DIVINE FATHER AND MOTHERDivine love and compassion is often expressed by the relationship of parent and child. The Jewish and Christian scriptures call God our Heavenly Father; in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha is called Father of the World; and similar statements are found in the Vedas and the Confucian classics. In many religious traditions Ultimate Reality is also recognized to be our divine Mother. Often God's Fatherhood and Motherhood are identified with Heaven and Earth, which cooperate in the creation and nurturing of human kind and the universe.
We may recognize from these scriptures that Ultimate Reality has the attributes of both Father and Mother. Even religions that restrict the vision of God to a patriarchal image only, or religions like Islam that avoid using the language of parenthood altogether, describe God's love in terms that can be said to encompass both fatherly love--Creator, Teacher, Guide, and Savior--and motherly love--Nurturer, Fount of compassion, and Sustainer.1
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
1. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 6.9
God! Give us wisdom as a father gives to his sons.
Guide us, O Much-invoked, in this path.
May we live in light.
2. Hinduism. Rig Veda 7.32.26
I tell you, Shariputra,
I, too, am like this,
Being the Most Venerable among many saints,
The Father of the World....
I tell you, Shariputra,
Are all my children,
And I am your Father.
For age upon age, you
Have been scorched by multitudinous woes,
And I have saved you all.
3. Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 3
1Islam's reticence about describing God as Father may be understood in light of its strong rejection of polytheistic religions in which gods beget other gods. Any language which could be suggestive of divine procreation--and the notion of a heavenly father could be misinterpreted to give such a mistaken idea--is avoided in the Qur'an.
Do you thus requite the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
He found [Israel] in a desert land,
in the howling waste of the wilderness
; He encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
Spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions,
The Lord alone did lead him,
and there was no foreign god with him.
4. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Deuteronomy 32.6, 10-12
You are the children of the Lord your God.
5. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Deuteronomy 14.1
For all who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
6. Christianity. Bible, Romans 8.14-17
Lotus Sutra 3: This stanza follows the Parable of the Burning House, in which the Buddha, as a compassionate father, rescues his children from the burning house of mundane existence by various means. The image of existence as burning goes back to the Buddha himself; cf. the Fire Sermon, p. 382. The Buddha is our parent by virtue of his limitless compassion--see Mahaparinirvana Sutra 259, p. 138. Deuteronomy 14.1: Some Christians stereotype Judaism as a religion in which man relates to God as a servant to his master, whereas the revelation of Christ opened for the first time the more intimate relationship of a child to his Heavenly Father. This is the negative side of Paul's joyous experience of sonship in Romans 8.14-17. Yet Judaism in its true expression also seeks the intimacy of a parent-child relationship. God already revealed his abiding fatherly love for his people in the Torah of the Jews, in such passages as Isaiah 1.2, 63.16, 64.8 and Jeremiah 3.19; cf. the Kaddish, p. 54.
Anas and 'Abdullah reported God's Messenger as saying, "All [human] creatures are God's children, and those dearest to God are those who treat His children kindly."
7. Islam. Hadith of Baihaqi
God Himself told me that the most basic and central truth of the universe is that God is the Father and we are His children. We are all created as children of God. And He said there is nothing closer, nothing deeper, nothing more ultimate than when father and son are one: One in love, one in life, and one in ideal.
8. Unification Church Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73
Why did God create the universe? The reason is that God wants to realize the relationship of Father and children centering on love. So we can come to the conclusion that the foundation of the universe is the relationship of Father and children.
9. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 6-20-82
We are the children of our Maker
And do not fear that he will kill us.
We are the children of God
And do not fear that he will kill.
10. African Traditional Religions. Dinka Prayer (Sudan)
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
11. Christianity. Bible, Luke 11.11-13
That breast of Thine which is inexhaustible, health-giving,
by which Thou nursest all that is noble,
containing treasure, bearing wealth, bestowed freely;
lay that bare, Sarasvati [divine Mother], for our nurture.
12. Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.164.49
Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73: Our relationship with God includes the dimension of empathy with the divine heart. It should mirror--in its intimacy and through comparable ethical norms--the natural relation of a child to his or her parent. Sun Myung Moon, 6-20-82: Cf. Sun Myung Moon, 2-12-61, p. 117n. Dinka Prayer: Cf. Tiv Proverb, p. 559. Rig Veda 1.164.49: Cf. Candi-Mahatmya 10, p. 565; Sarang, M.1, p. 763. On earth as the divine Mother, see Atharva Veda 12.1, pp. 296f.
As one whom his mother comforts,
so will I comfort you;
You shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
13. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 66.13
The Valley Spirit never dies.
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the Doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which sprang Heaven and Earth.
It is there within us all the while;
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
14. Taoism. Tao Te Ching 6
O Mother of Imupa, advocate for the whole [feminine] world!
What a remarkable Mother I have!
O Mother, a pillar, a refuge!
O Mother, to whom all prostrate in greeting
Before one enters her habitation!
I am justly proud of my Mother.
O Mother who arrives,
Who arrives majestic and offers water to all!
15. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Prayer (Nigeria)
I am Father and Mother of the world.
16. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 9.17
Thou art Father, Mother, Friend, Brother.
With Thee as succorer in all places, what fear have I?
17. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Majh M.5, p. 103
Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man.
18. Christian Science. Science and Health, p. 256
Isaiah 66.13: This is one of the many images of the feminine and motherly aspect of God found in the Bible; cf. Hosea 11.1-9, pp. 460f. Tao Te Ching 6: Cf. Tao Te Ching 20, p. 608. Yoruba Prayer: On God worshipped as Father in African traditional religions, we have texts from a Nuer Prayer, p. 54; a Susu Prayer, p. 209, and a Kikuya Prayer, p. 779.
For God, people of the whole world are all My children. All of you equally must understand that I am your Parent.
19. Tenrikyo. Ofudesaki IV.79
Heaven and Earth are the father and mother of the ten thousand things. Men are the sensibility of the ten thousand things.
20. Confucianism. Book of History 5.1.1: The Great Declaration
All ye under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters.
21. Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta
Mother Earth have pity on us and give us food to eat!
Father, the Sun, bless all our children and may our paths be straight!
22. Native American Religions. Blackfoot Prayer
The Great Principle, the Divine, is my womb;
I cast the seed into it;
There is the origin
of all creatures.
Whatever forms originate
in any wombs
The real womb is the Divine, the Great Principle.
I am the Father that gives the seed.
23. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 14.4
Book of History 5.1.1: The complete passage (see p. 1067) states that the ruler is likewise father and mother to the people. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta: This notion that people are tied together with the kami and things of nature in one universal family builds a sense of community and respect for nature. Atsuta is a shrine near Nagoya. Blackfoot Prayer: Cf. Cheyenne Song, p. 294; Cree Round Dance Song, p. 55, and Okanagan Creation, p. 298. For a comparable Hindu passage, see Rig Veda 1.185.1-5, p. 177