Sourcebook of the World's Religions - Read Online
Sourcebook of the World's Religions
0% de Sourcebook of the World's Religions completado

Acerca de

Resumen

Now in its third edition, this is the most comprehensive work available on the rich variety of paths available to today's spiritual seekers. More than an academic reference, it explores how religions can collaborate to help the world. Essays exploring the realm of building an interfaith community add to the book's detailed portraits of the major religious traditions. The Sourcebook also contains essays on spiritual practices as diverse as theosophy, wicca, and indigenous religions. This revised edition of the Sourcebook offers an unparalleled look at where spirituality is headed in the coming millennium.
Publicado: New World Library el
ISBN: 9781577313328
Enumerar precios: $29.95
Disponibilidad de Sourcebook of the World's Religions
Con una prueba gratuita de 30 días usted puede leer en línea gratis
  1. Este libro se puede leer en hasta 6 dispositivos móviles.

Reseñas

Vista previa del libro

Sourcebook of the World's Religions

Ha llegado al final de esta vista previa. ¡Regístrese para leer más!
Página 1 de 1

Acknowledgments

INTRODUCTION

Joel D. Beversluis

The Editor of this Sourcebook, Joel Beversluis, has worked in academic religious publishing, volunteered in peace, ecology, and interfaith organizations, studied comparative religion at Western Michigan University, and is now Editor and Publisher of CoNexus Press.

"In this new ecological age of developing global community and interfaith dialogue, the world religions face what is perhaps the greatest challenge that they have ever encountered. Each is inspired by a unique vision of the divine and has a distinct cultural identity. At the same time, each perceives the divine as the source of unity and peace. The challenge is to preserve their religious and cultural uniqueness without letting it operate as a cause of narrow and divisive sectarianism that contradicts the vision of divine unity and peace.

It is a question whether the healing light of religious vision will overcome the social and ideological issues that underlie much of the conflict between religions.

DR. STEVEN C. ROCKEFELLER

from Spirit and Nature, p. 169

True spirituality—the authentic religious journey—can never be an escape from life’s problems....Our spiritual journey...must be worked out now in a global context in the midst of global crises and global community.

DR. PATRICIA MISCHE

Cofounder of Global Education Associates,

in Towards a Global Spirituality

All the religions and all the people of the world are undergoing the most challenging transformation in history, leading to the birth of a new consciousness. Forces which have been at work for centuries are drawing the human race into a global network, and the religions of the world into a global spiritual community.

DR. EWERT COUSINS

in Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Initially created as a resource for the participants in the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, the Sourcebook was substantially revised and enlarged in 1995. In this Third Edition, many new articles, documents, reports up to the turn of the century, and resource listings such as a Directory make it a unique compilation.

Its pages are brim full of beliefs, wisdom, pioneering ideas, essays, prayers, scriptures, resource listings, organizational goals, projects, analysis, and visions. Through the contributions from members of many of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions, the book also aims to reveal a variety of perceptions about the Source of all, about the meanings and purposes of our lives, and about the challenges and opportunities in the contemporary world. This book is also a resource through which readers may start to evaluate both the uniquenesses and commonalities of humanity’s beliefs, truths, and wisdom.

We are not, however, proposing the deliberate mixing or watering-down of beliefs and traditions into a consensus or world religion. In this sense and in other ways, the book is an Interfaith Guide. The Sourcebook incorporates the standard of most major interfaith organizations: affirming the integrity of religious and spiritual traditions, and appreciating the diversity of the world’s religions and cultures.

While the selection of the materials printed here inevitably reflects its Editor’s values and interfaith experiences, the contents also showcase the distinctive beliefs, experience, and knowledge of hundreds of contributors. These members of different religions, professions, and ethnic backgrounds do not always agree with each other. Nevertheless, their inclusion here models an exciting, interfaith interaction. Out of this wide-ranging collage, arranged in four parts, each reader must draw out his or her own conclusions and, hopefully, enrich his or her own spiritual commitments.

Part One: Who Are We?

The first nineteen chapters offer portraits of major religions and spiritual philosophies. In most cases these were written by adherents of the community described. Contributors provided prayers, songs, and texts to give a flavor of their worship and beliefs. Many chapters also include perspectives on relationships with other religious communities and on how the community portrayed responds to one or more global issues. These articles provide the foundation for the book, the primary resources that support the explorations in its other parts and chapters.

Who are we? On the one hand, we are complex, wonderful, mysterious, diverse, creative seekers of divine truth, exploring who we are, why we’re here, and how we should live. On the other hand. . . see other chapters (e.g., Chapter 23) and other media.

Part Two: Becoming a Community of Religions

While the pages of this Sourcebook hold many different convictions, one guiding principle for compiling it is this: a critical task for leaders and members of all of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions is to enrich the sense of community and hospitality among us. We are part of the community of the Earth and, within it, we are becoming the community of religions.

As we learn more about the interaction of the systems of the Earth and, at the same time, discover their subtleties in the spiritual wisdom of the ages, we are also becoming aware of the primordial matrix that binds us together. We often don’t appreciate our dependence on Earth and our relationship with the cosmos, whose systems have given birth to us and nurtured us in all our mystery of body, consciousness, heart, mind, and soul.

Although this spiritual-physical matrix has always been evident to some peoples, contemporary cultures need the knowledge of these webs of interconnectedness and of the obligations that these place upon us. Taking responsibility for these obligations is one primary function of the emerging global community of religions. Other functions include learning to speak together in dialogue, defining and committing to principles of a global ethic, facing religious intolerance and other evils among us, and understanding spirituality and mysticism.

The interfaith movement, through its numerous organizations and participants throughout the world, is a symptom of the emergence of community among religions. The movement is also helping to create that sense of community. Observers who focus on the evidence of conflict between religions may see this alleged community as little more than a fantasy. Clearly, it does have its dysfunctional aspects, as most communities do. Other observers, however, understand that naming the ideal provides a vision and reasons for hope.

And for many, including this writer, the emergence of a sense of community among religions is proved by the values and responses of numerous participants in religious and spiritual communities, in the interfaith movement, in numerous service organization—peace, ecology, justice, education, humanitarian, and many more—and in this book.

Part Three: Choosing Our Future

Without a vision, as the Jewish prophet warned, we will perish. Unfortunately, this prophecy is not warning against some future apocalyptic scenario. In fact, even now many of our brothers and sisters of all species are victims of ethical, political, economic and environmental disasters that are rooted in spiritual disorder.

Which future vision and reality shall we choose? It’s clear that religious and spiritual communities do help create, and often lead the march toward, a culture of peace and justice when they draw on their highest ideals. Likewise, their wisdom and organizing capacities are now enriching the responses to environmental disasters and sustainable development. Basic ideas about human rights and human responsibilities are derived from and supported by religious and spiritual traditions.

At the same time, lest we overlook the abuses of religion, the interfaith movement and spiritually alert people everywhere are encouraging religious and spiritual communities to reflect on our own failures. Can we face these, too, and in so doing reshape our future?

Part Four: Resources

The phenomenon of global Internet use provides amazing new opportunities for religious and inter-religious study, encounter, dialogue, and action. Those who have Web access can explore some of the many new Internet Web-sites and online indices listed in Part Four. Those who are curious about just what it is that religious, spiritual, and interfaith groups are doing should consult the nearly seven hundred organizations listed in the inspiring, one-of-a-kind Directory of Faith and Interfaith Voices for Peace and Justice.

How to Read the Sourcebook

This book is a unique anthology, bringing together elements characteristic of many different kinds of publications. The Sourcebook deliberately crosses topical and stylistic boundaries, connecting content and disciplines that are too often kept apart. This not only meets the varying interests and needs of readers. It is, in short, a holistic exploration, seeking to provide readers with perspectives to help shape their own world-transforming vision.

Past readers of the Sourcebook have found it useful in many ways: for information, wisdom, and inspiration; for stimulating discussion groups and classes; and as a tool for reference. It serves not only members of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions but also humanists, atheists, and agnostics. Indeed, some of the documents in the Sourcebook, such as The Humanist Manifesto, The Earth Charter, and Towards a Global Ethic, were written for both religious and nonreligious consideration.

Although the book’s contents do follow a progression, one need not read it front to back. Indeed, the book may be much more meaningful if readers follow their own interests, paging through it or choosing from the table of contents and indices.

A Challenge

Due in part to the media, to laborsaving devices, and to our evolving uses of leisure time, we can very easily become spectators of life or consumers of information. Modern education, media, and even our religious lives are so colored by the inclination to observation that we are seduced by the idea that pleasant thoughts and significant information—and even entertainment—are necessary and sufficient for the good life. This book suggests that there is more, much more!

The Sourcebook had its genesis in the vision of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. A primary theme of the 1993 Chicago Parliament and of the 1999 Parliament in Cape Town was a question: What shall we do? The question mirrors back to us the demands of our changing times, our future focus, and the need for ethical and appropriate action. Now, as we move across the threshold into a new century and millennium, through the swirling nexus of beliefs, wisdom, conflicts, challenges, and opportunities, we must each begin to answer that question.

The Sourcebook of the World’s Religions is designed to nurture a process of reflection and action, in what can be a transformative process. In presenting who we humans claim to be and hope to become, the Sourcebook seeks to help readers appreciate humanity’s strengths, promote the many gifts of religion and spirituality, and identify some of our tasks and commitments. If the book helps readers move into more intriguing reflections on powerful ideas and beliefs, and then into appropriate responses, its goals will be accomplished.

Now it is in your hands.

—January 2000

Part One

WHO ARE WE?

Major Religions, Spiritual Traditions, and Philosophies of the World

Introduction

Joel Beversluis

We—the members of major religions, spiritual traditions, and philosophies of the world—are beyond accurate counting and beyond comprehensive descriptions. Our local and individual variations cannot be circumscribed, in part because we are always in flux. We are influenced by each other, by our experiences in the world, and by our own changing perceptions. So we are also beyond definition.

Nevertheless, we may describe some of our diverse characteristics and thus begin to develop a picture of the whole. One such image guiding this survey is that a sense of community is—and should be—emerging among the religions, spiritual traditions, and philosophies, within the larger community of the Earth.

Those who read this Sourcebook may conclude with its Editor that indeed there is a community and that, furthermore, one of its most significant characteristics is that this community has many wondrous yet underutilized gifts within it. The sense of commitment engendered by the religions and spiritual philosophies, their organizational and motivational resources, the wisdom and insight in their heritages, and their practical experience with real life issues are all portions of a substantial cultural and spiritual legacy. These gifts must be given freedom and put to work!

The authors of nearly all the essays in Part One have written not as official representatives, nor as disinterested specialists (though most of them are scholars), but as committed participants within the traditions they describe. In addition to the essays, most contributors also provided selections of scriptures, prayers, and commentary valued by their traditions, and some even made original translations.

Most of the major religious and spiritual traditions of the Earth—and some of their movements and branches—are portrayed here. Yet, since the traditions and their many manifestations are so numerous, this work must be seen as an introduction and survey. Much more detail is available in other works.

Despite enhancements in this Revised Edition, there remain imbalances. The alphabetical listing of so many traditions and movements side by side does not do justice to disproportions in the numbers of adherents, their global presence, and their complexity. The following criteria guided the choices of what to include

1. Religious and spiritual traditions that are historic and worldwide

2. Representative indigenous traditions

3. Examples of spiritual and esoteric philosophies

4. Examples of influential new movements or branches off historic traditions

5. Groups that were accessible and whose members responded to the invitation to participate.

This last factor led to an emphasis on those groups with a substantial presence in North America; this emphasis is, of course, unfortunate in a book purporting to have a global outlook. It is also unfortunate because so many traditions have religious and cultural ties to the land itself—outside of North America. Yet, because the rich and increasingly pluralistic North American culture has adherents from so many traditions and lands of origin, we offer their beliefs and experience as a starting point.

Authors of the Portraits were invited to write short essays and provide materials on

1.  The origins, beliefs, and membership of their tradition

2. Its approach to interreligious encounter and cooperation

3.  Its understanding of, and responses to, critical issues

4. Selected wisdom, scriptures, prayers, or commentary relating to the above.

Other articles offer insights into important aspects of a tradition or movement. The Editor has also selected previously printed articles, reflections, scriptures, or prayers that provide further insight into the self-understanding of some members of a tradition. All materials are intended to add depth to our understanding and to provide insights about the challenges and opportunities we face in today’s world.

Introduction to African Traditional Religions

Rev. Dr. Abraham Akrong

Professor of Religion

The Term Africa

Since the time of Pliny the Elder, who is reputed to have first used it, the term Africa has been a bone of contention because it means different things to different people—for many people Africa is essentially a racial group; for some, Africa is a geopolitical entity carved up in the last century at the Berlin conference of 1884–85; for others, Africa is a linguistic-cultural entity that describes the life of the African peoples that belong to these communities: the Niger-Congo, the Nilo-Sahara, the Afro-Asiatic, and the Khoisan linguistic groups.

Generally, today, we are conditioned to view Africa as a conglomeration of different ethnic groups bound together by the colonial divisions of Africa, which still persist today in independent Africa.

The Concept of African Religion

Related to this geopolitical and cultural view of Africa is the 19th-century classification based on the so-called evolutionary theory of culture and religion. This classification of religions based on belief systems puts African religion and culture on the lowest level of the evolutionary ladder, because, it was believed, African primitive culture can only produce the most elementary and primitive belief systems. Until recently, this treatment of African religions in the Western intellectual tradition has made it impossible for African traditional religion to speak for itself except in terms of 19th-century evolutionism or the Western anthropological theories of primitive religions and cultures.

From History to Culture

Today the liberation from the classifications of the last century has given an intellectual autonomy to African religion and culture. They can now be understood as self-contained systems that are internally coherent without reference to any grand theories. This has allowed us to face up to the plurality of religions and cultures. Therefore in any discourse about African religion we must start from the perspective of the worshipers and devotees of African traditional religion.

African Religion from Within

A study of the beliefs and practices of the African peoples leads to the theological observation that African traditional religion is a religion of salvation and wholeness. A careful analysis shows an emphasis on this-worldly salvation and wholeness as the raison d’être of African traditional religion. Because Africans believe that life is a complex web of relationships that may either enhance and preserve life or diminish and destroy it, the goal of religion is to maintain those relationships that protect and preserve life. For it is the harmony and stability provided by these relationships, both spiritual and material, that create the conditions for well-being and wholeness.

The threat to life both physical and spiritual is the premise of the quest for salvation. The threat is so near and real because, for the African, life is a continuum of power points that are transformed into being and life is constantly under threat from evil forces. This logic of the relationality of being and cosmic life gives rise to the view that all reality is interrelated like a family. This same relational metaphysics is what undergirds the life of the individual in community.

Individual in Community

J. S. Mbiti captures this relational metaphysics succinctly in the dictum: I am because we are and because we are therefore I am. The life of the individual comes into fruition through the social ritual of rites of passage. These rites are the process that can help the individual to attain the goals of his or her destiny, given at birth by God. Those who successfully go through the rites of passage become candidates for ancestorhood—the goal of the ideal life. For the African, ancestors are much more than dead parents of the living. They are the embodiment of what it means to live the full life that is contained in one’s destiny.

God, Creation, and Cosmic Life

God in Africa is a relational being who is known through various levels of relationship with creation. In relation to humanity, God is the great ancestor of the human race. Therefore, all over Africa God is portrayed more in terms of parent than as sovereign. In relation to the earth, God is a husband who stands behind the creative fecundity of the earth that sustains human life. God in relation to creation is the creator from whom life flows and is sustained. In relation to the divinities, God is their father who requires them to care for the cosmic processes.

Unity and Diversity

The various elements of African religion that make what I call the transcendental structure of African religion are expressed differently by the various African peoples on the basis of their social organization and environment.

A Definition

One can describe African religion as a this-worldly religion of salvation that promises well-being and wholeness here and now. It is a religion that affirms life and celebrates life in its fullness; this accounts for the lively and celebrative mood that characterizes African worship in all its manifestations.

Prayers and Religious Expression

Dr. M. Darrol Bryant

Professor of Religion, Waterloo University, and Secretary General of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace

The expressions of African traditional religion are manifold. They have shaped the lives of African peoples from the dawn of history down to the present time. They have lived as oral traditions in the memory and practice of countless generations. The name of God varies across traditions as do the names of the divinities and the practices of the spiritual life. The Nuer of East Africa, for example, believe that prayer is appropriate at any time because they like to speak to God when they are happy.

A typical Nuer prayer is

Our Father, it is thy universe, it is thy will,

let us be at peace,

let the soul of thy people be cool.

Thou art our Father,

remove all evil from our path.

For African traditional religion there is a daily intercourse between the living and the dead, the ancestral spirits. The interaction with these realities is facilitated through prayers, rites, incantations, and libations. Many of these practices involve elements of nature such as water, foodstuffs like cassava or nuts, or animals like chickens in sacrificial rites. Yoruba practices involve all types of foods and drinks in their offerings. A Yoruba chant cries out:

O God of heaven, O God of earth,

I pray thee uphold my hand,

My ancestors and ancestresses

Lean upon earth and succor me

That I may not quickly come to you.

This tradition celebrates the spirits present in the natural world and seeks to maintain proper relations between the living community and the living cosmos. Drums and dancing often figure prominently in its rites and practices. There is often a great concern for healing and health. Expressions of this tradition are too diverse to allow easy generalizations.

—previously printed in the General Programme, IRFWP New Delhi Congress, 1993

Zulu Traditional Religion of Southern Africa

Lizo Doda Jafta

Lecturer at the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa, Natal

One of the basic human experiences is that a human being is a dependent creature; therefore, the contingency of being human demands that one should properly relate oneself to the environment upon which one depends. Thus the human sense of dependence becomes the root religion.

One becomes aware that one did not create the universe; one found the universe already created. This awe-inspiring universe with its boundless spaces and measureless forces occasions God-consciousness. Natural events in particular are occasions of God-consciousness among the Zulu people. The changes in the clouds, the highness of the heavens, the overflowing rivers, the frightening lightning and thunderstorms side-by-side with religious ceremonies are all occasions of God-consciousness. In these events God is experienced as the One, the Other, the Divine, and the Many. The key word is experience. […]

The Zulu notion of God-consciousness . . . says that God lives in, through, and beyond everything and everyone, but that God is most clearly apprehended through those spirits who are always around, below, above, and in them.... When the Zulus see the Deity in every place and all the time, they are acknowledging the ubiquitous nature of God as well as their constant sojourn within the realm of the divine presence.

—excerpted from The One, the Other, the Divine, the Many in Zulu Traditional Religion of Southern Africa in Dialogue and Alliance, Summer 1992, pp. 79–89

Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi

"Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings. Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul ....

Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the diverse elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation.

‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ,

Selections from the Writings

of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 27

"Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity.

Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.

Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.

Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech.

Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men.

Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression.

Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.

Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility." (p. 285)

The essential purpose of the religion of God is to establish unity among mankind. The divine Manifestations were Founders of the means of fellowship and love. They did not come to create discord, strife, and hatred in the world. The religion of God is the cause of love, but if it is made to be the source of enmity and bloodshed, surely its absence is preferable to its existence; for then it becomes satanic, detrimental, and an obstacle to the human world.

‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ,

Promulgation of

Universal Peace, p. 202

"The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds, and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resource of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples....In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop."

SHOGHI EFFENDI,

World Order of Bahá’u’lláh,

pp. 203–204

"The source of all learning is the knowledge of God, exalted be His glory, and this cannot be attained save through the knowledge of His Divine Manifestation. The essence of abasement is to pass out from under the shadow of the Merciful and seek the shelter of the Evil One.

"The source of error is to disbelieve in the One true God, rely upon aught else but him, and flee from His Decree. True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self.

"The essence of all that we have revealed for thee is Justice, is for man to free himself from idle fancy and imitation, discern with the eye of oneness His glorious handiwork, and look into all things with a searching eye.

Thus have We instructed thee, manifested unto thee Words of Wisdom, that thou mayest be thankful unto the Lord, thy God, and glory therein amidst all peoples.

BAHÁ’U’LLÁH

Prayer

O my God! O my God!

Unite the hearts of thy servants,

and reveal to them Thy great purpose.

May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law.

Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee.

O God! Leave them not to themselves,

but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge,

and cheer their hearts by Thy love.

Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord.

BAHÁ’U’LLÁH,

Bahá’í Prayers, p. 204

A Portrait

Dr. Robert H. Stockman

Director of Research, Bahá’í National Center, Wilmette, Illinois

The Bahá’í Faith is an independent world religion now in the 150th year of its existence. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook it is the second most widely spread religion in the world, with five million members residing in 232 countries and dependent territories, and national spiritual assemblies (national Bahá’í governing bodies) in 172.

The Bahá’í Faith began in Iran. Its history is intimately connected with the lives of its leading figures:

‘Alí-Muhammad, Titled the Báb.

Born in southern Iran in 1819, in 1844 he announced that he was the promised one or Mahdi expected by Muslims. He wrote scriptures in which he promulgated a new calendar, new religious laws, and new social norms. Opposed by Iran’s Muslim clergy and ultimately by its government, thousands of the Báb’s followers were killed; in 1850 the Báb himself was put to death.

Mirzá Husayn-‘Alí, Titled Bahá’u’lláh.

Born in northern Iran in 1817, Bahá’u’lláh became a follower of the Báb in 1844 and was imprisoned for his beliefs. In 1853 he had a vision that he was the divine teacher the Báb had promised; he publicly declared himself as a messenger of God in 1863. He spent the rest of his life in exile and prison, where he wrote over 100 volumes of scripture.

‘Abbas Effendi, Titled ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Son of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was born in 1844 and accompanied his father on his exile to Palestine. Bahá’u’lláh appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá his successor, the exemplar of his teachings, and the interpreter of his revelation. Under ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the Bahá’í Faith spread beyond the Middle East, India, and Burma to Europe, the Americas, southern Africa, and Australasia. He died in 1921.

Shoghi Effendi Rabbani.

Grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his successor, Shoghi Effendi was born in Palestine in 1897 and received an Oxford education. As head of the Bahá’í Faith from 1921 until his death in 1957, Shoghi Effendi translated the most important of Bahá’u’lláh’s scriptures into elegant English, wrote extensive interpretations and explanations of the Bahá’í teachings, built the Bahá’í organizational system, and oversaw the spread of the Bahá’í Faith worldwide.

The Bahá’í scriptures constitute the books, essays, and letters composed by Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi. Together they comprised nearly 60,000 letters, a significant portion of which are available in English; the content of this scriptural corpus is encyclopedic in nature. The Bahá’í teachings are those principles and values promulgated in the Bahá’í scriptures, and touch on nearly every aspect of human life.

Central Bahá’í teachings are the oneness of God, that there is only one God and that God is actively concerned about the development of humanity; the oneness of religion, that God sends messengers such as Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’lláh to humanity to educate it in morals and in social values; and the oneness of humanity, that all humans come from the same original stock and deserve equal opportunities and treatment.

The teachings also include a detailed discussion of the spiritual nature of human beings, prayers and religious practices to foster spiritual growth, a strong emphasis on the importance of creating unified and loving families, and a prescription for solving the social ills of human society.

The Bahá’í community consists of those people who have accepted Bahá’u’lláh as God’s messenger for this day and who are actively trying to live by, and promulgate, the Bahá’í teachings. The community has no clergy and a minimum of ritual. Independent investigation of truth, private prayer, and collective discussion and action are the favored modes of religious action. Usually Bahá’í communities have no weekly worship service; rather, a monthly program called feast is held that includes worship, consultation on community business, and social activities.

Through a process that involves no campaigning and nominations, each local community elects annually by secret ballot a nine-member local spiritual assembly. The assembly coordinates community activities, enrolls new members, counsels and assists members in need, and conducts Bahá’í marriages and funerals. A nine-member national spiritual assembly is elected annually by locally elected delegates, and every five years the national spiritual assemblies meet together to elect the Universal House of Justice, the supreme international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith. Worldwide there are about 20,000 local spiritual assemblies; the United States has over 1,400 local spiritual assemblies and about 120,000 Bahá’ís.

The Bahá’í View of the Challenges Facing Humanity

The Bahá’í scriptures emphasize that the challenges facing humanity stem from two sources: age-old problems that could have been solved long ago had humanity accepted and acted on the moral and spiritual values given it by God’s messengers; and new challenges stemming from the creation of a global society, which can be solved if the moral and spiritual principles enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh are accepted and followed. Chief among these principles are

1. Racial unity. Racism retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. Bahá’u’lláh’s call that all humans accept and internalize the principle of the oneness of humanity is partly directed at destroying racist attitudes.

2. Emancipation of women. The denial of equality to women perpetrates an injustice against one-half of the world’s population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. Even though he lived in the 19th-century Middle East, Bahá’u’lláh called for the equality of women and enunciated their full rights to education and work.

3. Economic justice. The inordinate disparity between rich and poor is a source of acute suffering and keeps the world in a state of instability, virtually on the brink of war. Few societies have dealt effectively with this issue. The Bahá’í scriptures offer a fresh approach, including such features as a new perspective concerning money, profits, work, and the poor; an understanding of the purpose of economic growth and the relationships between management and labor; and certain economic principles, such as profit sharing.

4. Patriotism within a global perspective. The Bahá’í scriptures state that citizens should be proud of their countries and of their national identities, but such pride should be subsumed within a wider loyalty to all of humanity and to global society.

5. Universal education. Historically, ignorance has been the principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples and the perpetuation of prejudice. The Bahá’í scriptures state that every human being has a fundamental right to an education, including the right to learn to read and write.

6. A universal auxiliary language. A major barrier to communication is the lack of a common language. Bahá’u’lláh urged humanity to choose one auxiliary tongue that would be taught in all schools in addition to the local native language, so that humans could understand each other anywhere they go on the planet.

7. The environment and development. The unrestrained exploitation of natural resources is a symptom of an overall sickness of the human spirit. Any solutions to the related crises of environmental destruction and economic development must be rooted in an approach that fosters spiritual balance and harmony within the individual, between individuals, and with the environment as a whole. Material development must serve not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.

8. A world federal system. The Bahá’í scriptures emphatically state that for the first time in its history, humanity can and must create an international federation capable of coordinating the resources of, and solving the problems facing, the entire planet. A high priority needs to be given to the just resolution of regional and international conflicts; responding to urgent humanitarian crises brought on by war, famine, or natural disasters; forging a unified approach to environmental degradation; and establishing the conditions where the free movement of goods, services, and peoples across the globe becomes possible.

9. Religious dialogue. Religious strife has caused numerous wars, has been a major blight to progress, and is increasingly abhorrent to the people of all faiths and of no faith. The Bahá’í view that all religions come from God and thus constitute valid paths to the divine is a cornerstone of Bahá’í interfaith dialogue. Bahá’u’lláh calls on Bahá’ís to consort with the followers of all religions in love and harmony. Because Bahá’ís share with other religionists many common values and concerns, they frequently work with local interfaith organizations.

The Bahá’í Response to the Challenges Facing Humanity

Bahá’ís have responded to the challenges facing humanity in two ways: internally, by creating a Bahá’í community that reflects the principles listed above and that can serve as a model for others; and externally, to help heal the damage that inequality, injustice, and ignorance have done to society.

The international Bahá’í community contains within it 2,100 ethnic groups speaking over eight hundred languages. In some nations minority groups make up a substantial fraction of the Bahá’í population; in the United States, for example, perhaps a third of the membership is African American, and Southeast Asians, Iranians, Hispanics, and Native Americans make up another 20 percent. Racial integration of local Bahá’í communities has been the standard practice of the American Bahá’í community since about 1905. Women have played a major, if not central, role in the administration of local American Bahá’í communities, and of the national community, since 1910. American Bahá’ís have been involved in education, especially in the fostering of Bahá’í educational programs overseas, since 1909.

Worldwide, numerous Bahá’ís have become prominent in efforts to promote racial amity and equality, strengthen peace groups, extend the reach and effectiveness of educational systems, encourage ecological awareness and stewardship, develop new approaches to social and economic development, and promote the new field of conflict resolution. The Bahá’í Faith runs seven radio stations in less developed areas of the world that have pioneered new techniques for educating rural populations and fostering economic and cultural development. The Faith also conducts about seven hundred schools, primarily in the third world, as well as about two hundred other literacy programs. Bahá’í communities sponsor five hundred development projects such as tree planting, agricultural improvement, vocational training and rural health care. The Bahá’í international community is particularly active at the United Nations and works closely with many international development agencies. Many national and local Bahá’í communities have been active in promoting interreligious understanding and cooperation.

Selected Texts and Wisdom from Buddhist Tradition

"As the previous ... Buddhas, like a divine skillful wise horse, a great elephant, did what had to be done, accomplished all tasks, overcame all the burdens of the five aggregates controlled by delusion and karma, fulfilled all their aspirations by relinquishing their attachments, by speaking immaculately divine words and liberating the minds of all from the bondage of subtle delusions’ impression, and who possess great liberated transcendental wisdom, for the sake of all that lives, in order to benefit all, in order to prevent famine, in order to prevent mental and physical sicknesses, in order for living beings to complete a Buddha’s 37 realizations, and to receive the stage of fully completed buddhahood ... I ... shall take the eight Mahayana precepts. ... "

—from "One-Day Mahayana Vow Ritual,"

trans. Library of Tibetan Works and

Archives

"Perfect Wisdom spreads her radiance ... and is worthy of worship. Spotless, the whole world cannot stain her.... In her we may find refuge; her works are most excellent; she brings us safety under the sheltering wings of enlightenment. She brings light to the blind, that all fears and calamities may be dispelled ... and she scatters the gloom and darkness of delusion. She leads those who have gone astray to the right path. She is omniscience; without beginning or end is Perfect Wisdom, who has emptiness as her characteristic mark; she is mother of the bodhisattvas .... She cannot be struck down, the protector of the unprotected, ... the Perfect Wisdom of the Buddhas, she turns the Wheel of the Law."

ASTASAHASRIKA

PRAJNAPARAMITA-SUTRA,

The Buddhist Tradition, ed.

by W. M. Theodore De Bary

A Portrait

Dr. Geshe Sopa and Ven. Elvin W. Jones

Ven. Geshe Sopa, born in Tsang Province, Tibet, is Professor in the Department of South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison. Elvin W. Jones is Cofounder and Associate Director of Deer Buddhist Center, near Madison, Wisconsin.

Buddhism as we know it commenced in Northeast India about 500 B.C. through the teaching of Prince Siddartha Gautama, often known subsequent to his experience of enlightenment as Sakyamuni. Sakyamuni traveled around and taught in the Ganges basin until his death at the age of eighty-four. From there Buddhism spread through much of India until its total disappearance from the land of its origin by the end of the 13th century. This disappearance occurred as a consequence of several centuries of foreign invasions leading ultimately to the conquest of India by successive waves of conquerors who had been unified under Islam.

By the time of its disappearance in India, Buddhism had spread through much of Asia where it has been a dominant faith in Southeast Asia in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, and Laos; in Central and East Asia in China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia; and in numerous Himalayan areas such as Nepal, Sikkim, Butan, and Ladakh. It is estimated that today there are a little over 250 million Buddhists in the world. In the U.S.A. alone there are about 5 million, the majority of whom are Asian immigrants or their descendants. However, in recent years, numerous Americans of English and European descent have also adopted Buddhism.

From the start, the teaching of the Buddha was a middle way. In ethics it taught a middle way avoiding the two extremities of asceticism and hedonism. In philosophy it taught a middle way avoiding the two extremities of eternalism and annihilation. The single most important and fundamental notion underpinning Buddhist thought was the idea of contingent genesis or dependent origination (pratitya-amutpada). Here the thought is that every birth or origination occurs in dependence on necessary causes and conditions; however, not everything so asserted can function as a cause—in particular, any kind of eternal or permanent whole. Consequently, the Buddhist idea of contingent genesis came to be characterized by three salient features, i.e., unpropelledness, impermanence, and consistency. Unpropelledness signifies that origination or genesis is not propelled by a universal design such as the thought or will of a creator. Impermanence means that the cause of an effect is always something impermanent and never permanent. Finally, consistency requires that the genesis or effect will be consistent with and not exceed the creative power of the cause. For example, it is on the basis of the quality of consistency that the Buddhist denies that any kind of material body can provide a sufficient material cause for the production of a mind. Thus, on account of this primary philosophical underpinning of contingent genesis, Buddhism has produced a quite large etiological rather than theological literature.

Taking as his basis the idea of contingent genesis in general, Sakyamuni taught a specific theory of a twelvefold dependent genesis accounting for the particularized birth of a person or personality, which naturally occurs in some kind of existence which is not free of various forms of suffering or ill. The spectrum of naturally occurring births which are characterized by ill is called the round of transmigration (samsara), and the force impelling this transmigration and unsatisfactory condition of attendant births was taught by Sakyamuni to be action under the sway of afflictors or afflicting elements such as nescience, attraction, aversion, and so forth. In the language of Buddhism, this action is called karma; the afflictors are called klesa; and the resultant ills are called dukha. The Buddha called the reality of suffering (dukha) the truth of suffering, and called this action—conjoined with afflicting elements (karma and klesa)—the truth of the cause of suffering. These two truths constitute the first of the Four Noble Truths, which were the principal teaching of Sakyamuni and the principle object of understanding of the Buddhist saint.

Sakyamuni also taught the possibility of freedom or emancipation from suffering or ill through its cessation. Likewise, he taught a path leading to this cessation. These two, cessation and path, constitute the third and fourth of the Four Noble Truths. Thus, we have suffering and its causes and the cessation of suffering and its causes; these are the Four Noble Truths of suffering, its causes, cessation, and path. Through the cessation of suffering and its causes one obtains nirvana, which is simply peace or quiescence, and the cause of the attainment of this peace is the path of purification eliminating action under the sway of the afflictors. The Buddha taught that of all the afflictors contaminating action, the chief is a perverse kind of nescience which apprehends a real or independent self existing in or outside of the various identifiable corporeal and mental elements which constitute a person or personality. Thus, the cultivation of the path of purification hinges on the reversal of this mistaken apprehension of a real soul or ego or selfhood. This Buddhist view that there is no real or enduring substratum to the personality is called anatma.

Sakyamuni’s most precise and important articulation of the Four Noble Truths was his formulation of a twelvefold causal linkage generating each and every particular instance of birth of a person. This twelvefold causal nexus begins with nescience and ends with old age and death. This nescience is in particular the perverse ignorance which grasps a real selfhood. Conditioned by this kind of nescience, actions are performed which deposit inclinations and proclivities upon the unconscious mind. These proclivities are later ripened by other factors such as grasping and misappropriation and thereby bring about unsatisfactory results through birth and death. With, however, the correct seeing of the reality of no-self, this nescience may be stopped, and thereby the whole chain of causation leading to unsatisfactory birth is brought to an end. In this way the twelvefold causal linkage is not only a theory of the genesis of a personality but also a theory of its potential for deliverance from every kind of ill. Thus it is said in Buddhist scripture:

Gather up and cast away.

Enter to the Buddha’s teaching.

Like a great elephant in a house of mud,

conquer the lord of death’s battalions.

Whoever with great circumspection,

practices this discipline of the Law,

abandoning the wheel of births,

will make an end to suffering.

Gather up and cast away refers to the gathering together of virtuous or wholesome qualities and the abandonment of non-virtuous or unwholesome qualities in the personality. Thus the same scripture says:

Not to do evil, to bring about the excellence of virtue,

completely to subdue the mind,

this is the teaching of the Buddha.

On his deathbed, the Buddha had exhorted his disciples to work on their own salvation with diligence; hence these teachings are sometimes characterized as a doctrine of individual emancipation.

About five to six hundred years after the passing away of the teacher Sakyamuni, another formulation of the Buddhist doctrine and practice gained a wide circulation in India. This later propagation is associated with the great Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna. Taking his stand on the fundamental Buddhist idea of contingent genesis, Nagarjuna argued that if every instance of genesis is a contingent genesis, then continued analysis will show that every kind of permanent and even impermanent cause proposed either by Buddhists or others will be non-absolute and non-ultimate; consequently, causality itself is in some sense illusory. In this sense even true phenomena like causality are just empty of any kind of ultimate nature. Nagarjuna carried his analysis to cover permanent non-originating phenomena like space as well. The nonexistence of all phenomena as ultimates or absolutes is the Buddhist idea of emptiness (sunyata), which provided a great impetus to another kind of religious aspiration aiming at the emancipation not only of one’s own individual life-stream but that of all sentient life from the round of unsatisfactory birth and rebirth. He especially demonstrated the absence of any final or absolute difference between samsara and nirvana, even though phenomenally they are and will always remain opposites. Thereby, Nagarjuna opened wide the way for the pursuit of the nonattached nirvana taught to be achieved by the Buddhas along with numerous other sublime qualities of knowledge belonging to perfect enlightenment. From earliest times the Buddhist had already distinguished between the path of purification trodden by Sakyamuni himself, already known as the Bodhisattva path, and that taught and followed by numerous of his disciples. Now the Buddha’s own path was encouraged for all.

By its followers this later path was called Mahayana, or greater vehicle, whereas the former came to be called the Hinayana, or smaller vehicle. The Mahayana was synonymous with the path of a Bodhisattva or one who, moved by great compassion, developed the aspiration to perfect enlightenment for the sake of others. This aspiration was called Bodhicitta, or the mind to enlightenment, and provided the motivation for the cultivation of the Mahayana path. This path was also taught extensively in the Prajnaparamita-sutras, or Perfection of Wisdom Scriptures, which also gained wide circulation in India through the efforts of Nagarjuna.

About five hundred years later still another very important development occurred in Indian Buddhism. This development is associated with the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu. This led to a great systematization of the Mahayana and in particular to another less radical interpretation of the meaning of the Prajnaparamita-sutras than that associated with Nagarjuna, whose school continued on and is generally called the Madhyamika or Middleist School; Asanga’s is called the Cittamatra or Mind-Only School.

Also around this time, a special kind of Buddhist esoteric scripture and practice gained wide currency. They constituted four classes or levels which moved from outer ritual action through inner meditative action to a full-fledged esoteric path of spiritual attainment. These scriptures were known as the tantras, and their practice was called the diamond vehicle or the secret mantra vehicle. Espousing the practice of the Mahayana, they added many ritual methods together with numerous profound and difficult yoga or meditation practices and techniques. The tantras saw themselves as fulfilling the practice of the Mahayana as well as providing an accelerated path to its realization. The vehicle of the tantras is often called the vehicle of the effect because straightaway it envisages the final result of the path and imaginatively dwells upon and rehearses that until it becomes not an imagined but an accomplished result. The Mahayana being wisdom and method, the tantras add to the general wisdom and method of the Mahayana their own very special varieties.

Thus in India along with four classes of tantras, four main philosophical schools developed, each with a number of subschools, i.e., the Vaibhasika, Sautrantika, Madhyamika and the Yogacara. The former two are schools of the Hinayana, and the latter two are schools of the Mahayana. The Vaibhasika early developed eighteen subschools, two of which are of particular importance—the Sthaviravada, which is the immediate ancestor of the Theravada, the principal Buddhism of Southeast Asia, and the Sarvastivada, which is the basis of monasticism in Tibet and the Tibetan community today. The Madhyamika provides the chief viewpoint of Tibetan Buddhism today, and the Yogacara has had profound and far-reaching influences on the Buddhism of China, and through China on Korea and Japan. Some secret mantra practices were transmitted into China and from there to Japan, where they survive today, and the practices of all four levels of tantra are still alive in the Tibetan community.

From India by way of Central Asia, Buddhism began its penetration into China around the 1st century C.E. There it encountered the already developed systems of Confucianism and Taoism. The latter in particular provided the terminology and numerous seemingly analogous concepts for subsequent centuries of effort devoted to the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the establishment of Buddhist practice in China. By the 8th century, Chinese Buddhism reached its mature form with its two main theoretical schools of Tien-tai and Huayen, together with its two popular schools of Pure Land and Ch’an (Japanese: Zen). These sinicized forms of Buddhism began their spread to Korea mainly from the 4th century on and commenced spreading from Korea to Japan from the middle of the 6th century. Although some important Buddhist development occurred a century earlier, Buddhism began to be strongly cultivated in Tibet in the eighth century. In this century Indian and various Sinitic Buddhist developments collided in a debate held by the Tibetan king at Samyas, the first Buddhist monastery founded in Tibet. Tibetan history records that the Indian faction won this debate, and it is clear that afterwards Tibet looked to India throughout its prolonged subsequent period of importation of Buddhism. As a consequence, Tibet remains a great repository of a vast body of important literature which later perished in India itself. From Tibet, Buddhism was afterward spread into Mongolia and throughout the Himalayan region.

Now, in the aftermath of World War II and the collapse of Western colonial establishments in Asia, the modern efforts of numerous Asian countries to make a transition from agrarian to industrial societies has led and still leads often to the establishment of military dictatorships or to socialist totalitarian regimes. Buddhism has generally fallen upon difficult times particularly at the hands of Marxist-Leninist regimes, for whereas Buddhism does not see any natural conflict between itself and modern science, its middle-way philosophy is staunchly opposed to dialectical materialism. In fact, two of the worst atrocities of nearly genocidal proportions to be perpetrated in modern times have taken place in two such countries, Cambodia and Tibet, the latter continuing—and this is hard to believe—for over thirty years. Buddhist leadership nonetheless has continued to press for freedom and democracy, for peace and nonviolence, as these will be the best safeguard for the natural human wish to avoid suffering. Here, it is particularly indicative to note that two recent Nobel Peace Prize winners have been Buddhists—His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.

Mutual Recognition

For the last several years I have been looking at the world’s problems, including our own problem, the Tibetan situation. I have been thinking about this and meeting with persons from different fields and in different countries. Basically all are the same. I come from the East; most of you are Westerners. If I look at you superficially, we are different, and if I put my emphasis on that level, we grow more distant. If I look on you as my own kind, as human beings like myself, with one nose, two eyes, and so forth, then automatically that distance is gone. We are the same human flesh. I want happiness; you also want happiness. From that mutual recognition we can build respect and real trust for each other. From that can come cooperation and harmony, and from that we can stop many problems.

H.H. THE 14TH DALAI LAMA OF TIBET

Buddhist Experience in North America

Ven. Mahinda Deegalle

Student of the History of Religions, University of Chicago, and member of the Sri Lankan Buddhist community

The arrival of two leading Buddhists—Anagarika Dharmapala and Soyen Shaku—to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893 was, and is, an important event for all Buddhists who are living in North America today. These two representatives are frequently named in tracing the birth of Buddhist traditions on this continent. In fact, however, Buddhism did not become a visible religious alternative to the Judeo-Christian tradition until the 1970s. Yet, as a minority tradition, its contribution to the religious life of Americans was quite apparent at the 1993 World’s Parliament of Religions. This participation included very wide representation from Buddhist denominations that trace their affiliations to many different Asian countries.

Largely within the last four decades, a variety of Asian Buddhist traditions have found the United States a fertile land in which to establish their religious centers. As a result, Buddhist centers in all major American cities serve both Asian immigrants and nonimmigrants who are interested in Buddhism. They provide facilities for meditation and educate Americans in the customs and cultural events of Asian countries. Like any other American religious group, American Buddhists are definitely a diverse group. In major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Toronto there is a great deal of ethnic variety among the Buddhist denominations.

Nevertheless, Buddhist communities in these major cities seem to work very harmoniously together to spread the Buddha’s teachings. For example, in Chicago, the members of The Buddhist Council of the Midwest celebrate Vesak—the birthday, the day of samma sambodhi (perfect awakening), and the passing away (parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha—jointly each year in May, with cultural festivals from Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, and Laos. This unity among diverse denominations that trace their roots to different Asian nations is based on the understanding that, as Buddhists, they share certain fundamental doctrines in common, even while demonstrating cultural variety through their specific festivals and religious practices.

As members of immigrant communities and representatives of an alien religion, immigrant American Buddhists have to adapt to the cultural and religious setting of the United States and to deal with people who do not share their world view. It is important that Buddhists understand the way the people of other world religions think about the world and its problems.

Unlike Buddhists, for many Americans the notion of God is fundamental to life; all Judeo-Christian religious communities derive inspiration from a concept of God. Also, American society is structured around individualism; there is a strong emphasis on the primacy of individuality rather than on the interests of the society or community as in Buddhist cultures. So Buddhists in general and Theravadins in particular have to struggle to understand these two world views. At the same time, since all Buddhist communities profess a doctrine of self-lessness in one form or another, it is difficult for most Americans, who think mainly in terms of self and individual, to understand Buddhism.

With the development of an awareness of the earth, environment, plants, and animals, American Buddhists seem to have embraced positive teachings of the Buddhist traditions with regard to plants and the environment. Rather than thinking that human beings are separate from nature and that human beings are rulers of the earth, people are starting to think of the entire universe as a whole, of which humanity is only a part. This sense of a global community sharing the resources of the earth harmoniously is a very positive development which has been encouraged during the last few decades, and is growing fast in the United States. This kind of a world view or consciousness of the environment and nature marks a shift in human thinking: human beings not as rulers of the earth but as a part of a larger global community.

In the development of an awareness of nature and the environment, Buddhist teachings, in particular the theories of codependent origination (paticcasamuppada) and interconnectedness, have a great deal to offer to Western thinkers. For example, the doctrine of codependent origination proposes an interdependence between nature and human beings. Furthermore, Buddhist teachings maintain that the nature of the human psyche affects the natural environment, while the natural environment in turn influences the shape of the human psyche positively or negatively. In particular, the doctrine of five laws, niyama dhammas, proposes that human beings and nature are bound together in a mutual causal relationship. The five laws are physical, biological, psychological, moral, and causal. Among these five, the causal law operates within each of the first four; likewise, the physical law conditions biological growth, and all the laws influence human thought patterns, which eventually shape the moral standards of a society. These Buddhist doctrines and insights, which seem to appeal to modern Western thinking, attempt to suggest that human beings and the environment mutually condition and influence each other in