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
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CHAPTER 11: The Founder

This chapter contains passages on the life and work of the founders of religion, who first discovered the truth that leads to salvation, offered their whole lives to enlighten and save others, provided for subsequent generations models of the ideal person, and continue to shed grace and light into the hearts of people everywhere. Among these great souls are Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, Confucius, Abraham, Moses, Zarathustra, Lao Tzu, Mahavira, Nanak, and the ancient Hindu rishis. Hindu scriptures also chronicle the exploits of Krishna and Rama, avatars of the Lord Vishnu. Confucian scriptures eulogize the lives of the ancient sage-kings Wen, Yao, Shun, and the Duke of Chou. We also include passages on the founders of some of the newer religions, such as Joseph Smith, Baha'u'llah, and Sun Myung Moon.

And yet, this consideration of the founders of religion as a genus should not be construed as leveling them to figures of equal significance. Each one is unique, and each stands in a unique position in relation to the religion which he spawned. For the Christian, it is the saving work of Christ alone that saves, notwithstanding the accomplishments of other founders, no matter how great they may be. Similarly, the Muslim's faith is defined uniquely by the message of Muhammad, and the Buddhist's by the enlightenment and teachings of Siddhartha. The committed believer is confronted with one individual as the standard of truth and love and who defines the true way. The declaration, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14.6) is echoed by similar statements in many religions: "Outside the Buddha's dispensation there is no saint" (Dhammapada 254); "Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets" (Qur'an 33.40); "Glory be to Lord Mahavira, the teacher of the world" (Nandi Sutra 2). The believer must be faithful to the founder of his own tradition, who sets before him the truth and offers him the gracious help that guides his life. That is his faith; he cannot but cleave to it. Then, on that foundation, he may look about and observe the comparisons made in this chapter. He will find that the founders of other faiths have also been given insight into divine truth and have lived out that truth in an exemplary manner. He finds them worthy of respect, for their faith is comparable to the standard of faith set by his own tradition.

Another difficulty which besets any treatment of the founders of religions is that in certain traditions they are regarded as gods or as possessed of divine attributes--a topic which in itself is worthy of consideration in this chapter. Thus Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; Siddhartha is a manifestation of the eternal Buddha or Dharmakaya, Krishna and Rama are incarnations of Vishnu, who in his cosmic form pervades the entire universe, and the Shinto culture heroes are gods who have come down from heaven. Yet to the extent that the founders are regarded as divine, their very human accomplishments--suffering persecution and rejection, struggling with temptation, and extending themselves in the service of others--may be mitigated. What, after all, is persecution or temptation to a god? What is so praiseworthy about a person helping others if he is omnipotent and endowed with all treasures? Hence, in this chapter we have tried to avoid particularly Docetic passages in favor of passages where the founders are regarded as subject to the ordinary limitations of being human.

Similarly, any distinction between the salvation wrought of God and the saving work of a human founder becomes blurred when the founder is at the same time the very deity who is continually offering salvation. We have treated the theme of salvation as divine activity in Chapter 10. There we have placed many passages on the saving work of Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna as it is a function of their divinity, while reserving passages which describe their more particularly human existence for this chapter.

These founders, saviors, and pathfinders are compared in various aspects of their life, faith, work, and character by bringing together comparable passages. We will consider first the founders' call and their initial embarkation on the path, second their difficult course of persecution and rejection by the world, and third their victory, triumphing over all difficulties and fully realizing the divine purpose. One section gathers passages describing their struggle with and victory over evil and demonic powers. Another contains descriptions of their roles as revealers and teachers, bringing new truth and light for the people of their age and subsequent ages. Other texts show the founders to be supreme examples of self-sacrifice and service to others as they gave of themselves to the mission of saving and enlightening this dark world. Their accomplishments not being limited to their own lifetimes, a seventh grouping of texts describe these founders as forever alive in peoples' hearts, as the continuing light and inspiration for every age, and as intercessors on the believers' behalf. An eighth section treats various conceptions of the founder's person--e.g., his humanity and divinity. We have gathered texts foundational to Christian reflections on Christ's divinity, Buddhist reflections on the three bodies of the Buddha, and similar ideas in other religions, as well as passages which express the ordinary humanity of Muhammad, Moses, Confucius, and other founders from traditions which deny that their founders are divine. The final section relates each founder of religion to a long line of prophets, Buddhas, Tirthankaras, avatars, teachers, or sages who preceded him and who may follow him in the future.