World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



The religious life begins with a decision. It is not something that comes in the natural course of an unexamined life, but it must be consciously chosen and cleaved to. Neither can the decision be compelled by human authorities, nor by the power of Heaven. The call to faith must be entered into freely. Often the call to decision is an exhortation to awaken to the real dangers and fragility of human life: the inevitability of death, the awareness of the sinfulness of one's life, the looming threat of hell and punishment. In the light of these dangers, religion offers a sure refuge and way to salvation. This decision is commonly described as between two possibilities: life or death, the narrow gate or the wide gate, two roads. This decision also requires a commitment based upon knowledge sufficient that one will not later be swayed by doubts.

"Men, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Christianity. Acts 16.30-31

Say, "O mankind, I am the Messenger of God to you all, of Him to whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no God but He. He gives life, and He makes to die. So believe in God, and His messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, who believes in God and in His words, and follow him that haply you may be led aright."

Islam. Qur'an 7.158

Seek refuge with the Lord alone, with your whole being, Bharata. By His grace, you will reach supreme peace, an everlasting estate.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.62

To many a refuge fear-stricken men betake themselves--to hills, woods, groves, trees, and shrines. Nay, no such refuge is safe, no such refuge is supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one freed from ill.

He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha [the teacher], the Dhamma [the teaching], and the Sangha [the taught], sees with right knowledge the Four Noble Truths: Sorrow, the Cause of Sorrow, the Transcending of Sorrow and the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to the Cessation of Sorrow. This, indeed, is refuge secure. By seeking such refuge one is released from all sorrow.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 188-192

Young person, run to embrace Ifa. Young person, run to embrace Ifa. If people deceive you,

Dhammapada 188-192: Cf. Khuddaka Patha, p. 53.

Do not accept. If people deceive you, Do not accept. Truth is bitter.

The future of the world belongs to Ifa It will certainly not be spoiled in our own time. It will not be spoiled in our own time. The world will not be spoiled in our own time. Ifa will mend it.

African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Hymn (Nigeria)

Confucius said, "Set your heart upon the Way, support yourself by its power, lean upon goodness, seek distraction in the arts."

Confucianism. Analects 7.6

Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn. Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path--so the wise say--hard to tread and difficult to cross.

Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 1.3.14

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Christianity. Matthew 7.13-14

Man always stands at the crossroads of good and evil.

Perfect Liberty Kyodan. Precepts 18

Surely, the path that leads to worldly gain is one, and the path that leads to Nibb-ana is another; understanding this, the bhikkhu, the disciple of the Buddha, should not rejoice in wordily favors, but cultivate detachment.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 75

Have We not granted him two eyes, and a tongue, and two lips, and guided him on the two high roads? Yet he has not assaulted the Steep! What will make you realize what is the Steep? To free a slave, or to give food at a time of hunger, to an orphan near of kin or a needy man in misery; then to become one who believes, and to counsel each other to be steadfast, and to counsel each other to be merciful.

Islam. Qur'an 90.8-17

Yoruba Hymn: Ifa is the name of one of the high Yoruba divinities, but it also means Yoruba religion as a whole. Both meanings are used here. Katha Upanishad 1.3.14: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 4.34-35, p. 814; Uttaradhyayana Sutra 10.28-33, p. 962. Dhammapada 75: See previous note.

Thus says the Lord: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."

Judaism and Christianity. Jeremiah 6.16

They say only, "Lo! we found our fathers following a religion, and we are guided by their footprints." And even so We sent not a warner before you [Muhammad] into any township, but its luxurious ones said, "Lo! We found our fathers following a religion, and we are following their footprints." And the warner said, "What! Even though I bring you better guidance than that you found your fathers following?" They answered, "Lo! In what you bring we are disbelievers." We have requited them; see what was the consequence for the deniers.

Islam. Qur'an 43.22-25

Jesus said to them, "No one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins."

Christianity. Luke 5.37-38

Were I but possessed of the least knowledge, I would, when walking on the great way, fear only paths that lead astray. The great Way is easy, yet people prefer bypaths.

The court is corrupt, The fields are overgrown with weeds, The granaries are empty; Yet there are those dressed in fineries, With swords at their sides, Filled with food and drink, And possessed of too much wealth. This is known as taking the lead in robbery. Far indeed is this from the Way.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 53

Qur'an 90.8-17: The two highways are the steep and difficult path of virtue--called the Steep--and the easy path of vice and self-centered living. On the Straight Path, see Qur'an 1, p. 53. Qur'an 43.22-25: In contrasting this and the preceding passage, recall that Muhammad was a prophet who brought a new teaching that differed from the traditions of the polytheists, while Jeremiah was a prophet who called his people back to the fundamentals of the Covenant of Moses. Luke 5.37-38: Jesus brought a new message, 'new wine'; it could not abide with those who were attached to the conventional wisdom, the 'old wineskins.' Cf. Luke 9.60, p. 583.

A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, "Come; for all is now ready." But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, "I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused." And another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused." And another said, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, "Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame." And the servant said, "Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room." And the master said to his servant, "Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet."

Christianity. Luke 14.16-24: Parable of the Banquet

He who is not with me is against me.

Christianity. Matthew 12.30

God puts forth a parable: A man belonging to many partners at variance with each other, and a man belonging entirely to one master: are those two equal in comparison?

Islam. Qur'an 39.29

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Christianity. Matthew 6.24

If by giving up a lesser happiness one may behold a greater one, let the wise man give up the lesser happiness in consideration of the greater happiness.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 290

Tao Te Ching 53: The 'by paths' mean ways of avoiding or rationalizing away one's obligations for the sake of personal gain. Cf. Tao Te Ching 12, p. 934. Luke 14.16-24: In this parable, Jesus laments that the most qualified people make excuses that worldly occupations keep them from participating in God's kingdom. So God must call the poor and impoverished, who have nothing to lose. Cf. Matthew 16.26, p. 962; Luke 9.60, p. 583; 9.62, p. 742; Abot 2.8, p. 959; Digha Nikaya iii.185, p. 1013. On the other hand, compare Abot de Rabbi Nathan B, 31, p. 304. Matthew 12.30: Compare Bhagavad Gita 6.5-6, p. 391. Matthew 6.24: Cf. Matthew 16.26, p. 962. Dhammapada 290: Cf. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 4, p. 198.

Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to a man. The calm soul examines them well and discriminates. Yea, he prefers the good to the pleasant; but the fool chooses the pleasant out of greed and avarice.

Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 1.2.2

The Self-existent pierced sense openings outward; therefore a man looks out, not in. But a certain wise man, in search of immortality, turned his gaze inward and saw the Self within. The foolish go after outward pleasures and walk into the snare of all-embracing death. The wise, however, discerning [the path to] immortality, do not seek the permanent among things impermanent.

Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 4.1-2

The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.

The kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it.

Christianity. Matthew 13.44-46

Hear with your ears that which is the sovereign good; With a clear mind look upon the two sides Between which each man must choose for himself, Watchful beforehand that the great test may be accomplished in our favor.

Now at the beginning the twin spirits have declared their nature, The better and the evil, In thought and word and deed. And between the two The wise ones choose well, not so the foolish.

Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 30.2-3

Behold, I [Moses] set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods.

Judaism and Christianity. Deuteronomy 11.26-28

Katha Upanishad 1.2.2: Cf. Chandogya Upanishad 7.23, p. 198; Dhammapada 7-8, p. 444. Katha Upanishad 4.1-2: Truth is found through meditation and fixing attention on the Self within, not by dealing with the deceptive and transient phenomena of the world. This is the most fundamental statement of Upanishadic philosophy. Cf. Mahabharata, Shanti Parva 177, p. 199; Udana 11, p. 199. Yasna 30.2-3: Cf. Yasna 30.3-5, p. 388, 49.3, p. 963. Deuteronomy 11.26-28: Cf. Deuteronomy 6.20-8.20, p. 1084.

And now remember, remember my brethren, that whosoever perishes, perishes unto himself; and whosoever does iniquity, does it to himself; for behold, you are free; you are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God has given you a knowledge and has made you free.

He has given to you that you might know good from evil; and he has given to you that you might choose life or death; and you can do good and be restored to that which is good, or have that which is good restored to you; or you can do evil, and have that which is evil restored to you.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Book of Mormon, Helaman 14.30-31

No compulsion is there in religion; rectitude has been distinguished from error.

Islam. Qur'an 2.256

I [Krishna] give you these precious words of wisdom; reflect on them and then do as you choose.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.63

I am not biased in favor of Mahavira, nor averse to Kapila or other teachers. I am committed to the preaching that is truly rational.

Jainism. Haribhadra, Loktattvanirnaya 38

Do not be misled by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: "This is our teacher." But when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong, and bad, then give them up.... And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them.

Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya i.190-91, Kesaputta Sutta

Qur'an 2.256: Cf. Qur'an 10.94-95, p. 759, 10.99-100, p. 65; Analects 12.19, p. 1072. Anguttara Nikaya i.190-91: Cf. Majjhima Nikaya i.318, p. 655, ii.16, p. 759; Vinaya ii.10, p. 64.


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