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 3: The Purpose of Life for the Individual

The purpose of human life is an ideal which transcends the mundane goals of human existence, for it is based upon the vision of God or Ultimate Reality. The beatific vision, divine joy, and uniting with the divine will or divine nature are some of the ways in which this purpose is expressed. At the same time, since the human being is grounded in this Ultimate, the purpose of life coheres with the essential nature of human beings. The highest and best of human values--love, truth, beauty, goodness, joy, and happiness--are aspirations grounded in the original human nature. Therefore, the purpose of life may also be conceived as the realization of what is most essentially human. That is, true human beings manifest the Ultimate in themselves, through manifesting the perfections of purity, wisdom, impartiality, integrity, and compassion in their own lives. The fulfillment of humanity is also the sanctification of humanity.

The first section in this chapter describes the purpose of life as the desire of all people for happiness and especially inner satisfaction. The beatific vision, divine bliss, Nirvana, and the joys of heaven are incomparably more desirable than the joy that comes with the satisfaction of mundane desires. In the second section, we turn to the purpose of life as determined from its divine source. Especially in monotheistic religions where God is the Creator and humans are creatures, the purpose for human life flows from the purpose for God's creating. We may speak of the purpose to do God's will, to glorify and return joy to Him.

In the next three sections the purpose of life is considered from the point of view of the intrinsic nature of the human person. The third section gathers passages on the human being as the image of God or the dwelling place of God. The fourth section discusses humanity's intrinsic goodness: the innocence of a child and the inner compass that is the conscience. The fifth section gathers passages on the original mind, the true Self or Buddha Nature; its realization is the goal of the spiritual life. This most essential Self is far from the ordinary egoistic meaning of the self: free of conceptualizations, desires, or egoistic grasping, it may also be characterized as without self or No-mind.

Finally, we turn to the purpose of life understood as the realization of the divine perfections. The sixth section expresses the ideal for human existence as a state of holiness, perfection, or sanctification. The person who attains such a stage of maturity knows at all times an abiding unity with the Absolute. He is unaffected by self-centered desires and unmoved by praise or blame from others; his mind is absolutely unified and clear. The final section describes the perfection of human existence as revealed in the person who has deep love and compassion for others. The saint is known for his overflowing love, which has its source in the divine ground of his existence.

The purposes of human life encompass the human being not only as an individual, but also as a social being and as a participant in the web of all life. We find identity, meaning, and fulfillment in relationships of family and community. Thus religions define correct social roles and promote the ideals of social harmony, justice, and peace. Furthermore, human beings have a purpose in relation to nature. We must protect and enhance our environment while at the same time cultivating it and harvesting its riches. Finally, human beings have an ultimate destiny, sometimes expressed in terms of personal immortality and sometimes as a final merging with the Absolute. These additional dimensions of human life and its purposes will be treated in subsequent chapters.