Faith is the basis of morality and merit. It is the first condition of being in the Great Way, and because of faith, a believer shall seek the truth and take actions based on his understanding. The search for the truth constitutes the whole process of human civilization, and this starts with faith.
The one-dollar note of the US currency has these words: In God We Trust. This proposition embodies the faith of American people in God and is the foundation of America as a country of morality and merit, where the blessing “God Bless America” has been deeply rooted. As God is the Great Architect of the universe, the Eye of Providence on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States represents the eye of God watching over mankind.
Ancient Chinese philosophy has a similar proposition: “faith is God”. It tells that with a sincere mind, we can predict the future. With faith, everyone can be a fortune teller. When good things will happen, he knows before they are coming; when bad things will happen, he knows before they are coming. With faith, he is good as a prophet, who acts in lines with the law of heavens and earth, and God shall always be there to help.
The purpose of religion and philosophy is to reveal the truth of the universe. Religion is the truth of the universe and life, or relative truth; philosophy is the method to explore the truth of the universe and life. The Book of Rites said: “With enlightenment and understanding, one shall be safe.” When someone is enlightened, he knows the truth, and he acts in a moral way. He talks reasons and behaves with care. He is just as good as a sage. He is a philosopher, a wise man. Everything he does is for the good of others. Thus no one will cause him any trouble or do him any harm, and he shall be safe.
A wise man with faith is a philosopher who bears the order of God to formulate the laws of the world. Confucius was a wise man, Jesus, Muhammad and Sakyamuni too. They had the whole universe and the truth of life in their minds, they had the great mission of educating the population and saving the world. To formulate the laws of the world, they established Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. These religions tell their enlightenment and understanding of the truth of the universe and life.
The world “philosophy” comes from ancient Greece, meaning “love of wisdom”. According to Russell, philosophy is a study in between theology and science, an unknowable and widely disputed thing between the known and the transcendental. In Roman philosophy, there was also the idea that “everything is but a number”, that is, the substance and structure of all things in the world are determined by the numerical relations they contain. We know that the operation of modern computers relies on “1” and “0”, and there is scientific proof that philosophy is very close to the truth.
Primitively humans formed the idea of worshiping the sun and moon in their observation of astronomical and material phenomena. They also had the fear of the mysterious world when they studied the winds, thunders, lightning and spirits. Philosophy and religion are brothers. The earliest philosophies in Europe are monism, in which all things in the world come from one source “God”, who dominates everything. As to the nature of the world, substance is emptiness, emptiness is no different than substance. The “substance” here includes all the tangible and intangible things in the material and spiritual realm.
From Socrates to Plato and Aristotle, the foundation of ancient Roman philosophical thought was “kindness and justice, do not do bad things”. This is the whole meaning of morality, wisdom, and love. The foundation of Christianity is love, as God loves the world. Because the fundamental idea is the same, the Roman government’s attitude towards Christianity changed from resistance to making it the religion for the whole country. Muslims believe that the Lord is Allah and Muhammad the messenger. Prophet Muhammad was influenced by Judaism, so Islam and Christianity have the same root, and God is Allah. Among the world’s three major religions, Buddhism is more introverted, stressing an enlightenment of consciousness and returning to human nature. Christian emphasizes the middle way, in that Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant are basically respectful to each other. Islam is a little bit more active (some westerners might use the word “aggressive”), thus it is the world’s fastest growing religious belief.
The purpose of the ancient sages in formulating the laws is to regulate morality and benefit the world. Confucianism and Taoism both held that “the Great Way shall not be far from the people.” Buddhism has precepts, Christianity and Islam also have precepts, they share the same basic norms: do not kill, do not steal, do not lust, do not tell lies. In English “Religion” means is to “recite and go over again”, and has a lot to do with practice. In Buddhist practice, there are morning and evening class recitations. They emphasize the faithfulness of the practitioners. For Buddhist monks, many more precepts are important rules of their practice.
Judaism and Christianity also used to attach importance to practice. In Egypt, there was the earliest belief in secularism, fasting, and prayer. After the reform of St. Benedict, in Europe, there have been many abbeys for men and women. However, with the decline of Christianity, Protestants had to advocate “saved by faith”, and the actual practice has become insignificant. Muslims are known for their devotion as each would bow five times a day. Islam means “obedient, subservient,” and the way Muslims practice faith is to accept and obey Allah’s commands or wills. Islamic societies attach importance to family values, although the custom of “having four wives” is often criticized by other religious followers.
In the early days of China, people of different religions lived mostly in harmony; Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism worked together to shape the Chinese civilization. The Chinese used to have an exceptionally liberal attitude towards spiritual beliefs. Even at the times of minority conquest, the imperial rulers, including the Great Khan Genghis, tolerated a diversity which includes Christians, Muslims, and other animistic traditions in addition to Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. The reign under communism brought an end to this tradition of tolerance.
In the West, religious fanaticism and greed of humanity led to wars and killings in Medieval history. People driven by ignorance and dreams of encroaching upon other people’s land and wealth, suffered from hunger and death. The Pope and the priests, under the pretense of authority, profaned the name of God, and brought the western society into darkness. In wake of the pursuit of knowledge and a happy life during the Renaissance, the medieval theocracy was mercilessly stepped on by a revolution led by philosophers who advocated freedom and dignity of personality. The influence of the Renaissance was positive and far-reaching.
In the farewell to God and the mysterious heavens, people’s thoughts began to come out of the purified monasteries into the hustle and bustle of the worldly earth. Leaving the exploration of the materialized and natural world to science, philosophy began its own journey of more humanistic thinking, and thus triggered the debate between materialism and idealism. Hegel and his theory brought western philosophy to a new height, as he founded the largest objective system of idealism. Marx’s radically criticized Hegel’s idealism, but his thought was deeply shadowed under Hegel’s dialectical influence. According to Marxism, when society develops into communism, religion will disappear. Einstein believed that if philosophy was understood as the pursuit of knowledge in the most universal and broadest form, then philosophy could clearly be considered the mother of all sciences. Marx’s philosophy of struggle and Darwin’s natural selection are going in the opposite direction of the Great Way of the universe and human life. If religion disappears, philosophy and science shall also lose the soil to survive.
Religion exists in every country and nation in the world. So far, no country has been found without religion. And the number of religious believers in the world is greater than that of non-religious believers. Some religious rituals may be related to witchcraft and superstition, but the nature of religion is against superstition. Education is the solution to ignorance. Education is beyond family, school and society, religion and worship is the basis of education. The education of religion is about telling the truth. The concept of “freedom of religious belief” written into all constitutions has always been a lie. As the world enters the information age, the earth has become the global village. Dialogue between religions is not only the need of self-existence, but also the method of eliminating conflicts and avoiding disasters. It is necessary for sharing of common ground to take root in different religions.
All living beings have life because of lust. Of all criminal acts, evil by lust lead the causes. In recent years, the world’s major newspapers reported sex scandals in the Church, many of which were related to child abuse and sexual abuse of children. These immoral acts were common among clerics, the cardinals, bishops, priests, and nuns. In the United States in 2010 alone there were more than 10,000 cases of child sexual abuse. In Los Angeles’ Catholic district, in 2007, there were at least 500 victims of sexual assaults. Pope Benedict XVI called this “a major crisis,” but it was later exposed to the media that he had tried to conceal some scandals. This shows that human morality has been corrupted from the root.
As we just mentioned, “The Great Way shall not be far from the people”. Look at the Vatican’s security car during the Pope’s visits. Although the four sides are still transparent, the Pope has kept a distance far away from the people. God has assumed that the people are the enemy. This shows that modern mainstream religion is not moral. Is the Pope afraid of death? This is ridiculous, though! When the mission of the holy men has been directed against God, how can they teach the world in the name of God? Whether in the East or West, the prophet Muhammad’s private life and moral character are also questioned, because he had a number of wives. Criticism of Islam has emerged in the form of writing from the 9th century Christians, many of whom regarded Islam as a heresy of Christianity. In today’s China, the government has banned religious classics and religious activities from entering primary and secondary schools, and the religion on which human civilization has progressed has indeed suffered a “major crisis.”
Religion is a sacred cause, without borders, standing in solemn dignity. The Buddhists has a precept of no bowing to worldly rulers; although somewhat arrogant, it shows a dignity. When the state dares to start religious legislation and its government follows to set up religious administration, religions are doomed to degrade. When religious organizations began to register with the government and accept the administration of the state, religion had fallen from a height. Religious monks and priests are the messengers of God who shall not own private property, but the government has not only promised to build them houses and real estate businesses that can be exempted from taxes, and let these “messengers” enjoy more privileges than the ordinary citizens. This is a contract of corruption between the government and religion. Thus, religion gave up its authority and dignity, lost its true face, put aside its duties and responsibilities, and walks completely contrary to the will of God.
Religious belief is a matter of great importance, taking the broad way, not the narrow way. Without high morality, fine personal qualities, virtuous karma, and many good reasons for a great mission, a person shall not embark on the road of religious practice. It is difficult to do, a hard decision to make. He who is for the mission has taken the hard road. That means to cut his desires, leave his family behind, sacrifice his own interests, for the benefits of all. He is following the steps of Christ, Muhammad, and Sakyamuni. He is to be a true religious believer, spiritual practitioner. Religious holy sites are not in the hearts of Mecca, Jerusalem, Lumbini or the Vatican, but in every spiritual practice of the believers. The symbol of the authority does not lie in the brilliant golden halls and colorful silk robes, but in the moral strength and Bodhi mind of believers and practitioners.
Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, said: “Dear assembly! The Bodhi nature is pure clean. It’s inside your mind. To be enlightened of this, you are close the Buddha.” Zen is a school of Buddhism that stresses meditation. In the tranquility of tolerance and endurance, your breaths shall be deep and light, deep to the lungs, deep to the lower body, and deep to the heel. In sleep, you shall not dream; when you wake up, you shall feel good with smiles. Looking into the sky, you shall see the sun rising again, but start your day without any plans of an ordinary human being.
When the telescope and space exploration has taken humans to the boundless universe, the proud man thought that he had known everything. With their medical advancement, more and more people believe that a baby born is only a combination of sperms and eggs. Science is the solution for all mysteries, and religion is only the opium for the soul, totally useless in human society. The younger generation would also say, “I have heard people say about ghosts and gods, but I do not know what they mean.” Their perception of religion is so superficial that it is confined to certain phenomena. “All living things must die, after death his soul shall return home, called the ghost.” The intention of Confucius saying these words as a teacher was to tell the younger generation to have gratitude and a thanksgiving heart, but modern people are so arrogant in thinking that birth and death have nothing to do with religion or morality.
Before the birth of the universe, there should be a long, long time of darkness. A long time ago, the universe should be nothing, only emptiness, or nothingness. Before nothingness, perhaps the same darkness. Maybe inside that nothingness or emptiness, there was a spirit. Then suddenly a big bang, the Creator woke up, the spirit woke up. All things began to change, following the laws of nature, we seem to know, and that is the Road, the religion, the light in the darkness. Human exploration of the universe has reached the limit, even beyond the limit, and to the very top, very end, and can not go any further. Religion, that running spirit in the darkness of the universe, has been awakening now.
Lao Tzu said: “The mysterious and more mysterious, the gate to all wonders!” The philosopher Chuang-tzu told a story. “The king gave me a gourd seed, and I planted it in the backyard. I harvested a big gourd, and asked the craftsman to process it into a container with a capacity of five big buckets. This container was thin, not strong, could not afford the weight of their own body, easy to break. We made it into a scoop, but it is still too big. We do not need such a big gourd! What shall I do with this gourd? Too big but useless, empty but arrogant. Hand me a hammer, and let me just break it. See, it’s broken now.”
In the old days, people often looked into the sky, sighed and wandered what was happening in the Heavenly Palace. After Armstrong set foot on the moon, the human has lost all its romance. Once the human has the technology to do things in space, there are no more philosophers on the planet earth. Without the ideological contending, art and culture shall die, society shall lose vitality. The vessel for sacrifices has long been removed; humans only worry about their own things, they no longer care for others. Religion will die, and philosophy naturally has no way out.