Book Reviews - Into the no mans land of spirituality
by Yoginder Sikand
This book by a Buddhist bhikkhu or monk from Thailand is the most sensible thing I’ve read on developing a universal understanding of religion. Our conventional understanding of religion, the Bhikkhu indicates, is rooted in the delusory notion of the ego. From this comes the false notion of ‘mine’—in this case ‘my religion’, which is erroneously presumed to be different from, opposed and superior to, other religions. Ignorant people understand their religions in literalist terms, focussing on their externals rather than on their inner essence (which is common to all religions). And so, they see the various religions as being not just different from, but also as being opposed to, each other. And this leads to conflict.
If spiritually advanced people penetrate into the ‘essential nature’ of religion, they realise, the Bhikkhu says, that at this level all the religions are the same. If they arrive at the Absolute Truth, they discover that all that remains is the Truth or Dhamma or Nature. Since at this level no such thing as religion is seen to exist, the whole problem of mutually conflicting religions is now dissolved. At this stage, one realises that the phrase ‘No Religion!’ is, as the Bhikkhu describes it, ‘actually Dhamma at its highest level.’ No longer is there any question of one religion being superior to another. Indeed, there is now no question of there even being various different religions. One now sees the universal unity informing everything, and the notion of belonging to a particular religious community and of others belonging to other, rival, communities is seen to be completely fallacious. When the spiritual adept realises that the inner essence of all religions is the same, he understands that what we conventionally call religion is an illusory concept and that beyond it lies the Ultimate Reality.
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