A Christian visited a Zen Master and said, “Allow me to read you the Sermon on the Mount.”
“I shall listen with pleasure,” said the Master.
The Christian read a sentence and looked up. The Master smiled and said, “Whoever said those words was truly an Enlightened Man.”
This pleased the Christian. He read on. The Master interrupted and said, “Those words come from a Saviour of mankind.”
The Christian was delighted. He read on to the end. The Master then declared, “That sermon was pronounced by someone radiant with Divinity.”
The Christian’s joy was boundless. He left, determined to return another day and persuade the Master to become a Christian. On the way back home he found Jesus standing by the roadside. “Lord,” he said excitedly, “I got that man to confess you are divine!”
Jesus smiled and said, “And did it do you any good except inflate your Christian ego?”
Sometime we are so blind inside our 'exclusivity' attitude (my way is the only way) that we forget some very basic truth of our reality of human existence.
First. we didn't decide to be born as how we are. (those who wish to argue on this point, coming up with some theological / mystical concept, saying that 'no, according to X tradition or Y teaching, its believed that we consciously chose to be born how we are born' - no matter how pleasing its to hear, lets say to them, 'show me a person who remember choosing that', and they will fail that test). At least I have not come across a human being who could remember from pre-eternity that he or she decided to be born as human being having so and so as parents, choosing the land and religion and was sent according to that desire.' Even if we did, some kind of strange amnesia has made us oblivious to that.
The naked truth is that we didn't chose our being male or female, we didn't chose our parents, our geography where we were born, our skin color, nor do we choose our faith. For majority of humanity, its the religion of our parents or the land that we adopt, or take as our 'own' religion / faith / beliefs. Understanding this wisdom can help us greatly in preventing religious bigotry which is such a huge problem of our time. While its true that majority follow the faith of their land or parents, lets not forget that there is also a very rare band of sincere seekers of truth would leave that comfort zone of parental belief (and also self created idol of beliefs in personal space that make one very rigid and unaccepting) in search of essential and higher truth (that number is growing though, but still compared to the mass its still a very very insignificant number).
When we understand those above facts, specially the fact that it was our parents religion that mostly we adopted, and we could have easily adopted Buddhism had we were born in a remote mountain village in Tibet (thats the only system you see around, learn about and die into), or we could have easily be worshiping the "glory of the Creator" stamped upon the nature, if we were born in the wilderness of Australia among the the aboriginal people or among native people of a remote village in central Africa.
To every nation the Divine Will has appointed diverse acts of devotion which they observe, therefore let there be no dispute with you about this matter, but invite everyone to your Lord; most surely you are on a straight guidance. - The Final Testament 22:67
At any moment when we boast of our religious identity, our faith, God smiles at our vanity of trying to establish our right about something which is not even our making. God smiles at our ignorant arrogance because for it was His choosing in the first place and secondly by becoming arrogant of the appointed destiny we create further separation between us and our true nature. God Who's all Encompassing knowledge stop not at our outer appearances but sees through our inner heart's sincerity in any devotion we do, whether we bow down on the prayer mat as a muslim or offer a flower in the early dawn to an icon who bring remembrance of the divine, like a daoist. Yes certain religions are losing its essence, the actual teachings are long lost and have lost their pure capacity to guide humanity, still we can not condemn a single sincere devotee, because only the One who sent him or her in that tradition has the right to judge the sincerity of their devotion, rituals and worshipful sacrifice.
There is this beautiful teaching uttered by Swami Vivekananda, disciple of great saint, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, may God bless them both: "Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way."
At different stages and moments in our life, in our engagement in the world of appearances, although we might continue to fuel our ego-self thinking that we are behaving "very religious" (or spiritual in that matter) as demonstrated in the story of Zen Master and the Christian, in reality we are demonstrating nothing but very low state of evolution as spiritual being by the very ignorance that is born out of religious pride. And the great beings of light who entered into the Truth completely have warned us saying that when we fall into that error, when we show disrespect to another human heart who might perceive the Divine and adore in a fashion which is unique to him, when we show disrespect out of ignorance and pride to that heart which might be secretly dearer to God, in an instant all our goodness, all our merits of life-long spiritual devotion could come to null, could come to mean nothing and we seek refuge from such vain pride and false judgment issued from our still unpure mind. Only God, the Knower of the Hidden knows the true state of His servants and their hearts, the source of sincerity, remembrance and all adoration.
Do not judge by mere appearances.
- Blessed teaching of Christ, John 7:24
Say: "O Allah! Creator of the cosmic and planetary existence!
Knower of all that is hidden and open!
It is Thou Alone Who wilt judge on the Day of Accounting
between Thy Servants in those matters
about which they have differed."
- The Final Testament, 39:46 Pin It Now!