Spiritual contradictions, tolerance and peace


In The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss, nuclear bombs are almost dropped because of the different ways people butter their bread – one side eats their toast with the butter-side-down, and the other with the butter-side-up, and each is infuriated by the other’s way of doing things.  I think this is an allegory for part of what we suffer from in the modern world.

If you truly and seriously enter this consideration of The Great Tradition1, it will break your mind – like the spiritual process breaks your heart.

It does not break your mind in a negative sense.  It will relieve you of your egoic prejudice, your provincialism, your small-mindedness…
– Adi Da Samraj

You might notice that some of the materials quoted on this site seem to contradict one another, or come from very different points of view.  You may even find that this offends you more strongly than you would have expected.

I notice that quotes from the following sources often seem incompatible:

  1. Buddhist (or “realistic”) traditions vs. non-Buddhist (“idealistic”) traditions
  2. Dualistic vs. non-dualistic traditions
  3. Teachings about purity and goodness vs. easily-misunderstood & misused tantric teachings
  4. The goal of liberation from life (often seen in Eastern religions) vs. the goal of perfecting life (often seen in Westernized cultures)
  5. Seemingly individualistic traditions vs. traditions that involve collective participation.


We humans are much easier to manipulate and control when we are divided into “us versus them”2 camps.  No two people, and no two churches, and no two denominations share exactly the same customs and beliefs, and this fact could inspire us to feel “threatened” and become intolerant and aggressive toward one another.(image source: unknown)

And so on.  This seems to be a considerable challenge – bloody conflicts have been fought over these kinds of issues, even within a single religious or spiritual tradition.  However Adi Da proposes that all these materials can be seen as part of one “great tradition” that humankind has inherited (while allowing for people to take pride in and devote themselves to their own specific tradition).  What do you think?  Is there a place in the world for this kind of “tolerance”?

In some spiritual traditions contradictions are actually valued.  They’re considered a tool for teaching students to understand the meaning behind the words, rather than just clinging to the words themselves – not to mention clinging to the self-imagery we might want to get from the words.

P.S.  A useful tool for making sense of these contradictions, in my experience, is Adi Da’s model of the seven stages of life.


  1. What does “provincialism” mean in the quote above?
  2. Were you brought up with a kind of provincialism?
  3. How much provincialism, prejudice, and conflict do you see going on in the world today?
  4. Adi Da has said that provincialism and atheism and prejudice are all caused by lack of knowledge, lack of education. What do you think?

Image gallery: “Tolerance is not easy”

only Jesus saves

For a genuine Christian, in his or her own life, it may be true that only Jesus saves. On the other hand, I wonder if a Christian who is truly being saved could find value in attending a (properly run) church or study group, or see partial likenesses between silent Christian prayer and Buddhist meditation, and so on? (image source)

"Religion breeds ignorance and intolerance'

While some so-called “religious” communications might inspire intolerance and ignorance, I wonder if some atheists or agnostics could themselves become intolerant and prejudiced, simply because of not having more exposure to genuine religious and spiritual teachings?  Or true spiritual experience.  (image source)

  1. The “great tradition” refers to the idea of seeing all of humankind’s wisdom traditions as parts of a single “great tradition” that all of us have inherited. This might sound controversial to some people but I find a lot of value in the idea myself.  It does not mean you have to renounce your own particular tradition or join some massive cult that claims to be a universal religion; it just means we don’t have to kill each other over religious and spiritual differences that do not merit such actions.
  2. The “us versus them” idea is addressed at length in a book called “Not-Two Is Peace”, which I recommend.