World Scripture


The next three sections contain passages describing the original human nature or divine Self within every person. Some such concept is found universally, yet there are important distinctions and different emphases among the various religions. We begin with passages depicting humans as reflecting the image of God and conclude with passages portraying humans as temples of God and dwelling places of God's Spirit. These include psychological and metaphysical claims of man's likeness to divinity and also exhortations to become the image of God as an ideal of holiness.

In Judaism and Christianity, human beings are regarded as created in the image of God (imago dei) and meant to be the home for God's indwelling Spirit. Christians disagree, however, on the extent to which the image of God has been damaged by the fall of man (the Original Sin); see Degraded Human Nature, pp. 452-56. Conservative Protestants in the Calvinist tradition regard the damage as so severe that humans cannot be good or have a relationship with God without the added grace of Christ. Catholic, Orthodox, and liberal Protestant Christians still see vestiges of the imago dei in fallen humanity, giving all people the intuitive ability to judge right from wrong and to know God.

There is wider agreement when the image of God is presented as an ideal of holiness. Confucian, Jewish, Christian, and Shinto scriptures speak of the saint or superior man as one who is like unto Heaven, or a Buddha, or one who manifests the character of God.

In Hindu and Sikh scriptures the Atman or Self is the immutable and ever-present manifestation of Ultimate Reality immanent in each person. Most people live in ignorance of the Self, act entirely from the motives of egoism, and are enchained by their karma: hence to realize the true Self is liberation. This is an ontological assertion about what is most essentially human: since humans are essentially Spirit they should not make the error of identifying themselves with matter. The Metaphysical Movement in the nineteenth century spawned new religions which hold a similar view; among them are Christian Science, Seicho-no-Ie, and (with significant differences) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which are represented by passages in this section.

God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."

1. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 1.26

If we keep unperverted the human heart--which is like unto heaven and received from earth--that is God.

2. Shinto. Revelation to Mikado Seiwa

Every being has the Buddha Nature. This is the self.

3. Buddhism. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 214

That which is the finest essence--this whole world has that as its soul. That is Reality. That is the Self. That art thou.

4. Hinduism. Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7

Conform yourselves to the character of God.

5. Islam. Hadith of Abu Nuaym

Genesis 1.26: The plural has been variously understood as the persons of the Trinity, God speaking to his angels, or the plural of majesty. Revelation to Mikado Seiwa: Finding kami within is discovering the reality of one's own nature. This quotation shows the influence of the Buddhist concept of Buddha nature. The Shinto flavor comes in the linking of heaven and earth--like the rope which links the shrine (symbol of the divine presence) and the worshipper. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 214: The Buddha nature is not an ontological immanent Being, as in the following passage from the Upanishads, but is rather a quality of thought and action that is pure and participates fully in the Buddha's wisdom and compassion. Compare 'This very mind is Buddha,' Mumonkan 30, p. 116; also Sutra of Hui Neng 1, p. 217. See the longer passage on p. 219. Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7: See also Bhagavad Gita 10.41, Kena Upanishad 1.1-2, p. 117.

Fire blazing from the earth.
The Superior man reflects in his person [Heaven's] virtue.

6. Confucianism and Taoism. I Ching 35: Progress

You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

7. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 5.48

And the Lord said to Moses, "Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, 'You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.'"

8. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Leviticus 19.1-2

As God is called merciful and gracious, so you be merciful and gracious,
offering gifts gratis to all; as the Lord is called righteous and loving,
so you be righteous and loving.

9. Judaism. Midrash, Sifre Deuteronomy

Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God. But it was by a special love that it was made known to him that he was created in the image of God.

10. Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 3.18

Father, O mighty Force,
That Force which is in everything,
Come down between us, fill us,
Until we become like Thee,
Until we become like Thee.

11. African Traditional Religions. Susu Prayer (Guinea)

"Now what do you think, Vasettha... is Brahma in possession of wives and wealth, or is he not?"
"He is not, Gotama."
"Is his mind full of anger, or free from anger?"
"Free from anger, Gotama."
"Is his mind full of malice, or free from malice?"
"Free from malice, Gotama."
"Is his mind tarnished, or is it pure?"
"It is pure, Gotama."
"Has he self-mastery, or has he not?"
"He has, Gotama."
"Now what do you think, Vasettha, are the brahmins versed in the Vedas in possession of wives and wealth, or are they not?"
"They are, Gotama."
"Have they anger in their hearts, or have they not?"
"They have, Gotama."
"Do they bear malice, or do they not?"
"They do, Gotama."
"Are they pure in heart, or are they not?"
"They are not, Gotama."
"Have they self-mastery, or have they not?"
"They have not, Gotama."
"Can there, then, be agreement and likeness between the brahmins with their wives and property, and Brahma, who has none of these things?"
"Certainly not, Gotama!"
"Then that these brahmins versed in the Vedas, who also live married and wealthy, should after death, when the body is dissolved, become united with Brahma, who has none of these things--such a condition of things is impossible!"...
"Now what do you think, Vasettha, will the bhikkhu who lives [according to the Dhamma] be in possession of women and of wealth, or will he not?"
"He will not, Gotama!"
"Will he be full of anger, or free from anger?"
"He will be free from anger, Gotama!"
"Will his mind be full of malice, or free from malice?"
"Free from malice, Gotama!"
"Will his mind be tarnished, or pure?"
"It will be pure, Gotama!"
"Will he have self-mastery, or will he not?"
"Surely he will, Gotama!"
"Then as you say, the bhikkhu is free from household and worldly cares, free from anger, free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself; and Brahma also is free from household and worldly cares, free from anger, free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself. Is there then agreement and likeness between the bhikkhu and Brahma?"
"There is, Gotama!"
"Then verily, that the bhikkhu who is free from household cares should after death, when the body is dissolved, become united with Brahma, who is the same--such a condition of things is in every way possible!"

12. Buddhism. Digha Nikaya xiii.31-34, Tevigga Sutta

I have breathed into man of My spirit.

13. Islam. Qur'an 15.29

Tevigga Sutta: The Buddha did not himself maintain the existence of Brahma as the supreme God; for no supreme God can be found in Emptiness. Yet the principle at issue is affirmed: the arhat is in the image of Ultimate Reality since the arhat in his own being is empty. Cf. Heart Sutra, pp. 589f. This argument is an example of the Buddha's skill in means, expressing the truth of Buddhism in terms suitable to a Hindu who believes in Brahma.

Let a man always consider himself as if the Holy One dwells within him.

14. Judaism. Talmud, Ta'anit 11b

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

15. Christianity. Bible, Galatians 2.20

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?... For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are.

16. Christianity. Bible, 1 Corinthians 3.16-17

Just as God fills the whole world, so the soul fills the body. Just as God sees, but is not seen, so the soul sees, but is not itself seen. Just as God feeds the whole world, so the soul feeds the whole body. Just as God is pure, so the soul is pure. Just as God dwells in the innermost precincts [of the Temple], so also the soul dwells in the innermost part of the body.

17. Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 10a

The rich build temples to Shiva,
What shall I, a poor man, do?
O my Lord! my legs are the pillars,
My torso, the shrine,
And my head, the golden pinnacle!
Things standing shall fall,
But the moving ever shall stay!

18. Hinduism. Basavanna, Vacana 820

The deity is immanent in man and man is inherent in the deity; there is neither the divine nor the human; there is no difference in essence at all between them.

19. Shinto. Shinto Tradition

Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Self forever dwells within the hearts of all. When a man is free from desire, his mind and senses purified, he beholds the glory of the Self and is without sorrow.

Though seated, he travels far; though at rest, he moves all things. Who but the purest of the pure can realize this Effulgent Being, who is joy and who is beyond joy.

Formless is he, though inhabiting form. In the midst of the fleeting he abides forever. All-pervading and supreme is the Self. The wise man, knowing him in his true nature, transcends all grief.

20. Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 1.2.20-22

Galatians 2.20: With the coming of Christ, divinity entered humanity and humanity became deified. For Christians of the Orthodox faith, the highest goal is divinization, oneness with Christ. As St. Athanasius taught: in Jesus Christ, God became man that man might be drawn back into the divine harmony. Cf. John 14.15-21, p. 645. 1 Corinthians 3.16-17: Every human being is meant to be a holy temple of God. This also applies to the body, which should never suffer defilement; cf. 1 Corinthians 6.13-19, p. 47 2. Vacana 820: Indian temples are traditionally built in the image of the human body, which is the primordial blueprint of the cosmos. In Lingayat Shaivism, the body itself becomes a temple of Shiva in private worship--see Vacana 743, p. 852. Indeed, to overcome the formalization of temple worship, we should return to the living original temple.

This is a wonderful, unique discourse:
The living self is the image of the Supreme Being.
It is neither old nor a child;
Neither it suffers pain, nor in death's snare is caught;
It is not shattered nor dies;
In all time it is pervasive.
It feels not heat nor cold;
Neither has it friend nor foe;
It feels not joy nor sorrow:
All is its own; to it belongs all might.
It has neither father nor mother;
Beyond the limits of matter has it ever existed.
Of sin and goodness it feels not the touch--
Within the heart of each being it is ever awake.

21. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gaund, M.5, p. 868

Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes
Lives in the Self. He is the source of love
And may be known through love but not through thought.
He is the goal of life. Attain this goal!

The shining Self dwells hidden in the heart.
Everything in the cosmos, great and small,
Lives in the Self. He is the source of life,
Truth beyond the transience of this world.
He is the goal of life. Attain this goal!

22. Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.1-2

What is man?

Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science. Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique.

23. Christian Science. Science and Health, 475

Katha Upanishad 1.2.20-22: Cf. Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.10-11, Kena Upanishad 1.1-2, p. 117.

Become fully aware of the true image of man:
Man is spirit,
Man is life,
Man is deathless.

God is the Light Source of man,
And man is the light that came from God.
There is neither light source without light,
Nor light without a light source.
Just as light and its light source are one,
So man and God are one.

God is Spirit; therefore, man is also spirit.
God is Love; therefore, man is also love.
God is Wisdom; therefore, man is also wisdom.
Spirit is not material in nature;
Love is not material in nature;
Wisdom is not material in nature.

Therefore, man, who is spirit, love, and wisdom, is in no way related to matter.

24. Seicho-no-Ie. Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines 48-49

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.

Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.

25. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 93.29-35

Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines: In his expressions Taniguchi, the founder of Seicho-no-Ie, is influenced by Christian terminology. Yet the thought is still rooted in the fusion of Shinto and Buddhist traditions of popular Japanese religion. Doctrine and Covenants 93.29-35: While the human person is essentially spirit or Intelligence, matter and the body also have a positive role. As in the Christian tradition generally, scriptures of the Latter-day Saints teach that Spirit must be enfleshed to produce God's temple, and in order that humans may realize their full purpose.