In the last article, One Way or Another, I suggested that God is present in the teachings of other religions than just Christianity. But aren’t these religions just deceptions of the devil? Well if they are, then the devil seems to have a pretty strange agenda. Let’s look at the lives of three famous people of other faiths.
Let’s start with Ashoka the Great – an emperor who ruled most of India in the third century BC. According to tradition, Ashoka began his reign as a ruthless tyrant, purging dissent and violently conquering his neighbors. But as he surveyed the death and destruction of his latest conquest in Kalinga, and heard the wailing of the mourners, something changed in him. He became a Buddhist, and completely reformed his life and his empire. He made peace with his neighbors, forgave his enemies, released many prisoners, built schools and hospitals, and encouraged compassion and kindness in his laws. He protected the forests and animals and encouraged all religions.
“Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought “Let me glorify my own religion,” only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others.” 1
H. G. Wells, said of him:
“Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star.” 2
So who would inspire an enlightened empire of peace and compassion. Satan or God?
Guru Teg Bahadur
Let’s look now at a Sikh, Guru Teg Bahadur who became the ninth guru of the Sikhs in 1665. He was a humble but powerful leader of the Sikh’s but also wrote beautiful verses that became part of the Sikh scriptures. Such as this one:
“Oh mind, love the Lord. With your ears, hear the glorious praises of the Lord of the Universe, and with your tongue, sing his song.” 3.
When the viceroy of the Mugal emperor began trying to convert the Hindus of Kashmir to Islam by force, their leaders approached Teg Bahadur for help. He told them to tell the viceroy that if he could convert Guru Teg Bahadur, they would convert also. But after four months of prison and torture, the Guru still refused to convert, and the viceroy had him beheaded.
Many Christians have found the grace and strength to die for their faith. Guru Teg Bahadur died not merely for his own faith, but to protect others of a different faith. Does satan inspire this kind of grace?
Finally, let’s look at Rabia Basri, a Muslim saint and Sufi mystic who lived in the 700’s AD. Captured by bandits and sold into slavery, she would spend most of her nights in prayer after finishing her duties. When her master overheard these prayers he realized what a saintly person she was and released her. She moved into in the desert where she taught about divine love to a group of disciples. Many religious leaders came to seek her counsel.
She once said to God,
“Everyone prays to You from fear of the Fire;
And if You do not put them in the Fire,
This is their reward.
Or they pray to You for the Garden,
Full of fruits and flowers.
And that is their prize.
But I do not pray to You like this,
For I am not afraid of the Fire,
And I do not ask You for the Garden.
But all I want is the Essence of Your Love,
And to return to be One with You,
And to become Your Face.”
As we close up this discussion of heaven and hell, I wonder how many of us come anywhere close to understanding God like Rabia did? How many of us only try to be good out of fear of hell, or a desire for heaven? How many of us understand the true object of our search?
I carry a torch in one hand
And a bucket of water in the other:
With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
And put out the flames of Hell
So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
And see the real goal.