The Sacred Paths

by Theodore M. Ludwig - Prentice Hall - Second Edition


[Page 106 - Chapter 5 - Hindu Worlds of Meaning]: "Since Brahman is the eternal, ultimate, one reality, knowing the identity of the atman with the Brahman leads to moksha, ultimate liberation from the samsara cycle. This, therefore, is held forth by many Hindus as the highest goal. But alongside that basic idea of ultimate reality Hinduism puts forward another perspective on eternal reality, namely, the cosmic order, the Eternal Dharma. What's it all about? In the context of living life the way we should, the answer turns out to be Dharma—not the underlying source and essence of reality, not a god to be worshiped, but the eternal order of things to be followed.

"The word Dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning "sustain, support," and in Hinduism it comes to mean the essential foundation of things in general. Originally it was closely related to the Vedic notion of Rta, the universal harmony in which all things in the cosmos and in human society have their proper place and function, Dharma is something like the law of nature, eternal and unchanging. Following our dharma means living in accordance with reality. And it has as its correlate the law of karma, the law that there is an unfailing result tht comes from every action. The whole world is supported and continues to exist on the foundation of Dharma and karma … "

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[Page 112 - Chapter 5 - Hindu Worlds of Meaning]: " … the crucial question is, how can I eliminate action rooted in desire and cultivate action done without desire? The classical Hindu answer is simply to do what is expected of me according to my dharma, my place and role in the eternal order of things. If my karma has caused me to be born as a warrior, I should go about my duty of protecting people, not out of desire or hope for reward, but simply because it's my dharma. If I'm a woman, I should be a good woman; if a slave, I should simply serve others without desiring to be something else. The whole system worked out in the Law-code of Manu … provides guidance for the path of action: caste, sex, and stage of life make up the essential elements of my dharma, and by performing that role properly, without desiring some reward, I move forward on the path of transformation."

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[Page 203 - Chapter 11 - The Way of The Disciples: The Sikhs]:

"They who think on Thee, They who meditate on Thee,
In this dark age have their peace.

They who think on Thee: they are saved, they are liberated;
For them death's noose is broken.
Those who meditate on the Fearless One
will lose all their fear;
Those who have worshiped the Lord,
In the Lord they are now mingled."
—Trilochan Singh

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[Page 203 - Chapter 11 - The Way of The Disciples: The Sikhs]: " … music has a strange facination for the mind, the Guru's Word is to be sung to fire one's mind with an experience that sinks in the soul, and turning the usual, habitual tide of the mind, makes the soul experience the nature of God within one's emotional self. Yea, and then this God-nature will outflow into secular activity as well, deflect man's mind from his immediate environs and personal pulls and passions, and yoke it to the service of the others in order that the Name, the all-pervading Spirit, is seen through all creation."
—Gopal Singh

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[Page 208 - Chapter 11 - The Way of The Disciples: The Sikhs]: "In the Sikh version of the good life for the world today, peoples of all nationalities and are considered equal. The tenth guru proclaimed: 'Let it be known that mankind is one, that all men belong to a single humanity. So too with God, whom Hindu and Muslim distinguish with differing names … There is no difference between a temple and mosque, nor between the prayers of Hindu or a Muslim. Though differences seem to mark and distinguish, all men are in reality the same.' "

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[Page 413 - Chapter 22 - Christianity]: "Raging at God over the impossibility of living up to the righteousness of God, Luther suddenly saw a totally different meaning: The righteousness of God is a forgiving righteousness, by which God makes us righteous through Christ. This theology of "justification through faith by grace" henceforth became the heart of Luther's theology, leading him ultimately to reject all ideas of justification through one's own monastic practices or through the works of the church; penance, the sacraments, absolution, and the like."

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[Chapter 29 - Crossings and Guideposts on The Paths] " … there have been and continue to be many crossings on the paths—for millennia, peoples of different religions have interacted, learned from others, and adopted elements from other religions into their own. Today, of course, the interaction is more intense and widespread, but there is plenty of evidence from the past that people can communicate across the cultures, and that they can learn and grow through such communication."

The Attitude and Process of Dialogue

"The process of dialogue among people of different religious traditions has been tried and tested in many settings. Dialogue is going on between Christians and Jews, Jews and Muslims, Muslims and Hindus, Hindus and Buddhists, Buddhists and Christians, and many more. Dialogue often involves more than just two partners, with representatives of three or more religions involved, such as Jews, Christians, and Muslims, or Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians. It is generally agreed that a number of basic attitudes are important, so that the process of dialogue can take place. Among the most important attitudes are the following."

1.   "Real dialogue presupposes a firm standing in one's own religion. It is interesting to float above all religions, coming down only where something useful is found. But dialogue means to share that which is most essential and innermost to oneself, and that comes from deeply held religious convictions. This does not mean there are no doubts, questions, or dissatisfactions with one's own tradition—we have seen that such doubt and questioning are essential to change and development within each tradition. But dialogue means "talking through to another," presupposing one sharing her or his religious commitment with one of another faith—not people with no commitments looking around for what suits them best."

2.   "The goal is to grow in understanding, of the other religions and of one's self. The goal is not to convert the partner in dialogue, nor is it to convince oneself to convert to the other religion."

3.   "Dialogue presupposes a respect for the people of the other religion and a willingness to see how that religion really makes sense to the people who live by it."

4.   "Dialogue involves the readiness to share at a deep level one's own religious commitments and convictions about truth, yet without arrogance or defensiveness. Such sharing means a willingness to be vulnerable, to let others in on one's inner beliefs and values."

5.   "Dialogue presupposes a willingness to learn from the other, taking the risk of growing and changing in one's own understanding."

"It may seem difficult to bring these attitudes into an area as personal and as subject to strong feelings as religion. It is in nature of religious belief to make claims to truth. If I were not convinced that my religion is the truth about existence, it would no longer be my religion. Each person has experienced sacred reality by means of a particular religious tradition, and based on that there are certain absolute and irreducible conviction by which he or she lives. The whole issue then of competing truth claims cannot be avoided when two people of different religions talk together; is one religion true and the other not? are they both true? do they both possess partial truth? These are important questions to think about and to discuss.

" … the sacred can never be fully grasped or limited by our own understanding or experience. However much we are convinced of the truth of our own religious understanding, we can acknowledge that the sacred mystery is still greater and deeper, and that others, may have valid religious experiences, which, if we but listen to them, may be illuminating also to us.

"Of course, it is not necessary to give up critical thinking in order to dialogue with people of different religions. Dialogue involves a give-and-take that includes questions and challenges as well as respect and acceptance. Comparing religious ideas and practices calls for accurate information and good critical thinking. But experience has shown that this can be done in an atmosphere of respect and willingness to learn and grow."

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Key Terms

[Page 132]

Atman In Hinduism, the soul of self, considered eternal.

Brahman Hindu term for ultimate reality; the divine source and pervading essence of the universe.

Dharma: In Hinduism, the cosmic order, social duty, and proper behavior.

Karma: "action," law that all deeds and thoughts, according to one's intentions, will have set consequences.

Moksha Liberation from bondage to samsara and karma; the goal of Hindu spiritual practice.

Path of Action (karma-marga): Hindu path toward liberation based on acting according to Dharma, without desire for the fruits of action.

[Page 498]

Muslim: One who has surrendered to God.

" … God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Epistle of James 4: 6b-7