Reference Material

Below are some of the major doctrines of the world’s largest religions:

CHRISTIANITY

The Greatest Commandments

Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22: 36-40

The Golden Rule

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. [or Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.]

Matthew 7:12

The Ten Commandments

And God spake all these words, saying,

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image … Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 20 and also Deuteronomy 5

 

ISLAM

The Five Pillars of Islam 

The first pillar is the reciting of the creed “There is no god but the One God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Muslims repeat this many times every day, believing that saying this in faith and sincerity is what makes one a Muslim. The second pillar is daily prayer. Muslims must pray five times each day, facing Mecca, the holy city in Saudi Arabia. The third pillar is the giving of alms. Muslims are very concerned about caring for the poor. Set percentages of income are given to aid the impoverished. The fourth pillar is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year and commemorates the giving of the Quran to Mohammed. All faithful Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during this month. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, Ramadan comes at different times each year. The final pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every adult Muslim who is financially and physically able is expected to travel to Mecca once in his or her lifetime in the month of Dhul-Hijah. Various rituals and rites are performed during the time in Mecca.

 

HINDUISM

The Bhagavad Gita

Chapter 2, Verse 56

He whose mind is unperturbed amid calamities, whose longing for pleasures has departed, who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage, a man of steady wisdom.

Chapter 8, Verse 13

Uttering the one-syllabled ‘OM’, symbol of Brahman, thinking of Me, who so departs, leaving the body, he reaches the Supreme Goal.

 

BUDDHISM

Four Noble Truths

After attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha became aware of four profound truths concerning the nature of life. They are:

  • Dukkha (suffering)
  • The causes of dukkha
  • The cessation of dukkha
  • The path leading to the cessation of dukkha

The First Noble Truth

According to Buddha, one of realities of life is that all beings who are caught up in the cycle of existence are subject to dukka.

The Pali word dukkha is loosely translated as ‘suffering’. Although in ordinary usage dukkha means suffering, pain, sorrow, misery, in the First Noble Truth, it has a much deeper and wider meaning, which includes ideas such as unsatisfactoriness, dissatisfaction, frustration, separation, and emptiness. Dukkha permeates our very existence, affecting our body and mind. The body is affected by old age, sickness and death, while the mind is affected by such factors as separation from things and persons one likes, not getting things one desires, being in unpleasant circumstances, etc.

The Second Noble Truth

The principal cause of dukkha, the Buddha said, is due to deep-rooted desires or craving (tanha)) within us. These desires can take many forms; desire for sensual enjoyment, desire for material gain and achievement, desire for continuation, and even desire for self-destruction.

The original text is as follows:

“It is this ‘thirst’ (tanha) which produces re-existence and re-becoming, and which is bound up with passionate greed and which finds fresh delight now here and now there, namely, thirst for sense pleasures (kama-tanha), thirst for existence and becoming (bhava-tanha) and thirst for non-existence (vibhava-tanha)”.

It is this deep-rooted craving that results in our continued existence in the cycle of birth, death and re-birth (samsara)

The Third Noble Truth

The good news is the cessation of dukkha. This state is Nibbana (Nirvana in Sanskrit), which is the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice.

Nibbana is not a place or a realm of heavenly paradise to be attained after death. Neither is it a state of ‘nothingness’. It can be achieved in this life by the total eradication of craving that leads to dukkha. It is to be realised by intuitive understanding of the true nature of our existence. Having eradicated the causes of dukkha, one who has attained Nibbana experiences a state of permanent peace and happiness, and the cycle of existence is brought to an end.

The Fourth Noble Truth

The Fourth Noble Truth is the path that leads to the cessation of dukkha. This is a set of guidelines to be practised in our daily lives that will liberate us from being driven by our cravings and eventually lead to the realisation of Nibbana. This is the Noble Eightfold Path, also known as the Middle Path, which avoids two extremes: one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasures of the senses, the other being the search for salvation through self-mortification, which was a common ascetic practice during the time of the Buddha.

The Noble Eightfold Path

Right Understanding
of suffering
of its origin
of its cessation
of the way leading to the cessation of suffering

Right Intentions
of renunciation, free from craving
of good will, free from aversion
of compassion, free from cruelty

Right Speech
abstaining from false speech
abstaining from malicious speech
abstaining from harsh speech
abstaining from useless speech

Right Action
abstaining from taking life
abstaining from stealing
abstaining from sexual misconduct

Right Livelihood
giving up wrong livelihood, one earns one’s
living by a right form of livelihood

Right Effort
to prevent unarisen unwholesome mental states from arising
to abandon unwholesome mental states that have already arisen
to develop wholesome mental states that have not yet arisen
to maintain and perfect wholesome mental states already arisen

Right Mindfulness
mindful contemplation of the body
mindful contemplation of feelings
mindful contemplation of the mind
mindful contemplation of mental objects

Right Concentration
wholesome one-pointedness of mind

 

JUDAISM

13 Principles of the Jewish Faith (as set forth by Maimonides) 

  1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
  2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
  3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, has no body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that there can be no (physical) comparison to Him whatsoever.
  4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.
  5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, Blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right to pray to any being besides Him.
  6. I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true.
  7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both those who preceded him and those who followed him.
  8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that is now in our possession is the same that was given to Moses our teacher, peace be upon him.
  9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, and that there will never be any other Torah from the Creator, Blessed be His Name.
  10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, knows all the deeds of human beings and all their thoughts, as it is written, “Who fashioned the hearts of them all, Who comprehends all their actions” (Psalms 33:15).
  11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, rewards those who keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
  12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nonetheless, I wait every day for his coming.
  13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, Blessed be His name, and His mention shall be exalted for ever and ever.

 

BAHA’I FAITH

Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, that all humans have been created equal, and that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.

Other …

DESIDERATA

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

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