Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Quest

The Quest

We are all on a quest through life. As we progress through our journey we determine who we want to have in our life, our family and friends, our preferences and interests, our career, where we live, and how we behave. All of these choices are determined by our beliefs. Even if we don’t believe in God or a Higher Power we still have beliefs. These beliefs are shaped by our experiences.

Because are beliefs have such a profound impact on our life it is important that we understand what are beliefs are, and more importantly, why. For most of us are beliefs were passed onto us by others, such as family, friends, co-workers, or other people that have crossed our path at some point.

As we mature, become exposed to new ideas and concepts, over time are beliefs will most likely change. They may change wildly or a small amount. For some they will never change. They are set in their ways and are unwilling and unable to accept a different perspective. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be confident of your opinions, but sometimes there are other ways of seeing things. When someone becomes so fanatical about their beliefs that they are unwilling to listen or learn about a different point of view they become ignorant.

I asked before and I believe it is important to repeat – how do you know if you are right if you don’t know what others believe? If you truly attempt to search for answers and come to the same conclusion than you can claim to be educated, otherwise you are just closed-minded. There is nothing wrong with seeing what else is out there. You may become stronger in your faith, you may change your attitude towards other faiths, but at the very least you will become more educated.

There is of course the chance that you will change your beliefs altogether. In the end is that such a bad thing? If it brings you closer to understanding truth, which is what we all want to do, than it is for the best.  Some of us have been on this quest for a while, others are just beginning, and some haven’t started yet. We all must begin on our own time when we are ready. When you are ready my hope is that this book will be a great source that you can refer to for answers.

The nature of this book is to open your eyes to the major faiths of the world. I would like to go into as much depth as possible, but due to the complexities involved I have had to limit it. The scope is intended to be an introduction into a brief history of each religion. In addition, my intent is to highlight the differences, while examining the similarities.

My ultimate goal is to inform you, the reader, that even though we may have different customs, we as a faithful community are much more intertwined than we may have previously acknowledged. Although Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists worship in different ways, in the end the ultimate goal is to praise a Higher Power. Whether we call that being God, Yahweh, Allah, or Brahman it is in essence the same. For example, the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent, all powerful and eternal being are common features that will be covered in great detail.

The most important aspect of this book will be to expose the similar aspects of each faith. This will be done by simply presenting the writings from scriptures and analyzing their meaning. Regardless of what we call our sacred texts, whether the Bible, Torah, Koran, or Vedas they all have the same message. The names and stories may be different, but the message is the same - forgiveness, living a moral life, and putting others before ourselves. There are many occasions when you will read a particular set of scriptures and not be able to differentiate the author from one faith to the other except when it is a commonly known phrase.

Beyond these similarities there are many more - from customs, traditions, to rituals. All of these will be discussed in order to better understand their uses and origins. Once again many of these have been passed on through the generations and even shared with other religions.

Of course there are significant differences as well, but more often than not they pale in comparison to the overarching themes of each faith system. To truly present this information in an accurate, informative, and interesting way I have spent countless hours of research by examining the texts, works of other authors delving into the same concepts, and talking to a number of believers from each religion to better understand their interpretations. Many times this meant traveling to distant places around the world – from China to Thailand, from North America to Europe and many places in between. From these events this book was created.

In addition to covering Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism there will be sections related to beliefs of other lesser known groups such as Shamanism, Taoism, and the teachings of Natives in the Americas such as the Inca, Mayans, and various groups in the American southwest.

Throughout these pages will be a consistent theme, which I have alluded to already. Even through all of our differences on the outside, on the inside we are essentially the same. You may not agree with my interpretations on particular instances, but remember to keep an open mind. Just because it may be different than what you have been taught, it doesn’t mean it is wrong. It is just another way of analyzing the information.

Invariably this will happen on occasion. Maybe multiple occasions. These differences are the reason there are so many different religions today. Remember the river analogy before. Each religion is a different river winding its way to the ocean. We are all on the same journey; we just choose to take a different path to get there. It may be because it’s all we have ever known and are unsure of change. It may be that we have educated ourselves and decided on a particular path. Whatever the reason, I hope to share my knowledge through extensive research with you.

Remember too that it would be impossible to discuss the teachings of each variation of each religion. Just as there are many sects of Christianity, there are also varying sects of Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. Over time the original teachings of each of these have been perverted. My goal will be to discuss the original teachings of each, with exceptions as it relates to Catholicism and Protestantism and Shiite and Sunnis Muslims.

Beyond simply sharing the beliefs of various faiths throughout the world, this book aims to inform the reader of many misconceptions and misrepresentations that have developed over the years. Many of these are due to translating errors, while others are simply a result of biases, closed-mindedness, and plain ignorance.

In the end, as long as you feel like you have attained the knowledge of God, Universe, a Higher Power, or whatever it is you choose to call it, then you have been successful in this life. It isn’t my job to determine if you are worshipping in the proper way, and as all the texts of various religions agree, that is the job of God. We each have our own way of worshipping, and those things are different, but the being we are worshipping is the same. These similarities are what will be exposed in the following pages.

As you progress through this book continually ask yourself the following: “Why do I believe what I believe?” This will hopefully put into context what I hope you will discover. This is a question I have been asking myself all throughout my research. If as I have claimed thus far is true, that all religions teach the same things, why are my beliefs the correct ones? What makes me believe they are right? What makes the others wrong? Is it that these teachings resonate more with me? Is it that I’ve only been exposed to these beliefs? Hopefully I can help answer some of these questions for you and bring you closer to your truth.

One final thought is in order before we begin truly examining the great religions of the world and what and how they teach, preach, and worship. I have decided to begin with Hinduism, as it is the oldest of the religions, followed by Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Lastly, I will finish with the other lesser known religions and how they tie into the overall theme of this book.

I have also decided to add contemporary thoughts on the various religions and their teachings as well from well-known authors and no-name people I have met through my research creating this book. This will become more apparent as you reach the final chapters of this book. My purpose for doing this is to show how through time people’s interpretations of their own beliefs are the same, regardless of where they live, how they worship, and what scriptures they ascribe to. 

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