World Scripture


Ultimate Reality is eternal and unchanging. The monotheistic religious claim is that God is absolute, eternal, and unchanging; a similar teaching applies to other religious conceptions of the Absolute: Nirvana, Dhamma, the Dharmakaya, the Tao, and in the I Ching the ground of Change itself. The complementary assertion, which is central to Buddhism and other Eastern religions but also found in analogous expressions in the monotheistic faiths, is that all beings, things, and phenomena in the world are transient, impermanent, conditioned, and hence less than truly Real. These two doctrines are presented together as the positive and negative poles of a single truth.

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!

1. Christianity. Bible, Revelation 4.8

"Holy, holy, holy"--in heaven, on earth, and to all eternity.

2. Judaism. Targum Jonathan, Isaiah 6.3

The great, unborn Self is undecaying, immortal, undying, fearless, infinite.

3. Hinduism. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.25

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

4. Christianity. Bible, Revelation 22.13

Then did I recognize Thee in mind,
to be the first and the last, O Lord,

5. Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 31.8

Revelation 4.8 and Targum Jonathan: These two passages illustrate the operation of midrashic exegesis, where each detail in the word of God is plumbed for its meaning. The question, "Why is the word 'holy' repeated three times in Isaiah 6.3 (p. 99)?" is answered by a three-fold description of God's range over time and space. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.25: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 13.32, p. 115.

All that is on the earth will perish:
But will abide for ever the face of thy Lord--
full of Majesty, Bounty, and Honor.

6. Islam. Qur'an 55.26-27

In primal time, in all time, was the Creator;
Nothing is real but the Eternal.
Nothing shall last but the Eternal.

7. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 1, M.1, p. 1

The spirit of the valley never dies.
It is called the subtle and profound female.
The gate of the subtle and profound female
Is the root of heaven and earth.
It is continuous, and seems to be always existing.
Use it and you will never wear it out.

8. Taoism. Tao Te Ching 6

Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I Am' has sent me to you."

9. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Exodus 3.13-15

The divine Mind maintains all identities, from a blade of grass to a star, as distinct and eternal. Nothing is real and eternal--nothing is Spirit--but God and His idea.

10. Christian Science. Science and Health

Nothing can ever destroy the Buddha Nature. The nature of self is nothing but the undisclosed storehouse of the Tathagata. Such a storehouse can never be broken, put to fire, or plundered. Though it is not possible to destroy or see it, one can know it when one attains the unsurpassed enlightenment.

11. Buddhism. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 220

There is no changing the words of God; that is the mighty triumph.

12. Islam. Qur'an 10.64

The Truth is that which is received from Heaven. By nature it is the way it is and cannot be changed.

13. Taoism. Chuang Tzu 31

Tao Te Ching 6: Cf. Tao Te Ching 4, p. 525. This describes the eternal feminine spirit; see p. 147. Exodus 3.13-15: This passage, from Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush, gives the traditional etymology of the name of God, the Tetragrammaton YHWH, as The Eternal, 'I Am.' This verse is also the foundation of Christian and Jewish theological discussion of God's unchangeability and eternity. For another traditional Jewish interpretation of this passage, see Torah Yesharah, p. 506. Mahaparinivana Sutra 8.12: Cf. the concept of Tathatagagarbha in Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 13, p. 117. Chuang Tzu 31: Cf. Chuang Tzu 6, p. 152.

Change has neither thought nor action, because it is in the state of absolute quiet and inactivity, and when acted on, it immediately penetrates all things. If it were not the most spirit-like thing in the world, how can it take part in this universal transformation?

14. Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.10.4

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

15. Christianity. Bible, Hebrews 13.8

The Dharmadhatu (Absolute Truth) abides forever, whether the Tathagata appears in the world or not.

16. Buddhism. Lankavatara Sutra 61

Subhuti, if anyone should say that the Tathagata comes or goes or sits or reclines, he fails to understand my teaching. Why? Because "Thus Gone" (Tathagata) has neither whence nor whither, and therefore He is called "Tathagata."

17. Buddhism. Diamond Sutra 29

Listen each of you to the secret, mysterious, and supernatural power of the Thus Come One. All the worlds of gods, men, and demons declare, "Now has Sakyamuni Buddha, coming forth from the palace of the Sakya clan, and seated at the place of enlightenment, not far from the city of Gaya, attained to Perfect Enlightenment." But, good sons, since in fact I became Buddha, there have passed infinite, boundless, hundreds, thousands, myriads, millions, trillions of eons.... From that time forward I have constantly been preaching and teaching in this universe, and also leading and benefiting the living in other places in hundreds, thousands, myriads, millions, trillions of numberless domains.

18. Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 16

I Ching, Great Commentary 1.10.4: Cf. Tao Te Ching 14, p. 89; 25, p. 95; Chuang Tzu 6, p. 584. Lankavatara Sutra 61: Part of a longer passage given on p. 155. Diamond Sutra 29: 'Tathagata' is a title given to the Buddha. It means "Comes thus far," i.e., the one who has arrived at the goal of enlightenment. Lotus Sutra 16: See also the parallel passage in verse, pp. 647f, 663. The language here has links to the concept of the Day of Brahman--see Bhagavad Gita 8.17-20, p. 122--and with the thought that there is an historic manifestation of the Eternal Buddha in every eon, much as with the Hindu doctrine of avatars--see Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8, p. 662. In the doctrine of the Trikaya (Three Bodies) of Mahayana Buddhism, the Eternal Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is the Sambhogakaya (Glorified Body), while the historical Buddha is the Nirmanakaya (Accommodated Body). The Ultimate Buddha, the Dharmakaya, is Reality itself; cf. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 5, p. 652; Garland Sutra 37, p. 96.

The One who, himself without color, by the manifold application of his power
Distributes many colors in his hidden purpose,
And into whom, its end and its beginning, the whole world dissolves--
He is God!

19. Hinduism. Svestasvatara Upanishad 4.1

Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of thy hands;
They will perish,
but thou dost endure.
They will all wear out like a garment,
thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away.
But thou art the same,
and thy years have no end.

20. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 102.25-27

Who knows the Eternal's day
and the Eternal's night,
Each lasting a thousand ages, truly
knows day and night.
At daybreak all things are disclosed;
they arise from the unmanifest.
At dusk they dissolve into
the very same unmanifest.
Again and again, the whole multitude
of creatures is born, and when night falls,
Is dissolved, without their will,
and at daybreak, is born again.
Beyond that unmanifest is
another, everlasting unmanifest
Which has no end, although
every creature perish.
This is called the imperishable
unmanifest and the highest goal.
Who reaches it does not return.
It is my supreme abode.

21. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 8.17-21

With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

22. Christianity. Bible, 2 Peter 3.8

Psalm 102.25-27: Cf. Hebrews 1.10-12. Bhagavad Gita 8.17-21: This is a description of the Day of Brahman, the ever-repeating cycle of cosmic time, measured in myriads of years, between the creation of one universe and its dissolution. In some cosmologies the Day of Brahman is divided into the four yugas, of which the Kali Yuga is the final period before the next cosmic dissolution. Cf. Bhagavad Gita 9.4-10, p. 134; Katha Upanishad 1.3.15, p. 581; Laws of Manu 1.81-86, p. 433. 2 Peter 3.8: This is a quotation from Psalm 90.4.

The image of The Marrying Maiden.
Thus the superior man
understands the transitory
In the light of the eternity of the end.

23. Confucianism. I Ching 54: The Marrying Maiden

Even ornamented royal chariots wear out. So too the body reaches old age. But the Dhamma of the Good grows not old. Thus do the Good reveal it among the Good.

24. Buddhism. Dhammapada 151

The impermanent [objects of the senses] have no reality; reality lies in the eternal. Those who have seen the boundary between these two have attained the end of all knowledge. Realize that which pervades the universe and is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable reality.

25. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 2.16-17

All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it...
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

26. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 40.6-8

By detachment from appearances, abide in Real Truth. So I tell you, Thus shall you think of all this fleeting world,
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, a dream.

27. Buddhism. Diamond Sutra 32

The wise man looks upon life as a mere dew drop which quivers upon the tip of a blade of kusa grass, to be whisked off or blown away by the breeze at any moment. The life of an unwise, imprudent, and ignorant person is likewise as transient as said dew drop.

28. Jainism. Acarangasutra 5.5

I Ching 54: Human relationships are likely to be successful only if they are grounded in the perspective of eternity. Bhagavad Gita 2.16-17: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 18.61-62, p. 553. Isaiah 40.6-8: Cf. Ecclesiastes 3.1-8, p. 382. Diamond Sutra 32: This is the fundamental stance of Buddhism towards worldly phenomena. It lies at the heart of Buddhism's ethic of nonattachment and it is comforting counsel to those who are suffering from pain, loss, or bereavement. See the Parable of the Mustard Seed, pp. 381f.

Who comes, finally comes not. Who goes, finally goes not. Why? Who comes is not known to come. Who goes is not known to go. Who appears is finally not to be seen.

29. Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 5

In the world, inclusive of its gods, substance is seen in what is insubstantial. They are tied to their psychophysical beings and so they think that there is some substance, some reality in them.

But whatever be the phenomenon through which they think of seeking their self-identity, it turns out to be transitory. It becomes false, for what lasts for a moment is deceptive.

The state that is not deceptive is Nibbana: that is what the men of worth know as being real. With this insight into reality their hunger ends: cessation, total calm.

30. Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 756-58

Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 5: This statement is from an exchange between Manjusri and Vimalakirti when the Bodhisattva visits Vimalalakirti on his sick bed. Like any phenomenal existence, they conclude that Vimalakirti's illness is ultimately unreal. This is a general statement of the concept of sunya, that all things are empty of any nature that is independent, discrete, and permanent. Also, compare John 14-15, where the going of Jesus is seen as a coming, but both the going and coming are resolved in a presence. Sutta Nipata 756-58: Cf. Udana 80, p. 75.