THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS AND THEIR SCRIPTURES
Judaism and Christianity --- Islam --- Zoroastrianism --- Hinduism --- Sikhism --- Jainism --- Buddhism --- Confucianism --- Taoism --- Shinto --- African Traditional Religions --- Native American Religions --- South Pacific Religions --- New Religions
At this point it is worthwhile to introduce the various religions and their scriptures which are included in this anthology. We will proceed, geographically, from West to East.
Judaism and ChristianityJudaism and Christianity are two monotheistic, ethical religions which share a part of their scriptures in common; the Bible or Tanakh of the Jews is the Old Testament of the Christians. These religions share many common beliefs: (1) there is one God, (2) mighty and (3) good, (4) the Creator, (5) who reveals His Word to man, and (6) answers prayers. Both Judaism and Christianity make (7) a positive affirmation of the world as the arena of God's activity, (8) as the place where people have an obligation to act ethically, and (9) which should be redeemed from injustice. Both believe in (10) a future life, as well as a doctrine of resurrection. Finally, both look to (11) a final consummation of history and (12) the realization of God's complete sovereignty on earth, through the coming of a Messiah or, in the case of modern forms of Judaism, a Messianic age. Besides these similarities of doctrine, Christianity is bound to pay special attention to Judaism because Jesus and his disciples were Jews. They lived as Jews; the Jewish Bible was their Bible, and they criticized Jewish beliefs and practices as reformers from within. Jesus' life and teachings are largely incomprehensible without an understanding of the Judaism of his time.
Although Judaism and Christianity share many common elements in their beliefs, there are also deep differences. First, for Judaism God is one and unique; for Christianity God is one in His nature but there are three persons constituting the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians believe in Jesus, called Christ, the Messiah, who is the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity: therefore adoration is not given to man but to God who became man. Salvation for mankind is entirely the gift of God, through the sacrifice of the second person of the Trinity, who became man and suffered and died in his humanity and became alive again. Christians believe in Christ and in his passion, death, and resurrection; they follow his teachings and example; and after death they expect to share in his glorious resurrection. Judaism, for its part, is no less conscious of God's grace, but it offers sanctification through membership in the Jewish people and by regarding the scriptures as teaching and enjoining a life of holiness. For Jews the Messiah has not yet come, and they still anticipate the coming of the Messiah or Messianic age. Their future hope is an earthly vision of a world of peace and justice. The Christian future hope is expressed by the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ, when evil will finally come to an end and the spiritual blessings already accomplished in Jesus Christ will be manifested substantially in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Both Judaism and Christianity no longer practice the scriptural laws of animal sacrifices. But while for Judaism the mitzvot, the ethical and ritual commandments of the Bible, remain normative, and are elaborated in the Talmud as the halakah or requirements of life, Christianity has regard only for the Bible's ethical teachings--i.e., the Ten Commandments. Christianity emphasizes faith in Jesus Christ, who gives grace, empowerment, and guidance for living the moral life. Judaism teaches a life of holiness through performing mitzvot and emphasizes the importance of adhering to the Bible's standards of social justice as laid down by the Prophets. The two religions have also diverged on the meaning of the Fall of Man; Christianity affirms a doctrine of Original Sin which is not emphasized in Judaism.
These deep differences extend to the way Judaism and Christianity regard their sacred writings. Judaism regards its sacred books as the complete source for all the teachings which God requires of his people for their welfare. For Christianity, the sacred books of Judaism, called the Old Testament, are taken as a preparation for the final revelation that God would make through Christ--a revelation that is written in the books of the New Testament.
Judaism's Bible or Tanakh is made up of the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nebi'im), and the Writings (Ketuvim); its books were written over a period of more than thirteen hundred years of Jewish history, from the time of Moses until several centuries before the common era. The center of this scripture is the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. The book of Genesis contains stories of creation, the Fall of Man, and the lives of the patriarchs Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy recount the Jews' liberation from slavery in Egypt and the revealing of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Prophets include the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings recounting the history of Israel in the days when it was guided by its prophets, and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Habakkuk, Jonah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, etc., which record the words of individual prophets. Among the Writings are the book of Psalms containing prayers and hymns; Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job containing wise sayings, discourses on wisdom, and meditations on the human condition; Lamentations mourning the destruction of the Temple; Song of Songs, where love poetry has long been interpreted as describing the mystical relationship between God and Israel or God and man; and Daniel with its stories of faith in the midst of persecution.
In addition to the Tanakh, a tradition of Oral Torah, passed down to the rabbis of the first several centuries of the common era and codified in the Talmud, which is constituted by the Mishnah and the Gemara, is authoritative for the observant Jew. One may regard the role of Talmud and Midrash--early rabbinic interpretation of scripture--as providing the interpretative perspective for a proper understanding of the Bible. While much of the Talmud and Midrash is devoted to discussions and codifications of law, they also contain passages of universal spiritual and ethical wisdom. The best known collection of the latter is a small tractate of the Mishnah called the Abot or Sayings of the Fathers. Beyond the Talmud and Midrash, Jewish tradition also hallows the books of statutory prayers. The mystical treatise called the Zohar and several other works together constitute the Kabbalah or mystical tradition which has canonical status for many Jews. A number of theological works, notably The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and Shulhan Arukh by Joseph Caro (16th century) are also held in the highest regard.
The Christian Bible includes the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament was the scripture of Jesus and his followers who were themselves Jews. It is identical to the Jewish Bible but with its books in a different order. Christians emphasize the prophetic books above all other parts of the Old Testament, for they are seen to announce the advent of Jesus Christ.
Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include a number of additional books, called deutero-canonical books, in the Old Testament. Notable among them are the wisdom books Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, the stories of Tobit and Judith, and the history of the Maccabean revolt with its stories glorifying martyrdom in I-IV Maccabees. These books circulated among Jews during the last two centuries before Christ and were included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the scriptures. The New Testament is written in Greek; the early Christians largely spoke Greek; and they used the Septuagint as their Old Testament. But these books were not included in the canon of Hebrew scriptures as fixed by the rabbis at Jamnia in 90 a.d. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, when the Reformers returned to the Hebrew rabbinic text as their standard, they omitted these books from their vernacular translations of the Bible--e.g., Luther's Bible and the English King James Version. They are known to Protestants as the Apocrypha. The Roman Catholic Church reaffirmed their status as holy scripture at the Council of Trent (1545-1603), and they remain part of the Orthodox scriptures as well. Most modern translations of the Bible now include them.
The New Testament contains the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The first three "synoptic gospels" have much in common, recording the life and sayings of Jesus, his death, and resurrection. The Gospel of John provides a life of Christ who is portrayed as the mystical source of salvation. The epistles by the apostles Paul, Peter, James, John, and others discuss matters of theology, doctrine, faith, and morals for the early Church of the first century. Paul was the foremost of the apostles, and his writings include the epistle to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Other letters attributed to Paul, and which certainly are indebted to his influence, include Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Acts of the Apostles is a history of the church from the first Pentecost to the evangelical tours of Peter and Paul. The Book of Revelation gives a vision of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ. All the books of the New Testament were written within one hundred years of Jesus' death, although the final decision about which books would be included or excluded from the New Testament canon did not come until the fourth century.
IslamIslam is the third great monotheistic religion which traces its roots back to Abraham, and its teachings show many continuities with the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Islam proclaims Allah, the one God, the Creator, who is sovereign and good, who answers prayers, and who works with mankind in history by calling prophets to proclaim God's word. There is a positive affirmation of the world as God's creation and the arena where people are obligated to act ethically. Islam offers only two choices for mankind: belief or unbelief, God or Satan, with the result that they will attain either Paradise or the fire of hell.
For Islam, the prophets are God's intermediaries to humanity, and Muhammad (c. 570-632) is the Seal of the Prophets. The prophets: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Moses, and many others named and unnamed, delivered God's word to diverse peoples. They each had specific missions, but their messages are ultimately one: submit the self to the will of God. Jesus is one of the prophets--though titled Messiah, he has no distinctive messianic role in the sense that Christians ascribe to him, nor is he in any sense divine. His message and purpose were consistent with those of the prophets before and after him. The Qur'an, revealed to Muhammad, is the perfect and accurate record of God's message by the prophets of every age.
Islam is a religion to be practiced, and five obligations are required of every Muslim--called the Five Pillars: (1) confession of faith in God and in Muhammad as God's messenger, (2) daily prayer at the five appointed times, (3) fasting during the month of Ramadan, (4) paying an alms-tax and giving charity to the poor, and (5) pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and its sacred shrine, the Kaaba. By fulfilling these obligations and remembering God often, the Muslim is assured of God's favor both on earth and at the judgment.
Islam's basic scripture is the Qur'an, which was revealed by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad, who according to tradition was unlettered. Gabriel recited its verses to Muhammad, who in turn taught them to his followers who memorized them and wrote them down on leaves and scraps of paper. They were gathered into the definitive text of the Qur'an within a generation of the prophet's death. The Qur'an has 114 suras, arranged in order of decreasing length. Several interpretations of the Qur'an are available in English, but no true translation: the Qur'an was revealed specifically in Arabic, and a translation into any other language cannot convey the holiness of the Arabic Qur'an.
With regard to the authority of texts beyond the Qur'an, Islam is split into two large sects, Sunni and Shiite. The many Sufi writings, so popular in the West, are not regarded as having the authority of scripture in Islam.
Sunni Muslims revere the Sunnah, the teaching of Muhammad based upon hadith, the traditions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad as recollected and transmitted by his companions. Most of the hadith concern the specifics of Islamic law, but some concern matters of faith, morality, and eschatology. The six great classical compilers of the Sunnah are: Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah--with Bukhari and Muslim the most authoritative. These collections are the fruits of `ilm al-hadith, the Science of Tradition, which established criteria for deciding the reliability of traditions, classifying them as "sound," "good," "weak," or "infirm." The compilations by Bukhari and Muslim, and several secondary collections of hadith based upon the six compilations, are available in English translation. Most notable among them is The Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi, a slim collection of traditions which continues to inspire with its concise expression of the heart of Islamic spirituality. Another authoritative tradition in Islam which has been excerpted for this anthology is the biography of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq, the Sirat Rasul Allah, which survives only in the version edited by his disciple Ibn Hisham.
The Shiite tradition in Islam has its own collections of hadith which differ only in minor details from the Sunni collections, but these do not have the authority of the Sunnah and are not quoted in this anthology. What most distinguishes Shiite Islam is its reverence for `Ali (d. 661), the son-in-law of Muhammad, who became the fourth Caliph and ruled the Muslim peoples for seven years until his death as a martyr. `Ali is regarded as the perfect exemplar of Islam, and his sermons and sayings are collected in the Nahjul Balagha. For Shiite Muslims the Nahjul Balagha is a sacred scripture second only to the Qur'an.
ZoroastrianismThe prophet Zarathustra (c. 1000 b.c.) is the founder of Zoroastrianism. Once the major religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism has had considerable influence on the thought of Christianity and Islam. Yet despite its historical importance, today Zoroastrianism exists only as a remnant. After suffering persecution and expulsion from Iran, the community of practicing Zoroastrians has dwindled to less than one hundred thousand Parsis, most of whom live in the vicinity of Bombay, India.
Contemporary Zoroastrians are monotheistic. They worship one God, Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom, whose various aspects are personified in scripture as the archangels Good Mind, Righteousness, Devotion, Dominion, and others. He is symbolized by the fire, which is at the center of Zoroastrian ritual. Zoroastrianism teaches an ethical dualism; there is a constant battle between a wholly good God and the powers of evil. This struggle occurs within the human breast and necessitates the choice between good and evil. The soul is immortal, and each will receive divine justice according to its deeds in life. But good and evil are not equal: God and Right will ultimately triumph at the end of history. The good life is one of purity, virtue, industry, and benevolence.
The scripture of Zoroastrianism is the Avesta. Among its books, the main liturgical text is called the Yasna. At the core of the Yasna are the Gathas, hymns composed by Zarathustra and his immediate followers, which make up chapters 28-34, 43-51, and 53 of the Yasna. They are at the center of Zoroastrian worship. The other books of the Avesta include the Videvdad, a collection of purificatory laws, the Visparad, a collection of ritual litanies to all spiritual lords, and the Yasht, containing Zoroastrian epic literature. This anthology quotes selections mainly from the Gathas. In selecting suitable translations of their allusive poetry, the editor has favored translations which express their meaning for contemporary believers.
HinduismThe Hindu religious tradition defies description by any simple list of doctrines and practices. Some branches are monistic and see divinity as pervading all reality, some are largely dualistic and posit reality as the interrelation of the divine Spirit (Purusha) and primordial material nature (prakriti), some are monotheistic and revere a personal God, and still others worship the Nameless and Formless God with many names and forms. A Hindu may worship God in the form of Krishna or Shiva, or seek unity with the impersonal Brahman, yet he will regard all these as symbols for one Ultimate Reality. Whether a Vedantist who sees Reality as impersonal or a devotee of the Goddess Durga, he finds sanction for his views in the same scriptures. As it is stated in the Rig Veda: "Truth is one, and the learned call it by many names."
If one might hazard a list of common features of Hindu faith and practice, it might include: (1) Brahman or Ultimate Reality is both personal and impersonal and appears in many forms; (2) it is accessible through a variety of paths (margas): knowledge (jnana yoga), devotion (bhakti yoga), and action (karma yoga); and (3) it is realized by those sages who have attained union or communion with that Reality. (4) On the other hand, creation and the phenomena of worldly life are temporal and partial; they conceal the total Truth and its realization. (5) Hindus further hold the doctrine of karma, which says that each thought, word, and action brings appropriate recompense, thereby upholding the moral government and ultimate justice of the cosmos; and (6) the doctrine of reincarnation, understood as a dreary round of continued suffering or a continuous series of fresh opportunities to improve one's lot. Inequality of endowment and fortune is explained as the working out of karma and not as the result of some discrimination by God. Hindus also uphold (7) the authority of the Vedas; (8) the traditions of family and social life, with its four stages of student, householder, spiritual seeker, and ascetic who renounces all for the sake of spiritual progress and the welfare of all; (9) the four goals of life: righteousness (dharma), economic wealth (artha), pleasure (kama), and spiritual freedom (moksha); and (10) the validity and viability of the ideal social order and its attendant duties, which have degenerated into the caste system. The many sects of Hinduism, with few exceptions, share these features in common. Those Indian faiths which protested several of these features, such as Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, soon became distinguished from the Hindu fold.
Hinduism's long tradition has produced many sacred works. The most ancient and authoritative are the revealed literature (shruti): these are the Vedas that include the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
The four Vedas, the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda, have been transmitted orally from generation to generation for more than three thousand years. They are written in verse and contain hymns, ritual formulae, chants, and prayers. An exact method of traditional Vedic chanting has preserved most of the vedic hymns from corruption. Many of the Vedic hymns are addressed to deified powers of nature which are understood as manifestations of cosmic truth. Some refer to partaking of soma and the horse sacrifice, rituals that are rarely practiced by modern Hindus. Nevertheless, a proper understanding of the ancient Vedas shows them to contain all the essential elements of Hindu thought. It is those Vedic passages of eternal relevance that are excerpted in this anthology. The Brahmanas are prose amplifications of the Vedas. Two of them are quoted in this volume: the Sathapata Brahmana and the Tandya Maha Brahmana. There are 108 Upanishads, composed at various times (900 b.c. to 200 b.c.); they belong to one or another recension of the Vedas or Aranyakas. Etymologically, "upanishad" means "sitting near," and the Upanishads record the philosophical and mystical teachings given by the ancient sages as they sat surrounded by their disciples. The commentaries of Shankara (d. 750 a.d.) highlighted eleven principal Upanishads: the Isha, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Svetasvatara. The Maitri Upanishad is also regarded as significant by many authorities. A few Upanishads such as the Svetasvatara may be interpreted in a predominantly monotheistic sense as teaching devotion to a personal God, but the general trend of the Upanishads is to identify Reality as supra-personal Brahman, who is "not this, not that"--beyond any particular description, and is one with the Atman or universal Self residing in the heart of each person. They teach that liberation is to realize the Atman within while transcending the ego-self that is identified with the psycho-physical organism, its actions and desires. The most widely known Hindu scripture is the Bhagavad Gita. Composed several centuries before the beginning of our era, it is but one book of the great epic the Mahabharata. However, the authority and influence of the Bhagavad Gita is such that it is usually raised to the status of an Upanishad. It has been called "India's favorite Bible," and with its emphasis on selfless service it was a prime source of inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi. Sharing many affinities with the older Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita sanctions several paths for realizing the highest goal of life. But it is also distinctively monotheistic, teaching that devotion (bhakti) is the supreme way to approach God and receive His grace. Other later Hindu texts are called sacred traditions (smriti), of lesser authority than the shruti. These include the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Episodes from these epics are familiar to every Indian school child, and they provide the themes of countless popular dramas and movies. The Ramayana recounts the story of Rama, who is an avatar or incarnation of Vishnu, and his wife Sita. It exalts the ideals of family life as superior to claims of rule and wealth. Rama obeys his father even though it means giving up his kingdom and dwelling in the forest. Then, when Sita is abducted by the evil demon-king Ravanna, Rama must go through many trials until he can mount an expedition to defeat Ravanna and regain his wife. Sita's perfect virtue is manifest as she faithfully goes into exile with Rama and later preserves her chastity during the captivity under Ravanna. The Mahabharata recounts the civil war between the clan of the Kauravas, led by the evil Duryodhana and his cohort Karna, against the Pandavas who are championed by Arjuna and Krishna. Krishna is, like Rama, an avatar of Vishnu (the name used by Vaishnavas to designate the One God) under human conditions and limitations, but in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita he reveals his transcendental form to Arjuna. Throughout the epic the virtues of courage, devotion to duty, and right living are extolled. Another group of smriti texts are the collections of dharma, duty or law as it relates to members of society. The Laws of Manu is the most important of these, and we also include excerpts from the collections of Narada, Vasishtha, and Apastamba. Regarding the laws in these collections, the editors have chosen to avoid those controversial matters relating to the caste system. Despite the Vedic origins of varnashrama dharma, the degenerate caste system is probably the one feature of Hinduism which is repudiated by most modern Hindu reformers and intellectuals. This is in keeping with the aim of World Scripture, to accentuate the positive features of religion. The Puranas are medieval collections of laws, stories, and philosophy which largely reflect the teachings of older scriptures but also illustrate them with concrete stories and examples. They are enormously influential in the popular religious expressions of modern India. The most well-known of these is the Srimad Bhagavatam or Bhagavata Purana, the scripture of Krishna's life and teachings, his childhood exploits, and his love of the adoring cowherd girls, which is central to the religion of Vaishnavite Hindus. Another Vaishnavite scripture, the Vishnu Purana, contains a prophecy about Kalki, a future avatar. The Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, and Linga Purana are among the scriptures of Shaivism. The Garuda Purana and Matsya Purana contain descriptions of the afterlife and the effects of karma on a person's destiny. The Markandeya Purana contains a story of a king whose compassionate attitude closely resembles that of a bodhisattva, and a description of the victory of the Goddess Durga, a popular Hindu deity. Many other Puranas exist, and more are still being written, adding to the fascinating variety of India's religious landscape. Tantras are manuals of religious practice. Tantrism in both Hinduism and Buddhism uses yogic techniques, symbolic ritual, and the transmutation of ordinary desire in order to transcend all desires by identification with Ultimate Reality. This last feature has given Tantrism a scandalous reputation for purportedly licentious rites, but in fact all genuine Tantric practice requires as a prerequisite mastery over ordinary desires by total ascetic self-control. These texts are represented here by the Kularnava Tantra.
Hindu philosophers, saints, and poets have produced a voluminous literature which is largely beyond the scope of an anthology limited to scripture. We mention the sutras, and their commentaries laying out the six orthodox philosophical systems (darshanas): Vedanta (the Brahma Sutra of Badarayana and commentaries by Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva), Yoga (the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, and Purva Mimansa. These texts delve into specialized realms of philosophy; in large measure, the religious content of these systems is already covered by the Vedas and Upanishads upon which they heavily draw.
We also cannot do justice to the literature of the medieval saints who expressed their devotion to Shiva or Vishnu in dance, poems, and love songs in the vernacular languages of the many states of India. In Tamil-nadu the Nayanars adored Shiva and the Alvars sang of Vishnu: chief among them was Nammalvar who wrote of the devotee as a woman totally immersed in love with her husband Vishnu. Of Hindi poets the foremost was Kabir, whose poetry joining Hindu and Islamic Sufi concepts has become an enduring source of wisdom for all Indians; we meet some of his verses as they have been incorporated in the Sikh scriptures. Others include Tulsidas, who wrote the Hindi version of the Ramayana, and Jayadeva, whose Gita Govinda, a poem in Sanskrit describing the love of Radha and Krishna, is widely performed in temple dances. These and countless other saints continue to express the Hindu tradition in forms that are ever new.
Of these devotional movements, the Lingayats of Karnataka province in southwest India are worthy of special mention because of their distinctive beliefs and reforming spirit. The Virashaiva movement, founded by Basavanna (12th century a.d.), rejected the caste system, disputed the authority of the Vedas, opposed image-worship, and taught a personal religion of devotional monotheism that dispensed with temple and priesthood. Basavanna's reforms have justly been compared to those of Martin Luther. His Vachanas are venerated as scripture.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with about twenty million adherents. It teaches devotion to God and denial of egoism as the basis for the good life. A relatively modern religion, it was born in the fifteenth century in the Punjab in northern India under the inspiration of Guru Nanak. He and the four Gurus who followed him sought to cut through the differences between Hindus and Muslims and among castes, teaching that inner intention and purity of devotion, not doctrine or social status, are the measure of a person before God. Each of these Gurus spoke as a reformer within his own community, as a Hindu among Hindus and a Muslim among Muslims; their intention was to reform from within, though now they speak to us as founders of an independent religion. For under the pressure of persecution, Sikhism developed under the last five Gurus into a distinct religious community with its own code of conduct and distinctive forms of dress.
The writings of the first five Gurus were compiled by Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, into the Adi Granth. The tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, ended the succession of Gurus and invested the Adi Granth as the Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal living Guru. Since then, the Guru Granth has been the object of ultimate sanctity and the source of sacred inspiration; it is the highest authority for the Sikhs.
The Adi Granth is a collection of verse compositions, grouped together into ragas, the musical meters according to which they are sung. The pagination is standardized in the Punjabi text, along with notation indicating which Guru authored the verse: M.1 indicates verses of Guru Nanak; M.2, those of Guru Angad; M.3, those of Guru Amar Das; M.4, those of Guru Ram Das; M.5, those of Guru Arjan Dev; and M.9, of Guru Tegh Bahadur. In line with the expansive spirit of the Gurus, the Adi Granth also contains verses from Hindu and Muslim poets of that age such as Kabir, Ravidas, Surdas, Farid, and Ramanand.
Jainism is the religion of about ten million people in India, with its own distinctive scriptures, history, and a long philosophic tradition. Although a part of the greater Indian culture, Jainism, like Buddhism, is a non-Vedic religious tradition, rejecting the authority of the Vedas, Upanishads, and other Hindu scriptures and their deities. Noted for its rigorous asceticism, Jain thought has influenced the greater Indian culture especially through its doctrine of ahimsa, non-injury to all living beings. Jainism teaches a strict doctrine of karma, which binds a person to suffer rebirth and retribution for all evil actions. A person must therefore liberate himself or herself from the fetters of karma by taking a vow of asceticism and thenceforth avoiding all violence in deed, in word, and in thought. All passionate desire begets violence, and is itself the result of the karmas of a deluded consciousness which must be eliminated. Jainism does not accept a creator God or personal God; instead each person has within himself or herself the potential to realize perfection and become a paramatman, a soul freed from all karmic fetters and able to reach the highest point in the universe.
Mahavira, born Nataputta Vardhamana (599-527 b.c.), realized this perfection and became a Tirthankara, the Fordfinder, who discovered the Path to salvation. A near contemporary of the Buddha, he is twenty-fourth in a long succession of Tirthankaras extending back to Rishabhadeva of the Vedic period. Popular Jainism venerates him to the point of worshipping him as a divine source of grace, thus adding a personal, devotional element absent from Jain philosophy.
There are two branches of Jainism, divided over whether a monk may or may not wear clothing: the Shvetambaras allow clothes and the Digambaras demand total nudity, as they each believe was the practice of Mahavira.
The canon of Jain scriptures (agamas) begins with the sermons of Mahavira, written down by his disciples in ancient languages of Ardhamagadhi and Shauraseni Prakrit, called Purvas. The oldest of these, however, have been lost, and thence the two Jain communities reconstructed different canons from the collections of surviving scriptures, now written in Prakrit and Sanskrit.
The scriptures according to the Shvetambara Jains are composed of twelve limbs (angas) and 34 subsidiary texts (angabahya). The first limb is the Acarangasutra, which contains laws for monks and nuns and the most authoritative biography of Mahavira. The Sutrakritanga is the second limb and contains Jain doctrines expounded through disputes with other Hindu and early Buddhist teachings. Among the angabahya the best known is the Uttaradhyayana Sutra, an anthology of dialogues and teachings believed to be the last sermon of the Mahavira, and the Kalpa Sutra, containing biographies of the Jinas. Other scriptures of the Shvetambara canon include the Upasakdasanga Sutra, Dashavaikalika Sutra, and Nandi Sutra.
The Digambara Jains believe that most of the original Purvas have been lost and dispute the authenticity of the Shvetambara scriptures. To the small surviving portion of the ancient Purvas they add a large number of scholastic expositions (anuyoga). These expositions constitute the scriptures of the Digambara tradition. Among them are the writings of Kundakunda (1st century a.d.): the Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; the Anupreksa of Kartikeya (2nd century a.d.), and the Samadhishataka of Pujyapada (6th century a.d.). The Tattvarthasutra of Umasvati (2nd century a.d.) is a systematization of Jain doctrine into concise aphorisms in the style of the Hindu Vedanta Sutras; its Digambara commentaries include the Sarvarthasiddhi of Pujyapada, the Tattvartharajavartika of Akalanka (8th century a.d.), and the Tattvarthaslokavartika of Vidyanandi (9th century a.d.). The Tattvarthasutra is recognized as authoritative, with only minor differences, by both Digambara and Shvetambara sects. Another exposition which is accepted by both sects is the Sanmatitarka by Siddhasena (5th century a.d.), a treatise on logic concerned with establishing the simultaneous validity of several viewpoints on reality. Surviving fragments of the Purvas spawned commentaries such as the Gomattasara of Nemichandra (950 a.d.) and the Jayadhavala by Virasena (820 a.d.). Legends and biographies of saints are found in the Adipurana of Jinasena (9th century a.d.); their praises are sung in the Dvatrimshika of Siddhasena; while the Aptamimamsa of Samantabadhra (5th century a.d.) gives philosophical arguments for the Jina's perfection, omniscience, and purity. The Mulacara of Vattakera (2nd century a.d.) contains monastic rules comparable to those in the Acarangasutra, while the Ratnakarandasravakacara of Samantabadhra and the Sagaradharmamrita of Ashadhara (13th century a.d.) provide ethical instruction for lay people. This listing does not nearly exhaust the selection of anuyoga cited herein. Among the extra-canonical works, we include several passages from the Nitivakyamrita of Somadeva (10th century a.d.), a Jain classic on polity.
BuddhismThe Buddha, born Siddhartha Gautama (c. 581-501 b.c.), taught in India, where Buddhism flourished for nearly fifteen hundred years and where most of its basic scriptures were written. There Buddhism evolved into many schools, of which two major branches survive: Theravada Buddhism which spread to Sri Lanka and throughout Southeast Asia, and Mahayana Buddhism which spread northward to Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, and Japan. Eventually Buddhism would nearly disappear from India, and these two branches thence developed independently until this present ecumenical age.
Theravada Buddhism, the "teaching of the elders," claims to preserve the original teaching of the Buddha. It teaches the ideal of the arahant (Skt. arhat), one who has achieved liberation from all fetters of selfhood and craving. The goal of liberation, Nibbana (Skt. Nirvana), can be reached through self-purification and proper understanding of the Dhamma (Skt. Dharma), which is specifically the Four Noble Truths: (1) all existence is dukkha, suffering: we must inevitably live with things we dislike and separate from things we like; (2) suffering is due to grasping for existence and craving (tanha) for the pleasures of sense and mind; (3) the cessation of suffering comes with giving up all craving and grasping; and (4) the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path. This path to salvation requires constant practice and training; there is no appeal to divine grace.
More important than ascetic practices, which can be counterproductive by promoting a false sense of pride, is the realization that the self has no reality; it is a mirage born of conditioning and is, like the body, impermanent. As there is no self, also there is no God in the sense of a Being with whom one could identify his Self (as in the Hindu Atman). Buddhism demotes the Hindu deities to the level of spirits, conditioned by their own past lives as human beings and hence liable at some time to be reborn; they are not yet liberated.
The path of the monk, who has abandoned ties with worldly life, greatly facilitates progress towards the ultimate goal. Lay people generally pursue the more modest goal of gaining merit by ethical living and contributing to the welfare of the order of monks. Yet the Theravada tradition has its lay saints who achieved the highest meditative states and became wholly enlightened.
The Theravada scriptures are written in Pali, a language formerly of northwestern India; with the advent of Buddhism Pali became the common language among the Buddhist monks of South Asia. The canon of Theravada scriptures is called the Tipitaka (Skt. Tripitaka) or Three Baskets, and they are divided as follows: the Vinaya Pitaka, collections of rules and precepts for the order of monks; the Sutta Pitaka, discourses and dialogues of the Buddha; and the Abhidhamma Pitaka, scholastic and philosophical treatises. Most of the passages selected from the Tipitaka for this anthology are taken from the books of the second basket, the Sutta Pitaka.
The most well-known and widely quoted scripture among them is the Dhammapada or Verses of Righteousness. A book of pithy sayings on Buddhist practice and ethics, it has been called the Buddhist counterpart to the Bhagavad Gita, and it is a basic text for the education of school children in Theravada Buddhist countries. Another basic text is the Khuddaka Patha or the Short Section; it is layman's prayer book containing a simple catechism, precepts, and teachings. Three other important books containing material stemming from the Buddha himself are the Sutta Nipata, the Udana, and the Itivuttaka. They contain short, often rational teachings by the Buddha about the way to the liberation on leading a life of balance and self-control, and condemnations of prejudice and traditionalism. The Theragatha and Therigatha are verses describing the experiences of early monks and nuns, and the Petavatthu is a book of stories of ghosts and spirits: these are among the 15 books comprising the division (nikaya) of the Sutta Pitaka called the Khuddaka Nikaya.
The remainder of the Sutta Pitaka contains texts organized by divisions: the Digha Nikaya, long, mainly narrative discourses; the Majjhima Nikaya, medium length discourses on the application of Buddhist teaching or dhamma; the Samyutta Nikaya, prescriptions on Buddhist life connected by subject; and the Anguttara Nikaya, numerically arranged discourses.
Beyond the Pali Tipitaka are semi-canonical works of wide acceptance: from the Jataka stories of Buddha's previous lives, the Visuddimagga or Path of Purification by Buddhaghosa, and the Questions of King Milinda where the Greek King Menander (2nd century b.c.) inquires of the Buddhist sage Nagasena. We have made use of the traditional biography of the Buddha, the Buddhacarita by Ashvaghosha (c. 100).
Mahayana Buddhism, the Great Vehicle, is divided into many schools, each with its own favorite scriptures. These schools concur with most of the fundamental doctrines found in Theravada Buddhism (which it calls the shravaka-vehicle), including the doctrines of no-self and the conditioned nature of worldly reality. But many Mahayana schools identify an eternal, transcendent reality, Tathata (Suchness), the Truth or Law which governs this Universe. For the enlightened, everything is considered as a manifestation of this Truth; within human beings it is present as the Buddha Nature, the pure Mind, which is realized as one develops on the path to Buddhahood. Suchness is by no means a Creator God in the sense of Western religions; from the Buddhist point of view the word "God" is too often loaded with connotations from other traditions to be helpful for understanding Buddhism. Nevertheless, we find that Mahayana Buddhism contains doctrines of Ultimate Reality and grace that are absent from the doctrines of the Theravada school.
In addition, Mahayana Buddhism teaches the ideal of the bodhisattva (the "Bodhisattva-vehicle"), the man of great compassion who gives himself for the liberation of all beings. The absence of the reality of self means that all things are interrelated and indivisible, hence the salvation of the individual is inseparable from compassion for others. A third distinctive feature of Mahayana Buddhism is that certain great Bodhisattvas, which we may regard as the symbolic manifestations of the Buddha's perfections of wisdom, morality, charity, and compassion, are worshipped on the popular level as spiritual benefactors. In popular Buddhism Kuan Yin (Jap. Kannon; Skt. Avalokitesvara), Amitabha Buddha, Samantabhadra, and other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are worshipped and entreated for grace and succor.
The vast Mahayana collections of scriptures are written in Sanskrit and collected in Chinese and Tibetan Tripitakas. Each of the several Mahayana schools of Buddhism venerates certain particular canonical scriptures, supplemented by texts from the founders of the school. Yet despite the proliferation of schools, all of them share a common core of belief and practice, and hence there is much repetition in content among the various scriptures. Most Mahayanists also accept the authority of the texts in the Pali canon.
Among the most beloved of Mahayana scriptures is the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-Pundarika). It teaches the doctrine of the One Vehicle, which promises that regardless of their particular sect and way of Buddhist practice, all beings will surely attain Buddhahood. It contains the doctrine of the eternal cosmic Buddha, whose abundant and universal grace is the source of this salvation. Furthermore, the Buddha's salvation is available to all through faith in the Sutra--the emphasis on faith has led some Christian scholars to liken the Lotus Sutra to the Gospel. This sutra is especially central to the Chinese T'ien-t'ai (Jap. Tendai) school and the several sects inspired by Nichiren (1222-1282) in Japan.
Buddhists of the Pure Land schools, including in Japan the Jodo Shu founded by Honen and the Jodo Shinshu founded by Shinran, rely on the grace of Buddha Amitabha or Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Light, to bring them into the Western Paradise (Sukhavati). Their total reliance on grace, to the exclusion of human efforts which are condemned as a form of self-seeking, is comparable to Lutheran Protestantism. The scriptures of the Pure Land schools include the two Sukhavativyuha Sutras, which describe the vows of Buddha Amitabha to lead all people to that Pure Land, and the Meditation on Buddha Amitayus (Amitayur Dhyana Sutra).
The Garland Sutra (Avatamsaka Sutra) is the scripture of the Chinese Hua-yen (Jap. Kegon) school. It is a vast collection full of rich imagery and containing a wide range of teachings. Among them: Buddha is presented as a cosmic principle and a manifestation of that principle, representing Enlightenment itself; all things, all causes, all effects, are interdependent and interpenetrating and should not be regarded from a partial viewpoint; and the career of the bodhisattva is represented as spanning ten stages of ever expanding awareness, inner peace, and compassion for all other beings. The Gandhavyuha Sutra, the thirty-ninth book of the Garland Sutra, sometimes stands on its own. It describes the journeys of a seeker who travels all over India receiving religious advice from fifty-five teachers from all walks of life and ultimately realizes the highest truth.
The sutras on the perfection of wisdom (prajnaparamita) are widely studied. This literature comprises sutras of various lengths: from the short Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita-hridaya Sutra), which takes up less than one page, to massive sutras in 18,000, 25,000 and 100,000 verses. The earliest and most formative for all the wisdom schools is the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines (Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra), which deals with the doctrine of Emptiness (Sunyata) and the path of the bodhisattva who "courses in perfect wisdom" to realize the six perfections. Perhaps the most famous wisdom sutra is the Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra). Its brief and paradoxical utterances which confound ordinary logic lead one to a deeper apprehension of Emptiness.
Out of this tradition arose the meditation (Chin. Ch'an, Jap. Zen) schools of Buddhism, comprising those which teach a gradual enlightenment--the Japanese Soto Zen school--and those which emphasize sudden enlightenment--the Rinzai school which was popularized in the West by Suzuki Daisetzu. Ch'an was much influenced by Taoist naturalism, and this has shaped Zen practice and the Zen ethos in Japan as well. The classic Chinese expression of Ch'an is the Sutra of Hui Neng, also called the Platform Sutra, by Hui Neng the sixth Patriarch (638-713) and founder of the school of sudden enlightenment. This sutra's main teaching is the identity of each person's original mind with Buddha nature. Sudden Zen employs the koan. These are pithy and paradoxical statements which teach emptiness by confounding the intellect, forcing the student back on his own direct apprehension of Reality. The student may only gain entry into truth by intuition, never by logic, and thence he may experience insight (Jap. satori) corresponding with the Buddha's enlightenment. This anthology includes selections from the collection of koans known as the Mumonkan or Gateless Gate. It is a commentary on a group of forty-eight koans compiled by Wu-men Hui-k'ai (Jap. Mumon Ekai) of Sung dynasty China. The Lankavatara Sutra is a philosophical source for much of Zen doctrine; it teaches that false discriminations of subject and object occur because of the seeds of defilement which accumulate in the subconscious mind; in reality all discriminated entities are empty; they are nothing but creations of our mind.
A vast compendium of Buddhist teachings which is little known in the West is the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, whose main theme is the Buddha nature which is full of compassion and transcends the impermanent world of activity. Better known is the Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti, in which a lay bodhisattva shows himself superior at argument and possessed of more supernatural powers than a congregation of Buddha's greatest disciples. It teaches that one may aspire to Buddhahood while living in the midst of the world--to be in the world but not of the world. This teaching is fundamental to Nagarjuna's approach, where samsara and nirvana are equated: in other words, nirvana is not a goal in the future but can be actualized in the present. In the Surangama Sutra Buddha teaches one disciple who nearly falls into lust the way to control the mind and hence to progress towards Enlightenment. In the Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala a woman lay follower evinces deep insight as she teaches about the Original Mind which is inherently free of defilement. The Golden Light Sutra (Suvarnaprabhasottama), popular in Japan, includes teachings on political theory. The Sutra of Forty-two Sections is a popular ethical text inspired by Theravada teachings.
In Tibet, the great teachers of Mahayana Buddhism: Nagarjuna, Shantideva, Aryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dharmakirti, and others, are venerated as great bodhisattvas, and among Tibetan Buddhists their writings are frequently quoted as scripture. The works of the founders of the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism: Gyalwa Longchenpa, Sakya Pandita, Milarepa, and Lama Tsongkhapa, are also venerated. World Scripture includes excerpts from the works of the above authorities which are available wholly or partly translated into English, in particular Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamaka Karika and Precious Garland and Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Bodhisattvacharyavatara). Nagarjuna was a formidable logician who gave the foundational philosophical expression to the doctrine of sunyata and to the identity of samsara and nirvana. Shantideva's work expresses the ethic of the aspiring bodhisattva, who lives in the world unattached to self while doing gracious deeds for the sake of others.
Buddhism in Tibet includes both orthodox Mahayana doctrine and esoteric Vajrayana doctrine with its Tantric practices. Tantric practice, as in Hinduism, uses yogic techniques, symbolic ritual, and the transmutation of ordinary desire in order to transcend all desires by identification with Ultimate Reality. The Hevajra Tantra, Kalacakra Tantra, and Guhyasamaja Tantra are excerpted here; also included is the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol) which contains instructions for the soul on its journey into the next life.
ConfucianismThe religious world of China can be described as a complex blending of many currents. The indigenous religion, characterized by reverence for ancestors and striving for harmony with the forces of nature, was elevated on the one side by the ethical ideals of Confucianism and on the other by the mystical ideals of Taoism. With the introduction of Buddhism, which after some conflict, harmonized with the older Chinese traditions, it could be said that the traditional Chinese spirit became a blend of the Three Teachings (san chiao): Confucianism in matters of education and ethics; Taoism in regard to personal enlightenment as well as when threatened by sickness or bad fortune; and Buddhism in regard to death and the afterlife--these in addition to the traditional sacrifices offered to the departed of the family and nature spirits. Modern western influences on China, both through Christianity and Communism, have yet to be fully integrated wit h this rich tradition. Because China's religious traditions are so interwoven in the Chinese soul, it may be misleading to discuss Confucianism or Taoism as independent religions, though this is how they are customarily treated in the West.
Confucianism is a system mainly of ethical relations, defining values of family life and the administration of the state. It also incorporated the traditional Chinese veneration of ancestors and engendered a cult of Confucius as the official patron of education and culture. Confucius (551-479 b.c.) himself was a reformer who sought to lift up the most humane elements in existing traditions of government and social life. He urged his students to pursue an ideal of conduct, which he refereed to as the way of the gentleman or the superior man. The superior man is sincere, filial toward his parents, loyal to his lord, adheres to social and religious forms (li), practices reciprocity--the Golden Rule, and has a broad knowledge of culture. Most of all, he is humane (jen) towards his relations, friends, and associates. Based on the obligations of filial piety and the ethic of humaneness, society is ordered according to the Five Relations: sovereign and subject, father and son, elder brother and younger brother, husband and wife, and friend and friend. Yet it can hardly be said that China as a whole has always lived up to Confucius' teaching.
The ruler especially should be endowed with the virtues of the superior man, and rule by example, rather than by force. A king who governs by raw force does not deserve the name. A government that does not have the support of the people will lose the Mandate of Heaven and will inevitably be overthrown; hence there can be justification for revolution.
Confucius said little about divinity, but Confucianism has a religious side with a deep reverence for Heaven and Earth, whose powers regulate the flow of nature and influence human events. The cosmology of yin and yang predates both Confucianism and Taoism, and is incorporated into both. The ways of man should conform to the principles of the cosmos, or else they will be frustrated. Therefore the Confucianist may consult the I Ching, divining the changes in these natural forces in order to guide his life properly. There is profound respect for nature, for all the myriad things partake of Principle that is also the basis for a sincere mind.
The canonical scriptures of Confucianism are the Five Classics and the Four Books. The Five Classics are, with some exceptions, the ancient sources which Confucius himself studied, from which he drew his teachings, and upon which he left his interpretive stamp. The Book of Songs (Shih Ching) contains ritual and mythic odes, love songs, and songs describing political life of China's ancient rulers from the tenth to seventh century b.c.e. The Book of History (Shu Ching) contains speeches and decrees attributed to the early Chou dynasty (1122-722 b.c.), especially surrounding the reigns of the Confucian culture heroes: Kings Wen and Wu and the Duke of Chou. The Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch'un Ch'iu) are chronicles of the state of Lu. The Book of Ritual (Li Chi) is a compilation of materials dealing with rites and proper social forms, expressing the conviction that adherence to rules of social and ritual propriety is an outward reflection of inner sincerity and uprightness.
The I Ching, (Book of Changes), is canonical for both Confucianism and Taoism, but of its many ancient recensions only the version with Confucius' commentary survives as one of the Five Classics. As mentioned above, the I Ching is traditionally used for divination; but its commentaries imbue the book's oracles with Confucian values. Its yin-yang cosmology lies at the root of a metaphysics that has been adopted by Confucianists and Taoists alike. Taoist handbooks on the I Ching emphasize its use as a manual for divination, a guide for meditation and spiritual growth, and as the foundation for systems of medicine, painting, and martial arts.
The Four Books were selected by the Neo-Confucianist scholar Ch'eng I (1032-1107). Together with the commentary by Chu Hsi (1130-1200) they are the standard works of Confucian orthodoxy and the core of traditional Chinese education. They are: the Analects (Lun y), a collection of aphorisms by Confucius himself; the Great Learning (Ta hseh), a foundation text for education; the Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung), a philosophical exposition of Confucian thought; and the Mencius, the work of Confucius' greatest successor (372-289 b.c.). In addition to the Five Classics and the Four Books, we have included selections from the Classic on Filial Piety and some passages on the life of Confucius from the classic of Chinese historiography, the Shih Chi by Ssu-ma Ch'ien (c. 145-85 b.c.).
TaoismThe Taoist viewpoint stands in a complementary relationship to Confucianism, emphasizing the free and easy original nature of the individual, unsullied by social convention, against Confucianism's strenuous efforts to mold society and its emphasis on social forms and ethical norms. The two traditions have coexisted in a balance, complementing each other like male and female, summer and winter, yang and yin. A Confucianist statesmen could retire to the country and find joy in the natural aesthetic fostered by Taoism.
Taoism teaches that the way to a good society is not through educating man to society's norms, but through stripping them away to arrive at a state of nature. The Taoist sages seek mystical identification with the great pattern of nature, the impersonal Tao, through meditation and trance. In attaining union with nature and its Tao, the sage becomes nameless, formless, and simple, yet paradoxically gains the Tao's te, which may be translated "virtue" or "power." By doing nothing (wu-wei) he attains everything because he will spontaneously unite with nature and find his own original self. But to cling to human distinctions and to try and force a certain result is to go out of harmony with the Tao and accomplish nothing. The ideal Taoist ruler should do nothing to encourage wealth or power, for that would just lead to thievery and usurpation. Rather he should "empty people's minds and fill their bellies" in a state of primitive simplicity.
The chief scripture of philosophical Taoism is the Tao Te Ching. It is attributed to the legendary Taoist founder Lao Tzu, who is traditionally believed to have lived slightly before Confucius. Written in a terse and cryptic style, it is difficult to translate, as the many divergent English translations attest. The second Taoist scripture is the Chuang-tzu, whose earliest strata date from the fourth century b.c. Its vivid imagery, in parables and metaphorical tales, contains the essence of early Taoist thought.
A chief emphasis of Taoism is the pursuit of long life. In the popular mind, Taoist sages are thought to have attained longevity and to have become virtually immortal. Institutional Taoism--in contrast to the philosophical Taoism of the texts described above--promoted systems of inner hygiene that have become popular throughout the Orient: through proper diet and exercise and by regulating breathing one opens the inner channels of the body to nature's vital forces. The achievements of Chinese medicine and the various schools of martial arts are all practical outgrowths of Taoism and rely upon Taoist science and metaphysics. Taoism also includes a vast canon of mystical and ritual texts, most of them unavailable in English. There is a pantheon of Taoist deities, immortals, and ancestors from whom people may seek favors and beseech expiation for their sins. Taoist texts often emphasize divine rewards and punishments which affect both one's lifespan and destiny in the hereafter. In this anthology, popular religious Taoism is represented by two ethical tracts: the Treatise on Response and Retribution (T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien) and the Tract of the Quiet Way (Yin Chih Wen).
ShintoShinto is the indigenous religion of the Japanese people. It coexists with Confucianism and Buddhism, and the three religions are intertwined, molding Japanese culture, ethics, and attitudes towards life and death. Shinto is centered on the worship of the myriad deities called kami. The kami embody what is numenous, or spiritual. They include the spirits embodied in natural objects and phenomena--wind and thunder, sun, mountains, rivers and trees; ancestral and guardian spirits of the nation and of its clans--especially the Imperial family; and the spirits of national heroes and people who have contributed to civilization. Chief among the kami is Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess and patron deity of Japan. In spite of this polymorphism, the kami operate harmoniously for the world's benefit, and hence they are often regarded as a collective whole and may be referred to by some authors as "God." Unlike western religions, there is not a great distinction between man, nature, and the deities; man is endowed with life and spirit from the kami and his ancestors, and finally he becomes a kami. The kami may be revered anywhere, but most worship takes place in shrines, which are usually located in beautiful natural surroundings. Through devotion to the kami, one can be united with them and attain the state of having a bright, clear mind.
Shinto ethics stresses makoto, literally "roundedness," which connotes inner harmony and sincerity. The good is found in sincerity of heart, good will, and cooperation. Evil is to possess an evil heart, selfish desire and hatred, and to cause social discord. Thus, ethics is not defined by a code of commandments; instead it is a matter of inner sincerity and harmonious human relations.
The living Shinto faith is mediated by the shrines and the rituals performed there. Every home has its kamidana, or god-shelf, which is the focus of daily offerings and worship. The local shrine with its annual festival is the focus of the community. More important shrines are visited on special occasions: weddings, New Year's Day, and public holidays. The kagura is danced at the shrines by the miko, female attendants who are a survival of an earlier shamanistic heritage. In Shinto outstanding personages, such as the Emperor, are regarded as ikigami, living kami--meaning that the divine is already manifested in them. It is wrong, however, to equate their status with God in an absolute sense (a mistake that is sometimes made in speaking of the Emperor's "divinity").
Shinto is not a religion mediated by written scriptures. Nevertheless, certain writings are central to Shinto and embody its spirit. The classics of Shinto are the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, which contain the mythology of the kami, the founding of Japan and its imperial line, and the records of the early emperors. Shinto ritual texts excerpted include Engishiki on purification and the Kagura-uta, ritual dances. There are a number of oracles associated with Shinto shrines which have wide influence. The Man'yoshu is a collection of poetry from the Nara period (700-1150).
Later sources of Shinto include poetry and didactic texts: One Hundred Poems about the World (Yo no naka hyaku-shu) by Moritake Arakida (c. 1525), which has been called the "Analects of the Ise Shrine" and is used in children's moral education; Divine Injunctions (Jingikun) by Ekken Kiabara (1630-1714); Records of the Divine Wind (Shinpuki) by Mochimasa Hikita (ca. 1660); One Hundred Poems on the Way of Death (Shido hyaku-shu) by Naokata Nakanishi (1643-1709); and One Hundred Poems on the Jeweled Spear (Tamaboko Hyaku-shu) by Norinaga Motoori (1730-1801).
African Traditional Religions
There are more than one hundred million adherents of the various traditional religions of Africa, North America, South America, Asia, and the South Pacific. While many of these religions are restricted to village and tribal societies, others are vigorous in urban areas, where they offer dimensions of the sacred in the midst of an industrializing society. Some are even expanding to the status of world religions: the Yoruba religion, for example, has more than 30 million adherents and has spread from its homeland in Nigeria to Brazil and the Caribbean where its variants go by the names Candomble and Santeria.
African traditional religion shows belief in a Supreme Being, a transcendent Creator, who is at the same time immanent in His or Her involvement in the lives of human beings and as the Sustainer of the universe. African names for God are built on one or another of God's attributes: as Creator he is called Nzame (Fang), Mu'umba (Swahili), Chineke (Igbo), Ngai (Gikuyu), and Imana (Ruanda-Urundi); as the Supreme Being his name is Oludumare (Yoruba), Mawu (Ewe), and Unkulu-Nkulu (Zulu). As Grandfather or Great Ancestor he is called Nana (Akan) and Ataa Naa Nyonmo (Ga); among the Kalibari she is Opu Tamuno, Great Mother. As Orise (Yoruba) he is the Source of All Being; as Yataa (Kono) and Nyinyi (Bamum) he is everywhere present; Chukwu (Igbo) means Great Providence who determines destinies; Onyame (Akan, Ashanti) means the One who Gives Fullness. As the Spirit of the universe he is Molimo (Bantu); as Heaven or the Spirit of the sky he is called Nhialic (Dinka), Kwoth (Nuer), Soko (Nupe), Olorun (Yoruba); and by the Igbo name Ama-ama-amasi-amasi he is Who is Never Fully Known. Despite the many names and representations of God which vary from one part of Africa to another, the people recognize that they all refer to one Supreme Being, whose dominion extends through the length and breadth of the universe.
Below the Supreme Being, and more immediately felt as influencing human affairs, is a constellation of subordinate deities and ancestral spirits. Human beings depend upon the intercession and activity of good deities and spirits to protect them from disease and misfortunes which are often caused by malevolent powers and spirits. Prayers, offerings, rituals, and an ethical life help gain God's blessing and the assistance of good deities and ancestors. African traditional religions also place great importance on the community. Members of the same village or community are expected to help each other and share each other's burdens, as social solidarity is the norm. The community is held together by its traditions, as expressed in ritual and handed down by elders, priests, shamans, and gifted spiritual leaders.
Native American Religions
Native American religions recognize that the natural world is pervaded by the primary generative spiritual forces. In the Native American world view, all beings are related, both physically and emotionally, and there is no sharp distinction between natural and supernatural entities. This world with its divine powers is symbolized in ritual by the six directions: North, South, East, West, the zenith, and the nadir, and by the living entities which represent them. Hence the zenith is understood as Grandfather (day) Sky, represented by Father Sun and the Thunderbirds; the night sky, especially Grandmother Moon, is understood as female. The nadir is Mother or Grandmother Earth, including all of her aspects which give life and nourishment: Water, Corn Mother, Buffalo Mother, etc. In many modern Native American cultures, the totality of the spiritual forces may be referred to by a single term, examples being K'che Manitou in the Ojibwa language of the Algonquin and Wakan Tanka in Lakot of the Sioux.
The goal of Native American religions is wholeness, to bring individuals, the community, and all their relations (Earth, plants, animals, spirits) into harmonious balance, to complete the circles of life, to walk in beauty. Native American rituals are oriented toward communal wholeness. Thus, the ritual use of tobacco, unique to the Americas, creates communion both among the participants and with the sacred beings to whom tobacco is offered in the sacred pipe. In many rituals, the participants strip themselves to their essential being in order to approach the spirits with humility and openness. Rituals of the sweat lodge, fasting, the sun dance, the vision quest, and those using psychoactive substances all serve to create the means for direct apprehension and communication with spiritual beings. Through these means, individuals develop relationships with spiritual entities that enable them to successfully live their lives for the good of their communities.
Shamanism is widespread in most traditional religions. The shaman is specially gifted with the ability to communicate with the spiritual world. Since the unseen spiritual forces are recognized as in control of many phenomena on earth, a shaman may be called upon to heal physical and mental illness, to ferret out criminals, or to discover the reason for bad luck. The shaman may go into a trance for many hours, accompanied by dancing and the presentation of ritual objects. Other participants may join in the trance as well, as they try to cure the afflicted soul.
South Pacific ReligionsThe traditional religions of the South Pacific are represented by a tradition from Tahiti and a legend of the Maori of New Zealand. Maori and Polynesian legends celebrate the prowess of those ancestors who bested the elements, explored and settled new islands, and won preeminence over their brethren. These heroes sometimes attained their goals through clever ruses, sometimes were adept at magic, and sometimes showed bravery in war. Some emerged as heroes despite low social status; some were impetuous and had to atone for their own mistakes; many had to deal with strife within their own families. Yet underneath is a deep longing for peace and harmony, even though it is rarely attained.
New ReligionsThe new religions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with an aggregate membership of over 130 million people, comprise the fastest growing segment of the religious life on this planet. They demonstrate the continued vitality and freedom of the spirit, which ever seeks to break out of conventional institutional forms. Most of the new religions may be regarded as offshoots of older religious traditions. Although they are often grouped together on sociological grounds, from the viewpoint of their religious content they resemble their parent religions far more than they resemble each other. Some new religions have been accepted by their parent communities as expressions of orthodoxy: for example the Hare Krishna movement is accepted by many Hindus and some of the African independent churches have been reconciled with the leaders of mainline Christianity. Others, like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the followers of Yogi Bhajan, claim that they are continuous with an established world religion despite conflict with its leaders and institutions.
We have alluded previously to the problems of defining scriptures for these new religions. In some cases the founder is still alive and giving messages which have yet to be digested into scripture. Many religions which regard themselves as continuous with their parent tradition utilize the parent tradition's scripture in teaching their doctrines. A few have distinctive texts suitable for inclusion in World Scripture--be they official scripture, an interpretation of an older scripture, the informal record of new revelations, or a collection of the founder's speeches.
First, there are new sects and movements in Hinduism both in India and the West, for example, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Theosophical Society, Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Ananda Marga, Transcendental Meditation, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishna), and movements centering on Meher Baba, Sathya Sai Baba, Bhagwan Rajneesh, and others. Some of these movements are eclectic and controversial in relation to their orthodox traditions, yet to a large extent their teachings are founded upon traditional scriptures which are well represented in World Scripture. For example, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a sect of Vaishnavite Hinduism which relies upon the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam. The same consideration applies to the western missions of Buddhists (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Hsuan Hua), Sikhs (Yogi Bhajan, Kirpal Singh), and Taoists (George Ohsawa, Macrobiotics).
The rapid industrialization of Japan in the last century brought with it the rise of a number of new religions, many of which have missionary presences around the world. Several Buddhist lay movements are offshoots of the branch of Japanese Buddhism founded by Nichiren (1222-1282) and rely upon the Lotus Sutra as their scripture. These include Rissh-o K-osei Kai, whose leader, Nikky-o Niwano, has been much involved in international peace movements, and S-oka Gakkai, founded by J-ozaburo Makiguchi, whose political wing, the Komeito party, is a strong force in the Japanese Diet. Another new religion with Buddhist roots is Agon-shu, which uses the Dhammapada and other Theravada sutras as scripture combined with esoteric Shingon Buddhist practices.
The new religions with Shinto roots have unique scriptures of their own. First among the new religions of Japan was Tenrikyo. Founded by Miki Nakayama (1798-1887), its central scriptures are three collections of her revelations: Mikagura-uta, Ofudesaki, and K-oki. They teach that God, Tsukihi, is the divine Parent who longs for people to purify their minds from defiling "dust" and receive healing power and grace. Tsukihi means Sun and Moon, indicating the union of yin and yang, male and female.
The main sanctuary at Tenri is believed to be at the place of the creation of the world, and in the ritual ten couples dance around the central column of this shrine which symbolizes the central pillar of the earth. The millennium is coming when heavenly dew will descend on the shrine at Tenri and enter the planet's omphalos. Tenriky-o encourages voluntary charitable activity and loving deeds to remove the dust that accumulates on one's character.
Other new religions have combined Shinto with ideas from Christianity, Buddhism, and Shamanism. -Omoto Kyo, The Great Foundation, was founded by Nao Deguchi in 1892. Internationalist from the beginning (i.e., advocating the use of Esperanto), and for a time suppressed by the government, it teaches that God is the all-pervading Spirit, demanding that people work for unity and universal brotherhood. We include excerpts from its scripture Michi-no-Shiori.
Sekai Kyusei Kyo, The Church of World Messianity, was founded by Mokichi Okada (1882-1955), a former staff member of Omoto Kyo who in 1926 received revelations and was empowered to be a channel of God's Healing Light (jorei) to remove illness, poverty, and strife from the world and inaugurate a new messianic age. Okada's teaching is represented by the scripture Johrei, which has been edited and translated by the Society of Johrei, an offshoot of Okada's movement.
The founder of Mahikari, Yoshikazu Okada (1901-1974), was a member of Sekai Kyusei Kyo before receiving his own revelations in 1959 which have been collected into a scripture called Goseigen. The two sects Mahikari and Sukyo Mahikari both practice a nearly identical form of healing called okiyome, in which God's Light (jorei) is focused through a pendant worn by the practitioner called the omitama.
The doctrines of Seicho-no-Ie, that mind is the sole reality and that the body can be healed through faith and mental purification, bear a marked resemblance to those of Christian Science. The teachings of its founder Masaharu Taniguchi, who had also been a member of Omoto Kyo, are represented by the Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Song of the Angel, and Holy Sutra for Spiritual Healing.
Perfect Liberty Kyodan, founded by Miki Tokuharu in 1926, combines elements of Shinto and Buddhism. It worships "the Supreme Spirit of the universe" but also stresses the role of ancestral spirits as part of one's karma. In stressing Life is Art, Perfect Liberty Kyodan draws upon the Buddhist teaching of non-self, by which what is truly authentic in a person comes to spontaneous expression.
[INSERT: New section on Shinreikyo]
Korea, since the 1960s, has seen the emergence of religious movements seeking to rediscover the indigenous Korean religion, that ancient religion which is believed to have prevailed prior to the importation of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. These movements include the Tan Goon Church, named after Tan Goon, the ancestor of the Korean people; the Tae Jong Church, the Han Il Church, the Chun Do Church, and countless small groups of folk religionists. The ancient thought of Korea has been preserved in several scriptures, the most important being the Chun Boo Kyung. This scripture is a chart of 81 Chinese characters, arranged in a square of nine rows and nine columns. The chart is quite cryptic, and its characters can be read in every possible combination of rows, columns, and diagonals. Yet it has yielded extensive interpretations revealing the principle of Heaven which governs man and the cosmos and by which life can pros per. This natural law is expressed by the significant numbers one to ten.
The Baha'i Faith grew out of nineteenth century Islam, and much of its teaching is congruent with traditional Islamic, and especially Sufi, ideas of man's mystic love for and union with God. It departs from Islam, however, with the proclamation that humanity has entered a new age of world unity and that the spiritual impulse for the new age has been given by God's new messenger and messiah, Baha'u'llah. The Baha'i scriptures have been gleaned and assembled from the many letters of Baha'u'llah, his forerunner the Bab, and his first disciples. We have included selections from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, the Book of Certitude (Kitab-i-Iqan), the Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah, and Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Now more than five million strong, there are Baha'i communities in most nations of the world.
Among the Christian-based sects and new religions, many retain the Bible as their scripture, although it is given distinctive interpretation through the revelations to their founders. Among them are the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses, sects born out of nineteenth century American Protestant millennialism which have large missionary presences throughout the world. In the twentieth century, new Christian groups tend to be more charismatic. They include the independent churches in Africa such as the Kimbanguists in Zaire and the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star in Nigeria. The Rastafarians are prominent in the Caribbean.
Other new religions in the Christian family supplement the Bible with their own distinctive scriptural texts. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a membership exceeding seven million, has three revealed scriptures: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Mormon is a translation from golden plates received by Joseph Smith after the visitation of the angel Moroni. It tells the story of God's dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and Jesus' appearances among them. Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations, prophecies, and decrees by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early Latter-day Saint leaders by which the church was constituted. The Pearl of Great Price is a selection of revelations and translations, including translations of certain Egyptian papyri containing writings purported to be by Abraham and Moses and an autobiographical account of Joseph Smith's call. These scriptures teach distinctive doctrines concerning the nature of God, salvation, and the hereafter, and instruct on rituals such as the baptism of the dead and eternal Temple marriages.
The Church of Christ, Scientist relies on Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. It contains her spiritualized interpretations of biblical texts, where she meditated especially on the healing miracles of Jesus. Christian Science teaches that mind is the sole reality, while belief in the reality of matter is an illusion. Disease and death, being properties of matter, are also illusory, and hence disease can be healed through mental power alone.
Other new religions take their inspiration from sources outside of the major world religions. These sources include the traditions of Hermetic philosophy, alchemy, witchcraft, nature religions, spiritualism, astrology, and psychology. In the West there has been a proliferation of New Age and human potential groups, and as a representative of this group, we have chosen passages from the texts of the Church of Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard. His writings describe a systematic psychological technique for purifying the mind from negative influences embedded in the subconscious mind in order to realize a state of "clear" and spiritual freedom.