All religious paths lead to the same goal

For anyone who has ever dealt with this
I often fell into the “all religious paths lead to the same goal” trap on my spiritual journey. So I finally came up with the ultimate counter. Which is… okay if all paths lead to the same goal then my path does too. So I will stick with the Dhamma…

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I think this is an excellent way to avoid arguments and proceed along the path.
With Metta

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“all religious path lead to the same goal” - that new agey cope, very bad and wrong view

I think perrenialism is at best wishful thinking, and at worst intellectual laziness.

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What is the “same goal”?

What are the “all religious paths”, which lead to the “same goal”?

Agreed

Steven T Katz gives a good critique of the Perennialist model in

Mysticism and Sacred Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2000)

or just read this article - What's wrong with the Perennial Philosophy? — Philosophy for Life

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Interestingly the Jains consider this to be a wrong view.

Just to sound a note for the defence, I am sure that the many naysayers here are right and proper buddhists but I must say that in my experience the general sentiment is very much true- there are saintly, peaceful, holy and purified people in every race and creed and at every time and place, and the fact is that, for example, Moses the Black was almost certainly more pure of heart and spiritually refined than any of us, after all he spent 40 years in the middle of a desert eating a handful of food a day and meditating on purifying his mind from all thought that wasn’t pure love and wisdom, and even among the other monastics had a reputation for profound spiritual attainment.

It seems highly unlikely to me that anyone posting on here would be fit to hold the hem of his robe, despite their knowledge of the “correct” religion while poor old Moses the Black was stuck with silly wrong-headed Christianity he still almost certainly made a more serious fist of it than most people with internet access :slight_smile:

I would also just point out that the idea that one view is right and other views are wrong is pretty explicitly denounced in the atthakavagga, and so cannot be the orthodox Buddhist position.

Metta

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The virtue portion of the dhamma isn’t the end goal though. It’s virtue leading to concentration (Samadhi).

Virtue is common in most religions, that’s why it’s considered mundane (non-ariyan).

The Buddha said the dhamma is very hard to see and goes against the grain of existence. Which means it’s something that is exceptionally rare to discover.

It really has nothing to do with being a good person in and of itself, it’s just that being a good person is necessary to see what’s hard to see, since if you live in a hostile environment nothing productive can get done, whether it’s science or art, let alone the true dhamma, which requires a very calm and quiet environment all around. Which means you can’t go around killing people, stealing, raping, and getting into trouble if you want to discover something extremely hard to see and rare.

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My natural inclination is to scorn the idea “all religious paths lead to the same goal”.

Yet the motivation behind saying that is usually a good hearted one of wanting to include people, not wanting to hurt people, and staying with what works for you.

Don’t tase me bro, but I think there might be a grain of truth to the idea that “all religious paths lead to the same goal”.

Just not in the same lifetime.

During many lifetimes people may get involved with a religion or system of thought that encourages them to behave in better ways improving their kamma, encouraging them to look at things other than mundane concerns.

That is partial progress along the path that may eventually get them closer to following and completing the dhamma in future lives.

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I think it is good to be aware that we (probably) all have sectarian tendencies in us . That is because the intellect very much likes clearness, 1-dimensional thinking and explanations, consistency, logic. The intellect likes to puzzle over and likes when all pieces fall into place. That is the kind of clearness that the intellect likes.

It does not like disorder, inconsistency, paradoxes, dubble messages, gaps etc. The intellect demands a certain clearness that is not really the clarity of the heart, i feel.

I feel in myself that this need in me is no quality. I feel it is connected with wrong ego-motives, greed, hate, tanha, grapsing and not with lettting go, liberation, detachment. It is not connected with the goal of Nibbana.

Seeking a socalled pure Dhamma in texts or thoughts, seeking a clear picture, intellectualy wanting to solve the puzzle. I know people belief they have very good motives, that they protect Dhamma this way, and help people to get to Nibbana, but in practice, i see, it leads to dissention, schisma. Any deviation in their beliefsystem, their ideas, their explanation is immediately judged as non-Dhamma, problematic, wrong. One becomes more and more judgemental, unfriendly and rigid. Sectarian. But one sees this still as good and justified. I belief that is a fault.

In the end, all those claims that one has the best understanding, the pure Dhamma, that what the Buddha really taught, that what he really practiced, etc. are uncertain, but one grasps at it as absolute truths.

What happens is that people in the beginning feel enthousiastic about the clearness of certain interpretations and that leads to cooling down. Finally it feels that all makes sense and falls into place like a puzzle. That idea. But that fruit disappears in time too, because that kind of intellectual satisfaction is not really cooling down a i belief.

Anyway, we better seek and worry about our own pure hearts and in all honesty, upright, see what is going on there. Is it really that noble? We need others to show our mistakes.

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Have you heard of Ven Dhammavuddho’s EBT based counter argument to this belief that you can attain the dhamma at a later time or another life?

It’s pretty convincing, he talks about it in this video (below) and pdf (also linked below).

To summarize the gist of it, with some of my own beliefs mixed in:

  • You can only discover the true dhamma from a Buddha, or yourself becoming a Buddha.
  • Samma Sambuddha’s are exceptionally rare, odds are you won’t have the luck ever again of being around during the time of a Samma Sambuddha
  • Being human is exceptionally rare (see the sutta with a blind turtle in the middle of the ocean accidentally sticking their head in a wooden yoke), and being a deva is rarer than being a human.
  • Samsara is crabs in a bucket, it’s hard to have enough escape velocity to leave the lower planes until the universe starts contracting, which is a very very long time. See the metaphor of an aeon (person wiping a mountain with a cloth once every 100 years and by the time the mountain is worn away that’s still shorter than an aeon).
  • The true dhamma lasts a short while as counterfeit dhamma quickly replaces it, so many people in the Buddhist community are likely not following the dhamma as the Buddha taught it and thus are incapable of discovering the rare hard to see truth that requires the perfect instruction which can only be elucidated by a perfected one, like a Buddha.
  • So to align all the variables of being a human at the time of a Samma Sambuddha and the true dhamma makes it practically impossible.
  • Conclusion: either you attain steam entry now, or never, and you will be stuck in samasara. Samsara is infinite, so if rebirth is true it is likely you have been a good and evil person an infinite amount of times already and all this time you have yet to discover the true dhamma.
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How can anyone answer such a question truthfully, when considering that one has to take teachings to heart and give it all one got? Okay, so I give Buddhism all I got, but know nothing about the other paths.

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My intuition is as follows, using method and goal framework.

Say using Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism as a comparison.

Non-dual teachings can be seen as a shared method.

The goal framework is different for Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism still has identification with the consciousness/awareness as the true self, whereas Buddhism would ask us to not even identify that as self.

Hence, same method can have different milage, depending on the goals. Wrong views leads to wrong knowledge and wrong liberation, which is a person not liberated, thought they are liberated.

Thus, it’s important to have right views, on what is the goal and what’s the method as well.

Possibly, the method of contemplative practice of various religions has many similarities and thus leads one to more calmness etc, but the end goal, we as Buddhist believe, ours is the ultimate, best end goal for it truly ends samsara, not other religions. I think I read one book from a Christian contemplative, which describes states like Jhanas.

One can also compare and contrast so many new age gurus, or non dual teachers out there. So similar methods. Some can be used to help improve mindfulness.

If you haven’t read Ven. Thanissaro’s book “Buddhist Romanticism,” I found it to be an incredibly eye-opening look into the history of how ideas like “all religious paths lead to the same goal” entered not only Buddhism but contemporary religion in the West more generally.

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I have sympathy with perennialism in the sense that the unsatisfactory nature of worldly affairs expresses itself as a search for one certainty that would extinguish thirst for other sensual knowledge. The teachings of the lord Buddha was not completely dismissive of such a persisting phenomena, but seems to warn us against jumping into conclusions due to our inability to see beyond our convictions. Even gods such as Baka can be deluded into believing that they knew the highest when they did not. The idea of a deluded god is a useful antidote to atheism, which is the worldly way of opposing creationism. If i were to choose between creationism and atheism, i would choose the former everyday despite its limitations and drawbacks. Atheism is just another religion in disguise, and shares the same perennial goal.

I think there’s a certain sense to the idea for more theistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and some of Hinduism). If one believes in some kind of benign creator god, then it kind of seems harsh that some accident of birth and being born in the wrong religion would condemn one to hell or a bad rebirth etc. And one can find admirable and saintly people and mystics in all these religions, e.g. some of the Sufis saints in Islam. Of course, the doctrines and dogmas of these religions also just plain contradict each other in many ways and they cannot be all right (though IMO often these more saintly people seem less concerned with the basic dogma, e.g. the Sufis have been sometimes harshly persecuted in Islam by hardliners).

Buddhism (the form in the suttas at least - some forms of Mahayana actually seem to be heading back in a Perennial Philosophy direction to me) seems a bit off on its own though. With no genuinely benign creator god as some kind of backstop, maybe it is the turtle popping its head up in the ocean into a wooden yoke every 100 years type situation. Almost every form of spirituality I’ve encountered (New Age ones as well) can be squared in some way with the Perennial Philosophy (though many of them internally would say they are the only way to salvation - but there’s enough in common). Buddhism is just different though.

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Are you referencing the Paramatthaka sutta? Or something else within the Atthaka?

This is not necessarily a response directly to your post, but this is a pretty nuanced topic due to the infinitude of contexts views can be related to. I only say this because there are, for certain, wrong views and right views according to the canon. MN9 coming to mind along with others. The come and see for yourself (ehipassiko) idea comes in here, where you don’t necessarily have to cling to any idea as right or wrong, but you eventually see for yoruself what is true and correct, and what is indeed wrong view, and some things must be accepted as wrong view or become a hindrance.

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Not really, Mahayana rejects this view just as strongly as Theravada. Just look at Nagarjuna or Vasubandhu. Mahayana authors continued to write refutations of Hindu creator god ideas up until the end of Buddhism in India.

All classic Buddhist authors would scoff at perennialism.