~ Mundaka Upanishad
The roots of Hinduism—which is also known as Sanatana Dharma or the eternal religion—can be traced to the Rig Veda, perhaps the earliest spiritual text of humanity. Ancient rishis [seers] ‘heard’ or ‘saw’ the four Vedas while deep in meditation. No individual can be called the author of these ideas; they already existed and the rishis simply discovered them. The simple joyous praise and wonder of the Vedas flowered into the philosophy of Vedanta found in the scriptures called the Upanishads. The truths became more accessible to the epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
The crest jewel of this tradition is a portion of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita. The dialogue between man and God beautifully describes the human dilemma and necessary steps to salvation.
Many Hindus follow the ancient teachings of Yoga. Yoga is the Sanskrit word for yoke or union. To be a successful yogi in the ultimate sense is to be in a state of union with the Divine. Traditionally, the word Yoga by itself refers to Raja Yoga, the mental science; the primary text of Raja Yoga is called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
There are Yogic methods of those of active, introspective, intellectual or devotional natures as well as a system of physical postures to promote suppleness and dynamic health.
The concept of rebirth is an important part of Hindu thought. Human attachment to earthly things creates karma and necessitates reincarnation. The Hindu concept of karma, the law of action and reaction, is described in the following passage from the Upanishads: As is a person’s desire so is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deeds he does, that will he reap.
Judaism’s predominant aspect is the belief in one God, known as Jehovah or Yehwah, who is all powerful and concerned with each individual.
The Torah was revealed by God to Moses, the foremost of the Hebrew prophets. He led the people from slavery to freedom, and he received the Ten Commandments in the revelation at Sinai.
Judaism has no doctrine of the Original Sin, nor is it evangelical in nature. Judaism does not create a great division between the sacred and secular worlds; it asserts that any and all parts of life can and should be made holy.
When someone makes a mistake, before you blame that one, think first: ‘If I had done this, what excuse would I find for myself, to justify myself? Then give the other person the benefit of your excuse. This my friends, is the ultimate in love.
~ Yisrael ben Eliezer, The Baal Shem Tov
~ The Dhammapada
The primary goal of Buddhism is described as Nirvana and is defined as the end of change.
The central figure of the Buddhist faith is Gautama Buddha. When he was confronted with the harsh realities of pain, old age & death, his reaction was to renounce the world of comfort and wealth, and to take up the life of a wandering monk. He practised severe austerities without finding the answers he sought. Finally, he sat beneath a fig tree, resolving to remain there until the Truth was revealed. After 7 weeks of meditation, he attained enlightenment.
For the next forty years, the Buddha or ‘Awakened One’ spread the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Noble Truth of suffering teaches that the very nature of life is pain. The Noble Truth of the cause of pain states that it is the force of desire that causes pain. The Noble Truth of the cessation of pain shows that by elimination of desires one can eliminate one’s pain. The Noble Truth of the path that leads to the cessation of pain is the Eightfold Path. The Path includes: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
He advocated a moderate way of life known as the ‘middle path.’ The moral precepts of Buddhism prohibit the killing of living things, taking of things not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and use of intoxicating substances.
~The Holy Bible
Christianity is based on service, self-sacrifice and surrender to God. In short, ‘Loving thy neighbour as thyself.’ Faith in Lord Jesus as the Son of God on earth is essential to a devout Christian. It is this faith, which makes Jesus and his teachings a living presence in the Christian heart.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and grew to manhood as the son of a carpenter in the town of Nazereth. His ministry began in earnest truth at the age of 30 with his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.
During the following three years, he travelled throughout Palestine with his twelve disciples and many followers. He performed miracles, healed the sick, and taught the way, the truth and the life. Jesus spoke the pure truth without fear, despite the disapproval of those in power. Eventually, he was crucified on the cross as a criminal in Jerusalem under Roman law. Three days after his death, Jesus rose from the grave, appeared to his followers and ascended to Heaven.
~The Holy QuranThe word Islam means ‘surrender to the will of God.’ Muslim religion is based on unity of God and unity of Humanity.
God’s instrument in the creation of Islam was the prophet Mohammed.
Mohammad was always drawn to meditation, prayer and fasting. During one pilgrimage to Mount Hira, he was blessed with a vision of the Angel Gabriel. The Divine Message he received resulted in the holy book of Islam, the Quran.
The Quran covers all aspects of life from the great to the small. It deals with the nature of God’s existence, attributes, creative activity, relation to humanity and His prophets.
The 5 Pillars are:
» There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet
» Pray 5 times daily
» Alms giving to the poor
» Fasting during Ramadan
» Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s lifetime
The mystical branch of Islam is known as Sufism. Called the religion of Love, Sufism is based on the concept of the devotee as the lover and God as the Beloved.
One’s true wealth hereafter is the good one does in the world to his fellow man.
~ Prophet Mohammed-
God being Truth, is the one Light of all.
Sikhism emphasises the importance of selfless service, devotion, purification and intense repetition of God’s name: Sat Nam, Waheguru. A Sikh believes that there is only one God, and all people are equal in His eyes.
Sikhism has ten great gurus, each of whom embodies a certain spiritual quality and who made important contributions to the Sikh movement. The Sikh religion was born in the fifteenth century when Guru Nanak, the first of these ten gurus, began to teach people how to find happiness and peace through repeating the name of God.
The last of the ten Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh, established the Khalsaorder, or Brotherhood of the Pure Ones giving them a baptism ceremony and the five symbols:
» White clothes for purity
» A sword for bravery
» An iron bracelet for morality
» Uncut hair for renunciation
» A comb for cleanliness
Central to many of the Sikh cultural and religious practices is the fact of human equality. Sikhs are opposed to formalism and ritualism. Each Sikh is encouraged to find God in his or her own way, using wisdom and common sense. However, the teachings of the Guru are of utmost importance as a guide.
Enlightened by the Light of Truth, the wise transcend death.
Traditionally known as the Jaina Dharma, Jainism prescribes the path of ahimsa or non-violence towards all living beings, and emphasises spiritual interdependence and equality between all forms of life. Rishabha, who is also known as Adinatha or the first Lord, in the pre-Vedic era is the founder of Jainism and is hailed as the first Thirthankara. There are 24 Thirthankaras, and the followers of Jainism adhere to the principles laid down by these Masters.
Under the twenty fourth Thirthankara, Mahaveera, the last of the current era, Jainism regained prominence.
According to Jain Cosmology, the universe has neither beginning nor end, and has no creator. The universe consists of jiva and ajiva—two everlasting, uncreated, independent and co-existing categories.
The three-fold path of liberation—enlightened world view, enlightened knowledge and enlightened conduct are stressed upon as the path of living, in Jainism.
The culture of ahimsa is one of the most significant contributions of Jainism. It forms the first of the ethical code. Followers of Jainism are expected to take five vows as a means of personal conduct: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-attachment. These vows take on a larger worldview than mere abstinence.
Following the Light, the sage takes care of all.
~ Lao TzuThe Chinese concept of Tao means the unmanifest God from which all things spring and also the path to union with that force.
The constant change created by the interplay of the Yin and Yang, or negative and positive forces of creation, form the central focus of Taoism.A Taoist seeks oneness with Nature, for by being in tune with change, the individual becomes a quiet spot in the storm of existence. Changes still occur but they flow through the Taoist as a ripple in water or wind through leaves.
The best known Taoist master was Lao Tzu. His philosophy accented Wu-Wei or non-action. ‘Do nothing and everything is done.’ A Taoist practising Wu-Wei lets actions come from the unconscious rather than forcing the will on a situation.
Taoism is practised by mystic hermits and wandering monks. Its random nature was the balance of the orderliness of Confucianism.
The practical teachings of Taoism can be summarized by four lines from the Tao Te Ching: Reveal thy simple self,Embrace thy original nature,Check thy selfishness,Curtail thy desires.
~ Lao Tzu
In the traditional religions of Africa, God is the supreme creator, planner and pro-creator — at once mother and father of the universe. The sacred is found in the highest aspects of everyday life.
While different ethnic groups in Africa do not necessarily follow identical beliefs and practices, there are more similarities than differences among them.
The emphasis in African religions is on close relationships with nature, the living and the dead. These relationships are based upon love, respect, and reverence toward the ancestor spirits. There is no separation of religious life from other aspects of life. All things organic and inorganic are produced through various interactions of human beings and divine forces within the universe.
Ancestors, the guardians of the spirit, pass on to humans the energy of the divine. This energy is made available to humans when they live in accordance with the laws of nature. In this way, people can use this divine energy to attract and heal those who have moved away from nature’s laws. In African religions, human beings are vital forces who operate in active, intimate rapport with the forces of Nature — influenced by them and influencing them.
“Father, O mighty force, that force which is in everything, come down between us, fill us, until we be like Thee, until we be like Thee.”
~Susu from Guinea
Native American worship takes place in the cathedral of nature, frequently in silence. The fruits of silence are thought to be self-control, true courage, endurance, patience, dignity, and reverence.
“Guard your tongue in youth, and in age you may mature a thought that will be of much use to your people,” said Chief Wabashaw of the Mdewakanton Sioux.
“Seek lonely places and be still, listening, hearing the songs and cries of the winged ones, the sounds of the four-leggeds, and the cries of the insect people: feeling the breath and touch of the earth, of leaves, of bark: for all have messages for you from the Above One – let your prayers rise like smoke rises from our fires, freed from all selfish desires,” spoke Sees-Beyond-The-Lightning of the Sioux.
Through group rituals such as the sweat lodge, sacred pipe ceremony, powerful chants, and dances, the Native American strives to purify the body, mind, heart, and soul in order to be an honorable and useful member of the tribe.
Doing good deeds for one’s people is held in the highest honor. Native Americans have an enlightened attitude about death. Death holds no terror for them. It is met with calmness and simplicity: an honorable end is the last gift to one’s family and descendants.
Native Americans are encouraged to compose a “death song” to chant courageously in time of danger and at the time of death itself. “When you die — sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
~ Tecumseh, Shawnee
This symbol represents all of the world’s other known religions, spiritual approaches and faiths, rich and varied and too numerous to list, but to each equally as great and valid as any other. We celebrate equally each of the paths to the One Truth.
In addition to all of these paths are the approaches throughout creation as yet unknown to us. Wherever beings purify themselves and thus allow the Divine Light to express through them, our homage is to them and their great faiths, which are one with all others in essence.