The Nature of the Avatars
Lao Tzu our great sage, was not the originator of the concept of Tao. The earliest mentions of the Tao predate Lao Tzu by thousands of years. Lao Tzu can be said to be the founder of philosophical and religious Taoism by his inspired conceptualization of the Tao as the Way of divine grace and power. Through inspiration, contemplation and diligent practice Lao Tzu took human understanding of spiritual reality as far as it could go through those kinds of direct experience, and Lao Tzu took on the nature of Tao by his atunement with it. One of the things we learn from Lao Tzu is that it is not the nature of divine grace and power to inflict suffering upon people who transgress it. A life out of balance with The Way, is its own punishment.
Gautama Buddha applied the human intellect to the examination of spiritual reality, and he used it in an intensive and scientific fashion. In this process he came to a profound understanding of the psychology of human behavior coming to the conclusion that all human suffering arose from emotional attachment. Gautama believed that disciplined practice could lead to spiritual freedom, and an awareness of a universal spiritual mind that unites all living beings. Gautama described this awakened spiritual state as Buddha nature. Living outside of that did not result in punishment; being outside of it IS suffering of its own accord.
Hundreds if not thousands of books have been written about the nature of Yeshua ben Joseph, commonly known as Jesus the Christ, and disagreement about it has resulted in the formation of endless denominations demanding adherence to their particular understanding of it, if not outright wars over it.
In His role as one of the most historically significant avatars of human history, there are some simple attributes I think we can agree on, that are instructive to us as humans. It seems clear from the story of Yeshua that aside from going against the organized religion of His time, and accepting all persons as siblings no matter who or what they were, He was innocent of any transgressions against civil authority. He gave of Himself to every person he encountered, no matter how great their need. His only theology was a description of a universal spiritual realm that He called the Reign of God; He taught the principles that governed that realm, and he prescribed a Way to see, experience and enter it. For this He encountered great resistance and persecution and finally physical torture and death. Throughout all of this unjustified treatment, Yeshua never condemned his enemies. He did lash out at some people who were desecrating the Temple, but even to His death He never dealt out punishment, or called for retribution or revenge on His behalf, quite the opposite. Although it was written in the Torah that evil persons would suffer God’s wrath in due time, even as He died Yeshua prayed for God to forgive His murderous tormentors, because He felt they were not capable of fully understanding their own actions. Whatever happened to Yeshua, whatever was done to Him, He responded in a spiritually positive way.
Yeshua famously taught that there is nothing outside of us that has the power to defile us, there is nothing that can come into us that can ruin us; it is what comes out of us that defiles us. We will inevitably encounter unfair treatment at times, suffer undeserved circumstances, events, illnesses and accidents. Any and all kinds of thoughts may enter our minds, all kinds of feelings may arise in us. It is what we do next that really matters.
Lao Tzu and Gautama each examined the human condition in their own way; Lao Tzu concluded that flowing with the natural course of events in a non-interfering way would lead us to Grace and a unification with the Way; Gautama Buddha that emotional detachment from the allurements of material reality would result in unity with Divinity. A unifying point is that each believed that separation from the divine would result in suffering.
Some believe that Hell is a metaphor for separation from our essentially divine natures, and thereby from God. In His final moments Yeshua asked why God had forsaken Him, as He sensed an undeserved and hellish separation from that part of Himself that was Divine and eternal, and He was faced with real mortality.
We learn from the Holy Writings that God desires that none be lost. We learn that we will not be left or forsaken. It is we ourselves who separate from the Way and go off on our own, and for that offense there is no divine retribution, however an inescapable Truth above all doctrines remains, that separation from our own divine natures is its own punishment.