What's in a Word? in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism

 The word God, as used in English, is Allah in Arabic, Brahman in Sanskrit and ha-Shem (the Name) in Hebrew. God is Theos in Greek, the first written language of the New Testament. Nirvana in Buddhist Sanskrit can also mean absolute Truth: ultimate Reality. Comparative religions use BCE or CE, Common Era, for the Christian BC or AD; ca. indicates an approximate date.
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Hinduism had no one founder; the Vedas advanced orally about 200 years before being recorded in Sanskrit from ca. 1300–600 BCE. The Hebrew Bible developed at least 300 years after Moses, ca. 1000–400 BCE. Gautama had been born a Hindu and taught in Prakrit; Buddhism’s first written canon was in Pali nearly 400 years later, ca. 17 BCE. Jesus was born a Jew and preached in Aramaic; the New Testament had evolved from ca. 100–367 CE. Muhammad spoke Arabic; the written Qur’an was formed within 30 years of his death in 632 CE. Scholars do not agree on those dates.*
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Hindu scriptures also refer to Ishvara, a more personal aspect of Brahman, and often to Vishnu and Shiva, two of Brahman’s trimurti (three forms), plus manifestations in Krishna and Rama. The Hebrew Bible uses the sacred, unspoken, YHVH (YHWH) for God; Adonai replaces it when reading Jewish scriptures. Ha-Shem is used in conversation. Mahayana and Vajrayana vehicles may consider the Dharmakaya (“dharma-body” or Buddha-nature) more correct than Nirvana, final realization of the Theravada. In the first written New Testament, Jesus referred to God as Abba (Father) and Lord applied to both the persons of the Father and the Son in the Trinity. In the Qur’an, al-Haqq (the Truth, the Reality) is supremely the title of Allah. Islam has “99 Beautiful Names” for Allah’s perfection; other faiths credit many attributes to God. In English, Absolute, Almighty, Deity, Supreme and other words are used to refer to God; divine, holy, omnipotent, omniscient, and other adjectives usually apply only to God.
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Many other religions have different words for God and a few, as in Buddhism, do not include a Supreme Being or Creator. Some give God personal qualities, while most speak of God as a spiritual omnipresence or an all-pervading force. Among the other religions which are still practiced today: Aboriginal traditions, African tribal beliefs, Baha’i, Druze, Jainism, Native American faiths, Polynesian spirit worship, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Yoruba, and Zoroastrianism. Later prophets had developed new traditions, like Jewish Kabbalah, had gained new revelations, as in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), or had founded new religions, such as Baha’i. There are hundreds of religions and faiths.
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The Vedas, most sacred to Hindus, were rejected by Buddhists who also defined many Sanskrit words differently, e.g. nirvana. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah, are most revered by Jews and are studied by most Christians. Practices and customs may vary between countries, as apparent among the predominately Muslim states, or blend in local mythology, such as in Hinduism on Bali. Doctrine for any one religion may differ between its divisions or their branches, like within the many Protestant denominations.
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In Vedanta, Brahman is considered as the One God; Hindus of Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism may worship a chosen god, goddess or incarnation who emanates from Brahman. In Judaism, customs, behavior and worship may vary among movements: Conservative, Hasidism, Orthodox, and Reform. Mahayana Buddhists rely on guidance of others and prayer; Theravada stresses self-reliance and good works; Vajrayana has secret rituals and metaphysics. Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and other Christians may differ on grace, the Trinity and sources of doctrine. Ibadi, Shi’a and Sunni Islamic sects disagree on Muhammad’s successors and on the status of imams; Sufi orders among them may worship differently.
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Hindu texts written in classical Sanskrit sometimes changed when translated into India’s 22 modern languages or into English. The Hebrew Bible varied in Greek and Latin; except for Protestants, the canon of Christianity’s Old Testament included many books not in Judaism’s canon. Buddhist texts in Pali and Sanskrit were often interpreted differently in other Asian languages and Ch’an/Zen downplays the use of scriptures. The New Testament has had many changes during translations, literal and idiomatic. The Qur’an was written only in Arabic for more than 1,200 years; first translations were in the early 1900’s, but are not considered true Qur’an.
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Reading the mystics of all religions can help to overcome these many apparent disparities. Mysticism’s message seems to be a consensus: The essence of the One is the essence of All. Although the ultimate Reality is the same, each experience of it can vary. That applies to each mystic as well as between mystics.
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*Some scholars say that the oral traditions of Hindu and Jewish texts were first written in the 3rd Century BCE and the New Testament in the 1st Century CE (AD).
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Note: Five of the largest religions are mentioned in order of their usual historical origins. All had originated in Asia (India and the Near East), but Judaism, Christianity and Islam are herein referred to as “Western” (yet the largest Muslim populations are in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India). Mysticism is a tradition in some other faiths, too.
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This is essay is from my ebook on comparative mysticism at http://suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf



(My publication)Posted:Jul 01 2016, 02:00 AM by Ron Krumpos
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