Truth—The Highest Religion

Radha Burnier – India

Throughout the ages, man has struggled to understand natural phenomena around him and also the truth about his own being and position in the universe. The desire to know has expressed itself in very simple ways, such as wanting to understand what is behind a stormy night with thunder and lightning (resulting in myths and legends about the great God Thor or Indra, king of the gods, releasing cows held captive in the clouds by anti-gods); or in more fundamental questions about what is real and lasting, and why there is suffering. Without these probings and reflections, human beings would not be human, but would become like creatures engaged only in physical survival and making the best of the doleful conditions in a world they are unable to understand.

Despite innumerable attempts to respond to the question ‘What is truth?’ no satisfactory answer has ever been forthcoming. On the other hand, a multitude of tragic controversies and conflicts have their origin in varying dogmatic claims to knowledge of truth. Few have heeded the Teachers who proclaimed that truth is beyond thoughts, words and descriptions, and that hence no one can assert that his own ideas or those of chosen religious leaders are truth. Madame Blavatsky, one of the three main  Founders of the Theosophical Society, said of her magnum opus that it does not contain the truth but only points to it, which is all that any person or book can do.

In approaching the road to truth, wisdom may lie in understanding its connection with the enormous mystery of Life. The researches of science are continuously making clear that in the great and the small, in the minutest atomic particle as well as the vast spaces of the universe, there is a secret element, a hidden mystery, which the mind of man cannot touch. Some decades ago a scientist, Edmund W. Sinnott, wrote:

If we knew what makes a pine grow from a pine-seed and stay precisely a pine through all the vicissitudes of its history, we could come close to knowing what life really is.

But the whys of life elude every attempt by even the most brilliant and best of minds to fully grasp them. No sooner does an answer seem to emerge than along with it arises a glimpse of still unknown depths and dimensions. Why do the roots of a geranium cutting not grow indefinitely, but only until the normal ratio of root to shoot has been restored? What a miracle that the little bud tip knows when to stop and what to do where, that a mysterious force within the universe maintains an impossibly accurate equilibrium between opposing forces such as gravity and expansion! How do such things happen and function in the coordinated whole which is the universe?

A peep into even a little fraction of the immense mystery of life amounts to truth, but not the whole truth, of course. Seeing any aspect of life as it is—not as our limited senses and minds, our precon ceptions and misconceptions present it—is the beginning of the journey. Life has immeasurable dimensions and subtleties. It is rich, creative, dynamic. Truth—being the discovery of the beauty, meaning and mystery of Life—is also necessarily without limit, necessarily subtle and dynamic, a blessing without parallel.

One aspect of the truth of Life has been proclaimed by illumined sages: Life is indivisibly one. Therefore, truth is one. The Hindu scriptures declare: ‘Truth is one: the sages speak of it in varied ways.’ Similar teachings may be found in other religious books. Life in whatever form it exists—insect, plant or human, deva or Buddha—is one, just as water flowing through any tap is water, the same element whether in pot, pool, lake or ocean, the same in cloud and rain. Life is one, but it has infinite aspects and pervades endless dimensions, Truth also is one, and manifests in multifarious modes.

The clearer a person’s perception is of the immeasurable depths of life, the more he realizes that there is no end to truth, and that he who knows that he does not know, is wise. To believe that one knows truth is folly, a form of ignorance. The Buddhas alone are awake to the totality of truth because in their case the individual consciousness has become one with the Infinite Mind.

Truth is the highest of religions because in it there are all other desirable things—peace, love and the intelligence of the Divine Mind. To come to that, it is necessary to be inwardly free from attachment to lesser things and values. Therefore, as the Bhagavadgitiā says, devotion to truth involves ‘wholehearted yoga’ and renunciation of all personal aims and desires. ‘Restraining and subduing the senses, regarding everything equally, rejoicing in the welfare of all, those who worship Infinite Life and meditate on it, reach it.’ This is the extraordinary privilege of incarnating as a human being.

(from “On the Watch-Tower”, The Theosophist, November 2005)

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