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A chapter excerpt from the upcoming book "The Last Salvation: How to Prepare for Judgment Day and the Coming Wisdom Era" by Marvin Q. Lam

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The Unspoken Word:

The Truth is very much like an apple pie; one has to sink one’s teeth into a piece of pie and eat it to truly appreciate it. The only way to satisfy one’s craving for apple pie is to help oneself to a piece of apple pie. Dreaming or thinking about a savory warm piece of pie won’t do any good to our craving. Holding a piece of pie in our hand, smelling, and staring at it may stimulate our appetite, but that won’t do any justice to our desire. We can sit in our armchair and visualize ourselves eating a big delicious piece of pie, but all that does is improve our visualization skill. Reading a well-written recipe for baking a perfect apple pie would only help expand our knowledge of apple pie.

In our search for God or the Truth, we often mistake the means for the goal. We attend Bible study, we go to church every Sunday, we listen to sermons, we participate in Harvest Crusades, we go on pilgrimage, and we do everything that a faithful follower is supposed to do in order to achieve our goal, whether it’s salvation, enlightenment, or spiritual bliss. We also have people who are spiritual but not necessarily religious. These people don’t make personal salvation or enlightenment their goal, but nonetheless they wish to have a meaningful life. Whatever our spiritual goal may be, we all seek to understand that higher purpose of human existence. Also, many of us feel the need to worship a deity, god, or higher being, and to establish a connection with our object of worship. We’re all searching for the Truth, one way or the other. But what is the Truth? The religious scriptures, the Sutras, the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad-Gita, are they the Truth? These are sacred texts that describe the Truth, but they are not the Truth. The churches and temples, the worship ceremonies and rituals, the chanting, the hymns and sermons, are they the Truth? Of course not! They all pertain to the way we worship the Divine, but in no way do they contain the Truth. All of these are merely means to the Truth. They are not the goals, but ways to achieve the goals. The scriptures reveal or describe the Truth, but they are not the Truth.

By the same token, we should not mistake religions for the Truth. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Judaism are nothing more than vehicles to take us to our destination. Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Lao-Tzu, Confucius and other founders of religions were messengers sent to earth by Almighty God to preach the Truth. The disciples and devout followers of these messengers erroneously believed that what they taught or preached was the Truth. And because these devotees were righteous people and firm believers, they were confident that they knew the Truth.

 Many Christians proclaim that Christianity is the Truth
 Many Buddhists believe that Buddhism is the Truth
 Many Muslims proclaim that Islam is the Truth
 Many Taoists proclaim that Taoism is the Truth
 Many Caodaists believe that Caodaism is the Absolute Truth, for Caodaism was founded by the Supreme God.

In fact, all of the above are false claims because none of these religions is the Truth. They are only means to attain the Truth. Many Christians believe that Jesus is the one and only way to salvation and eternal life. Many Buddhists believe that only the Buddha can lead us to enlightenment and self-liberation. Many devoted Christians and Buddhists do not realize that the moment they think their religion is exclusive, they unknowingly belittle their own faith. The Absolute Truth is not something that can be described by human language. If it can be described by our limited language, then it is no longer the Absolute Truth, for the Truth is infinite, ineffable, boundless, and immeasurable. According to the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be described by words is not the Absolute Tao."

If the Truth or God cannot be seen, reasoned, or described by words, then how can we ever hope to know God? If no scriptures can fully describe to us what the Truth is, how can we satisfy our thirst for knowledge of the Divine? What are we to do? Our instinct tells us that when hungry we should eat, and when thirsty we should drink. When we’re hungry for apple pie, for example, we should eat apple pie. The only way to appreciate that piece of pie in front of you, to know what its aroma, taste, and texture are like, is to sink your teeth into it. By the same token, the best way to know God and be close to God is to feel God with our sixth sense. And if we wish to admire God’s glorious radiance, we have to see God with our Third Eye (Wisdom Eye). In order to truly understand God, we have to become one with God by merging our Small Individual Soul with God’s Great Universal Soul. To search for the Truth in the scriptures is like searching for a redwood tree in the middle of the Mojave Desert, for the Truth is a Bible without words (Redwood trees only grow in the coastal mountains of Northern California and Oregon). To connect with God by chanting or praying to a stone statue is like singing a love song to a pet frog, for God is a silent temple without altars, bells, candles, and incense sticks. Attempting to prove that God exists through arguments, philosophical thinking or inductive reasoning is a futile effort, for God is beyond the grasp of human intellect and language. And if we do not see God but believe in God anyway, then our religious conviction is nothing more than blind faith.

To achieve peace and harmony in our lives, we have to be at peace with our environment, our fellow men, and our Creator. To be at peace with God, it’s imperative that we love God as much as, or more than, we love ourselves. The only way to feel a genuine love for God is to experience God first-hand and on a personal level. Religious scriptures, rituals, sermons, and Sunday masses are very impersonal, for they are intended for the masses. To connect with our Father in Heaven on a personal level, we must worship Him in the secret chambers of our hearts and in our inner altars, not in majestic temples and cathedrals. The best way to feel God’s love for us is to bask ourselves in His glorious radiance by merging our Individual Consciousness with God’s Cosmic Consciousness. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples are places where we meet like-minded people who share the same faith, but they are not where we can expect to meet God one on one.

We know that in the real world, there are usually alternative routes to a scenic or historic attraction. We often have two or more options. Should we take the scenic route, the fastest route, the shortcut, the highway, or the byway? The routes may be different. One may be longer than the other. One may be smooth while the other may be bumpy. One may feel like a stroll in the park while the other may be more challenging. But all these routes eventually take us to the same destination. The same can be said of the world’s religions. Religions are the routes, the paths, the ways, or the pathways to get to the Truth. The paths may be different and the journeys may be different, but eventually we all arrive at the same destination, for there is only one Truth. The world’s major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Confucianism – seem to offer conflicting explanations of the Truth. Why is it so? Obviously, each religion has its own cultural flavor because Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius lived among people of different cultures. These messengers of God referred to their Heavenly Father by different names because they spoke different languages. Also, they had to adapt their teachings to the stage of intellectual development of their people.

If there is only one Absolute Truth, then how come the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and Confucius don’t agree? They don’t agree because it is impossible to tell the whole story. The Truth is immense and boundless, whereas human intellect and language are superficial and limited. The best that a messenger of God can do is to reveal one aspect out of many aspects of the Truth. Founders of religions often used parables and analogies to explain intricate spiritual principles and metaphysical phenomena. The Old Testament and the New Testament both contain many parables or simple stories that are designed to make complex concepts more understandable to ordinary people – the farmers, herders, carpenters, shop keepers, and shoemakers. Because the Buddha and Jesus Christ approached the same Truth from different angles, their teachings appear to be different. Many Christians are taught that if they accept Christ as their Savior – for Christ had died so that their sins may be forgiven – then on Judgment Day when Christ returns, He will resurrect them from the dead and grant them everlasting life. Buddhists, on the other hand, are taught that people have to bear the burden of their own sins, or bad karma, and they will have to go through many cycles of birth and death or reincarnations until they are completely redeemed of all sins. These are not two conflicting truths, but two aspects of the same Absolute Truth. Both Jesus and the Buddha preached about the Law of Karma, except that each had His own way of explaining it.

Not only did founders of religions have to explain the Truth in terms of the local language and culture, but they also had to adapt their teachings to the current stage of human evolution or civilization. Thousands of years ago, most people grew up and died in the same village or province where they were born. There was no mass communication and interaction among peoples of different countries and cultures. There was no air travel, no mass migration, no global economy, no Internet, no international tourism, and no telecommunication. Jesus, the Buddha, and Mohammed were preaching to local audiences, and the issues of religious harmony and world peace were not their major concerns.

The world’s ancient religions have become somewhat obsolete because they have not evolved as fast as human civilizations. Some religious laws or rituals that were common practices thousands of years ago may no longer be culturally acceptable today. As we can see in the case of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, strict enforcement of fundamentalist Islamic laws had hindered that country’s cultural and economic development. Not only are our religions outdated because of rapid cultural and technological advancements, they have also lost their true original forms. Over the centuries, religious leaders and preachers have distorted God’s profound teachings by introducing their own interpretations of the scriptures. Of course, the Truth remains unchanged. The Truth will always be the Truth because it is absolute. What got distorted by religious leaders’ ambition and arrogance were the explanations of the Word of God. Discrepancies in our understanding of the Holy Bible have given rise to many denominations within the Christian Church. The same can be said of Buddhism. Today, all over the world, there are countless sects or branches of Buddhism.

The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. And thanks to the freedom to practice religions, the U.S. is also one of the world’s most religiously diverse nations. Is religious diversity a good thing? Can you imagine walking into a fast food restaurant and find out that they only have one item on the menu? What choices do you have when the only item they offer is the Double Trouble, a double-decker hamburger? None! You can’t have it your way because they only cook the hamburger one way and trim it one way. Can you imagine going to a new car dealership and find out that they only offer the Galaxy, a.k.a. “the most versatile automobile in the universe?" There are no hard choices to make because the Galaxy is the model. And to make your car shopping experience more stress free, the Galaxy is offered in Avalanche White only! Can you imagine walking through a botanical garden and notice that all flowers are of the same size, color, and shape? How interesting would that be?

Living organisms on earth come in many different varieties, shapes, sizes, and colors because God makes them that way. Our Creator loves wondrous varieties. We all agree that choices are a good thing. God has given us many religions, faiths, and spiritual disciplines to choose from. You may ask, does God intend for man’s spiritual paths to be so diverse? Certainly! God wants to provide us with as many different spiritual paths as possible so that we may adopt one that’s suitable to our temperament. Our Heavenly Father wants to improve His chance of success. God wants to ensure that His children will arrive at their destination. It doesn’t matter which path, means, method, or discipline we may choose, as long as we achieve our goal, which is the realization of our True Self. It doesn’t matter which make, model, or color of automobile we drive, as long as we reach our destination. It doesn’t matter whether we take the rowboat, paddleboat, speedboat, sailboat, slow boat, or fast boat, as long as we reach the shore and not get stranded at sea.

What is the root cause of religious conflicts and strife? What feeds the hatred between Christians and Muslims, and between Muslims and Jews? What is the driving force behind the struggles between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, and between Catholics and Protestants? Why do Christians try to convert Buddhists and Muslims? Why do many Christian denominations attempt to convert anyone and everyone who are not Christians? Why do we even talk about religious tolerance? The religious majority and religious minorities of the United States, for example, realize that they can never be spiritual brothers and sisters. In spite of their doctrinal disputes, they have to show tolerance toward one another because the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom. The Muslim populations try to tolerate the infidels because they recognize that there will always be “irreconcilable differences" in their relationships with the non-Muslims. It would be naďve to think the world would be a much better place if everyone was Muslim. And it would be absurd to believe that the human race would enjoy a heavenly peace if everyone on earth believed in Jesus Christ.

What causes all the tension between various religious groups? Instead of looking for the common ground or common origin of various religious doctrines, we only look at the superficial differences. We only look at the disagreements and contradictions among the scriptures, teachings, rituals, ceremonies, and organizations of different religions. Religious strife arises out of people’s utter ignorance of a fundamental truth, that religions are merely means to the end. Religions are not the end or goal of our spiritual quest. No religion can ever represent the Absolute Truth. Rather, religions are merely the different paths to the same Truth. Jesus said that He is the Truth, the way to salvation, and the way to everlasting life. And let’s suppose that the prophet Mohammed also claimed that He is the way to the Truth, salvation, and everlasting life. Is that possible? Could both of them be telling the truth? There is nothing contradictory about their teachings because both Jesus and Mohammed were referring to the same Absolute Truth, and they were messengers of the same Supreme God. To know the Bible or the Koran – or any sacred book for that matter – is not the same as knowing the Truth. To memorize the scriptures wouldn’t do our soul any good if we don’t apply what we learn to our everyday life. To glorify God’s name, God’s greatness, and God’s holy virtues of compassion, mercy, and wisdom is not the same as walking the talk.

To get baptized or initiated into a religion or religious sect is not the same as fulfilling our religious obligation. When we receive baptism or initiation we are only shown the door. We still have to open the door and walk through it. We’re only starting out on our spiritual journey, and we still have a long walk ahead of us. No Jehovah, Allah, Maria, or Buddha can take the walk on our behalf. Not even the Supreme Being or Heavenly Father can do it for us. We should not feel proud, satisfied, or relieved just because we are a Catholic, a Jehovah Witness, a Caodaist, or a Shiite Muslim. Instead, we should be thankful to God for not leaving us stranded in the Sea of Ignorance. We should be grateful to our Father in Heaven for showing us a way to salvation. The path to salvation is always a strenuous path, an uphill path that requires our commitment, perseverance, sacrifice, and patience. There is no time to relax or get distracted, for we shall meet many obstacles along the way. Personal salvation will never be up for grabs, and it will never be handed to us on a silver platter. We have to earn it with our own toil and tears. We have to prove our worthiness. Our struggle will be long and difficult, but in the end our reward will be worth the effort. Let us fight, strive, and struggle for the cause of personal salvation. Let the spiritual struggle be within us, and not among us!

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Copyright © 2006 by Marvin Q. Lam
Originally posted: 2006-FEB-19
Latest update: 2006-FEB-19
Author:  Marvin Q. Lam

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