Note: The author of this article, which was originally published in The Theosophist, Vol. 126, No. 10, July 2005, pp. 387-388, is a Past Master of Luzon Lodge No. 57, F.&A.M.; a long-standing member of the Theosophical Society in the Philippines and on its Board of Trustees; and a lecturer on Scottish Rite topics.
Sages say that one has more chance of winning a sweepstake than finding two identical leaves on a tree. Like the ageless wisdom and religious teachings that nourish the soul and the spirit of man, leaves help to nourish the plant by absorbing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and energy from the sun. The tree is not bothered at all by the differences between its leaves but continues to benefit from them. All its leaves contribute to the growth, health and well-being of the tree. Why then do we worry about differences in the teachings of religions taught by the wise during the long period of human evolution to help men reach perfection, nirvana or liberation?
Leaves grow, mature and wither away to be replaced by other leaves following the same cycle of emerging as shoots, growing into leaves, and falling down to be replaced by yet others. So religions are introduced at different times in order to help humanity develop certain qualities in succession during its long evolutionary growth towards perfection. For example, duty towards family and country, maintaining justice and peace in a community or country, showing courage in defending them from assaults and incursions, and practicing the virtues as taught in different faiths – are all qualities that must be developed through human evolution. Like leaves, religions too go through the process of growth, maturity and later extinction. Yet their essence remains the same to help man realize his spiritual nature and tread the path to perfection.
From unrecorded earlier times to the legendary biblical period – when Adam and Eve acquired intellect and were separated, and Cain killed his brother Abel because of greed and envy – and to more recent historical times, we hear of men fighting one another because of greed, desire for survival, pride and fame. To arrest this kind of selfishness, holy men came to propagate religions suitable for the human temperament of that time. When men indulged themselves in uncontrolled animal passion and greed, Zoroastrianism introduced the teachings of purification of mind and body. To develop the spiritual nature and reduce separativeness, Hinduism taught men oneness with God and all beings, and the means towards its realization. Muhammad taught his followers that we are all children of one God. Lord Gautama Buddha taught love and compassion, while Jesus Christ taught devotion and service to others. All religious teachers came to the world to help mankind learn the highest ethics and morality, and to understand the true spiritual nature and way to enlightenment.
We continue to receive the teachings of holy men in different ways: they declare that man is a spiritual being, using different vehicles such as the mental, emotional and physical bodies to gain experience in this material world. Eventually, he will be emancipated from these vehicles by learning his true spiritual identity, non-attachment to transitory things, good conduct, love and harmlessness. Lessons to develop moral and ethical qualities are essential for the highest realization.
To purify man’s lower nature and bring his vehicles under control, religion taught certain disciplines comparable to subjecting gold ore to strong heat, whereby all the dross is separated and pure gold is left behind. In Christianity, this is symbolized by the way of the cross. In Hinfuism, the practice of asceticism is recommended. In Islam, originally Jihad signified subordinating the lower nature in complete harmony with the higher True Self.
Terrorism, religious wars, and conflicts have been the products of distortion and later modifications of the carious religious teachings. These have included harming and killing to earn God’s grace, extreme penances that damage the body, and emphasizing petty differences rather than looking for substantial similarities in religious teachings. Innumerable examples can be found of such evils now prevailing in our world. Which no political. Economic or social changes can cure permanently. Only by the practice of high ethical and moral principles will conflict be avoided and peace made to prevail in this world.
Obviously, our Spiritual Father is grieved to see conflict and the delusion that by killing we achieve something. Such acts only delay the immortal soul on the path to perfection.
Let us not waste precious time in trying to find identical leaves, or looking for petty structural differences among the different faiths. Let us rather seek the nourishment that religious bring, and practice the highest form of ethics and morality to bring peace and harmony to the world which is now aflame.
There Are No Identical Leaves
By Illus. Jesse D. Alto, 33° IGH
Luzon Bodies, A.&A.S.R.