Thursday, January 20, 2011


For quite some time I have been coming  into the realization that "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).   One Scripture I had trouble integrating with this wonderful truth is Acts 4:12,  which says there is only one name under heaven by which men may be saved.  But I have come to understand that both God and the Christ are called by many different names in Scripture.  As a matter of fact, depending on how they're counted and what is included, there are over 120 names and titles for God  and over 700 titles and different names for Jesus in the Bible.   Have we missed the proverbial forest for the trees?  Could there be ONE God that humans, with our limited perception, have called by many different names down through the ages?  I was delighted to read the following excerpt from "The Mystics, God -Realization Through the Ages" by Swami Abhayananda.  He makes this point more eloquently than I ever could:

"Often, men take the names of God, which accumulate over the centuries to represent separate and distinct entities, and then pit them one against the other.  This was true of the early poets and mythologizers... As soon as one tribe or civilization absorbed another, it established its own name for God as the superior, and relegated the subjugated people's name for God to an inferior position.  In this way, a polytheistic mythology accumulated in no time, peopled with all manner of anthropomorphized gods.  This, however, is the work of the priests and mythologizers, not of the seers.  As one mystic put it: "With words, priests and poets make into many the hidden Reality, which is but One."

"...It is often seen that those who have only a cursory knowledge of mystical philosophy become confused by the many different terms used to connote the Absolute by peoples of differing languages, and fail to penetrate beyond linguistic differences to grasp the common significance of words like "Brahman," "Purusha," "Tao," "Godhead," etc.  But, just as, in various languages, the words, pani, jal, agua, eau, and water, all signify one common reality, so do the above words of various linguistic origins connote one common invisible Principle.  All of the mystics of whatever time or cultural tradition have experienced the same one, indivisible, Reality; yet, because language is infinitely variable, they have called this One by various appellations.

"The understanding of the one Reality expressed by the authors of the Upanishads and the Gita is expressed in a remarkably similar manner by Lao Tze and Chuang Tze.  This should not be surprising, however, since everyone who is graced with the transcendent vision experiences the same eternal Unity.  What Lao Tze and Chuang Tze saw and wrote about is precisely what all other mystics have seen and wrote about.  Their language is different, but their meaning is the same. 

"As the 15th century Islamic saint, Dadu, put it, "All the enlightened have left one message; it is only those in the midst of their journey who hold diverse opinions."'  
The entire book can be read online here.

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