Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 11: RELIGIOUS PLURALISM

Dear brothers and sisters: Good morning and thank you for attending our weekly Awakened Living Study Program. My name is Alaye Soteme and I will be your host. Our topic for today’s Study is RELIGIOUS PLURALISM. May we focus our full attention on this study for the lessons of life because knowledge is POWER, knowledge is SUCCESS, knowledge is FORGIVENESS, knowledge is WISDOM, knowledge is ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge is AWAKENED LIVING.

All quotes relating to GOD are interpreted in a Universal sense; in other words our use of the word GOD does not refer to any religion, cultural Gods, saviors, or created Gods. GOD is the underlying ESSENCE of the Universe. GOD has no chosen people, GOD has no Sacred Text and GOD has no Sacred Place! The Universe is the Sacred Text, the Universe is the Sacred Place and all creatures are Testaments of GOD! 

Further you are here to look at life from a different angle. You are not here to follow what others have put in place be it their religion, their Gods, their sacred texts, their beliefs or their way of thinking. You are here to share your LIGHT with the world.  The beliefs of our ancestors are our liabilities. Our challenge is to look at life in ways that promote interdependence and destroy all forms of discrimination including racism, tribalism, nationalism, nepotism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, favoritism, exclusivism, chosen people and racial superiority. 

Lastly, none of the quotes here is absolute or written in blood. They are all human thoughts and ideas based on their experiences and according to their levels of consciousness. The Awakened Living Study Program is a platform to study what others have said and improve on them. Do not for any reason use the quotes as mantra for life because you are the LIGHT!

Opening Meditation
You may offer an appropriate prayer before reading, discussing and reflecting on the famous quotes and the Sacred Texts verses. You may use the following prayer:

O LOVE who pervades the universe, we thank you for this opportunity to learn. We pray for LOVE to manifest amongst us to guide our readings, discussions and reflections. We specially pray for peace of mind and save us from all distractions and concerns of mind and body so that we may learn the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen.

The Study Leader may make announcements at this time. Welcome new members, recognize birthdays or anniversaries; make an award or recognize a contribution; announce Circle of Life successes. This is also an opportunity for anyone to share an experience, give thanks or make a request for special prayers.

 Opening Thoughts
The leader or an appointed person will stand and read the opening thoughts. The opening thoughts explain the topic of discussion. You may use the information below or explain it in your own words.

 Religious Pluralism is the doctrine that all religions are true and that it is our responsibility to recognize other religions even if their truth claims run counter to our truth claims. The reasoning is that truth is one but we see it differently and all aspects of the truth must be given equal time with no religion, God, group of people, race or color given an undue advantage. Here are some of the principles of Religious Pluralism:

1. All cultures have experienced GOD.
2. No culture has an exclusive right on GOD.
3. GOD pervades the Universe.
4. GOD has no Sacred Text.
5. GOD has no Sacred Place.

6. Our Sacred Texts are culture bound. 
7. GOD loves all creatures without conditions.
8. Replace all Foreign Religions and their Gods.
9. Replace all Foreign Sacred Texts

10. We are here to realize our full potentials. 

Famous Quotes
Take turns to read the famous quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote.  Please give credit to the author of the quote and as an assignment for presentations each person may choose an author and find out more about the author to share with the group during the next session.

1 "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."  Randall Ter
2 The true victory is the victory for democracy and pluralism. Hosni Mubarak
3. A secure pluralistic society requires communities that are educated and Awakened both in the identity and depth of their own traditions and in those of their neighbors. His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV
4 At few periods in modern history, has the mission of building pluralistic societies been more important than at present. Celebrating the diversity of perspectives and opinions, faiths and cultures, languages and traditions is a prerequisite to building harmonious and successful societies. Firoz Rasul
5 Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence. Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV
6 Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all of civil society in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world’s peoples. Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV
7 "Hatred and conflict are often rooted in differences between people of different races and religions. We all need to respect people of different races as well as people of different faiths and religions. We need to unite by recognizing our common desire and need for a harmonious society -- a society in which we and our children and families and friends and communities can all live our lives in peace and harmony. Regardless of our race or religion, we all want and need such social harmony." Jagad Guru
8 “How can one maintain a theological confidence in what one claims to be _true_ while acknowledging the existence of multiple religions that also claim to be _true_?”  Namsoon Kang
9 Prayer does not require a deity or Religion to be a valid form of hope. Prayer is a personal spiritual blessing towards another human being. Spirituality is Universal and cannot be owned, controlled or Monopolized by anyone, Religious or otherwise. The human emotion towards another in need of hope is not a commodity. Ritu Ghatourey.
10 When there is truth in your being, God is always with you. When God is with you, there is no question of failure. Live your truth and not a life that others want you to live. Apoorve Dubey
11 I love the good in all the religions and respect people's religious beliefs. But, I'm more a spiritual being rather than religious. I just have one God who has no religion. My spiritual journey has faith, discipline, courage, devotion and patience. Though I don't see the entire path, I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I fall, but I rise. I'll keep rising until I finally meet my destination. Chanda Kaushik

Sacred Texts Quotes
Take turns to read all the sacred text quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. In your discussion compare and contrast the quotes. What did you learn from the similarities and differences? What quote inspires you? What life lessons did you learn from the quote? Please give credit to the sacred text during your reading by mentioning the name of the text and where the quote could be found. 

1 In any way that men love me in that same way they find my love: for many are the paths of men, but they all in the end come to me. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 4.11
2 Confucius said... "In the world there are many different roads but the destination is the same. There are a hundred deliberations but the result is one." Confucianism. I Ching, Appended Remarks 2.5
3. They have called him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and the divine fine-winged Garuda; They speak of Indra, Yama, Matrarisvan: the One Being sages call by many names. Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.164.46
4. I look at all the major religions of the world as one big family. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-87
5. There is not a single place in all the corners of the world where God is absent.
Omoto Kyo. Michi-no-Shiori
6. Those who believe in the Qur'an, those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Sabeans and the Christians--any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness--on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. Islam. Qur'an 5.69
7 When one sees Eternity in things that pass away and Infinity in finite things, then one has pure knowledge. But if one merely sees the diversity of things, with their divisions and limitations, then one has impure knowledge. Hinduism: Bhagavad Gita 18:20-21
8 Those who praise their own doctrines and disparage the doctrines of others do not solve any problem. Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.1.50
 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown godChristianity: New Testament, Acts 17:22-23 
10 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. Colossians 1:16-17

Teaching Story
The teaching story is a story, a parable or thoughts related to the topic of discussion. An appointed person will read each story and the group will take turns and discuss. What does the story mean to you? What did you learn from the story? Did the story add anything new to the topic of discussion? How has this study enriched your life?

President Washington’s Response to Pluralism
On his visit to Newport, Rhode Island in 1790 President Washington met with leaders of several religious groups. Among the letters to the president was that of Moses Seixas, a Jewish American, which emphasized the principles of religious liberty. President Washington responded to the letter by saying that “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship”.

President Jefferson’s Acceptance of other Religions
Iftar is the meal eaten after sunset during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. Muslims all over the world observe this month as the month of fasting. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson on December 9, 1805. The ambassador arrived during Ramadan, and as a respect to the ambassador’s religious obligation President Jefferson changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” Later President George W. Bush made the White House iftar an annual celebration during his eight years in office. President Obama continued the practice to this day.

President James Madison’s Speech on Religious Diversity
In his speech to Virginia Assembly regarding religious freedom on June 12, 1788 James Madison argued that “freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest. When introducing the Bill of Rights James Madison stated: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience, be in any manner, nor on any PRETEXT, infringed

Closing Meditation
The closing meditation presents the highlights of the Study.  The highlights should include among others what you have learned and what aspects of the study are worth noting. The leader or an appointed person may share the closing meditation. You may use the thoughts and information provided below but I encourage you to use the contributions of the participants and current relevant information.

Our closing meditation is on freedom of choice. We live in a nation of immigrants. As immigrants to the United States we brought with us our cultures and traditions including food, language and religion. It is this diversity of people and beliefs that make us who we are today. But living in a plural society has not always been easy. There are those who believe that their way of thinking or their religion is the only truth and that it is their responsibility to show others this truth and save them from damnation. But it is naïve to think that others do not feel strongly about their beliefs. Perhaps knowing that others are also like us is the first step toward acceptance and understanding. We can no longer ignore or deny the contributions of other cultures. It is not enough to tolerate other religions because like us they have erected breathtaking buildings to their Gods or to the Universal SPIRIT. They have physical addresses in our towns and cities. There is no doubt that they are here to stay and we better get used to the plurality of religious and spiritual traditions. Plurality has many advantages for the individual. For the first time one can shop around for a compatible religion. Knowing that we can choose our leaders, our life partners and our religion is what it means to be free. Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility but true freedom begins with individual choice!

You may accept gifts and donations at this time for the work you are doing. It takes effort, time and money to put the Study Program together so I encourage attendants to give. An appointed person may now pass the donation bag. The leader may bless the gifts after the donations.

Closing Prayer
Always close your Study Program with a prayer or an affirmation. Pray for guidance and direction during the week. Pray for everyone present. The leader or an appointed person may offer the closing prayer. You may use the sample prayer if needed.

The Irish Blessing --- Anonymous
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen

You may serve refreshments after the Study. This is a time to relax and socialize. Get to know the people in the Program with you and I mean really know them well. One of the secrets of success is connection so I encourage you to know the people around you. The host may decide what to serve or he or she may ask the attendants what they want for refreshments before each Study Program.

Talent Contribution
You may now entertain the group with your talent in music, songs, dance and poetry including playing musical instruments. This is also a good time to share some Awakened Living tips for the benefit of the group. 

Circle of Life
The Circle of Life depicts different aspects of your life. You are at the center and the different aspects radiate outwards to form a circle as long as they are in harmony. You can pinpoint an aspect of your life at any given time and find out if you are in harmony with the rest of the circle. If an aspect needs improvement you may have an uneven circle. Your challenge then is to work on the area that needs improvement in order to keep it in harmony with the rest of the circle.

There are 12 aspects in this version of the Wheel of Life including Health, Spirituality, Family, Relationships, Education, Mission, Finances, Work, Play, Personal Development, Environment, and creativity. Take time to answer the following questions and begin to work on the areas that need improvement.

1. Are you healthy?
2. Do you have any bad habits like drinking, smoking, pornography, fast foods and doing drugs?

1. Are you spiritual?
2. When was the last time you meditated, chanted, affirmed or prayed?

1. Do you have a family?
2. Are you happy with your spouse, children, and parents?

1. Do you have friends?
2. Are you happy with your friends, co-workers, boss?

1. Do you have a degree?
2. When was the last time you read a book?

1. Do you have a mission statement?
2. What is your life mission?

1 Are you financially stable?
2. Do you have any debts?

1. Do you have a job, career?
2. Are you happy with your job, career?

1. Do you play regularly?
2. When was the last time you played with your friends, children, spouse, parents or pet?

Personal Development
1. Do you lose your temper often?
2. When was the last time you took a class on human development?

1 Are you happy with your environment?
2. How are you reducing pollution?

1. Are you sharing your creativity?
2. When was the last time you wrote a poem, painted, sang, danced, or played a musical instrument?

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