Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 13: UNIVERSAL SPIRITUAL VISION

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 UNIVERSAL SPIRITUAL VISION. 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 the world so that we may receive the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. 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.

Today’s meditation is Universal Spiritual Vision. In a Global Village where religion separates us we have no other alternative but to welcome a Universal Spiritual Vision. In a Universal Spiritual Vision:

1.GOD pervades the Universe.
2. GOD is within all creatures.
3. GOD exists in all cultures.
4. GOD has no Sacred Text.
5. GOD has no Sacred Place.
6. GOD loves all creatures without conditions.
7. Our experiences are our sacred stories.
8. Replace all Foreign Religions and their Gods
9. Replace all Foreign Sacred Texts.
10. Our hope is Human Development.

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 The universal Mind contains all knowledge. It is the potential ultimate of all things. To it, all things are possible. Ernest Holmes
2 The vast Cathedral of Your Being becomes sanctuary for all creation as you celebrate the universal sacraments of compassion and joy. Jonathan Lockwood Huie
3 Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
4 If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god. Napoleon Bonaparte
5 Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. Ralph Waldo Emerson
6 The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. Joseph Campbell
7 Gratitude is an attitude that hooks us up to our source of supply. And the more grateful you are, the closer you become to your maker, to the architect of the universe, to the spiritual core of your being. Bob Proctor
8 He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe. Marcus Aurelius
9 When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. John Muir
10 Simply see that you are at the center of the universe, and accept all things and beings as parts of your infinite body. When you perceive that an act done to another is done to yourself, you have understood the great truth. Lao Tzu

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 There is no compulsion in religion.  Islam. Qur'an 2.256
2 Those who praise their own doctrines and disparage the doctrines of others do not solve any problem. Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.1.50
3 The Buddha says, "To be attached to a certain view and to look down upon others' views as inferior--this the wise men call a fetter." Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 798
4 Truth has many aspects. Infinite truth has infinite expressions. Though the sages speak in diverse ways, they express one and the same Truth. Ignorant is he who says, "What I say and know is true; others are wrong." It is because of this attitude of the ignorant that there have been doubts and misunderstandings about God. This attitude it is that causes dispute among men. But all doubts vanish when one gains self-control and attains tranquility by realizing the heart of Truth. Thereupon dispute, too, is at an end.  Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.15
5 Like the bee, gathering honey from different flowers, the wise man accepts the essence of different scriptures and sees only the good in all religions. Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.3
6 Do not break a promise, not that which you contracted with a non-Zoroastrian nor that with a co-religionist. Both are valid.  Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Mihir Yasht 10.2
7 The fruit of the spirit is love, joy and peace. Christianity: New Testament, Galatians 5:22
8 The kingdom of God is within you. Christianity: New Testament, Luke 17:21
9 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not insist on its own way. Love bears all things, believes all things, Hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Christianity: New Testament, I Corinthians 13:4-8
10 God has poured out his love into our hearts. Christianity: New Testament, Romans 5:5

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?

Fruitless Argument
Suppose you and I have had an argument. If you have beaten me instead of my beating you, then are you necessarily right and am I necessarily wrong? If I have beaten you instead of you beating me, then am I necessarily right and are you necessarily wrong? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Are both of us right or are both of us wrong? If you and I don't know the answer, then other people are bound to be even more in the dark. Whom shall we get to decide what is right? Shall we get someone who agrees with you to decide? But if he already agrees with you, how can he decide fairly? Shall we get someone who agrees with me? But if he already agrees with me, how can he decide? Shall we get someone who disagrees with both of us? But waiting for one shifting voice [to decide for] another is the same as waiting for none of them. Harmonize them all with the Heavenly Equality, leave them to their endless changes, and so live out your years. What do I mean by harmonizing them with the Heavenly Equality? Right is not right; so is not so. If right were really right, it would differ so clearly from not right that there would be no need for argument. If so were really so, it would differ so clearly from not so that there would be no need for argument. Forget the years; forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home! Taoism. Chuang Tzu 2

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 will center on religious understanding:

Awakened Living Study is one of the responses to religious pluralism. We can no longer depend as Diana Eck put it in her presentation on the Age of Pluralism at the Gifford Lectures on the stereotypes and half-truths we know of other religions. We can no longer pretend that ours alone is the only true religion in a world of many religions. We are at the threshold of a Universal Spiritual Vision brought about by the religious plurality in our society. To ignore the challenges of religious plurality and continue as if ours is still the only religion is to miss the emerging spiritual reality. Brotherhood, unity, understanding, oneness, compassion and Universal Love characterize the universal spiritual vision. Study the Sacred Texts and find out about the religions of the world. Be the first to introduce Awakened Living Study Program in your neighborhood. Be the first to introduce Awakened Living Study Program in your College. For the first time you could now socialize with people that seemed to be strangers to you because of their religion. Now you could learn from them as well as from their religions and usher in a universal spiritual reality for the world!

Are you afraid of your religion? Are you confused because of the different religions and sometimes religions with conflicting religious teachings? Study the Sacred Texts and undertake the spiritual quest! The potential for growth is more when we study other religions than when we focus exclusively on our own religions. In his 1873 book 'Introduction to the Science of Religion', the German Scholar Max Muller wrote: "He or she who knows one religion does not know any religion". Mahatma Gandhi for instance was a Hindu but his life was also influenced by Jainism and Christianity. He learned about ahimsa, the doctrine of non-violence from the Jains and he was highly impressed by the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament.

Possibly studying other religions could disrupt your comfort zone but you could also learn a lot about the world religions. For the first time you could make comparisons and see that they are similar in many respects. Noting the similarities between religions could open the door for acceptance and understanding. The differences we find in our comparisons could increase our curiosity and lead us to reflect on our own beliefs and begin a quest that could culminate in Enlightenment! In her introductory essay in 'Many Mansions? Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity', Catherine Cornille asked: "In a world of seemingly unlimited choices in matters of religious identity and affiliation the idea of belonging exclusively to one religious tradition or drawing from only one set of spiritual, symbolic or ritual resources is no longer self-evident. Why restrict oneself to the historically and culturally determined symbols and rituals of one religious tradition amid the rich diversity of symbols and rituals presenting themselves to the religious imagination? Why search for answers for the fundamental questions of life in only one religion when so many alternative proposals by time honored traditions are readily available?"

In short we are here not only to pay our bills, pursue our careers, enjoy sports and games, appreciate the arts and raise our children but also to know the spiritual foundation of our being. We will be doing a great disservice to ourselves if we fail to take advantage of the sources of spiritual teachings available to us. How are you sure that your belief is proper for you? How are you sure that you are meeting your spiritual needs with only one point of view without a knowledge of the universal scriptures? The world has offered you many Gods who require your complete and absolute loyalty before they could even do anything for you. Have you taken the time to find out about the 'GOD' WITHIN YOU who does not require anything of you other than to help you on your journey? Have you taken the time to find out about the 'GOD' with no sacred texts but whose writings pervade the universe? Have you found out about the 'GOD' with no requirements that loves you irrespective of your nationality, color, race, culture or beliefs? Is it not time for you to know the 'GOD' who connects you to the rest of creation? Don't you think you are deceiving yourself and possibly depriving your life of compatible spiritual teachings if you are in a church, a temple, a mosque or in any place of worship because of your fears or because of what is promised? There is a better way! Study the sacred texts and learn; study the sacred texts and compare; study the sacred texts and begin your spiritual journey.

As stated above brotherhood, compassion and Universal Love are the values of the emerging spiritual reality. When our brotherhood is no longer determined by our affiliations but by our humanity we know that the universal spiritual reality is near. When our compassion is no longer confined to those we know but extends to all creation we know that the universal spiritual reality is at hand. When our actions are no longer motivated by external threats and rewards but by Universal Love, we know that the universal spiritual reality is here! By all indications the ship for a universal spiritual reality has left the harbor. Will you be there when it arrives?

Thank you for your time and make each moment you live a moment of love, peace and happiness for yourself and for everyone you meet.

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.

O LOVE who pervades the Universe and who resides in us
We thank You for Your presence during our studies and reflections.
May these studies bear fruits within us for our good and the good of our environment.
As we go through our day to day activities may You guide us and protect us.
And bring us here again to continue your work for your glory. 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 Awakened Living 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 time to share your 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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