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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        The scriptures contain passages which qualify the truth of their
own doctrines.  Recognizing that scripture may be expressed in parables
and symbolic language, they teach that spiritual discenment is required
for its proper interpretation.  Scripture also cautions us from believing
that any system of doctrine contains the entirety of truth, for in
reality, God's truth is infinite.  Rather, as the Buddhist texts tell us,
the teachings of religion are limited to what is needful and useful
humankind's salvation.

We have put forth for men in this Qur'an every kind of parable, in order
that they may receive admonition.

                           Islam.  Qur'an 39.27

Knowing that all the living have many and various desires deep-rooted in
their minds, I have, according to their capacity, expounded the various
laws by which these [desires] could be overcome with various reasonings,
parabolic expressions, and expedients.

                         Buddhism.  Lotus Sutra 2

And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve
[disciples] asked [Jesus] concerning the parables.  And he said to them,
"To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those
outside everything is in parables; so they may indeed see but not
perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn
again, and be forgiven."

                       Christianity.  Mark 4.10-12

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Mark 4.10-12: Jesus gives the reason he teaches in parables by quoting
from Isaiah 6.9-10.  The prophet Isaiah's words are a bitter commentary on
the people's rejection of his ministry; though he preached God's words,
the people's minds were darkened and they could not respond.  Jesus was
similarly misunderstood.  Yet he still endeavored to give a gentle and
gradual message, one that could be received even by babes, through
teaching in simple parables. These could be understood by those who had
ears to hear.  Cf. Matthew 13.14-15, p. 400.
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It is He who sent down upon you the Book, wherein are verses clear that
are the Essence of the Book, and others ambiguous.  As for those in whose
hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension,
and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save
only God.  And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, "We believe in it;
all is from our Lord"; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds.

                            Islam.  Qur'an 3.7

The written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.

                     Christianity.  2 Corinthians 3.6

Look, I will draw my sword to fight the Vedas,
I will put shackles on the Shastras,
I will whip the back of the books of Logic,
And I will chop off the nose of the Agamas.
  [I don't give a damn about my high birth;
   I have no hesitation to say,]
I am the son of the cobbler Chennyye.
O most bountiful Lord, Kudala Sangama.

                    Hinduism.  Basavanna, Vachana 716

The biblical tales are only the Torah's outer garments, and woe to him who
regards these as being the Torah itself!

                      Judaism.  Zohar, Numbers 152a

He who does not know that indestructible Being of the Rig Veda, that
highest ether-like Self wherein all the gods reside, of what use is the
Rig Veda to him?  Those only who know It rest contented.

                  Hinduism.  Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.8

First take up the words,
Ponder their meaning,
Then the fixed rules reveal themselves.
But if you are not the right man,
The meaning will not manifest itself to you.

              Confucianism.  I Ching, Great Commentary 2.8.4

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Qur'an 3.7: Cf. Qur'an 2.269, p. 789; Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith
2, pp. 598f.  Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.8: Cf. Pancastikaya 170, p. 218;
Ramkali, M.5, p. 62.  Vachana 719: Basavanna, a brahmin by birth, regarded
the cobblers and untouchables as his brothers and sisters, fathers and
mothers.  For this breach of caste taboos he was constantly rebuked by
brahmins quoting scripture.  Cf. Vachana 589, p. 280.
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When the man of highest capacities hears the Tao
He does his best to put it into practice.
When the man of middling capacity hears the Tao
He is in two minds about it.
When the man of low capacity hears Tao
He laughs loudly at it.
If he did not laugh, it would not be worth the name of Tao.

                         Taoism.  Tao Te Ching 41

Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any
man's will is to do his will, he shall know whether this teaching is from
God or whether I am speaking from my own authority."

                       Christianity.  John 7.16-17

In the unessential they imagine the essential, in the essential they see
the unessential--they who entertain such wrong thoughts never realize the

What is essential they regard as essential, what is unessential they
regard as unessential--they who entertain such right thoughts realize the

                       Buddhism.  Dhammapada 11-12

Were you to cleanse the mirror of your heart from the dust of malice, you
would apprehend the meaning of the symbolic terms revealed by the
all-embracing Word of God made manifest in every dispensation, and would
discover the mysteries of divine knowledge.  Not, however, until you
consume with the flame of utter detachment those veils of idle learning,
that are current among men, can you behold the resplendent morn of true

                 Baha'i Faith.  Book of Certitude, 68-69

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is
from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And
we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the
Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.
The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for
they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they
are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual man judges all things, but is
himself to be judged by no one.  "For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?"  But we have the mind of Christ.

                   Christianity.  1 Corinthians 2.12-16

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Tao Te Ching 41: See Chuang Tzu 14, p. 718, and the Parable of the Sower,
Mark 4.3-20, pp. 718f.  Book of Certitude, 68-69: For an example of Baha'i
interpretation of symbols from the Bible, see Book of Certitude, 33-41, p.
1095.  1 Corinthians 2.12-16: Interpretation of scripture should be by the
inspiration of the Spirit.  It is said that even the devil can quote
scripture. Only with the discernment born of the Spirit of God is the Word
of God understood in all its depth and power.  The quotation is from
Isaiah 40.13. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2.6-10, p. 538.
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Undiscerning men, theologians
        preoccupied with scriptural lore,
Who claim there is nothing else,
        utter words with ephemeral results.
Their words promise better births through cultic acts,
        dwell at length on various rites,
And aim at pleasure and power.
        These men are full of desire, zealous for heaven.
They cling to pleasures and power
        and are fooled by their own discourses.
They have no knowledge consisting in commitment,
        fixed in concentration.
The Scriptures speak to the world's weave of integrity,
        passion, and sloth.  Transcend it, Arjuna,
Free from opposites, forever in integrity,
        detached from things, in command of yourself.
All the Scriptures mean as much--no more, no less--
        to the discerning spiritual man
As a water tank
        in a universal flood.

                     Hinduism.  Bhagavad Gita 2.42-46

And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, with seven more
seas to help it [were ink], the words of God could not be spent.  Lo!  God
is Mighty, Wise.

                           Islam.  Qur'an 31.27

The water from the ocean contained in a pot can neither be called an ocean
nor non-ocean, but it can be called only part of the ocean.  Similarly, a
doctrine, though arising from the Absolute Truth, is neither the Truth nor
not the Truth.

             Jainism.  Vidyanandi, Tattvarthaslokavartika 116

The Word is measured in four quarters.
The wise who possess insight know these four divisions.
Three quarters, concealed in secret, cause no movement.
The fourth is the quarter that is spoken by men.

                       Hinduism.  Rig Veda 1.164.45

The first man did not know her [Wisdom] perfectly,
        the last one has not fathomed her;
for her thought is more abundant than the sea,
        and her counsel deeper than the great abyss.

                      Christianity.  Sirach 24.26-27

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Bhagavad Gita 2.42-46: Cf. the Parable of the Raft, Majjhima Nikaya
i.134-35, 802; Mulamadhyamaka Karika 24.8-12, pp. 1021f.
Tattvarthaslokavartika 116: Cf. Sanmatitarka 1.28, p. 66; Parable of the
Blind Men and the Elephant, Udana 68-69, p. 68.  Rig Veda 1.164.45: Cf.
Rig Veda 10.90.1-4, p. 97; Kena Upanishad 2.1-3, p. 87.
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Behold, you are my son; wherefore look, and I will show you the
workmanship of my hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and
also my words, for they never cease.

               Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
                     Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1.4

I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the
Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

                       Christianity.  John 16.12-13

For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the
perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke
like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I
became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully.

                   Christianity.  1 Corinthians 13.9-12

And We sent Messengers before you, and We assigned to them wives and seed;
and it was not for any Messengers to bring a sign, but by God's leave.
Every term has a Book.

God blots out, and He establishes whatsoever He will; and with Him is the
Essence of the Book.

Whether We show you a part of that We promise them, or We call you unto
Us, it is you only to deliver the message, and Ours is the reckoning.

                         Islam.  Qur'an 13.38-40

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John 16.12-13: Jesus only had three years to teach his disciples, and many
truths of heaven were left unrevealed.  The Spirit continues to inspire us
with new and deeper insights into truth.  Qur'an 13.38-40: The 'Essence of
the Book' is the fulness of truth known only to God; what is revealed in
the Qur'an and in the previous scriptures may only be a part of this
fulness of truth.  How is Muhammad or any of the prophets, who are but
mortals, to know?
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Thus I have heard.

        On a certain occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Savatthi in
Jetavana monastery in Anathapindika's Park.  Now it happened to the
venerable Malunkyaputta, being in seclusion and plunged in meditation,
that a consideration presented itself to his mind, as follows:

        "These theories which the Blessed One has left unelucidated, has
set aside and rejected--that the world is eternal, that the world is not
eternal, that the world is finite, that the world is infinite, that the
soul and the body are identical, that the soul is one thing and the body
another, that the saint exists after death, that the saint does not exist
after death, that the saint both exists and does not exist after death,
that the saint neither exists nor does not exist after death--these the
Blee does not elucidate to me. And the fact that the Blessed One does not
elucidate them to me does not please me nor suit me.  Therefore I will
draw near to the Blessed One and inquire of him concerning these matters.
If the Blessed one will elucidate to me, either that the world is eternal
or that the world is not eternal..., in that case I will lead the
religious life under the Blessed One.  If the Blessed One will not
elucidate [these matters] to me..., in that case I will abandon religious
training and return to the lower life of a layman."

        Then the venerable Malunkyaputta arose at eventide from his
seclusion, and drew near to where the Blessed One was; and having drawn
near and greeted the Blessed One, he sat down respectfully at one side.
And seated respectfully at one side, Malunkyaputta asked his question....

        [The Buddha replied], "Pray, Malunkyaputta, did I ever say to you,
'Come, Malunkyaputta, lead the religious life under me, and I will
elucidate to you either that the world is eternal, or that the world is
not eternal, etc.'?"

        "Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

        "Or did you ever say to me, 'Reverend sir, I will lead the
religious life under the Blessed One, on condition that the Blessed One
elucidate to me these things.'?"

        "Nay, verily, reverend sir."

        "That being the case, vain man, whom are you so angrily
denouncing? Malunkyaputta, any one who should say, 'I will not lead the
religious life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One shall elucidate
to me either that the world is eternal or that the world is not
eternal...'--that person would die before the Tathagata had ever
elucidated this to him.

        "It is as if, Malunkyaputta, a man had been wounded by an arrow
thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and companions, relatives and
kinsfolk, were to procure for him a physician or surgeon; and the sick man
were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out until I have learnt
whether the man who wounded me belonged to the warrior caste, or the the
brahmin caste, or to the farmers' caste, or to the menial caste.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt the name of the man who wounded me, and to what clan
he belongs.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the man who wounded me was tall, or short, or
of middle height.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the man who wounded me was black, or dusky, or
of a yellow skin.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the man who wounded me was from this or that
village, town, or city.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the bow which wounded me was a capa, or a

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the bowstring which wounded me was made from
swallow-wort, or bamboo, or sinew, or maruva, or from milkweed.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the shaft which wounded me was a kaccha or a

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the shaft which wounded me was feathered from
the wings of a vulture, or of a heron, or of a falcon, or of a peacock, or
of a sithilahanu.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the shaft which wounded me was wound round
with the sinews of an ox, or of a buffalo, or of a deer, or of a monkey.'

        "Or again he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out
until I have learnt whether the arrow which wounded me was an ordinary
arrow, or a claw-headed arrow, or a vekanda, or an iron arrow, or a
calf-tooth arrow, or a karavirapatta.'  That man would die, Malunkyaputta,
without ever having learnt this.

        "In exactly the same way, Malunkyaputta, any one who should say,
'I will not lead the religious life under the Blessed One until the
Blessed One shall elucidate to me either that the world is eternal or that
the world is not eternal, etc.'--that person would die before the
Tathagata had ever elucidated this to him.

        "The religious life does not depend on the dogma that the world is
eternal; nor does the religious life depend on the dogma that the world is
not eternal. Whether the dogma obtain, that the world is eternal, or that
the world is not eternal, there still remain birth, old age, death,
sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, despair, for the extinction of which
in the present life I am prescribing.... This profits not, nor has to do
with the fundamentals of religion, nor tends to aversion, absence of
passion, cessation, quiescence, the supernatural faculties, supreme
wisdom, and Nirvana; therefore have I not elucidated it. "And what,
Malunkyaputta, have I elucidated?  Misery I have elucidated; the cessation
of misery I have elucidated; and the path leading to the cessation of
misery I have elucidated.  And why, Malunkyaputta, have I elucidated this?
Because this does profit, has to do with the fundamentals of religion, and
tends to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, quiescence, knowledge,
supreme wisdom, and Nirvana; therefore I have elucidated it.  Accordingly,
Malun kyaputta, bear always in mind what it is that I have not elucidated,
and what it is that I have elucidated."

        Thus spoke the Blessed One; and, delighted, the venerable
Malunkyaputta applauded the speech of the Blessed One.

                   Buddhism.  Majjhima Nikaya i.426-31:
                 Questions which Tend not to Edification

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Majjhima Nikaya i.426-31: Cf. Parable of the Raft, Majjhima Nikaya
i.134-35, p. 802.
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