No matter what religion that you belong to, whatever faith that you hold as your own, if you spend any amount of time in the scriptures of other faiths, you’ll quickly realize there’s quite a bit of cross over. This isn’t to say that all religions are the same. This may or may not be true depending on who you ask. But what’s hard to dispute is the fact that many of the world’s Faith Traditions can teach us many of the same lessons about who we are, where we come from, and how to live as healthy human beings in a community while on our planet Earth.
You don’t have to believe that all religions are the same to believe that many of the same things are taught by the different religions. In fact, many things that the world faith traditions teach us are essential parts of living in the world as healthy, loving human beings. These, among many others, are a few of those lessons I’ve found during my time reading different world scriptures.
God Is Both Male and Female, Masculine and Feminine
Many of the world scriptures speak of God as primarily male and highlight God’s masculine attributes: strength, omnipotence, power, and justice. And while God certainly is a masculine entity in many of the world faiths, many of those same scriptures also talk about God in the feminine, albeit less frequently.
For example, in the Bible – in which God is continually personified as a man – it also says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image / in the image of God he created him / male and female he created them.” According to the writer of Genesis, God’s Image is both male and female, masculine and feminine. And human beings are created in that same image, male and female, with both masculine and feminine attributes to compliment each other, and to make the wholeness of God inside each and every one of us.
The Gnostics, a synergistic religion between Christianity and Eastern monism, focused heavily on the feminine side of Divinity. In The Thunder, Perfect Mind, a Gnostic poem, the writer speaks as the feminine aspect of God in saying:
I am the first and the last
I am the honored one and the scorned one
I am the wife
I’m the mother and the daughter
I am the members of my mother
I am the barren one, and many are her sons.
To the Gnostics, the feminine side of God is the side of God that could directly experienced. Sometimes they took this so far as to deny many of the masculine aspects of God in lieu of the feminine!
In the Quran, God is definitely a man and is always referred to as such. Yet on multiple occassions it speaks of God’s continuing act of Creation and his active presence in each and every conception and birth. On the one hand he strikes down thousands and millions, and on the other hand he continually births new life into the world through his continued act of Creation. In this, God is both the masculine arbiter of judgement, but also the feminine cultivator of life in every single moment and every single birth.
If we can learn anything from the spectrum of the world’s faiths, it’s that God is both male and female, masculine and feminine, and he or she has both masculine and feminine traits. God is powerful and strong and omnipotent, yet he is also loving, and patient, and nurturing like a mother.
And as such, we should realize that each of us also have masculine and feminine inside of us. And our gender – whichever gender (or combined gender) that may be – plays a vital role in the wholeness of humanity as God has made us in his Image.
Who You Are Is As Important As What You Do
One of the common truths about human beings that many of the world religions teach is that there is a True Self that is beneath the surface level self that presents itself to us.
And what this means is that who we are and what we do are not necessarily the same thing, though some people may tell us otherwise. While it’s tempting to believe that we (and others) are really just the sum of our actions, many of the world religions teach us differently.
In Mencius, one of the Confucian scriptures, it is written ”Benevolence is a man’s heart. Righteousness is a man’s way. Alas! That a man should know not go the way of righteousness nor seek to recover the benevolence of the heart!” According to the Confucians, the True Self of man is one which is benevolent, righteous, and filial. And by cultivating that True Self we can find concordance with Heaven and also peace with other men.
In Colossians the Apostle Paul said that those Christians had “put off the old self with its old practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in the knowledge of the Creator.” In the Prana Upanishad, it’s similarly written that “in the heart dwells Atman, the Self,” and “all things find peace in their inmost self.”
As human beings, not only do we have a True Self beneath our surface-level self, the highest spiritual goal is to come into touch with that True Self and to cultivate it for the benefit of ourselves, our planet, and our fellow human beings.
Now, exactly how to do this is something that the world religions disagree on. But what they all agree on is this: that we are deeper than who we think we are and what we do. And by coming into touch with that True Self, we come in touch with God himself, and that is the highest spiritual goal of the human race.
Your Desires Are Where The Problem Is, But They Can Be Fixed
Human beings’ desires are the source of our thoughts, our feelings, and our impulses. Our desires determine how we think, feel, and act on a day to day basis. And one of the central teachings of almost all the world religions is that human beings’ desires are where the root problem of suffering is to be found and how the problem of suffering is also to be fixed.
In the Dhammapada, the central Buddhist texts, the Buddha says that “the hunger of passions is the greatest disease, disharmony is the greatest sorrow. When you know this well, then you know Nirvana is the greatest joy.” Similarly in Galatians 3:16-18, the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia, “Walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit or against the flesh.”
Now, it’s easy to come away from this with some sort of idea that body = bad, spirit = good. We call this idea “antinomialism”. Antinomialism means all our bodily desires are antithetical to being good humans.
But that’s just not what we should learn from this. How could we survive and do good in the world if we don’t eat, sleep, and drink to maintain our bodies? How could we meditate and pray if we do not take care of our bodies to do them with?
The real takeaway from these verses is that human beings desires, for whatever reason, are just a little off. And many of the things that cause suffering in the world are a result of this disharmony caused by our passions and desires.
But don’t despair! Our desires are not stationary, nor are they irreparable. Each of the world religions prescribes a different method through which two rectify these desires and bring them back into congruence to those Desires of God and to minimize our suffering. And it’s by studying, practicing, or believing these these things we find in the world religions, we can find our desires back in congruence with God’s desires and become a force of good in the world, like we were meant to be from the beginning.
Obey The Laws of the God and Minimize The Suffering
Every religion believes that there is a central Law ordering the universe that God has prescribed for us to live in harmony. Many of these laws and rules are similar across religions. Some are not. But either way, living in congruence with these rules minimizes suffering for ourselves and other human beings.
In the Biblical book of The Psalms, David, King of the Jews, writes that:
The law of Lord is perfect, reviving The soul,Psalm 19:1-11
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making the wise simple…
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous are they
all together more are they to be desired than gold,
even much fine gold,
sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb…
Moreover by them is your servant warned,
and keeping them is their great reward.
David believes that the Law of the God is perfect, and there’s much benefit to be had by obeying it. Not only that, it’s by the Law that David is “warned” when he is taking a path that may not be so good for himself or the Kingdom of Israel.
In the LDS scriptures, it is said that the Latter Day Saints should, “Take the things which thou Hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church;
And He Who does these things shall be safe, and he who does them not shall be damned if he continued.”
The Law of God is central to Islam as well. And each Muslim, according to the Quran, is expected to follow that law and will be rewarded if he or she is faithful.
In Eastern Religions this “law” is often called a “way”. In Daoism, this path of non-resistance and limpidity is called “Dao”. In Confucianism, this path is called “The Mean”, or the Middle Way. Buddhists say that good or bad acts make up our “Karma”. And in all these religions, in living with the principles laid out in their different laws, one can be a loving human being and also a good leader to the people one governs.
The bottom line is this: live in congruence with the God’s Laws and you’ll save everyone a lot of suffering. And while these rules are not always consistent across the world religions – it is consistently debated among religious Scholars what, exactly, these laws are – all the different religions consider the act of a person striving to find this Law of the God and live accordingly to it to be the foundation of a good life.
Rules and Laws Are Important, But They’re Not What It’s All About
That being said, it’s very easy to equate religion with a bunch of do’s and dont’s that take all of the fun out of life. And sometimes with the wrong heart, religions can become this way! But some of the highest religious thinkers of our Faith Traditions teach us that, while rules are important and should be followed, the rules aren’t the most important thing.
The Christian tradition is one of the foremost proponents of this idea. In The Gospel According to Mark, Jesus is purported to have said to some Pharisees that questioned him about the law that they ”have a fine way of rejecting the Commandments of God in order to establish your tradition!” These particular Pharisees we’re very good at following rules. They knew the Law and were great at following it. And they were also great at getting everybody else to do so as well through even more laws that they would create just to make sure that nobody would come even close to breaking God’s rules.
But in their Zeal to follow the law of their people, sometimes they forgot what the rules were really for: namely, caring for and freeing people from oppression and suffering. The rules weren’t meant to be followed just for their own sake. They were meant as a way of minimizing suffering and maximizing the blessing of the people who were following them.
But in Jesus’ time, the laws had become the suffering. Sometimes rules can become oppressive to those who have less power than the rule-makers. It becomes more about following the rules than loving God. And when this happens, even greater suffering and oppression results.
Jesus realized the hypocrisy in this way of thinking. He said to those same Pharisees, ”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inside or full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Those Pharisees had gotten so good at following the rules that they looked extremely religious and good from the outside! They’d traded Love for tradition, and thus were only empty tombs inside.
They had forgotten that what matters most isn’t how one looks on the outside, but how one looks on the inside.
And the Christian tradition isn’t the only tradition that realizes this truth. In the Buddhist tradition, after a Yogi has achieved Nirvana, many of the rules and regulations that once applied to him no longer do so. Now, often yogis will continue to follow those rules for the benefit of the people who are around him.
However, following Laws are only a means by which to reach the ultimate goal: Love. If you follow all the rules and you don’t have Love inside your heart, you’ve missed it. Of all the things to learn from this article, this is probably the most important one.
Stillness, Simplicity, and Gratitude are Key
The signs of a healed heart are stillness, simplicity, and gratitude. This truth is often odds with what things modern culture says are important and to be respected, things like boisterousness, excess, constant activity and noise. In the Psalms 131:1, David Writes:
Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up,Psalm 131:1-2
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and marvelous for me.
But I have quieted my soul.
The ideas of simplicity and stillness ares also central to Daoism. In the Dao De Ching, it says
The nameless, uncarved block is but freedom from desire,
and if I cease to desire and remain still,
the Empire will be a piece of its own accord.
It also says that if a leader is still and at peace himself then his people around him will be rectified of their own accord.
If I take no action then the people are transformed of themselves.
I prefer stillness and the people are rectified of themselves.
I’m not meddlesome and the people prosper of themselves.
I’m free from desire and the people of themselves
become simple like the uncarved block.
Central to the concept of Daoism is the idea that your heart is stilled and at peace then you can be a great force for good in the world around you. And this truism is echoed in many of the world scriptures, contrary to what attributes our culture might teach us are important to being a leader and a decent human being.
Start With Yourself, Then Change The World
Do you ever find yourself trying to fix us something in another person that, when you really think about it, is actually something that you struggle with yourself? Often times we hate in other people the things that we hate inside ourselves the most. If there’s something that bothers you about somebody else, often it’s a sign to look inward to see a part of yourself that you might not be very fond of or have a lot of grace or forgiveness for.
One of the greatest lessons that we can learn from the world scriptures, on the other hand, is to start with genuinely fixing ourselves and only then move to other people. Confucius says in the Analects, “If a minister make his own conduct correct, what difficulty will he have in assisting the government? If he cannot rectify himself, what business has he to do with rectifying others?”
In The Great Learning, another Confucian scripture, it’s written, “The Ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom first ordered their own states. Wishing to order their own state, they first regulated well their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their person, they first rectified their hearts…” The heart is the center of each human being. And by first paying attention and correcting that, it’s a natural course of progression that the family, state, and kingdom would follow suit.
Gandhi said to be the change that you want to see in the world. And this saying is really just a summary of one of the timeless truths of faith: if you want something to change in the world, first start by practicing it in your own life and letting God change your own heart to be congruent with your own convictions. The world will follow suit.
Treat Others As You’d Like To Be Treated
Almost everyone is familiar with “The Golden Rule” through Jesus’s proclamation of it in Matthew 7:12. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus summarizes the entirety of his beloved Jewish Law in this single sentence, the Golden Rule. It’s a beautiful truism to live by, a beautiful means by which to live among other humans who are exactly like we are. It teaches us to think about all humans as equals and people with similar desires, wants, and hopes to our own.
But what is not commonly known is that Jesus is not the first or only religious figure to express this idea. This tenant is actually a central tenant in the Confucian scriptures as well.
Confucius says that “Perfect virtue is…not to do to others as you would not like done to yourself.” Later in the Analects, Tsze Kung, one of Confucius’ disciples, asks Confucius whether there is one word which could serve as a rule for the practice of a person’s entire life. Confucius replies, “Is not RECIPROCITY such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Confucius proposes the commonly known Golden Rule in the negative and calls it “reciprocity”. He, like Jesus, also says that it’s the one word that can entirely sum up the practices of a good life.
It’s amazing how many of the world’s spiritual paragon’s find in this precept the entirety of what it means to live as a loving human being. The Golden Rule finds itself at the center of good human living because, if practiced correctly, it would negate much of the suffering that we cause each other as human beings. Many of the world scriptures teach it, often as the central rule by which to live as human beings. And as such, we would do well to listen when they speak.
This Life Is Not The End
How many of you have heard the phrase YOLO? You only live once! So you might as well enjoy it, whatever that enjoyment might mean for you.
Well, no idea is more foreign to all of the different world religions than this one. In fact almost all of the different world religions posit that this life is not the end of who we are and what we do. And as such, we should think not only about the world in which we’re living now, but also the effect that our actions, thoughts, and beliefs will have on our own and other’s well-being once we have died and moved on to whatever exists beyond the gate of death.
In the Isa Upanishad, a Hindu text, it says that there are “demon-haunted worlds, regions of utter Darkness. Whoever denies the spirit and life falls into the darkness of death.”
Likewise, in the Quran, it says:
Verily, hell is promised to them all! / To it are seven gates: for each one of these gates is a special class of sinner assigned.Al Hijr, 15: 43-44
Even Jesus, the almighty preacher of Love and Compassion, talked about the idea of Hell quite bluntly!
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.(Matthew 10:28)
Across the world scriptures there is always some concept of Hell, a place or state of being where those who live only for themselves in this life will go once they die. And no, it won’t be fun. Think the worst feeling of isolation you’ve ever felt then multiply it by infinity.
On the other hand, there’s also a place or state or being called Heaven or Nirvana or Paradise that those who find salvation in this life will find after they die. In the same Quran it’s said that “the righteous will be amid gardens and fountains of clear flowing waters.” In the Christian scriptures, Heaven is where the saints will see God fully and completely and spend their eternity in the bliss of complete fulfillment of their desires.
And that’s what Heaven is: Heaven (or Paradise) is the fulfillment of every desire we have in this life, fulfillment completely and without compromise. Hell, on the other hand, is the opposite: the complete absence of fulfillment of our desires and the isolation of our spirit from everyone and everything.
Now even if you don’t believe in things like Heaven and Hell or Nirvana, you may believe in things like the philosophical idea of Causality or Newton’s Third Law of Physics. All these things are really saying the same thing: every action has an equal and opposite reaction; for every action, there are consequences.
Even if there is no Heaven or Hell, no ‘place that we go after we die’ for better or for worse, it’s hard to argue with the fact that our actions do have consequences. Consequences for ourselves and for our children who come after us. Even if this is the only form of Heaven or Hell that really exists, the idea that this life is not the end and that what we do in this life really matters is one of the most important things that we can learn from the world scriptures. Whether or not we agree with their particulars of how they express this truth or not.
About The Contributor
My name is William Bowman. I’m a fifteen-year video production expert with a degree in film production and five years of agency video production experience. I’m also the founder and owner of We Heart Create. Some examples of my video and photography can be found on the WHC Studios website:
I don’t get paid to contribute my knowledge to these blogs. But when you share my content a portion of the advertising revenue does come back to me so I can continue to create beautiful things for everybody to enjoy.
Be sure to subscribe to We Heart Create’s social channel for more helpful creativity tips and tricks. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
If you’re interested in becoming a contributor to We Heart Create, you can email us at email@example.com and start making money by sharing your creative knowledge with the world!