Origin The Challenge to the Global Community of Religions
"In this new ecological age of developing global community and interfaith dialogue, the world religions face what is perhaps the greatest challenge that they have ever encountered. Each is inspired by a unique vision of the divine and has a distinct cultural identity. At the same time, each perceives the divine as the source of unity and peace. The challenge is to preserve their religious and cultural uniqueness without letting it operate as a cause of narrow and divisive sectarianism that contradicts the vision of unity and peace. It is a question of whether the healing light of religious vision will overcome the social and ideological issues that underline much of the conflict between religions." ~ Dr. Steven C. Rockefeller, Middlebury College, Spirit and Nature, p. 169
CONTENTS | INVOCATION | INTRODUCTION | PROLOGUE | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21


Title Page
This Archive
Advisors and Contributors
Foreword by Ninian Smart
How to obtain a printed (hardbound/paperback) version


The Truth in Many Paths
Tolerance and Respect for All Believers

The Purpose of World Scripture
The Organization of World Scripture
The World's Religions and Their Scriptures

World Scripture and Education for Peace

Ultimate Reality and the Purpose of Human Existence

CHAPTER 1: Ultimate Reality
Traces of God's Existence
The One
Formless, Emptiness, Mystery
Transcendent, All-Pervasive Reality
Sovereign and Omnipotent
Immanent and Near at Hand
Eternal -- in a World of Transience
The Creator
Goodness and Love
Divine Father and Mother

CHAPTER 2: Divine Law, Truth, and Cosmic Principle
Eternal Truth
Moral Law
The Decalogue
The Golden Rule
Polarity, Relationality, and Interdependence
Cosmic Justice

CHAPTER 3: The Purpose of Life for the Individual
Joy and Happiness
For God's Good Pleasure
Image of God and Temple of God
Inborn Goodness and Conscience
Original Mind, No Mind
True Love

CHAPTER 4: The Purpose of Life in the Family and in Society
The Family
Parents and Children
Husband and Wife
Unity and Community
The People of God
The Ideal Society

CHAPTER 5: The Purpose of Life in the Natural World
The Sanctity of Nature
Reverence for Life
The Microcosm
The Lord of Spirits
Creation Rejoices

CHAPTER 6: Life Beyond Death and the Spiritual World
The Spiritual World: Mystery, Multiplicity, Analogy, Harmony
The Immortal Soul
Prepare Now for Eternity
Passage Beyond
Spiritual Benefactors
Spiritual Error and the Occult

Evil, Sin, and the Human Fall

CHAPTER 7: The Human Condition
The War Within
Pride and Egotism
Selfish Desire, Lust, and Greed

CHAPTER 8: Fall and Deviation
The Human Fall
Demonic Powers
Degraded Human Nature
God's Grief

CHAPTER 9: The Major Sins
Good and Evil
Lying and Deceit
Slander, Gossip and Foul Speech

Salvation and the Savior

CHAPTER 10: Salvation-Liberation-Enlightenment
Universal Salvation
Atonement and Forgiveness of Sins
Crossing the Waters
Reversal and Restoration
Help and Deliverance
The Refining Fire
Born Anew
Eternal Life
The Unitive State

CHAPTER 11: The Founder
Call and Awakening
Rejected by the World
The Victor
He Who Subjugates Satan
The Revealer of Truth
The Man for Others
The Living Presence
The Person and Character of the Founder: Divine Person
Human Person
The Succession of Founders and Messengers

The Religious Life

CHAPTER 12: Responsibility and Predestination
Individual Responsibility
Karma and Inherited Sin

CHAPTER 13: Self-cultivation and Spiritual Growth
Spiritual Growth
Cultivate the Good
Preparing the Start
Perseverance and Patience

CHAPTER 14: Faith
Devotion and Praise
Fear, Submission, and Obedience
Argument with God

CHAPTER 15: Wisdom
The Search for Knowledge
Scripture and Tradition
Poverty of Conceptual Learning
Scripture Teaches in Parables
Learning and Practice
Teacher and Disciple
New Wine and Old Wineskins

CHAPTER 16: Worship
The Name of God
Beyond Ritual

CHAPTER 17: Offering and Sacrifice
Persecution and Martyrdom

CHAPTER 18: Self-Denial and Renunciation
Self-denial and No-self
Repentance, Confession, and Restitution
Restraint and Moderation
Control Anger
Subdue Desires and Passions
Detachment from the Senses
Renunciation of Wealth
Asceticism and Monasticism
Separation from Family
Separation from the World

CHAPTER 19: Live for Others
Serving Others
Sacrificial Love
Giving and Receiving
Charity and Hospitality
Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Judge Not
Love Your Enemy
Turn the Other Cheek
Good Deeds
Labor and Industry
Honesty and Expediency

Providence, Society, and the Kingdom of Heaven

CHAPTER 20: Good Government and the Welfare of Society
The Pillars of Society
The Prophet and Reformer
War Against Evil
Respect for Legitimate Governments
Government by Divine Law
Consideration for the People
Leadership by Example and Honest Government
Judgments and Punishments
Providence and the Mandate of Heaven

CHAPTER 21: Eschatology and Messianic Hope
The Last Judgment
The Messiah
The Kingdom of Heaven

Interspirit Network for global illumination
- 1 -

View previous page View next page
CHAPTER 1: Ultimate Reality

This chapter contains selected passages on the nature of God or Ultimate Reality. This Reality is both knowable and mysterious, transcendent and immanent, unchanging and passionate. He or She may be encountered as a personal, loving God, as impersonal Being, or as Truth which is neither being nor non-being. It is a Unity, yet has many manifestations. In many religions, it is credited with the creation of the universe.

Religions denote Ultimate Reality in various ways. If one contrasts the personal God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism with the impersonal Absolute of Hindu Vedanta, one may infer that each religion has its distinctive way of apprehending the Absolute. However, it is more accurate to consider a variety of images of the Absolute even though important distinctions are to be made between similar images in different religions.

A seven-part typology is helpful for understanding how these passages from various scriptures have been put together.

  1. First, we may speak of one image of Ultimate Reality as a personal God; this image is central to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and to the theistic traditions of Hinduism.

  2. Second, there is the image of Ultimate Reality as an impersonal transcendent Being, the ultimate source of all existence: this is Brahman in some Hindu traditions, the Primal Unity or Tao of Chinese tradition, the Christian philosophical image of God as the Unmoved Mover, the Sikh One Without Attributes, the Mahayana Buddhist concept of Suchness (Tathata).

  3. Third, there is also an image of Ultimate Reality as immanent within each person: this is the Hindu Atman which has an eternal substance, the Mahayana Buddhist Enlightening Mind or Buddha Mind (bodhi) or Womb of the Tathagata (tathagatagharba) which dwells in Liberation and has no substance, and Christian concepts of the indwelling Spirit.

  4. Fourth is an image of Ultimate Reality as the ultimate goal or blessed state; here is the Buddhist goal of Liberation (Nirvana) and the Jain ideal of the soul in its most purified, divine stage (paramatman).

  5. Fifth, religions which recognize many spiritual beings may image Ultimate Reality as their common solidarity which works with a single purpose: the Shinto kami and the Taoist deities and the Native American spirits (Sioux: wakan) may be called "Heaven" or "divinity" in the singular.

  6. Yet a sixth image establishes Ultimate Reality based upon the manifestation of the Founder; this is the Buddhist image of the Absolute as the Buddha in his eternal, cosmic manifestation (Dharmakaya), the Christian image of the cosmic Christ on his heavenly throne, as in the Book of Revelation, or again the Jain paramatman as revealed through the Tirthankara.

  7. Finally, Ultimate Reality may be depicted as eternal law, as Hindu Dharma or Rita, Taoism's Tao, Buddhist Dhamma, Christianity's Word (logos), Jewish Torah, etc. But as this last type is often recognized to be a subordinate and consequent attribute of Ultimate Reality that is itself beyond any law, we will defer its consideration to a general treatment of divine law in the next chapter.

Although this typology can distinguish the several different ways of imaging Ultimate Reality, in fact the concepts typically overlap.

For example, the goodness of God can be understood in any of these seven images: the loving kindness of the personal God, the impersonal beneficence of Heaven, the absolute bliss of Nirvana, the solidarity of the kami for the promotion of beauty and purity, or the compassionate nature of Reality as revealed in the compassion of the Buddha.

Therefore, for the sake of finding common ground between religions, we have placed side by side these various expressions of Ultimate Reality as they pertain to common themes.

The themes which are distinguished in this chapter are: traces of God's existence in nature and in ourselves; the unity of God; Ultimate Reality as formless, unknowable, or void; Ultimate Reality as transcendent; the sovereignty and power of God; divine omniscience, knowing all secret thoughts and deeds; Ultimate Reality immanent in nature and in the human heart; its unchanging nature in the midst of a world of transience; God the Creator; the goodness of God; and God our Divine Parent.

Further themes that deal with the nature of Ultimate Reality can be found in sections scattered throughout later chapters.