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Do all spiritual paths lead to the same ultimate goal?

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

I was reading through some of the material Bhikkhu Bodhi (author of In the Buddha’s Words, which I just finished) had on Access to Insight, and I came across this quote:

The Shorter Discourse on the Lion's Roar (MN 11) deals with the delicate question of whether different spiritual paths all lead to the same ultimate goal.

The sutta can be found here. It’s basically a shortish text on how to cope with ascetics and Brahmins who claim to be teaching a similar path to the Buddha, where the Buddha says that they generally do not teach the same, because for example they only teach about clinging to sensual pleasures, and not other types of clinging such as clinging to views.

I thought it was interesting because many people in the New Age today still hold to the idea that all spiritual paths lead to the same ultimate goal. Take for example Christianity. Superficially it is very different from Buddhism, but once you get to a certain stage prayerfulness and contemplation do start to resemble meditation.

In a way the idea that all spiritual paths lead towards the same thing is comforting — it is inclusive, it means there is less reason to try and convert people, it is hopeful. But is it true?

Comments

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    Until we have reached our goal, I do not know if it is possible to answer your question. If all goals lead to Rome (so to speak), then we will recognize that if we get to Rome.

    KeromeShoshinRen_in_black
  • GuiGui Veteran
    edited May 20

    My mother likes to tell me that all spiritual paths lead to the top of the same mountain. And I tell her but the Buddhist's path is not complete until they have returned to the bottom. I don't particularly like using terms like path and spiritual and goal but I really do think the Buddhist has a unique perspective of these terms. To me, they are to be let go of eventually. Regarding Christianity, there seems to me to be a big difference between attaining salvation and experiencing reality.

    KeromeRen_in_black
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    'To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive', according to Robert Louis Stevenson.

    He was expressing the same idea as the earlier Taoist saying - "The journey is the reward."

    Kerome
  • FeistyGibbletsFeistyGibblets South Australia Explorer

    Why is the default example always Christianity though? Why not Islam or ISKON or Ba'hai? Personally I come from a Catholic upbringing but I have found the Ba'hai and ISKON paths fascinating ones. Particularly ISKON or the Hare Krishna movement. The idea of surrendering to Krishna and releasing to him through chanting the mantra of Hare Krishna is so simple yet profound. To me it is extremely similar to Buddhism, it just adds god. YMMV :)

    BunksKeromeAlex
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @FoibleFull said:
    Until we have reached our goal, I do not know if it is possible to answer your question. If all goals lead to Rome (so to speak), then we will recognize that if we get to Rome.

    Very true. I think that a spiritual path is better than none, providing one does not get attached and approaches it with sincerity. So from that perspective any spiritual path allows one to make a beginning on the journey and it can whet the appetite.

    But I have to say I have much sympathy for the Buddha’s view that there are real distinctions in what is taught and so also differences in the destination. If you think of Buddhism’s understanding of suffering and enlightenment and nirvana as the summit of achievement, then it is going to be hard to reach just on the basis of prayer.

    I think a lot of other religions don’t have a good understanding of their ultimate destination. In christianity it is often held to be heaven, which one achieves after death. But some Christian mystics may hold it to be union with God which for a Buddhist would be held to be a lesser achievement than nirvana.

    So even if all paths lead to the same summit, it seems different religions have different understandings of what this summit might be. They may all turn out to be surprised.

    how
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @FeistyGibblets said:
    Why is the default example always Christianity though? Why not Islam or ISKON or Ba'hai? Personally I come from a Catholic upbringing but I have found the Ba'hai and ISKON paths fascinating ones. Particularly ISKON or the Hare Krishna movement. The idea of surrendering to Krishna and releasing to him through chanting the mantra of Hare Krishna is so simple yet profound. To me it is extremely similar to Buddhism, it just adds god. YMMV :)

    Well I just choose Christianity because it’s the biggest religion, and to me the most well known after Buddhism. But there are many interesting paths, I’ve often felt drawn towards sufism but not Islam, it’s the approach to God through love. It’s one of the reasons why the “many paths up the mountain” philosophy appeals to me.

    In a way I think Osho is influential for me here too. He often talked about all kinds of smaller religious directions and thinkers which would inspire people. For example the Baul mystics in India, or Kabir, or even Kahlil Gibran and his book The Prophet. Once when he was asked why he talked about all these directions, he replied that these were so that his disciples could latch on to whatever resonated with them. Certainly the implication is that he thought that any direction could have something to contribute.

    BunksFeistyGibblets
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said: Well I just choose Christianity because it’s the biggest religion...

    Under review... Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, by the way...

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    So many paths but nothing to wear?

    Perhaps we are all journeying towards a clothing optional beach where eventually we'll have to leave behind the clothes of our respective choices to be able to fully luxuriate there.
    From an identity standpoint, it's a nightmare of fashion propensity,
    from a self-oriented standpoint, it's a threat of personal annihilation,

    but to the adept, it might just be the simple truth beneath our clinging choices.

    lobsterKeromeFeistyGibbletsDavid
  • Rob_VRob_V North Carolina Explorer

    Interesting points.

    "All paths lead to the mountain top"? Not so much; some end abruptly. Others lead to cliffs. Still others are circular in nature. The mountain comes to a peak - all paths cannot possibly fit on the peak.

    I follow the Buddha Dhamma because of it's experiential tenets, the idea of seeing for oneself if such and another doctrines hold true. That's really the ONLY reason I stick to it. Much of it I have trouble with because of my innate scepticism. Some of it I accept because it offers an explanation that nothing else does (rebirth for example). I don't follow blindly or stubbornly.

    As far as varying degrees of adherence to any given practice or religion, all religions and beliefs have more than their fair share of lip service believers and buffet believers. Lip service believers are those, usually cultural, believers that show up at the holy places on high holy days, but other than that you'd never know what they believed. Buffet believers are those who simply believe what they choose to believe, from whatever source it may come.

    My personal belief is that we all get there eventually. Siddhartha Gotama got there 2500 years ago. I may get there in 2500 years. I think we're all somewhere on the path, but none if us are in the exact same place.

    Just one man's opinion

    Bunks
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 22

    I believe there is a universal truth which underlies the foundation of most, if not all, spiritual traditions in some shape or form. I think there are many words that are used to describe more or less the same things, and that many religious traditions have elements of and believers who engage in ethical behaviour, contemplation, and the development of wisdom. I don't know if all roads lead to Rome, but the world being a sphere, I suspect that many will eventual lead there if you follow them long enough.

    An example I've used before from the Pali Canon and the Philokalia:

    "He who gives himself to desires and sensual pleasures and lives according to the world's way will quickly be caught in the nets of sin [compare this to the snares of Mara, which are equated to sense pleasures]. And sin, when once committed, is like a fire put to straw, a stone rolling downhill or a torrent eating away at its banks. Such pleasures, then, bring complete perdition on him who embraces them."

    And:

    "Self-control together with humility withers passionate desire, love calms inflamed anger [recalls metta as an antidote for anger], and intense prayer together with mindfulness of God concentrates distracted thoughts [jhana?]. Thus the tripartite soul is purified. It was to this end that the apostle said: 'Pursue peace with all men and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Heb. 12:14)."

    BunkslobsterKerome
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I like the clothing analogy from @how

    Adapts, (like adepts but independent of the cloth) wear out their fashioned travel gear. They then tailor what suits the environment.

    In other words

    Q: what do you get if you cross a road with a chicken?
    A: another side

    Bunks
  • cazcaz Veteran United Kingdom Veteran

    The short answer is no, just as physical paths do not all have the same destination likewise neither do spiritual paths.

    There are mundane spiritual paths that lead to the happiness of higher rebirth through the practice of moral discipline and virtuous actions.

    But there is is only one supramundane path that leads to Liberation and Enlightenment, this is Buddhadharma.

    lobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Do all spiritual paths lead to the same ultimate goal?

    Yes...and it's called death..

    BunksWalkerAlex
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Shoshin said:

    Do all spiritual paths lead to the same ultimate goal?

    Yes...and it's called death..

    Religions certainly like to make promises about what happens beyond death. Islam and Christianity promise rewards in heaven if only you will do what they say here on Earth, and even Buddhism promises reincarnation in good realms if you have made enough merit.

    Personally I think the only information that is even a little credible about death is from NDEs.

    Shoshinadamcrossley
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited May 22

    Religions certainly like to make promises about what happens beyond death. Islam and Christianity promise rewards in heaven if only you will do what they say here on Earth, and even Buddhism promises reincarnation in good realms if you have made enough merit.

    Yes...Hence why I say all spiritual path's ultimate goals are to see what really lies behind 'death's door'...even if the follower is unaware that's what their path's goal is really about...everything else is just an illusion..make-believe...

    We live in and have always lived in uncertain times...This is what faith is all about...

    Personally I think the only information that is even a little credible about death is from NDEs.

    Even these are from a personal perspective, the individual's interpretation... and for the most part based upon a person's pre-conditioning (conscious of or unconscious of)...which more often than not includes a big dollop of wishful thinking...

    Hmm which reminds me... "I'm an Atheist until the day I die...then I'm open to offers" ;)

    lobsterWalker
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @Shoshin said:

    Do all spiritual paths lead to the same ultimate goal?

    Yes...and it's called death..

    Religions certainly like to make promises about what happens beyond death. Islam and Christianity promise rewards in heaven if only you will do what they say here on Earth, and even Buddhism promises reincarnation in good realms if you have made enough merit.

    Personally I think the only information that is even a little credible about death is from NDEs.

    I'd recommend a few books for you:

    1. Return to Life by Jim Tucker
    2. Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation by Ian Stevenson
    3. Soul Survivor by Bruce Leinenger
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Hmm which reminds me... "I'm an Atheist until the day I die...then I'm open to offers" ;)

    Tee Hee <3

    How much can we die? Most of us is dyed by life, former death not so much if any. So live well in a spiritual life tool rather than being a tool (see trump for examples).

    That is my plan. Be better and when battered, dip into the source ...

    Hari Krishna

  • SimplifySimplify Veteran
    edited May 24

    this video may give you some food for thought

    BunksKerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well if there is a spiritual mountain to climb, I’d like to climb it in this lifetime.

    Bunks
  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    Check out John Main - a Monk who extolled the practice of Christian meditation, repeating the phrase ‘Maranatha’, to move one closer to God.....sounds awfully familiar as a practice......(he was influenced by Hinduism).

    Bunks
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Talking of no mountains ...
    https://tricycle.org/magazine/first-there-mountain-then-there-no-mountain/

    We have to move towards Truth. Not climb it, deny it or even absolutely know it.

    To put it another way: First there is a Buddhist, then know buddhist, then no-Buddhist/Buddha

    Shoshin
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