We had an interesting ice breaker at SOAS last week. I asked everyone to introduce themselves and also cite a piece of wisdom that has guided their life. It was amazing to see how universal spiritual ideas and concepts are, spanning cultures across the world.
One religious extreme we often come across is the idea that there is only one way. The notion that spirituality and God consciousness can only be experienced through a certain path and practice never made much sense. We clearly see that there are so many spiritually advanced people from many diverse cultures. How can one tradition have a monopoly over all spirituality? Thankfully, God is not a religious fanatic.
The other extreme is to see all traditions as completely identical. Proponents claim that it doesn't matter what you follow since everyone will end up in the same place eventually. This 'new age' approach may do wonders for PR, but logically and philosophically has no foundation. We clearly see differences in terms of detailed knowledge of the spiritual reality, and the subsequent results for practitioners.
The Vedas outline that there is a unity in diversity. If one is able to go beyond ritualistic, cultural and often superficial differences between religious teachings, at the very essence of each message are the same core principles. However, there is a progression of thought amongst these traditions, each with a different emphasis, and each approaching God with varying levels of intimacy.