There are different ways of being religious, even within a single religious tradition. Within Christianity there are different ways of being Christian, within Judaism there are different ways of being Jewish, and within Islam there are different ways of being Muslim, just as there are different ways of being Buddhist within Buddhism and of being Hindu within Hinduism. John Hick suggests that in all these traditions there are ‘saints,’ persons, as he puts it, ‘in whom the transformation of human existence from self-centredness to Realitycentredness is so much more advanced than in the generality of us that it is readily noticed and acknowledged.’ In the various traditions, these spiritually advanced individuals may be known as bodhisattvas, gurus, mahatmas, masters, or saints. The expression of their ego-transcendence, Hick acknowledges, varies, although he finds that across the major religious traditions it takes two main forms: a ‘withdrawal from the world in prayer and meditation’ and ‘practical engagement in social and political action.’ Each of these forms may be expressed in various ways, and furthermore, a saintly life may alternate between these two main forms.1 Perhaps — although it may not necessarily be so — all who have attained a saintly life in the sense that Hick identifies have attained an eternal life in the conception that we have identified. Conversely, and perhaps more clearly, it may be possible to come to or receive eternal life without becoming a saint in Hick’s sense.
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