I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment which Jennifer gave me for Christmas –
It’s called: JESUS, BUDDHA, KRISHNA & LAO TZU – THE PARAELLEL SAYINGS.
It’s written by Richard Hooper, and the book looks at the sayings of these great spiritual masters, and finds similarities in what they said.
And the similarities at times are quite extraordinary.
I’ve always been fascinated by Comparative Religion – finding the commonality in the world’d religions.
Richard Hooper grew up as a Christian, and in fact was going to join a seminary. But from a young age he’d always had a problem with the dogma of Christianity. As he tells it:
“I remember one night – I was about 12 years old – the paster of our Church was talking to our youth group. He was telling us that anyone who didn’t believe in Jesus would not go to heaven. intimating that they would go to hell instead. This statement shocked me.
“I raised my hand and asked the pastor: ‘Do you mean to say that even someone living in a faraway place like India who has never even heard of Jesus will go to hell because they don’t believe in Him?’ To my utter amazement, the pastor said yes.”
This started the author on a life long quest to learn more about eastern religions. And it drove him away from Christianity, believing that it was too dogmatic and hardline.
The author then goes on to detail how the Bible in fact is only an approximation of what Jesus said, because the Gospels as attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by anonymous Christians between 70 CE and 120 CE, well after the death of Jesus. And so the writers of the Gospels were not eye-witnesses to what was said – and in fact given the time line they probably didn’t even have access to eyewitnesses.
They were later interpreters of what was said to have happened, and what was said to have been spoken.
Jesus and Buddha were historical figures, unlike Krishna and Lao Tzu – and their words were handed down orally over many generations before they were committed to scripture. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Also the Gospels were written in Greek, whereas Jesus spoke in Aramaic.
Hooper cites a group of New Testament scholars called The Jesus Seminar that believes that as little as 18% of the words attributed to Jesus in the canonical Gospels are actually words spoken by Him – the rest was written by later Christians who believed they were writing the spirit of what Jesus said.
I find this really interesting.
Krishna is a mythical figure – an avatar ultimately of the Hindu Godhead Brahman – and Lao Tzu (meaning Old Master) is also considered by scholars to be a fabrication of perhaps many ancient sages. Hindus in fact believe that both Jesus and Buddha are / were avatars of the same God force as well – and this is where the parallel sayings in this book are so fascinating.
Here are some examples:
Original man has one original mind. It was unified.
To attain the One, one’s mind must be in harmony with itself.
The sky has no east or west.
Nor does it make distinction between this and that.
Distinctions arise from the human mind alone.
He who says he knows, knows not.
He who truly knows, says nothing.
Unite all things as one whole.
or this –
In the beginning the Word was moving towards God, and God was the Word.
Before He manifested Himself, He existed within Himself.
Out of Himself He manifested all things.
He is known as the One who alone exists.
Universal Mind is like a vast ocean.
On its surface waves disturb its tranquility, but beneath all is serene and unmoved.
Having no personality all things exist in it.
In the beginning there was only Void.
Within the Void there was the One.
The one is without form.
It has no features.
But within it all things exist.