to be applied. Such an attitude naturally does not tend to the best results. Everyone knows that to read an author simply in order to refute him is not the way to understand him; and to read the book of Nature with a conviction that it is all illusion is just as unlikely to lead to understanding. If our logic is to find the common world intelligible, it must not be hostile, but must be inspired by a genuine acceptance …” — Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays

Russell is speaking specifically of the hostility that “metaphysicians” and mystics show toward reason, logic, and the sciences, but his wisdom applies to any subject—whether from the lips of a religious Prophet or an atheist philosopher.

Next time: Russell on Time

 

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119 thoughts on “The Scientific Spirit #3: Russell on Unity and Plurality

  1. http://www.harekrishnatemple.com/bhakta/chapter21.html

    I see your position is either the Vaishnava position or close to it.

    This philosophy was established by Sripad Sankaracarya, in order to refute Buddhistic doctrine.

    The Mayavadis believe that the Supreme Truth is brahman or spiritual energy which is unlimited, without form, qualities, or activity. According to Mayavada philosophy, all living entities are one with brahman, but at present, are covered by illusion, and therefore temporarily seperated from brahman. When the illusion is gone, the living entity becomes again one with the brahman and loses its identity.
    The main idea is that everything is God, meaning that you too are God but somehow or other you forgot that you were God.

    Out of this perspective, the Mayavadis neither accept the form nor the personality of Krsna as absolute but as creation of maya. Therefore, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu called the Mayavadis the biggest offenders of Krsna.

    Mayavada-philosophy is also spread under the name “Vedanta-philosophy”. The majority of all western philosophers (if they are not dogmatic followers of the Bible) who are studying Indian culture and philosophy also fall into this category because they do not differentiate between the higher, spiritual energy, and the lower, material energy. They do not have a proper understanding of the transcendent nature of God.

    Since people in general do not have sufficient information about the transcendental form of God, they are easily influenced by Mayavada philosophy. Whenever we meet people who accept the Vedas we will find that it is not so difficult to establish the Personality of Godhead on the basis of sastra. Since the majority of people are neither interested in any proofs from the sastra and don’t recognize sastra as such, we have to establish Vaisnava philosophy on the basis of logic. There are some fatal defects in Mayavada philosophy which we should be able to recognize when confronted with it or otherwise have to deal with the subject:

    1. Since we possess individuality, it is not logical that our ultimate source doesn’t possess individuality. Since we can normally observe that personality is superior to an impersonal energy, we can conclude that personality is superior to impersonal energy. Since the Vedanta sutra explains that the Absolute Truth is the source of all existence, it must also be the source of personality and possess personality.

    2. The Mayavadis say that the brahman is manifested in a personal form in this material world. How can something personal be manifested from something impersonal? Where do we have an experience of such a phenomena? Lord Krsna explains in Bg 7:24 that this theory is extremely illogical and indicates a lack of intelligence.

    3. It is said that brahman is unchangeable. How then can it split into different living entities within the material world? And why should it do that? In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains (15:7) that the living entities are eternal parts and parcels of the Supreme and states than individuality is an eternal principle (Bg 2:12).

    4. If we were all God, why is there so much suffering and ignorance in the world? Also, if we say that we are God but just temporarily covered by illusion, then illusion would be more powerful than God, which doesn’t make any sense.

    5. The speculation that Krsna’s body is material clearly indicates a complete misunderstanding regarding the transcendental appearance and nature of Krsna. Krsna’s body does not consist of matter and contains unlimited, varied energies and attracts even liberated personalities, who are free from material attachments. (SB 1.7.10)

    6. Reality according to Mayavada philosophy is beyond material form and duality. But they are erring in the premise that there is no spiritual form or variety. The negation of these facts is a materialistic concept and doesn’t provide us any information about spiritual reality.

    7. The desire to become one with God is called the “last snare of maya”. Because the Mayavadis got frustrated with their attempt to become the supreme enjoyer in this material world, they want to become one with the Supreme. This desire is illusory because the soul is by constitution Krsna’s servant. The Srimad Bhagavatam(10:2:32) explains that the misconception of the impersonalists is caused by an impure intelligence and that consequently their realizations are not ultimate and they are thus forced to fall down again to the material platform.

    8. The material world is not false (“brahma satyam, jagan mithya” is one of their favourite slogans)/ because the material world originates in the Absolute Truth, it is real but temporary. However, the belief that the material world is permanent is false-in other words the material world is real but temporary.

    1. “I see your position is either the Vaishnava position or close to it.”

      🙂 My position is my position. I don’t feel the need to label it. That’s what I’ve been trying to explain elsewhere.

      As fascinating as I’m sure all of the doctrine you’ve studied is, it is not the way I approach faith. I am interested in the thoughts of Buddha; I am not interested in the thoughts of theologians or philosophers ABOUT Buddha.

      “God has given man the eye of investigation by which he may see and recognize truth. He has endowed man with ears that he may hear the message of reality and conferred upon him the gift of reason by which he may discover things for himself. This is his endowment and equipment for the investigation of reality. Man is not intended to see through the eyes of another, hear through another’s ears nor comprehend with another’s brain. Each human creature has individual endowment, power and responsibility in the creative plan of God.” —Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, 293

      1. While it meaningful to do exegesis of texts, what you do looks more like eisegesis.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisegesis

        Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς “into” as opposed to exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda. Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discover-able meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective.
        An individual who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete, as someone who practices exegesis is known as an exegete. The term “eisegete” is often used in a mildly derogatory fashion.
        Although the term exegesis is commonly heard in association with Biblical interpretations, the term is broadly used across literary disciplines.

        While exegesis attempts to determine the historical context within which a particular verse exists – the so-called “Sitz im Leben” or life setting – eisegetes often neglect this aspect of Biblical study.
        In the field of Biblical exegesis scholars take great care to avoid eisegesis. In this field, eisegesis is regarded as “poor exegesis.”
        While some denominations and scholars denounce Biblical eisegesis, many Christians are known to employ it – albeit inadvertently – as part of their own experiential theology. Modern evangelical scholars accuse liberal Protestants of practicing Biblical eisegesis, while mainline scholars accuse fundamentalists of practicing eisegesis. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians say that all Protestants engage in eisegesis, because the Bible can be correctly understood only through the lens of Holy Tradition as handed down by the institutional Church. Dei Verbum: “The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account[. A]ll of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.” Jews, in turn, might assert that Christians practice eisegesis when they read the Old Testament as anticipating Jesus of Nazareth.[citation needed]
        Exactly what constitutes eisegesis remains a source of debate among theologians, but most scholars agree about the importance of determining the authorial intentions. Still, to determine the author’s intent can often be difficult, especially for books which were written anonymously.

        Are you sure you’re actually reading the texts and not reading your views into them?

        1. Stephen, I dont’ mean this unkindly, but why do you find it necessary to load every comment with wikipedia exerts? Can you explain what you believe in clear, concise language? I would find that much more engaging and pertinent.

          You ask: Are you sure you’re actually reading the texts and not reading your views into them?

          I’m about as sure as I can be and here’s why: when I first encountered the teachings of Baha’u’llah on the unity of religion especially, I was—to say the least—hostile to the idea. I was a Bible-believing Christian and I had grown up in a variety of churches all of which predisposed me to do just what you suggest–to look at scripture through the lens of acquired learning.

          Fortunately, I had a mother who was, herself, an amateur Bible scholar and who readily pulled us out of churches if the pastor presented doctrine that she could find no scriptural basis for through her own reading. She taught me to ask questions, and to question dogma.

          Baha’u’llah introduced me to the idea that Christ was not unique in history, that there had been other Divine Messengers, and that if I put aside the filters I had been raised with and read the scriptures for myself, comparing the words of Christ to the words of Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, etc. I would find they were cogent and mutually supportive.

          I rejected this idea wholeheartedly, especially when it came to Muhammad, whom I viewed as a perpetrator of evil. So, I came to the exploration of all “non-Christian” scripture with a hefty prejudice. BUT, because of my Christian orientation and my mother’s insistence on knowing things for myself, I felt compelled to test the premise that Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha put forth. I reread the Bible looking for holes to pick, then I began to read the other scriptures with as open a mind as I could manage.

          That was over 35 years ago. What I found (and what my mother also found when she read the same scriptures with an eye to disproving what Baha’u’llah had said), was that Baha’u’llah was absolutely correct. The messages were the same.

          Or, as scripture itself says: The truth is one point; the foolish have multiplied it.

          Buddha speaks to this, in fact: “Nirvana comes to thee when thou understandest thoroughly and livest according to that understanding, that all things are of one Essence and that there is but one law. Hence, there is but one Nirvana as there is but one truth, not two or three. And the Tathagata is the same to all beings, differing in attitude only so far as all beings are different. The Tathagata, however, knows the law whose essence is salvation, and whose end is the peace of Nirvana. He is the same to all, and yet knowing the requirements of every single being, He does not reveal Himself to all alike.” –Sanskrit Dhammapada

          1. Maya, actually the Dhammapada is Pali, not Sanskrit.

            Also, you’re misusing the concept of universalism to say that everyone else taught the same things you believe.

            Universalism means the practice of any religion leads to moksha or nirvana regardless of doctrine or philosophy.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalism

            I’m not disagreeing with all religions being the same, but your concept all religions tend to teach your point of view. Shouldn’t universality of religion be viewpoint neutral?

          2. The quote I cited was a translation from a Sanskrit Dhammapada.

            Forgive me, but is it possible you’re missing the point of universalism (or the unity of religions) in insisting that your understanding is correct and mine is misusing the concept? It seems as if you are not understanding much of what I’m saying.

            Yes, the practice of religion leads to moksha, as you call it. But here’s what Baha’u’llah is saying: These great revealed religions are not merely one at the goal, they are one at the Source. They are not teaching my point of view or even Buddha’s or Baha’u’llah’s point of view. They are teaching God’s point of view insofar as we are capable of understanding it. This is what I understand Buddha to be saying when He says that He does not reveal Himself to all alike.

            To put it another way, in Baha’u’llah’s words: This is the changeless faith of God; eternal in the past, eternal in the future. His teachings and the teachings of Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Muhammad are from the same Source and intended to bring us to the same goal. There is one Dharma, not two or three or more.

            It stands to reason that if the religions are, as Baha’u’llah claims, then it stands to reason that the spiritual teachings are going to be the same, even if they are given in terms that are intended for a particular audience.

            If I were trying to teach someone from a seafaring culture something, I would use analogies, metaphors and stories to convey spiritual truths that used images they’d understand. I might speak of being fishers of men, or I might use the image of an ocean, rivers of knowledge, etc. If I am speaking to a desert people then my set of metaphors is going to be different. That’s a simplistic example, but perhaps you can see my point.

            Baha’u’llah among others uses the metaphor of the Sun shining in a perfect Mirror to convey the relationship between the Supreme Spirit and the Buddha or Avatar. God is like the Sun, the Teacher might say to convey that He was the giver of illumination and life. As a woman, I might also say, God is like a placenta–a source of life and nurture and sustenance. I had a Christian friend completely melt down when I used that analogy because he thought it was “icky”. But he missed the point: it would convey the idea that God is the source of nurture and spiritual food to the nascent soul. And that’s what I see happening here.

            God is neither a Sun or a Placenta. God is what It is. So, neither of us is right or wrong. We simply see things differently.

          3. Maya, to clarify universalism. There is a core to all religions and scriptures. The messages are really one message.

            Your interpretation of texts tends to be a non sequitur from the above given premise. You read transcendental theism into all the texts you read, whereas my study of all religions has shown me monism instead is the core. This is problematic because language is intrinsically dualistic, which leads whenever a monist speaks and whatever they say can have a dualist read dualism into whatever they say because of language.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_text

            I currently have a limited library of religious texts. I’m using Amazon to remedy that. I currently have The Book of the Law and Dianitcs in my Amazon shopping cart and looking for other texts to add. I also added The Way To Happiness to my cart and will add other texts to my cart over time.

            I’m too busy to update Wikipedia’s list of religious texts to include even more texts, but will do so in the future.

            Even if unity of religion is given, which we both agree, your readings don’t necessarily follow from the texts you quote. Even the Psalms which appears to teach transcendent theism actually teach monism.

            While you say all the quotes support your position. You don’t realize that someone else while believing in unity of religion would interpet any of the quotes in a way seperate from your own.

    2. Stephen, since we’re running out of room below, I’m answering your last comment here. You wrote:

      Maya, to clarify universalism. There is a core to all religions and scriptures. The messages are really one message.

      Yes, this describes the Baha’u’llah’s teachings on the oneness of religion very well. There is a spiritual core to all religions and scripture. What seem like many messages are one message. The social teachings may change, and the spiritual teachings given according to our capacity, but the messages are one.

      Your interpretation of texts tends to be a non sequitur from the above given premise. You read transcendental theism into all the texts you read, whereas my study of all religions has shown me monism instead is the core. This is problematic because language is intrinsically dualistic, which leads whenever a monist speaks and whatever they say can have a dualist read dualism into whatever they say because of language.

      I think language is our problem here. I do not label things as you do. I do not read transcendental theism into the texts. Transcendental theism is a label that you choose to use. Here, in utterly bonehead simple terms is a sketch of my process: having satisfied myself that the appearance of Avatars is no coincidence and that Baha’u’llah was an authority on Their nature (being of the same type of Being), I take ALL the scriptures in context with each other.

      Just taking the Biblical texts in context with each other changed the way I understood the teachings of Christ, when I began cross-referencing with other texts—the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Qur’an, the Buddhist scriptures, even Native American sacred texts—a pattern emerges that I cannot ignore.

      Now, here is a question I have asked you before: What is the purpose of the teachings of any of the Buddhas? Is it that we argue the meaning of those teachings, categorizing them, labeling them and holding them as intellectual or academic curiosities, or to incorporate them into our lives so we will be transformed by them?

      1. We agree its the latter obviously. Yes, the action dimension is what matters most actually.

        Also, I’ve compiled a list of Buddhas below at the bottom of the page. Though, ultimately our own Buddha nature is what we are dealing with rather than that of others. Nothing doesn’t have Buddha nature, even three pounds of flax and used toilet paper. I hope you got the two koans I just referenced.

        Though I am neither Hindu nor Theraveda Buddhist, I do find the concept of studying under one of them to reach the state of Paramahasa or Arhat interesting. Though, on the other hand, I find the call of Bodhicitta to intriguing to go that route. I hope this response didn’t have too much jargon in it. You’ve studied Buddhist texts so you may have already been familiar with the concepts.

        1. http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~greg.c/tibet.html

          Maya, so exoteric or esoteric, gradual or fast? The article above discusses Tibetan Buddhism, but since all religions begin and end in enlightenment, it’s applicable to all religion? I study various Mahayana sutras, so exoteric definitely for me. Taintai, Tendai, Cheontae, Huayan, Kegon, Hwaom, Chaan, Zen, Seon, Thien, and Nichiren are all Mahayana fast paths. All other Mahayana paths are gradual paths, which I guess leaves only Pure Land among others.

          The three yanas ( vehicles, or schools ) of Buddhism teach a similar approach to enlightenment. It consists of morality, concentration, and wisdom. They differ in the emphasis placed on these areas and also on the level of reality that is primarily worked with. The main goal and result of each school is moving beyond identification with the personal ego. The resulting wisdom, or enlightenment, is experienced at various levels of reality–from the physical-astral interface for Vipassana and Zen, to the astral-very deep interface for Tantra and Dzogchen.

          The Sutra and Vajrayana teachings place great emphasis on building a proper moral basis upon which to build the insights of emptiness. In contrast, both Zen and Dzogchen place most of their focus upon directly working to develop the wisdom of emptiness. In practice, both the Gradual and Fast Paths have strengths and weaknesses. The gradual approach guarantees a steady mind and heart when one begins to experience very deep states of meditation. This is extremely useful as the power of the subconscious mind that can be unleashed in such states is enormous and can lead to psychological imbalance if one is not basically well-rounded by such a stage of practice. The drawback, of course, is that it takes a long time to really begin to purify one’s mind and heart. Many great masters have spent their entire lives with the purification and transformation of mind and heart as their chief practice.

          The fast approach provides the quickest means to experience awareness beyond that normally associated with the ego. Its drawback, is the potential fragility of the ego to withstand such rapid and deep-reaching change–the very thing gradual paths strive to guard against.

          An analogous situation holds for the exoteric and esoteric schools. Exoteric traditions are more solid and balanced since they mostly work with the perceptions and energies of the physical plane. So even though it is not uncommon to be visited with various astral experiences during advanced stages of Zen or Vipassana meditation, the emphasis of such schools is to continue grounding back to this earth–to the sights, sounds, tastes and thoughts that comprise ordinary experience. The drawback is that the primal energies that underpin the physical world are only indirectly addressed.

          Esoteric traditions, on the other hand, determine to apply themselves directly to the forces that underlie ordinary existence. They reach for the essential nature of the experience of living which manifests as subtle energy and consciousness. The drawback is that similar to reaching too far, too fast, into the psyche as for the fast traditions, esoteric work can reach too far, too fast into subtler fields of energy. This can manifest variously as, for instance, unwanted communication with other beings, energetic imbalances of the body and mind, and uncontrolled effects on the environment and other beings.

          The confluence of Buddhism and other mystical teachings in the West is resulting in a blending of these various approaches to spirituality. It is likely that, along with the aforementioned paths, a blending of them which puts emphasis somewhere in between along both axes of the above table will develop as a useful approach for those who wish to remain in a regular lifestyle.

          1. You wrote: “And lastly, just because there are degrees of awakening and cultivation, it’s wrong to think having a higher degree of awakening and cultivation makes anyone superior over another. Actually, it’s considered ideal to limit one’s awakening and cultivation to a creation level for the benefit of all sentient beings as mentioned above like a shepherd beyond compare. This is called the bodhisattva ideal.”

            Whatever you wish to call it, Abdu’l-Baha (who, to me, is the bodhisattva of bodhisattvas) chose the title because it alludes to a station of absolute servitude.. It means Servant of the Glory. Abdu’l-Baha wrote of his servitude: “My name is Abdul-Baha, my identity is Abdul-Baha, my qualification is Abdul-Baha, my reality is Abdul-Baha, my praise is Abdul-Baha. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem; and servitude to all the human race is my perpetual religion.” (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha p 429)

            His Father, Baha’u’llah—a Manifestation of God, a Buddha) called him “Master” and “the Mystery of God”, and said of him that he was the “Being around whom all the Names of God revolve”. He was, the most humble human being I can imagine and the most dignified, brave, loving, forceful. Baha’u’llah said that He gave Abdu’l-Baha to the world as an Exemplar of what a human being could be if all the attributes of God were reflected by him.

            I have since found in other writings that the attainment of that level of detachment and humility and spirituality is centuries off for even the best of us. There is a passage in the Baha’i scripture that notes how much more enlightened future humans will be such that the virtues of saints in this day will be the sins of this future generation. But this should cause no despair, because each of us has his or her own level of capacity that obviates the need for comparisons.

            Of this capacity Baha’u’llah wrote: “The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man’s hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, V)

            Re: the speed of enlightenment: There is a book entitled the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys in which Baha’u’llah, in the voice of the mystic, speaks of the spiritual journey toward enlightenment and oneness. It is my favorite of all His voluminous writings. He says plainly that some traverse those valleys in the twinkling of an eye and others take decades to make the same journey. It depends upon our capacity, our willingness to detach ourselves from the ephemeral and to focus our attention and efforts and will on the Goal.

            You mention a “regular lifestyle”. I’m not sure what you mean by that, exactly. But certainly, as a Baha’i I shall not follow my monkish inclinations and go meditate on a mountain top. So, to answer the question of exo or eso, I believe faith must be born out by action or it is of little if any value. This need to be in the world (but not of the world) is expounded in all of the scriptures I have read. It is one of the things that Krishna tries to teach Arjuna, what Buddha exhorts His bikkhus to observe, the Christian disciple James tells us that “Faith without works is dead” and Baha’u’llah that “It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action…. That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.” (Gleanings CXVII)

          2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_spiritual_realms

            The article on the ten spiritual realms is a good summary of the cosmology. I really favor deductive rather than inductive reasoning.

            Also, normal life is a indirect reference to Tantric practitioners. I can’ only find vague data on when Tantra began, early as 1700 BCE or late as 500 CE. If early, Tantra even predates the Vedas.

            Also, you have a straw view of monks as people who don’t do stuff. Actually they do lots of stuff: teaching, giving lectures, free charitable labor, community organizing, writing books, organizing peace rallies, farming, etc. Monasteries are actually part of the world as much as everywhere else. Monks and nuns actually are as active in the world as householders, it just takes different forms of activity. You seem to thinks monks only sleep and meditate which is actually false. You seem to confuse the concepts of hermitism or anchortic monasticism with ceonibitic monasticism. While you assessment is correct with regards to anchorites, it’s false with regards to cenobites. So basically while all anchorites are monks, not all monks are anchorites. You can see the two different Wikipedia articles on hermits and monks and see the concepts aren’t the same.

            In Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, a Ngakpa (Tibetan: སྔགས་པ, Wylie: sngags pa; IAST: mantrī; Sanskrit Devanagari: मन्त्री ) is a non-monastic practitioner of Vajrayana, shamanism, Tibetan medicine, Tantra and Dzogchen amongst other traditions, disciplines and arts.
            Ngakpa is an alternative phonetic transcription; the Wylie is sngags pa. These terms are grammatically masculine; the feminine equivalent is Ngakma or Ngakmo. Ngak’phang is a gender neutral word that covers ngakpa and ngakmo, though this word is obscure. It may either be archaic or of relatively recent construction.
            Traditionally, ngakpas wear uncut hair and white robes. From this they are referred to as gö kar chang loi de or “the white-robed and uncut-hair group” (gos dKar lCang lo’i sDe).[1]

            Ngakpas often marry and have children. Some work in the world, though they are required to devote significant time to retreat and practice and in enacting rituals when requested by, or on behalf of, members of the community.
            There are family lineages of Ngakpas, with the practice of a particular yidam being passed through family lineages. That said, a Ngakpa (inclusive of both sexes) may also be deemed as anyone thoroughly immersed and engaged in the practice of the teachings and under the guidance of a lineage-holder, and who has taken the appropriate vows or samaya and had the associated empowerments and transmissions.
            Significant lineage transmission is through oral lore.
            While Ngakpas may perform many different rituals and energetic workings; these called multi-coloured ngakpas. The white ngakpas are Dzogchen practitioners who practise mainly the inner yogas. There are then the black ngakpas rites of passage, particularly known for performing birth rituals, weddings, funerals, divinations, and pacification of ghosts or nature spirits and exorcisms. Typically, Ngagpas live with their families in villages; but many Ngagpas also congregate in dratsangs, the Ngakpa equivalent of a monastery. Some Ngakpa are comparable in practice to the Mahasidda; indeed, the Mahasidda may be correctly referred to as Ngakpa.
            As scholar Sam van Schaik describes, “the lay tantric practitioner (sngags pa, Skt. māntrin) became a common figure in Tibet, and would remain so throughout the history of Tibetan Buddhism.”[2] Scholar Gyurme Dorje defines ngakpas as “a practitioner of the mantras, who may live as a householder rather than a monk.”[3]
            Kunga Gyaltsen, the father Dalai Lama II Gendun Gyatso, was a non-monastic ngakpa, a famous Nyingma tantric master.[4] His mother was Machik Kunga Pemo, they were a farming family. Their lineage transmission was by birth.[5]

          3. You wrote: “you have a straw view of monks as people who don’t do stuff. Actually they do lots of stuff: teaching, giving lectures, free charitable labor, community organizing, writing books, organizing peace rallies, farming”

            I do not have a “straw view of monks”, Stephen, and I think we shall get along much better if you do not try to psychoanalyze me based upon a misunderstanding of what I said.

            There are monks and there are monks. I was referring to a particular type of monk (not necessarily Buddhist, either)–the ascetic, isolationist type, who self-flagellate, wall themselves up in monasteries and are perturbed when the outside world impinges upon their happy space. That is the direction my natural monkishness takes (except for the flagellation, for which I would cheerfully substitute reading 24/7 and writing treatises. These were the sort of monks that Baha’u’llah was speaking to when He said: “O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in churches and cloisters. Come forth by My leave, and occupy yourselves with that which will profit your souls and the souls of men. Thus biddeth you the King of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behooveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fire. Thus counseleth you your Lord, and He, verily, is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous. Enter ye into wedlock, that after you someone may fill your place.”

            It is possible to become attached to solitude, seclusion and poverty. And that attachment is no more worthy than an attachment to wealth and material things. It can come between the seeker and the One sought just as effectively. I strive to live a contemplative existence while fully engaged in the world around me, but because of the type of work I do, I sometimes live in a virtual monastery while I participate in discourse on a great many topics.

            Re Tantric practitioners and “normal life”: This is where the way we use words can lead to gross misunderstanding. I would never in a million years have thought of “Tantric practitioners” when reading the words “normal life”. I can see perhaps a “holistic life.” But most of the people I know who consider their lives “normal” have little time for intentionally crafting a holistic existence and self-identifying Tantric practitioners are rather in the minority in most societies.

            The Master (Abdu’l-Baha) has said that we must tread the spiritual path with practical feet. I have always liked this reminder that we live for at least this portion of our existence, in a physical world and that, while I am a soul, I have a body. Krishna’s metaphor of the mount (the body) and the rider (the atman) seems most apt here. Both the horse and the rider are in need of food, shelter, and care.

          4. Maya, what you described is more accurately called schizoid rather than monkish. Also, religion wise you described anchoritic rather than cenobitic monastic practice. Actually, most monks of any religious tradition (unless anchortic) don’t live in solitude and seclusion due to lots of visits from laity and other curious people.

          5. Hmm. Now I’m not sure if you’re saying you think I’m schizoid or that the behavior of extreme ascetics is schizoid. 🙂

            I wouldn’t describe it as schizoid, though possibly masochistic or even megalomaniacal. (There are, to be sure, people (monks or not) who think that some action on their part will single-handedly save the world.)

            Regardless of how many monks are anchoritic or cenobitic, Bahá’u’lláh is specifically speaking to the ones who are practicing seclusion (perhaps through vows of silence), asceticism, self-mortification, and mendicancy. In other words, Bahá’u’lláh, like Christ, doesn’t label a group of people as this or that, but rather requests (or commands) a change of world view and behavior. The world will change when people who have learned to live in “an attitude of prayer” take that attitude to the streets. Sitting on a mountaintop with your prayerful attitude hidden under a bushel will not illuminate the darkness that surrounds mankind.

            This is not, by the way, an academic or philosophical discussion for any of us here at Common Ground Group. This is where the rubber meets the road. It is where and what we attempt to take to heart and what we hope to live. The idea of living a fully engaged life in an attitude of prayer may seem an odd goal but, having seen it in action, we know it is achievable.

          6. Religion and personality disorders is a topic I recently read an article about in a magazine. Historionic personality disorder for example is more common among mega church preachers than the population at large for example. Actually the magazine article analyzed each and every personality disorder and how it impacts religion and vice versa. The magazine also spoke of a schizoid tendency among people who thought it was a prerequisite for spirituality. The article tended to focus on New Agers who were perpetual retreaters, always signing up for spiritual retreats so they were basically doing it 24/7.

            Also, you use of the word monkish makes it sound like all monks (and nuns for females). (Side Note: Technically wouldn’t nunish be the right word given you are female?) Lots of monks and nuns have taken to the streets. The current Pope Francis the First and his namesake Saint Francis of Assissi are good examples. Mother Teressa, the Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh are more good examples. Being engaged in the world and being a monk or nun aren’t mutually exclusive of each other. Actually, lots of times they go hand in hand. Below, I have copied a Wikipedia example. The note is the idea of engaging with the world came from monks. In fact, probably all monks and nuns canonized as saint were active in the world.

            Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice. Finding its roots in Vietnam through the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Engaged Buddhism has grown in popularity in the West.[1]

            The term was coined by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay to his students), inspired by the Humanistic Buddhism reform movement in China by Taixu and Yinshun, and later propagated in Taiwan by Cheng Yen and Hsing Yun.[2] At first, he used Chinese characters (a scriptural language of Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhism), 入世佛教 (lit: Worldly Buddhism, 入世 = enter + world). During the Vietnam War, he and his sangha (spiritual community) made efforts to respond to the suffering they saw around them.[3] They saw this work as part of their meditation and mindfulness practice, not apart from it.[3] Thich Nhat Hanh outlined fourteen precepts of Engaged Buddhism[4] which explained his philosophy.
            This term has since been re-translated back into Chinese as “Left-wing Buddhism” (左翼佛教) to denote the liberal emphasis held by this type of Buddhism. The term has also been used as a translation for what is commonly understood in China and Taiwan as “Humanistic Buddhism” (人間佛教).

            In the West, like the East, Engaged Buddhism is a way of attempting to link authentic Buddhist meditation with social action.[5][6] The current Dalai Lama has voiced a need for Buddhists to be more involved in the social and political realm.
            In 1998, while on retreat in Bodh Gaya, India, …the Dalai Lama told those of us who were participating in a Buddhist-Christian dialogue that sometimes, Buddhists have not acted vigorously to address social and political problems. He told our group, “In this, we have much to learn from the Christians.”[5]

            Organizations such as the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists and the Zen Peacemakers, led by Roshi Bernard Glassman are devoted to building the movement of engaged Buddhists. Other engaged Buddhist groups include the Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health and Insight, Gaden Relief Projects, the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations, Fo Guang Shan and Tzu Chi.

            Prominent figures in the movement include Robert Aitken Roshi,[7] Joanna Macy,[7] Gary Snyder, Alan Senauke, Sulak Sivaraksa, Maha Ghosananda, Sylvia Wetzel, Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Taigen Dan Leighton, Ken Jones, and Bhikkhu Bodhi.

          7. Stephen K, I get that you like to argue points. I really appreciate the zeal with which you track all this stuff down, more power to you. Again, I’m happy to discuss things fruitfully and answer questions asked in earnest, but I have no intention of discussing the nuances of monkishness. (I did bewail the fact that I was not Catholic in my youth. The thought of a cloister with a good library was like heaven.

            I will stand by my self-assessment: I have a monkish streak. Take it that I mean by that that I like seclusion and study. Okay?

            And thanks for diagnosing my personality disorder. I had no idea… 🙂

          8. Personality disorders are patterns of anxiety, drama, or oddity. Schizoid personality is defined as an anxiety based pattern of choosing solitude and not needing the company of others.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_disorder

            I recently just saw a not specified category on Wikipedia, but I was familiar mostly with the three clusters referenced earlier.

  2. http://www.swamij.com/mahavakyas.htm

    You make absolutely no quotes from any of the Upanishads which contains the Mahavakayas, the source of the Maya doctrine. You also mistake illsuion to mean unreal, rather than neither real nor unreal.

    Brahman and Atman are real. Maya and Avidya are neither real nor unreal. Imagination is unreal. Maya and Avidya are unreal relative to Brahman and Atman. They are real relative to imagination. They are neither real nor unreal.

    1. Stephen, I used the quotes I did because those were the ones that came most readily to mind as I was considering Russell’s commentary. These are writings that have been an influence in my life for decades and they were the most pertinent. Yes, I could have quoted the Upanishads, I suppose, but nothing from that scripture leapt to mind.

      Also, the posting was about Bertrand Russell’s take on mysticism and reason, specifically Unity and Plurality. I was not seeking to do a detailed analysis of any specific philosophical school.

      Now, I agree with you (though it is not really pertinent to my blog) that Brahman and Atman are Real. Maya is neither real nor unreal AND is both real and unreal. And yes, this is exactly what I’ve been saying all along—the reality of anything is relative to the Absolute Reality.

      I do not “mistake” illusion to mean unreal. For one thing, I am not giving my definition or understanding of maya or illusion. I am giving the sense in which I have seen it used by other people—I singled out westerners who had glommed onto Eastern philosophies at a simplistic level and who do not understand that there are nuances to the Sanskrit terms.

      In any event, Stephen, given your commentary above, I’m not sure you got the actual intent of the posting, which was to look at the seeming hostility (to use Russell’s word) between mystics in general and those of a scientific bent. It is a look at an atheist scholar’s take on the relationship between faith and reason, science and spirituality or mysticism. In no way, did I intend to enter into a debate about specific schools of mystical thought.

  3. Maya, not to nitpick but if it was Sanskrit, it’d be Dharmapada. Dhammapada is Pali.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammapada

    The literary merits of the Dhammapada are a matter of disagreement.[11] Pali scholar K.R. Norman notes that some readers have claimed that the Dhammapada is a “masterpiece of Indian literature”, but that this assessment is not universally shared.[11] John Brough, who wrote extensively on the subject of the related Gāndhārī Dharmapada, believed that the text had largely been composed from a patchwork of cliches, and that while it contained a few novel and well-constructed verses, suffered from an “accumulation of insipid mediocrity.”[24] While he believed that the Dhammapada did not warrant the high praise sometimes lavished upon it, Brough did note that it contained “small fragments of excellent poetry”, and that the Dhammapada fared well when considered alongside other, similarly composite works.[24] Several scholars have noted that much of the Dhammapada consists of vague moral aphorisms, many of them not clearly specific to Buddhism at all.[20]

    According to tradition, the Dhammapada’s verses were spoken by the Buddha on various occasions.[8] “By distilling the complex models, theories, rhetorical style and sheer volume of the Buddha’s teachings into concise, crystalline verses, the Dhammapada makes the Buddhist way of life available to anyone…In fact, it is possible that the very source of the Dhammapada in the third century B.C.E. is traceable to the need of the early Buddhist communities in India to laicize the ascetic impetus of the Buddha’s original words.”[9] The text is part of the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka, although over half of the verses exist in other parts of the Pali Canon.[10] A 4th or 5th century CE commentary attributed to Buddhaghosa includes 305 stories which give context to the verses.
    Although the Pāli edition is the best-known, a number of other versions are known:[11]
    “Gāndhārī Dharmapada” – a version possibly of Dharmaguptaka or Kāśyapīya origin[12] in Gāndhārī written in Kharosthi script[13]
    “Patna Dharmapada” – a version in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit,[14] most likely Sammatiya[15]
    “Udānavarga” – a seemingly related Mula-Sarvastivada or Sarvastivada text[16][17] in
    3 Sanskrit versions
    a Tibetan translation, which is popular in traditional Tibetan Buddhism
    “Mahāvastu” – a Lokottaravada text with parallels to verses in the Pāli Dhammapada’s Sahassa Vagga and Bhikkhu Vagga.[18]
    “Fajiu jing” – 4 Chinese works; one of these appears to be an expanded translation of the Pali version; this has not traditionally been very popular.
    Comparing the Pali Dhammapada, the Gandhari Dharmapada and the Udanavarga, Brough (2001) identifies that the texts have in common 330 to 340 verses, 16 chapter headings and an underlying structure. He suggests that the three texts have a “common ancestor” but underlines that there is no evidence that any one of these three texts might have been the “primitive Dharmapada” from which the other two evolved.[19]
    The Dhammapada is considered one of the most popular pieces of Theravada literature.[2] A critical edition of the Dhammapada was produced by Danish scholar Viggo Fausbøll in 1855, becoming the first Pali text to receive this kind of examination by the European academic community.[20]

    1. I apologize. I misunderstood your point about the Dhammapada or Dharmapada. I didn’t realize it was the spelling you were commenting on, not the idea that there couldn’t be a Sanskrit collection of Buddha’s teachings. I didn’t mean to spark a discussion of such detail.

      1. Ah, it’s okay. Also, is it extant in the original Sanskrit or in a Chinese translation only? Several sutras are extant only via Chinese translation rather than Sanskrit originals.

  4. Maya, when I said they all had the same goal, a same source was implied though not explicitly stated. Though, ultimately, there is no source and no goal, but just and absolute non-dual monistic ultimate reality.

    Now, reviewing my data. Anyone from atleast the first initation is a Manifestation, due to the individualized I AM presence in each and every one of them. You can call them Arhats, Pratyekas, Bodhisattvas, Buddhas, Tirthankaras, Paramahamsas, Avatars, Messiahs, Christs, Mahdis, Ascended Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, etc. Here to clarify, I will create a long list of enlightened beings, or an extensive lists I will eventually sort through to categorize, but I generally take an all of the above approach.

    Mahāsattva, Sanskrit word belonging to the vocabulary of Buddhism Mahāyāna, meaning literally “great being”, is a great Bodhisattva practicing the Buddhism for a long time and reaching a very high level on the path to awakening (bodhi), generally refers to the Bodhisattvas who have reached at least the seventh ground of the ten Bodhisattvas’ grounds (bodhisattvānām daśabhūmīḥ).
    The translation of the word Mahāsattva in Chinese is móhé sāduò 摩诃萨埵 (often simplified in móhésà 摩诃萨) and dàshì 大士, in Japanese, makasatsu or daishi.
    The eight most famous Mahāsattvas are Mañjuśrī, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteśvara, Mahāsthāmaprāpta, Âkāśagarbha (Akasagarbha), Kṣitigarbha, Maitreya and Sarvanīvaraṇaviṣkambhin (Sarvanivarana-Vishkambhin).

    I should note that not only Buddhas, but also Bodhisattvas have the power to appear to people as needed, especially Mahasattvas. The Threefold Lotus Sutra has a chapter each on Avalokitéshvara and Samantabhadra. They are bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas to be specific. They are specifically said to have the power to appear as Buddhas, even though they technically aren’t. This applies to all Mahasattvas. Notice, that Maitreya is on the list of such Mahasattvas.

    In Judaism, “messiah” originally meant a divinely appointed king, such as David, Cyrus the Great[1] or Alexander the Great.[2] Later, especially after the failure of the Hasmonean Kingdom (37 BC) and the Jewish–Roman wars (AD 66-135), the figure of the Jewish Messiah was one who would deliver the Jews from oppression and usher in an Olam Haba (“world to come”) or Messianic Age.
    Jesus of Nazareth (c. 5 BCE – 30 CE), leader of a small Jewish sect who was crucified; Jews who believed him to be the Messiah were the first Christians, also known as Jewish Christians. Christians and Messianic Jews believe him to be the real Messiah.
    Simon of Peraea (c. 4 BCE), a former slave of Herod the Great who rebelled and was killed by the Romans.[3]
    Athronges (c. 3 CE),[4] a shepherd turned rebel leader.
    Menahem ben Judah (?), allegedly son of Judas of Galilee, partook in a revolt against Agrippa II before being slain by a rival Zealot leader.
    Vespasian, c. 70, according to Josephus[5]
    Simon bar Kokhba (died c. 135), founded a short-lived Jewish state before being defeated in the Second Jewish-Roman War.
    Moses of Crete (?), who in about 440–470 convinced the Jews of Crete to attempt to walk into the sea to return to Israel; he disappeared after that disaster.
    Ishak ben Ya’kub Obadiah Abu ‘Isa al-Isfahani (684–705), who led a revolt in Persia against the Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.
    Yudghan (?), a disciple of Abu ‘Isa who continued the faith after Isa was slain.[6][7]
    Serene (?), who around 720 claimed to be the Messiah and advocated expulsion of Muslims and relaxing various rabbinic laws before being arrested; he then recanted.
    David Alroy (?), born in Kurdistan, who around 1160 agitated against the caliph before being assassinated.
    Nissim ben Abraham (?), active around 1295.[8]
    Moses Botarel of Cisneros (?), active around 1413; claimed to be a sorcerer able to combine the names of God.
    Asher Lämmlein (?), a German near Venice who proclaimed himself a forerunner of the Messiah in 1502.
    David Reubeni (1490–1541?) and Solomon Molcho (1500–1532), adventurers who travelled in Portugal, Italy and Turkey; Molcho was eventually burned at the stake by the Pope.
    A mostly unknown Czech Jew from around the 1650s.[9]
    Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676), an Ottoman Jew who claimed to be the Messiah, but then converted to Islam; still has followers today in the Donmeh.
    Barukhia Russo (Osman Baba), successor of Sabbatai Zevi.
    Jacob Querido (?–1690), claimed to be the new incarnation of Sabbatai; later converted to Islam and led the Donmeh.
    Miguel Cardoso (1630–1706), another successor of Sabbatai who claimed to be the “Messiah ben Ephraim.”
    Mordecai Mokia (1650–1729), “the Rebuker,” another person who proclaimed himself Messiah after Sabbatai’s death.
    Löbele Prossnitz (?–1750), attained some following amongst former followers of Sabbatai, calling himself the “Messiah ben Joseph.”
    Jacob Joseph Frank (1726–1791), who claimed to be the reincarnation of King David and preached a synthesis of Christianity and Judaism.
    Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994), the seventh Chabad Rabbi who tried to “prepare the way” for the Messiah. An unidentifiable number of his followers believe him to be the Messiah, though he himself never said this and actually scoffed at such claims which were made during his lifetime.[10][11]
    [edit]Christian messiah claimants

    Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, Baha’u’llah

    Mirza Ghulam Ahmed

    Simon Magus
    See also: List of people claimed to be Jesus and Second Coming
    Verses in the Christian bible tell that Jesus will come again in some fashion; various people have claimed to, in fact, be the second coming of Jesus. Others have been styled a new messiah still under the umbrella of Christianity.
    Simon Magus (early 1st century), he was Samaritan, and a native of Gitta; he was considered a god in Simonianism; he “darkly hinted” that he himself was Christ, calling himself the Standing One.
    Dositheos the Samaritan (mid 1st century), he was one of the supposed founders of Mandaeanism. After the time of Jesus he wished to persuade the Samaritans that he himself was the Messiah prophesied by Moses.[12] Dositheus pretended to be the Christ (Messiah), applying Deuteronomy 18:15 to himself, and he compares him with Theudas and Judas the Galilean.[12][13]
    Tanchelm of Antwerp (c. 1110), who violently opposed the sacrament and the Eucharist.
    Ann Lee (1736–1784), a central figure to the Shakers,[14] who thought she “embodied all the perfections of God” in female form and considered herself to be Christ’s female counterpart in 1772.[15]
    Bernhard Müller (c. 1799–1834) claimed to be the Lion of Judah and a prophet in possession of the Philosopher’s stone.
    John Nichols Thom (1799–1838), a Cornish tax rebel.
    Arnold Potter (1804–1872), Latter Day Saint schismatic leader; called himself “Potter Christ”
    Hong Xiuquan (1814–1864), Hakka Chinese; claimed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ; started the Taiping Rebellion and founded the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. Committed suicide before the fall of Tianjing (Nanjing) in 1864.
    Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1864), born Shiite, adopting Bábism later in life, he claimed to be the promised one of all religions, and founded the Bahá’í Faith.
    Jacobina Mentz Maurer (1841 or 1842-1874) was a German-Brazilian woman who lived and died in the state of Rio Grande do Sul who emerged as a messianic prophetess, a representation of God, and later declared the very reincarnation of Jesus Christ on earth by her German-speaking community called Die Muckers (or the false saints) by her enemies, Die Spotters (or the mockers). After a number of deadly confrontations with outsiders, Jacobina was shot to death together with many of her followers by the Brazilian Imperial Army.
    William W. Davies (1833–1906), Latter Day Saint (Mormon) schismatic leader; claimed that his infant son Arthur (born 1868) was the reincarnated Jesus Christ.
    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India (1835–1908), claimed to be the awaited Mahdi as well as (Second Coming) and likeness of Jesus the promised Messiah at the end of time, being the only person in Islamic history who claimed to be both. He claimed to be Jesus in the metaphorical sense; in character. He founded the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1889 envisioning it to be the rejuvenation of Islam, and claimed to be commissioned by God for the reformation of mankind.[16] He declared that Jesus survived crucifixion and died a natural death having migrated towards the east.[17]
    Cyrus Reed Teed (October 18, 1839 – December 22, 1908, erroneously Cyrus Tweed) was a U.S. eclectic physician and alchemist turned religious leader and messiah. In 1869, claiming divine inspiration, Dr. Teed took on the name Koresh and proposed a new set of scientific and religious ideas he called Koreshanity.
    Father Divine (George Baker) (c. 1880 – September 10, 1965), an African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death who claimed to be God.
    André Matsoua (1899–1942), Congolese founder of Amicale, proponents of which subsequently adopted him as Messiah in the late 1920s.
    Ahn Sahng-hong (1918–1985), founder of the World Mission Society Church of God and worshiped by the members as the messiah.[18]
    Samael Aun Weor (1917–1977), born Víctor Manuel Gómez Rodríguez, Colombian citizen and later Mexican, was an author, lecturer and founder of the ‘Universal Christian Gnostic Movement’, according to him, ‘the most powerful movement ever founded’. By 1972, he referenced that his death and resurrection would be occurring before 1978.Empty citation‎ (help)
    Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), founder and leader of the Unification Church established in Seoul, South Korea, who considered himself the Second Coming of Christ, but not Jesus himself in 1954.[19] Although it is generally believed by Unification Church members (“Moonies”) that he is the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ and is anointed to fulfill Jesus’ unfinished mission.[19]
    Yahweh ben Yahweh (1935–2007), born as Hulon Mitchell, Jr., a black nationalist and separatist who created the Nation of Yahweh and allegedly orchestrated the murder of dozens of persons.
    Laszlo Toth (born 1940) claimed he was Jesus Christ as he battered Michelangelo’s Pieta with a geologist hammer.
    Wayne Bent (born 1941), also known as Michael Travesser of the Lord Our Righteousness Church, also known as the “Strong City Cult”, convicted December 15, 2008 of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2008.[20]
    Iesu Matayoshi (born 1944), in 1997 he established the World Economic Community Party based on his conviction that he is God and the Christ.
    Jung Myung Seok (born 1945), a South Korean who was a member of the Unification Church in the 1970s, before breaking off to found the dissenting group[21] now known as Providence Church in 1980.[22][23] He also considers himself the Second Coming of Christ, but not Jesus himself in 1980.[24] He believes he has come to finish the incomplete message and mission of Jesus Christ, asserting that he is the Messiah and has the responsibility to save all mankind.[25] He claims that the Christian doctrine of resurrection is false but that people can be saved through him.[26]
    Claude Vorilhon now known as Raël “messenger of the Elohim” (born 1946), a French professional test driver and former automobile journalist became founder and leader of UFO religion the Raël Movement in 1972, which teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, which they call Elohim. He claimed he met an extraterrestrial humanoid in 1973 and became the Messiah.[27] Then devoted himself to the task he said was given by his “biological father”, an extraterrestrial named Yahweh.[28]
    Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda (born 1946), a Puerto Rican preacher who has claimed to be “the Man Jesus Christ”, who is indwelled with the same spirit that dwelled in Jesus. Founder of the “Growing in Grace” ministries.
    Inri Cristo (born 1948) of Indaial, Brazil, a claimant to be the second Jesus.[29]
    Apollo Quiboloy (born 1950), founder and leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ religious group, who claims that Jesus Christ is the “Almighty Father,” that Quiboloy is “His Appointed Son,” and that salvation is now completed. Proclaims himself as the “Appointed Son of the God” not direct to the point as the “Begotten Son of the God” in 1985.[30]
    David Icke (born 1952), of Great Britain, has described himself as “the son of God”, and a “channel for the Christ spirit”.
    Brian David Mitchell was born on October 18, 1953 in Salt Lake City, Utah, he believed himself the fore-ordained angel born on earth to be the Davidic “servant” prepared by God as a type of Messiah who would restore the divinely led kingdom of Israel to the world in preparation for Christ’s second coming. (Mitchell’s belief in such an end-times figure – also known among many fundamentalist Latter Day Saints as “the One Mighty and Strong” – appeared to be based in part on a reading of the biblical book of Isaiah by the independent LDS Hebraist, Avraham Gileadi, with which Mitchell became familiar from his former participation with Stirling Allan’s American Study Group.)[31][32]
    David Koresh (Vernon Wayne Howell) (1959–1993), leader of the Branch Davidians.
    Maria Devi Christos (born 1960), founder of the Great White Brotherhood.
    Sergei Torop (born 1961), who started to call himself “Vissarion”, founder of the Church of the Last Testament and the spiritual community Ecopolis Tiberkul in Southern Siberia.
    David Shayler (born 1965), former MI5 agent and whistleblower who declared himself the Messiah on 7 July 2007.[33]
    Alan John Miller (born 1964), founder of Divine Truth, a new religious movement based in Australia. Alan John Miller, also known as A.J., who claims to be Jesus of Nazareth through reincarnation. Miller was formerly an elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    José Luis de Jesús Miranda (born April 22, 1946 in Ponce, Puerto Rico), founder and leader of Creciendo en Gracia sect (Growing In Grace International Ministry, Inc.), based in Miami, Florida. He claims to be both Jesus Christ returned and the Antichrist, and exhibits a “666” tattoo on his forearm. He has referred to himself as Jesucristo Hombre, which translates to “Jesus Christ made Man”
    [edit]Muslim messiah claimants

    Main article: People claiming to be the Mahdi
    Islamic tradition has a prophecy of the Mahdi, who will come alongside the return of Isa (Jesus).
    Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443–1505), who traveled Northeastern India; he influenced the Mahdavia and the Zikris.
    Báb (1819–1850), who declared himself to be the promised Mahdi in Shiraz, Iran in 1844. (Related to Baha’i claims.)
    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) of Qadian, ‘the Promised Messiah’ return of Jesus as well as the ‘Mahdi’, founder of the Ahmadiyya religious movement. He preached that Jesus Christ had survived crucifixion and died a natural death. He was the only person in Islamic history to have claimed to be both the promised return of Jesus as well as the promised Mahdi.
    Muhammad Ahmad (“The Mad Mahdi”) (1844–1885), who declared himself the Mahdi in 1881, defeated the Ottoman Egyptian authority, and founded a short-lived empire in Sudan.
    Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (1864–1920) of Somaliland, who engaged in military conflicts from 1900 to 1920.
    Rashad Khalifa (1935–1990), an Egyptian-American biochemist who claimed that he had discovered a mathematical code in the text of the Qur’an involving the number 19; he later claimed to be the “Messenger of the Covenant” and founded the “Submitters International” movement before being murdered.
    Juhayman al-Otaibi (1936–1980), who seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in November 1979 and declared his son-in-law the Mahdi.
    [edit]Other/combination messiah claimants

    Haile Sellasie, also known as Ras Tafari
    This list features people who are said, either by themselves or their followers, to be some form of a messiah that do not easily fit into only Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
    Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1892–1975), Messiah of the Rastafari movement. Never claimed himself to be Messiah, but was thus proclaimed by Leonard Howell, amongst others.
    André Matsoua (1899–1942), Congolese founder of Amicale, proponents of which subsequently adopted him as Messiah.
    Samael Aun Weor (1917–1977), born Víctor Manuel Gómez Rodríguez, Colombian citizen and later Mexican, was an author, lecturer and founder of the ‘Universal Christian Gnostic Movement’, according to him, ‘the most powerful movement ever founded’. By 1972, Samael Aun Weor referenced that his death and resurrection would be occurring before 1978.
    Nirmala Srivastava (1923–2011), guru and goddess of Sahaja Yoga, proclaimed herself to be the Comforter promised by Jesus (that is, the incarnation of the Holy Ghost / Adi Shakti).[34][35]
    Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (born 25 November 1941) is a spiritual leader and the founder of the spiritual movements Messiah Foundation International (MFI) and Anjuman Serfaroshan-e-Islam.[36][37] He is controversial for being declared the Mehdi, Messiah, and Kalki Avatar by the MFI.[38][39][40]
    Raël, leader of the International Raëlian Movement (born 30 September 1946); Rael claimed he met an extraterrestrial being in 1973 and became the Messiah.
    World Teacher (unknown), a being claimed to be the Theosophical Maitreya and the Messiah (promised one) of all religions. He is said to have descended from the higher planes and manifested a physical body in early 1977 in the Himalayas, then on 19 July 1977 he is said to have taken a commercial airplane flight from Pakistan to England. He is currently said to be living in secret in London;[41][42][43] promoted by New Age activist Benjamin Creme and his organization, Share International (See Maitreya (Benjamin Creme)).
    Ryuho Okawa (born 7 July 1956 ), is the founder of Happy Science in Japan. Okawa claims to channel the spirits of Muhammad, Christ, Buddha and Confucius and claims to be the incarnation of the supreme spiritual being called El Cantare.

    Judas Maccabeus (167-160 BCE), leader of a successful revolt against Antiochus’ Seleucid empire. Many considered him the Messiah because he freed the Jews from foreign domination[4] and many of the events in his life paralleled the prophecies in Daniel chapter eight.[5]
    Simon of Peraea (c. 4 BCE), a former slave of Herod the Great, who rebelled and was killed by the Romans.
    Athronges (c. 4-2? BCE), a shepherd turned rebel leader of a rebellion with his four brothers against Herod Archelaus and the Romans after proclaiming himself the Messiah.[6] He and his brothers were eventually defeated.[7]
    [edit]1st century

    Jesus Christ
    Jesus (ca. 4 BCE – 30 CE), in Galilee and the Roman province of Judea. Jews who believed him to be the Messiah were the first Christians, also known as Jewish Christians. It is estimated that there are 2.5 billion Christians in the world today,[8] making Jesus of Nazareth the most widely followed Messiah claimant. In addition to Christians, Muslims also regard Jesus (‘Isa) as the Jewish messiah.
    Judas of Galilee (6 CE), Judas led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around 6 CE. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans.[9]
    Menahem ben Judah (?), the son or grandson of Judas of Galilee, was a leader of the Sicarii. When the war broke, he armed his followers with the weapons captured at Masada and besieged Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem, overpowering the troops of Agrippa II in Judea and forcing the Roman garrison to retreat. Emboldened by his success, he behaved as an “insufferable tyrant”,[10] thereby arousing the enmity of Eleazar, the Temple Captain and de facto a rival Zealot rebel leader, who had him tortured and killed.[11] He may be identical with the Menahem ben Hezekiah mentioned in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 98b) and called “the comforter that should relieve”.
    Theudas (?-46 CE), a Jewish rebel of the 1st century CE, at some point between 44 and 46 CE, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt. Some writers are of the opinion that he may have said he was the Messiah.[12]
    Vespasian, c.70, according to Flavius Josephus[13]
    John of Gischala (? after 70), was a leader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War, and played a part in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE.[14]
    [edit]2nd century
    Simon bar Kokhba (also: Bar Kosiba) (?- died c. 135), with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem the appearance of messiahs ceased for a time. Sixty years later a politico-Messianic movement of large proportions took place. The leader of the revolt Simon bar Kokhba against Rome was hailed as Messiah-king by Rabbi Akiva, who referred to him, Numbers xxiv. 17: “There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite through the corners of Moab,”, and Hag. ii. 21, 22; “I will shake the heavens and the earth and I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms. . . .” (Talmud tractate Sanhedrin97b). Although some doubted his messiahship, he seems to have carried the nation with him for his undertaking. After stirring up a war (133-135) that taxed the power of Rome, he at last met his death on the walls of Bethar. He founded a short-lived Jewish state before his Messianic movement ended in defeat in the Second Jewish-Roman War causing misery for the survivors.
    Lukuas (115 CE), was the leader of Jewish rebels during the Kitos War.[15]
    [edit]5th century
    Moses of Crete (?), the unsuccessful issue of the Bar Kokba war put an end for centuries to Messianic movements, but Messianic hopes were nonetheless cherished. In accordance with a computation found in the Talmud, the Messiah was expected in 440 (Sanh. 97b) or 471 (‘Ab. Zarah 9b). This expectation in connection with the disturbances in the Roman empire attendant upon invasions may have raised up the Messiah who appeared about this time in Crete, and who won over the Jewish population to his movement. He called himself Moses, and promised to lead the people, like the ancient Moses, dry-shod through the sea back to Palestine. In about 440-470, his followers, convinced by him, left their possessions and waited for the promised day, when at his command many cast themselves into the sea to return to Israel, some finding death, others being rescued. The pseudo-Messiah himself disappeared.[16] Socrates of Constantinople states that Moses of Crete fled, while the Chronicle of John of Nikiû claims that he perished in the sea. While he called himself Moses, the Chronicle gives his actual name as ‘Fiskis’.[17]
    [edit]7th century
    The Khuzistan Chronicle records an otherwise-unknown Messianic claimant who arose alongside the Muslim conquest of Khuzistan. This Messiah led the Jews to destroying numerous Christian churches in Iraq and coastal Iran.[18]
    [edit]8th century
    The pseudo-Messiahs that followed played their roles in the Orient, and were at the same time religious reformers whose work influenced Karaism. Appearing at the first part of the 8th century in Persia:
    Isḥaḳ ben Ya’ḳub Obadiah Abu ‘Isa al-Isfahani of Ispahan.[19] He lived in the reign of Marwan II (744-750).[20] Known as Abu Isa, he claimed to be the last of the five forerunners of the Messiah and that God had appointed him to free Israel. Having gathering a large number of followers, he rebelled against the caliph in Persia.[21] But he was defeated and slain at Rai. His followers claimed that he was inspired and urged as proof the fact that he wrote books, although he was ignorant of reading and writing. He founded the first sect that arose in Judaism after the destruction of the Temple, the ‘Isawiyya.
    Yudghan, called “Al-Ra’i” (“the shepherd of the flock of his people”), who lived and taught in Persia in the first half of the 8th century. He was disciple of Abu Isa who continued the faith after Isa was slain.[citation needed]. He declared himself to be a prophet, and was by his disciples regarded as a Messiah. He came from Hamadan, and taught doctrines which he claimed to have received through prophecy. According to Shahristani, he opposed the belief in anthropomorphism, taught the doctrine of free will, and held that the Torah had an allegorical meaning in addition to its literal one. He admonished his followers to lead an ascetic life, to abstain from meat and wine, and to pray and fast often, following in this his master Abu ‘Isa. He held that the observance of the Sabbath and festivals was merely a matter of memorial. After his death his followers formed a sect, the Yudghanites, who believed that their Messiah had not died, but would return.
    Serene (his name is given variously in the sources as Sherini, Sheria, Serenus, Zonoria, Saüra, Severus) the Syrian was born a Christian. He preached in the district of Mardin between 720 and 723. Those Christian sources dependent on Theophilus’s history report that “Severus” proclaimed himself Messiah;[22] the Zuqnin Chronicle reports that he proclaimed himself Moses “sent again for the salvation of Israel”.[23] Serene promised “to lead you into the desert in order to introduce you then to the inheritance of the Promised Land which you shall possess as before”;[24] more as a “prophet like Moses” than as a Davidic “anointed one” as such. The immediate occasion for his appearance may have been the restriction of the liberties of the Jews by the caliph Omar II (717-720) and his proselytizing efforts.[25] Serene had followers even in Spain, where the Jews were suffering under the oppressive taxation of their new Arab rulers, and many left their homes for the new Moses.[26] These Jews paid instead a tithe to Serene.[27] Like Abu ‘Isa and Yudghan, Serene also was a religious reformer. According to Natronai b. Nehemiah, gaon of Pumbedita (719-30), Serene was hostile to rabbinic Judaism laws. His followers disregarded the dietary laws, the rabbinically instituted prayers, and the prohibition against the “wine of libation”; they worked on the second day of the festivals; they did not write marriage and divorce documents according to Talmudic prescriptions, and did not accept the Talmudic prohibition against the marriage of near relatives.[28] Serene was arrested. Brought before Caliph Yazid II, he declared that he had acted only in jest, whereupon he was handed over to the Jews for punishment.[29] Natronai laid down the criteria by which Serene’s followers might rejoin the synagogue; most of said followers then presumably did so.[30]
    [edit]12th century
    Under the influence of the Crusades the number of Messiahs increased, and the 12th century records many of them;
    One appeared in France (c. 1087) and was slain by the French.
    Another appeared in the province of Córdoba (c. 1117).
    Moses al-Dar’i, a Moroccan teacher, gained a large following. He was convinced that the Messiah would free the Jews in the Almoravid countries at Passover 1127.[31]
    David Alroy or Alrui, who was born in Kurdistan, appeared in Persia about 1160 declaring himself a Messiah. Taking advantage of his personal popularity, the disturbed and weakened condition of the caliphate, and the discontent of the Jews, who were burdened with a heavy poll tax, he set out upon his political schemes, asserting that he had been sent by God to free the Jews from the Moslem yoke and to lead them back to Jerusalem. For this purpose he summoned the warlike Jews of the neighbouring district of Azerbaijan and his coreligionists of Mosul and Baghdad to come armed to his aid and to assist in the capture of Amadia. From this point his career is enveloped in legend. His movement failed, and he is said to have been assassinated, while asleep, by his own father-in-law. A heavy fine was exacted from the Jews for this uprising. After his death Alroy had many followers in Khof, Salmas, Tauris, and Maragha, and these formed a sect called the Menahemists, from the Messianic name “Menahem,” assumed by their founder. Benjamin Disraeli wrote the novel Alroy based on this man’s life.
    The Yemenite Messiah, was an anonymous alleged forerunner of the Messiah from Yemen, who appeared in Fez. Just as the Muslims were making determined efforts to convert the Jews living there. He declared the misfortunes of the time to be prognostications of the coming Messianic kingdom, and called upon the Jews to divide their property with the poor, preaching repentance that those who gave their worldly possessions to the poor would gain a treasure in heaven. This anonymous pseudo-Messiah was the subject of Maimonides’ Iggeret Teman. He continued his activity for a year, when he was arrested by the Muslim authorities and beheaded at his own suggestion, it is said, in order that he might prove the truth of his mission by returning to life.[32] Nothing is known beyond the mention of him in Maimonides’ “Iggeret Teman” (The Yemen Epistle).
    [edit]13th century
    Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (b. 1240- after 1291), the cabalist, begin the pseudo-Messiahs whose activity is deeply influenced by their cabalistic speculations. Because of his mystic studies, Abulafia came to believe first that he was a prophet; and in a prophetic book, which he published in Urbino (1279), he declared that God had spoken to him. It is thought, though not proven, that in Messina, on the island of Sicily, where he was well received, and won disciples, he declared himself the Messiah and announced 1290 as the year for the Messianic era to begin. Solomon ben Adret, who was appealed to with regard to Abulafia’s claims, condemned him, and some congregations declared against him. Persecuted in Sicily, he went to the island of Comino, near Malta (c. 1288), still asserting in his writings his mission. His end is unknown. Two of his disciples, Joseph Gikatilla and Samuel, both from Medinaceli, later claimed to be prophets and miracle-workers. The latter foretold in mystic language at Ayllon in Segovia the advent of the Messiah. Abulafia gained much modern notoriety as the name for the computer of a character in Umberto Eco’s novel Foucault’s Pendulum
    Nissim ben Abraham (?), another individual making claims of prophethood, active in Avila around 1295. His followers told of him that, although ignorant, he had been suddenly endowed, by an angel, with the power to write a mystic work, The Wonder of Wisdom, with a commentary thereon. Again an appeal was made to Solomon ben Adret, who doubted Nissim’s prophetic pretension and urged careful investigation. The prophet continued his activity, nevertheless, and even fixed the last day of the fourth month, Tammuz, 1295, as the date for the Messiah’s coming. The credulous prepared for the event by fasting and almsgiving, and came together on the appointed day. Instead of finding the Messiah, some saw on their garments little crosses, perhaps pinned on by unbelievers to ridicule the movement. In their disappointment some of Nissim’s followers are said to have gone over to Christianity. What became of the person is unknown.[citation needed]
    [edit]15th century
    Moses Botarel of Cisneros (?), active around 1413. After the lapse of a century another false Messiah came forward with Messianic pretensions. According to H. Grätz (l.c. viii. 404), this pretended Messiah is to be identified with Moses Botarel. He claimed to be a sorcerer able to combine the names of God. One of his adherents and partisans was Hasdai Crescas. Their relation is referred to by Gerónimo de Santa Fe in his speech at the disputation in Tortosa 1413.
    [edit]16th century
    Asher Lämmlein, Asher Kay (Käei) (?), a German proclaiming himself a forerunner of the Messiah, appeared in Istria, near Venice in 1502, and announced that if the Jews would be penitent and practice charity the Messiah would come within half a year, and a pillar of cloud and of smoke would precede the Jews on their return to Jerusalem. He found believers in Italy and Germany, even among the Christians. In obedience to his preaching, people fasted and prayed and gave alms to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, so that the year came to be known as the “year of penitence.” However, the “Messiah” either died or disappeared.
    Isaac Luria (1534–1573) and Hayyim Vital (1543–1620), together they were apparently able to conjure up the spirits of deceased rabbis. One of the spirits they spoke to, convinced them that he was the Messiah and that he would come soon.[33]
    Isaac Luria (1534–1572), was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine. He is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah.[34] Luria understood that he was the ‘suffering servant’, who was, in his own view, the forerunner of the ‘Messiah of David.’
    Hayyim Vital (1543–1620), started his career as an alchemist, looking for the philosopher’s stone that would convert lead into gold. After several failures, he decided to study the Kabbalah with Isaac Luria. After Luria’s death, Vital started to understand that he himself was the Messiah of David and went to Damascus. He claimed that God would redeem Israel when he had found ten righteous people (the number mentioned in Genesis 18.32), but never succeeded.[33]
    David Reubeni (1490-1541?) and Solomon Molcho (1500–1532), adventurers who travelled in Portugal, Italy, and Turkey.
    David Reubeni (early 16th century), he pretended to be the ambassador and brother of the King of Khaibar, a town and former district of Arabia, in which the descendants of the “lost tribes” of Reuben and Gad were supposed to dwell. He claimed he was sent to the Pope and the powers of Europe to secure cannon and firearms for war against the Muslims, who prevented the union of the Jews living on the two sides of the Red Sea. He denied expressly that he was a Messiah or a prophet (comp. Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 256), claiming that he was merely a warrior. The credence which he found at the papal court in 1524, the reception accorded to him in 1525 at the Portuguese court (whither he came at the invitation of John III, and where he at first received the promise of help), the temporary cessation of persecution of the Marranos—all gave the Portuguese and Spanish Marranos reason to believe that Reuveni was a forerunner of the Messiah. Selaya, inquisitor of Badajoz, complained to the King of Portugal that a Jew who had come from the Orient (referring to Reuveni) had filled the Spanish Marranos with the hope that the Messiah would come and lead Israel from all lands back to Palestine, and that he had even emboldened them to overt acts (comp. H. Grätz, l.c. ix. 532).
    David Reuveni and Solomon Molcho (was a mostly unknown Czech Jew from around the 1650s)[35] were arrested in Regensburg on the orders of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain. He was taken to Mantua, in Italy, where he was tried and eventually burned at the stake by the Pope in November, 1532. A spirit of expectancy was aroused by Reuveni’s stay in Portugal. In Herrera del Duque, close to Puebla de Alcocer (Badajoz, Extremadura), a girl of 15 described ecstatic visions in which she talked to the Messiah, who took her to heaven where she saw all those who were burned seated in thrones of gold, and assured her of his near coming. She (only known for us as the Maiden of Herrera) was enthusiastically proclaimed a prophetess, and such was the commotion caused by her visions that the Toledo Inquisition had her promptly arrested and burned together with many of her followers.
    [edit]17th century

    Shabbatai Tzvi in 1665
    Main article: Sabbateans
    Sabbatai Zevi (alternative spellings: Shabbetai, Sabbetai, Shabbesai; Zvi, Tzvi) (b. at Smyrna 1626; d. at Dulcigno 1676), an Ottoman Jew who claimed to be the Messiah, but then converted to Islam; still has followers today in the Dönmeh. The most important messianic movement, and one whose influence was widespread throughout Jewry, lasting in some quarters over a century. After his death, Sabbatai was followed by a line of putative followers declared themselves Messiahs “Sabbethaian pseudo-messiahs”;
    Barukhia Russo (Osman Baba), successor of Sabbatai Zevi.
    Mordecai Mokia (1650–1729), (“the Rebuker”) of Eisenstadt, another follower of Shabbethai who remained faithful to him, Mordecai Mokiaḥ (“the Rebuker”) of Eisenstadt, also pretended to be a Messiah. His period of activity was from 1678 to 1682 or 1683. He preached at first that Shabbethai was the true Messiah, that his conversion was for mystic reasons necessary, that he did not die but would reveal himself within three years after his supposed death, and pointed to the persecution of the Jews in Oran (by Spain), in Austria, and in France, and to the pestilence in Germany as prognostications of his coming. He found a following among Hungarian, Moravian, and Bohemian Jews. Going a step further, he declared that he was the Davidic Messiah. Shabbethai, according to him, was only the Ephraitic Messiah and was furthermore rich, and therefore could not accomplish the redemption of Israel. He (Mordecai), being poor, was the real Messiah and at the same time the incarnation of the soul of the Ephraitic Messiah. Italian Jews heard of him and invited him to Italy. He went there about 1680, and received a warm welcome in Reggio and Modena. He spoke of Messianic preparations, which he had to make in Rome, and hinted at having perhaps to adopt Christianity outwardly. Denounced to the Inquisition, or advised to leave Italy, he returned to Bohemia, and then went to Poland, where he is said to have become insane. From his time a sect began to form there, which still existed at the beginning of the Mendelssohnian era.
    Jacob Querido (died 1690), son of Joseph Filosof, and brother of the fourth wife of Sabbatai, became the head of the Shabbethaians in Salonica, being regarded by them as the new incarnation of Shabbethai. He pretended to be Shabbethai’s son and adopted the name Jacob Tzvi. With 400 followers converted to Islam about 1687, forming a sect called the Dönmeh. He himself even made a pilgrimage to Mecca (c. 1690). After his death during the pilgrimage his son Berechiah or Berokia succeeded him (c. 1695-1740).
    Miguel (Abraham) Cardoso (1630–1706), born of Marano parents, may have been initiated into the Shabbethaian movement by Moses Pinheiro in Leghorn. He became a prophet of the Messiah, and when the latter embraced Islam he justified this treason, saying that it was necessary for the Messiah to be reckoned among the sinners in order to atone for Israel’s idolatry. He applied Isa. liii. to Shabbethai, and sent out epistles to prove that Shabbethai was the true Messiah, and he even suffered persecution for advocating his cause. Later he considered himself as the Ephraitic Messiah, asserting that he had marks on his body, which were proof of this. He preached and wrote of the speedy coming of the Messiah, fixing different dates until his death (see Cardoso, Miguel).
    Löbele Prossnitz (Joseph ben Jacob) (?-1750), (early 18th century). He taught that God had given dominion of the world to the “pious one,” i.e., the one who had entered into the depths of Kabbalah. Such a representative of God had been Shabbethai, whose soul had passed into other “pious” men, into Jonathan Eybeschütz and into himself. Another, Isaiah Hasid (a brother-in-law of the Shabbethaian Judah Hasid), who lived in Mannheim, secretly claimed to be the resurrected Messiah, although publicly he had abjured Shabbethaian beliefs. He was a proven fraud who nevertheless attained some following amongst former followers of Sabbatai, calling himself the “Messiah ben Joseph.”
    [edit]18th century
    Jacob Joseph Frank (b. 1726 in Podolia; d. 1791), founder of the Frankist movement, also claimed to be the messiah. In his youth he made contact with the Dönmeh. He taught that he was a reincarnation of King David and the Patriarch Joseph. Having secured a following among some Turkish and Wallachian Jews, he came in 1755 to Podolia, where the Shabbethaians were in need of a leader, and revealed himself to them as the reincarnation of the soul of Berechiah. He laid stress on the idea of the “holy king” who was at the same time Messiah, and he accordingly called himself “santo señor” (“holy lord”). His followers claimed he performed miracles; and they even prayed to him. His purpose, as well as that of his sect, was to uproot rabbinic Judaism. He was forced to leave Podolia; and his followers were persecuted. Returning in 1759, he advised his followers to embrace Christianity, and about 1,000 were converted and became privileged Polish gentry of Jewish origins. He himself was converted in Warsaw November 1759. Later his insincerity was exposed, and he was imprisoned as a heretic, remaining, however, even in prison the head of this sect.
    Eve Frank (1754–1816/1817), was the daughter of Jacob Frank. In 1770 Eve was declared to be the incarnation of the Shekinah, the female aspect of God, as well as the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary and thus became the object of a devotional subcult herself in Częstochowa, with some followers keeping small statues of her in their homes.[citation needed] According to historian Jerry Rabow, she was the only woman to have been declared a Jewish messiah.
    [edit]19th century
    Shukr Kuhayl I, 19th-century Yemenite pseudo-messiah.
    Judah ben Shalom (Shukr Kuhayl II), 19th-century Yemenite pseudo-messiah
    [edit]20th century
    Moses Guibbory (1899–1985)[36]
    Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), within the 1990s Lubavich movement, was widely believed to be the Messiah. Although he never directly stated that he was the Messiah, he did not contradict those who said he was. Even after his death in 1994, many of his followers continue to await his return as the Messiah.
    [edit]21st century
    Goel Ratzon (1951-), from Tel Aviv, claimed to have supernatural healing powers and reportedly lived with 32 women who believed he was the Messiah. He also fathered 89 children, who were all given names that were variants of his own, but was arrested in 2010 on suspicions that he was abusing his “wives” and children.[37]

    John Nichols Thom (1799–1838), a Cornish tax rebel who claimed to be the “saviour of the world” and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and his body temple of the Holy Ghost[citation needed] in 1834. He was killed by British soldiers at the Battle of Bossenden Wood, on May 31, 1838 in Kent, England.[1]
    Arnold Potter (1804–1872), Schismatic Latter Day Saint leader; he claimed the spirit of Jesus Christ entered into his body and he became “Potter Christ” Son of the living God. He died in an attempt to “ascend into heaven” by jumping off a cliff. His body was later retrieved and buried by his followers.[2]
    Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1892), born Shiite, adopted Bábism later in 1844,[3] he claimed to be the prophesied fulfillment and Promised One of all the major religions. He founded the Bahá’í Faith in 1866.[4] Followers of the Bahá’í Faith believe that the fulfillment of the prophecies of the second coming of Jesus, as well as the prophecies of the 5th Buddha Maitreya and many other religious prophecies, were begun by the Báb in 1844 and then by Bahá’u’lláh. They commonly compare the fulfillment of Christian prophecies to Jesus’ fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, where in both cases people were expecting the literal fulfillment of apocalyptic statements.[5]
    William W. Davies (1833–1906), leader of a Latter Day Saint schismatic group called the Kingdom of Heaven located in Walla Walla, Washington from 1867 to 1881. He taught his followers that he was the archangel Michael, who had previously lived as the biblical Adam, Abraham, and David. When his son Arthur was born on February 11, 1868, Davies declared that the infant was the reincarnated Jesus Christ.[6][7] When Davies’s second son, David, was born in 1869, he was declared to be God the Father.[6]
    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India (1835–1908), claimed to be the awaited Mahdi as well as (Second Coming) and likeness of Jesus the promised Messiah at the end of time, being the only person in Islamic history who claimed to be both.[citation needed] He claimed to be Jesus in the metaphorical sense; in character. He founded the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1889, envisioning it to be the rejuvenation of Islam, and claimed to be commissioned by God for the reformation of mankind.
    [edit]20th century

    Haile Selassie I
    Haile Selassie I (1892–1975) did not claim to be Jesus and disapproved of claims that he was Jesus. But the Rastafari movement, which emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s, believes he is the Second Coming. He embodied this when he became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, perceived as confirmation of the return of the Messiah in the prophetic Book of Revelation 5:5 in the New Testament but is also expected to return a second time to initiate the apocalyptic day of judgment. He is also called Jah Ras Tafari, and is often considered to be alive by Rastafari movement members.[8]
    George Ernest Roux (1903–1981), called the “Christ of Montfavet” or “Georges-Christ”,[9] founder of the Universal Christian Church (now named the Universal Alliance) in France, claimed to be Jesus, then God. He presented himself as a persecuted prophet to carry out the law of love unfulfilled by God’s representatives, including Jesus.[10]
    Ernest Norman (1904–1971), an American electrical engineer who co-founded the Unarius Academy of Science in 1954, was allegedly Jesus in a past life and his earthly incarnation was as an archangel named Raphiel.[11] He claimed to be the reincarnation of other notable figures including Confucius, Mona Lisa, Benjamin Franklin, Socrates, Queen Elizabeth I, and Tsar Peter I the Great.[12]

    Krishna Venta
    William M Branham (April 8, 1908 – December 24, 1965) though never directly claiming to be Jesus himself, Branham promoted himself as the final prophet “Elijah” [13] and claimed that Elijah of this day was the Lord Jesus Christ.[14]
    Krishna Venta (1911—1958), born Francis Herman Pencovic in San Francisco, founded the WKFL (Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love) Fountain of the World cult in Simi Valley, California in the late 1940s. In 1948 he stated that he was Christ, the new messiah and claimed to have led a convoy of rocket ships to Earth from the extinct planet Neophrates. He died on December 10, 1958 after being suicide bombed by two disgruntled former followers who accused Venta of mishandling cult funds and having been intimate with their wives.
    Ahn Sahng-Hong (1918–1985), a South Korean who founded the New Covenant Passover Church of God in 1964 and who is considered by the World Mission Society Church of God as the Second Coming of Jesus. The World Mission Society Church of God believes that a woman by the name Zahng Gil-Jah is “God the Mother,” who they believe is referred to in the Bible as the New Jerusalem Mother (Galatians 4:26, and that Ahn Sahng-Hong is God the Father[15]

    Sun Myung Moon
    Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), believed by members of the Unification Church to be the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ, fulfilling Jesus’ unfinished mission. Church members (“Unificationists”) consider Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, to be the True Parents of humankind as the restored Adam and Eve.[16][17]
    Jim Jones (1931–1978), founder of Peoples Temple, which started off as an offshoot of a mainstream protestant sect before becoming a personality cult as time went on. He claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus, Akhenaten, Buddha, Vladimir Lenin, and Father Divine in the 1970s.[18] Organized a mass murder suicide at Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978.[19]
    Marshall Applewhite (1931–1997), an American who posted a famous Usenet message declaring, “I, Jesus—Son of God—acknowledge on this date of September 25/26, 1995: …”[20] Applewhite and his Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide on March 26, 1997 to rendezvous with what they thought was a spaceship hiding behind the comet Hale-Bopp.[21]
    Yahweh ben Yahweh (1935–2007), born as Hulon Mitchell, Jr., a black nationalist and separatist who created the Nation of Yahweh in 1979 in Liberty City, Florida. His self-proclaimed name means “God, Son of God.” He could have only been deeming himself to be “son of God”, not God, but many of his followers clearly deem him to be God Incarnate.[22][23] In 1992, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison.[24]
    Laszlo Toth (1940–), Hungarian-born Australian who claimed he was Jesus Christ as he vandalized Michelangelo’s Pietà with a geologist’s hammer in 1972.[25][26]
    Wayne Bent (1941–), also known as Michael Travesser of the Lord Our Righteousness Church. He claims; “I am the embodiment of God. I am divinity and humanity combined.”[27] He was convicted on December 15, 2008 of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2008.[28]
    Ariffin Mohammed (1943–), also known as “Ayah Pin”, the founder of the banned Sky Kingdom in Malaysia in 1975. He claims to have direct contact with the heavens and is believed by his followers to be the incarnation of Jesus, as well as Shiva, and Buddha, and Muhammad.[29]
    Mitsuo Matayoshi (1944–), a conservative Japanese politician, who in 1997 established the World Economic Community Party based on his conviction that he is God and Christ, renaming himself Iesu Matayoshi. According to his program he will do the Last Judgment as Christ but within the current political system.[30][31]
    José Luis de Jesús Miranda (1946–), Puerto Rican founder, leader and organizer of Growing in Grace based in Miami, Florida, who claims that the resurrected Christ “integrated himself within me” in 2007.[32]
    Inri Cristo (1948–), a Brazilian astrologer who claims to be the second Jesus reincarnated in 1969,[33] Brasília is considered by Inri Cristo and his disciples as the “New Jerusalem” of the Apocalypse.
    Thomas Harrison Provenzano[34] (1949–2000), an American convicted murderer who was possibly mentally ill. He compared his execution with Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.[35]
    Shoko Asahara (1955–), founded the controversial Japanese religious group Aum Shinrikyo in 1984. He declared himself “Christ”, Japan’s only fully enlightened master and the “Lamb of God”. His purported mission was to take upon himself the sins of the world. He outlined a doomsday prophecy, which included a Third World War, and described a final conflict culminating in a nuclear “Armageddon”, borrowing the term from the Book of Revelation 16:16.[36] Humanity would end, except for the elite few who joined Aum.[36] The group gained international notoriety in March 20, 1995, when it carried out the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. He has been sentenced to death, and is awaiting execution.
    David Koresh (1959–1993), born Vernon Wayne Howell, was the leader of a Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, though never directly claiming to be Jesus himself, proclaimed that he was the final prophet and “the Son of God, the Lamb” in 1983. In 1993, a raid by the U.S. BATF, and the subsequent siege by the FBI ended with Branch Davidian ranch burning to the ground. Koresh, 54 adults and 21 children were found dead after the fire extinguished itself.[37]
    Hogen Fukunaga (1945–) founded Ho No Hana Sanpogyo, often called the “foot reading cult,” in Japan in 1987 after an alleged spiritual event where he claimed to have realized he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha.[38]
    Marina Tsvigun (1960–), or Maria Devi Christos, is the leader of the Great White Brotherhood.[39] In 1990 she met Yuri Krivonogov, the “Great White Brotherhood” founder, who recognized Marina as a new messiah and later married her, assuming in the sect the role of “John the Baptist”, subordinate to Tsvigun.
    Sergey Torop (1961–), a Russian who claims to be “reborn” as Vissarion, Jesus Christ returned, which makes him not “God” but the “word of God.” He founded the Church of the Last Testament and the spiritual community Ecopolis Tiberkul in Southern Siberia in 1990.
    Maurice Clemmons (1972 – 2009) an American felon responsible for the 2009 murder of four police officers in Washington state, repeatedly referred to himself as Jesus, and said his wife Rozena was Eve, which he went on to describe as the “Goddess of all things holy”.[40][41]
    [edit]21st century

    David Shayler (1965–) was a former MI5 agent and whistleblower who, in the summer of 2007, proclaimed himself to be the Messiah. He has released a series of videos on YouTube claiming to be Jesus, although has not built up any noticeable following since his claims.[42][43][44]
    Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez (1990-). In November 2011, he fired nine shots with an AK-47-type rifle at the White House in Washington D.C., believing himself to be Jesus Christ sent to kill U.S. President Barack Obama whom he believed to be the Anti-Christ.[45][46]
    Alan John Miller (1962–), more commonly known as A.J. Miller, a former Jehovah’s Witness elder member and now leader of the Australia-based Divine Truth movement.[47] Miller claims to be Jesus Christ after reincarnating in the 20th century with others to spread messages that he calls the “Divine Truth”. He delivers these messages in seminars and various forms of media, along with his current partners Mary Suzanne Luck and Rozena, the latter who identifies herself as the returned and chic Mary Magdalene.[48]
    Lia Eden (1947-), born as Lia Aminuddin in Makassar, Indonesia. In 1998, she claimed that she met the angel Gabriel several times, convincing her that she was Imam Mahdi or Messiah who brought the prophecy of the world security and justice before the doomsday. In another occasion, she also claimed that she was the reincarnation of Mother Mary and her son, Ahmad Mukti as the reincarnation of Jesus. She wrote a 232 page book “Perkenankan Aku Menjelaskan Sebuah Takdir” (meaning “Let Me Explain a Destiny”). She gathered around 100 pupils and spread her teaching in a religious group called Salamullah Pilgrim. The Indonesian Council of Ulema banned this new sect for false Koran teaching. In 2006, Eden was sentenced to two years in prison for religious blasphemy. In 2009, she was once again sentenced for another two years in prison for the same case.[49]

    Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf
    Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf, the second king of the Berghouata, proclaimed himself prophet of a new religion in the 8th century. He appeared during the caliphate of the Umayyad Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. According to Ibn Khaldun’s sources, he claimed receiving a new revelation from God called a Qur’an, written in the Berber language with 80 chapters. He established laws for his people, which called him Salih al-Mu’minin (‘Restorer of the Believers’), and the final Mahdi.
    Islamic literature considers his belief heretical, as several tenets of his teaching contrast with orthodox Islam, such as capital punishment for theft, unlimited wives, unlimited divorces, fasting of the month of Rajab instead of Ramadan, and ten obligatory daily prayers instead of five. Politically, its motivation was presumably to establish their independence from the Umayyads, establishing an independent ideology lending legitimacy to the state. Some modern Berber activists regard him as a hero for his resistance to Arab conquest and his foundation of the Berghouata state.
    [edit]Abdallah ibn Muawiya
    Abdallah ibn Muawiya was descendant of Jafar ibn Abi Talib. At the end of 127 AH/ 744 CE Shia’s of Kufa set up him as Imam. he revolted against Yazid III, the Umayyad Caliph, with the support of Shia’s of Kufa and Ctesiphon. He moved to west of Iran and Isfahan and Istakhr. He managed to control the west of Iran for two years. Finally, he was defeated by the caliph armies in 746-7 CE and fled to Harat in Khorasan. He died in Abumuslim prison, his rival. His followers did not believe his death and said that he went to occultation and he would return as Mahdi.[1]
    [edit]Ninth century

    [edit]Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī
    See also: The Twelve Imams, Muhammad al-Mahdi, Twelver, and Imamah (Shi’a Twelver doctrine)
    Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali (29 July CE 869/15 Sha‘bān 255 AH – ?), more commonly called Muhammad al-Mahdi, is the twelfth imam of Twelver Shia Islam. He is believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Mahdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams. Twelver Shī‘a believe that al-Mahdī was born in 869 and did not die but rather was hidden by God (this is referred to as the Occultation) and will later emerge with Isa (Jesus) in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. He assumed the Imamate at 5 years of age. Some Shi‘īte schools do not consider ibn-al-Hasan to be the Mahdī, although the mainstream sect Twelvers do.
    [edit]Tenth century

    [edit]Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah
    See also: List of Ismaili imams, Fatimid Caliphate, and Imamah (Shi’a Ismaili doctrine)
    Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah (r. 909-934), the first caliph of the Fatimid state, established in 909, was one of only two claimants who succeeded in establishing a state. (See Muhammad Ahmad below).
    His preacher/Da’i Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi’i helped secure for him parts of north Africa using the support of the Berber locals. The Fatimids later built Cairo as capital in Egypt and their descendants continued to rule as Caliphs (the sixth, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, is believed by the Druze to be in occultation and due to return as Mahdi on Judgment Day) until Salah-ud-Din Ayubi (also called Saladin) took over Egypt and ended the Fatimid state. He imprisoned the last Fatimid Caliph and his family in the Fatimid Palace until death.
    [edit]Twelfth century

    [edit]Ibn Tumart
    The Moroccan Ibn Tumart (c. 1080 – c. 1130), sought to reform Almoravid decadence in the early 12th century. Rejected in Marrakech and other cities, he turned to his Masmuda tribe in the Atlas Mountains for support. Because of their emphasis on the unity of God, his followers were known as Al Muwahhidun (‘unitarians’, in western language: Almohads).
    Although declaring himself mahdi, imam and masum (literally in Arabic: innocent or free of sin), Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart consulted with a council of ten of his oldest disciples, and conform traditional Berber representative government, later added an assembly of fifty tribal leaders. The Almohad rebellion began in 1125 with attacks on Moroccan cities, including Sus and Marrakech. But as Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart died in 1130, his successor Abd al Mumin took the title of Caliph – claiming universal leadership in Islam – and placed members of his own family in power, converting the system into a traditional sultanate.
    [edit]Fifteenth century

    [edit]Muḥammad Jaunpuri
    Main article: Mahdavia
    Muhammad Jaunpuri[2] (9 September 1443 – 23 April 1505), born in northeastern India in Jaunpur (modern-day Uttar Pradesh), was a descendant of the seventh imam, Musa Kadhim.
    He claimed to be the Mahdi on three occasions, first in Mecca, and later twice in India, attracting a large following, and opposition from the ulema.
    His five deputies were Sani Mahdi, Shah Khundmir, Shah Neymath, Shah Nizam and Shah Dilawar.
    Muhammad Jaunpuri died in 1505, aged 63, at Farah, Afghanistan. His followers, known as Mahdavis, continue to exist and are centred around the Indian city of Hyderabad, although there Mahdavi communities in Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as well as in Pakistan and overseas in America, Australia, Canada, Africa and United Kingdom.[2]
    [edit]Seventeenth century

    [edit]Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli
    Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli (1559–1613), from the south of Morocco, was a Qadi and religious scholar who proclaimed himself mahdi and lead a revolution (1610–13) against the reigning Saadi dynasty.
    [edit]Mahamati Prannath
    Mahamati Prannath (1618–1694), from Gujarat,India, was a religious leader who proclaimed himself Imam Mahdi.
    [edit]Nineteenth century

    The 19th century provided several Mahdi claimants, some of whose followers and teachings survive to the present day.

    Prince Diponegoro
    [edit]Diponegoro
    Prince Diponegoro (11 November 1785 – 8 January 1855), prince of Yogyakarta, Java. He saw himself as a Javanese Mahdi, or Ratu Adil (prophesised by King Joyoboyo), against Dutch colonialism. Now a National Hero of Indonesia.[citation needed]

    The Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, Israel. The Báb declared himself the Mahdi in 1844, founding the Bábist faith.
    [edit]Alí Muḥammad Shírází (Báb)
    See also: Bábism and Bahá’í history
    Alí Muḥammad Shírází (20 October 1819 – 9 July 1850), claimed to be the Mahdi on 24 May 1844, taking the name Báb (Arabic: باب‎ / English: Gate) and thereby founding the religion of Bábism. He was later executed by firing squad in the town of Tabriz. His remains are currently kept in a tomb at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
    The Báb is considered the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh (pronounced ba-haa-ol-laa / Arabic: بهاء الله‎ / English: Glory of God), and both are considered prophets of the Bahá’í Faith. The declaration by the Báb to be the Mahdi is considered by Baha’is to be the beginning of the Bahá’í calendar.[3]

    Muhammad Ahmad
    [edit]Muḥammad Aḥmad
    Muhammad Ahmad (12 August 1844 – 22 June 1885), a Sudanese sufi sheikh of the Samaniyya order, declared himself Mahdi in June 1881 and went on to lead a successful military campaign against the Turko-Egyptian government of Sudan. Although he died shortly after capturing the Sudanese capital, Khartoum (1885), the Mahdist state continued under his successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, until 1898, when it fell to the British army following the Battle of Omdurman.

    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
    [edit]Mīrzā Ghulām Aḥmad
    See also: Ahmadiyya and Prophethood (Ahmadiyya)
    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (13 February 1835 – 26 May 1908), claimed to be both the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus in the late 19th century in British India. He founded the Ahmadiyya religious movement in 1889, which, although considered by its followers to be Islam in its pure form, is not recognized as such by the majority of mainstream Muslims. In 1974, the Pakistani parliament adopted a law declaring the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. Since Ghulam Ahmad’s death, the Ahmadiyya community has been led by his successors and has grown considerably.[4]
    [edit]Twentieth century

    [edit]Muḥammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani
    See also: Grand Mosque Seizure
    Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani (28 September 1935 – 9 January 1980), was proclaimed Mahdi by his brother-in-law, Juhayman al-Otaibi, who led over 200 militants to seize the Grand Mosque in Mecca on 20 November 1979. The uprising was defeated after a two-week siege in which at least 300 people were killed.

    Juhayman al-Otaibi
    [edit]Riaz Aḥmed Gohar Shahi
    See also: Messiah Foundation International
    Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (25 November 1941 – ?) is the founder of the spiritual movements Messiah Foundation International (MFI) and Anjuman Serfaroshan-e-Islam.[5][6][7] He is controversial for being declared the Mehdi, Messiah, and Kalki Avatar by the MFI.
    Shahi’s supporters claim that his face became prominent on the Moon, Sun, nebula star and the Black Stone in Mecca,[8] and that these appearances were signs from God that Gohar Shahi was the awaited Imam Mehdi, Messiah, and Kalki Avatar in 1985. Shahi has also supported this claim, saying that God had revealed the images of Shahi on the Moon and various locations, for which Shahi himself was not responsible, and if questions should be raised, they should be raised with God.
    Messiah Foundation International claims the alleged images to be signs from God, pointing to Shahi being the awaited Mehdi, and quote religious texts. His death has not been confirmed but a Pakistani news agency says he died in 2003 and some say he is serving a lifetime prison in Pakistan.
    [edit]Ariffin Moḥamed
    See also: Sky Kingdom
    Ariffin Mohammed (1943 – ), also known as “Ayah Pin”, the leader and founder of the banned Sky Kingdom, he was born in 1943 in Beris, Kampung Besar Bachok, Kelantan. In 1975 a spiritual group was formed in Bagan Lebai Tahir, Butterworth, Penang. He claimed to be the incarnation of Jesus, as well as Muhammad, Shiva, and Buddha. Devotees of Sky Kingdom believe that one day, Ayah Pin will return as the Mahdi. His followers consider him the king of the sky, and the supreme object of devotion for all religions.[9]
    [edit]Twenty First century

    [edit]Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim
    Main article: Battle of Najaf (2007)
    Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim (1970 – January 2007), a Shia Iraqi former leader of Soldiers of Heaven, claimed to be the Mahdi.
    Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (1941 – 2003), a Pakistani Fanatic who claimed to be the Mahdi with his organization.
    [edit]People claimed to be the Mahdi by their followers or supporters

    Master Fard Muhammad (according to the Nation of Islam)
    Muhammad ibn Abdallah An-Nafs Az-Zakiyya
    Muhammad ibn Abdu

  5. Maya, I forgot to add to my list two more Buddhas.

    Padmasambhava [note 1], meaning “the Lotus-Born,” was a sage guru from Oddiyāna (Tibetan: Orgyen, Wylie: u rgyan) who is said to have transmitted Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan, Tibet and neighboring countries in the 8th century AD.
    In those lands he is better known as Guru Rinpoche (“Precious Guru”) or Lopon Rinpoche[1], or as Padum in Tibet[2], where followers of the Nyingma school regard him as the second Buddha.[3][note 2]

    In Nichiren Shoshu Nichiren is revered as ‘The Buddha of True Cause'[18] because, they believe, he revealed the ’cause’ of Buddhahood: chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Whereas Shakyamuni is seen as ‘The Buddha of True Effect’ as he only revealed the ‘effect’ of Buddhahood.[18] This is based on the passage in Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra that reads:
    “Originally I [Shakyamuni Buddha] practiced the bodhisattva way, and the life that I acquired then has yet to come to an end”[19]
    Nichiren Shoshu, and also Soka Gakkai, interpret the passage to mean that Shakyamuni must have practiced something to attain Buddhahood, but in the Lotus Sutra he did not reveal what that practice was. Whereas Nichiren taught the daimoku, Nam(u)-myoho-renge-kyo, which leads all beings to Buddhahood. Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu conclude that it was because of the daimoku that Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood in the remote past.[20]
    [edit]

    1. I forgot to look up older revisions of the Wikipedia page.

      Ismaili Khojas, although Gujurati and Sindhi Shi’ite Muslims and followers of Aga Khan, also believe in Dashavatara. In their tradition, Ali, son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad, was Kalki.[15][16]
      Members of the Bahá’í Faith have interpreted the prophecies of end time as references to the arrival of their founder Bahá’u’lláh, which has helped growth of the Bahá’í faith in India.[17][18][19]
      Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believe their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the Kalki Avatar.[20]
      Samael Aun Weor, in his book The Aquarian Message, claims that he himself is Kalki.[21]
      In the The Avatar of What Is by Carolyn Lee and Holy Madness by Georg Feuerstein, the possibility of Adi Da as Kalki is addressed.[22]
      Guru Gobind Singh, in his 16th century Dasam Granth, wrote that Kalki is the Vivek Buddhi, the intelligent and spiritual mind that will be Gurmat. When the manmatt, or sinful, corrupt the world he will act as Kalki. Gobind Singh described Kalki in his Chobis Avatar.[23]
      Swamini Jai Sathya, originally known as Sri Suryanarayana Jayanthi Kumaraswami, declared that Kalki had already been born as a woman, and would reveal herself at end time atop a white horse and holding a sword.
      Sri Kalki Peedum Society, a Singapore based group dating back to 1998, believe their guru Sri Kalki Jothi to be Kalki.[24][25]

      Since his death, the Chinese monk Budai (Hotei) has been popularly regarded as an incarnation of the bodhisattva Maitreya. His depiction as the Laughing Buddha continues to be very popular in East Asian culture.[dubious – discuss]
      While a number of persons have proclaimed themselves to be Maitreya over the years following the Buddha’s parinirvana, none have been officially recognized by the sangha and Buddhists. A particular difficulty faced by any would-be claimant to Maitreya’s title is the fact that the Buddha is considered to have made a number of fairly specific predictions regarding the circumstances that would occur prior to Maitreya’s coming; such as that the teachings of the Buddha would be completely forgotten, and all of the remaining relics of Sakyamuni Buddha would be gathered in Bodh Gaya and cremated.[dubious – discuss]
      The following list is just a small selection of those people who claimed or claim to be the incarnation of Maitreya. Many have either used the Maitreya incarnation claim to form a new Buddhist sect or have used the name of Maitreya to form a new religious movement or cult.
      Gung Ye, a Korean warlord and king of short-lived state of Taebong during the 10th century, claimed himself as living incarnation of Maitreya and ordered his subjects to worship him. His claim was widely rejected by most Buddhist monks and later he was dethroned and killed by his own servants.
      In 613 the monk Xiang Haiming claimed himself Maitreya and adopted imperial title.[26]
      In 690 Empress Wu inaugurated the Second Zhou dynasty, proclaimed herself an incarnation of the future Buddha Maitreya, and made Luoyang the “holy capital.” In 693 she replaced the compulsory Dao De Jing in the curriculum temporarily with her own Rules for Officials.[27]
      Lu Zhong Yi, the 17th patriarch of I-Kuan Tao, claimed to be an incarnation of Maitreya.
      L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the belief systems Dianetics and Scientology, suggested he was “Metteya” (Maitreya) in the 1955 poem Hymn of Asia. Numerous editors and followers of Hubbard claim that in the book’s preface, specific physical characteristics said to be outlined—in unnamed Sanskrit sources—as properties of the coming Maitreya; properties which Hubbard’s appearance supposedly aligned with.
      Adi Da was suggested by his devotees to be Maitreya: “an All-Surpassing God-Man yet to come — a final Avatar, the ultimate Messiah, a consumate Prophet or Enlightened Sage, a Spiritual Deliverer who will appear in the ‘late-time’, the ‘dark’ epoch when humanity is lost, apparently cut off from Wisdom, Truth and God. Buddhists call that Expected One ‘Maitreya’.” [28]
      Raël’s Maitreya claims [1] center on the content of the Agama Sutra (Japanese: Agon Sutra),[29] supposedly a very ancient text written by Buddha himself, but which has been deemphasized or forgotten by the majority of Buddhist cultures.[30] Raël has claimed directly to people attending Asia Raëlian Church seminars, that someone born in France, a country which is often symbolized by the cock (or rooster), west of the Orient, meets the criteria of the Maitreya. Rael himself claims to be this individual.[31]
      Joseph Emmanuel of the Mission of Maitreya claims to be the Maitreya Buddha, as well as a major prophet of God who purportedly fulfills prophecies from the Old Testament, New Testament, Qur’an, Baha’i scriptures and eastern scriptures.[32] Perhaps the most prominent example of Emmanuel’s claims to being the Maitreya is the fact that his main teaching seeks to unify the world’s religions by means of showing how each religion corresponds to one of seven “seals”.[33] His use of the term “seal” is a reference to a central tenet of Christian eschatological belief described in the Bible, in which it is predicted that Christ would return and open a book sealed with “seven seals” (Rev 5:5). The Mission of Maitreya also makes claims that link Emmanuel’s teaching of seven seals to Buddhist tradition. According to Buddhist Scriptures, the Maitreya Buddha will “take seven steps forward, and where he puts down his feet a jewel or lotus will spring up.”[34][35] Emmanuel was originally a student of the yoga teacher P.R. Sarkar in India, who founded Ananda Marga, and while in this organization, Emmanuel was given the spiritual name “Maitreya.” This has been cited as further evidence by the Mission of Maitreya that Joseph Emmanuel is the true Maitreya.

      The concept of Maitreya was elaborated within Theosophy during the last few decades of the 19th century. However the Theosophical Maitreya was explained, and developed, differently than the original Buddhist concept. In Theosophical texts Maitreya has multiple aspects signifying not just the future Buddha, but similar concepts from other religious or spiritual traditions.[17]
      In early 20th century, leading Theosophists became convinced that an appearance of the Maitreya as a so-called World Teacher was imminent. A South Indian boy, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was thought to be destined as the “vehicle” of the soon-to-manifest Maitreya; however the manifestation did not happen as predicted, and did not fulfil Theosophists’ expectations.[18]
      Since the growth of the Theosophical movement in the 19th century, and influenced by Theosophy’s articulations on the Maitreya, non-Buddhist religious and spiritual movements have adopted and reinterpreted the concept in their doctrines. Share International, which equates Maitreya with the prophesied figures of multiple religious traditions, claims that he is already present in the world, but is preparing to make an open declaration of his presence in the near future. They claim that he is here to inspire mankind to create a new era based on sharing and justice.[19]
      In the beginning of the 1930s, the Ascended Master Teachings placed Maitreya in the “Office of World Teacher” until 1956, when he was described as moving on to the “Office of Planetary Buddha” and “Cosmic Christ” in their concept of a Spiritual Hierarchy.
      Some Muslim scholars who studied Buddhist texts believe that Maitreya is “Rahmatu lil-‘alameen” (Mercy for The Worlds), which is the name for the prophet Muhammad as it is said in the Qur’an.[20] According to the research on the book Antim Buddha – Maitreya scholars have surmised that Maitreya Buddha is Muhammad.[21] After examining the Buddhist texts researchers concluded that Muhammad had been the last and final awakened Buddha to come into existence long after the current teachings.[22]
      The 19th century, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is believed in by the members of the Ahmadiyya Community (the faith he brought) as fulfilling expectations regarding the Maitreya Buddha.[23]
      Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh is the fulfillment of the prophecy of appearance of Maitreya.[24][25] Bahá’ís believe that the prophecy that Maitreya will usher in a new society of tolerance and love has been fulfilled by Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings on world peace.[24]

  6. “Realization comes in stages: First, there is cognitive understanding of the meaning. Second, intuition rolls down, revealing deeper meanings. Finally, it is as if the one doing the practice travels upwards to merge in the direct experience, even though there was never any division in the first place.”

    Yes, this is what lies at the heart of Baha’i understanding and experience. It is expressed by Abd’u’l-Baha as “Knowledge, volition, and action,” which is a most succinct rendering of the idea. That is, first, one must possess knowledge, then one must—through intuition, faith, passion, the inner flame—exert will toward understanding and practicing what one knows, and third, one must act upon the knowledge, catalyzed by the will.

    As I think I said elsewhere, the elements of this “trinity” cannot exist apart from each other. Merely knowing something is of no effect, one must put one’s knowledge into action if it is to have an effect on the soul and in the world. And that requires volition. Faith, like science, cannot be something that begins in mere words and ends in mere words (as Baha’u’llah has said).

    Buddha expressed this beautifully, when He said, “One must take medicine to be cured; the mere sight of the physician is not enough.” (I don’t have the reference at hand—it’s somewhere in my library of sacred texts).

    Baha’u’llah emphasizes this further when He tells us that ” It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action…. ” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, vs CXVII)

    Further He gives this cautionary statement: “The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.
    “We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy.
    “Incline your ears to the sweet melody of this Prisoner. Arise, and lift up your voices, that haply they that are fast asleep may be awakened. Say: O ye who are as dead! The Hand of Divine bounty proffereth unto you the Water of Life. Hasten and drink your fill. Whoso hath been re-born in this Day, shall never die; whoso remaineth dead, shall never live.” (ibid, CVI)

    All these things that we’ve been discussing are not merely items of academic interest to me. They are my life’s blood and the lifeblood of our global society. Which means that, at some point, one has to stop mulling them over as if they were merely historical artifacts, understand their real meaning, and act on that understanding.

    You know, Stephen, you really should read Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. It speaks, in mystical terms, about the journey of the soul toward meaning and connection with the Divine Beloved. I think you might find it worth your while.

    1. Yes, I’ve retread them now again, Which should we talk about? For example, I’d say the Four Valleys are different margas/yogas, whether Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, or Tantra. The Seven Valleys as seven stages in adopting a religion. First, people search for a religion. Second, people fall in love with their religion if its what they were searching for. Third, if they keep believing and practicing they will gain mystic knowledge via spiritual experiences. Fourth, a complete dethroning of a seperate sense of self brings unity since there is no seperate sense of self for disunity. Fifth, their consciousness become perpetually content due to spiritual evolution. Sixth, their consciousness becomes wonderful due to even more spiritual evolution. Seventh, complete liberation beyond description, ie Moksha and Nirvana.

      1. Interesting. I see the Seven Valleys as a love song between the lover and the Beloved and it describes the state of the soul as it seeks, not a religion, but its Beloved. I believe that’s what Baha’u’llah is trying to tell us when He uses the potent symbology of the Divine Joseph, of Majnun (Crazy) and Layli. It is not religion we seek nor even faith, ultimately, but what Buddha called “Brahma-faring”: “This itself is the whole of Brahma-faring — friendship, association and intimacy with the Lovely.” Samyutta-nikaya I:88

        We seek the Lover that our attachment to these material bodies has separated us from. Our lives, if we set foot upon that path, are about retracing our steps to the place of the Placeless Friend. Or, as Buddha would have it, the world of Brahman: … “the Tathagata knows the straight path that leads to a union with Brahman. He knows it as one who has entered the world of Brahman and been born in it. There can be no doubt in the Tathagata.” — Digha-nikaya (9:35)

        This is the journey that Baha’u’llah lays out in the Seven Valleys—this is the landscape He describes along the Path that leads to the Shore of reunion.

        We catch glimpses of that Friend in the cosmos, in the eyes of a husband, wife, child, friend. We see Him in a moment of joy or a time of sorrow. He is everywhere, closer than our life’s vein and yet we keep losing sight of Him. The Goal of reunion puts the trials and tribulations in our lives into perspective and I find that it fires the spirit of creation in my soul. My husband and I have both written songs based upon the passages in this book and the one I penned “Persian Rose” focuses on what to me is an essential message of the verses: that if you could see the end of the journey at the beginning, you would celebrate every calamity that brought you closer to that end.

        To me, Seven Valleys is Baha’u’llah’s revelation of the same essential relationship that Krishna speaks of in my favorite passage of the Bhagavad Gita: “I AM the Way and the Master who watches in silence, thy Friend and thy Shelter and thy Abode of Peace. I AM the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things—their Seed of eternity, their Treasure Supreme.”

        The Seven Valleys is the call of the Beloved, to which we each offer some response. I find Arjuna’s response to Krishna resonates in my soul: “As a Father to his son, as a Friend to his friend, as a Lover to his beloved, be gracious unto to me, O God!”

        The Seven Valleys, ultimately, puts into words what cannot be put into words. A journey. A process. It may take decades or years or mere moments to traverse those valleys, or one may wander back and forth between them indefinitely. It is a distinctly intimate process, just as the relationship between the lover and the Beloved is intimate and unique.

        You say the goal is Nirvana, Moksha. Those seem fitting terms for it. So, too, the Kingdom of God within, yukta or union with the Beloved, the peace that surpasses understanding. Each lover sees the Beloved a little differently after all, and sees the Path that leads to That differently as well. Even as Buddha says, the Tathagata does not reveal Himself to all alike.

  7. I would multiply the four by the seven to get twenty eight valleys because there a four paths comprised of seven stages. Process on them takes anywhere from an instant to almost infinite lifteitmes.

    Your assessment only focused on bhakti yoga of the four valleys as the path and the seven valleys as stages thereof, but there are other paths like karma yoga and jnana yoga. Though since I’m more familiar with jnana than bhakti I would have framed my assessment in a more jnana orientated way. And someone could have come up with a karma orientated summary of it as well. Though, people do have options for which of the paths to use to go to the Absolute. Though any given scripture will have an uneven amount of verse supporting any one of the paths ie karma leaning verses, jnana leaning verses, and bhakti leaning verses, etc.

    I have made it a note to myself to read more Sufi literature like Attar, Hafez, Rumi, etc. Wikipedia lists 96 Sufi poet articles in that category. Sufis are known for putting merging with the Absolute and the path to it in poetry. Though, I do read Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, and New Age authors way more than Sufi authors.

    Also, I’d say that while our bodies and the world are distractions, ultimately the sense and concept of duality is the obstacle that produces all the other ones.

    The Three Yogas in the context of monotheistic Hinduism are three religious paths for the human spirit to achieve union (yoga) with Ishvara, Supreme Being, i.e. God. They are
    Karma Yoga or the Path of Action (karma)
    Bhakti Yoga or the Path of Devotion (bhakti)
    Jnana Yoga or the Path of Knowledge (jnana)

    These concepts are introduced in the Bhagavad Gita and become extremely popular in the course of the Bhakti movement. They are elaborated upon in the Vaishna Bhagavata Purana.

    The Bhagavad Gita had been made practically the only source for the means to moksha with the development of Classical Hinduism in the 8th or 9th century, and Hindu philosophers of the medieval period have tried to explain the nature of these three paths and the relation between them. Shankara tended to focus on jnana-yoga exclusively, which he interpreted as the acquisition of knowledge or vidya. He considered karma-yoga to be inferior, and ignores bhakti-yoga entirely. The 12th-century philosopher Ramanuja considered the three yogas by interpreting his predecessor Yamunacharya. In Ramanuja’s interpretation, bhakti-yoga appears to be the direct path to moksha, which is however available only to those whose inner faculties have already been trained by both karma-yoga and jnana-yoga.

    A “fourth yoga” is sometimes added, Raja Yoga or “the Path of Meditation”. This is the classical Yoga presented in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Patanjali’s system came to be known as Raja Yoga or “Royal Yoga” retro-actively, in about the 15th century, as the term Yoga had become popular for the general concept of a “religious path”. The systematic presentation of Hindu monotheism as divided into these four paths or “Yogas” is modern, advocated by Swami Vivekananda from the 1890s. They are presented as four paths to God suitable for four human temperaments, viz. the active, the emotional, the mystic and the philosophical.

    Nirvāṇa (Sanskrit: निर्वाण; Pali: निब्बान nibbāna ; Prakrit: णिव्वाण) is an ancient Sanskrit term used in Indian religions to describe the profound peace of mind that is acquired with moksha (liberation). In shramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is union with the Brahman (Supreme Being).

    The word literally means “blown out” (as in a candle) and refers, in the Buddhist context, to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished.

    In Indian religions moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष mokṣa; liberation) or mukti (Sanskrit: मुक्ति; release) is the liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.

    1. “Your assessment only focused on bhakti yoga of the four valleys as the path and the seven valleys as stages thereof, but there are other paths like karma yoga and jnana yoga.”

      Er … that wasn’t an “assessment”, Stephen. That is my personal experience of or relationship with the words of the Tathagata (Baha’u’llah / Buddha / Krishna). An assessment is rather more of an academic approach. I was speaking from the heart.

      Also, Baha’u’llah does not separate the Seven Valleys and Four Valleys into separate categories, but rather portrays them as two different “takes” on the same journey, so no math needs be done, IMO.

      Also, the different aspects of faith, as I’ve noted elsewhere, are not safely separable into this yoga or that yoga—karma as opposed to bhakti.

      And this, is what Baha’u’llah (no less than Buddha or Krishna or Christ) is saying: bhakti must bear fruit in karma or it is asat. That is, devotion (faith, spirituality) must produce action and effect or it is nothing.

      Personally, I find it unedifying to reduce Baha’u’llah’s discourse to a list of Sanskrit terms or to try to label each piece and pop it into a cubby hole. The fruit of the Seven Valleys is in striving to understand its implications for our lives and in living that understanding. As Buddha also notes: “Nirvana comes to thee when thou understandest thoroughly and livest according to that understanding, that all things are of one Essence and that there is but one law.”

      We do not reap the fruits of the Divine Physician’s medicine until we take that medicine and let it take effect. So, to me, the dry calculation of levels and stages and types of yoga misses the point of the entire exercise, which is to apply the teachings to our lives.

      1. I didn’t say the four yogas were completely seperate, but rather people’s paths to the Absolute can be categorized according to the four yogas.

        The path of knowledge jnana marga can be summarized. The Absolute is real, the universe is illusory (mithya rather than asat). The Absolute is one without a second, it alone exists. The Absolute is knowledge. The Self is the Absolute. I am the Absolute. That thou art. All is the Absoulute truly. The Absolute is being, consciousness, and bliss. Jnana yoga is any attempt to directly know the truth of those great sayings rather than the other yogas which lead indirectly to this realization. It’s seen as treading the razors edges or as climbing a sheer cliff as opposed to the other easier but longer yogas.

        Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism (or any other religion you could add) seem to differ superficially with regards to the Absolute, but in depth research shows they’re the same ultimately. Vedas and Brahmanas are identified with karma yoga. Aranyakas and Upanishads are identified with jnana yoga. Itihasa and Puranas are identified with all yogas, but bhakti yoga in particular. I remember that a Hindu of the Shaiva Siddhanta tradition described Buddhism as mostly jnana yoga as opposed to Shaiva Siddhanta and ISKCON which were mostly bhakti yoga. Hinduism is mostly Vedanta which is jnana yoga, despite the popular bhakti movements in India.

        The Absolute, the All, the Ground of Being, etc. is the path, walking the path, the origin of the path, the means of the path, the end of the path, the walker of the path, etc. all rolled into one. All yogas lead to merging with the Absolute.

        1. Perhaps I was not precise enough. You seemed to suggest that the Valleys diverged or described different levels of a process rather than simply different ways of parsing the same process.

          I doubt it’s possible to “categorize” people’s paths to the Absolute the way one would categorize words into nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc Our paths, like the colors of the visible spectrum overlap and blend at the edges. They are unique. So, in using categorizing words, I try to remember that they are just words for our benefit and not the Thing itself.

          I understand completely why human beings feel an almost soul-deep need to categorize things, name them, label them, put them into neat, manageable little cubbies where they will remain. But I’m working on seeing past this need to quantify and qualify to simply experiencing the things that our poor words fail utterly to express. (Strange effort for a writer, eh?)

          As a Baha’i, I completely agree with you about the superficial nature of the differences between the revealed faiths and many of their offshoots. That is, of course, one of Baha’u’llah’s core teachings—that the messages of Krishna, Buddha, Christ and His own are the same Message from the same Source, only delivered with the capacity and circumstances of the audience in mind. And so the Avatars come in age after age to reapply the message. The message that was suited to an audience 2 or 3 thousand years ago is, in some ways, not suited to these times and this diverse world.

          I’ve written several papers and presentations on this very subject—the ways in which these faiths speak about the Absolute—in one of them I take five questions of faith and compare the answers from the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist scriptures, Gospels, and Baha’i Writings (specifically Baha’u’llah).

          The questions are Who is God?
          How can we know God?
          What is the foundation of our relationship with God and His Manifestation?
          What are the fruits of our relationship with God?
          What is “living the life” (of a Yogi, bhikku, Bahá’í)?

          Again, to me, it matters not what yoga the Upanishads are identified with. What matters to me about the Upanishads (or any other sacred text) is that when I read it, it illumines my soul and brings me closer to the Beloved. The Seven Valleys and Four Valleys brings me closer to the Absolute Beloved than any text I have read.

          I should note, in this context, that Baha’u’llah taught that there was a qualitative difference in the words of the Manifestations of God as opposed to the words of even as exemplary a human being as Abdu’l-Baha. The Manifestation is, as scripture says, the Word of God made flesh and His word is what Baha’u’llah refers to as “the Creative Word of God,”

          He means that literally (well, as literally as we can comprehend, anyway). The creation of this all, He describes as “God said ‘be’, and it was.” The word of God has the capacity to bring things into being:

          “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth. All the wondrous works ye behold in this world have been manifested through the operation of His supreme and most exalted Will, His wondrous and inflexible Purpose. Through the mere revelation of the word “Fashioner,” issuing forth from His lips and proclaiming His attribute to mankind, such power is released as can generate, through successive ages, all the manifold arts which the hands of man can produce. This, verily, is a certain truth.” — Baha’u’llah, Gleanings LXXIV

          So in a very real sense, we have God to thank for these computers we’re using since He gave us monkeys the wherewithal to make them, then spoke the word, “Fashioner” (metaphorically speaking, that is,)

          The Faith of God, whether one calls it Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i etc, is not EITHER karma yoga, or jnana yoga or bhakti yoga. It is all yogas at once. The different Manifestations, I believe, stress one or more aspects of spirituality depending on the needs of the age in which They are sent. In this age, Baha’u’llah is calling for us to merge the different aspects of yoga—which are, of course, merely different facets of the same Jewel—and to stop erecting barriers (to understanding) where none exist.

          All of these words—karma, jnana, bhakti—are our words. They are God speaking to us in OUR limited human language while He teaches us how to hear His voice without words. Which reminds me of a prayer of Abdu’l-Baha in which He says: “Reveal then Thyself, O Lord, by Thy merciful utterance and the mystery of Thy divine being, that the holy ecstasy of prayer may fill our souls—a prayer that shall rise above words and letters and transcend the murmur of syllables and sounds—that all things may be merged into nothingness before the revelation of Thy splendor.”

          1. http://www.hinduism.co.za/

            I was googling for good articles on the various yogas and found the above website which has a whole bunch of other interesting articles as well.

            You seem to have a postmodernist aversion to language despite being a writer. Can you quote Hindu scripture as saying they are only words as opposedp to a diverse varieties of paths a Hindu (or any person of any other religion can choose since Hinduism is universalist) rather than just words Hindu scriptures use? Though Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, etc. are other religions, it’s still possible to categorize accordingly.

            Scriptures and not people are the origination of all religious categorization. I do find the position that language is ultimately useless as representation to be very Zen position. It’s interesting the Zen position on sutras versus that of all other Buddhists. Your position accusses scriptures of speaking in truisms rather than truths. It’s absurd to say that any scriptures actually teach that what they teach are beneficial rather than factual.

          2. You wrote: You seem to have a postmodernist aversion to language despite being a writer.

            Stephen, I have no idea what that even means. I don’t have an aversion to language. I bathe in words. I love the way they sound, taste, feel and look. I love the way they can evoke emotion, provoke thought, have multiple meanings. As Somerset Maugham observed: “Words have weight, sound and appearance; it is only by considering these that you can write a sentence that is good to look at and good to listen to.”

            Of all the words I’ve read, I love the words of the Manifestations of God most of all because they are more than superficially beautiful.

            I have an aversion to labeling things and people and thereby pretending that we can fit them neatly into a category. I love language.

            Can you quote Hindu scripture as saying they are only words as opposedp to a diverse varieties of paths a Hindu (or any person of any other religion can choose since Hinduism is universalist) rather than just words Hindu scriptures use?

            The problem I have with lists of words is that they are meaningless without definition, connotation and context. Whenever I say something, you feel compelled to stick a label on it: in this case, you have incorrectly assumed I have an aversion to words and have labeled that “postmodernist.” I simply feel that sort of labeling does not enhance understanding, and may actually impede it.

            Scriptures and not people are the origination of all religious categorization. … Your position accusses scriptures of speaking in truisms rather than truths. It’s absurd to say that any scriptures actually teach that what they teach are beneficial rather than factual.

            My “position” is that the Manifestations of God revealed truths, not truisms. We took those truths and sought to quantify them. How many angels or devis can dance on the head of a pin, we ask. Baha’u’llah uses the mystic Persian Seven Valleys and Four Valleys as a metaphor for the journey of the soul toward the Beloved and we humans imagine that there must therefore be exactly seven stages (perhaps literal valleys) in the process of salvation. The need for categorization, I think is ours. We are the animal that names things.

            What I’ve been asking is that rather than simply post lists of Sanskrit terms we discuss the meaning of what lies behind and beyond them–the truths.

          3. Hindu scriptures are just loaded with categories. There are four goals of life, four stages of life, four (or more) spiritual disciplines, and infamously four castes. The four stages of life can be viewed as four lifestyles in and of themselves, but traditionally people go from student to householder to forest dweller to renunciat. There have been lots of deviations from this four stage ideal throughout Inidan history.

            The Itihasa and Puranas present the teaching of dozens or even more of the Hindu Avatars-Manifestations. They’re the root of the categories and not the Hindus themselves.

            Back to yogas and margas, these are paths. Most lists list three or four or more. Imagine climbing a mountain, there are infinite ways to climb the mountain, but the mountain can be said to have several faces to climb. Climbing the mountain is a metaphor for Self realization, merging with the Absolute. Practically, these infinite paths are categoried into several main paths in the scriptures. I wonder if Hindu scriptures have concordances to look up every reference to any given term?

            Even though I myself don’t read Sanskrit (or any of the other Indian languages scripture can be originally), I do recognize the fact that sometimes some stuff gets lost in translation. You prefer translated that don’t have what you think is Sanskrit jargon, but some of the concepts are lost without these terms.

            Hinduism allows for alot of diversity of beliefs and practices within it. Therefore, various paths are laid out in Hindu scriptures. All scriptures make reference to the standard trio of bhakti, jnana, and karma. Various other scriptures add raja, hatha, namasankirtana, kundalini, shaktipata, gurukrupa, and tantra. Though, all Indian religions have a Dharmic bases, I’d still do much more research when it comes to other religions, especially non Indian religions when applying such knowledge to them.

            Just by Binging or Googling terms like Four Yogas and Four Margas lots of info pops up. It’d be impossible and undesirable to list all the links or even all the scripture quotes that pop up.

            Does Hindu scripture or even any scripture support your position of no categories? You seem to gloss over any references to any categories in any scripture you read.

            The four main spiritual paths for God-realisation are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Karma Yoga is suitable for a man of active temperament, Bhakti Yoga for a man of devotional temperament, Raja Yoga for a man of mystic temperament, and Jnana Yoga for a man of rational and philosophical temperament, or a man of enquiry.

            Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga or Kundalini Yoga, Lambika Yoga and Hatha Yoga, are other Yogas. Yoga, really, means union with God. The practice of Yoga leads to communion with the Lord. Whatever may be the starting point, the end reached is the same.

            The paths are many, but the peak is one. Eastern religions tend to accommodate the multiplicity of paths in way that Western religions would usually give one size fits all paths. All paths are equal and various people choose various paths.

            To better understand the concept you can picture a mountain with a summit. The peak of the mountain represents the spiritual goal, moksha. Now imagine there are four people standing on each side of the mountain. To reach the summit, the same destination, each person has to walk a different direction. Likewise, each of us symbolically stands at a different space, spiritually speaking, according to our temperament and personality, so each of us needs to take a customized path to the top.
            From the explanation above, it is easily understood that, truly, there are as many paths as there are people. Practically though, there are a few hundreds of yogas, or practices which are categorized into the four main paths.

            In order to understand the spiritual practices outlined in this section, it is useful to have an overview of the main processes or “paths”.Some authorities list three, others add a fourth. Many thinkers claim that all paths are equally valid and effective and that the choice depends on individual inclination. Others suggest that all four paths are stepping stones along one spiritual path, each building progressively on the previous, more elementary disciplines. Either way, it is not that the different paths are tightly compartmentalised – each may contain elements of the others. Additionally, there may be higher and lower understand­ings of each path.

            There are various types of yoga, also called different margs, (paths). There are three main ones: karma-yoga, the yoga of selfless action; jnana-yoga, the yoga of spiritual knowledge; and bhakti-yoga, the yoga of loving devotion. Some add a fourth path called raja-yoga or astanga-yoga, the eight-step path, which includes physical exercises and culminates in meditation on God within the heart.

            There are different opinions as to the merits of each. Some say that all are equally valid, like parallel paths. Others favour a particular process claiming that the various yogas are successive steps on the same path. Practically all Hindus agree that whichever process one chooses it must be followed according to scriptural injunction rather than whimsically.

            Within a broad spectrum of religious practices, Hinduism accommodates both material and spiritual needs. However, as material benefits are temporary, most traditions consider eternal moksha the ultimate goal.

            Hindu texts detail four sequential aims – dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Dharma recommends righteous and regulated living, so that one is able one to acquire wealth, artha. With prosperity one can then enjoy kama, sensual pleasure. When one realises the futility of temporary gratification, one eventually seeks moksha (liberation). Some traditions, particularly of the bhakti school, accept moksha, but point out the selfishness in even desiring liberation. They mention a fifth goal called prema (love of God) or nitya-lila (eternal loving service).

            Spiritual emancipation is therefore considered the main goal of life, and other goals are necessary stepping stones towards it. Hinduism thus recommends a balanced life with an ultimate spiritual goal. Liberation usually entails union with God, conceived of in various ways by different traditions. The word for this process is yoga, from which we can derive the English word yoke, meaning to join.

            This is generally on margas/yogas, but I could write on each marga/yoga individually. Also, while doing research I found that these yogas have Ayurveda applications. The Avatar-Manifestation Dhanavatari founded Ayurveda traditional medicine. I found a site that based on a persons Ayurveda Dosha (which will probably be diagnosed by a doctor of Ayurveda), what yoga a person should follow. Kapha people are reccomended raja. Pitha people are reccomended jnana. Vata people are reccomended karma.

            The philosophy of yoga tells us that the root cause of all our sorrows and sufferings is loss of contact with our true Self. This Self is called by various names, such as Atman, Purusha, and God. Our loss of contact with the Self is due to ignorance of its sole reality. Ignorance creates spiritual blindness and subjects us to a world of delusion and desire. The world becomes governed by the seemingly unending rounds of birth and death, pain and pleasure, and happiness and suffering. No material or psychological solution can dispel this ignorance. Our recovery is possible only by reestablishing contact with our true, inmost Self, the Reality of all realities. The message of yoga is that there is no escape from the Self—whether or not we are conscious of it—and that knowledge of the Self is our only savior.

            No one can help us on this journey toward the Self except ourselves. Yoga philosophy prescribes four spiritual paths to attain knowledge of the Self: karma-yoga, the path of selfless action; bhakti-yoga, the path of devotion; raja-yoga, the path of concentration and meditation; and jnana-yoga, the path of knowledge and discrimination.

  8. “”As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
    May I ask that you stop copying huge chunks of text that you’ve found online into the comment thread?” — Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, LXXIX

    Looks as if there may be more than 33 🙂

    By the way, Stephen, may I ask again that you stop copying huge chunks of text that you’ve copied from online sources into the comment thread?

    We would all be most interested in YOUR personal understanding of the subject—what’s in your heart and mind about it, how it affects your life. It’s encouraged that you supplement your personal views with a quote or citation, but most of your comments have been wholesale pasting of academic or theological treatises into the comment thread that really do not illuminate the subject.

    Thanks.

    1. 33 is a summary of the cosmology. They can even be summarized into 10, or rahter 6 plus 4. Various worlds like Narakas represent a whole bunch if not infinite worlds but is categorized as one world.

      Mathematically, if you could measure people, people would have a finite number of attachments and karma. Attachments limit the amount of good karma people have. Bad karma prevents people from shedding attachments. Good acts addd positive karma and negative acts add negative karma. Attachments are tendencies that prevent people from accumulating good karma and not accumulating bad karma. Imagine summarizing karma as a number based on overall negativity or positivity. Attachments limit the total amount of positivity of karma a person can have and to remove attachments you must have a minimu level of positivity of karma. There’s a gap between the two, thus preventing this from becoming a catch twenty two. Attchments are issues with physical stuff, the self, and the universe. Negative karma leads to Narakas, hungry ghosts, and animals. Positive karma leads to humans, Asuras, and Devas. The relationship between attachments and karma is overall really complex. I have read that attachments intrinsically and directly to suffering rather than the extrinsically and indirectly that the above reading may lead to.

      Enlightened beings are beings without attachments. They also have infinitely positive karma. They are the ideal for all sentient beings. Dharma related acts can give alot of positive karma. Dharma suppressing acts are the opposite. A parrot who repeats the four noble truths for example will become a deva after death. I remember various sutras promising Tushita and Trayastrimsha deva status after death. Various practices like wisdom, compassion, and chanting mantras to list the ones that first come to mind can both sever or weaken attachments and generate positive karma. There a whole list of lists of enlightenment factors which also all together bring about enlightenment with positive karma and no attachments.

      The universe is a cycle of suffering and to escape all attachments must be shed is the best way to summarize all of the above into one brief statement. The above info also says why shedding attachments is harder than it sounds. The goal of practice is to become enlightened or a being motivated only by compassion. The Indigo Tribe from the Green Lantern comics are actually a good description of enlightened beings. Is anyone else fammiliar with the Green Lantern comic book series? The emotional spectrum and the other lantern corps?

      1. You are a numbers person. I am a words person. And that’s just fine. I think we “reach” as they say, through your last paragraph:

        The universe is a cycle of suffering and to escape all attachments must be shed is the best way to summarize all of the above into one brief statement. The above info also says why shedding attachments is harder than it sounds. The goal of practice is to become enlightened or a being motivated only by compassion. The Indigo Tribe from the Green Lantern comics are actually a good description of enlightened beings. Is anyone else fammiliar with the Green Lantern comic book series? The emotional spectrum and the other lantern corps?

        I would say, rather than a cycle of suffering, the Universe is our classroom where we can experience both suffering and great joy. We choose whether to tread the Path of detachment from all things or not. Personally, I have made a commitment to attempt to put the teachings of the Manifestations into practice with the goal of becoming a being motivated by compassion.

        I am not familiar with the Green Lantern series, but I’m certainly willing to become familiar. I’m most familiar with Jedi (since I’ve written about them), and the debate over the duality or unity of the Force. I find that fiction—especially science fiction and fantasy—are a wonderful vehicle for working out spiritual quandaries. Science fiction, especially, allows us to ask the Big Question: what does it mean to be human? Is it a function of the planet we’re born on? The bodies we wear?

        Personally, I subscribe to the idea that what makes us human is the rational soul or human spirit, and that we shall someday meet human beings from other planets who may look nothing like us, but be just as human as we are.

  9. Maya, if you were curious about extra terrestrials, there’s the science of ufology.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alleged_extraterrestrial_beings

    There’s only circumstantial evidence that people have already contacted aliens for decades or centuries. The Grays/Greys or Zeta Reticulans are the most well known with Reptilians in a close second. Little green men were popular during the 50s, but other aliens on the list have displaced them in pop culture. Close encounters and other claims and speculations are the sources of info about these alleged aliens.

    Whir aliens are a universally agreed on thing, UFOs and alien abductions are seen by some that some people have met aliens. Wikipedia specifically lists various sightings from 1883 to present. I’m also interested in ancient astronaut theory.

    Your saying humans will meet aliens might imply that we haven’t already. It depends on if you mean just random encounters of something more noticeable like a government building an embassy for aliens to land on and then them making their existence known in an obvious way. Though I must ask how much studying of UFOs and Ufology have you done? I only occasionally watch shows on UFOs and Ufology and have gained some interest in the topic over time, it might become a hobby, it will take more time for it to become a pursuit, a study, something I have expertise or mastery in.

    So what are you opinion on UFOs and Ufology? Above, Wikipedia shows aliens ranging from human like Nordic aliens to reptilian Reptilians to energy being Andromedans.

    1. Stephen, I’m a science fiction writer. I’ve written a number of First Contact stories because I love the whole idea of First Contact. One of my First Contact stories is in an anthology entitled FUTURE GAMES (from Prime Books), which, if you’re interested, you can buy on Amazon.

      So, I’ve studied UFOlogy as part of that and also to feed my natural curiosity. I’ve even seen a couple of UFOs—both at Air Force Bases that housed experimental aircraft. Which is, do doubt, what I was seeing.

      I don’t believe that we have yet met people from other planets for a number of reasons that are probably too involved to go into here, but a thumbnail sketch is that we’re not ready and if another race of people had developed the technology necessary to reach us, they would have also had to develop the spiritual capacity to know better than to try to contact us at this dangerous time in our evolution. As much as I love “THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL”, I don’t expect a handsome alien to step out of a spaceship and tell us to get our act together. At least not yet.

      Who knows, maybe the next Buddha will come from another planet, ;=)

      For one thing, we only have “Grays” because of Whitley Stryber (not sure of the spelling) and beyond that the descriptions vary widely such that if we were really visited that often by so many different species, we should charge admission.

      It’s telling that the only records we have are horribly grainy videos (despite the vast improvements in home video) and that they’ve never turned up in those beautiful, crisp videos and photos of our planet taken from outer space.

      I don’t doubt that they’re there, though. And I base me belief on the assurance of Baha’u’llah that those other worlds exist and that some of them are populated. Science has caught up with religion a bit and now we see new planets being discovered every day.

      1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

        That reminds me of the Fermi paradox. Various hypotheses have been raised for why aliens haven’t contacted us.

        Communication is impossible due to various logistic and linguistic problems. Aliens are too far apart from us in the universe. It’s way to expensive for aliens to search for us. Human beings have only been scientific for a short period of time. Humans aren’t listening properly. Civilization has been around for a short time. Aliens have undergone a technological singularity and humans will have to undergo one as well, predicted to happen around 2057 by some. Aliens are too busy with other things. They are too alien, which means that aliens are so different from us we won’t even notice them as aliens. The are non technological, which is advocated by Luddite primitivism who think the best society is extremely natural. The evidence is being suppressed. They are here, but not observed.

        This reminds me of the anime Eureka 7. It’s set in the 20,000 years in the future. It involves a race of aliens called Scub Coral. The debate of the series is whether they are sentient or not. They are, but are really alien to humans. So they, create Coralian humans to communicate for them, but it took them over 20,000 years before the timeline of the series to do so. This series bases itself on several variants of the Fermi paradox. Usually when people think of aliens, they don’t think of things like sentient coral.

        Ironically, given the Cassandra paradox, revealing aliens revealing themselves to individual “Cassandras” may be a really intelligent way of hiding their existence. They think that if the existence of aliens is limited to people who are viewed by society as charlatans, crazy, basket cases, deluded, fools, weirdos, etc. It’s an established means of subterfuge to release the truth covertly via unreliable sources or sources people view as unreliable is better than it never being released. UFOs and Ufology are seen as such Cassandras by society at large.

        I didn’t say an alien would reveal themselves to the public any time soon, but rather the evidence suggests aliens may have revealed themselves to isolated individuals for the sake of producing Cassandras.

        In Greek mythology, Cassandra (Greek Κασσάνδρα, also Κασάνδρα) was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Her beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy. In an alternative version, she spent a night at Apollo’s temple, at which time the temple snakes licked her ears clean so that she was able to hear the future (this is a recurring theme in Greek mythology, though sometimes it brings an ability to understand the language of animals rather than an ability to know the future). When Cassandra refused Apollo’s attempted seduction, he placed a curse on her so that her predictions and those of all her descendants would not be believed. She is a figure both of the epic tradition and of tragedy.

        I hope you understood the Greek mythology reference. A Cassandra is a person who speak the truth, but people think they’re lying or insane or deluded.

        Ultimately, the issue of whether humanity will collectively meet aliens is seperate from whether an individual human will meet aliens. The experiences tend to be all on the subject of the latter, not the former. What prevents aliens from meeting individual humans to produce Cassandra UFO junkies?

        The universe is paradoxically a sphere with a radius of up to 23 billion light years, despite being only 14 billion years old. It means that while nothing can travel faster than the speed of light must be interpreted as space itself (nothing) can travel faster than the speed of light. The universe is mostly empty space and five percent of the stuff in the universe is baryonic matter. The universe is: 70% dark energy, 25% dark matter, 5% baryonic matter, and neglible baryonic energy.

        Even if aliens tried to contact us like in the Scub Coral example, it might have various complex problems like 20,000 years of aliens trying to creat artificial humans.

  10. Maya, I just remembered something. What books contain translations of the Sanskrit Dharmpada rather than the current Pali Theravada Dhammpada? This also needs to give a background on early Buddhist school of which Theravada is the only survivor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Buddhist_schools

    Various schools like Mahasanghika, Ekavyavahairka, Lokottaravada, Bahushrutiya, Prajnaptivada, Caitika, Sthaviaravada (Theravada in Pali), Mahishasaka, Dharmaguptaka, Kashyapiya, Sarvastivada, Vibhajyavada, etc. each had their own canons of Tripitaka (Tipitaka in Pali), views of the relationships between Arhats and Buddhas, and views on antarabhava (bardo in Tibetan). Collectively, these schools are lumped together into the catch all term Hinayana as opposed to Mahayana and Vajrayana. Most early Buddhist schools ceased to exist around the year 1200, except for Theravada which survived in Southeast Asia. Dharmaguptaka survives currently as Mahayana and Sarvastivada survives as Vajrayana.

    Later schools like Mahayana and Vajrayana have Mahayana Sutras and Tantras that the above earlier schools don’t recognize. Of the earlier schools, only Theravada still exists to this day, both in traditional form and in simplified form as the Vipassana movement. While Theravada Buddhists have the Pali Canon, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists uses the Mahayana Sutras and Tantras instead. They may occasionally use the Tripitaka canons of some of the earlier schools they descended from, they use the Mahayana Sutras and Tanras mostly.

    I for example an familiar only with Mahayan Sutras like the Inneumerable Meanings Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra, Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (Nirvana Sutra), Avatamsaka Sutra, Prajnaparamita Sutras, etc.

    I’m curious which early school your Sanskrit Dharmapada is a product of? I’m also curious what book store you bought it from?

  11. A compilation of various data on the four yogas is needed. Since you obviously have a bhakti oriented view, that’s what I will start with.

    Bhakti Yoga
    (Love for Loves Sake)

    Bhakti is intense love of God. Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion. It appeals to the majority of mankind. – Love for Loves Sake – is the motto or formula of a Bhakti-Yogin. God is an embodiment of love. You will have to attain Him by loving Him. God can be realised only by means of a love as ardent and all-absorbing as the conjugal passion. Love for God must be gradually cultivated.

    He who loves God has neither wants nor sorrows. He does not hate any being or object. He never takes delight in sensual objects. He includes everyone in the warm embrace of his love.

    Kama (worldly desires) and Trishna (cravings) are enemies of devotion. So long as there is any trace of desire in your mind for sensual objects, you cannot have an intense longing for God.

    Bhakti Yoga

    The path of love and devotion. The bhakta uses the combined energies of all emotions and transmutes them, sublimates them into the highest of all emotions: prem.

    ….. Edited by moderator

    1. Stephen, I edited the definitions of the different yogas for length, but hopefully I’ve left enough so that readers who do not know what these forms of yoga are can get a glimpse.

      Here’s what I’d ask—instead of telling the reader that “Kama (worldly desires) and Trishna (cravings) are enemies of devotion,” and then continuing to use the Sanskrit words that force the reader to translate, for the sake of communicating to a non-Sankskrit-speaking audience, it might be helpful if you simply note that cravings and worldly desire are enemies of devotion”.

      Everyone would understand that and understanding is the purpose of communication.

      So, to all you said: Yes, that is essentially consistent with my understanding of Baha’u’llah’s teachings. Which is not surprising, because I believe Baha’u’llah and Krishna are the same Being.

      Here’s my personal understanding of my journey toward God (yoga, if you will). It begins with knowledge. Baha’u’llah says that “The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God.” He further says that “He hath known God who hath known himself.” So, knowledge of God and self-knowledge go hand in hand and are critical to the journey of the soul.

      From this knowledge, comes devotion. To know God through His creation, His Manifestations, and His Word inspires the soul with love and intense devotion and, from this, comes the will to act. As Abdu’l-Baha notes, when you love someone their name is forever on your lips and you wish to show them your love.

      So, from the knowledge of God, devotion gives birth to action. In Their words, the Manifestations of God tell us how they wish us to show our love toward them. Universally, They tell us that we must love each other and show that love by our behavior toward each other.

      The state of the world is a reflection of our negligence when it comes to this last part. If we would obey the Manifestations, the world (as even Bertrand Russell knew) would be transformed.

      I think discipline of mind is the glue that holds these things together. It keeps the knowledge from beginning and ending in mere words, as Baha’u’llah would say, keeps the devotion from never bearing fruit, and ensures that the actions are rightly guided by reason and wisdom.

      The action, if it bears fruit, inspires a greater desire for more knowledge, deeper devotion, and further action. One becomes more disciplined, as well.

      The Baha’i ideal is for these facets or stages of the spiritual journey to flow seamlessly together, to result in a cycle of spiritual behavior that carries the believer closer and closer to that mystic union with the Beloved. But that union is only part of the Goal—the Goal is the unity of mankind so that we are, as Baha’u’llah has written, as ““as one soul in many bodies, for the more we love each other, the nearer we shall be to God.”

  12. I’ll add info on jnana since my knowledge is mostly geared towards that yoga.

    Jnana Yoga
    (The Path of Spiritual Insight)

    Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge. Moksha is attained through Knowledge of Brahman. Release is achieved through realisation of the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or Brahman. The cause for bondage and suffering is Avidya or ignorance. The little Jiva foolishly imagines, on account of ignorance, that he is separate from Brahman. Avidya acts as a veil or screen and prevents the Jiva from knowing his real, divine nature. Knowledge of Brahman or Brahma-Jnana removes this veil and makes the Jiva rest in his own Sat-Chit-Ananda Svarupa (Essential Nature as Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute).
    ……
    Spiritual Insight And Intellectual Knowledge
    The Jnana-Yogin realises that Brahman is the Life of his life, the Soul of his soul. He feels and knows that God is his own Self. He realises that he is one with the Eternal through spiritual insight or intuition, Aparoksha Anubhuti or divine perception, but not through mere study of books or dogmas or theories. Religion is realisation for him now. It is not mere talk. He plunges himself in the deep recesses of his heart through constant and intense meditation – Nididhyasana – and gets the wonderful pearl of Atman, a wonderful treasure much more valuable than all the wealth of the world.

    Jnana is not mere intellectual knowledge. It is not hearing or acknowledging. It is not mere intellectual assent. It is direct realisation of oneness or unity with the Supreme Being. It is Para Vidya. Intellectual conviction alone will not lead you to Brahma-Jnana (Knowledge of the Absolute)…..

    Edited by moderator

  13. Finally, karma yoga which is last in my series but not least.

    Karma Yoga
    (Duty for Dutys Sake)

    Karma Yoga is the path of action. It is the path of disinterested service. It is the way that leads to the attainment of God through selfless work. It is the Yoga of renunciation of the fruits of actions.

    Karma Yoga teaches us how to work for works sake – unattached – and how to utilise to the best advantage the greater part of our energies. – Duty for Dutys Sake – is the motto of a Karma-Yogin. Work is worship for the practitioners of Karma Yoga. Every work is turned into an offering unto the Lord. The Karma Yogin is not bound by the Karmas, as he consecrates the fruits of his actions to the Lord. Yogah Karmasu Kausalam – Yoga is skill in action.
    ….

    Edited for length by moderator

  14. I should add extra info for raja yoga, but stop here because other yogas are listed less often.

    Raja Yoga
    (Discipline of the Mind)

    Raja Yoga is the path that leads to union with the Lord through self-restraint and control of mind. Raja Yoga teaches how to control the senses and the mental Vrittis or thought-waves that arise from the mind, how to develop concentration and how to commune with God. There is physical discipline in Hatha Yoga, whereas in Raja Yoga, there is discipline of the mind.

    Edited by moderator

  15. Bhagavad Gita Quotes on yogas

    on karma-yoga

    “Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.” 3-19

    on jnana-yoga

    “In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as spiritual knowledge, which is the mature fruit of all mysticism. One who has become accomplished in the practice of yoga enjoys this knowledge within himself in due course of time.” 4-38

    on raja-yoga

    “To practice astanga-yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusha grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should be neither too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses and activities and fixing the mind on one point.” 6-11&12

    on bhakti-yoga

    “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” 9-23

    Bhagavad-gita 3.19, 4.38, 6.11–12, 9.23

    Actually, as much as eighteen yogas are mentioned one for each chapter, but it’s hard to tell since the words are usually translated away in many English translations. I’m not an expert of these yogas so I would reccomend talking to actual Hindus with questions rather than me. It’s linked with concepts like samsara, moksha, and nirvana which are important concepts in Hidnusim, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Brahm Kumari, and Falun Gong.

    Also, while you’re at it you could ask the Hindus you chooses for your interview on my assessment of the Valleys and the Yogas.

  16. A person practicing a particular yoga doesn’t avoid or abandon the other yogas, but rather by focusing on one yoga a person naturally fulfills the other yogas in a way, but not in the same way a someone who focused on the other yogas. For example, Advatins or Vedantins may sometimes do stuff in line with bhakti, karma, raja, and other yogas, but they focus on jnana. As well, a Hare Krishna may sometimes do stuff in line with jnana, karma, raja, and other yogas, but they focus on bhakti. Advaita Vedanta and the Hare Krishna movement are just the examples that come first to my mind.

    Wikpedia pages have interesting info. Bhakti lists on Hindu examples. Jnana lists Buddhist and Hindu examples. Karma lists Buddhist, Falung Gong, Hindu, Jain, New Age, Sikh, and Theosophical examples. For example, a Hindu website lists Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet as karma yogis. Their souls are linked to Mahaloka in the Hindu cosmology.

    The four paths of Yoga are Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. These four paths of Yoga are aspects of a whole that is called Yoga. The four paths of Yoga work together, like fingers on a hand.

    Yoga is the preexisting union: Yoga means the realization in direct experience of the preexisting union between the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness. There are different ways of expressing this, including that Atman is one with Brahman, Jivatman is one with Paramatman, or Shiva and Shakti are one and the same. Each of these ways of saying it come from a different viewing point, while they are not essentially different points of view. They all point in the same general direction of union or Yoga.

    Not merely union of body and mind: It has become common to say that this union is merely the union of the physical body and the mind. This allows both teachers and practitioners to dodge the true meaning of Yoga so as to present it as being something other than a spiritual path such as only physical health or fitness. It also allows people to avoid any sense of conflict with limited religious views that have no place for such high direct experience.

    The four paths of Yoga: There are four traditional schools of Yoga, and these are: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. While a Yogi or Yogini may focus exclusively on one of these approaches to Yoga, that is quite uncommon. For the vast majority of practitioners of Yoga, a blending of the four traditional types of Yoga is most appropriate. One follows his or her own predisposition in balancing these different forms of Yoga.

    Jnana Yoga: Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation. It involves deep exploration of the nature our being by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities.

    Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, and service to God and others. All actions are done in the context of remembering the Divine.

    Karma Yoga: Karma Yoga is the path of action, service to others, mindfulness, and remembering the levels of our being while fulfilling our actions or karma in the world.

    Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga is a comprehensive method that emphasizes meditation, while encompassing the whole of Yoga. It directly deals with the encountering and transcending thoughts of the mind.

    Integration: It is popular these days for a teacher or institution to develop some approach to Yoga that “synthesizes” or “integrates” these four paths of Yoga (along with other component aspects of Yoga). However, that is misleading in that they were never really divided in the first place. It is not a matter of pasting together separate units. Rather, they are all a part of the whole which is called Yoga. Virtually all people have a predisposition towards one or the other, and will naturally want to emphasize those practices.

    Other paths of Yoga: Yoga is traditionally taught orally, rather than organized in books, which naturally are linear in nature, and are clustered into chapters. In oral teachings, there is a natural movement from one to another of the aspects of Yoga, including between the four paths of Yoga. Books and organization are useful, but we need to remember that Yoga is, in fact, a whole which has different aspects. For example, in the text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Hatha Yoga (often called “physical yoga”) is described as also related to Kundalini Yoga. It also explains that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is Raja Yoga. Thus, we can easily see the relationship of Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga as being parts or aspects of Raja Yoga, which is one of the traditional four paths of Yoga.

    We can’t abandon the others: While it is definitely true that we each have predispositions towards one or another of the four paths of Yoga, we cannot really avoid or abandon the others.

    Jnana Yoga: While Jnana Yoga deals with knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation, everybody has a mind and at some point will need to examine it, wherein quiet reflection naturally comes.

    Bhakti Yoga: All people will experience emotions such as love, compassion, and devotion at points along the journey, regardless of which of the four paths of Yoga is predominant.

    Karma Yoga: Nobody can live in a body and the world without doing actions. Even a renunciate living in a Himalayan cave has to do some form of actions, and thus, some degree of Karma Yoga is essential.

    Raja Yoga: Everybody will become still and quite from sadhana or spiritual practices, will naturally encounter and deal with attractions and aversion, and will meditate, thus touching on Raja Yoga.

    Yoga classes: One thing that can lead to some confusion about the four paths of Yoga is the modern “yoga class” which often focuses mostly (if not completely) on physical postures. By referring to postures classes as “yoga classes” one is left with the false impression that this, unto itself, is the meaning of “Yoga.” It is important to understand that asanas (postures) are a small, though surely useful, part of Yoga. It would be far better that such classes be called “postures classes” though that seems now unlikely to happen. In any case, the seeker of the authentic goals of Yoga will need to discern amongst usages of the word “Yoga” so as to follow the four paths of Yoga.

    Choosing a path: Although the four paths of Yoga work together, along with the companion aspects of Yoga, it is extremely useful to be mindful of which of the four paths of Yoga is most in alignment with your own predispositions. By identifying that path, it can be emphasized in life, and the others can be wisely, lovingly used to enhance the chosen path of Yoga.

    1. The emphasis of Baha’u’llah, as that of Krishna, is that one’s beliefs (their knowledge, devotion, wisdom, reason) must result in action (karma) or their yoga is fruitless.

      The emphasis in Baha’u’llah’s teachings are—appropriately, less centered Self and personal salvation and perfection—than with benefiting the world. Of course, the transformation of the the species must begin with the transformation of its component parts, but the POINT of our personal transformation is the transformation of the world.

      So, to a Baha’i, karma yoga is not a “nice to have” or a “complement” to the other facets of yoga, but their logical fruition.

      1. Maya, you seemed to ignore the definition of dharma in the link above.

        Dharma (Righteousness) is that which accomplishes all of the following:

        It keeps the social system in an excellent condition.
        It brings about the progress of all sentient beings.
        It causes progress in the spiritual realm.

      2. You seem to favor the ladder analogy over the mountain analogy. The only website I saw with a description of the ladder analogy is one sole Vaishnava website.

        http://hinduism.iskcon.org/concepts/109.htm

        The ladder has karma yoga as the root rather than the fruit. Karma begets jnana which begets raja which begets bhakti. Though, the differences between the mountain and ladder analogies require familiarity with both the monistic Advaita Vedanta and the theistic Vaishnavas.

        You also seem to see the individual and collective prefections and salvations as different and seperate rather than interlinked. I never said one should exclude one from the other. They are two sides of a coin. They naturally create each other. They mutually reinforce each other. By improving individuals you improve the world and by improving the world, you improve individuals. You don’t do one as a means and one as an ends. They are both ends in themselves and the both are means to each other at the same time. As within, so without. I adapted that from a Kyablion aphorism.

        The law of karma mandates action even if one isn’t a karma yogi. Yogas aren’t general paths to follow, but rather parts of the path people specialize in. While people can have general practice in all of most of the yogas, people can only specialize in one or maybe more than one.

        While I generally favor the mountain, I see some merit in the ladder analogy. A person only needs to know that good actions lead to good reactions and bad actions lead to bad reactions to practice karma yoga. Even ignorant and un devoted people can do good and abstain from evil. Obviously, you can see from the world around you people climbing the latter in various way. Usually, karma is the first and not the last rung of the latter. Karma and action precedes rather than follows other things like meditation, monist wisdom, love, etc. The eight limbs of yogas are a good illustration. The first two legs are karma related. The next two are hatha related. The last four are jnana related.

        I do have a known favoritism of the Vedanta perspective over the Vaishnava perspective, which includes my favoring the mountain analogy over the ladder analogy.

        Ladder analogy
        This metaphor is used by the personalistic bhakti schools which claim that love of God is the ultimate goal.
        The bottom of the ladder is the beginning of spiritual life (selfless actions through karma-yoga). The top of the ladder represents loving union with God (bhakti). At a particular stage (on one step) one may be known by that name (e.g. hatha-yogi) but if she progresses she will ultimately come to the topmost platform. Anyone who is making progress should not be criticised even if practicing on a relatively low level.

        Mountain analogy
        This analogy is favoured by the advaita schools. All paths are considered equal and chosen according to personal inclination.

        While the focus has been so far on Hinduism, you can generalize to other religions. Explicit references to karma yoga can be found in Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, New Age, Theospohy, Brahma Kumaris, Falun Gong, etc. Explicit refernces to jnana yoga can also be found in Buddhism.

        Just look at how much the words have permeated the English language. Karma is a well known word in the general public. Jnana is usually limited to followers of Eastern religion and their Western spin-offs like New Age and Theosophy. Bhakti is limited even more to specific sects of followers of Eastern religions like Hare Krishnas.

        I do recognize that most New Agers (general term for all Western spin-offs of Eastern religions) practice some kind of syntethic hybrid form of jnana-karma yoga. The law of karma is important not to ignore. Any Easterner or New Ager knows that good deeds are seeds rather than fruits.

        1. I’m not sure why you would assume that I favor one analogy over another. I “favor” whichever analogy makes the most apt comparison situationally.

          Note how many different metaphors the Scriptures use for things. They use the analogy of a ladder to describe the effects of music on the soul. Then again, they also use “wings”.

          They use a mountain to describe the journey toward God (as when Krishna describes how there are many paths that go to the top of the mountain), they use a series of valleys.

          They use the relationship of Sun to Moon or Sun to Mirror to describe the relationship between God and Manifestation and man. And they use both Lamps containing or reflecting Light and Mirrors to describe the Manifestation of God. But then they also use the metaphor of a Tree. The Manifestation is also figured as the Beloved, as a Shepherd, as a Divine Gardener, and as a Divine Physician.

          I couldn’t mention all of the metaphors for different concepts if I tried and they are, by their very nature, imbued with personal meaning. A metaphor that speaks eloquently to you and resonates deeply in your soul may not have the same effect on me and vice versa. That is why the Tathagata reveals Himself in various and sundry ways, isn’t it?

          1. Oh, the concept of favoring an analogy over another requires knowledge of Advaitins and Vaishnavas. Though, I wonder about all the others listed as well (Jains to New Agers in that earlier post)?

            Though I do my best to study Hinduism, Buddhism, Ahmadiyya, Esoteric Christianity, Neo Gnosticism, I Kuan Tao, Scientology, Raëlism, Adi Dam, etc.

          2. “the concept of favoring an analogy over another requires knowledge of Advaitins and Vaishnavas.”

            No, I don’t think so. I think it just requires understanding the concept of analogy. 🙂

            I studied many of those things you mention, too, as I sought a Path. But once I had determined my Path, I found it was necessary to focus a bit more on putting principle into practice. Which is not to say that I don’t still crave new knowledge, but I use it differently, I suppose.

    2. I forgot to add the link on the Bill Gates, I had to archive binge for it because the original website had jumbled up the original page and needs fixing.

      http://www.articlesbase.com/spirituality-articles/spiritual-research-on-the-spiritual-life-of-bill-gates-371886.html

      Side Note: Bill Gates is Agnostic, but spiritual. Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, Buddhists, (some Hindus as well) and others have simmilar spiritualities that don’t involve God (or faith in or devotion to such a being). They do qualify for doing good works, meditation, and insight into the cosmos.

  17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_interpretation_of_religion

    Religion is the quest for wholeness and health, individually and collectively. More emphasis is put on collectively due to the collective consciousness. Religions helps bring structure. Religions are both normative and dynamic at the same time. Religions are both objective and subjective at the same time. Religion prepares profound transformations and life processes. God, transecedence, holiness, sanctity, sacredness, the soul, etc. are various integral parts of the journey. It’s about achieving union with a supreme otherworldly fullness, the Absolute. Waking life, dreams, meditation, and death are all parts of this transformative process.

    I have seen humanity as a whole given the diagnosis of schizophrenia due to lack of the above paragraph. It was descriptive of people projecting their shadows on others and other collective neuroses.

    1. Mankind certainly does seem to have a case of schizophrenia. I’ve come to the conclusion that it arises from our having evolved in animal bodies and that we are still grappling with the reality that we are not merely animals with animal desires and needs.

      1. To quote Man and His Symbols, a compilation of various psychologists.

        “Our times have demonstrated what it means for the gates of the underworld to be opened. Things whose enormity nobody could have imagined in the idyllic harmlessness of the first decade of our century have happened and have turned our world upside down. Ever since, the world has remained in a state of schizophrenia. Not only has civilized Germany disgorged its terrible primitivity, but Russia is also ruled by it, and Africa has been set on fire. No wonder that the Western world feels uneasy.
        Modern man does not understand how much his “rationalism” (which has destroyed his capacity to respond to numinous symbols and ideas) has put him at the mercy of the psychic “underworld.” He has freed himself from “superstition” (or so he believes), but in the process he has lost his spiritual values to a positively dangerous degree. His moral and spiritual tradition has disintegrated, and he is now paying the price for this break-up in worldwide disorientation and dissociation.
        Anthropologists have often described what happens to a primitive society when its spiritual values are exposed to the impact of modern civilization. Its people lose the meaning of their lives, their social organization disintegrates, and[…]”

        Excerpt From: Carl Gustav Jung. “Man and His Symbols.” Dell, 2011-11-30. iBooks.
        This material may be protected by copyright.

        Check out this book on the iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/man-and-his-symbols/id493846592?mt=11

        “Anthropologists have often described what happens to a primitive society when its spiritual values are exposed to the impact of modern civilization. Its people lose the meaning of their lives, their social organization disintegrates, and they themselves morally decay. We are now in the same condition. But we have never really understood what we have lost, for our spiritual leaders unfortunately were more interested in protecting their institutions than in understanding the mystery that symbols present. In my opinion, faith does not exclude thought (which is man’s strongest weapon), but unfortunately many believers seem to be so afraid of science (and incidentally of psychology) that they turn a blind eye to the numinous psychic powers that forever control man’s fate. We have stripped all things of their mystery and numinosity; nothing is holy any longer.”

        Excerpt From: Carl Gustav Jung. “Man and His Symbols.” Dell, 2011-11-30. iBooks.
        This material may be protected by copyright.

        Check out this book on the iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/man-and-his-symbols/id493846592?mt=11

        1. Jung said a mouthful.

          We sometimes forget that the word “primitive” has multiple meanings and that sometimes we use the term pejoratively without just cause. Sometimes it merely that a society and the individuals in it are close to their primary or primal relationships with their environment, with God and with their Selves and with each other.

    2. I see religion in that light, also. And that is what the Baha’i Faith teaches it is. It is, as Buddha and Baha’u’llah both say, the medicine necessary for our health. That is not all it is, of course. It’s the spark that lights the flame of our hearts and souls, if we let it do that. It is the vehicle of transformation.

      So, I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with this.

  18. http://www.whatsyourdosha.com/

    I took the Dosha quiz for medical reasons, but it Ayurveda had spiritual imiplications as well. Vata, Pita, and Kapha are the three. They correspond to aptititude for karma, jnana, and raja yogas respectively. I took both the above quiz and the Deepak Chopra one. Just google or Bing Dosha quiz and you’ll find tons.

    My Vata Dosha and karma yoga go extremely well together. I have had some work on jnana yoga with mixed results. I gradually understand the Mahavakayas more and more. I have an interest in (though not an aptititude for) Advaita Vedanta (and the philosophies it was based off of ie Madhyamaka and Yogacara).

    1. Snarf! I went and checked it out. I didn’t find any categories that fit me. Either none of the three descriptions apply, or more than one apply equally.

      I got a chuckle out of the idea that you can concoct a “unique” dosha profile with such limited answers.

      There is, too, the fact that people may be different things at different points in their life—even physically.

        1. I couldn’t get to part two because I couldn’t give real answers to part one. I’d have to make up a “me” that didn’t really exist in order to get to part two.

          1. I recommend taking the column most filled out and use that as the default for the ones where you can’t accurately pick out. I do have this alternative/traditional medicine thing that I view as important. Healthcare is an important issue recently. Is there an Ayurveda doctor in your area? I recently was driving to McDonald’s and noticed such a doctor a couple blocks aways. She does various forms of alternative medicine.

  19. Maya, do you agree with Krishna, like you quoted, that everything is Krishna? In other words, that I am God, you are God, the moon is God, the city of New York is God? Or that they are parts of God, like in pantheism? Because that is so very different from what the Bible teaches, or the Qur’an. For example Peter and Paul in the Bible both denied being God. Moses denied that the golden calf was God. The Qur’an even denies that Jesus is God.

    1. I agree with Krishna that God (or the Divine) can be seen in all creation.

      The Torah (Old Testament) puts it this way: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.” — Psalm 19

      However, I do not agree with the human interpretation that insists all things are literally of the same substance as God. Krishna addresses this seeming paradox directly in the Bhagavad Gita:

      “All the visible universe comes from my invisible Being. All beings have their rest in me, but I have not My rest in them, And in truth they rest not in Me. Consider my sacred mystery: I am the source of all beings, I support them all, but I rest not in them.” — Bhagavad Gita 9:4

      As a writer, I understand this somewhat, as I’ve noted in other articles on this site. I am in my books, the worlds I create, my characters, but I rest not in them. They do not define me and I am more than they are, though they reflect me.

      That is how I understand Krishna’s statement that where we see the One, God is in that One and where we see the many, God is in that many. Baha’u’llah says that every atom of the universe reflects the glory and attributes of God, but of all creation, only man is endowed with what He calls “the robe of such gifts” and capable of reflecting all the names and attributes of God. And of all men, only the Manifestation of God—such as the Lord Jesus Christ—reflect His glory with perfection such that we can see God’s face in Theirs.

      1. OK, I am sorry that I did not check other translations of Bhagavad Gita. When I was investigating, several years ago, whether Hinduism could be the right religion, I bought ultimately 5 translations of Bhagavad Gita, including the one you quoted in your blog, of Easwaran. And the verse you quoted from his translation, 9:15, is very badly translated by him. So when I read your blog article, I assumed that Krishna meant all things are Krishna, because he translated “all are me”. That would be true pantheism, but that is not what verse 15 really teaches. The interlinear translation of Sargeant translates it faithfully “And by the wisdom sacrifice, others, sacrificing, worship Me as the one and as the manifold, variously manifested, facing in all directions (i.e. omniscient).” So Krishna teaches there he is variously manifested. That is far from pantheism, so you are right. It seems to be a similar concept like the modalism of Oneness Pentecostals, as God not of 3 persons as Trinitarian Christians teach, but a God who is one, with 3 modes or manifestations, the Father, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, but they are one, so the Father is Jesus and he is the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, Trinitarian dogma says the Father is not the Son, and he is not the Holy Spirit either, they are 3 distinct persons, who speak to each other etc. But with Oneness Pentecostals, when Jesus speaks to the Father, it is the human Jesus speaking to the God Jesus, so the 3 manifestations are not distinct beings who talk to each other, but one.
        Still, you Baha’is consider Krishna as one of the Manifestations, so you are desperately trying to harmonize the Bhagavad Gita, and other Hindu scriptures (after all, in 9:17, Krishna says he is the Vedas), with the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Baha’i scriptures, and that can’t be done, without seriously misinterpreting the meanings. I realize that sometimes the meanings are not clear, the New Testament is especially notorious in this, so no wonder the thousands of denominations differ on so many teachings. And in fact, I have now seen how in Bhagavad Gita 9:4-5, Krishna consciously contradicts himself, saying first “all beings abide in me”, but then saying “but yet beings do not abide in me”. Or in the translation you used “all beings have their rest in me… And in truth they rest not in Me”. So Krishna is somehow mysteriously trying to tell us that the two opposite concepts are both true. But anyway, Bhagavad Gita is clearly monotheistic, while the Vedas are clearly polytheistic, and trying to squeeze monotheism into them, as many Hindus try to do nowadays, and as I guess you Baha’is are doing, is really stretching it. And the Bhagavad Gita is for example clearly teaching reincarnation, verse 9:3 says “Men who have no faith in this knowledge, Arjuna, not attaining to Me, are born again in the path of death and transmigration.:” That is very different from the concept of one life, followed by one eternal afterlife (except some verses in the Bible speak of the unworthy being destroyed, so some Christian groups teach there is no eternal afterlife for the unworthy, they perish, as the Bible says), with no reincarnation, as taught by the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Baha’i scriptures. I know some Christians and some Jews do believe in reincarnation, but they twist the Bible to teach that. Likewise the Alawi Shiite Muslims teach reincarnation, but they twist the Qur’an’s meaning. I don’t see it in those books. Just one life, then either death or conscious existence of the soul (the Bible is contradictory about it) until the future resurrection, on the Day of Judgement in the Qur’an or the Old Testament, or 1000 years earlier (or the Day of Judgement lasts 1000 years) in the book of Revelation. Then your Baha’i scriptures deny the future bodily resurrection and the future Day of Judgement, reinterpreting them from the Bible and the Qur’an beyond all original meaning. And there are various conflicts between the Qur’an and the Bible, like whether Jesus is the Son of God, or God has no sons, or whether Jesus was crucified or not. And various conflicts between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and between various passages in the New Testament. I am sorry to say the New Testament was very badly written. Yet conservative Christians find harmony throughout all the Bible, twisting the meanings of passages. And you, Baha’is, similarly find harmony in comparing the whole Bible, the Qur’an, the Hindu scriptures, and the Buddhist scriptures. Somehow no contradictions. Initially, the Baha’i faith seemed very attractive to me, but when I got deeply into it, I just could not accept it. Sorry to sound so negative, but I am beginning to think I will never find the right religion, at least not before I die, if there is life after death. And I hope so much for a good life after death. I hope you can answer me, tell me where I am wrong in what I wrote. I am going to bed already, so I will not be answering your answer below yet. Have a good weekend.

        1. Hi, Tom,

          You raised several points in your comment. First, the Trinity, which is something I’ve seen a number of theologians explain using coat hangers and 3-in-One oil.

          Baha’u’llah’s explanation of this relationship resonates most strongly with me and with the Christians I’ve shared it with as well. He likens God to the Sun and the Manifestations of God (divine Teachers) to perfect Mirrors. The Holy Spirit is like the beam of sunlight that falls from the Sun into the Mirror and creates there a perfect reflection of the Sun such that we can behold its light and feel its warmth. We can look at the Mirrored image and say, “That’s the Sun” or we can say “That’s a Mirror reflecting the Sun.” Both are correct. The Manifestation, Baha’u’llah says, has a dual nature: He is human and he is divine and at various points in His teachings speaks from either of those positions:

          “He hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself. He hath, moreover, conferred upon Him a double station. The first station, which is related to His innermost reality, representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself.” — Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, XXVII

          You wrote: “Still, you Baha’is consider Krishna as one of the Manifestations, so you are desperately trying to harmonize the Bhagavad Gita, and other Hindu scriptures (after all, in 9:17, Krishna says he is the Vedas), with the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Baha’i scriptures, and that can’t be done, without seriously misinterpreting the meanings.”

          We Bahai’s didn’t wake up one morning and decide to try to reconcile the scriptures. Rather, Baha’u’llah said that if we looked at the scriptures themselves for ourselves without the interpretations of theologians and sectarian dogma, we’d find that though cultural and social teachings differed the spiritual message was the same. When I first heard this, I was a born-again, Bible-believing Christian. There was no greater skeptic. But I did what Baha’u’llah suggested. I read the verses attributed to Krishna and Buddha and Zoroaster and Muhammad and of course the words of Baha’u’llah, and I found Him to be correct.

          I’ll try to find a way to share with you a study I did of five essential questions of Faith (Who is God, How can we know God, etc) and sought answers from the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist scriptures, Bible and Baha’u’llah’s writings. The answers reconcile themselves.

          I have to leave momentarily, but I will try to speak to the rest of your comments at a later time,

          1. The problem is that Bahais don’t differentiate between the Bahai scriptures and the Bahai Faith. While there is a spiritual core to religion, Bahais feel that the core and the Bahai Faith are identical.

            It’s intresting that your interpretation of the Trinity is the same as that of Jewish/Christian/Hermetic Kabbalah/Cabbalah/Qabbalah. It would be complex to explain the whole concept of Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Sop Aur, and the ten Sephiroth. To summarize, God central pillar is Keter (Father or Crown), Daat (sometimes listed here, sometimes part of Binah), Tiefereth (Son), Yeshod (Holy Spirit), and Malkuth. All the complexities of Kabbalah are to hard to explain even after forty years of study of it according to tradition.

            I’ve studied Hermeticism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc. and found a core to all religions, but I still differ in interpretations than you Maya. The problem with getting from this doctrine to any specific doctrines can be exemplified with the various ways scriptures can harmonize themselves.

            Any article on any religious article will show how the Bahai position on any religious topic differs from those of other religions. Generally, Bahais interpret other scriptures by reading Bahai doctrines into them rather than just harmonizing them naturally. The problem with Bahai doctrine in part is whether or not Bahaullah really taught any given Bahai doctrine.

            The problem comes to specific doctrines lie life after death, personal God, and various other doctrines. Any article on the Bahai Faith and Hinduism and Buddhism will show Bahais reading Bahai doctrines into Hinduism and Buddhism and never the inverse.

          2. Stephen, you wrote: “The problem is that Bahais don’t differentiate between the Bahai scriptures and the Bahai Faith. While there is a spiritual core to religion, Bahais feel that the core and the Bahai Faith are identical.”

            No, this is not what we believe. We believe that, as Shoghi Effendi put it, an attempt to sever the spiritual teachings of the Faith from its administrative aspects would be “tantamount to a mutilation of the body of the Cause”. The institutions of the Faith and its community must remain centered in those teachings or disintegration will ensue. This is exactly what we see in previous revelations—the spiritual teachings of the Prophet were torn away or at least sequestered from the practice of the faith such that you have the horrific spectacle of Christians killing Christians over points of doctrine (such as the Trinity or the nature of Christ), or Buddhist monks committing violent acts against other religionists, or Muslim suicide bombers, or children holding up signs that say “God Hates .”

            We understand that the Faith as revealed and embodied in the institutions is different than the Faith as practiced. At least, I think most of us do. I’m sure there are exceptions. We are allowed to have our own understandings of how to practice the spiritual principles. We are not all the same. We each have different capacities and different strengths and weaknesses and different ways of working out our destinies in the world and our understanding of the Faith. And that’s wonderful, actually.

            You wrote: “Any article on any religious article will show how the Bahai position on any religious topic differs from those of other religions”

            Yes, interesting, that. And I’d be willing to bet that Buddha’s position on Buddhism is different than the various commentators that have sought to either analyze or create doctrine out of His teachings. I see the teachings of Buddha as a vein of gold in the matrix of what people over the centuries have thought and said about His teachings and His person. To me, the Baha’i Teachings—though in a different language suited to a different time, are literally in that same vein. I don’t need to read “Baha’i Doctrines” (whatever the heck those are) into Krishna’s or Buddha’s revelations (or any other) because they’re already there.

          3. I forgot to list Universal Sufism, Theosophy, Thelema, etc. as examples of groups whose beliefs are based on a spiritual core to all religions. For example, you disagreed with the doctrine of initiations, despite being based on a belief you agree with. This also applies to any specific doctrines like monism, pantheism, reincarnation, impersonal Absolute God, etc.

          4. Stephen, I’m not sure what this comment pertains to. I have never said that other groups don’t teach there is a spiritual core to all religions. If you thought that, you misunderstood what I said.

            Also, I’m not sure how I can “disagree with the doctrine of initiations” since we have never discussed this, nor am I completely clear on what you mean by it. Please, please, please, stop trying to stick me in a labeled box. The only label I wear with regard to my spiritual Path is Baha’i. While there are certain things that all Baha’is agree on, the purely personal spiritual path and understanding is unique to each of us.

        2. I apologize for the hugeness of this response. Your raise some key points and I’d like to address them all. In fact, I’m going to break this up.

          You wrote: “I realize that sometimes the meanings are not clear … And in fact, I have now seen how in Bhagavad Gita 9:4-5, Krishna consciously contradicts himself … Krishna is somehow mysteriously trying to tell us that the two opposite concepts are both true. But anyway, Bhagavad Gita is clearly monotheistic, while the Vedas are clearly polytheistic, and trying to squeeze monotheism into them, as many Hindus try to do nowadays, and as I guess you Baha’is are doing, is really stretching it.”

          1) Sometimes meanings are not clear because they are beyond our ken as the Scots would say. We’re not there yet. There are things we accept today as scientific fact that seemed fantastic before we were able to grasp their significance.

          2) In the spirit of my article on polarities I offer this from another article that will appear in coming months at http://www.bahaiteachings.org.

          First, the quote from Krishna: “All the visible universe comes from my invisible Being. All beings have their rest in me, but I have not My rest in them, And in truth they rest not in Me. Consider my sacred mystery: I am the source of all beings, I support them all, but I rest not in them.” (Bhagavad Gita 9:4)

          As a writer, I “get” what He means. I can be said to be “in” the books I write. I created the characters and laws and plot out of my innermost thoughts and imagination, and the characters continue to live and grow in my mind. But I’m not literally in the book. I am not encompassed or defined by the story in the pages, nor do I have to abide by the laws I establish for my fictional universe. Yet, there is a lot of “me” in it. The book reflects my emotions about certain things and people; it reveals my thought processes and, in some instances, will actually show you glimpses of my life. So, with Krishna, I can say “All my visible literary universe comes from my invisible being. All characters have their rest (and origin) in me, but I don’t rest in them. Really, they don’t rest in me. I am their source, and I support them all by writing about them, but I’m not in them.” In other words, I’m not defined by them or limited by them. I don’t begin and end in them, but rather transcend them. Their reality is a reflection of my reality and my intellect.

          So, I don’t see the polarization or conflict in what Krishna says. I comprehend it, in fact.

          A metaphor that Bahá’u’lláh uses that also clarifies this is to imagine God as the physical Sun. What Jews and Christians call the Holy Spirit as a beam of light (which has a dual nature), and the divine Teacher as a perfect Mirror that reflects the light and shows to those of us to care to look the full glory of the Sun in a way that we can understand. The Sun appears in the mirror, but it is no “in” the Mirror. It remains in the physical sky. But insofar as our human senses are concerned, the Sun is in the mirror.

          3) Krishna doesn’t deny the polytheistic bent of the Vedic tradition. But the Vedas, I think, are much like the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs in the Bible—they are men toying with the ideas that the Manifestations have brought. It’s as if we’ve taken this pure light and ensconced it in a vessel of increasingly complexity and ornamentation such that the original light is eventually obscured.

          Krishna in fact, speaks to this very dichotomy in several places in the Bhagavad Gita concluding that “those who worship the gods go to the gods”, then noting that in the end, all worship comes back to Him. Hence, some Hindus understand that what men take as separate entities are aspects or names or personifications of a single Entity. Think of a child going through school. My daughter’s first grade teacher taught her that there was nothing less than zero. She was upset when her third grade teacher started to teach her about negative numbers. She thought her first grade teacher had lied. From her point of view, they were telling her conflicting things. But from the point of view of the teachers—who were drawing from age-appropriate curricula—they were telling her what she needed to know at that time.

          Imparting spiritual truths is much like trying to impart to a child in the womb information about trees, sun, water, other people, all very real things that it has no frame of reference to understand. Even the concepts of time, space, air—an invisible substance that will be essential to her life outside the womb—are hopelessly alien.

          So, to describe the sun in terms a fetus might understand, I’d have to use its framework. God is like the placenta that’s keeping you alive. You’d look at that and say well, first you said God was like the Sun and now you’re saying God is like a placenta and the two things are nothing alike. BUT they are alike within the specific frame of reference. Both confer warmth, life and sustenance either directly or indirectly.

          The Buddha is alleged to have said: “And as all things originate from one Essence, so they are developing according to one law, and they are destined to one aim which is Nirvana (The Kingdom of God). Nirvana comes wto thee when thou understandest thoroughly and livest according to that understanding, that all things are of one Essence and that there is but one law. Hence, there is but one Nirvana as there is but one truth, not two or three. And the Tathagata (the Righteous One or Anointed One) is the same to all beings, differing in attitude only so far as all beings are different. The Tathagata, however, knows the law whose essence is salvation, and whose end is the peace of Nirvana. He is the same to all, and yet knowing the requirements of every single being, He does not reveal Himself to all alike.” –Sanskrit Dharmapada)

          So, which is it? Is He the same to all or different to all, you might ask. And I might observe that perhaps that is not a relevant question. Using my example above, God is revealed to both the fetus and the grown man as the same sort of Being—a Giver of Life. But given the completely different frames of reference, He reveals Himself differently.

          I’ll respond to the comment on the afterlife separately.

        3. The way the scriptures speak of the “afterlife” is frankly widely varied. This makes sense to me, considering the differing frames of reference AND the fact that whatever the truth, we could no more grasp it that the child in the womb could really grasp the concept that he was leaving that safe, dark, close place to go to a world of light and air and many, many people.

          Here’s what Baha’u’llah says about the station of the soul after death: “Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. …The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. … The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother. When the soul attaineth the Presence of God, it will assume the form that best befitteth its immortality and is worthy of its celestial habitation.” — Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXXI

          I read this to a group of Christians at a cult night their church put on. We were having a lively discussion of Biblical concepts about the soul and afterlife, but especially Paul’s treatise on resurrection and rebirth in I Corinthians 15. We first dissected Paul’s words, then looked at what Baha’u’llah said. The Christians—who had started the evening quite hostile to the Faith—agreed that what Paul said and what Bahá’u’lláh said were in perfect harmony and we happily came to the conclusion that this was something we could not, from our present frame of reference, understand. Hence, the use of metaphor.

          Within the Gospels and epistles you can see first Christ, then Paul counseling believers who are struggling with immaterial concepts. Witness Nicodemus striving to understand the concept of spiritual rebirth and asking in all seriousness if he needed to go back into his mother’s womb and the Corinthians supposing that the human body would be corporeally raised up from the grave it had been disintegrating in (a notion that resulted in Rutherford Hayes’ belief that we would be literally “remembered” by God. Though Paul is very clear that the body that is sown is not anything like what is reaped (and he uses a variety of metaphors to try to get this idea across), yet I went to churches whose doctrines included a bodily resurrection and a life lived somewhere in that physical body.

          The idea of a static “heaven” (or that there’s nothing less than zero) may have seemed … well, heavenly to some people at some time, but ultimately neither proposition makes much sense when you start fleshing out the details via your imagination. How old is this perfect body? Are you your parents’ child or your children’s mother? Can you have more children? if not, are you missing those unnecessary reproductive bits? Do you need to eat? If not, would you still have a stomach and yards of intestine? Do we need to exercise to stay fit? If not, would we require limbs, muscles, bones? If we had missing limbs, do they come back? Will we live in houses made of the same materials that we use here? If our resurrected selves don’t live on earth, where do we live? Is there gravity? Our bodies evolved for gravity. If we live in a placeless heavenly realm, why do we need bodies at all?

          Physical resurrection did not make sense to me the more I thought about it and the more I studied Christ’s words and the Epistles, the less sense it made. What made sense was that the terminology and metaphor that Christ and Paul use is aimed at our human, physical frame of reference. Paul comes closest to imploding the idea of resurrection by using several different metaphors (seed and grain, moon and sun) but it’s something that Christ said that made me look at the scriptures about the nature of being human differently. It was this:

          “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” — John 6:63

          That verse catalyzed a search of scripture in which I looked at all other references to life and death and rebirth and resurrection with that key in hand. Ultimately, I arrived at the conclusion that we had “tickled our ears” as Christ might say by “humanizing” scripture rather than allowing scripture to spiritualize us.

          Baha’u’llah’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s writings made sense of all of this for me by taking the things that Christ said (some of which Krishna and Buddha and others also have said), starting with some of the metaphors He used, and then going into more detail with greater clarity.

          One last thing, about the 1000 years of judgement. Baha’i scripture doesn’t deny it at all, but views it as a spiritual judgement that takes place after the appearance of a divine Messenger. The fruits of our success or lack thereof with previous teachings are judged. In other words, what have we done with what we’ve been given? Christ hints at this when He says that His word will judge those who reject Him in the last days. I didn’t for the longest time understand what that meant—how could His word judge us? I suppose it should have been obvious—or would have been if I’d read the Gospels with an eye to extracting guidance rather than seeing what my pastor told me to see—He’s saying we will be judged by how well we have kept His word (and of course put it into practice).

          And thanks, I had a GREAT weekend at a regional science fiction and fantasy convention we did concerts and panels and stayed up playing music with a bunch of our friends until the wee hours. I’m working on sleep dep at the moment 🙂

          1. Thanks, Maya, for your answers. I see now you reject the Vedas as scripture and accept the Bhagavad Gita as scripture. But as I already mentioned, the Bhagavad Gita teaches reincarnation, as I mentioned about verse 9:3. Yet the Baha’i faith rejects reincarnation. The Bible and the Qur’an do teach the future resurrection of the body, at some point in the future, though of course Christians have varying views on the point, some say it will be for all on the Day of Judgement, some say during the 1000 years, some say that the righteous will be resurrected at the beginning of the millennium, the unrighteous at the end of the millennium, some have 3 resurrections, but either way, the resurrection of the body is not the state right after death but some point in the future. 1 Cor. 15 is specific a little about the resurrected body of the righteous, that it will be a glorified spiritual body. It also says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom. I don’t know however how Mormons interpret this, since they believe that even the Father has a body of flesh. Jesus also taught that we will be like angels, not married. So I guess he implied not producing children. Though Mormons claim Jesus was not talking about those believers who will become Gods and produce children on their new planets. So the New Testament does have some answers. Of course it does not say whether we would have reproductive organs anyway in that spiritual body, but Jesus and Paul had presumably reproductive organs which they just did not use, if we interpret the New Testament to imply they never married and never had children. Either way the resurrection is claimed to be future, rather than as you say something we can’t understand.
            Anyway, you have not answered me about the other contradictions, not only the reincarnation in Bhagavad Gita, but likewise where the Qur’an disagrees with the New Testament and Baha’i teachings, like that Jesus was not crucified (it only seemed like he was, the Qur’an says), or that Jesus is not a Son of God, the Qur’an says God has no sons or daughters, while the New Testament says Jesus is the Son of God (though Christians argue whether that implies he is God, or just God’s Son without being God), and that believers are sons of God. So God does have sons. And the New Testament is clear Jesus was crucified, and later resurrected and appeared to over 500 people, and even ate a fish. But Abdul-Baha goes against those clear words, and indicates the resurrection was not literal, just some reenergized enthusiasm among his followers. So he did not literally appear to the apostles and the 500, and did not eat fish. Still, your Baha’i Faith agrees with the New Testament about the crucifixion, and disagrees sharply with the Qur’an. You just desperately try to harmonize the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, just like Christians desperately try to harmonize the Jewish Bible with the New Testament, and also try to harmonize disagreeing verses of the New Testament with each other. All using fanciful metaphorical non-literal interpretations. Like the verse in the Jewish Bible saying God took Israel out of Egypt, and the New Testament interprets it metaphorically as a prophecy of Jesus being taken out of Egypt while a baby, having fled there from Herod. So suddenly Israel became the Christ, how weird. The Samaritans have it easiest, they harmonize just the five books of the Pentateuch, not too difficult. The Jews have it harder, they have to harmonize all the books of the Jewish Bible, more difficult. The Christians have it far more difficult, they have to harmonize all 66 or 73 or how many books each sect believes in. And the Baha’is have it the most difficult of all, they have to harmonize the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita and other books connected with Krishna, and the books ascribed to Buddha, a massive endless task. And then often ending with the answer, we don’t know how to interpret that verse. I don’t envy your massive task. Though some parts, like the contradictory commands about divorce in the New Testament, are simply dismissed by saying that is not for us today, so who cares if we don’t understand the New Testament commands. But the non-command parts cannot be dismissed so easily.

    2. Also, I wanted to respond to your other comment on HuffPost, so I moved it here. You wrote:

      “I could agree with you about breaking relationship with those members of the small Baha’i offshoots who actually do hate you Baha’is in the large Baha’i Faith, but I sure don’t think that is true of all members of these groups.”

      Tom, Covenant Breakers by definition are people, who, while they still consider themselves to be Baha’is actively work to undermine the administrative order of the Faith and disrupt Baha’i communities. If they are not actively engaged in this or have not allied themselves with those who do so, then they would not be considered Covenant Breakers. Trust me, it takes a lot for someone to be declared a Covenant Breaker. It’s not the same as simply breaking Baha’i law. And despite what you may suppose, Baha’is have a lot of latitude in our individual understandings of spiritual principles and precepts. This is not a controlling Faith. It is very much a hands-on faith that requires a lot of individual input. This blog is one example of that.

      “Wouldn’t you support changing the doctrine and not shunning those members of such groups who are kind to you and simply disagree with you about which Baha’i covenant is valid?”

      First, there is only one Person who could change this doctrine and that is another Manifestation of God. The laws of the Faith are not made up by a committee or council or even by the House of Justice. They cannot change the explicit guidance of the Sacred Text. They can only clarify those things and apply them and they were given the authority by Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha to make and modify guidance on things the scriptures don’t address. So, my support for changing doctrine is irrelevant. The House can’t violate the explicit text of Abd’ul-Baha’s Will and Testament. That would be to break the covenant.

      Second, the concept of covenant breaking arises because there is only one Baha’i Covenant. It is an explicit written Covenant, not something decided by committee. Baha’u’llah, Himself, appointed His eldest son (Abdu’l-Baha) as the Center of that Covenant and the only one who could interpret His teachings and begin to build the administrative order of the Faith. Abdu’l-Baha’s middle brother felt he should have been the one to “inherit” the mantle of leadership (which he tragically misunderstood to include material wealth and power). Without going into too much detail, he worked very hard to cause Abdu’l-Baha harm, even to trying to have him executed by the Ottoman government. Abdu’l-Baha’s response, rather than to fight was to allow the covenant breakers to hold the holy shrines for a time.

      In his Will and Testament, Abdu’l-Baha appointed his grandson, Shoghi Effendi the Guardian of the Faith and gave to him the task of furthering the building of the administrative order of the Faith, the key piece of which would be the Universal House of Justice. Again, there was dissent as family members felt they should have been singled out for such honor. In that same will and testament, Abdu’l-Baha made it clear that were anything to happen to the leader of the Faith, the House of Justice should be elected as swiftly as possible and should be the guiding body of the Faith worldwide. He put the task of seeing to the election into the hands of a group referred to as the Hands of the Cause of God.

      When Shoghi Effendi died in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God did exactly what Abdu’l-baha had instructed. They chose nine members to go through all of Shoghi Effendi’s papers and, since he had not appointed another Guardian (and, again according to Abdu’l-Baha’s testament, he was the only one who could appoint one), they began preparing for the election of the first Universal House of Justice.

      One member of this group, declared that he should be appointed Guardian when there was no provision for such a thing to occur without violating what Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha explicitly written. This man continued to claim that he should be the Guardian and, so, broke the covenant. Most existing covenant breakers today are people who allied themselves with him or those who have come after him, claiming to be something they cannot be.

      The Hands of the Cause of God, meanwhile, did something extraordinary. Where many human beings would try to find ways to hold onto what the covenant breakers thought of as power and authority, they gladly arranged for the election in 1963, of the Universal House of Justice and quietly relinquished guidance of the Baha’i community to that body.

      The Baha’i community is the second most widely spread religious community in the world next to Christianity. The House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assemblies, the Local Spiritual Assemblies are all bodies ordained by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. That is the structure specifically defined by and protected by the Covenant.

      “You said the covenant is more important than family or friend relationships, but then Christian groups who shun ex-members, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Exclusive Brethren, Amish etc., feel similarly about the New Testament covenant, and the results are tragic.”

      What I said was that the unity of mankind—which is the goal of the covenant of Baha’u’llah—is more important that those familial relationships. And it is tragic, all the way around.

      “So why don’t you shun former Baha’is who have become agnostic or Christian or Buddhist etc.? They too have rejected your covenant.”

      The fact is, we DON’T shun those people because they haven’t rejected Baha’u’llah’s Covenant; they have ceased believing that it is relevant because they no longer believe in Baha’u’lah or in God. An ex-Baha’i is someone who says, “i no longer believe this”. They are no longer Baha’is and, therefore, are no longer bound by the Covenant at all. Covenant breakers, as I explained above, by definition are people who ACTIVELY try to damage the Baha’i community.

      They still consider themselves Baha’i—some because they believed in Baha’u’llah, but didn’t accept Abdu’l-Baha as His interpreter, or who accepted Abdu’l-Baha but not Shoghi Effendi, or who believed Shoghi Effendi was the rightful Guardian, but that the House of Justice should not have been elected. They don’t seek to be free of the Faith, but to destroy its existing institutions and to damage the Baha’i community. This behavior is completely out of keeping with every divine principle as revealed by any of the Divine Manifestations, including Christ.

      Again, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha are our examples in this. The House of Justice, no less than individual Baha’is, are standing by with open arms to embrace someone who sincerely wishes to return.

      So, again, I must ask: How does one protect oneself from a poisoner without harming him? Baha’u’llah was faced with that exact dilemma when the first one to break the covenant (His own half-brother) twice poisoned His food. Far from seeking Yahya’s death, He restrained Baha’is who were begging to do him harm in return. That is, He protected this arch-covenant breaker from harm.

      These days the poison is intellectual and emotional rather than literal, but the dilemma is the same. The House of Justice must protect the community of believers and the unity of the Faith, but they must do it without inflicting harm on those who wish them harm. in this case, separating those who wish the community harm from the community would seem to be the only effective means of protection.

      1. I read the Abdul-Baha’s last will and testament, appointing Shoghi Effendi the first Guardian. I did not see there what you say is there, that were something to happen to the leader of the faith, the House of Justice should be elected quickly to take over. It just says that if the Guardian’s firstborn is not spiritually mature, then the Guardian must appoint somebody else. So Ramsey believed that by appointing him the president of the International Baha’i Council, Shoghi implicitly appointed him the Guardian, so Shoghi did obey Abdul-Baha’s command to appoint the next Guardian, did not disobey. Seems like a rather reasonable interpretation. Abdul-Baha chose the International Baha’i Council as the forerunner of the future House of Justice, yet after Shoghi died, the Hands ignored that Council with its president, and took over until the House of Justice was elected. So the majority of the Hands outvoted the minority of one, Ramsey, expelled him, and declared him and his little band of followers Covenant Breakers. And of course the majority of the Baha’is went along with the majority of the Hands, and so Ramsey’s little band declared the majority of Baha’is to be Covenant Breakers. Kind of like the history of the Mormons, after Smith died, several claimed to be chosen to be the next Prophet, but the Twelve Apostles said no, and later the head of the Apostles was chosen the next President and Prophet. And the majority of Mormons went along with the Twelve Apostles. Just like the majority of Baha’is went along with the Hands. And of course it did not help that initially Ramsey agreed there is no Guardian, before later declaring himself the Guardian. So it was all a big mess. All because Shoghi Effendi succumbed to the flu without even on his death bed explicitly naming the second Guardian. But of course you are right that when they disrupt your meetings, as you say, it makes sense to shun them. It works so much easier in Christianity, when a church secedes from another church, the dissenters organize their own congregations, and do not disrupt congregations of the original church. But if some group does not disrupt your meetings, it makes little sense to shun them. Of course I don’t have enough information about the dissenting groups to know if there are groups that don’t disrupt your meetings. But shunning is part of the doctrine, so now the different Ramsey groups shun both you and each other. Though somehow they don’t shun you enough to avoid your meetings. What a mess.

        1. One relevant portion is in Part Two of the Will and Testament (pp. 19, 20) which was written 1907 when Shoghi Effendi was 10 and Abdu’l-Baha’s life was in danger and it seemed the Faith might lose His leadership before a Guardian existed. He writes:

          O dearly beloved friends! I am now in very great danger and the hope of even an hour’s life is lost to me. I am thus constrained to write these lines for the protection of the Cause of God, the preservation of His Law, the safeguarding of His Word and the safety of His Teachings. By the Ancient Beauty! This wronged one hath in no wise borne nor doth he bear a grudge against any one; towards none doth he entertain any ill-feeling and uttereth no word save for the good of the world. My supreme obligation, however, of necessity, prompteth me to guard and preserve the Cause of God. Thus, with the greatest regret, I counsel you saying: Guard ye the Cause of God, protect His law and have the utmost fear of discord. This is the foundation of the belief of the people of Bahá (may my life be offered up for them): “His Holiness, the Exalted One (the Báb), is the Manifestation of the Unity and Oneness of God and the Forerunner of the Ancient Beauty. His Holiness the Abhá Beauty (may my life be a sacrifice for His steadfast friends) is the Supreme Manifestation of God and the Dayspring of His Most Divine Essence. All others are servants unto Him and do His bidding.” Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn, and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant. By this House is meant that Universal House of Justice which is to be elected from all countries, that is from those parts in the East and West where the loved ones are to be found, after the manner of the customary elections in Western countries such as those of England.

          It is incumbent upon these members (of the Universal House of Justice) to gather in a certain place and deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book. Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself. Inasmuch as the House of Justice hath power to enact laws that are not expressly recorded in the Book and bear upon daily transactions, so also it hath power to repeal the same. Thus for example, the House of Justice enacteth today a certain law and enforceth it, and a hundred years hence, circumstances having profoundly changed and the conditions having altered, another House of Justice will then have power, according to the exigencies of the time, to alter that law. This it can do because these laws form no part of the divine explicit Text. The House of Justice is both the initiator and the abrogator of its own laws.

          I admit that the first time I read the Will and Testament, I did not catch the significance of these paragraphs. Here Abdu’l-Baha lays the foundation for the House of Justice to function in his absence or the absence of a Guardian. When Shoghi Effendi died, the Hands of the Cause of God did exactly what Abdu’l-Baha commanded them to do — they elected nine members (as stipulated in Part One) who went through all of Shoghi Effendi’s papers and took stock of what they could and could not do. They could not appoint a Guardian, but they could see that the House of Justice was elected according to Abdu’l-Baha’s instructions. This they did.

          Personally, I think that the fact that one of their number sought to arrogate authority to himself and was rejected and these noble men and women worked tirelessly to give up the authority the outside world perceived as power in our nascent religion. To think that a group of individuals would willingly place the guidance of the Faith in the hands of others (they recused themselves of eligibility to serve on the House), is barely imaginable in an age in which the acquisition of power is the life’s dream of so many who literally fight for leadership.

          There is something else at work here, and that is trust. Looking back at the history of the Faith, I have no reason not to trust the Hands of the Cause, or the House of Justice other than the mockery of those who ask me if I also believe in unicorns and faeries. I have reason to distrust individuals who look for ways to exert their own individual control and authority over this Faith.

          1. I have to confess I just read the Will and Testament on an Orthodox Baha’i website, and it was much shorter there. Maybe that was only the final Will and Testament, where he chose Shoghi Effendi, and not this nonfinal Will and Testament where he felt his life was in danger and he had not chosen Shoghi yet? Anyway, I am wondering what did he mean by writing ‘Unto the Most Holy Book’? Did he mean Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-i-Aqdas? So that nothing in that book can be later abrogated, like his teaching that a man can have two wives?

          2. There are three parts to Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, all three parts are taken together as authoritative by Baha’is. The “orthodox” Baha’is are a group of Covenant Breakers who have apparently chosen which parts of the Will and Testament they wish to honor. The full text of the Will and Testament is available here: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/WT/

            It exists in Arabic in its original form in the Archives building on Mount Carmel where scholars can refer to it in the original language and script.

            You can also download a complete volume here http://www.bahaiebooks.org

            The MOst Holy Book is the Aqdas, yes. The provisions in it are intended to last until the appearance of the next Manifestation of God. However, Baha’u’llah gave Abdu’l-Baha the singular right (and I do mean singular) to interpret and clarify His teachings. This is spelled out clearly in Baha’u’llah’s writings but nowhere clearer than the Kitab-i-Ahd (Book of the Covenant) which He wrote in His own hand. The entire text of this still exists in the Baha’i Archives on Mt. Carmel. It is available in a volume entitled “Tablets of Baha’u’llah (Revealed after the Kitb-i-Azdas).

            Here is the text of the Aqdas: “BEWARE THAT YE TAKE NOT UNTO YOURSELVES MORE WIVES THAN TWO. WHOSO CONTENTETH HIMSELF WITH A SINGLE PARTNER FROM AMONG THE MAIDSERVANTS OF GOD, BOTH HE AND SHE SHALL LIVE IN TRANQUILLITY.” # 63

            So, Baha’u’llah Himself (a bit more strongly than Muhammad) indicates that one wife is really the ideal. Abdu’l-Baha when asked about this went even further:

            Know thou that polygamy is not permitted under the law of God, for contentment with one wife hath been clearly stipulated. Taking a second wife is made dependent upon equity and justice being upheld between the two wives, under all conditions. However, observance of justice and equity towards two wives is utterly impossible. The fact that bigamy has been made dependent upon an impossible condition is clear proof of its absolute prohibition. Therefore it is not permissible for a man to have more than one wife.

            Why, you might ask, doesn’t Muhammad or Baha’u’llah just thunder that God wants a man to have only one wife, period? I think Christ answers that question eloquently when asked about His own changes to the law of marriage and divorcement. “God hath permitted this because your hearts were hard, but from the beginning it was not so.”

            Another factor may be that at times during human evolution for environmental and cultural reasons it was necessary for men to have multiple wives. Certainly at the time of Muhammad in most societies (in Christian Europe as well as the Arabian peninsula) a woman without the protection of a husband had no protection at all. Evolution is, by its nature, a messy process, but it is a process that the Manifestations of God have to deal with as they see fit.

          3. Maya,

            I think there are a number of different groups who refer to themselves as “Orthodox” Baha’is. Pity they can’t seem to agree on the essential features of the doctrine that defines “orthodox”.

            With regard to Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, it’s probably worth noting that the word “Guardian” and the name “Shoghi Effendi” each appear once in Part III and don’t appear at all in Part II. Chronologically, Abdu’l-Baha outlined the institution of the Guardianship, and appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian, before He outlined the essential features of how the Universal House of Justice functions.

  20. Tom Martin,

    http://www.bing.com/search?q=%2bkolai+nul&FORM=RCFD

    On Hindu texts, there are shruti texts and there are smriti texts. Shruti override smriti whenever neccessary. Vedas, Brahmans, Aranyakas, and Upanishads are shruti. All other texts even the Gita are smriti. A lot of Hindus deride the Gita as the kolai nul, the book of carnage. I copy and pasted the Bing of kolai nul because it gave several good links.

    Smarthas, Advatins or Advaita Vedantins, are the classical Hinduism that most people study and know about. I also know of Madhyamaka and Yogacara philosophies of Buddhism, but that’s a discussion for another day. Vaishnavas are a form of Hinduism that people know of thought the Hare Krishna movement.

    Is the Bhagavad Gita the Bible or New Testament of Hinduism that Orientalists called it? No, the links show why.

    How is scripture harmonized? It depends on whom you ask. For example, Maya stays ignorant of scripture interpretations other than her own. She interprets all scripture according to dualistic theism. While the concept of interpreting other scriptures in the light if all scriptures isn’t being debated, it’s still a non sequitur of how she gets her interpretations. She cherry picks whichever scripture she feels supports her position, but ignores that people would interpret all of the quoted scriptures differently.

    She dislikes monistic pantheism or pantheistic monism in favor of dualistic theism. She says the view the God alone exists and the world is an illusion is not supported by scripture. She quotes scriptures that seem to support dualistic theism, but if she were to ask an Advaitin Vedantin to interpret them they’d say that the scriptures she quote of whatever religion don’t support her position actually. Maya interprets all scriptures, even those outside of Abrahamic religions, with an extreme Abrahamic bias. While I’m not saying that any Abrahamic scriptures actually teach the doctrines associated with Abrahamic religion, the fact she was raised and is a member of an Abrahamic religion is the point.

    There have been several Vedanta commentaries on the Bible. She seems to ignore that and quote the Bible to support her positions, ignoring that the above commentaries would show how say the Psalms or any other part of the Bible could be interpreted differently.

    1. I came close to removing this comment because of its tone and content. Personal criticism–whether in the form of an ad hominem attack or backbiting–is not in the spirit of Common Ground dialogue.

      However since the comments were aimed at me, I feel it could be seen as self-serving if I were to remove a comment aimed at me, even if the criticisms were shared with another participant in the discussion. Or perhaps especially so.

      I will say only that I do not “stay ignorant” of other interpretations of reality, whether religious or in other areas. People who know me would be surprised by that characterization. If it were true, I certainly would not have read any of the material that led to me becoming a Baha’i nor would I have read any of the new atheist work. The very fact that this comment thread is attached to a commentary I wrote of Bertrand Russell’s work I think disproves your assessment of me. I am aware that a myriad different interpretations exist in theology and spirituality as in every other discipline. I do not feel that reading up on every single one of them is the best use of my time. When I was researching the Baha’i Faith, there was no wikipedia. There were books and libraries. I availed myself of them and read authoritative Baha’i literature, neutral assessments of the history and attacks on the Faith by its detractors.

      At this point in my life, however, I have neither the interest nor the time to survey every philosophy. I’m glad for you that you can do that. I can tell it makes you happy. I understand. I get rather a charge out of research myself. But please don’t characterize my lack of interest in a subject as willful ignorance.

      You try to catalogue what you suppose I dislike. I’ll tell you what I dislike. I dislike having labels applied to me or to others, and I will ask you to please refrain from making derogatory asides to or about others on this site. That is a gesture of disrespect, which none of us deserves.

      Before you comment further, please ask yourself if you would like to treated in the same way.

      Thank you.

      One further comment: If I’m trying to make a point about a teaching of the Bible, then it seems to me that quoting the Bible directly rather than Vedantic (or any other) commentaries on the Bible makes the most sense.

      1. Maya, since you are sensitive to personal criticism, I want to assure you that what I wrote above, about Baha’is and Christians desperately trying to harmonize scriptures, that is not meant as a personal attack on you or on Baha’is in general, I know that many Baha’is are very good people and intelligent, and trying to think logically. Likewise many Christians. So by using the word ‘desperately’ I was not trying to say Baha’is and Christians are desperate people frustratingly trying to harmonize everything. I know many feel confident they can harmonize it, and it makes them happy. And I want everybody to be happy. I am just explaining why their logic does not fit my logic. I feel that every verse in scriptures was meant literally, unless there is some indication it is not literal, like calling it a parable, or literal meaning just does not make sense, like the Bible saying hills clapped for joy, of course that is meant metaphorically, as the beauty of hills celebrating their Creator, or something like that. But in most cases scripture writers meant to convey a clear message, and not a hidden message waiting for later Baha’i scripture to finally clear up the meaning. That is how I see it. That is one reason I finally came to reject the Baha’i Faith, even though at first it looked very attractive, for equality of races, of women and men, against slavery (unlike the Bible and the Qur’an), for a future world-wide government that will suppress all wars, a hopefully easy international language like Esperanto for all to learn so all can speak to each other without interpreters. There is a lot about Baha’i Faith I like. But from what I see, some things are just not in harmony with what a good God would want, if such a being exists, as I hope. But if it makes you happy, and if Hinduism makes Stephen happy, great, I want everyone to be happy. Except I guess in case of punishment of crimes, I want the criminal to be at first unhappy in prison, so he or she can think about things and become wiser and nicer, hopefully. Unfortunately some remain evil until death. And I guess even after death, if there is life after death, as I hope. Or maybe God destroys them after death, they cease to exist, as some Christians think. The New Testament is contradictory about that. But it might make sense to destroy them forever. Rather than tormenting them forever, as if a good God is some kind of tormenter. But again, I want to apologize if my words seemed like personal criticism. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I hope that my explanation made sense, simply that it looks desperate to us non-Christians and non-Baha’is. But of course it does not look desperate to you Baha’is or to Christians, but very logical and harmonious. And that is good for you.

        1. Sorry I missed this one.

          I wasn’t offended by anything you said. Nor did I take it as personal criticism. My remarks were directed at something that another poster said to you about me. I wasn’t personally offended—that is it didn’t hurt my feelings—but we try to maintain a civil and respectful tone and I felt that some of the remarks were out of keeping with that standard.

          About scripture: I’ve been working on a short story about the subject of scripture from the viewpoint of a spirit who holds exactly your viewpoint: Why wouldn’t God speak more clearly from the beginning? He undertakes to show God that some simple plain-spokenness is all that’s really needed. Of course he runs into the immediate problem that some very important truths can’t be put into words. Or at least not the words that exist at the time. The Manifestations of God are stretching the envelope, forcing us to grow. We understand that from the way we teach our own children, don’t we? You don’t teach a child what it already knows, you teach it more than it knows. And sometimes it becomes necessary to tell a story or use a metaphor to get a point across. But as my character finds out, the same message can be perceived differently by different people.

          I know I’ve said this somewhere before, but if you tried to explain God to me using the placenta as a metaphor, I’d get it immediately. I shared that analogy with a Christian man and he said it was disgusting. Misogyny aside, the metaphor didn’t work for him because he had no personal experience with it. I notice when Jesus is trying to explain the coming of the kingdom of God to a group of listeners, He uses a series of metaphors—it is like a big tree growing from a tiny plant; it is like a woman kneading a little leaven into a large amount of flour. I was a Christian—a deepened Christian, I thought—for quite a while and didn’t think deeply about what the metaphors meant. They both describe processes that take time. In the same way that it takes time for ideas to spread through a human population.

          Christ resorts to metaphor when He speaks of rebirth, and of faith, and of love and of our relationship with God because these are not things that can be parsed into simple, straightforward language or because He apparently felt that a story illustrating a point would have more resonance than just giving cut and dried instructions. In fact, teachers and trainers know that about the human mind now and understand that stories (parables, metaphors) make what we learn stick. Alas, what sticks depends a lot on how well we’re paying attention to what’s happening in the story or metaphor.

          Of course Christ and Buddha and others gave some instruction in very clear language and it was not all left to the Baha’i dispensation to make all of it plain. But some of it, certainly. How do you describe the need for world wide disarmament to a person with a first century view of the world? More to the point WHY would you describe it to them when it is not information they need? Baha’u’llah makes the point that His revelation isn’t what it is because He’s greater than the other Teachers, but because it is the message the world needs now. Now we need to concern ourselves with world unity, disarmament, global environmental concerns. Now we are capable of either uniting the world or destroying it. We have evolved. Doesn’t it make sense that the message we’re given by God would evolve as well?

          1. Maya, the idea that ancient languages did not have words for some religious concepts while modern languages like Farsi and English do have the words, so that Baha’i scriptures are possible, is just not true. The New Testament is very clear that Jesus was crucified, died on the cross, then several days later rose from the tomb, invited Thomas to touch him, ate a fish, and was seen by over 500 before he ascended to heaven. The Qur’an is very clear that Jesus was not crucified, it only seemed that way. And Some Answered Questions is very clear that Jesus was indeed martyred, but somehow was not literally 3 days under the earth, and his resurrection was likewise not literal but symbolical, he did not eat the fish or invite Thomas to touch his wounds. Three scriptures with 3 different messages. The idea that ancient Greek or Classical Arabic could not express ideas like ‘symbolical’ is false. After all, the word symbol is from ancient Greek. I have studied ancient Greek. And I can tell you that it would be possible to translate Abdul-Baha’s chapter on the Resurrection of Christ into ancient Greek. But there is no indication in the New Testament that those 4 resurrection stories in the 4 gospels were meant to be understood as parables. So naturally they were intended to be understood as literal facts, which is indeed how Christians of different denominations have understood them. They might differ on how long Jesus was in the tomb, or whether he was resurrected with a spiritual body or a physical body, or even whether the long ending of Mark is inspired, but they will all reject Abdul-Baha’s interpretation.
            And why did the ancient world not need a message against slavery, for example? So as a result slaves had to suffer under legal slavery until the beginning of the twentieth century, in several Muslim countries. Yet the ancient Jewish sect of the Essenes condemned slavery. Jesus might have met them, but he failed to condemn slavery. So he founded a Jewish sect more inferior than the Essenes. Yet your Baha’i Faith praises Jesus as being allegedly a Manifestation of God, but the Baha’i Faith is silent about the Essenes.

          2. I think I sort of addressed this in my response about rebirth. Let me know if I missed anything pertaining to resurrection.

            what I wanted to clarify here is what I meant when I said that language was an issue in interpreting scripture. In some cases, IMO, we have actually lost some of the expansiveness of say, Sanskrit. For example, Sanskrit has 17 words for different types of love. We have a handful and use them indiscriminately in some cases. We say we love our children and we love Star Trek and we love Indian food. I can assure you that my feelings for my children are no closer to my feelings for Indian food (as much as I enjoy it) than Earth is to Alpha Centauri. But I use the same word.

            Likewise, where the Sanskrit might use the word dharmakaya or karmakaya for the English word “body” or the word prema or ruche for the English word “love”, “mileage may vary” as they say. The spiritual body and physical body are unalike, but an English reader today, for example, would be hampered by a translator’s use of a word for which he has already formed a meaning. Likewise, Prema and ruche are nothing alike (prema is the highest form of spiritual love; ruche is “almost love” or perhaps fondness), but if I read the word “love” I may believe I know what the writer meant if I have no way of establishing a context or baseline.

            So, when I encounter the idea that Christ’s resurrection was of a material body or that physical resurrection is the goal of His teaching (and of thousands of years of progressive teaching through the Hebrew prophets and Moses) I look for that context, that baseline.

            Here is the baseline I started with in my study of the scriptures BEFORE I became a Baha’i:

            Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:3-6

            God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. — John 4: 24

            It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. — John 6:63od is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. — John 4: 24

            There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
            Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
            – Paul, I Corinthians 15: 44-50

            I don’t know what these passages say to you, but what they tell me is that the image in which we were created—our reality body—is spiritual, not material. Why do we insist it is otherwise? Because it is this karma-body, this material self that we are attached to. It is all we know, and therefore we think it precious enough to preserve through all eternity, one way or another.

            Re: Christ and slavery: We don’t have all of Christ’s teachings, but if one looks at the institution of slavery in context with Christ’s teachings, the spiritually wise might very well conclude that slavery was not appropriate for a Christian. If you ask why He didn’t abolish it and left it to Muhammad to recommend the freeing of slaves, I offer Christ’s words when He was asked why Moses did not give a more progressive law of divorce: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

            The Teacher teaches to the capacity of the generality of His students. He offers teachings that allow the more spiritual to stretch themselves, while not placing undo burden on those who are not ready for more. Buddha speaks to this when He notes that the Tathagata (Righteous One) is the same to all beings, but that, bearing in mind the disposition of all beings, does not reveal Himself to all alike. Christ revealed His wording of the Golden Rule over 2000 years ago, yet in this day, Christopher Hitchens (New Atheist polemist) wrote in “God Is Not Great” that it is an unrealistic, impractical and unpracticable precept that is totally against human nature.

          3. Sorry to be late to return to your blog. It is true that for example Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was resurrected with a spiritual body, not physical. And so some Christians then accuse JWs of not believing in the resurrection of Jesus. But still, JWs do believe that Jesus appeared in his spiritual body to hundreds of disciples, he ate fish, and invited Thomas to touch his wounds, so the spiritual body could be touched. And since you take mainly the words of Jesus from the New Testament as inspired, you have to admit there are words quoted from Jesus after his resurrection, in the 4 gospels and Acts. Including the words to Thomas inviting him to touch Jesus. Yet Abdul-Baha just dismisses the resurrection as being somehow symbolic of a new awareness of the disciples, rather than literal, even if literal with a spiritual body.

    2. Hi Stephen. Interesting links. Clearly some Vaishnavites do see the Bhagavad Gita as the highest type of scripture. The Hare Krishna group is clearly in that stream of thought. Though it is interesting that even some Vaishnavites consider the Gita of lesser value than the Vedas or other books. And some non-Vaishnavites consider the Gita totally non-scriptural and even faulty. I had bought the Gita because I heard that some Hindus consider it the essence of Hinduism, and because I heard that to try to buy and read all the Vedas and Upanishads etc. would be a massive work, far too much for a beginner like me who wanted to see if Hinduism is the right religion, to read, I don’t have so much time. I did like the Gita, I was not turned off by its war, I am not a pacifist. I am turned off by the pacifism in some verses of the New Testament, and in the Dhammapada. Though somehow Buddhists are not pacifists, I wonder how they interpret such verses, maybe as relevant to monks only. And of course most Christians do not interpret the New Testament as pacifist, but at best it is contradictory about pacifism, and at worst all pacifist. But pacifism is impractical and wrong, countries have to defend themselves against aggressors, or to defend friends. I am glad the US was not pacifist in WWII, so the good side won. But then I bought the Laws of Manu, I know it is not scripture, but many Hindus consider it good binding laws, and it turned me against Hinduism completely.
      I have 2 questions for you. Are you a Hindu? And what do you know about the Vedanta commentaries on the Bible? Are they trying to harmonize the Bible with Hindu scripture? If so, they are missing the point completely.

      1. Tom, sorry for replying to you late. No, I’m not Hindu. The writings of Paramahamsa Yogananda would be a good example since I was interested in Hinduism in the past and Hindu spinoff groups like the Self Realization Fellowship. He is the one who tries to harmonize Christianity and Hinduism with Kriya Yoga. I was pointing out the futility of harmonizing non Abrahamic religions with Abrahamic ones because one will either turn one into the other or vice versa.

        1. Hi Stephen, thanks. I agree with you, it is futile to harmonize non-Abrahamic religions with Abrahamic ones. Even Sikhism, while influenced by Islam, is at its basis non-Abrahamic, though monotheist, and it certainly does not attempt to harmonize the Qur’an with the Vedas or whatever. Instead it considers both the Qur’an and the Vedas to not be infallible, and instead emphasizes its own Scriptures, mainly the main scripture book, the Adi Granth. Even though several authors in the Adi Granth considered themselves to be Muslims, but they were really forerunners of the Sikh religion.

          1. Tom and SKG, both of you seem to return to this idea that the religions are irreconcilable from time to time. And for me, that’s a head-scratcher. One of the major reasons that I’m a Bahá’í is the obvious harmony between the “Abrahamic” and so-called “Eastern” religions that emerged in my study of the sacred texts, especially the words attributed to the Avatars and Prophets Themselves. Any reading of the Bhagavad Gita or Dhammapada, for example, shows a deep confluence with the teachings of Christ and Zoroaster. Where there are obvious differences that cannot be harmonized is at the level of observance. That is, what each religious community has made of the spiritual teachings of their particular Avatar.

            Looking at some of the more outspoken and activist sects of Christianity today, I would say it’s difficult (if not impossible) to harmonize the doctrines of these groups with the teachings of the Manifestation they profess to follow.

            Look at the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita regarding God, the spirit of man, and the nature of the relationships between God and Manifestation, God and man, and between human beings. You find the same ideas repeated in the teachings of Christ and Bahá’u’lláh, who stands rather at the confluence of the two streams of revelation. Where these different faith “factions” fall out of agreement is over what the rabbi Hillel framed as “commentary”. The social laws that are mutable and the manmade laws that God had nothing to do with.

            The Manifestations of God teach according to the capacity and circumstances of their students. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that the form a religion takes among a human population will reflect the cultural dynamic of that population? As I said, look at Christianity in it myriad expressions all over the globe. If you take a surface look at an evangelical Christian sect and an orthodox European church, you could be forgiven for finding it hard to believe they represented the same faith.

          2. Maya, an example of a quote on the afterlife:

            “If they do no more than copy it, when their lives come to an end they will be born in the heaven of the thirty-three gods. On that occasion eighty-four thousand goddesses, performing all kinds of music, will come to welcome them. Wearing crowns of the seven precious materials, they will amuse and enjoy themselves among those goddesses. How much more so those who receive and embrace it, read and recite it, remember it correctly, understand its meaning, and practice it as taught.”

            Excerpt From: Reeves, Gene. “The Lotus Sutra.” Perseus, 2010-07-26. iBooks.
            This material may be protected by copyright.

            Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=384438111

            Trāyastriṃśa or Tāvatiṃsa (Tib: sum cu rtsa gsum pa; Jpn: 忉利天 Tōri-ten) – The world “of the Thirty-three (devas)” is a wide flat space on the top of Mount Sumeru, filled with the gardens and palaces of the devas. Its ruler is Śakra devānām indra, “Śakra, lord of the devas”. Besides the eponymous Thirty-three devas, many other devas and supernatural beings dwell here, including the attendants of the devas and many apsarases (nymphs). The beings of this world are 1,500 feet (460 m) tall and live for 36,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition) or 3/4 of a yojana tall and live for 30,000,000 years (Vibhajyavāda tradition). The height of this world is 80 yojanas above the Earth.

            This devas to will die and be born again cyclically until enlightenment. There are world both above and below it. This show obviously death isn’t a one time event like in the West.

  21. Dear friends and contributors to these discussions,
    I have been a regular visitor to this blog site for a couple of years and I am always amazed at how well contributors, especially those who write the blogs, express themselves and the depth and breadth of their knowledge. I especially want to thank Maya Bohnhoff and Stephen Friberg for their work. I have been learning a lot. Lately, however, I have become dismayed at how quickly the comments stray from the theme of the blog and drift off into perhaps interesting, but irrelevant areas. I, like most of you I am sure, lead a very busy life and time is a precious commodity. Sifting through the huge amount of commentary, so often unrelated to the topic, is frustrating. Perhaps those with so much to say on so many topics aside from the theme of the blog should meet for coffee somewhere. 🙂

    1. thank you, John, for your comments. I admit, I’ve been a bit frustrated with the digressions as well but since I’m both a blogger and a moderator, I feel I have to tread carefully in trying to rein in discussions because my efforts to constrain them might be construed by some as defensiveness or worse.

      However, I can see that I do need to close comments at some point 🙂 Thank you for you input. It’s very valuable. And yes, I’ve missed a deadline or two trying to keep up with the deluge!

  22. Tom,

    http://irfancolloquia.org/pdf/lights6_bayat.pdf

    This is an example of Bahai distorted commentaries on previous scriptures. They don’t look at the whole of scripture, but cherry pick the verses that they can best make look as supporting the Bahai position on any position like say life after death. It also involve a lot of No True Scotsman fallacy.

    1. The no true Scotsman fallacy is content free. “No Scotsman would behave that way” Why? Because he’s a Scotsman.

      There is an objective criteria for the behavior of a Baha’i, for example, which is laid out very clearly in the scriptures.

      Imagine you had a friend who was a vegetarian but whom you observed munching a Big Mac. The fact that vegetarianism is defined by a particular behavior enables you to say that this person is not really a vegetarian. Likewise, the principles of faith lay out a set of virtues—and very clearly so—that are to characterize the behavior of a Christian or a Baha’i or… This is a pretty simple idea. The standards are set. If we fail to live up to them, that, as Buddha has said, is our affair.

      Re cherry picking. I have to chuckle at that. When I was investigating the Faith, I made that same accusation, but it was hollow. The Baha’is I knew who had, themselves, come from Christian or Buddhist or Hindu background weren’t the ones doing the cherry picking—I was. What the informed Baha’is were doing and what I had to learn to do, was to take the teachings of Christ, say, as a whole and look to that body of teachings for clues about how to understand them. They are self-referencing.

      Christ says very plainly what are the most important commandments: 1) Love God 2) love your neighbor as you love yourself. He does not leave it there, but goes on to define what He means by “neighbor”. He further emphasizes these commandments by remarking that on these two commandments all the Law and Prophets depend. How much clearer could He be?

      He is offering a perspective on where social laws and doctrinaire concepts (do we believe in physical or spiritual resurrection? How divine and how human is Christ? etc) fit and what their relative importance is. Christ emphasizes other commandments by repeating them. Or linking them together.

      To give a concrete example of this last methodology: theologians and Bible translators slice the Sermon on the Mount up in such a way that the verse about the narrow gate is taken to mean that belief in church doctrine about Jesus is the narrow gate and only Christians will enter therein. But this is out of context. Jesus’ comments about the narrow gate are IN CONTEXT with a sermon that ties together a sequence of important ideas about the nature of God.

      Jesus begins by talking about ways in which God is the most perfect parent, who will feed and care for all of His children, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” It is in this context that He continues: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.”

      I had grown up with people who cherry-picked verses to justify everything from the exclusivity of Christian salvation to their hatred of other people and groups. The Bahai’s I interacted with who were from a Christian background and familiar with those scriptures, were a novel experience: they did not cherry-pick. They read the Christian scriptures in context with each other, with their historical milieu and with the scriptures of other faiths.

      I have encountered Baha’is who were trying to discuss a scripture they weren’t knowledgable about first hand, but had only read about. For example, a Buddhist Baha’i who found himself trying to discuss the Faith with Christians or someone who had never known any faith but Baha’i struggling to understand Christian or other concepts well enough to discuss with people from that group. They most certainly would be cherry-picking because they do not have first hand experience of belief in the scriptures they’re discussing. That does not mean there are not Baha’is who have a very deep understanding of the faith that they came from.

      I was raised a Christian by parents who were deeply immersed in their faith. I have never been a Hindu, but I fell in love with the major Hindu texts, especially the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Rig Veda and Srimad Bhagavatam. You may believe that means I do not understand the root Faith that Krishna among others, revealed. And that is your prerogative.

      If I were to believe that the great revealed faiths were manmade—cobbled together by committees of humans, I would probably agree with you. But I do not believe they are that.

    2. Stephen, thanks for that article. It is true they twisted the meaning of the verses in Bhagavad Gita and Dhammapada. But are they right that the Vedas never mentioned reincarnation? That is news to me. Of course they acknowledge reincarnation in the Upanishads, and so they reject the Upanishads.

      1. By “they” I assume you mean those no-account, cherry-pickin’ Baha’is. 😉

        I think the twisting is in the eye of the beholder. Much of the more ancient scripture is composed, not of the words attributed to the Manifestation, but to commentary on it by others. The urge to write that commentary is understandable, but it leads to polarity or, if we’re lucky, diversity.

        There is more than one way to understand, for example, a statement Krishna makes that the Atman is the spirit of God in man, which the authors of the Torah and Baha’u’llah affirm in a number of places (“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;””He hath known God who hath known himself” and “O SON OF MAN! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.”)

        Now, I could read that and believe (as some do) that the Teacher is saying we are all God, or we are all part of God, or that we can become gods, or that, further, God is a physical being like us and we look like Him. A slew of other beliefs cascade out of this—if God is a physical being who looks like us then He must live someplace, etc. I accept Baha’u’llah’s clear explanation of this that our human intellect, our rational soul—a spiritual, not physical reality—is a reflection of the Divine Spirit. Because that is what I accept as a reality, it naturally influences the way I look at scripture. To me, it is the User’s Manual for the Human Soul, which means I pay special attention to the prescriptive parts with an eye to extracting guidance.

        Certainly, this involves deductive reasoning and inference. IF, as the Teachers make a point of saying, these Teachers appear continually as Messengers of one God at different times and in sundry ways, and the religion They teach is one religion, then when I am reading a passage about a particular subject in writings attributed to one of Them, I am going to look for meanings that make sense in context with other teachings by other Messengers on the same subject. The alternative is to say that there is no pattern, no logic and that these Beings are only coincidentally teaching the same spiritual principles and that their words—often couched in parable and metaphor—are to be taken materialistically and literally.

        I find it impossible to believe that level of coincidence. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that out of context with the other revelations, no one revelation makes sense. The Teacher is merely a fluke, His message is mostly random and He just happens to accidentally say the same thing as another Teacher. I do not find that a rational point of view. Krishna said that when vice and injustice arose in the world then He would come to reestablish order and justice; Buddha said that He was not the first Buddha nor the last, that other Buddha’s would come; Christ claimed to be in the same line of Prophets with Moses and a future manifestation of the Spirit of Truth, Muhammad likewise claimed to be part of that continuum; Baha’u’llah claimed to be the Teacher standing at the confluence of what had been separate progressions of Messengers. It makes sense to me logically, emotionally, spiritually that this is not coincidental, but part of a Divine Pattern for which, to my mind, Baha’u’llah offers a comprehensive view.

        Regarding Baha’is “rejecting” the Upanishads, we do not reject them. But we view them differently than we would view, say, a text that could be credited as the teachings of a Manifestation of God rather than human commentary on same. As a Baha’i I accept the Bible as an inspired scripture, but it would make no sense to view the commentary in Ecclesiastes or Proverbs in the same light that I viewed the synoptic Gospels which are a record (however fragmentary) of some of the words and teachings of Jesus Christ.

        Again, as I’ve noted to Stephen, when it comes to the writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, we have the original tablets in the hand(s) of the authors where they can be read in the original language.

        1. Maya, that Baha’i online article that Stephen provided for me, quoted Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 2:13. That is a clear statement of a soul undergoing reincarnation from one body to another. The article claimed it is misinterpreted, but without providing a rival Baha’i interpretation. Maybe they think it is God going from one body to another, but that interpretation is impossible when after going through more verses on reincarnation, we come to verse 2:51, still by Krishna, he says “Those who are established in wisdom, the wise ones, who have abandoned the fruit born of action, and are freed from the bondage of rebirth, go to the place that is free from pain”. That verse is very clear it is not God who is incarnated in various bodies, but the individual soul, who if he or she is wise enough, is freed from the bondage of rebirth. So there is no doubt, the Bhagavad Gita clearly teaches reincarnation of souls.
          Likewise the online article quotes Buddha in Dhammapada 18:238 “Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and though are free of guilt, thou wilt not enter again into birth and decay”. That verse clearly has the same message as Bhagavad Gita 2:51. I can’t see how any other interpretation is possible, and the Baha’i article did not provide another interpretation. They just denied that Dhammapada teaches rebirth.
          But this is not commentary by non-Manifestations of God, like you say about the Upanishads or Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. This is clearly supposed to be from the mouths of men who you consider to be Manifestations of God. Yet they clearly disagree with Baha’u’llah.

          1. The idea of reincarnation has always puzzled me, especially since some people believe in person-to-person cycles of rebirth while others, no doubt making identical claims to accurate reflection of original teachings, believe in what I think is called “transmigration of souls”, i.e. rebirth as another animal species or even something as “low” as a rock! Another puzzling idea related to reincarnation is the rapidly increasing human population. Where are all those souls coming from? Should we be seeing a concomitant decrease in numbers of other life forms whose souls “graduate” into humans? I don’t mean to be disrespectful to your beliefs Tom, but can you explain this from your point of view? Which passages from original scripture are cited to support these very different beliefs? Which belief do you hold? What makes more sense to me, and I can’t claim to be able to back this up with anything other than reason, is that the cycle of birth, death, rebirth, etc. is what each of us experiences within a single lifetime. That is, we repeat the same mistakes over and over again until we finally learn from them and move on, no longer caught within the cycle of “birth and decay” and “are freed from the bondage of rebirth, go to the place that is free from pain.”

          2. Hi, Tom,

            You wrote: “That (Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 2:13) is a clear statement of a soul undergoing reincarnation from one body to another.

            Here is the passage from the Mascaro translation: “As the Spirit of our mortal body wanders on in childhood, in youth and in old age, the Spirit wanders on to a new body: of this the sage has no doubts.”

            Eswaran translates it this way: “As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes.”

            As I read it, Bhagavad Gita 2:13 is ambiguous, because it relies on what one understands as a “body.” I, too, opted for the idea of a physical body when I first read this text; I also read my own faith tradition’s teachings on rebirth (or resurrection in Christian theology) as a material, physical reality. The word “body” prejudiced me. It also fooled me into thinking I understood what it meant in this context.

            Then I encountered the different types of “bodies” that are spoken of in “Eastern” scripture. I’m looking for my notes on this, but let’s see if I can wing it from memory. There is, for example, the karma body—that is, the physical or “action” body, and there is a dharma body—which I’ve also seen called the truth body or reality body. There is also mention of a “transformation body”, which is perhaps harder to define. So, at the very least I have to concede that it seems likely Krishna is referring to the karma-kaya or physical body as enduring childhood, youth and old age, but it is not clear that after the death of that body, the soul’s “new” body is physical.

            For context, I offer Christ’s statements about rebirth, which He speaks of as a spiritual transformation that can take place during one’s physical lifetime and relates to purification and spiritual regeneration of the soul. (Perhaps this is what is meant by a transformation body, I don’t know). At any rate, Christ’s words were confusing enough to Nicodemus that the older man asked if he must go back into the womb of his mother to be reborn.

            The Apostle Paul speaks at length in one of his epistles about what he variously called rebirth or resurrection. It reads in part: “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain… There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit….” (I Corinthians 15)

            Now, most of the churches I attended as a child and youth taught that Paul is describing the resurrection of the physical (karma) body. But as I read it when someone challenged that idea, he is saying nothing of the kind. I’ve got a blog upcoming on this at bahaiteachings.org where I get into more detail, but here I just want to draw your attention to the way he describes the “natural body” and “spiritual body” and draws a distinction between them through the use of several metaphors. I do not think it’s overreaching to identify this with the Hindu and Buddhist concepts of karma-kaya (action body) and dharma-kaya (reality body).

            Now, I’d like to look at what Baha’u’llah has written about the nature of the soul after death. As context, understand that He says there are countless worlds of God—a point in which He is in complete agreement with Krishna. In one passage He writes:

            And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. … The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother. When the soul attaineth the Presence of God, it will assume the form that best befitteth its immortality and is worthy of its celestial habitation.” – Gleanings LXXXI

            “Thou hast asked Me concerning the nature of the soul. Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths”. — Gleanings LXXIIp 159

            What Baha’u’llah is saying, clearly, is that we can no more understand the nature of that “new body”, the soul that inhabits it, or the world it will inherit than the child in the womb could comprehend the nature of the body and life it will have when it leaves the womb for this world.

            I shared the above quotes from Baha’u’llah at a group of evangelical Christians during a “cult night” their pastor held on the Baha’i Faith. After reading Paul’s words and agreeing that none of us understood the nature of the soul after death, all agreed that the Christian and Baha’i teachings were not in conflict. And neither, as I read them, are Krishna’s teachings on the subject.

            This is where I came into the Faith, Tom. This is the big hurdle I had to leap in my encounter with Baha’u’llah. I was hostile to the idea that the religions were one, but when I pulled off the filters I had been trained since childhood to use when reading the sacred texts, I saw them as mutually supportive. Yes, with the older scriptures, there is more likelihood of human “enhancement” and extrapolation, but I think you can often spot that by reading them in context. For example, when I see a tradition or doctrine that suggests that the most significant reality is physical, I have the words of the Teacher Himself to tell me otherwise.

            Before the idea was challenged, I completely accepted that the resurrection Paul wrote of was a physical one until I realized that it was the use of the word “body” that kept me coming back to a materialistic interpretation of what was clearly a spiritual reality. (Which, is a point that relates to your other 6/7 comment.) As I said above, it is a word that fooled me into thinking I understand what it meant, until I established a context with the rest of Christ’s words about human reality … or Krishna’s or Buddha’s or Baha’u’llah’s.

            Greater than the senses is the mind. Greater than the mind is buddhi, reason; and greater than reason is He—the Spirit in man and in all. — Bhagavad Gita 3:42

          3. John, that is an interesting opinion, that the rebirth refers to new experiences during one’s lifetime on earth. It is a different view from Maya’s though. You ask what is my belief. I don’t know if there is life after death, though I hope there is. And it might come as reincarnation. You mention that the number of people is increasing, so where do the souls come from? I suppose they could come from animals. And it is true that we have no evidence that there are more individual insects etc. than let’s say a thousand years ago, there could be fewer by several billions as there are more people by several billions over the thousand years. Now this raises the question about what about the beginning of life? It does seem to be true that we have evolved from just one single one-celled individual who existed several billion years ago. So one possibility is that in the beginning there was one soul, and it kept dividing as the organisms kept dividing, until they reached the number that God wanted, so souls did not always exist. Another possibility is what for example Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism teach, that souls don’t just come from animals, but also from hungry ghosts, hell dwellers, and heaven dwellers, so then maybe in the beginning none of souls were in animals or people, but in hungry ghosts, hell dwellers and heaven dwellers. So these religions teach that we always existed, even if there were still no people or animals yet. So I wonder who is right. Of course I would prefer to live forever in some heaven, rather than be reincarnated, but I can’t say that reincarnation is wrong for sure, I don’t have the evidence.

          4. Maya, you have an interesting opinion, that the rebirth is into a spiritual body, though it is different from John’s interpretation, that there are rebirths within our lifetime. But I quoted to you Dhammapada 18:238 “…thou wilt not enter again into birth and decay”. Here the author is surely not talking about a spiritual rebirth, since how can the spiritual body decay?

  23. Maya, you assume the word body is read as physical body only in the texts supporting reincarnation. Actually, in Hinduism and Buddhism, the word body is used in various ways, but it doesn’t necessarily prove that the texts support the Bahai view of life after death.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plane_(esotericism)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subtle_body

    Anyone familiar with the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmologies will recognize the problem with your agrument that body means spiritual body only. In Buddhism for example, there are four types of rebirth. Rebirth can be by womb, egg, moisture, or transformation. Womb includes devas, Asuras, humans, and animals. Egg includes animals. Moisture includes animals. Transformation includes brahmas, devas, Pretas, and Narakas. Transformation includes all the rebirths where the body isn’t physical.

    Also, I remember a Hindu website explaining the seven lokas and seven talas. Bhu loka is the only physical planes with physical bodies, all the other planes and bodies are subtle.

    1. Hinduism and Buddhism both share an underlying metaphysical idealism or neutral monism. They have either an atman or the absence of one as the thing that transmigrates. The term has sometimes be translated as reincarnation, but its not a perfect match.

      A person can after the end of any given lifetime and after the intermediate period between them, be reborn in any of the given planes of existence in any of the given cosmologies. Each planes of existence contains thousand of the lower plane of existence under it. If you extrapolated it be 1000 to the power of hundreds or more once you finished counting at the top.

      A person is born, lives, and dies in a plane of existence. They can after death ascennd, descend, or break even. Transmigration sutras are the sutras that go into the most detail about the Buddhas extensive sermons on rebirth rather than just the generalizations and mentioned in passing in some of the other sutras.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnation_research

      Though, the science behind it is better than saying some document somewhere says people reincarnate. There are various indirect references as well, but I won’t go into much details. Stream enterers will enter nirvana after seven rebirths. Once returns after one rebirth as a human. Non returners after a rebirth in a high brahma deva realm. Arhats after death. Bodhisattvas postpone nirvana perpetually to be reborn to help others.

    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebirth_%28Buddhism%29

      There is no word corresponding exactly to the English terms “rebirth”, “metempsychosis”, “transmigration” or “reincarnation” in the traditional Buddhist languages of Pāli and Sanskrit: the entire process of change from one life to the next is called punarbhava (Sanskrit) or punabbhava (Pāli), literally “becoming again”, or more briefly bhava, “becoming”, while the state one is born into, the individual process of being born or coming into the world in any way, is referred to simply as “birth” (jāti). The entire universal process that gives rise to this is called saṃsāra.

      Within one life and across multiple lives, the empirical, changing self not only objectively affects its surrounding external world, but also generates (consciously and unconsciously) its own subjective image of this world, which it then lives in as ‘reality’. It lives in a world of its own making in various ways. It “tunes in” to a particular level of consciousness (by meditation or the rebirth it attains through its karma) which has a particular range of objects – a world – available to it. It furthermore selectively notices from among such objects, and then processes what has been sensed to form a distorted interpretive model of reality: a model in which the ‘I am’ conceit is a crucial reference point. When nibbana is experienced, though, all such models are transcended: the world stops ‘in this fathom-long carcase’.

      1. Judging by your response, you may have missed the point of my commentary on Paul’s writing on rebirth. It is a point that I feel Baha’u’llah makes by stating simply that the soul after the death of the material body will assume the form that best suits its station. Period. He further indicates that we are no more capable of understanding that form than the babe in the womb of its mother is capable of understanding the things about this world we take for granted.

        Indeed, the single thing that unborn child finds so essential to its existence in the womb is the first thing it will lose in this world. Food for thought.

        But my point is that arguing what a “spiritual body” is or is not is futile and a waste of time and effort since we are not here prepared to comprehend it.

        Our task here, I believe, is to try to grow those qualities that will best suit us both here and in that next life.

        Does that make sense to you?

    3. You’re assuming I assume that, Stephen. In fact, I do not assume that at all. I thought I made my beliefs on that clear, but apparently not. I believe that when the Manifestations of God refer to the existence of the soul (spirit or atman) beyond the life of the physical body (karma-kaya, if you prefer) that They are indeed referring to a real, as opposed to a transient existence. That is to say, a “spiritual body” (whatever that is) as opposed to another human body or an animal body of some type.

      Resurrection and rebirth are not physical or material as most of us understand those terms.

      1. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Dualism-vs-Monism.png
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dualism-vs-Monism.png

        The problem seems to arrive from you assuming of the Cartesian and materialist perspectives as the only possible perspectives. You haven’t really fully grasped my idealist perspective. I hope the chart is a helpful pictograph. I find problems with both materialism and Cartesianism.

        Also, haven’t you neared of Buddha’s doctrine of Anatman or Anatta or no soul or no self?

        After someone dies, one can be reborn in any plane of existence. The planes of Arupaloka infinite space, consciousness, nothingness, and perception nor non perception. The planes of Rupaloka are realms of metaphysical devas called brahmas. The planes of Kamaloka are realms of various kinds like the physical humans and physical animals we have here.

        A person will keep being reborn until they achieve enlightenment. Let’s say a human is a good meditator and then they die. This leads them to be reborn as a brahma deva. They live for one kalpa to 32,000 kalpas. Then they die as well. If he was say a once returner, then he’d be reborn as a human after that death. If he was a non returner he’d be reborn in one of the five pure abode realms for brahma devas. If he was an arhat, he’d enter nirvana. If he was a stream enterer he’d be reborn as a deva or a human. If he had made little or no progress he may even be reborn as an animal, a hungry ghost, an asura, or a naraka being.

        1. “The problem seems to arrive from you assuming of the Cartesian and materialist perspectives as the only possible perspectives. You haven’t really fully grasped my idealist perspective.”

          I’m pretty sure the problem arrives with you assuming that I’m assuming something. I do not, as it happens, think of Cartesian or materialistic perspectives as the only possible ones. Indeed, I think the truth of any situation is a blending of different points of view. There are things about Rene Descarte’s philosophy that resonate deeply with me and other things that fail to speak to me at all. Like you, “I find problems with both materialism and Cartesianism.”

          I do not attempt to label my personal philosophies as one thing or another. They are mine and they are subject to constant change. I’m not sure I’m making myself understood when I say that.

          Let me try to be clear by use of this example: I read the Seven Valleys and Four Valleys repeatedly. Every time I read it, I derive new knowledge, new understandings, new insights from it. (I also experience a soul deep sense of longing for the Beloved that is immediately filled and refilled as I read). I also deepen insights I obtained on earlier readings. As much as my insights may change–stressing the need for perseverance one time, and the need for detachment at another, and the need for unconditional love another–it does not require me to say that I was a Perseverant the first time I read Seven Valleys, became a Detachee upon my second reading and am now a Devotee.

          Do you understand what I’m saying, Kent? Whatever changes to my inner landscape are occasioned by my gaining of new insights from Seven Valleys, I am still a Baha’i and my understanding of Baha’u’llah’s writings is not a Perseverant’s philosophy, or a Detachee’s philosophy or a Devotee’s philosophy. I may be all of those things at once (in fact, I am) and sometimes more of one than another, but I do not define my entire self by any one of them.

          Do not attempt to put me in a box. I will not stay there.

          1. Hindu and Buddhist texts don’t refer to just one rebirth after death, but have various references both to past and future lives as in plural for both. They refer to cycles of birth, life, death, rebirth, ad infinitum until moksha and/or nirvana. For example, every time the Buddha referred to stream enters he also noted that they would attain enlightenment in at most seven more rebirths and seven more lifetimes. Take for instance the parrots who chanted the four noble truths and were reborn in the realm of 33 devas, but were still subject to future rebirths and deaths.

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