Sublime Vision Self-Concept in 8 Spiritual Traditions
As we shall see in this paper, the Sublime Vision self-concept is the uniting common value and default paradigm in the most prominent religions that cover around 80% of the human population. For the sake of diversity we have included some less prominent religions as well.
If this analysis was extended to all other religions, it will be found that they mostly agree with the Sublime Vision self-concept. This is because the Sublime Vision self-concept that we exist beyond the biological body is the very basis of spiritual existence. As long as we believe in the Gross Vision of identifying with the biological body, there is no question of life after death in a way in which the essence of our being, such as personality, wisdom and experiences, are conserved. This conservation of our essence over more than just one lifetime is not just wishful thinking but has been practically experienced by thousands of people. Academically acclaimed evidence of past life recollections gives support to their experience.
The Sublime Vision self-concept has been the default paradigm of most of humanity for thousands of years. During the so called “age of enlightenment” people got rid of certain false beliefs and superstition, but many also threw out the baby with the washing water by abandoning the Sublime Vision self-concept. It will be wise if we, without reverting back to false beliefs, revive the Sublime Vision as our core paradigm and refine it further.
The Egyptians had a mixed self concept due to mixing the concept of the biological body with the concept of the soul. The biological body was believed to be a part of the eternal soul even after death, which resulted in the eerie cult of deliberate mummification. They shared the belief that the tomb remains the home of the soul with the Romans. The Egyptian elite would have elaborate tombs with riches and even servants buried with them and the Romans were known for their feasting orgies and debauchery. Seeing the biological body as eternal part of the soul results in giving more emphasis on the body and its enjoyment.
Egyptian culture as well as the rather hedonistic Roman culture were centered around a self-concept with limited scope of transcendence, and although they were materially advanced, both cultures collapsed in due course of time. The present day academia is by default materialistic due to its own choice of preferring secularism, but it is also influenced by the funding oligarchs who make billions from the body-cult based consumerism that relies on materialism. This is the main reason why academia is generally opposing the view that reality also exists beyond matter. Academia could simply say that the transcendental reality is not their domain. But by claiming that there is no transcendental reality, academia is in fact creating another religion – the religion of scientism that preaches that science is the only valid way to experience and describe reality. By letting such bias pass, we are following in the footsteps of the Egyptians and Romans with their Gross Vision resulting in unchecked growth, hedonism and finally extinction.
Our body cult is literally destroying the planet. The fashion industry alone contributes second most to carbon emissions after the oil industry. The mummy cult has survived in increasing plastic surgeries and scientists spending billions trying to prolong material life or upload the mind into computers. Instead, we could teach the Sublime Vision of continuous life after bodily death and support ways of Inner Growth by which we are guaranteed a better future.
It is thus important to know about the roots of our age-old belief in the Sublime Vision self-concept. These roots are in the world’s religions or spiritual traditions. We shall proceed from oldest to newest traditions.
1. Hinduism/Sanatana-dharma/Yoga traditions (1.15 billion adherents)
The original term for Hinduism is “Sanatana-dharma”, literally “the eternal religion.” It is the World’s oldest living religion that goes back over 5000 years. It clearly teaches the Sublime Vision self-concept. In the most renown Sanatana-dharma scripture, the Bhagavad-gita (500 BC), Lord Krishna says:
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in the same body, from boyhood to youth to old age, similarly, at death, the soul passes into another (material or spiritual) body. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” – Bhagavad-gita 2.13.
Today, Yoga is one of the biggest trends globally. In the foundational Yoga scripture, the Yoga-sutra, Patanjali (500 BC) says: “Bewilderment is confusing the nature of the seer (our sublime self) with the nature of the instruments of perception (the gross body). In other words,
“The basis of illusion in this world is our false identification with the biological body.” – Yoga-sutra 2.6.
In the most revered of all Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana (900 AC), Vyasadeva says:
“The truly intelligent know that the biological body is different from the self.” – Bhagavata Purana 4.20.3.
The Sublime Vision taught by most Sanatana-dharma schools leads into a Sublime World nourishing the collective good through Inner Growth of sublime values. These are, amongst others: ahimsa or non-violence, compassion with all living beings, vegetarianism, protection of trees and nature, moderate life-style, renunciation of worldly attachments, rejection of hedonism and gluttony, curbing of greed by attaining a higher taste for spiritual pleasures, practical self-realization and God-realization.
In contrast to the Greek and Abrahamic traditions, in the Vedic or Hindu traditions the atma or eternal self or soul is also present in the animals and plants, allowing a less exploitative and more compassionate relationship with nature.
The monist schools believe that the soul or atma is ultimately formless and merges into the formless supreme Brahman. The monist-dualist and dualist schools believe that the atma ultimately has transcendental form (svarupa) and is now no more just possessing a (temporary) body, but actually is a body. Once we have attained our svarupa through spiritual practice and mercy of God, we will serve God eternally in our svarupa or transcendental body.
2. Jainism (4.2 million adherents)
Jainism is almost as old as Hinduism and also clearly teaches the Sublime Vision self-concept. There are various dravya or fundamental substances or entities in Jainism, most notably the jiva or eternal self or soul and pudgala or inert matter. Jainism shares most of their values like non-violence and moderate life-style with Hinduism.
3. Buddhism (521 million adherents)
Buddhism emerged around 600 BCE and partially teaches the Sublime Vision self-concept. The body is regarded as anatta, the “not-self”. In Buddha’s own words:
“The body, monks, is not self. If the body were the self, this body would not lend itself to disease.”
“It would be possible (to say) with regard to the body, ‘Let my body be thus. Let my body not be thus.’ But precisely because the body is not self, the body lends itself to disease.” – Anattalakkhana Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya XXII, 59.
However, unlike most other religions, Buddha also rejects consciousness or the self or soul as an illusion:
“Consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to disease.” – Anattalakkhana Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya XXII, 59.
Reality as we see it is a mere illusion. When one attains the state of liberation of nirvana or extinction, both seer and the seen vanishe into a state of shunyata or emptiness. Those who don’t attain nirvana are reincarnated.
Thus, while teaching that the Gross Vision is false and carrying the correlated sublime values of transcendence, compassion, non-violence, etc., Buddhism does not hold that we are individual sublime beings because it negates the existence of the self altogether.
4. Judaism (14.5 million adherents)
Judaism emerged around 500 BCE and teaches that the body and soul are separate entities that partner in human life. The body does not imprison or corrupt the body as in Platonism, but it is a care-deserving God-given tool for doing sacred work in the world. Three words which over time developed the meaning of “soul” are present in Tanach: Neshamah, Nefesh, and Ruach.
These words carried various meanings and according to different interpretations we get different concepts on the nature of soul and body. Noteworthy is that certain Judaists believe that resurrection will happen in the same body we have during our human existence. The Christian understanding is mostly that the spiritual body will be altogether new (those who have a body which they somehow don’t like thus don’t have to be in that body for eternity). Some reformed Judaists have rejected bodily resurrection altogether and believe only the soul goes to heaven.
Certain Judaists like the Hasidim believe in reincarnation, which is mentioned in the Kabbalah as gilgul, the “cycle”. This, of course, also suggests the Sublime Vision self-concept that our sublime self exists beyond the biological body.
5. Christianity (2.4 billion adherents)
Since they too make a difference between body and soul, Christians also teach the Sublime Vision self-concept.
God created the bodies from dust and then breathed the breath of life into the bodies (Genesis 2:7). As long as human life proceeds, body and soul are seen as a unit. At the time of death, this unit is broken. The body will return to the soil, because it was made from soil (Genesis 3:19), and the soul returns to God who gave it:
“Remember him – before the silver cord [the connection of the soul with the body] is severed, […] before the pitcher [body] is shattered at the spring, […] and the dust [body] returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” – Ecclesiastes 12:6-7.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “The life I now live in the body […].” Thus I, the soul, live in the body and therefore, I am not the body.
The Christian Sublime Vision self-concept envisions a spiritual body given to us at the time of resurrection through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). This body is free from decay similar to the svarupa of Sanatana-dharma. This is called the “redemption of the body” (Romans 8:23). A spirit without a spiritual body is considered naked:
“For we will be clothed – we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be naked – we will not be spirits without bodies. – 2 Corinthians 5:3.
Since the body falls off at death and the soul returns to God eternally, we are naturally not advised to put great emphasis on the body and its related enjoyments and possessions but on the soul and thus focus on Inner Growth of values like compassion and transcendence. Thence Paul advises:
“Bodily exercise gives little profit: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8.
And since our real identity is not with the body, but with the God-given soul, we are not to mistake the body for our self or home. Therefore, it is said:
“As long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21.
“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15.
“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.” – Proverbs 23:20.
6. Chinese Traditional Religion (400 million adherents)
Chinese Traditional Religion emerged around 300 CE. It is a combination of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism and includes shamanism, ancestor worship, magic, ghosts and animism. It partially teaches the Sublime Vision self-concept in as much as it holds that humans have a soul that is above the biological body in one of its aspects.
The soul is a dialectic of hun and po, respectively the yang spirit or mind, and the yin animal soul that is the body. Hun (mind) is the shen (that gives a form to the qi) of humans, and it develops through the po, stretching and moving intelligently in order to grasp things.The po is the “feminine” soul which controls the physiological and psychological activities of man, while the hun, the god attached to the vital breath, is the “masculine” soul that is totally independent of corporeal substance. The po is the “earthly” (di) soul that goes downward, while the hun is the “heavenly” (tian) soul that moves upward.
7. Islam (1.8 billion adherents)
Muhammad lived around 600 CE and also taught the Sublime Vision self-concept that we are not the biological body. The body is called jism and the word for the soul is ruh. Muslims believe that Allah takes the souls at the time of their death (Quran 39:42). Ruh and its inclinations are eternal, and thus they believe in life before birth. When the ruh joins the embryo it becomes a human. On the day of judgement, a new spiritual body is given. The mundane inclinations we have that change due to changing habits are called nafz. The more one overcomes one’s nafz or mundane desires, the closer one comes to the angles.
Just like Christianity and Judaism, Islam teaches not to waste one’s energy on external accomplishments:
“And do not spend wastefully.” – Quran 17:26.
“The servants of Allah are neither extravagant nor
miserly.” – Quran, Sura Furqan: Ayat 67.
“Allah does not love the extravagant people.” – Quran, Sura Araf: Ayat 31.
8. Sikhism (30 million adherents)
Sikhism was founded in 1469. As in Hinduism, Guru Nanak considers the human body as a vehicle of the soul and as a temple of the Lord. Thus prime importance is given to the soul.
“He placed the soul in the body which He had fashioned.” – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M.1, P.138.
They also have monistic elements in their teaching:
“Those who understand their own souls, are themselves the Supreme Soul.” – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. 1, P. 421.
Sikhs are well-known for their unparalleled welfare engagements like daily free food programs and planting millions of trees.