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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        Most religions recognize that, due to humanity's fallen and
degraded condition, it is difficult if not impossible for an individual to
attain the goal and purpose of life unaided.  In fact, help is available;
God's grace is sufficient support for people on the journey of faith.  The
scriptures often emphasize the priority of divine grace; it is present
even before a person responds, eliciting faith in those who otherwise
would have no clue of how to escape their mean lot.

       First we have selected passages which describe God as the savior of
benighted and sinful people.  Grace is entirely God's initiative, given to
people regardless of their attitude or merit.  Furthermore, God's grace
far overshadows the merit gained by good works; indeed, nothing can come
of a person's good works or austerities endured for the purpose of
salvation, in the absence of divine grace.  God's grace is also described
as sufficient, regardless of the person's burden or strength to bear it.

       The section ends with the two parables of the Prodigal Son, one
from the New Testament and one from the Lotus Sutra.  The teachings of
these two stories differ in important respects: the Christian version
cautions against self-righteousness on the part of the faithful believer
as represented by the prodigal's brother, while the Buddhist version
teaches the Buddha's skill in means through the devices of the rich
father.  Yet the theme of divine compassion for errant humanity shines
through both.

Through Thy power, O Lord,
Make life renovated, real at Thy will.

                   Zoroastrianism.  Avesta, Yasna 34.15

God is the best to take care of man, and He is the Most Merciful of those
who show mercy!

                           Islam.  Qur'an 12.64

Lord! You are the uninvoked savior, motiveless compassionate being, a
well-wisher even when unprayed, a friend even when unrelated.

                       Jainism.  Vitaragastava 13.1

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

                     Christianity.  Bible, John 3.16

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are
justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be
received by faith.

                   Christianity.  Bible, Romans 3.23-25

God the Rescuer,
God the Savior,
Almighty, whom we joyfully adore,
Powerful God,
Invoked by all men,
May he, the bounteous, grant us his blessings!

                       Hinduism.  Rig Veda 7.100.4

Always created beings He cherishes;
The Creator looks to the weal of all.
Lord! invaluable are Thy blessings;
Without extent is His bounty.

             Sikhism.  Adi Granth, Kirtan Sohila, M.1, p. 12

And the Almighty said to Moses, "I am One and Eternal, so you, too, shall
be united as one and you will be an eternal people."  He further said,
"Thus shall you say to the Children of Israel, 'The Eternal, Who is
determined to remove cruelty from all human existence, has sent me to

                  Judaism.  Torah Yesharah, Exodus 3.14

I am the Tathagata,
The Most Honored among men;
I appear in the world
Like unto this great cloud,
To pour enrichment on all
Parched living beings,
To free them from their misery
To attain the joy of peace,
Joy of the present world,
And joy of Nirvana.

                         Buddhism.  Lotus Sutra 5

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
       he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
       he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
       for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
       I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
       thy rod and thy staff,
       they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
       my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
       all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
       for ever.

                Judaism and Christianity.  Bible, Psalm 23

If we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself.

                   Christianity.  Bible, 2 Timothy 2.13

God is always impartial and compassionate.  At least three times He tries
to lead even the most wicked men [to salvation] by way of their minds.

                   Unification Church.  Sun Myung Moon

We who live in the world, still attached to karmas, can overcome the world
by thy grace alone.

                    Hinduism.  Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Qur'an 12.64: Cf. Qur'an 39.53, p. 519.  Vitaragastava 13.1: Cf. Tao Te
Ching 62, p. 143.  Romans 3.23-25: See Ephesians 2.8-9, p. 756.  Rig Veda
7.100.4: Cf. Black Yajur Veda 6.6, p. 139, invoking the grace of God as
Shiva; also Bhagavad Gita 18.58, p. 557.  Torah Yesharah: This is a
traditional interpretive translation of Torah by Obadiah Sforno
(1475-1550).  It renders the way many Jews have traditionally understood
the meaning of the Tetra- grammaton.  Compare the modern translation of
Exodus 3.13-15, p. 120.  Cf. 1 Timothy 2.3-4, p. 514.  Lotus Sutra 5:
Buddhism is basically a religion of salvation or liberation, as derived
from the Four Noble Truths, which both diagnose mankind's ills and explain
the process of liberation from them.  This passage is from the Parable of
the Rain Cloud, pp. 142f; cf. Lotus Sutra 7, p. 637; Larger Sukhavativyuha
Sutra 8.18, p. 639; Tannisho of Shinran, p. 757f. Psalm 23: Cf. Psalm
145.8-9, p. 137; John 10.11-16, p. 639, on Jesus the Good Shepherd.  2
Timothy 2.13: Cf. Canticles Rabbah 2.5, p. 764.
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All need grace, for even Abraham, for whose sake grace came plenteously
into the world, himself needed grace.

                  Judaism.  Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 60.2

God promises you His forgiveness and bounties; and God cares for all and
He knows all things.  He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and he to whom
wisdom is granted receives indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will
grasp the Message but men of understanding.

                         Islam.  Qur'an 2.268-69

The Self is not to be obtained by instruction,
Nor by intellect, nor by much learning.
He is to be obtained only by the one whom He chooses.
To such a one the Self reveals His own person.

        Hinduism.  Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.3; Katha Upanishad 1.2.23

Abu Huraira reported God's Messenger as saying, "There is none whose deeds
alone would entitle him to get into Paradise."  Someone said, "God's
Messenger, not even you?"  He replied, "Not even I, but that my Lord wraps
me in mercy."

                         Islam.  Hadith of Muslim

By assuming numerous garbs [of ascetics], learning, induced meditation, or
       stubborn practices,
Has none attained Him.
Says Nanak, By His grace alone does one attain to sainthood and

          Sikhism.  Adi Granth, Gauri Bavan Akkhari, M.5, p. 251

Now, if it had not been been for the plan of redemption, which was laid
from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of
the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to
pass the resurrection of the dead.

          Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Book of
                            Mormon, Alma 12.25

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Genesis Rabbah 60.2: Cf. Kiddushin 30b, p. 390.  Mention of Abraham
recalls Paul's argument for faith as superior to works in Galatians 3.1-9,
p. 756. Qur'an 2.268-69: Cf. Qur'an 18.23-24, p. 913; 42:19, p. 136; 49.7,
p. 752. Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.3: For a different interpretation of this
ambiguous text, see p. 685.  Hadith of Muslim: Cf. Qur'an 12.53, p. 383;
Hadith of Muslim, p. 443; Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 57, p. 778.  Gauri Bavan
Akkhari, M.5: Cf. Slok, M.9, p. 390; Gauri Purabi, Ravi Das, p. 401;
Isaiah 64.4, p. 411. Book of Mormon, Alma 12.25: The 'plan of redemption'
refers to the inevitable Last Judgment and eschatological redemption of
the righteous.  The ultimate justice of God is founded upon his Word,
which was declared before the creation of the world.  Cf. 2 Peter 3.3-10,
p. 1099; Proverbs 8.22-31, p. 151; John 1.1-4, p. 150.
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God desires to lighten things for you, for man was created a weakling.

                          Islam.  Qur'an 4.27-28

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength,
but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may
be able to endure it.

                Christianity.  Bible, 1 Corinthians 10.13

God charges no soul save to its capacity;
standing to its account is what it has earned,
and against its account what it has deserved.
Our Lord!  Take us not to task if we forget, or make mistake.
Our Lord!  Charge us not with a load as that which You laid upon those before
Our Lord!  Burden us not beyond what we have the strength to bear.
Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us.

                           Islam.  Qur'an 2.286

       And Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger
of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that
falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.  Not many days
later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far
country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.  And when
he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he
began to be in want.  So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens
of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would
gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him
anything.  But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's
hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with
hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father,
I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be
called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.'  And he arose
and came to his father.  But while he was yet at a distance, his father
saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And
the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  But the father said to his
servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring
on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it,
and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive
again; he was lost, and is found.'  And they began to make merry.

       "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near
to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of his
servants and asked what this meant.  And he said to him, 'Your brother has
come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received
him safe and sound.'  But he was angry and refused to go in.  His father
came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many
years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never
gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.  But when this son
of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for
him the fatted calf!'  And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me,
and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to make merry and be glad,
for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

     Christianity.  Bible, Luke 15.11-32: Parable of the Prodigal Son

       It is like a youth who, on attaining manhood, leaves his father and
runs away.  For long he dwells in some other country, ten, or twenty, or
fifty years.  The older he grows, the more needy he becomes.  Roaming
about in all directions to seek clothing and food, he gradually wanders
along till he unexpectedly approaches his native country.  From the first
the father searched for his son but in vain, and meanwhile has settled in
a certain city. His home becomes very rich; his goods and treasures are

       At this time, the poor son, wandering through village after
village, and passing through countries and cities, at last reaches the
city where his father has settled.  Always has the father been thinking of
his son, yet, though he has been parted from him over fifty years, he has
never spoken of the matter to any one, only pondering over it within
himself and cherishing regret in his heart, as he reflects, "Old and worn,
I own much wealth--gold, silver, and jewels, granaries and treasuries
overflowing; but I have no son. Some day my end will come and my wealth
will be scattered and lost, for there is no one to whom I can leave it...
If I could only get back my son and commit my wealth to him, how contented
and happy should I be, with never a further anxiety!"

       Meanwhile the poor son, hired for wages here and there,
unexpectedly arrives at his father's house.  Standing by the gate, he sees
from afar his father seated on a lion-couch, his feet on a jeweled
footstool, revered and surrounded by Brahmans, warriors, and citizens, and
with strings of pearls, worth thousands and myriads, adorning his body;
attendants and young slaves with white chowries wait upon him right and
left...  The poor son, seeing his father possessed of such great power,
was seized with fear, regretting that he had come to this place, and
secretly reflects thus, "This must be a king, or someone of royal rank; it
is no place for me to obtain anything for hire of my labor.  I had better
go to some poor hamlet, where there is a place for letting out my labor,
and food and clothing are easier to get.  If I tarry here long, I may
suffer oppression and forced service."  Reflecting thus, he hastens away.

       Meanwhile the rich elder on his lion-seat has recognized his son at
first sight, and with great joy in his heart has also reflected, "Now I
have some one to whom I may bequeath my treasuries of wealth.  Always I
have been thinking of this my son, with no means of seeing him; but
suddenly he himself has come and my longing is satisfied.  Though worn
with years, I yearn for him as of old."

       Instantly he dispatches his attendants to pursue him quickly and
fetch him back.  Thereupon the messengers hasten forth to seize him.  The
poor son, surprised and scared, loudly cries his complaint, "I have
committed no offense against you; why should I be arrested?"  The
messengers all the more hasten to lay hold of him and compel him to go
back.  Thereupon the poor son, thinking within himself that though he is
innocent yet he will be imprisoned, and that now he will surely die, is
all the more terrified, faints away and falls prostrate on the ground.
The father, seeing this from afar, sends word to the messengers, "I have
no need for this man.  Do not bring him by force. Sprinkle cold water on
his face to restore him to consciousness and do not speak to him any
further."  Wherefore?  The father, knowing that his son's disposition is
inferior, knowing that his own lordly position has caused distress to his
son, yet convinced that he is his son, tactfully does not say to others,
"This is my son."

       A messenger says to the son, "I now set you free; go wherever you
will." The poor son is delighted, thus obtaining the unexpected.  He rises
from the ground and goes to a poor hamlet in search of food and clothing.
Then the elder, desiring to attract his son, sets up a device.  Secretly
he sends two men, doleful and shabby in appearance, saying, 'You go and
visit that place and gently say to the poor man, "There is a place for you
to work here... we will hire you for scavenging, and we both also will
work along with you."' Then the two messengers go in search of the poor
son and, having found him, place before him the above proposal. Thereupon
the poor son, having received his wages beforehand, joins with them in
removing a refuse heap.

       His father, beholding the son, is struck with compassion for, and
wonder at, him.  Another day he sees at a distance, through a window, his
son's figure, gaunt, lean, and doleful, filthy and unclean with dirt and
dust; thereupon he takes off his strings of jewels, his soft attire, and
puts on a coarse, torn and dirty garment, smears his body with dust, takes
a basket in his right hand, and with an appearance fear-inspiring says to
the laborers, "Get on with your work, don't be lazy."  By such a device he
gets near to his son, to whom he afterwards says, "Ay, my man, you stay
and work here, do not go again elsewhere; I will increase your wages; give
whatever you need, bowls, utensils, rice, wheat-flour, salt, vinegar, and
so on; have no hesitation; besides there is an old and worn-out servant
whom you shall be given if you need him.  Be at ease in your mind; I am,
as it were, your father; do not be worried again.  Wherefore?  I am old
and advanced in years, but you are young and vigorous; all the time you
have been working, you have never been deceit- ful, lazy, angry or
grumbling; I have never seen you, like the other laborers, with such vices
as these.  From this time forth you shall be as my own begot- ten son."

       Thereupon the elder gives him a new name and calls him a son.  Then
the poor son, though he rejoices at this happening, still thinks of
himself as a humble hireling.  For this reason, during twenty years he
continues to be employed in scavenging.  After this period, there grows
mutual confidence between them, and he goes in and out and at his ease,
though his abode is still in a small hut.

       Then the elder becomes ill and, knowing that he will die before
long, says to the poor son, "Now I possess abundance of gold, silver, and
precious things, and my granaries and treasuries are full to overflowing.
The quanti- ties of these things, and the amounts which should be received
and given, I want you to understand in detail.  Such is my mind, and you
must agree to this my wish.  Wherefore?  Because now I and you are of the
same mind.  Be increasingly careful so that there be no waste."

       The poor man accepts his instruction and commands, and becomes
acquainted with all the goods... but has no idea of expecting to inherit
as much as a meal, while his abode is still the original place and he is
yet unable to abandon his sense of inferiority.

       After a short time has again passed, the father notices that his
son's ideas have gradually been enlarged, his aspirations developed, and
that he despises his previous state of mind.  On seeing that his own end
is approach- ing, he commands his son to come, and gathers together his
relatives, and the kings, ministers, warriors, and citizens.  When they
are all assembled, he addresses them saying, "Now, gentlemen, this is my
son, begotten by me.  It is over fifty years since, from a certain city,
he left me and ran away to endure loneliness and misery.  His former name
was so-and-so and my name was so-and-so.  At that time in that city I
sought him sorrowfully.  Suddenly in this place I met and regained him.
This is really my son and I am really his father.  Now all the wealth
which I possess belongs entirely to my son, and all my previous
disbursements and receipts are known by this son."

       When the poor son heard these words of his father, great was his
joy at such unexpected news, and thus he thought, "Without any mind for,
or effort on my part, these treasures now come of themselves to me."

       World-honored One!  The very rich elder is the Tathagata, and we
are all as the Buddha's sons.  The Buddha has always declared that we are
his sons. But because of the three sufferings, in the midst of
births-and-deaths we have borne all kinds of torments, being deluded and
ignorant and enjoying our attachment to trifles.  Today the World-honored
One has caused us to ponder over and remove the dirt of all diverting
discussions of inferior things.  In these we have hitherto been diligent
to make progress and have got, as it were, a day's pay for our effort to
reach Nirvana.  Obtaining this, we greatly rejoiced and were contented,
saying to ourselves, "For our diligence and progress in the Buddha-law
what we have received is ample"...  The Buddha, knowing that our minds
delighted in inferior things, by his tactfulness taught according to our
capacity, but still we did not perceive that we are really Buddha's
sons...  Therefore we say that though we had no mind to hope or expect it,
yet now the Great Treasure of the King of the Law has of itself come to
us, and such things that Buddha-sons should obtain, we have all obtained.

          Buddhism.  Lotus Sutra 4: Parable of the Prodigal Son

- - - - - - - - - - - -
1 Corinthians 10.13 and Qur'an 2.286: Cf. Qur'an 65.7, p. 686; Jeremiah
10.23-24, p. 571; Matthew 11.28-30, p. 645; Romans 8.26-27, p. 648; Guide
to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life 7.22-24, p. 572.  Luke 15.11-12: Jesus'
Parable of the Prodigal Son speaks not only of God's grace and forgiveness
(represented by the father), but also of the ethic that righteousness
(represented by the elder brother) be accompanied by forgiveness and
compassion for sinners (the younger brother).  On the elder brother's
attitude, compare Jonah, pp. 904f. and note.  Lotus Sutra 4: In the
Buddhist Parable of the Prodigal Son, the rich elder represents the Buddha
and the son is the ordinary person.  The Buddha cannot show his grace
directly, so in compassion he resorts to an expedient in order to reach
his low-minded son.  Cf. the Parable of the Good Physician, Lotus Sutra
16, pp. 1023f.; also 1 Corinthians 9.19-22, p. 1021.
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