World Scripture


Reverence for life begins with the recognition that human beings are but one species of living beings. All living beings are God's sacred creations, endowed with spirit, consciousness, and intelligence. Our reverence is heightened by the recognition that the interdependent web of life is wonderfully self-sustaining and productive. We see the results of human depredation of the environment, which have damaged the original balance of nature. This section concludes with texts praising Mother Earth as the Source of life and its great Sustainer and Supporter.

The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein.

1. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 24.1

This earth is a garden,
The Lord its gardener,
Cherishing all, none neglected.

2. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Mahj Ashtpadi 1, M.3, p. 118

Even in a single leaf of a tree, or a tender blade of grass, the awe-inspiring Deity manifests Itself.

3. Shinto. Urabe-no-Kanekuni

Urabe-no-Kanekuni: Shinto is pantheistic and teaches the omnipresence of the kami. It speaks of the yaoyorozu-no-kami, Eight Million Kami, to stress this point. Cf. Nihon Shoki 22, p. 372.

The stream crosses the path, the path crosses the stream:
Which of them is the elder?
Did we not cut the path to go and meet this stream?
The stream had its origin long, long ago.
It had its origin in the Creator.
He created things pure, pure, tano.

4. African Traditional Religions. Ashanti Verse (Ghana and Ivory Coast)

Have you considered the soil you till?
Do you yourselves sow it, or are We the Sowers?
Did We will, We would make it broken orts, and you will remain bitterly
"We are debt-loaded;
nay, we have been robbed."

Have you considered the water you drink?
Did you send it down from the clouds, or did We send it?
Did We will, We would make it bitter; so why are you not thankful?

Have you considered the fire you kindle?
Did you make its timber to grow, or did We make it?
We Ourselves made it for a reminder,
and a boon to the desert-dwellers.

5. Islam. Qur'an 56.63-73

All you under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters.

6. Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta

No creature is there crawling on the earth,
no bird flying with its wings,
but they are nations like yourselves.
We have neglected nothing in the Book;
then to their Lord they shall be mustered.

7. Islam. Qur'an 6.38

God's hand has touched even every small blade of grass which grows in the field.... All creatures we see contain God's deep heart and tell the story of God's deep love.

8. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 6-28-59

I say, "Just as the consciousness of a man born without any sense organs [i.e., one who is blind, deaf, dumb, crippled, etc. from birth] is not manifest, likewise the consciousness of beings of earth-body [e.g., atoms, minerals] is also not manifest. Nevertheless such a man experiences pain when struck or cut by a weapon, and so also do the beings of earth-body. Likewise for water-beings... fire-beings... plants... animals... air beings: their consciousness and experiences of pain are [actual though] not manifest."

9. Jainism. Acarangasutra 1.28-161

Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta: See p. 274n.

Tao gave them birth;
The power of Tao reared them,
Shaped them according to their kinds,
Perfected them, giving to each its strength.
Therefore of the ten thousand things there is not one that does not
worship Tao and do homage to its power. Yet no mandate ever went forth
that accorded to Tao the right to be worshipped, nor to its power the
right to receive homage. It was always and of itself so.

Therefore as Tao bore them and the power of Tao reared them, made them
grow, fostered them, harbored them, brewed for them, so you must
Rear them, but do not lay claim to them;
Control them, but never lean upon them,
Be their steward, but do not manage them.
This is called the Mysterious Power.

10. Taoism. Tao Te Ching 51

Come back, O Tigers!, to the woods again,
and let it not be leveled with the plain.

For without you, the axe will lay it low.
You, without it, forever homeless go.

11. Buddhism. Khuddaka Patha

A horse or a cow has four feet. That is Nature. Put a halter around
the horse's head and put a string through the cow's nose, that is man.
Therefore it is said, "Do not let man destroy Nature. Do not let
cleverness destroy destiny [the natural order]."

12. Taoism. Chuang Tzu 17

They gave the sacrifice to the East,
the East said, "Give it to the West,"
the West said, "Give it to God,"
God said, "Give it to Earth, for Earth is senior."

13. African Traditional Religions. Idoma Prayer

The solid sky, the cloudy sky, the good sky, the straight sky.
The earth produces herbs. The herbs cause us to live. They cause long
life. They cause us to be happy.
The good life, may it prevail with the air. May it increase. May it be
straight to the end.
Sweet Medicine's earth is good. Sweet Medicine's earth is completed.
Sweet Medicine's earth follows the eternal ways. Sweet
Medicine's earth is washed and flows.

14. Native American Religions. Cheyenne Song

Tao Te Ching 51: The Chinese word te, here translated 'power,' may also be translated 'virtue' in the sense of efficacy. This passage can also be taken in a political sense as prescribing the stewardship of good government. Chuang Tzu 17: Cf. Chuang Tzu 10, p. 799. Cheyenne Song: cf. Cree Round Dance, p. 55.

In the land of Yamato there are many mountains;
Ascending to the heaven of Mount Kagu,
I gaze down on the country, and see
Smoke rising here and there over the land,
Sea gulls floating here and there over the sea.
A fine country is this,
The island of dragonflies, this
Province of Yamato.

15. Shinto. Man'yoshu I

On the eastern side of this Himalaya, the king of mountains, are green-flowing streams, having their source in slight and gentle mountain slopes; blue, white, and the hundred-leafed, the white lily and the tree of paradise, in a region overrun and beautified with all manner of trees and flowing shrubs and creepers, resounding with the cries of swans, ducks, and geese, inhabited by troops of monks and ascetics....

16. Buddhism. Jataka

Perhaps if we are lucky,
Our earth mother
Will wrap herself in a fourfold robe of white meal,
Full of frost flowers;
A floor of ice will spread over the world,
The forests because of the cold will lean to one side,
Their arms will break beneath the weight of snow.
When the days are thus,
The flesh of our earth mother will crack with cold.
Then in the spring when she is replete with living waters,
Our mothers,
All different kinds of corn,
In their earth mother we shall lay to rest.
With their earth mother's living waters
They will be made into new beings;
Into their sun father's daylight
They will come out standing;
Yonder to all directions
They will stretch out their hands calling for rain.
Then with their fresh waters
The rain makers will pass us on our roads.
Clasping their young ones [the ears of corn] in their arms,
They will rear their children.
Gathering them into our houses,
Following these toward whom our thoughts bend,
With our thoughts following them,
Thus we shall always live.

17. Native American Religions. Zuni Song

Man'yoshu I: 'Smoke' and 'sea gulls' suggest the plentitude and harmony among man and nature. Cf. Kagura-uta, p. 140; Kojiki 110, p. 1066. Jataka: The mountains, pristine and full of natural beauty, have always been the preferred environment for ascetics, where they may most readily strive to penetrate the Absolute. In Asia, Buddhist monasteries and temples are often associated with nature preserves. Zuni Song: Cf. Cree Round Dance, p. 55; Sioux Tradition, p. 370; Winnebago Invocation, p. 373.

Truth, Eternal Order that is great and stern,
Consecration, Austerity, Prayer, and Ritual--these uphold the Earth.
May she, Queen of what has been and will be,
make a wide world for us.

Earth, which has many heights and slopes and
the unconfined plain that bind men together,
Earth that bears plants of various healing powers,
may she spread wide for us and thrive.

Earth, in which lie the sea, the river, and other waters,
in which food and cornfields have come to be,
in which live all that breathes and that moves,
may she confer on us the finest of her yield....

Set me, O Earth, amidst what is thy center and thy navel,
and vitalizing forces that emanate from thy body.
Purify us from all sides. Earth is my Mother; her son am I;
and Heaven my Father: may he fill us with plenty....

There lies the fire within the Earth,
and in plants,
and waters carry it;
the fire is in stone.
There is a fire deep within men,
a fire in the kine,
and a fire in horses:
The same fire that burns in the heavens;
the mid-air belongs to this divine Fire.
Men kindle this fire that bears the oblation
and loves the melted butter.

May Earth, clad in her fiery mantle,
make me aflame;
may she sharpen me bright....

Whatever I dig from thee, Earth,
may that have quick growth again.
O purifier, may we not injure thy vitals or thy heart....

As a horse scatters dust, so did Earth, since she was born,
scatter the people who dwelt on the land,
and she joyously sped on, the world's protectress,
supporter of forest trees and plants.

What I [Earth] speak, I speak with sweetness;
what I look at endears itself to me;
and I am fiery and impetuous: others who fly at me with wrath
I smite down.

Peaceful, sweet-smelling, gracious, filled with milk,
and bearing nectar in her breast,
may Earth give with the milk her blessings to me.

Thou art the vessel, the Mother of the people,
the fulfiller of wishes, far-extending.
Whatever is wanting in thee is filled
by Prajapati, first-born of Eternal Order [the first god].

May those born of thee, O Earth,
be, for our welfare, free from sickness and waste.
Wakeful through a long life, we shall become
bearers of tribute for thee.

Earth, my Mother! set me securely with bliss
in full accord with Heaven. Wise One,
uphold me in grace and splendor.

18. Hinduism. Atharva Veda 12.1

Atharva Veda 12.1: Vv. 1-3, 12, 19-21, 35, 57-63. Cf. Rig Veda 1.164.49, p. 146; Candi-Mahatmya 10, p. 565.

The earth was once a human being: Old One made her out of a woman. "You will be the Mother of all people," he said.

Earth is alive yet, but she has changed. The soil is her flesh, the rocks are her bones, the wind is her breath, trees and grass her hair. She lives spread out, and we live on her. When she moves we have an earthquake.

After taking the woman and changing her to earth, Old One gathered some of her flesh and rolled it into balls, as people do with mud or clay. He made the first group of these balls into the ancients, the beings of the early world. The ancients were people, yet also animals. In form some looked human while others walked on all fours like animals. Some could fly like birds; others could swim like fishes. All had the gift of speech, as well as greater powers and cunning than either animals or people.

Besides the ancients, real people and real animals lived on the earth at that time. Old One made the people out of the last balls of mud he took from the earth. He rolled them over and over, shaped them like Indians, and blew on them to bring them alive. They were so ignorant that they were the most helpless of all the creatures Old One had made. Old One made people and animals into males and females so that they might breed and multiply.

Thus all living beings came from the earth. When we look around, we see part of our Mother everywhere.

19. Native American Religions. Okanogan Creation

Okanogan Creation: Cf. Aitareya Upanishad 1-3, pp. 306f. Rig Veda 10.90.6-16, pp. 868f; Bhagavad Gita 14.4, p. 148.