As a minister’s daughter, Ruth Cranston knew the teachings of the Bible, but she longed to discover the deeper values that shaped all the world’s religions. Cranston found a belief on which to build her life in the words of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Mohammed.
I was blessed with a father and mother whose lives were shining lessons in character and goodness. As a child, I heard the Bible read daily. But the doctrines of the church were confusing and never very real to me. I had not worked out a personal belief or philosophy of my own, when trouble struck—as it did early, and hard.
Casting about for something solid to hang on to in that difficult time, I began studying the great spiritual systems of the world for myself. Not the present day doctrines, but the original teachings of the founders of religion: the world’s great prophets and seers. I was struck with two things: First, the simplicity of the teachings of the great masters of religion. Second, the similarities in their teachings and the repetition of certain fundamental principles, which appeared again and again.
I heard them from the Hindu pundits at Benares, and from the yellow-robed high priests at the Buddhist college in Ceylon, at the family shrine of a humble hill-town weaver in south India, and in the magnificent Temple of Confucius in Peking. The same truths. And how long they had endured, through ages and centuries, while all else changed. But they remained. Why? Surely they must hold something very close to reality.
As I listened and pondered and steeped my mind in these great truths of all time, my own problems here in this present time cleared up. I began to see my way, and a possible philosophy for a person of this modern day and age filtering through the simple statements of Jesus and Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, and Moses. I began to feel firm ground under my feet. They taught the unity of all life; the interdependence of all men; love and service to fellow man; help, not exploitation, of the weak and backward. They taught nonviolence and non-injury. They all taught purity of life and of motive, simplicity of life too, and that true riches are within. They taught the worth of individual man and the ability of every man to rise to higher states of development than we are now experiencing. They taught the immortality of the soul and the building of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
People say, yes these are noble truths—a grand ideal—but they won’t work in practical everyday existence. Gandhi worked them. St. Francis worked them. Modern business executives are working them in scores of successful business enterprises. After a life spent among many different peoples, I am convinced that they are the only things that will work—for you, for me, for us all. A pattern of life, putting into concrete daily practice these eternal truths, taught by every prophet of God from time immemorial. No atom bomb can destroy them. No scientific theory can nullify them. For me they constitute a solid rock on which to build my life and the life of the whole world in these or any other times.
Born in Cincinnati, writer and lecturer Ruth Cranston lived in 18 different countries during her life, including 10 years in Switzerland where she worked for the League of Nations. She wrote “World Faith: The Story of the Religions of the United Nations.”
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