IF RELIGIONS HAVE EVER CONFUSED or confounded, take heart. The following gathers from hundreds of sources a simple summary of the world's major spiritual paths. The strength of this undertaking, brevity, is also its flaw. Complex and subtle distinctions and exceptions are consciously set aside for the sake of simplicity. There are hundreds of books addressing deeper matters, but none that have attempted a straightforward comparative summary. There is a need for a no nonsense review of religions.
- EXAMPLE: The goal of Buddhism is nirvana, the end of all suffering, literally, "blowing out." Theravada tradition describes the indescribable as "peace and tranquility." The Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions view it as "neither existence nor nonexistence," "emptiness and the unchanging essence of the Buddha" and "ultimate reality." It is synonymous with release from the bonds of desire, ego, suffering, and rebirth. Escape to reality. Of the ultimate reality it is said, "There is an unborn, an unoriginated, an unmade, an uncompounded...if there were not, no escape from the born, originated, made, and compounded would be possible." Nirvana is peace, happiness, and reality, not annihilation.