If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another

Gold yin-yangHuman beings seem to like to think in binary.

“If not A, then B.”

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” (A statement that, ironically, has multiple meanings.)

“It’s an either/or situation.”

We answer “yes/no” questions.

We decide if we want this or that.

We think in ones and zeroes—literally, if we program computers down to the machine language level.

Yet, in the squishy world of reality, binary thinking is one of the most significant obstacles that we place in the path of human progress. There are issues in which this is glaring apparent.

One is EITHER pro‑choice OR anti‑abortion. That is, either one believes abortions should be available for any reason from dire necessity to “oops” and that it is just another form of birth control OR one believes that no woman should, under any circumstances, have an abortion. Ever.

One is EITHER a gun‑lover OR a gun‑grabber. You are pro‑gun or anti‑gun. You are for the Second Amendment, or you are against it. You either respect gun rights OR you want to take them away from everyone.

One is EITHER a liberal (aka progressive) OR one is a conservative. One EITHER believes in the welfare state OR in individual sovereignty.

One is EITHER a hero OR a villain (or believes someone else is either a hero or a villain).

If you are one side of any of the above binary pairs, you are all that is good; if you are on the other side, you are unmitigated evil. Which is which depends entirely on which side you are on.

It is a zero sum game—there must be an absolute winner and an absolute loser.

ARGUMENT2This sort of binary thinking is supported by the media in all its forms. For every behavior on the part of a newsworthy individual or group, journalists speculate about and offer opinions on which of two sides they come down on. If the behavior is nuanced in any way, the media cannot allow it to remain so because eyeballs are attracted and ad space sold by conflict. Conflict requires two distinct, opposing sides. Hence, they must determine which column they should sort the individual to: ones or zeroes.

This reached a truly head‑scratching point in a recent article I read that began thusly: “When it comes to his relations with Congress, President Barack Obama, is a man of two minds.”

How so? I thought, and read the article hoping to find out. What was the particular behavior of the POTUS that had puzzled the journalist?

It was—I kid you not—that the President praised Congressional efforts to get things done and criticized obstructionist behavior that led to not getting things done. The journalist didn’t understand why the President should praise his opponents for progress on an immigration bill, say, yet criticize them for a filibuster on another issue. Clearly, he was torn in his feelings for Congress and therefore did not have a consistent attitude toward it. (Which begged the question as to what the journalist expected someone of ONE mind to have done.)

I read the article twice on the theory (and in the hope) that I was missing something. Was the journalist being ironic or satirical? No. The tone of the article was perfectly serious. He saw the president’s behavior (praising effort toward progress; critiquing lack of progress) as anomalous.

I have three kids. I had parents. From both angles, I have observed that generally when teaching a child, one critiques or disciplines for unproductive, obstructive and destructive behavior and praises and rewards productive, cooperative, constructive behavior. In this case, the one and the zero are part of achieving a single positive goal: to encourage productive, cooperative, constructive behavior and to discourage unproductive, obstructive or destructive behavior.

The binary behavior the journalist seemed to expect of Mr. Obama, in this case, was an attitude that he was a one and Congress a zero (or vice versa). Ergo, if Congress were to win (merit praise), the White House must lose. Any merits Congress received gave the President demerits and vice versa. So it seemed puzzling to this journalist that the One should compliment the Zero for a job well done when it detracted from his Oneness … or something like that.

Indian Heroes and Great ChieftainsThis is a cultural artifact, this binary style of thinking. The culture that preceded ours on this continent did not adhere to it as strictly as we do. During the period of time when Western Europeans were invading America, there were at least three different opinions among the native population as to what should be done. These points of view were espoused by different chieftains. Three of the most influential were Crazy Horse, American Horse and Red Cloud and their solutions to the problem ran the gamut from fighting back to negotiating the sharing of the continent to simply depending on the good will of the invaders. As we have seen in our own recent political history, men who hold diverging opinions are loved by some and hated by others. One is a hero to the group that shares his views and a villain to those who don’t. But our Native American predecessors did not share that binary thought which is why I found the 1939 book Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains by Charles Eastman eye-opening and refreshing. Eastman—a Sioux who acquired a Western medical education and served on the reservations—treats each of the nine native leaders he writes of as heroes, even when their beliefs diverged radically from each others’ and from his own. Reading Indian Heroes, I understood how it was possible for two tribes to fight each other for grazing or hunting land in the summer, yet come together in the winter to share resources. How they could, in fact, come together to form a Federation whose articles greatly influenced the framers of the US Constitution.

From a Bahá’í point of view, if we are to achieve real oneness, real convergence, real progress toward a common goal, if we are to stop living in armed intellectual camps, we must be able to grasp nuance—to see it, understand it and speak it. We must see more colors than black and white, count higher than one; even see that 1 and 0 can equal 10 (which is far greater than the sum of its parts), ask questions that do not accept only yes or no answers.

Brain Question MarkWhat does that look like on the ground? It may require that we stop prejudicing our own thinking by framing multiple choice (or essay) questions as if they were true or false. It may mean realizing there are people who are pro‑choice AND anti‑abortion. That there are those who support the rights of gun ownership AND recognize that this right burdens one with an awesome responsibility that not everyone is competent to bear. It may mean that there are those who believe in individual responsibility to contribute to society AND society’s responsibility to contribute to the welfare of the individuals that comprise it.

Binary thinking is easy—okay, I’ll call a toad a toad—it’s lazy thinking. It spares us the effort of forming opinions based on fact, reason and values by insisting that if not A, then surely B. It spares us the embarrassment of admitting that we don’t have a grasp on the nuances of every situation or issue. It saves us the trouble of wading through the facts (and knowing when we have enough of them at hand), weighing the complex issues, understanding the dynamics, weeding out the distractors, and applying the relevant values and principles that go into comprehending what is going on around us.

Binary thinking means never having to say, “I don’t know.” Because you always do know: If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

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71 thoughts on “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another

  1. This is the difference between a pick one answer only question and a pick all that apply question.

    I’m also interested in the concept of anti heroes and anti villains. Remember, back in the nineties when there were all those dark and edgy anti heroes. Technically, the trend began in the eighties, but got associated with the nineties so people refer to them as nineties anti heroes.

    What about centrists, libertarians, and moderates on the political spectrum? Yes, I also know that people only think in progressive and conservative.

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

      I forgot to link the Centrism article. I’m part of the Facebook Generation, and I love Starbucks. I’m a fan of Reagan and NPR as well. I did vote centrist in 2012, like I always do. My left wing friends are skeptical of centrists though. They were skeptical of Americans Elect as well.

  2. Generally, this influences religion. People expect people to be one religion or religious group only. Religious Humanists are the best example of challenges to binary thinking. Saying a person is a Humanist will probably make people think they’re a Secular Humanists, rather than a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Hindu, a New Ager, a Unitarian Universalist, or whatever. I have seen two specifically Christian Humanist Manifestoes. Despite this, there’s the sterotype that all Humanism is Secular Humanism.

    A person saying they’re a Unitarian Universalists, will like wise be unifpmformative to most people. This doesn’t tell if a person is a Humanist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Pagan, a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim, or whatever. This leaves problems because Facebook gives people room to link to only one religion article on their Facebook profile, but with room below to describe it just in case. The survey below show the choose all that apply approach.

    Both of the above labels are informative and non informative. They tell something about people, yet they don’t tell everything about people. They don’t exclude the other 25 or so religious groups on the Belief O Matic quiz, yet they don’t specify which if any of those other groups a person views themselves as. Saying someone is Humanist or Unitarian Universalist (or even both), doesn’t say whether or not they’re Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, New Agers, Scientologist, Baha’i, Raëlian, Zoroastrian, Eckist, Neo-Druid, Wiccan, Rastafari, Spirtitsit (Spiritualist in English speaking world), Sikh, Jain, or whatever else religion a person can be.

    Before about 1960, UUs were largely considered the most liberal of Christian denominations. Since then, the beliefs of Unitarian Universalists have become quite diverse. Many people now considered a separate religion and no longer part of Christianity. In 1995-JUN, the UUA acknowledged that its main sources of spirituality are: Christianity, Earth Centered Religions (African-American religions, Native American spirituality, Wicca, other Neopagan religions, etc.), Humanism, Judaism, other world religions, prophets, and the direct experience of mystery. Fewer than 10% of Unitarian Universalists identify themselves as Christians. The organization exists as a very liberal, multi-faith group.

    According to a 1997 survey of almost 10,000 UUs gave their theological perspective as:

    46.1% Humanist. This is the most common belief system.
    19% identify themselves as Nature or Earth centered religion (e.g. Wiccan, Druid or other Neopagan tradition.
    13% describe themselves simply as Theist.
    9.3% self-identify as Christian.
    6.2% are mystic.
    3.6% are Buddhist.
    Other perspectives listed are Jewish at 1.3%, Hindu at 0.4%, Muslim at 0.1% and other at 13.3%
    They are certainly a diverse lot!

    It is obvious that the “glue” that holds congregations together is not a shared theological belief system, as it is in almost all other religious groups. The 1997 survey found that the four most important factors are:

    Shared values and principles: 52.1%
    Acceptance, respect and support for each other as individuals: 42.5%
    A desire to take religious questions seriously: 14.6%
    Commitment to social justice and public witness: 11.5%

    Another survey I’ve seen has the following:
    Humanism 54%
    Agnosticism 33%
    Earth centered religion or Nature religion 31%
    Atheism 18%
    Buddhism 16.5%
    Christianity 13.1%
    Paganism 13.1%

    1. As with many things this comes back to identity. As a child my religious affiliation varied. We attended Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, and non-denominational churches. As a teen, before I discovered the Baha’i Faith I went from identifying myself as a “Bible believing Christian” of no particular denomination, to self-identifying as a Christian-Buddhist-Hindu. I disliked Islam (an attitude based firmly in ignorant prejudice) and couldn’t be a Jew (though I am ethnically) because Jews didn’t believe in Christ.

      It was during that period that I looked at everything from Scientology to Watchtower Society, to Wicca to Scientology, to LDS to Hari Krishna, to Ananda.

      I think the chief thing about the Baha’i Faith that intrigued me intellectually and satisfied at a soul-deep level was that it did not demand that I choose between Christ and Buddha, for example. But in accepting both as Manifestations of God, did not mean believing every doctrine of every sect of either. What was demanded, was that I approach each of these Teachers with an open and active intelligence, read their teachings and then decide for myself whether those teachings were spiritually beneficial.

      I had a thousand questions as I began my search. Life and the myriad religious paths were like a huge puzzle to which I had only disconnected pieces. Baha’u’llah’s teachings put those pieces together into a coherent whole.

      Krishna talks about the worlds of God being like pearls upon a string. That’s the way I think of revealed religion. Each faith, by itself, is a beautiful pearl, but the true perfection and relationship of the pearls is not seen until they are strung together and one sees the Treasure Supreme.

      1. Maya, it’s weird but Wikipedia list you as a former Atheist. You said you were raised Christian and explored various other religions as well, which leads to the assumption of no atheist phase. The Wikipedia article says otherwise.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_the_Bahá%27%C3%AD_Faith#Atheism

        Zhang Xin – Chinese businesswoman.[1]
        David Kelly – Former employee of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).[2]
        Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff – Fantasy and science fiction author in short story and longer formats.[3]

        ^ Macau Daily Times: SOHO not interested in Macau’s casinos (09-02-2010)
        ^ “Profile: Dr David Kelly” BBC
        ^ Ohi, Debbie (2001-03). “Interview with Jeff Bohnhoff”. The Dandelion Report. Archived from the original on 2006-09-04. Retrieved 2006-09-10. Unknown parameter |middle= ignored (help)
        ^ Carey, Edward (September 17, 2008). “Nelson talks Rex Mundi and Religion”. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2009-05-30.

      2. I’m confused given that some of those religions you listed earlier don’t make people choose either given that Hare Krishnas believe in several figures as empowered representatives of God like Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, I’m addition to the traditional Hindu avatars like Buddha. Sceintologists don’t make people chose L. Ron Hubbard over Buddha or Jesus or whomever else.

        1. Why are you confused?

          I was looking for Christ. Given that there were about 24,000 sects of Christianity at the time I was making my search, none of which could agree on what was important when it came to belief and salvation, I looked for Christ very much as Majnun looked for Layli—I searched for my Beloved everywhere. I did it with constant returns to the words of Christ, using that as a sort of reality check.

          What I was looking for really, was a Path that made sense rationally as well as emotionally and spiritually. I was looking for something that took all the puzzle pieces that were whipping around in my head and all the disparate religious paths and made sense of them. That put all the pieces together.

          What electrified me about the teachings of Baha’u’llah was He wasn’t just saying all the revealed religions were really aiming at the same Goal, but that they all came from the same Source. That they were all part of the same Plan for our edification and evolution. It wasn’t about going off in a corner to “do my own thing” it was about working with other souls toward the same Goal.

          1. Um, you stil imply that those other religious groups didnt share in that doctrine. I’ve studied the Har Krishnas a little on their website, so explain how they don’t believe all religions have one source? Or Sceintologists? Or any of the other religions you studied?

            Where on the Hare Krishna site does it say that Judaism, Chrsitianity, Islam, etc. lead to God, but don’t come from God? I remember the site explicitly saying all religions come from and lead to God.

          2. “you stil imply that those other religious groups didnt share in that doctrine. I’ve studied the Har Krishnas a little on their website, so explain how they don’t believe all religions have one source? Or Sceintologists? Or any of the other religions you studied?”

            🙂 No, I think you INFER that. I didn’t say it. What I DID say is that of all the paths I looked at, the Baha’i Faith answered ALL of my questions and didn’t demand money from me just to hear the truth or insist that I not read other literature or believe things that I found contrary to reason.

            It’s not just one thing that led me to embrace the teachings of Baha’u’llah, but a whole array of things. This included things that happened to me in childhood that pointed me in this direction.

          3. http://www.krishna.com/krishnas-representatives

            Though I have seen other artwork, this one is good. It’s hard to tel but e person with book raised is supposed to be Moses. The overly Indianized drawing of some Western figures makes it hard to identify them. If God empowers someone to be his representative and God has representatives in all religions, doesn’t that mean they believe all religion have a common source in God?

            You believe that God is both the source and goal of all religions, but have explained why groups like the Hare Krishnas don’t believe that?

          4. I’d be hard put to explain why Hare Krishnas don’t believe something they do believe. You misunderstood me, that’s all. The faith I was raised in DID teach that there was only one Manifestation of God for all time, however. When I stated positively that that was something that ultimately drew me to the Baha’i Faith, it was not to imply that there were not other faiths that might also view faith in this light.

            The Baha’i concept of progressive revelation, however, is somewhat different from what I understood of the inclusiveness of other groups. The important point is, I wasn’t saying anything negative about other belief systems by saying something positive about the Baha’i point of view.

          5. Did you mean the difference between implying and inferring? If one implies something that means it was their intent to say something without saying it outright. when someone infers something, it means whether or not the other person had any intention of hinting at something, they thought they were hinting at something. The giver of information implies, the receiver of information infers.

          6. You imply other religions don’t have their own concepts of or simmilar to progressive revelation.

          7. I just said I found the Baha’i concept to be different than what I found in other faiths. In part, this is because the scriptures deal with it so directly.

            This concept is in all other revealed faiths that I’ve studied, though when I was a Christian, I certainly didn’t recognize it as such. As a Christian, I understood that there was a series of minor prophets and that Moses had some sort of special relationship with God that those other prophets didn’t have. But it did not occur to me–because it was never taught from the pulpit, or in Sunday school–that that revelation was progressive and intended to keep up with and even facilitate our evolution as spiritual beings.

            There was that verse in Hebrews that pastors often cited that says that God has at sundry times and in diverse fashions spoken to us through prophets and “the fathers” (of faith), but that was only used in context with the end of the sentence, that He had spoken to us “in these last days” (over 2000 years ago, now) by His Son. End of message.

            What many call the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all contained the concept of progressive revelation in their holy books, but they considered that it was limited to a certain group of chosen people and that it ended with their Prophet until the End Times (Ek Velt). One of the things, in fact, that stunned me when I really began to learn about the teachings of Krishna, Buddha and Zoroaster was that this exclusivity did not exist. Krishna and Buddha especially stress so clearly that they are neither the first nor the last of their Kind that people are prepared for new and successive revelations.

            I suppose that this is one of the reasons so many Hindus and Buddhists become Baha’i. Indeed, the largest population of Baha’is is in India.

            Again, I found progressive revelation as Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha describe it (and They describe it in a number of writings in both clear and mystical terms), to be both comprehensive and comprehensible. It is part of a larger context: the physical and spiritual evolution of mankind and the unification of the planet. They clarified the purpose of revelation (and of evolution) in a way that resonated with me and that, in combination with everything else I learned about the Faith, made sense of the world as nothing else did.

          8. What about the other religions you studied? You listed only six religions. You said you studied Scientology and Wicca.

            So what were the positions of these religions and their scriptures?

            Adi Dam
            Ahmadiyya aka Qadianism
            I Kuan Tao aka Yi Guan Dao
            Mata Amritanandamayi
            Meher Baba
            Mother Meera
            Neo Gnosticism aka Universal Christian Gnostic Church
            Raëlism
            Sahaja Yoga
            Scientology

            The doctrine of Aeons in Thelema is simmilar. Did you study Thelema?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeon_(Thelema)

          9. Stephen, this was 36 years ago. I looked into the teachings of whatever religions I could find literature on in the college library. It’s really irrelevant at this point because I found the answers I sought. At some point, one must choose a Path and begin to walk it. Otherwise, one remains at the bottom of the mountain jumping from path to path.

            Something I observe about the Baha’i Faith is that in addition to the teachings of Baha’u’llah dealing with both the intimate inner life of the individual and the global needs of the age, is that it allows for great diversity. To give an example of that, there is a significant population of Native Americans who have brought their own spiritual practices into the Faith. So in their devotional meetings, you may see hoop dancers, sand painters, drummers, etc. Many Baha’is practice various types of yoga and meditation and continue to use the scriptures of their heritage in their daily meditations and personal deepening.

            I frequently use older scriptures (especially the Bhagavad Gita) when I plan devotions and I also deepen and meditate on those scriptures. What I was doing before I became a Baha’i was trying cobble together my own belief system out of whatever I found that fit together. And, here’s the thing, as a Baha’i I can still study any of those other paths if I so choose. I can draw whatever truths I find there from them, and use them to reinforce my spiritual education. As I said in the article—it’s not one thing or another when it comes to my individual spiritual walk.

            BUT I also was looking for a community of believers who were on the same Path. And that is why I am a Baha’i and not a Christian-Buddhist-Hindu-Wiccan or whatever.

            But also because Baha’u’llah’s teachings go beyond the individual needs and requirements to encompass the needs of the entire planet. As Shoghi Effendi put it: “Let there be no mistake. The principle of the Oneness of Mankind—the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve—is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. Its appeal is not to be merely identified with a reawakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will among men, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cöoperation among individual peoples and nations. Its implications are deeper, its claims greater than any which the Prophets of old were allowed to advance. Its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family. It does not constitute merely the enunciation of an ideal, but stands inseparably associated with an institution adequate to embody its truth, demonstrate its validity, and perpetuate its influence. It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced. … It represents the consummation of human evolution—an evolution that has had its earliest beginnings in the birth of family life, its subsequent development in the achievement of tribal solidarity, leading in turn to the constitution of the city-state, and expanding later into the institution of independent and sovereign nations. The principle of the Oneness of Mankind, as proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh, carries with it no more and no less than a solemn assertion that attainment to this final stage in this stupendous evolution is not only necessary but inevitable, that its realization is fast approaching, and that nothing short of a power that is born of God can succeed in establishing it.” — World Order of Baha’u’llah, p 42

          10. Yes. And in the same way that my daughter’s fifth grade math education lacks the complexity and comprehensiveness of the math education she will get in high school. This is not a criticism. It is not the capacity of the Avatar that is at issue, but rather OUR capacity to understand. AND the fact that the world that Krishna and Gautama Buddha came to is vastly different than the one we now live in. I found the teachings of Baha’u’llah were targeted to this age, just as the teachings of Krishna, Buddha, Christ, etc. were targeted most specifically to the people They were sent to teach.

            He writes:
            “The measure of the revelation of the Prophets of God in this world, however, must differ. Each and every one of them hath been the Bearer of a distinct Message, and hath been commissioned to reveal Himself through specific acts. It is for this reason that they appear to vary in their greatness. Their Revelation may be likened unto the light of the moon that sheddeth its radiance upon the earth. Though every time it appeareth, it revealeth a fresh measure of its brightness, yet its inherent splendor can never diminish, nor can its light suffer extinction.

            “It is clear and evident, therefore, that any apparent variation in the intensity of their light is not inherent in the light itself, but should rather be attributed to the varying receptivity of an ever-changing world. Every Prophet Whom the Almighty and Peerless Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared. God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquillity of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established.

            “The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity. To none is given the right to question their words or disparage their conduct, for they are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments. No man, however acute his perception, can ever hope to reach the heights which the wisdom and understanding of the Divine Physician have attained. Little wonder, then, if the treatment prescribed by the physician in this day should not be found to be identical with that which he prescribed before. How could it be otherwise when the ills affecting the sufferer necessitate at every stage of his sickness a special remedy? In like manner, every time the Prophets of God have illumined the world with the resplendent radiance of the Day Star of Divine knowledge, they have invariably summoned its peoples to embrace the light of God through such means as best befitted the exigencies of the age in which they appeared. They were thus able to scatter the darkness of ignorance, and to shed upon the world the glory of their own knowledge. It is towards the inmost essence of these Prophets, therefore, that the 81 eye of every man of discernment must be directed, inasmuch as their one and only purpose hath always been to guide the erring, and give peace to the afflicted…. These are not days of prosperity and triumph. The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared.” — Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah XXXIV (For the whole text of this: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-34.html.utf8?query=The|Divine|Physician&action=highlight#gr6)

            This theme—that the Manifestation is the Divine Physician—runs throughout Baha’u’llah’s many writings. He puts it most succinctly when He writes:

            “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.” — Gleanings from the Writings of Bahau’llah, CVI

            This is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture because, in very few words, it explains why the Manifestations of God teach as They do and lays out a mandate for the response of the individual soul. We are to concern ourselves with THIS age and its needs and turn our minds to how its problems can be solved.

            I view Krishna, Christ, Buddha, and Baha’u’llah as one. The physical Lamps are different, but They shed the same Light. In following Baha’u’llah, I am also a follower of the others.

  3. http://www.gnosticliberationfront.com/sufi_message_of_hazrat_inayat%20khan.htm

    On Universal Sufism, here’s a meeting of Hazrat Inayat Khan and Abdul-Baha.

    For some time there have been Eastern missions working in the West, among them Babism, which began in America and changed in time into Bahaism. Bahaism is an offspring of Sufism, its object being the bringing of nations and followers of different religions into closer touch, void of inner cult. Baha Ullah, after whom this sect has been named, had been kept a prisoner in the East because of his proclamation of prophetship. After him his son, Abdul Baha, carried on his mission. I had the pleasure of meeting Abdul Baha when he was in Paris, who showed great interest in my music and with whom I had an interesting talk about our experiences in the Western world. During the conversation we had, he exclaimed, “There should be no secret, you must speak; either you know or you do not know.” I answered, “The whole nature of things and beings has a secret; each thing and each being has a secret which reveals its nature and character and the life itself has its secret and it is the uncovering of its secret which is the purpose of life. Speaking out aloud does not prove a person to be the knower of the secret. Neither every occasion is a suitable occasion, nor is every person a person fitted for the truth to be spoken to.” “You are also preaching the brotherhood of nations?” I said, “I am not preaching brotherhood, but sowing the seed of Tawhid, the unity of God, that from the plant of Sufism may spring up fruits and flowers of brotherhood.”

    1. It was unfortunate that both men are quoted out of context, but it seems Inyat Khan did not understand Abdu’l-Baha’s words. The discovery of the “secret” is indeed the stuff of life and Abdu’l-Baha makes this clear in other contexts.

      Abdu’l-Baha also met Khalil Gibran (who drew a sketch of him, and called it The Prophet). Gibran was convinced that Abdu’l-Baha was the Manifestation of God, and nothing Abud’l-Baha could say would convince the poet-artist that he was only the Servant of the Light and not the Light itself. Gibran, it seemed, could imagine no one greater than Abdu’l-Baha.

      Of course the factoids at the top of the article are not quite correct. The Baha’i Faith is not and never was an offshoot or sect of Sufism. Or at least no more than Christianity is an offshoot or sect of Judaism … though I daresay there are those who, to this day, believe it is.

    2. By the way, I never responded to the weird claim that the Báb’í faith began in America. Wow. That’s one I hadn’t heard before. You realize, of course, that it began in Shiraz, Persia?

      1. I copied and pasted it so I left his views without any corrections. All views are those of Hazrat Inayat Khan.

  4. A summary from another website

    The Baha’i faith sees all major world religions as being part of a dispensational progression of spiritual knowledge revealed by God. While this idea has some merit, it is an oversimplification of human spiritual history. The Baha’i faith, as it is interpreted by most of its followers, ignores some important religious traditions such as Taoism and Sikhism; excessively downplays the very real differences that exist between religions; and puts all religions on one track of progressive development, when in fact they emerged on more than one parallel tracks and on different timelines in different parts of the world.

    The Baha’i concept of “progressive revelation” is true as a big picture idea – that humans have gradually come to apprehend the Divine in more mature and sophisticated ways over time – but the specific details taught by Baha’u’llah and his successors are too limited to an Abrahamic paradigm. Baha’u’llah’s background was Islam, which envisioned religion as progressing by means of a discrete series of prophets chosen by God. He seems to have known little about Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. He wrote almost nothing about these, even though billions of human beings have followed and been inspired by these traditions – probably because he had little contact with people from those parts of the world and most of his followers were Muslims.

    Abdu’l-Baha and his grandson and successor Shoghi Effendi expanded the Baha’i view of religious unity to include acceptance of the divine inspiration of some of the Eastern religions, because they sincerely believed in the goal of uniting all humanity with one interfaith vision of truth. This was Baha’u’llah’s goal too, but the time and culture in which he lived defined the way he presented the message. He simply didn’t have much of any exposure to ideas from outside of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

    If we are to be intellectually honest, we must admit that the linear Baha’i concept of God sending a “new Manifestation” to “reveal” a “new Dispensation” with a “new Book” for the world roughly every 1000 years does not take into account all the great diversity and complexity of historical religious development. This idea comes directly from Islam and has a heavy Abrahamic bias. Baha’ism has attempted to embrace some non-Abrahamic religions by fitting them into the Islamic paradigm of religious history. This is a nice theoretical attempt with good motivations behind it, but I think it needs to be reevaluated.

    The Baha’i concept of progressive revelation makes sense if it is interpreted in a broader way, focusing on the archetypal journey of human beings continually seeking The Source and periodically creating new religions reflecting their evolving perspective on life and existence. In fact, to embrace this basic idea as the core of how we understand the phenomenon of religion – that it is not static but evolutionary, representing a never-ending dance between the Human and the Divine – is a beautiful way of thinking. The Baha’i faith has the potential to conceive of religious history through this liberal lens, if fundamentalist interpretations of Baha’i theology are cast aside.

    Now, back to my additional commentary. It’s incorrect to boil Hindusim or Buddhism down to the teaching of one Avatar or one Buddha. There have been other Avatars and other Buddhas in both traditions.

    Let’s take a list of avatars of Shesha which includes Balabhadra/Baladeva/Balarama/Halayudha, Lakshmana, Ramanuja (11th century), Manavala Mamunigal (14th/15th century), Nityananda Prabhu (15th/16th century), etc. I will also include the Golden avatar Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th/16th century). Others to include are Meher Baba (19th/20th century), A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (19th/20thcentury), Nirmala Srivastava (20th/21century), Mata Amritanandamayi (20th century and present), and Mother Meera (20th century and present). This is not a comprehensive list and I could add other more recent Avatars.

    On the Buddhist side is less. There are Padmasambhava (8th century), Nichiren Daishonin (13th century), and Lu Sheng-yen (20th century and present).

    Other figures I could add as Avatars and/or Buddhas include Bahullah (19th century), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (19th/20th century), Lu Zhongyi (19th/20th century), Master Benisa Duono Peter Denuov (19th/20th century), L. Ron Hubbard (20th century), Samael Aun Weor (20th century), Adi Da Love Ananda Kalki Avadhoota Avabhasa Bubba Free John Samraj (20th century), Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (20th/21th century), Raël Claude Maurice Marcle Vorilhon (20th century and present), Wikipedia removed Missin of Maitreya (name Ahmad ibn Abdullah aka Joseph Emmanuel and various other makes) due to lack of notability, but he is 20th century and present.

    http://maitreya.org/

    But the point that all Hinduism is based on Krishna and his teachings or that all Buddhism is based on Siddhartha Gautama and his teachings. They are based on that, but not that alone. Take for instance the Hare Krishna movement is based on Avatars like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, and A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Tibetan Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha Padmasambhava. Nichiren Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha Nichiren Daishonin. True Buddha School is based on the teachings of the Buddha Lu Sheng-yen.

    While you say you don’t adhere to a list of a dozen or so Avatars/Buddhas, you do effectively write as if you did. Baha’is due tend to adhere strongly to the list of Adam, Noah, Eber (Hud), Abaraham, Moses, Shelah (Shaleh), Jesus, Muhammad, Bab, and Bahullah. You can insert Krishna, Zoroaster, and Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni) in there somewhere. Baha’is tend to ignore anyone not on the list. Any knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism will be limited if you view those religions as being one Avatar or one Buddha based religions.

    1. Stephen, when you’re communicating ideas to someone, you can only say so much. If I listed every person who may have been a Manifestation of God, I’d have a great list … of little value. I find that when I’m trying to convey complex ideas to someone, it’s better to focus on particulars. So, for example, if I talk about something Gautama Buddha did that illustrates a quality that all Manifestations possess, it does not mean I believe only Buddha (or the other Manifestations I mention) possess it ,

      Honestly, I think I’ve been clear enough that what the Baha’i writings say about Manifestations is that They are known in history by Their fruits—the results and qualities of their Teachings and the effect they have on human life. If there have been Avatars coming since we crawled out of the primordial ooze then trying to list them all would take precious time that I’d personally rather put into practice.

      Stephen, my dear, I know you love lists, and that’s fine. But not everyone functions that way—with a list of this or that in their head. Most Baha’is I know don’t have a “list” of Manifestations in their heads. If they are from Buddhist background, they will be more aware of Buddhas, if they were Christians they will be most likely to quote Christ. If their family converted from Zoroastrianism, they will be most likely to quote Zoroaster. In families that have been Baha’i for generations, they may focus entirely on Baha’u’llah. They know the other Manifestations came, but they are only generally aware of Their histories or specific teachings.

      We do not ignore those we don’t know, we simply focus on the ones we do.

      The way each Baha’i relates to the Manifestations of God is entirely individual. I have no idea of the names of every Manifestation of God, nor do I think it is important to my spiritual journey or my contribution to the world that I know them. In my studies I have come across individuals that fit Abdu’l-Baha’s description of what a Manifestation is and does. For example, I think there may be a Manifestation of God at the root of the Egyptian tales about Ra and the Chinese legends of Fu Hsi. But this is not authoritative—it is merely my opinion.

      So, to be very, very clear: There is no authoritative Baha’i list of Manifestations. Period.

    2. By the way, I should point out that Baha’is are encouraged in the strongest terms to acquire knowledge of all kinds—including knowledge about other tributaries of the stream of faith. There are a number of scholarly organizations within the Baha’i community that offer courses and workshops. For example, the Wilmette Institute‚ which I see has a new course on Zoroastrianism that will cover such topics as:

      * What do we know about Zoroaster and the origins of Zoroastrianism?
      * What are the Zoroastrian scriptures, how were they created, and what do they teach?
      * How did Zoroastrianism influence Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism?
      * What is the history of Zoroastrianism’s growth and decrease?
      * What are the basic teachings of Zoroastrianism today?
      * How does the Baha’i Faith relate to Zoroastrianism?

      There is also the Association of Baha’i Studies which has a yearly conference at which a broad variety of subjects are presented and whose publications deal with—again—a broad variety of subjects having to do with faith and its application to life on the planet and beyond.

      In addition, the several Baha’i schools here in the states feature workshop weekends where subjects of interest to the Baha’i community are studied in depth. To give an idea of the breadth of these, I’ve attended Music Industry Workshops at our local Baha’i school/retreat that are specifically for Baha’i musicians. workshops on mysticism, family life, the persecutions in Iran, specific books of Baha’u’llah, Bible studies, even a Star Trek weekend. My point is that we are not precluded from studying Vedanta or appreciating the contributions of various teachers and gurus. But our focus is on applying the teachings of Baha’u’llah to our lives and our world now.

    3. Maya, this teaching of Manifestations sounds like a ret con when applied to previous Manifestations. The concept is old, but the problem comes when you superimpose the specifics of the Bahai definition on previous concepts lie Messiah, Mahdi, Christ, Avatar, Buddha, or even Manifestation as a concept in Shia Islam.

  5. It’s incorrect to boil Hindusim or Buddhism down to the teaching of one Avatar or one Buddha. There have been other Avatars and other Buddhas in both traditions.

    Let’s take a list of avatars of Shesha which includes Balabhadra/Baladeva/Balarama/Halayudha, Lakshmana, Ramanuja (11th century), Manavala Mamunigal (14th/15th century), Nityananda Prabhu (15th/16th century), etc. I will also include the Golden avatar Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th/16th century). Others to include are Meher Baba (19th/20th century), A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (19th/20thcentury), Nirmala Srivastava (20th/21century), Mata Amritanandamayi (20th century and present), and Mother Meera (20th century and present). This is not a comprehensive list and I could add other more recent Avatars.

    On the Buddhist side is less. There are Padmasambhava (8th century), Nichiren Daishonin (13th century), Daisaku Ikeda (20th century and present), and Lu Sheng-yen (20th century and present).

    Other figures I could add as Avatars and/or Buddhas include Bahullah (19th century), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (19th/20th century), Lu Zhongyi (19th/20th century), Master Benisa Duono Peter Denuov (19th/20th century), L. Ron Hubbard (20th century), Samael Aun Weor (20th century), Adi Da Love Ananda Kalki Avadhoota Avabhasa Bubba Free John Samraj (20th century), Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (20th/21th century), Raël Claude Maurice Marcle Vorilhon (20th century and present), Wikipedia removed Missin of Maitreya (name Ahmad ibn Abdullah aka Joseph Emmanuel and various other makes) due to lack of notability, but he is 20th century and present.

    http://maitreya.org/

    But the point that all Hinduism is based on Krishna and his teachings or that all Buddhism is based on Siddhartha Gautama and his teachings. They are based on that, but not that alone. Take for instance the Hare Krishna movement is based on Avatars like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, and A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Tibetan Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha Padmasambhava. Nichiren Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha Nichiren Daishonin and Daisaku Ikeda. True Buddha School is based on the teachings of the Buddha Lu Sheng-yen. Tulku lineages as well are good examples of Buddhas like the Panchen Lama and Sharmapa Lama.

    While you say you don’t adhere to a list of a dozen or so Avatars/Buddhas, you do effectively write as if you did. Baha’is due tend to adhere strongly to the list of Adam, Noah, Eber (Hud), Abaraham, Moses, Shelah (Shaleh), Jesus, Muhammad, Bab, and Bahullah. You can insert Krishna, Zoroaster, and Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni) in there somewhere. Baha’is tend to ignore anyone not on the list. Any knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism will be limited if you view those religions as being one Avatar or one Buddha based religions.

    Any Baha’i study of Hinduism or Buddhism will be lmited by the fact that Krishna is the only Avatar they recognize and that Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni is the only Buddha the recognize. Your argument assumes there only been 13 people of the Avatar/Buddha level since Adam back in 3616 BCE.

    1. I think I need to be clearer on what Baha’u’llah teaches about Manifestations of God. A Manifestation of God, as opposed to what we might call a minor prophet, or saint or holy man, is someone who arrives with an independent set of teachings (a “book”) rather than one who works within the framework of another tradition or refines upon the teachings of an Avatar.

      Abdu’l-Baha writes: “Thus there have been many holy Manifestations of God. One thousand years ago, two hundred thousand years ago, one million years ago the bounty of God was flowing, the radiance of God was shining, the dominion of God was existing.”

      In one passage, Baha’u’llah talks about Manifestations of God of which we have no record and comments that there is not a patch of earth on the planet upon which Their blood has not been shed. This may be a poetic utterance, but it does indicate just how often God speaks. The Manifestations are the Suns to which other prophets are moons. Moses, for example, was a Manifestation of God; Ezekiel was a prophet, who refined upon Mosaic law and called the Jews back to the pure teachings.

      Krishna is not the only Avatar I recognize from the overall Vedic stream of faith. He is merely the Avatar from that tradition whose teachings are most readily available and that seem to have come down in relatively concise form.

      And this raises an important issue: The age of the previous revelations poses problems of content, context, translation and interpretation. The older a revelation is, the less likely our record of it is to be complete.

      This is why Baha’is in general focus on Baha’i scripture: accuracy and authority. Baha’u’llah wrote volumes either in His own hand or through a scribe whose work He edited and approved. The books of Baha’u’llah that Baha’is all over the world possess in our various native languages were translated from original manuscripts written in Farsi and Arabic that still exist and are kept in the Archives building on Mount Carmel where they are available for study by scholars and translators and where the Universal House of Justice can access them to deal with issues that arise.

      I have, at my disposal, four different translations of the Qur’an and dozens of translations of the Bible. Three Dhammapadas, and four or five different Bhagavad Gitas. None of them is more authoritative than another. The version of the Seven Valleys I have (as well as the other books of Baha’i scripture) are the only authoritative versions of those treatises revealed by the Manifestation of God, Himself, signed and sealed by Him and still available to read by anyone who reads wither Arabic or Farsi.

      Between the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, there is a lifetime worth of material to study, absorb, meditate upon, and put into practice. Given that this material was revealed with the express purpose of providing guidance for THIS TIME in history, I’m sure you understand that a Baha’i would be chiefly concerned with what Baha’u’llah or Abdu’l-Baha had to say about the problems the world and the individuals in it face every day.

      1. Hindus have scriptures other than the Bhagavad Gita. In fact Shaiva Siddhanta Church as well as most Hindus view the Bhagavad Gita as a minor Smriti text and that the status as the Hindu Bible is Orientalist nonsense.

        Buddhists have scriptures other than the Dhammapada. Theravada Buddhists have a whole Pali Canon. Mahayana Buddhists read Mahayana Sutras instread.

        Let’s take a list of avatars of Shesha which includes Balabhadra/Baladeva/Balarama/Halayudha, Lakshmana, Ramanuja (11th century), Manavala Mamunigal (14th/15th century), Nityananda Prabhu (15th/16th century), etc. I will also include the Golden avatar Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th/16th century). Others to include are Meher Baba (19th/20th century), A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (19th/20thcentury), Nirmala Srivastava (20th/21century), Mata Amritanandamayi (20th century and present), and Mother Meera (20th century and present). This is not a comprehensive list and I could add other more recent Avatars.

        On the Buddhist side is less. There are Padmasambhava (8th century), Nichiren Daishonin (13th century), Daisaku Ikeda (20th century and present), and Lu Sheng-yen (20th century and present).

        Other figures I could add as Avatars and/or Buddhas include Bahullah (19th century), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (19th/20th century), Lu Zhongyi (19th/20th century), Master Benisa Duono Peter Denuov (19th/20th century), L. Ron Hubbard (20th century), Samael Aun Weor (20th century), Adi Da Love Ananda Kalki Avadhoota Avabhasa Bubba Free John Samraj (20th century), Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (20th/21th century), Raël Claude Maurice Marcle Vorilhon (20th century and present), Wikipedia removed Missin of Maitreya (name Ahmad ibn Abdullah aka Joseph Emmanuel and various other makes) due to lack of notability, but he is 20th century and present.

        If all Manifestations, Avatars, and Buddhas are different names for the same concept explain the above?

        1. Stephen, I assume this is you, right?

          I feel as if I’m repeating myself. Yes, I know there are other scriptures. in fact, I mentioned some of them in my last comment but deleted it because I thought I’d made it clear as glass that just because I don’t mention something or include it in a list it doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge it. i also have copies of the Rig Veda, Upanishads, and a document that contains passages from various sutras and other sources. I also have a collection of the sayings of Black Elk a collection of Native American prophecies, Lost Books of the Bible, The Gospel of Buddha …

          I could list the entire contents of both my physical and digital library—I could try to remember all the materials I’ve ever checked out of the library on these subjects but I suspect that would not be enough for you. You would still tell me that I “left something out.”

          To be clear: when I use the term Avatar or Buddha or Christ or Prophet, I mean the same thing as when I say Manifestation of God. Clearly part of our communication problem is that you are using these words differently than I am Therefore, I shall stop using words that confuse the issue and refer to Manifestations of God as that or as Mirrors or as independent Prophets, perhaps, since you use the words Avatar and Buddha to mean something else.

          So, let me say that the Avatar Krishna was a Manifestation of God by Baha’u’llah’s definition. So was Gautama Buddha, so was Christ, so were others. The ones I mention are the ones I am certain of. That there are others, I am aware, as I have said repeatedly. I simply choose not to list them or I am not certain of them.

          But let me guide you to the writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha to get a sense of what They mean when They use the term Manifestation. Here’s but one (and only one) of numerous passages in which Baha’u’llah speaks of the reality of the Manifestation:

          And since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute, 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. To this testifieth the tradition: “Manifold and mysterious is My relationship with God. I am He, Himself, and He is I, Myself, except that I am that I am, and He is that He is.” And in like manner, the words: “Arise, O Muḥammad, for lo, the Lover and the Beloved are joined together and made one in Thee.” He similarly saith: “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and Them, except that They are Thy Servants.” The second station is the human station, exemplified by the following verses: “I am but a man like you.” “Say, praise be to my Lord! Am I more than a man, an apostle?” These Essences of Detachment, these resplendent Realities are the channels of God’s all-pervasive grace. Led by the light of unfailing guidance, and invested with supreme sovereignty, They are commissioned to use the inspiration of Their words, the effusions of Their infallible grace and the sanctifying breeze of Their Revelation for the cleansing of every longing heart and receptive spirit from the dross and dust of earthly cares and limitations. Then, and only then, will the Trust of God, latent in the reality of man, emerge, as resplendent as the rising Orb of Divine Revelation, from behind the veil of concealment, and implant the ensign of its revealed glory upon the summits of men’s hearts.” — Gleanings, XXVII (pp 65-67)

          If you really want to know more about this I recommend reading Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah which, translated by the Prophet’s great-grandson, Shoghi Effendi, deals with a variety of subjects including the nature of the Manifestation of God, the human soul, and the needs of the world. Also, `Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace (106-107) has one such detailed discussion of what the Baha’i concept of Manifestation is. He also speaks of this in several talks he gave that are recorded in Foundations of World Unity and Paris Talks.

      2. http://maitreya.org/

        You forgot the above link an actual Manifestation claimant rather than it being indirect by claiming to be an Avatar or Buddha.

        Also, I forgot to add name and email because I switched computers and it automatically does it on my iPad.

        Other figures I could add as Avatars and/or Buddhas include Bahullah (19th century), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (19th/20th century), Lu Zhongyi (19th/20th century), Master Benisa Duono Peter Denuov (19th/20th century), L. Ron Hubbard (20th century), Samael Aun Weor (20th century), Adi Da Love Ananda Kalki Avadhoota Avabhasa Bubba Free John Samraj (20th century), Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (20th/21th century), Raël Claude Maurice Marcle Vorilhon (20th century and present), Wikipedia removed Missin of Maitreya (name Ahmad ibn Abdullah aka Joseph Emmanuel and various other makes) due to lack of notability, but he is 20th century and present.

        All of the above fit the criteria by founding various religious traditions like Bahai Faith, Qadianism, I Kuan Tao, Esoteric Society, Scientology, Neo Gnosticism, Adi Dam, Love Institute, Raelism, Mission of Maitreya, etc.

        You assume a static view of Hinduism and Buddhism. You assume Krishna lived, taught the Bhagavad Gita, and Hinduism is limited to just that. You also assume Buddha lived, taught the Dhammapada, and Buddhism is limited to just that.

        If the concepts of Manifestation and Avatar and Buddha are equivalent, when someone fulfills the criteria in Hindu scripture for being an Avatar like all Avatars listed previously they’re the other two by default and when someone fulfills the criteria for being a Buddha in Buddhist scriptures they’re the other two by default?

        1. No, Stephen, I do not assume what you wrote above. Rather I distinguish between the teachings and life of the Buddha—which is the root of all sects and schools of Buddhism—and the religions and sects in the world today that are Buddhistic.

          Christ taught 2000 years ago. We have a very limited set of His teachings. From this small amount of material and the record of His earthly life have sprung 31,000 sects of Christianity. But I believe Baha’u’llah is right that we err when we identify the Message of Christ itself with those thousands of diverse and sometimes conflicting sects.

          The Message that Christ gave (or that Buddha gave) is one thing—what men have done with it is another.

          I would be willing to bet that if you asked Buddhists or Hindus from different schools of thought about the qualities of an Avatar you would get different answers. So to answer to your question above: If the concepts of Manifestation and Avatar and Buddha are equivalent, when someone fulfills the criteria in Hindu scripture for being an Avatar like all Avatars listed previously they’re the other two by default and when someone fulfills the criteria for being a Buddha in Buddhist scriptures they’re the other two by default?

          A Baha’i accepts Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha’s criteria for what a Manifestation of God is. Clear? This means that a Baha’i will use the word Avatar differently than some Hindus might use it. Or than some Buddhists might use it. If that confuses the issue, then it behooves the Baha’i to either agree with the other party on a definition of Avatar both can be comfortable with, or to simply not use it.

          Since you use the word Avatar and Buddha differently than I do, I will not use them to apply generally to Manifestations of God.

          1. Its not how Hindus and Buddhists defined it, but rather how their scriptures define it.

            I can’t find a complete defintion of Buddhahood, but the Shurangama Sutra comes closest.

            http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/surangama.pdf

            The Shurangama gives ten negative criteria.

            1. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the thought of skillfully advancing or teach others to. He doesn’t perform misdeeds or teach others to. He doesn’t speak to frighten and ruin people.

            2. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the thought of gaining furter experience or teaching others to. He doesn’t indulge in luxury or teach others to. He doesn’t break rule or teach others to. He isn’t licentious or teaches other to. He doesn’t do wrong deeds or teach others to. He doesn’t destroy the seed of wisdom or teach others to.

            3. A Buddha doesnt concentrate on the thought of merging or teach others to. He doesn’t have a disturbed mind or teach others to. He isn’t delude or teach other to.

            4. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the root of all things or teach others to. He doesn’t say the Dharmakaya is flesh and blood or teach others to. He doesn’t indulge in sexual desire or teach others to. He doesn’t say that the body and the body parts are pure lands, the abodes of Bodhi and nirvana, or teach others to.

            5. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the thought of communion or teach others to. He doesn’t lose his clear mind or teach others to.

            6. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the thought of restfulness or teach others to. He doesn’t practice austerities or teach others to. He doesn’t vilify monasticism or teach others to.

            7. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the thought of learning or teach others to. He doesn’t taunt the Dharma or teach others to.

            8. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on the thought of seeking or teach others to. He doesn’t vilify discipline or teach others to. He isn’t carnal or teach others to. He doesn’t teach that a Buddha is a layperson or teach others to.

            9. A Buddha doesn’t dwell on the thought of extinction or teach others to. He doesn’t despise monasticism or teach others to. He doesn’t say that karma is false or teach others to. He doesn’t say that reincarnation is false or teach others to. He doesn’t indulge in desires or teach others to.

            10. A Buddha doesn’t concentrate on immortality or teach others to. He doesn’t say no practice is neccessary or teach others to.

            I tried to turn the paragraphs into what a Buddha isn’t. Some of the criteria for the ten types of false Buddhas were repetitive so I listed them only once. I’ve never really used this criteria to judge whether or not a person was or wasn’t a Buddha. You can read pages 291-304 for the extensive versions rather than my summaries. They’re in narrative forms where ten false Buddhas or rather ten false Buddha archetypes come and are described. These are ten good examples of what a Buddha isn’t. These are ten seperate categories of false Buddhas, so a person doesn’t have to fail all ten of the tests, but has to fail one even if they pass the other nine to be a false Buddha.

            You also confuse folk Buddhism with Buddhist scripture. In Buddhist scripture, Maitreya is a Bodhisattva. In Folk Buddhism, Maitreya is a Buddha. The same issue happens with the other seven Mahasatttvas. There may come poems, visions, novels, etc. that identify Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Samatabhadra, Akashagarbha, Kshitigarbha, etc. as Buddhas rather than Bodhisattvas. Any Buddhist (actual rather than folk) knows the terms Maitreya Buddha is a contradiction in terms. Just because some folk Buddhists said otherwise doesn’t make it any less true.

            But guessing, I’d say Lu Zhongyi, Master Benisa Duono, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Samael Aun Weor, and Adi Da Samraj might pass all the ten criteria for being a true Buddha or atleast not have enough evidence for being false Buddhas.

            It’s appropriation of the concepts of Avatar and Buddha if you use the terms without knowing the criteria used for whether a person is or is not one. This has to do with what scripture actually says rather than what you think it says. Do all the dozen or so Manifestations pass the Shurangama criteria for being a Buddha or not? It gives a straightforward list of what to look for and what not to look for in a Buddha.

            Also, Krishna is mentioned in Buddhist scripture, but not as a Buddha.

            The story of Krishna occurs in the Jataka tales in Buddhism,[124] in the Vaibhav Jataka as a prince and legendary conqueror and king of India.[125] In the Buddhist version, Krishna is called Vasudeva, Kanha and Keshava, and Balarama is his older brother, Baladeva. These details resemble that of the story given in the Bhagavata Purana. Vasudeva, along with his nine other brothers (each son a powerful wrestler) and one elder sister (Anjana) capture all of Jambudvipa (many consider this to be India) after beheading their evil uncle, King Kansa, and later all other kings of Jambudvipa with his Sudarshana Chakra. Much of the story involving the defeat of Kansa follows the story given in the Bhagavata Purana.[126]

            As depicted in the Mahābhārata, all of the sons are eventually killed due to a curse of sage Kanhadipayana (Veda Vyasa, also known as Krishna Dwaipayana). Krishna himself is eventually speared by a hunter in the foot by mistake, leaving the sole survivor of their family being their sister, Anjanadevi of whom no further mention is made.[127]

            Since Jataka tales are given from the perspective of Buddha’s previous lives (as well as the previous lives of many of Buddha’s followers), Krishna appears as one of the lives of Sariputra, one of Buddha’s foremost disciples and the “Dhammasenapati” or “Chief General of the Dharma” and is usually shown being Buddha’s “right hand man” in Buddhist art and iconography.[128] The Bodhisattva, is born in this tale as one of his youngest brothers named Ghatapandita, and saves Krishna from the grief of losing his son.[125] The ‘divine boy’ Krishna as an embodiment of wisdom and endearing prankster forms a part of worshipable pantheon in VAIBHAV RAI .[129]

          2. I think Buddha gives several good definitions of Buddhahood. Wouldn’t that be a good place to start? He says a number of things, some of which I do not have in electronic form and so cannot share here but in one such passage from the Samyutta-nikaya, Buddha states: “Only those who do not believe call me Gautama, but you call me the Buddha, the Blessed One, the Teacher, and this is right, for I have in this life entered Nirvana, while the life of Gautama has been extinguished.” And in the same source, He refers to Himself as the abode of Truth (“the truth has taken its abode in me.”)

            And: “I was born into the world as the King of Truth for the salvation of the world. The subject upon which I meditate is Truth. … For lo, myself hath become the Truth. Whosoever comprehendeth the Truth will see the Blessed One, for the Truth has been preached by the Blessed One.” Digha-nikaya I:46 (Christ’s words, spoken to Pilate during His mock trial, are eerily similar: “Pilate therefore said unto him, ‘Art thou a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.'” John 18:37)

            Also, as regards to Krishna being a Buddha, I can think of at least one passage where He is referred to in that way: “In this auspicious eon, three leaders there have been. Kakasandha (Manu, the Father of Mankind), Konagamana (Rama), and Kassapa (Krishna, of the Kassapa tribe) too. I am now the perfect Buddha. And there will be Metteye too, before this same auspicious eon runs to the end of its years.” Anagata-Vamsa, p.34

            You ask: It’s appropriation of the concepts of Avatar and Buddha if you use the terms without knowing the criteria used for whether a person is or is not one. This has to do with what scripture actually says rather than what you think it says. Do all the dozen or so Manifestations pass the Shurangama criteria for being a Buddha or not?

            Yes.

            I agree with you that you can begin to piece together an idea of where a divine Messenger might have appeared in history through a reading of scripture (and the pages of history, as well). There is a rather long (too long for this space) passage in Promulgation of Universal Peace (p.364) in which Abdu’l-Baha “catalogues” the qualities of the Manifestation in a positive rather than negative way. Here’s a tiny portion of it:

            “What, then, is the mission of the divine Prophets? Their mission is the education and advancement of the world of humanity. They are the real Teachers and Educators, the universal Instructors of mankind. If we wish to discover whether any one of these great Souls or Messengers was in reality a Prophet of God, we must investigate the facts surrounding His life and history, and the first point of our investigation will be the education He bestowed upon mankind. If He has been an Educator, if He has really trained a nation or people, causing it to rise from the lowest depths of ignorance to the highest station of knowledge, then we are sure that He was a Prophet. This is a plain and clear method of procedure, proof that is irrefutable. We do not need to seek after other proofs. We do not need to mention miracles, saying that out of rock water gushed forth, for such miracles and statements may be denied and refused by those who hear them. The deeds of Moses are conclusive evidences of His Prophethood. If a man be fair, unbiased and willing to investigate reality, he will undoubtedly testify to the fact that Moses was, verily, a man of God and a great Personage.” (from a talk at Temple El-Emanuel in San Francisco, 1912)

            In a talk given later that same year, he notes:

            “The supreme and most important happening in the human world is the Manifestation of God and the descent of the law of God. The holy, divine Manifestations did not reveal themselves for the purpose of founding a nation, sect or faction. They did not appear in order that a certain number might acknowledge Their Prophethood. They did not declare Their heavenly mission and message in order to lay the foundation for a religious belief. Even Christ did not become manifest that we should merely believe in Him as the Christ, follow Him and adore His mention. All these are limited in scope and requirement, whereas the reality of Christ is an unlimited essence. The infinite and unlimited Reality cannot be bounded by any limitation. Nay, rather, Christ appeared in order to illumine the world of humanity, to render the earthly world celestial, to make the human kingdom a realm of angels, to unite the hearts, to enkindle the light of love in human souls, so that such souls might become independent, attaining complete unity and fellowship, turning to God, entering into the divine Kingdom, receiving the bounties and bestowals of God and partaking of the manna from heaven. Through Christ they were intended to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, attain a new spirit and realize the everlasting life. All the holy precepts and the announcements of prophetic laws were for these various and heavenly purposes.” — Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 442, 443 from a talk given November 18, 1912

            So, these are the criteria I would apply were I to scour history for signs of the appearance of a Divine Emissary, I would also take the negative criteria you posed as being applicable.

            But to be honest, this whole discussion reminds me of a story of the Buddha in which He relates that a man was shot with an arrow and, before he would consent to be treated by the Physician, demanded to know what tribe the man who shot it came from, what sort of bird the feathers had come from, of what was the tip made and what sort of poison it contained, and a host of other information. Buddha remarks: “That man would die. But he would die without knowing any of these things.” I think His point is that this sort of detail is irrelevant and not conducive to life.

            I lack sufficient time to argue terminology with you or to read through list after list of Sanskrit terms and names. You enjoy the practice of cataloguing and listing things, and seem to believe that some Grand Unified List might be constructed if only one knew all of the items to put on it. Perhaps that is a form of yoga. If so, I respect it, and ask that you respect my form of bhakti-jnana-karma yoga and not repeatedly tell me what I think or believe or have forgotten to add to a list that I am not making. I don’t feel the need to categorize or list things, nor do I want to discuss lists, for I find them most unenlightening.

          3. Maya, you had a problem with poeple identify figure such as Jesus and all Maitreya claimants (which includes Muhammad and Bahaullah) as bodhisattvas despite Maitreya being a bodhisattva. Bing has 70,800 results for Jesus Bodhisattva. Just because some folk Buddhists say Maitreya is a Buddha doesn’t count as the same as the Buddhist texts which call Maitreya a Bodhisattva.

            You don’t invoke any Buddhist scriptures to defend the position that any of them are Buddhas, rather you invoke the fact that you call them Buddhas.

          4. Now, about that first sentence. I’m not sure what it means exactly, so I hope this answers it. I would think that one can be a Manifestation of God and a bodhisattva at the same time. So I see no conflict (either/or, one or zero, one wins—one loses) there. And I’m not confusing “folk” Buddhism with scripture because what I have tried to do is study scripture first and take in what current Buddhist practice is only secondarily. I have no real interest in “folk” Buddhism.

            Regarding the Maitreye not being a Buddha, there would seem to be differing opinions on that. You might read Maitreye Buddha Amit-Abha Has Appeared by Jamshed Fozdar to get one of them.

            Also I note that a compilation of Buddhist sources entitled “The Gospel of Buddha” contains this conversation in which Ananda asks the Master who will guide them when He is gone.

            And the Blessed One replied: “I am not the first Buddha who came upon earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time another Buddha will arise in the world, a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of angels and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths which I have taught you. He will preach his religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax, and glorious at the goal, in the spirit and in the letter. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure; such as I now proclaim.”13
            Ānanda said: “How shall we know him?”14
            The Blessed One said: “He will be known as Metteyya, which means ‘he whose name is kindness.'”15

            I reference this source because I don’t have to go dig for it in the library.

            Just a side note: Baha’u’llah’s given name “Husayn” means “kindness”, which is one reason that Baha’is of Buddhist background identify Him with the Maitreye Buddha.

          5. In the Pali texts known as the Jātakas, one of Śāriputra’s previous incarnation was also known as “Vasudeva” Krishna’s father. The story in the Ghata Jataka differs from the Hindu story of Krishna in that Krishna has 9 brothers and a sister and is more of a conquering king, who along with his brothers, conquers all of the mystical land of Jambudvipa.[6] Some contend that the Bhagavad Gita also advises to aspire for refuge in Buddha, Gita 2:49, which states “Buddhau Saranam Anvicche” or “Take refuge in enlightenment”.

            Similarly one of the nine commonly used recollections (Anussati) of Buddha—”Purisa damma sarathi” which means “charioteer of heroic men”. In the Gita for the first time, Krishna, who is a king himself, is shown as a mere charioteer and guide of the prince Arjuna.

            In another Jataka, the Dasaratha Jataka, Sariputta is reborn as Lakshmana or Lakkhan to Buddha’s rebirth as Rāma. In the Buddhist tale however, Sita is never kidnapped and Rama merely returns after exile as a glorious king to rule for thousands of years.

            This shows Rama in Buddhism as well as Krishna.

  6. It would be incorrect to boil Christianity — as we know it and across its history — to just one figure.

    St. Peter and St. Paul both played huge roles, for example. And for many Martin Luther would also be a key figure. As would St. Thomas, St. John, and many others. And that’s not to mention the vast number of figures Christians see as setting the stage, and from whom they draw inspiration — John the Baptist, Daniel, and so on and so forth.

    Stephen, it’s not that Baha’is see Hinduism and Buddhism — as the religious systems they evolved into — boiling down to just one dude. Think of the the description I just gave of Christianity.

    Also, we don’t see a neatly-packaged linear evolution of religion, as the material on that apparently ill-informed website implies. We fully recognize, different societies have developed — and disintegrated — at different paces, and for different reasons. Even if, for example, things were happening in two, or three — or ten dozen — places at the same relative time — and indeed, with some overlap.

    Lots of this also gets lost in the white noise of cultural bias. For example, many Westerns might fail to recognize the huge influence Muhammed had on Western civilization — even though it goes largely unacknowledged. Likewise, many in Buddhist and Hindu civilizations might do well to consider how Muhammed, Moses and Christ influenced their society… and vice versa.

    Finally, I ultimately see no threat or problem in the “differences” between the various faiths… east and west. In the Hidden Words, for example, I see just as much emphasis on an inward journey, as I do in praising an outward God.

    And heck, for that matter, Christ Jesus Himself said, “The Kingdom of God lies within you.” — sounds pretty Zen to me. While Buddha Himself spoke of one “unborn, unmade” and so forth.. and I’ll be snickered if that doesn’t sound an awfully lot like, well, what we in the West might call “God.”

    In other words, religion isn’t a zero-sum team sport. And spiritual evolution — just like biological evolution or any other kind of evolution — is as much a mixing pot, as it is linear progression.

    1. The problem with terms like Hinduism is that several religions are lumped togtpether into one religion. The Sanskrit word for religion is Sampradaya, not Dharma. Things that people view are denominations of Hinduism and Buddhism are actually other religions.

      I explained in my other post.

    2. Thanks for weighing in, Mark. I think your final remark is on the money—religion is not a zero-sum situation. I’m reminded that there has been a movement for decades that make a case for Jesus (issa) going to India and teaching—or absorbing the teachings of Buddha.

      Buddha’s teaching that there is one dharma, not two or three is echoed by Abdu’l-Baha, of course, and goes with that idea that the Truth is one, men have multiplied it.

  7. To further expand on a concept I touched on in my previous posts

    The “Western” — Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition could certainly — as Stephen suggests Buddhism and Hinduism are — seen as a team effort.

    For starters, ever major Prophet (what Baha’is call the Manifestations) seemed to have a right-hand man. Moses could not have made it without Aaron, Muhammed depended upon Ali, Christ put His trust in Peter.. and so on.

    Furthermore, we have a cast of supporting characters.. all the Old Testament Prophets, the aforementioned John the Baptist, Christ’s disciples, and so forth. And, once the Manifestation has passed, many inspired souls (some might say, “saints”) carry on and carry forth the religion. Again, we have St. Paul as a huge central figure in Christianity, plus later on Martin Luther and many others.

    This continues with the Baha’i Faith. Baha’u’llah is the central figure, yes, but there is also the Bab, Abdul’ Baha’, Shogi Effendi, the Hands of the Cause, and various other inspired souls that could be likened to “saints” — if one wishes to use that term.

    But, one must also bear in mind, everything pivots around that central figure. Just as Christianity could not have existed without Christ, so too, Buddhism would not be known without The Buddha. This, from a Baha’i perspective, is what sets the Manifestations apart.

    1. This still leads problems with some religious categories. Some religious groups are hard to define as an independent religion or a dependent religion. Tibetan Buddhism or Lamaism? Nichiren Buddhism or Nichirenism? Mormonism or LDS Chrisitanity? Lingayatism or Vira Shaiva Hinduism? Qadainism or Ahmadiyya Islam? Sikhism, Sikh Hinduism, or Sikh Islam? Swedenborgianism or Swedenborgian Chrsitianity? Christianity or Jesus Judaism?

      The categorization is still easier in Western religions, but is more difficult with Eastern religions? If we view Lamaism as founded by Padmasambhava, Nichirenism by Nichiren, Qadianism by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, etc, does it make them Manifestations?

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

      Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard.
      Adi Dam was founded by Adi Da.
      Raëlism was founded by Raël.
      UCGC or Neo Gnosticism was founded by Samael Aun Weor.

      The best example would be Mission of Maitreya.

      http://maitreya.org/

      On what basis can you say anyone listed here is or is not a Manifestation?

      1. Just don’t categorize and you have no problem.

        I’m not being cheeky, really. I’m just suggesting that trying to categorize everything can become an end unto itself. One I have no time for.

  8. Maya, anyone fammiliar with the Jataka tales and other Buddhist scriptures will tell you that Manu, Rama, and Krishna weren’t former Buddhas. You identify Kakusandha with Manu, Konagamma with Rama, and Kassapa with Krishna despite Buddhist scripture referring to the, as seperate indivduals’s and not the same. It’s there any more evidence for such identification than a weak link between these figures?

    All Buddhas have hagiographies involving what caste they were, where they were born, who there parents were, what type of tree they achieved enlightenment under, and where the Bodhisattva who became Shakyamuni Buddha was.

    Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist scriptures contain stories involving the same characters, but the stories differe wildly from each other. The Puranas which are the source of the Hindu versions of characters originally from Jain and Buddhist scriptures were written between 300 and 1600 CE. The Itihasa were written around 100 BCE.

    1. The quote is from a Buddhist scripture. The identification of the figures is not mine. It is from the work of Jamshed Fozdar. It is contained in either Amit-Abha Has Appeared or The God of Buddha—not sure which. It’s been many years since I jotted the reference down. For references that deal with traditional Buddhist thought, you might consider reading Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith, by Moojan Momen.

      This discussion, I think, points to the need to continually turn to the most recent revelation so that we don’t, in the end, begin to argue about what is authentic Buddhist (or Christian or Jewish) scripture and what is not.

      As Abdu’l-Baha notes, if two people argue about religion they are both wrong. Most significantly, if we argue about who is or is not a Buddha or Manifestation, we miss the point of Their appearance. The mission of these Messengers, regardless of what you call Them, is to bring unity to mankind. To help us acquire Godly qualities, and to lead to our enlightenment and edification, such that we repair ourselves and our world and create an ever-advancing civilization. Wrangling over who is a Bodhisattva and who a Buddha is not likely to contribute to the progress of mankind.

      Also, other than the Manifestations specifically identified by scripture, neither of us can do any better than to apply the criteria we believe valid and to decide FOR OURSELVES AND NO ONE ELSE, who we believe might have been a Manifestation or Avatar or Buddha. I do not have the authority to determine that for you; you do not have the authority to determine that for me. It must, therefore, lie within the realm of personal opinion.

      I have no interest in advancing my opinion over yours. To me, it is simply not relevant to know what the different schools of Buddhism understand about either Bodhisattvas or Buddhas. Or what tree they meditated under. Or who their parents were. (Or what type of poison was on the arrow.) The legends of all of the more ancient prophets and Manifestations are legion and often fabulous (literally), fantastic and conflicting. I am edified in knowing the prescriptive teachings of those Beings insofar as I can know them.

      Obviously, as I mentioned elsewhere, I focus on the teachings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha in part because they are more recent, targeted to this time in history, and authoritative. Consider the realm of science. As interesting and inspiring as the work of Charles Darwin is, if I want to understand the current state of evolutionary science, I need to take my primary guidance from more recent works. Wouldn’t you agree?

      1. Yes, I see I do have a tendency to study new religious movements most. I did recently download the Holy Books of Thelema and writings of Raël on my iPad. I’m also interested in Scienotlogy, Raëlism, Neo Gnosticism, etc. So being up to date on religion require study the most recent new religious movements. Also, I can read THOTH online on the Mission website. I also have several Discordian scriptures on my iPad.

        Most of the new religous movements I study are even more recent.

      2. Maya,

        http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Jamshed%20K%20Fozdar&search-alias=books&sort=relevancerank

        Jamshedpur K. Fozdar’s books seem to be out of print. Do you have proof that the identifications are made in the original sources rather than just in his books?

        The problem with not quoting the actual Sutras themselves and quoting books about Buddha and Buddhism is that the Sutras might be mistranslated in those books you quote.

        1. Unless you are proposing that only the books I reference might be mistranslated while those you reference never are, then we are both in the same boat, are we not?

          This is why it seems to be less beneficial to pore over treatments from thousands of ancient texts the provenance of which (let along the translations) we cannot be sure of than to identify a spiritual teaching that seems more suited to the world we live in now and that might clarify the principles necessary for day to day life and our spiritual journey.

          I have a copy of Fozdar’s book and if I have the time, I will send you his exact citations.

          1. Technically, I didn’t say the quote where mistranslated, but edited. Parentheses and elipses are cues to edited quotes. Parentheses are things you add to quotes and elipses are parts you skip. I forgot how to spell elipses, but they are (…) representing skipped text.

            I will show the logical problems with the authors identification, by showing in fact that the two people the editor assumes to be one person are actually recognized as two separate people.

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

            Now how is this topic relented to this issue? It shows both Sahkyamuni and Kassapa being meat eating Buddhas. Now, everyone, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever know Krishna was vegetarian as referenced in other parts of both Hindu and Buddhist scripture, thus establishing them as two separate people regardless of belonging to the same tribe. Now, that I showed the third identification to be easily falsifiable, I can cast doubt on the other two identifications.

          2. Actually, this is exactly what you said: “The problem with not quoting the actual Sutras themselves and quoting books about Buddha and Buddhism is that the Sutras might be mistranslated in those books you quote.”

            So, yes, you did say mistranslated. I accept that that is not what you meant to say. In a number of cases, the ellipses are mine because the quotation was quite long and touched on other subjects. Yes, there is skipped text because it did not apply directly to the subject at hand and I wanted to limit the length of my response.

            What does vegetarianism have to do with the subject of binary thinking, Avatars, Buddhas or Manifestations of God? In what way does it show Fozdar’s identification of the Buddhas to be falsifiable? Yes, I must ask: how is this topic related to the issue? Bahá’u’lláh forbids the drinking of wine unless prescribed by a physician, but Christ is said to have turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Would you take this as proof that, therefore, Christ is not a Manifestation of God?

            Here’s my real point to you, Stephen: all of this haggling over who ate meat or who didn’t, how you or I or my Buddhist friends define the words “Avatar” or “Buddha” is time-consuming, and unprofitable. Bahá’u’lláh, no less than Christ or Buddha or Krishna or Ra, has asked of us that we seek God, that we learn and practice human virtues as taught and displayed by His Emissaries, and that we spend our lives seeking to further the cause of humanity by treading the path and living the life.

            If you have legitimate questions about the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith or what I or any other CGG blogger has said in a post, by all means, ask and we’ll endeavor to answer. But we’ve wandered so far from the original subject, I’m not sure I remember what it is … oh, yes, the problems inherent in binary thinking…

          3. I asked for primary sources. You said that Buddha taught that Manu, Rama, and Krishna were Buddhas. Instead of giving a direct quote of a primary source, you gave me an indirect quote mixed with original research. A book that is out of print I might add. You have recently post an article on the need for direct quotes and links to the original research papers and criticized media for not doing that.

            When it comes to quoting the religious text (scripture) of any religion, people want the texts to be directly cited rather than to cite a book containing either a quote or quotes from said scripture. I have studied citation rules for a while since I have been online as to cite stuff correctly. Technically, I wasn’t specifically arguing whether they were Buddhas, but whether they were identical to three of the thirty eight Buddha mentioned by name. Wikipedia for example has rule against using original research as sources for a reason.

            Any bookstore like Barnes and Noble will have a section for religious text. Any good employee will tell you that a translation of scripture and a book that contains quotes from said scripture aren’t the same thing. For example, Islam is currently a contentious topic. Islam, the Quran, and Muhammad have critics, critics who are prolific writers. Their books contain Quran quotes. People when discussing Islam would have direct Quran quotes rather than indirect quotes through critics’ books.

          4. Re primary sources. I gave the primary source. It’s the Anagata-Vamsa, p.34. Only the parenthetical notes are Mr. Fozdar’s. I wondered, myself, how he came to the conclusion that the name Kasappa, for example, referred to Krishna, and found in other references (and no, I don’t remember the exact source—it was years ago) that Krishna was a member of the Kasappa family. I also, as I recall, followed the bread crumbs for Rama and had to take it on trust that he had identified Manu appropriately. (Much in the same way that I have to trust that Einstein got his science right in areas where I either don’t understand or don’t have access to the same sources he did).

            I had no idea that Barnes and Noble contained religious texts! I am beside myself with surprise! :=)

          5. I used Bing and found a whole translation, but not divided into pages.

            http://www.usamyanmar.net/Buddha/Article/Anagatavams1.doc

            I looked for it on Wikipedia, but found a red link on this article.

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

            It’s under the list of post canonical texts (called apocrypha).

            Back to identification, the Pali Canon and Mahayana sutras gives lots of biographical details. If they math up between the two people, they are the same person. If they don’t, they are two different people. The Pali Canon for example is 20,000 pages long and contains lots of information. The Mahayana sutras aren’t collected, so I don’t know how much they contain. There are too many logical plot holes that happen when you merge the two characters that any Pali Canon expert will know that the people are two people and not one.

  9. On Sanskirit Dharmapadas,

    According to tradition, the Dhammapada’s verses were spoken by the Buddha on various occasions. “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.” 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. 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:

    “Gāndhārī Dharmapada” – a version possibly of Dharmaguptaka or Kāśyapīya origin in Gāndhārī written in Kharosthi script
    “Patna Dharmapada” – a version in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, most likely Sammatiya
    “Udānavarga” – a seemingly related Mula-Sarvastivada or Sarvastivada text 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.
    “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.

    Which one of the six Dharmapada versions have you read?

    1. Each one of the above versions is associated with a particular Buddhist school. Lokottaravada is associated with the Mahavastu version. Dharmaguptaka is associated with the Gandhari version. Kashyapiya is associated with the Gandhari version. Sarvastivada is associated with the Udanavarga version. Theravada is associated with the Pali version.

      So Maya whey you quoted Sanskrit Dharmapada which version are you referencing?

      1. I would have to dig a book out of the library to look up the reference. Trust me when I say I have already devoted to much time to this discussion. If I happen to get a moment to do that, I will let you know. However, I have a couple of deadlines to meet and time I spend not writing or editing is time I’m not earning my keep. 🙂

        1. Oh, I didn’t know you went to the library. I haven’t gone since middle school. Now, I go to book stores and Amazon to buy and own books. I prefer Amazon. You could download free PDFs of various books online where available. Buddha Net has the translation of the Pali Dhammapada online free as a PDF. It also has an illustrated version called the Treasury of Truth.

          On a side note three versions of the above are used by Buddhists today. Theravada uses the Pali version. Mahayana uses the Gandhari/Dharmaguptaka version. Vajrayana uses the Udanavarga/Sarvastivada version. Though with the latter two, while Hinayana texts are sometimes used, they usually limit reading to Mahayana sutras most of the time.

          1. In this case, I meant dig it out of my home library. Although, I do sometimes resort to getting books from the wonderful library down the street. Most of my personal reading, I do on my iPad. I have a Kindle app and a Barnes&NOble app for it as well as iBooks.

            Believe it or not, I not only know how to download PDFs from the internet, but I actually know how to create PDFs and eBooks. I’m a writer and editor by trade, and design eBook covers for a writers’ co-op that I’m a member of.

            Which reminds me, have you heard of Bible Gateway? It’s a great site for doing Bible research because of the sheer number of different translations you can get. You might also be interested in the Codex Sinaiticus, which is an online version of a Bible manuscript written in the middle of the 4th century and which contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament. Very cool.

            The way I approach scriptural (and other research) these days is to go to the sources (whether online or book form) with a specific subject to explore. So, it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that I might read other passages. I almost always get distracted by other cool stuff.

      2. Hello Stephen Kent Gray,
        I don’t see how alll the material you are citing relates to the topic. I think that what Maya is getting at is that the tendency, or even pressure, to declare oursleves as postioned at one point of polarity or the other on a topic is symptomatic of lazy thinking, and actually prevents meaningful dialogue or exploration of a topic. I encounter this situation sometimes when talking with friends about “altrnative medicine”. When I inquire about the science to back up various claims the response is often, “So, you support Big Pharma!” … What????? 🙂 End of discussion…..

  10. Stephen, I don’t have time to discuss Raeism or Scientology or the other hundreds and thousands of theological, philosophical religious and other trains of thought, let alone read wikipedia articles on them. I think it’s wonderful that you do have that kind of time and the interest, which is something else I don’t have.

    I’m going to delete comments that are just reports of what articles you’ve found as they really aren’t contributing to the ongoing dialogues.

    I looked into Scientology over 30 years ago. I was immediately put off by the pay to play idea and some of the ideology that sought to assign levels to people and some of the training practices which seemed to me to amount to manipulation. Also, it did not seem to answer my personal questions or help me make sense of reality. I was not studying it out of idle curiosity or to write a book, so I didn’t waste time looking further.

  11. Is it probable that fragmentary teachings from thousands of years ago would be as applicable to the issues we face today as a message specifically targeted to the age?

    The spiritual principles are always applicable. What we call the Golden Rule is as applicable today as it was when first revealed back in the mists of time, but even a cursory glance at the Jewish rabbinical schools efforts to apply Torah law and thought to changing times is, I think, eloquent of the issues that arise.

    I do not wish to argue with you about religion. In fact, I’m sure that many of these different schools of thought have very laudable principles and spiritual truths and if you extract meaning for your life from them, that’s wonderful. It is not necessary for me to tread the same path you do.

    I have identified a spiritual teaching that not only guides my individual efforts, but teaches me how to be a contributing part of a larger society and faith community. It is a path that not only empowers me as an individual, but mobilizes the efforts and channels the spiritual capacities of its individual members to work for the betterment of society as a whole.

    I chose long ago to immerse myself in a study of the teachings of Baha’u’llah and to be an active part of the Baha’i community. That’s my Path. It does not mean that I don’t extract deep meaning from the teachings of earlier Teachers or saints or thinkers. I do. But the framework in which I have chosen to apply that wisdom is the Baha’i Faith. I don’t see how reading wikipedia articles on Scientology or Discordianism is going to make me more effective in the world.

    My soul resonates to this frequency most completely. Does that make sense to you?

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