Life’s Illusions: A Common Theme Across All Religions

Christianity

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Judaism

Olam has a diverse set of meanings, including, world, existence, lifetime and eternity. As is often the case in Hebrew, the etymology of the word suggests the link between its different senses; olam comes from alam, a verb meaning to hide or conceal. The underlying theological idea is that whether in time or in space, the olam is that which conceals the presence of God in the world. Olam haba is the world to come.

Islam

“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children […] And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”

Baha’i

“Verily I say, the world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion. It may, moreover, be likened unto the lifeless image of the beloved whom the lover hath sought and found, in the end, after long search and to his utmost regret, to be such as cannot “fatten nor appease his hunger.”

Hinduism

“The world appears the way we see it, but that is not the way it really is. Maya comes from the same root as magic. In saying the world is maya, non-dual Hinduism is saying that there is something tricky about it. The trick lies in the way the world’s materiality and multiplicity pass themselves off as being independently real — real apart from the stance from which we see them — whereas in fact reality is undifferentiated Brahman throughout, in the way a rope lying in the dust remains a rope while being mistaken for a snake.”

Buddhism

“The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transiency, or change. That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence. No one can deny this truth, and all the teaching of Buddhism is condensed within it. This is the teaching for all of us. Wherever we go this teaching is true. This teaching is also understood as the teaching of selflessness. Because each existence is in constant change, there is no abiding self. In fact, the self-nature of each existence is nothing but change itself, the self-nature of all existence. There is no special, separate self-nature for each existence. This is also called the teaching of Nirvana.”

Confucianism

“To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge.”

Daoism

“When my teacher Lao-tzu left for the western lands, he told me that the life and breath of heaven and earth and the shape of all things are really illusions.”

Modern Literature

“Although you can see it, green is not a real color, it arises from a mixture of blue and yellow; if you thoroughly combine blue and yellow, you will get green. Every painter knows that; but few people realize that the world we live in stands likewise under the sign of green and thus does not reveal its true nature, namely blue and yellow.”

Modern Psychology

“One must painstakingly match one’s preconceptions against actual, ongoing experience to begin separating truth from illusion[…]These distortions are ‘inside’ each one of us — no human being is immune to the illusions they foster.”

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Universal Enlightenment & Flourishing

Universal Enlightenment & Flourishing

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