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CHAPTER 8, FALL AND DEVIATION
Among the most insidious causes of deviation from the religious path is the lure of false teaching, or heresy. The scriptures of every major religion warn against it. "Heresy" means opinion, and the wisdom of orthodox tradition is not something to be denied or perverted on the basis of mere opinion. The orthodox tradition carries with it the deposit of wisdom inherited from the founders, prophets, saints, and sages who have had the surest and deepest insight into truth. It is rare that a novel teaching can hope to attain the same level of insight.
Yet every genuine religion, when it was first born, was branded a heresy by the leaders of the orthodox establishment. The founders of religion gave their teachings based on profound religious insights or new revelation, not mere opinion. But how could members of the establishment orthodoxy know that? How, beyond the criterion of orthodoxy, do we distinguish a false teaching from a true one? This requires careful discernment.
The fundamental error of heresy is that it deceives innocent people by leading them to deny the truth. A number of the passages gathered below also attack false prophets and heretics for having base motives: they are hypocrites using religion for worldly gain (although orthodox teachers could have the same flaw). Others point to their rotten fruits: licentious living, greed, and the sowing of dissension. Still others attribute these false teachings to the work of demons and evil spirits. But some heresies deceive through advocating a standard of conduct even more austere or a faith even more extreme than what is called for in the correct path. These selections conclude with two examples: First is the schism of the Buddhist order led by Devadatta, who advocated extreme austerities beyond those of the Middle Path. The second is the conflict between Jeremiah and the false prophet Hananiah; while Jeremiah expected God to judge Israel for its sins, Hananiah had such extreme faith that he believed God would defend Jerusalem at all costs.
1. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 7.15-16
2. Islam. Hadith of Tirmidhi
3. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Micah 3.5
4. Christianity. Bible, 2 Peter 2.1-3
5. Jainism. Sutrakritanga 2.1.18-19
6. Islam. Qur'an 6.112
7. Christianity. Bible, 1 Timothy 4.1-2
8. Hinduism. Parasara Purana 3
9. Buddhism. Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 17.2
The fact is, had falsehood been allowed to show separately from truth, seekers of truth would have easily discerned it, and would have kept away from false- hood. And had truth been allowed to appear distinct from falsehood, people would not have found [it] easy to criticize religion. But unfortunately men started mixing parts of truth with falsehood, and Satan exploited this situation, and got complete control over the minds of its followers. Only such persons can escape its trap, who have advanced with the help of God towards sober and rational ways of meditation.
10. Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 55
11. Islam. Qur'an 30.31-32
12. Hinduism. Vishnu Purana 3.17-18
"I am Devadatta."
"If that is really so, please become manifest in your own form." And Devadatta, throwing off the young boy's form stood, wearing his outer cloak and his robes and carrying his bowl, before Prince Ajatasattu. Greatly pleased with this wonder of psychic power, morning and evening he went to wait on him with five hundred chariots, bringing five hundred offerings of rice cooked in milk as a gift of food. And in Devadatta, overcome by the gains, honors, and fame, his mind obsessed by them, there arose the longing to be the one to lead the Order of monks. But at its very occurrence Devadatta declined in his psychic power.
Moggallana then warned the Lord of Devadatta's longing. He replied: "Moggallana, this foolish man of himself will now betray himself. The teacher who is not pure in moral habit, or in mode of livelihood, or in teaching Dhamma, or in the exposition, or in the vision of knowledge... pretends that he is pure, and that his moral habit, etc., are pure, clean, untarnished. Although disciples know this about him, they think, 'If we should tell this to householders, he would not like it, and how could we speak about what he would not like? Moreover [by his reputation] we receive the requisite of robes, alms food, lodgings, and medicines...' Disciples protect such a teacher and such a teacher expects protection from them. But I, Moggallana, am pure in moral habit, in mode of livelihood... Disciples do not protect me and I do not expect protection from them.
"Do not, monks, envy Devadatta's gains, honors, and fame. For as long as Prince Ajatasattu goes to him morning and evening, Devadatta's wholesome mental states may be expected to decline, not to grow, just as a fierce dog would become much fiercer if a bladder were thrown at his nose. Devadatta's gains, honors and fame bring about his own hurt and destruction."
Now at that time the Lord was sitting down teaching Dhamma surrounded by a large company which included a king. And Devadatta got up, saluted the Lord and spoke thus, "Lord, the Lord is now old, stricken in years and at the close of his life. Let him be content to abide in ease here and now, and hand over the Order of monks to me. It is I who will lead the Order of monks."
"Enough, Devadatta, please do not lead the Order of monks. I would not hand over the Order even to Sariputta and Moggallana. How then to you, a wretched one to be vomited up like spittle?"
And Devadatta, angry and displeased at having been disparaged, went away. The Lord addressed the Order of monks, saying, "Let the Order carry out a formal act of information against Devadatta, to the effect that whereas Devadatta's nature was formerly of one kind, now it is of another; and that whatever he should do by gesture or by voice, in that neither the Buddha nor the Dhamma nor the Order is to be seen, but only Devadatta."
On hearing the news Devadatta sought to deprive the recluse Gotama of life. He saw the Lord pacing up and down in the shade of Mount Vulture Peak, and having climbed it he hurled down a great stone. But two mountain peaks, meeting, crushed it and only a fragment fell down; but it drew blood on the Lord's foot. Looking upward he said to Devadatta, "You have produced much demerit, foolish man, in that you, with your mind malignant and set on murder, drew the Tathagata's blood."
Then Devadatta appealed to some friends of his, saying, "Come, we will approach the Lord and ask for five policies, saying, 'Lord, the Lord in many a figure speaks in praise of desiring little, of being contented, of expunging evil, of being punctilious, etc. Lord, the following five policies are conducive thereto: Monks must be forest dwellers for as long as they live; whoever should abide in a village, sin would besmirch him. They must be beggars for alms; whoever should accept an invitation to a meal would commit sin. They should wear rags; whoever accepts a robe given by a householder, commits sin. They should dwell at the root of a tree; whoever should go under cover commits sin. They should never eat fish and flesh; whoever eats fish or flesh commits sin.' The recluse Gotama will not allow these five policies, but we will win the people over to them."
Devadatta's friends replied, "It is possible, with these five policies, to make a schism in the recluse Gotama's Order, a breaking of the concord. For, your reverence, people esteem austerity." So Devadatta and his friends approached the Lord, and put the matter of these five policies before him.
"Enough, Devadatta," he said. "Whoever wishes, let him be a forest dweller, whoever wishes, let him stay in a village; whoever wishes, let him be a beggar for alms; whoever wishes, let him accept an invitation; whoever wishes, let him wear rags; whoever wishes, let him accept robes given by a householder..."
Devadatta was joyful and elated that the Lord did not accept these five policies. He entered Rajagaha and taught them to the people, and such people as were of little faith thought that Devadatta and his friends were punctilious while Gotama was permissive of profligacy. But the people who had faith and were believing complained to the monks that Devadatta was creating a schism, and the monks told the Lord. He said to Devadatta, who acknowledged the truth of the complaint,
"Do not let there be a schism in the Order, for a schism in the Order is a serious matter, Devadatta. He who splits an Order that is united sets up demerit that endures for an eon and he is boiled in hell for an eon. But he who unites an Order that is split sets up sublime merit and rejoices in heaven for an eon."
13. Buddhism. Vinaya Pitaka ii.184-98
In that same year... Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the House of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord's House, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon."
Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the House of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, "Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words which you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the House of the Lord, and all the exiles. Yet hear now this word which I speak in your hearing and the hearing of all the people: The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet."
Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, and broke them. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, "Thus says the Lord, 'Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.'" But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.
Sometime after... Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, "Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.'" In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.
14. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Jeremiah 27-28