If a teaching diversifies by prescribing seemingly separate and unrelated causes to the diversities of life, then it is useless. Any true teaching should lead to a non-dual realization and direct the aspirant to the recognition that they already are what they are seeking and therefore the need to acquire anything is an illusion. While at the same time encouraging the aspirant to direct all one’s energy to discover the source of all known existence which becomes you.
You need only turn towards the Eternal, by turning away from the obstructions (namely, the desire to seek experiences through the senses and the fulfillment of thought as happiness which creates a seperate-self) that keeps one from coming in actual contact with the Source.
This does not mean forcing oneself to become aloof etc. Rather, allowing the actions of your particular life to go on outwardly, but inwardly you are not to concerned with outcomes as all your attention is primarily focused on: Who am I in spite of thought and body sensations? While feeling a deep reverence and love towards the Source, accompanied by an abiding desire to unite with that Source while remaining in a body.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” (Isaiah 55:8).
We cannot know the Lord in thought. Anything that the mind creates through imagination and thinking is not the Lord. If we take this to heart, yet we still want to know the Lord; what happens to the mind? It becomes intensely still, sharp, clean, alert and organically free from thinking. In this intense unmanifested awareness comes the knowledge beyond thought. Therefore…..
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
The knowing comes as a revelation in the absence of the “me.” In this state there is no differentiations as this or that-all is the Lord. Thoughts of mine and imaginings of like and dislike, us and them, my demands, my family, my church, right and wrong, etc., are destroyed as the “me” sacrifices itself and enters the purifying flame of stillness.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24).
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 King James version).
Life becomes the Lord interacting with the Lord. Nothing can be seen as non-God; from the most horrendous to the most beautiful. The “I” becomes present in all things , times, and places-losing any exclusive identity; therefore becoming the One.
God is the Source and Final Cause—the One Ground from which all things spring. Therefore, It is present in all things and at all times. Hence, God can be nothing exclusively, so exists as everything simultaneously.
If you say God is this or that, it is to the exclusion of other things; inadvertently taking away Its all pervading nature.
In short, the answer to your question is the result of combining yes and no.
Have the devotion of a Christian, the wisdom of a Hindu; the zeal of a Muslim and the heart of a Buddhist.
Atheism, Christianity, Science, Philosophy, and any other system of thinking; all follow the same religion-The Religion of Thought. And most are wholeheartedly devoted.
We want to experience truth through our senses, so it can become an experience, then a memory, then a concept; and finally a truth that can be “said.” Bodies and thoughts are here today and gone tomorrow. Anything that is not Eternally True; must be deemed transient or fundamentally false.
Clearly, thought falls into the the latter. So all of thoughts diverse expressions, should be quickly discarded when Eternity is sought. Ironically, thought holds the key to its own annihilation when it starts to inquire into it self:
What happens if I follow the question to the very end relentlessly and ruthlessly? “Who am I in spite of thought, and sense perception?” Then, thought is turning inward and burning itself up in the inquiry. Therefore, revealing the Great Residual and Final Cause that exists prior to all thinking and physical forms.
In the beginning of most spiritual journeys, “God” must be perceived in a concrete form as something separate from our self. This is so the devotee can pour himself into the symbol. “I am going to surrender my will to a higher will, etc.” If there is no symbol of a power greater than our self, than we will always continue to rely on “me,” which gives continuity to ego or a sense of exclusive individuality, hence building it up.
So, religion in this manner is helpful in creating this symbolic receptacle. For example, “claiming Jesus as lord and savior” helps relieve a tremendous burden of responsibility, and there are many testimonies from people who have felt a breaking down of ego through this proclamation. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism also break down the “me” if one pours them self into it and practices diligently. AL Halaj, can show you the way through Islam to break down ego. The Bhagavad Gita points the way in Hinduism.
The purpose of the various religions is to create a receptacle or symbol to unload our conditioning that says “survive at all costs.” This establishes a trust in Reality that is experienced in the absence of thought. In truth, religion is a collection of beliefs. These beliefs were never intended to be taken as truth, but merely used as a sign post, or trash bag to empty ego.
In short, having this receptacle is necessary; but the most popular religions do not encourage to throw out the receptacle with the trash once and for all. Instead, it is encouraged to identify and create a new egoic character as a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. This is why you say “religions do not lead to enlightenment;” because enlightenment is what you already are. Your True Enlightened Self is revealed when you pour your trash into the symbol, then once and for all throw the trash bag out with it.
In conclusion, religions do lead to enlightenment; but very few teachers encourage the process of throwing out the religion or symbolic receptacle in the end (bad for the spiritual ego). Although, if you look deep enough into the religious scriptures; this total abandonment is encouraged.
With great Joy,