We live at a time when all spiritual traditions and contemporary inner work schools are available to the interested seeker.
However, many of us rest in the comfort of believing all spirituality and spiritual teachings lead to the same place and aspire to the same awakening.
Because of the plethora of spiritual teachings nowadays, one of the vexing questions that confronts spiritual practitioners is what the true nature of reality is, what the ultimate or absolute truth is.
Let’s start with the Eastern teachings, for they tend to conceptualize spiritual maturity as the realization of the ultimate truth. Western teachings might conceptualize ultimate truth but they do not necessarily view the spiritual quest as the realization of such ultimate or absolute truth.
When we go to Kashimir Shaivism, the absolute is Shiva, an unchanging static stillness. However, the world manifestation is due to its inseparability from Shakti, his eternal consort that is the dynamic creative dimension that is constantly creating the world. Is Shiva the same as Brahman?
The situation gets even more interesting when we move to Buddhism, which also originated in India. For Buddhism, the Hindu emphasis on Brahman, Shiva or Satchitananda is delusionary, for they all assume an eternally existing and unchanging substratum.
This is one reason that some of the followers of Rangtong Buddhism accuse Dzogchen as not being Buddhist, for it smacks of eternalism, similar to Vedanta.
This is actually not the end of the differences within Buddhism.
Taoism also posits an ultimate, even though not as distinct as Buddhism or Vedanta. Tao is referred to as the way, and different schools of Taoism define it somewhat differently, with similarities and differences to Vedanta and Buddhism.
When we come to the West, most of mystical schools posit an ultimate truth. Kabbhala has Ein Sof, Christianity the father or the Trinity, and Sufism Allah or the divine essence.
For Kabbhala, realization is at best some glimpse of or nearness to kether, the first Safira, which is a limited manifestation out of Ein Sof.
Sufism is also not a monolithic teaching, for it has many lineages with different metaphysics. Some, like the school of Ibn Arabi, allows for the realization of the Absolute, which is the divine essence.
The Sufis also differ in their orientation depending on how close they are to India. The Naqshabandis value the experience of the void, equating it with fana’ or extinction, for they originated in central Asia, near to the center of Buddhism.
The Western view of the spiritual journey brings in the question of whether ultimate realization is always the realization of the ultimate.
This last question takes us to the various shamanistic teachings. Even though most of them focus on physical and spiritual healing and shamanic journeying, many have a spiritual goal, and they have different goals.
The next and most important question is: which ultimate is the true ultimate?
We ask this question because almost all teachings take the view that they have the correct ultimate truth of reality. Each believes they found the right ultimate or absolute truth, and other teachings are either wrong or second best.
One does not, of course, have to take the view of ultimate this way. This view of ultimate truth, which almost all teachings adhere to, is in some sense Aristotelian.
One can look at reality as having other kinds of truth that are more significant for the spiritual journey. That we can find truth that is not simply a matter of reducing experience to the simplest or most basic. It is like the difference between physics and biology.
The discussion I have given about the views and ultimates of the various teachings are my own understanding of them, and I am not claiming these traditions will agree with me.
I will wait before I say more, for I have already said a lot. I leave it to you to find your answers, and to share what you found.