CHAPTER 11, THE FOUNDER
The founder is steadfast through his trials, and finally emerges
the victor. In the case of Buddha and Mahavira, these trials were largely
internal struggles to realize the truth through sustained meditation and
austerities. Upon the conquest of his passions and attaining the highest
liberation, Gotama became the Buddha, the Wayfarer who had reached the
Goal, the "trackless one" who had transcended the cycle of birth and
death. Jain sutras describe Mahavira's victory, by which he becomes a
Tirthankara, in similar terms.
In the Abrahamic faiths the founders maintained an attitude of
faith despite rejection and persecution, and are finally vindicated.
Abraham was the first great victor of faith, who was tested ten times,
according to Jewish tradition. His ultimate test came when God asked him
to sacrifice his son Isaac. Moses demonstrated unshakable faith in
confronting Pharaoh with God's demand that he free the Israelites.
Risking imprisonment and ridicule even from his own people, he persevered
and led the people out of Egyptian slavery under the divine protection
that he alone knew was available to them. Jesus' victory transcends death
itself: obedient to death on the cross, he is resurrected and exalted to
the right hand of God. St. Paul's hymn of kenosis describes how Jesus,
though essentially divine, offered himself to be humiliated and killed,
according to the will of God, and thereby received divine approval and
exaltation. His willingness to empty himself and suffer is itself part of
his victorious standard of faith. Then we include the account of Jesus'
resurrection appearances from the Gospel of Luke. Muhammad's vindication
came during his lifetime. He returned victorious to Mecca after years of
exile, brought an end to paganism in Arabia, and established the new
nation of Islam. Zarathustra, also, was vindicated in his lifetime
through gaining as a patron Prince Vishtaspa, whom he convinced to put his
doctrines into practice. Confucius, on the other hand, never lived to see
his teachings adopted in China. His victory was total, nevertheless, as
China would eventually come entirely under the tutelage of Confucian
All these great founders of religion had courage, steadfastness of
purpose, and fidelity to the goal which they sought, the cause which they
championed, the reality which they realized, and the revelation with which
they had been entrusted. With these qualities they could be victorious.
All have I overcome. All do I know. From all am I detached. All have I
renounced. Wholly absorbed am I in the destruction of craving. Having
comprehended all by myself, whom shall I call my teacher?
Buddhism. Dhammapada 353
Through many a birth I wandered in samsara, seeking but not finding the
builder of this house. Sorrowful is it to be born again and again.
O house-builder! You are seen. You shall build no house again. All your
rafters are broken. Your ridgepole is shattered. My mind has attained
the unconditioned. Achieved is the end of craving.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 153-54
Having mastered perfectly all the methods of trance, the prince
recalled, in the first watch of the night, the sequence of his former
Next the Rightly-illumined One perceived [the chain of causation],
and thus was decisively awakened: When birth is destroyed, old age, and
death ceases; when becoming is destroyed, then birth ceases; when
attachment is destroyed, becoming ceases; when craving is destroyed,
attachment ceases; when sensations are destroyed, craving ceases; when
contact is destroyed, sensation ceases; when the six sense organs are
destroyed, contact ceases; when the psycho-physical organism is destroyed,
the six sense organs cease; when consciousness is destroyed, the
psycho-physical organism ceases; when psychic constructions are destroyed,
consciousness ceases; when ignorance is destroyed, psychic constructions
Reflecting his right understanding, the great hermit arose before
the world as Buddha, the Enlightened One. He found self nowhere, as the
fire whose fuel has been exhausted. Then he conceived the Eightfold Path,
the straightest and safest path for the attainment of this end.
For seven days, the Buddha with serene mind contemplated the Truth
that he had attained and gazed at the Bodhi tree without blinking: "Here
on this spot I have fufilled my cherished goal; I now rest at ease in the
Dharma of selflessness."
Buddhism. Ashvaghosha, Buddhacarita 14
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Dhammapada 153-54: The 'house-builder' is the chain of causation that
binds humanity to existence and suffering; see the following passage. It
is not God the Creator.
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The Venerable One lived... indifferent alike to the smell of ordure
and of sandal, to straw and jewels, dirt and gold, pleasure and pain,
attached neither to this world nor to that beyond, desiring neither life
nor death; he arrived at the shore of samsara, and he exerted himself for
the suppression of the defilement of karma.
With supreme knowledge, with supreme intuition, with supreme
conduct, in blameless lodgings, in blameless wandering, with supreme
valor, with supreme uprightness, with supreme mildness, with supreme
dexterity, with supreme patience, with supreme freedom from passions, with
supreme control, with supreme contentment, with supreme understanding, on
the supreme path to final liberation, which is the fruit of veracity,
control, penance, and good conduct, the Venerable One meditated on himself
for twelve years.
During the thirteenth year, in the second month of summer, in the
fourth fortnight, the light of the month Vaisakha, on its tenth day, when
the shadow had turned towards the east and the first wake was over, on the
day called Suvrata... after fasting two-and-a-half days without drinking
water, being engaged in deep meditation, he reached the highest knowledge
and intuition, called wholeness (kevala), which is infinite, supreme,
unobstructed, unimpeded, complete, and full!
When the venerable ascetic Mahavira had become a Jina and Saint, he
was a Liberated One, omniscient and comprehending all objects; he knew and
saw all conditions of the world, of gods, men, and demons: whence they
come, whither they go, whether they are born as men or animals or become
gods or beings in purgatory, the ideas, the thoughts of their minds, the
food, doings, desires, the open and secret deeds of all the living beings
in the whole world; he the Saint, for whom there is no secret, knew and
saw all conditions of all living beings in the world, what they thought,
spoke, or did at any moment.
Jainism. Kalpa Sutra 120-21
With ten trials Abraham our father was tried, and he bore them all, to
make known how great was the love of Abraham our father.
Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 5.4
After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he
said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you
love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt
offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took
two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for
the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told
him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar
off. Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the ass; I and
the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." And Abraham
took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he
took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said,
"Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where
is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide
himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham
built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son,
and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his
hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord
called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said,
"Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to
him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your
son, your only son, from me." And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked,
and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and
Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering
instead of his son.
So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord will provide; as
it is said to this day, "On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided."
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from
heaven, and said, "By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have
done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed
bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and
as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess
the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations
of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed My voice."
Judaism and Christianity. Genesis 22.1-18
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Buddhacarita 14: This describes the Buddha's enlightenment. Its
fundamental doctrinal expression is the chain of dependent origination,
given here and in Samyutta Nikaya xxii.90, pp. 548f. Kalpa Sutra 120-21:
This describes Mahavira's enlightenment to become the supreme soul, called
a Jina, a saint, a kevalin, and a Tirthankara. Abot 5.4: The ten trials:
in Babylon when he was thrown into a fiery furnace (Qur'an 21.51-71, p.
601), his call to depart for an unknown land (Genesis 12.1, p. 793), and
thence to Egypt (Genesis 12.10), the test involving his wife in Egypt
(Genesis 12.11-20) and again in Gerar (Genesis 20.1-18), the war with the
kings (Genesis 14), the covenant between the pieces (Genesis 15), the
covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17), the casting out of Hagar and
Ishmael (Genesis 21.10-13), and the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22,
below). Ten is the traditional number, corresponding to the Ten Words by
which God created the world; the exact enumeration of the trials may vary.
Cf. Hebrews 11.8-19, pp. 754f.
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Then We sent forth, after them, Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his
council with Our signs, but they waxed proud, and were a sinful people.
So when the truth came to them from Us, they said, "Surely this is a
manifest sorcery."... So none believed in Moses, save a seed of his
people, for fear of Pharaoh and their council, that they would persecute
them; and Pharaoh was high in the land, and he was one of the prodigals.
Moses said, "O my people, if you believe in God, in Him put your trust, if
you have surrendered." They said, "In God we have put our trust. Our
Lord, make us not a temptation to the people of the evildoers, and deliver
us by Thy mercy from the people of the unbelievers."...
Moses said, "Our Lord, You have given to Pharaoh and his council
adornment and possessions in this present life. Our Lord, let them go
astray from Your way; our Lord, obliterate their possessions, and harden
their hearts so that they do not believe, till they see the painful
chastisement." He said, "Your prayer is answered; so go you straight, and
follow not the way of those that know not."
And We brought the children of Israel over the sea; and Pharaoh and
his hosts followed them insolently and impetuously till, when the drowning
over- took them, he said, "I believe that there is no god but He in whom
the children of Israel believe; I am of those that surrender." "Now? And
before you were a rebel, one of those who did corruption. So today We
shall deliver you with your body, that you might be a sign to those after
you. Surely many men are heedless of Our signs."
Islam. Qur'an 10.75-92
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Genesis 22.1-18: The binding of Isaac, the Akkedah, was Abraham's ultimate
test of faith. Isaac was his only son by his wife Sarah, born
miraculously by God's hand after she was long past child-bearing age;
furthermore, he was the one by whom God's promise of numerous descendants
was to be fulfilled. Such was the love and attachment that Abraham had
for his son. Yet at God's command, he willingly offered him up, though it
was more difficult than to sacrifice his own life. Isaac's self-sacrifice
is sometimes compared to Jesus' crucifixion. For three of the many Jewish
reflections on the binding of Isaac, see Genesis Rabbah 56, pp. 621f.;
56.11, p. 876; Rosh Hashanah 16a, p. 648. A Christian reflection is found
in Hebrews 11.17-19, pp. 745f.
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When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind
of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said,
"What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"
So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six
hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers
over all of them.... The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh's horses and
chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped by the
sea, by Pi-ha-hiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes,
and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were in great
fear. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord; and they said to
Moses, "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us
away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us
out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, 'Let us alone and
let us serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to
serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."
And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the
salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians
whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for
you, and you have only to be still."...
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord drove
the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land,
and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst
of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right
hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them
into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his
horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in a pillar of fire and of
cloud looked down upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfited the host
of the Egyptians, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove
heavily; and the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from before Israel; for the
Lord fights for them against the Egyptians."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and
upon their horsemen." So Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and
the sea returned to its wonted flow when the morning appeared; and the
Egyptians fled into it, and the Lord routed the Egyptians in the midst of
the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen
and all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not so
much as one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry
ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right
hand and on their left.
Thus the Lord saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians; and
Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. And Israel saw the great
work which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the
Lord; and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 14.5-31
Christ Jesus, who,
though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form he humbled himself
and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Christianity. Philippians 2.6-11
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the
tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone
rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the
body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them
in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to
the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the
dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the
Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be
crucified, and on the third day rise." And they remembered his words, and
returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the
rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James
and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these
words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
That very day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus,
about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all
these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing
together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were
kept from recogniz- ing him. And he said to them, "What is this
conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they
stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him,
"Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that
have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?"
And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet
mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief
priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and
crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened.
Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb
early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying
that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the
women had said; but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O
foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He
appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with
us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent." So he went
in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread
and blessed, and broke it, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened
and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to
each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on
the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" And they rose that same
hour and returned to Jerusa- lem; and they found the eleven gathered
together and those who were with them, who said, "The Lord has risen
indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on
the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of bread.
As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them and said
to them, "Peace to you!" But they were startled and frightened, and
supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you
troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and
my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not
flesh and bones, as you see that I have." And while they still
disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything
here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and
ate before them.
Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you,
while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of
Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened
their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is
written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the
dead, and that repen- tance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in
his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of
these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but
stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high."
Then he led them out as far as to Bethany, and lifting up his hands
he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was
carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Christianity. Luke 24.1-53
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Exodus 14.5-31: Cf. Exodus 15.1-11, p. 564. Philippians 2.6-11: This is
the well-known hymn of Christ's kenosis, or self-emptying. By grasping at
nothing and denying himself totally, Jesus laid the condition to be
totally vindicated and exalted by God. Cf. Mark 8.34-36, p. 897. Luke
24.1-53: Immediately after the tragic events leading to Christ's
crucifixion as recounted in Luke 22.39-23.46, pp. 602f., comes the
glorious victory over death and evil that is Christ's resurrection. This
description of the resurrection begins with the discovery of the empty
tomb, thence his appearance among the disciples on the road to Emmaus and
his partaking of a meal with them, and concludes with his ascension into
heaven. Another resurrection appearance, to Thomas, is given in John
20.24-29, pp. 653f.
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The best possession of Zarathustra Spitama has been revealed:
It is that the Wise Lord has granted, through the Right, eternal bliss
To him and to all those who have observed and practiced
The words and deeds of his good religion.
By the thought of him, by words and deeds,
Shall prince Vishtaspa and Spitama, Zarathustra's son,
And Frashaoshtra strive willingly
To please the Wise One and to pray in His praise,
Making even the paths to the religion of the savior,
Which the Lord has ordained.
Zoroastrianism. Yasna 53.1-2
The border warden requested to be introduced to Confucius, saying, "When
men of superior virtue have come to this [exile], I have never been denied
the privilege of seeing them." The followers introduced him, and when he
came out from the interview, he said, "My friends, why are you distressed
by your master's loss of office? The kingdom has long been without the
principles of truth and right; Heaven is going to use your master as a
bell with its wooden tongue."
Confucianism. Analects 3.24
Did We not expand your breast for you
and lift from you your burden,
the burden that weighed down on your back?
Did We not exalt your fame?
So truly with hardship comes ease,
truly with hardship comes ease.
So when you are empty, labor,
and let your Lord be your Quest.
Islam. Qur'an 94
A declaration of immunity from God and His Apostle, to those of the pagans
with whom you have contracted mutual alliances... and an announcement from
God and His Apostle, to the people assembled on the day of the Great
Pilgrimage, that God and His Apostle dissolve treaty obligations with the
pagans. If then, you repent, it will be best for you; but if you turn
away, know that you cannot frustrate God. And proclaim a grievous penalty
to those who reject Faith. But the treaties are not dissolved with those
pagans with whom you have entered into alliance and who have not
subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So
fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term: God loves the
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the
pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in
wait for them in every strategem of war; but if they repent, and establish
regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them:
for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. If one among the pagans asks you
for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the Word of God; and then
escort him to where he can be secure....
O you who believe! Truly the pagans are unclean; so let them not,
after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if you fear
poverty [from loss of their trade], soon God will enrich you, if He wills,
out of His bounty, for God is All-knowing, All-wise.
Islam. Qur'an 9.1-6, 28
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Yasna 53.1-2: Cf. Yasna 28.7, p. 1038. Qur'an 94: This early Meccan sura,
called "Solace," describes the Prophet's inward assurance at a time of
difficulty and persecution. The revelation foretells future victory as
though it is already accomplished; coming as it does from a plane beyond
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The Apostle continued his pilgrimage and showed the men the rites and
taught them the customs of their hajj. He made a speech in which he made
things clear. He praised and glorified God, then he said, "O men, listen
to my words. I do not know whether I shall ever meet you in this place
again after this year. Your blood and your property are sacrosanct until
you meet your Lord and He will ask you of your works. I have told you.
He who has a pledge let him return it to him who entrusted him with it;
all usury is abolished, but you have your capital. Wrong not and you
shall not be wronged.... All blood shed in the pagan period is to be left
unavenged. The first claim on blood I abolish is that of ibn Rabi`a ibn
al-Harith ibn `Abdu'l-Muttalib. It is the first blood shed in the pagan
period which I deal with. Satan despairs of ever being worshipped in your
land, but if he can be obeyed in anything short of worship, he will be
pleased in matters you may be disposed to think of little account, so
beware of him in your religion.... Time has completed its cycle and is as
it was on the day that God created the heavens and the earth."
Islam. Ibn Hisham, Sirat Rasul Allah
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Qur'an 9.1-6, 28: These are among the verses given at the time of the
Muslims' final victory over the pagans, as they began to organize a new
nation, and in anticipation of the victorious pilgrimage to Mecca in