Saturday, June 13, 2009


In his 'Song of the Mahamudra,' the late wandering yogi Tilopa (988–1069 CE) exclaims:

Although sages report
the nature of awareness to be luminosity,
this limitless radiance cannot be contained
within any language or sacramental system.

I consider Tilopa's words to be a powerful articulation of the need for pluralism. He carefully navigates between an absolute relativist position (all systems are created equal) and one of imperious exclusivism (only one system reigns supreme), advocating instead for a humble recognition of God's overflowing presence beyond-all-graspness (Rahner). HDS Professor Diana Eck expresses a similar sentiment: "The challenge for the pluralist is commitment without dogmatism and community without communalism" ('Encountering God' 195). Standing independently but relationally allows us to re-construct the Holy using disparate pieces of faith.

Both Unitarian Universalism and Sikhism understand this. As for the former, Chworowsky and Raible poignantly observe: "Unitarian Universalists believe that no religion - including their own - has exclusive possession of all truth. All ought to be honored and respected for the truths in them" ('What is a Unitarian Universalist?' 272). The diversity of theology and background in our congregations reflects our belief that people must decide about God for themselves. Similarly, Sikhism encourages its followers to take seriously the 'many paths' approach. In a moving passage, Guru ji advises: "Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false" (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 1350). In fact, Guru Nanak relied on the companionship and wisdom of Mardana (Muslim) and Bala (Hindu) during his extensive travels, as recorded in the janamsakhis.

For the Indian spiritual teacher Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, "tolerance is a secret and sacred way to enrich our human life." In this spirit, may we all delight in the overflowing.

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