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The Ultimate

The Ultimate is a general term embracing the concept of an ultimate supernatural reality which transcends material reality and from which, according to a broad spectrum of Eastern philosophies and religions, material reality derives. In general, The Ultimate is non-personal, non-anthropomorphic, and may or may not possess discrete will, intelligence or awareness as such.

Examples of religions and philosophies which embrace the concept of The Ultimate in one form or another include Taoism, Jainism, Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, and others. Terms which serve to identify The Ultimate among such beliefs include the Tao (the Way), Atman (Universal Spirit), Brahman (The Power), Universal Mind, Universal Intelligence, Dainichi-Nyorai (nature-substance), and numerous other apellations. Even polytheistic Eastern faiths tend to acknowedge a unifying principle which transcends their various gods.

The vital essence of Man, soul, spirit, spark of awareness, is said to have originally derived in each case from The Ultimate, and to be indestructible after the nature of The Ultimate, and to be capable of returning to its source. This returning could be said to be the goal of most Eastern religion.

The general commonalities between the various versions of The Ultimate are: infinity, indescribability, inconceiveability, formlessness, lack of identity and transcendence. An additional commonality is that one must renounce and/or transcend physical existence and its distractions, in some cases even to the point of extinguishing identity and individual awareness, in order to understand or co-exist with The Ultimate. Uniformly, human passions and vices are regarded as barriers to spiritual advancement, and such virtues as humility, charity and pacifism are felt to help pave the way to enlightenment.

Parallels may be drawn between such tradition and Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic thought. The concept of a single ultimate vital principle, undivided and incapable of being depicted through gods or icons, which is parent to the individual souls of men, and to which men strive to return is the most obvious comparison. That this sought-after return is impaired by evil thought and deed, and facilitated by loving action is common, as well. In addition, the traditions share a general value system which discourages worldliness and encourages seeking higher, more intangible principles, such as reward in the after-life.

Where the basic division begins to appear between Eastern and Western spiritual tradition with regard to The Ultimate is in personification. The Western Ultimate, called God, is generally understood to be an identifiable personage distinct from nature, with a recognizable thought process, purpose and direct action, no matter how transcendent. The Eastern Ultimate is rather conceived to be the origin point or basic principle of an essential natural process and indistinguishable, ultimately, from nature itself.

As such, a Western God can require fealty or faith, while an Eastern Ultimate requires nothing but, by its very nature and existence, mutely dictates how individual actions and attitudes affect destiny.

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