When All Religions Come Together as One

June 24, 2024

By Neal Clark

Life Without Self Part 1

Religions have been around for thousands of years and have taken on many different forms and practices. In spite of all the religions teaching about Truth, mankind has not changed very much. Not a single religion stands out from the rest as having followers that can set an example for the rest of humanity. We have still not eliminated war, poverty, greed and the countless sufferings and confusions that each person carries within themselves. 

Regardless of what religion is followed, people still generally live self-centered lives with self-centered thoughts and actions. We see ourselves being separate from others and the universe. This in fact is the root cause of the suffering that we cause ourselves and others. The founders of every religion emphasized that the way to follow them and live a true and happy life, which is eternal. They all tell us that to do this we must come out of living for this individual self. 

What the Founders of the Religions Said

I could fill pages of how the founders of each religion explained that all we have to do to achieve eternal paradise in both this world and beyond is to abandon this identity of a self that is separated from the whole. Here are some examples:

Jesus (Christianity): When asked “How can we be saved?” He responded “Deny yourself, pick up your cross continually and follow me. The one who wants to save his soul will lose it, but the one who loses his soul for my sake will save it.”

Buddha (Buddhism): “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.”

Krishna (Hindu): “For the man who forsakes all desires and abandons all pride of possession and self reaches the goal of peace supreme. This is the eternal in man. Reaching him all delusion is gone.” 

Lao Tzu (Taoism): “The sky is everlasting and the earth is very old. Why so?  Because the world exists not for itself; It can and will live on. The Wise Man chooses to be last and so, becomes the first of all; denying self, he too is saved.” 

Rumi (Sufi):When you lose all sense of self the bonds of a thousand chains will vanish. Lose yourself completely, come return to the root of the root of your own soul.”

In these and other religions this directive of not living for the self is not limited to these few quotes but is the underlying theme of their teachings. This idea is also echoed over and over again by saints and mystics through the ages as the way to true fulfillment in life and the realization of our true nature. Even non-religious great thinkers like Einstein said: “The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and sense in which they have attained liberation from the self. We shall need a substantially new way of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

Why Doesn’t Mankind Live that Way?

Why with all these great teachers repeating the same teaching to mankind and most people professing to be followers of one of them, have we still not been able to make these teachings become a reality for us? Why haven't religions been able to guide us to change our perspective in the way their founders asked us to? 

Maybe it just wasn’t the time for mankind to reach this awareness and religions could only pass on these words, preserve them through the ages, and gather people till mankind was ready. Another reason may be that though religions spoke these words to people, and had various practices like prayer and meditation, these practices, though powerful, were not powerful enough to make most people lose their attachment to the self. For example, Jesus said: ‘You should love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Think about it, can you do that? If we are living for me, the self, how can we love someone as much as that self that we are so attached to. No matter who tells you to, it’s impossible. But if we eliminate this self and are living for the whole, loving your neighbor comes naturally.

What is this Self?

This self that we identify with, is not who or what we truly are. Think about it, who are you? Are you defined by your career, the activities you are involved in, your accomplishments, your failures, your likes and dislikes, your personality? Are you defined by what other people think of you, your relationships, by your past or your future aspirations and fears. Are you defined by your physical condition, your appearance or economic status, by the things you believe in, your conceptions and standards? If you take a look at it, you will probably find that you might define yourself by all of those things and maybe more. 

The truth is, who you really are has nothing to do with any of those things. Living as those self-determined identities, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, we judge ourselves and others. We are always looking for people to validate our beliefs and conceptions, we feel good when they do and bad when they don’t. We are always looking to be accepted but never completely feeling accepted for ourselves but rather accepted for the identities we took on or the appearance we show.

Feeling accepted and having a sense of belonging is one of our most powerful natural instincts. We created this self to satisfy this basic need for acceptance but it never really does. It doesn’t make us feel completely accepted because that acceptance is always dependent on so many conditions. Compounding that, each person is living in this delusion of a separate self and trying to glorify and maintain it. 

In reality, people’s acceptance of you is more conditional upon you helping them feel comfortable about who they think they are rather than it being about you. Every one you meet has different criteria for accepting you. They have that criteria linked to preserving their own identities, and are looking for your confirmation as much as you are looking for theirs. This sets us up for a constant struggle to feel accepted, it creates a distance between people, and self-consciousness which is naturally painful to us. It makes us feel defensive rather than accepting and loving. It takes our awareness away from appreciating life and each other and distracts us from just being present in this moment.

Gaining Freedom from the Self

Unfortunately, we can’t just be at peace with ourselves because it makes sense to be. We have been building this identity for the purpose of being acceptable to others from the time we were born. It is firmly implanted in our mind as well as our body. But there is a way to escape from it. It takes work and it takes guidance from someone that has done it themselves.

Eleven years ago, I started this meditation. I had done other types of meditation before but it was hard for me to stay focused and I couldn’t stick with any. This meditation is designed to free our minds from a world centered around the self. It’s not done through beliefs or imagery; it’s done by subtracting. Cleansing our mind of the images we hold of ourselves and the world. Not that you are giving up your memories but you end up freeing yourself from living in them and being confined and defined by them. I was already familiar with scriptures from many religions as the ones I quoted above. When I heard the principal of this meditation, I realized that it was in line with what all the enlightened teachers spoke about. It is a step-by-step method to eliminate all the burdens that we create for ourselves and eventually we can see this self that we created as the illusion that it is. 

As I progressed through the different levels of the meditation, little by little I could see the absurdity of the many conceptions I held. Images of myself that had no basis in reality. I could see how those conceptions dictated the way I lived my life, my relationships and how I felt about myself. It took time but finally I reached the point where I could see the complete falseness of everything I held onto in my mind. After seeing that so clearly, I became determined to let go of the whole nonsense connected to this self, which I now could see was a delusion. The important thing about this meditation is that you are not adding new ideas or ways of seeing things. You are subtracting the conceptions and views you hold, from there a new way of seeing the world and yourself emerges from within you. 

Life Without the Self

As my mind became freer and freer from all the thoughts and conceptions that occupied so much of my mental energy, a feeling of peace and relaxation grew in me that was deeper than anything before. I could appreciate people and everything about life much more because I was not blocked by all the preconceived notions, expectations, judgements and comparisons that I had before. 

One day I realized, while taking a walk that I barely had a single thought for an hour. This was kind of a new experience.  More and more I could spend time without having to think, and I realized how much more you can take in and appreciate when you are not wrapped up in your thoughts. Not to mention the complete peace you feel. Thinking is just like a tool. When you need to figure out something you take it out, otherwise you don’t need it, so you put it away. I could see that when I was thinking it was kind of like playing a habitual game. As time went by feelings of love and appreciation for others both past and present grew, I could listen to others better and really feel so much more love and compassion than before. I appreciated life more because I was actually living it rather than living in my head. I also felt regret for having spent so many years not realizing how beautiful life and people were.

As you begin to free yourself from this self-created identity that consumes your attention and awareness everything becomes infinitely easier. You can achieve anything without the need for worry, stress or anxiety. Why, because you can purely appreciate life, which includes whatever work you do without all your preconceived notions of how things should or shouldn’t be. You don’t spend time being frustrated by things not meeting your expectations and are able to deal with them just as they are. This greatly decreases fears, anxiety, stress, procrastination. You are able to communicate much better with others because you are free of worrying about what they think of you, you are open to any new ideas they may have and you are not trying to make their ideas fit into your ideas or have any competition.

To summarize this meditation has led me to a transformation that can’t be explained easily in words or gained from a book. To really understand it you have to experience it for yourself. I hope this is the season of mankind to discover this way of being free from the self. As more people can realize it even the world will change to be a much more cooperative and joyful place. A method that works is here now, so why not give it a try and find out for yourself what it’s like to be free from our greatest burden and see the world for the paradise it is.