THE REVEALER OF TRUTH
Every religion regards its founder as the revealer of the truth and
the true source of the teaching for all to follow. In fact, one of the
primary ways in which we encounter the founder is through his teaching.
His teaching is based on his own attainments or on the revelation granted
him; it is not dependent upon anyone else. It is always distinct from and
superior to the beliefs which were prevalent before him; it becomes the
standard upon which to measure all ideas that arise after him; and it
remains as the continuing wellspring for all later expressions of
In this section, we begin with passages which declare the founder's
teaching to be the true and only way. As explained in the introduction to
this chapter, the fact that several founders have made this claim is not
meant to invalidate or relativize their claims; each in his own way stands
at the summit of truth unrivaled by anyone else. Every reader must
inevitably face this radical claim of authority and uniqueness, first by
the founder of his own tradition. We should not think that we are able to
arrive at truth merely by the power of our own intellects; rather we
should be instructed by those guides who have seen much further than we
Other passages describe the ways in which the founders have arrived
at their incomparable teachings. These are mainly two: by receiving
divine revelation from a transcendent source, and through extensive
striving, study, and meditation. Yet even where the mode of realizing
truth is through study and meditation, there is often a revelatory
element. Thus the passage from the Vedas indicates that, despite their
best efforts to strain and sift, only certain noted sages received the
gift of divine speech.
Several passages describe the founders as teachers and bringers of
light, even outshining all previous teachers. In the concluding passage,
which describes the Buddha as not uttering any words at all, we recognize
that these founders do not just preach a truth, but realize it, embody it,
and convey it by their example. This brings us back full circle to the
opening passages, where Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and others are not only
the revealers of an objective Word but the embodiments of Truth itself.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to
the Father, but by me."
Christianity. Bible, John 14.6
I [Krishna] am the goal of the wise man, and I am the way. I am his
prosperity. I am his heaven. There is nothing dearer to him than I.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.12
In the sky there is no track. Outside [the Buddha's dispensation] there
is no saint. Mankind delights in obstacles. The Tathagatas are free from
Buddhism. Dhammapada 254
Muhammad is... the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets.
Islam. Qur'an 33.40
Glory be to Lord Mahavira, the source of the Scripture, supreme Tirthankara,
the teacher of the world.
Jainism. Nandi Sutra, 2
Oh, how great is the divine moral law of the Sage Confucius. Overflowing
and illimitable, it gives birth and life to all created things and towers
high up to the very heavens. How magnificent it is! How imposing the
three hundred principles and three thousand rules of conduct! They await
the man who can put the system into practice.
Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 27
Qur'an 33.40: When a document is sealed, it is complete and there can be
no further addition. As 'the Seal of the Prophets' Muhammad is regarded
as the last prophet, completing for all time the testimony of God's
revelation. For Islam, God's teaching will continue in later ages through
reformers, sages, and saints, but no more through a Prophet.
The Eternal thought, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do,
seeing that Abraham is to become a large and powerful nation, and that all
nations of the world are to seek bliss like his? I have chosen him that
he may charge his sons and his household after him to follow the
directions of the Eternal by doing what is good and right."
Judaism. Bible, Genesis 18.17-19
The Truth has come, and falsehood has vanished away. Surely falsehood is
ever certain to vanish.
Islam. Qur'an 17.85
Truth is victorious, never untruth.
Truth is the way; truth is the goal of life,
Reached by the sages who are free from self-will.
Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.6
The best of paths is the Eightfold Path. The best of truths are the Four
Noble Truths. Non-attachment is the best of mental states. The best of
human beings is the Seeing One.
This is the only Way. There is no other that leads to the purity of
insight. You should follow this path, for this is what bewilders Mara.
Embarking upon that path, you will make an end of pain. This path has
been declared by me after having learned the way for the removal of
Buddhism. Dhammapada 273-75
The whole world seeks to attain the transcendent state--
Without the true Preceptor's aid it is not attained.
Exhausted with learning, pandits and astrologers
Fall into sects and are lost in delusion.
The transcendent state is attained only on meeting the Preceptor,
Should he of his will show grace.
Brother! Except through the Preceptor the transcendent state may not
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sri Raga, M.3, p. 68
No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the father,
he has made him known.
Christianity. Bible, John 1.18
Through Vyasa's grace, I have heard the supreme secret of spiritual union
directly from the Lord of Yoga, Krishna himself.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.75
Qur'an 17.85: The truth was revealed to Muhammad. Mundaka Upanishad
3.1.6: In Hinduism, the ancient sages who composed the Vedas while in a
state of enlightenment are regarded as the sources of revealed scripture.
Dhammapada 273-75: Cf. Lotus Sutra 2, p. 154. Sri Raga, M.3: Cf. Bilaval,
M.5, p. 535. Bhagavad Gita 18.75: The Vedas, which were handed down in a
long line of oral transmission, are said to have been collected and
compiled by the sage Vyasa. Traditionally, Vyasa is also responsible for
compiling the Mahabharata, the Srimad Bhagavatam, and numerous other
sacred works. Yet ultimately, the sage is transparent to the divine
revelation he transmits. Yasna 50.6: Cf. Yasna 33.13, p. 538; 45.5, pp.
159f. Rig Veda 10.71.1-4: Vak, divine 'Speech,' is the divine revelation
in the Vedas.
To me, Zarathustra, the prophet and sworn friend of righteousness,
Lifting my voice with veneration, O Wise One,
May the creator of the mind's force show, as Good Mind,
His precepts, that they may be the path of my tongue.
Zoroastrianism. Yasna 50.6
Stir not your tongue [O Muhammad] to hasten it [the Qur'an]. Lo! upon Us
rests the putting together thereof and the reading thereof. And when We
read it to you, follow the reading; then lo! upon Us rests its
Islam. Qur'an 75.16-19
It belongs not to any mortal that God should speak to him, except by
revela- tion, or from behind a veil, or that He should send a messenger
and he reveal whatsoever He will, by His leave; surely He is All-high,
All-wise. Even so We have revealed to thee [O Muhammad] a Spirit of Our
bidding. You knew not what the Book was, nor belief; but We made it a
light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants. And you, surely you
shall guide unto a straight path--the path of God.
Islam. Qur'an 42.51-53
Looking all over the world and through all ages, I find no one who has
understood My heart. No wonder that you know nothing, for so far I have
taught nothing to you. This time I, God, revealing Myself to the fore,
teach you all the truth in detail.
Tenrikyo. Ofudesaki 1.1-3
When, Lord of our prayer! The first of Speech, and the foremost,
the sages uttered, giving the unnamed a name,
which was their best, and their most stainless, then they
with love revealed the divine secret in their souls.
Where the sages formed the Speech with their mind,
straining it as they strain flour with the sieve,
therein have friends discovered bonds of friendship,
whose holy beauty lies hidden in that Speech.
With worship they followed the steps of the Speech
and found it installed in the hearts of sages.
They acquired it and gave it at many places,
and seven singers intone it together.
There is the man who sees but has not seen Speech;
there is the man who hears but has not heard Her,
but to another She reveals her lovely form
like a loving wife, finely robed, to her husband.
Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.71.1-4
The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there,
and I will give you the tables of stone, with the law and the commandment,
which I have written for their instruction." So Moses rose with his
servant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.... Now the
appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top
of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. And Moses entered
the cloud, and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain
forty days and forty nights.
Judaism. Bible, Exodus 14.12-18
Moses said to Israel, "Know you not with what travail I gained the Torah!
What toil, what labor, I endured for its sake. Forty days and forty
nights I was with God. I entered among the angels, the Living Creatures,
the Seraphim, of whom any one could blast the whole universe in flame. My
soul, my blood, I gave for the Torah. As I learnt it in travail, so do
you learn it in travail, and as you learn it in travail, so do you teach
it in travail."
Judaism. Midrash, Sifre Deuteronomy
Know then, that from time to time a Tathagata is born into the world, a
fully Enlightened One, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and
goodness, happy with the knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide
to erring mortals, a teacher of gods and men, a blessed Buddha. He
thoroughly understands this universe, as though he saw it face to face....
The Truth does he proclaim both in its letter and in its spirit, lovely in
its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation. A higher
life does he make known in all its purity and in all its perfection.
Buddhism. Digha Nikaya xiii, Tevigga Sutta
The holy sages were able to survey all the movements under heaven. They
contemplated the way in which these movements met and became interrelated,
to take their course according to eternal laws. Then they appended
judgments, to distinguish between the good fortune and the misfortune
indicated.... They speak of the most confused diversities without
arousing aversion. They speak of what is most mobile without causing
confusion. This comes from the fact that they observed before they spoke
and discussed before they moved. Through observation and discussion they
perfected the changes and transformations.
Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.8.2-4
Above, he [Chuang Tzu] wandered with the Creator, below he made friends
with those who have gotten outside of life and death, who know nothing of
beginning or end. As for the Source, his grasp of it was broad,
expansive, and pene- trating; profound, liberal, and unimpeded. As for
the Ancestor, he may have said to have turned and accommodated himself to
it and to have risen on it to the greatest heights. Nevertheless, in
responding to change and expounding on the world of things, he set forth
principles that will never cease to be valid, an approach that can never
be shuffled off. Veiled and arcane, he is one who has never been
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 33
I Ching, Great Commentary 1.8.2-4: This describes the way in which the
oracles in the I Ching were discovered, by empirical observation.
Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it you
[Joseph Smith] shall be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle
of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the
Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, being inspired of the
Holy Ghost to lay its foundation, and to build it up into the most holy
faith. Which church was organized and established in the year of your
Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth
day of the month which is called April.
Wherefore, meaning the church, you shall give heed unto all his
words and commandments which he shall give to you as he receives them,
walking in all holiness before me; for his word you shall receive, as if
from my own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things
the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God
will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the
heavens to shake for your good, and His name's glory.
For thus says the Lord God, "Him have I inspired to move the cause
of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his
prayers I have heard."
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and
Say, "Obey God, and obey the Messenger; then, if you turn away, only upon
him rests what is laid on him, and upon you rests what is laid on you. If
you obey him, you will be guided. It is only for the Messenger to deliver
the manifest Message."
Islam. Qur'an 24.54
The Tirthankaras do not forcibly guide one to the good or take one away
from the evil. They only preach and open the eyes of the people to the
consequences of treading a forbidden path. He who listens to such
preaching becomes the Lord not only of men but also of the gods.
Jainism. Dharmadasagani, Upadesamala 448-49
O Prophet, we have sent you as a witness, and good tidings to bear and
warning, calling unto God by His leave, and as a light-giving lamp.
Islam. Qur'an 33.45-46
Doctrine and Covenants 21.1-7: Joseph Smith was a 'translator' of ancient
documents--the golden plates of the Book of Mormon and the papyri of
Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price--but not in the modern sense
of one who is an expert in languages and strives for literal accuracy.
His translation was by the gift of spiritual inspiration, using certain
special stones called interpreters and focusing on his mind's inner eye to
divine the meaning. Cf. Book of Mormon, Ether 3.21-28, 4.5; Mosiah
8.9-19. Qur'an 24.54: Cf. Qur'an 4.79-80, p. 680. Upadesamala 448-49:
See Ratnakarandasravakacara 7-10, p. 637. On the hearer attaining
lordship, cf. Dhammapada 181, p. 313. On individual responsibility to
receive the message, compare Sutta Nipata 1063-64, p. 680. Qur'an
33.45-46: Cf. Bilaval, M.5, p. 535.
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not
remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I
do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the
world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the
word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not
spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me
commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his
commandment is eternal life.
Christianity. Bible, John 12.46-50
The glowworm shines so long as the light-bringer has not arisen. But when
the shining one has come up, its light is quenched, it glows no longer.
Such is the shining of the sectarians. So long as the rightly awakened
ones arise not in the world, the sophists get no light, nor do their
followers, and those of wrong views cannot be released from Ill.
Buddhism. Udana 73
Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with
such splendor that the Israelites could not look on Moses' face because of
its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the
Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was splendor in
the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must
far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor
has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that
surpasses it.... Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies
over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Christianity. Bible, 2 Corinthians 3.7-16
Mahamati said, "It is said by the Blessed One that from the night
of the Enlightenment till the night of the Parinirvana [at his death], the
Tathagata has not uttered even a word, nor will he ever utter a word.
According to what deeper sense is that not-speaking the Buddha's
The Blessed One replied, "By reason of two things of the deeper
sense, Mahamati, this statement is made: the truth of self-realization and
an eternally-abiding reality.... Of what deeper sense is the truth of
self-realization? What has been realized by the Tathagatas, that is my
own realization, in which there is neither decreasing nor increasing; for
the realm of self-realization is free from words and discriminations,
having nothing to do with dualistic ways of speaking.
"What is meant by an eternally-abiding reality? The ancient road
of reality has been there all the time, like gold, silver, or pearl
preserved in the mine; the substance of truth abides forever, whether a
Tathagata appears in the world or not.... What has been realized by
myself and other Tathagatas is this reality, the eternally-abiding
reality, the self-regulating reality; the suchness of things, the realness
of things, the truth itself. For this reason it is stated by me that from
the night of the Tathagata's Enlightenment till the night of his entrance
into Nirvana, he has not in the meantime uttered, nor ever will utter, one
Buddhism. Lankavatara Sutra 61
John 12.46-60: Cf. Matthew 7.24-27, p. 161. 2 Corinthians 3.7-16: Cf.
Galatians 3.10-13, 21-26, p. 163. Yet there is also continuity between
the new revelation and the old; see Matthew 5.17-18, p. 662. Cf. Book of
Certitude, 33-41, p. 1095. Lankavatara Sutra 61: The worldless nature of
the Buddha's words is well captured by the Zen story of how the Elder
Kashyapa inherited the Dharma, Mumonkan 6, p. 819. Cf. Lankavatara Sutra
76, p. 801; Diamond Sutra 21, p. 800.