Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 16: UNITY OF GOD

 

Introduction
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 UNITY OF GOD. 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.

Announcements
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.

GOD pervades the Universe but the images of GOD are different from culture to culture, from religion to religion and sometimes within the same religion. Thus when I talk about GOD and use my own experiences I personalize the GOD of the Universe and the moment I do that I have created a God that is different from the GOD of the Universe. By definition the GOD of the Universe is unknowable! In the same way when we consider a sacred text and call it the word of God what we really mean is the word of our God but not the word of the GOD of the Universe. No text can contain the word of the GOD of the Universe because Infinity can never fit into the Finite, the Finite being books created by humans and called "word of God".! The truth is that the word of the GOD of the Universe is spread all over the universe. However if we insist that we have the word of the GOD of the Universe we are putting ourselves above others who also have similar texts and that is what they call religious imperialism in a world that seeks to unite all people. If you think your sacred text is really the word of the GOD of the Universe I want you to take time out and examine the different books that claim the same: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, the New Testament, the Tanakh, the Koran, the Vedas, the Buddhist Sutras and a host of other texts. My estimate is that there are over 1000 sacred texts in the world. You can see that the list is quite extensive and I believe it should be because the GOD of the Universe is unknowable! Prophets, seers, sages, and all the spiritual teachers of the world who have attempted to see the face of GOD always came back with a different message. What does that teach us? But before you answer this question consider the list: Moses brought the Ten Commandments, the Buddha came to save us from our sufferings, Lord Krishna showed us the different paths to salvation, Jesus the Christ brought love to us, Mohammed brought the Koran, and the list goes on and on. In short this revelation teaches us that the GOD of the Universe is spread all over the Universe to such an extent that not one culture, not one religion, not one nation can contain it and the sooner we come to that realization the better it will be for the world!

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 Each one prays to God according to his own light. Mohandas Gandhi
2 There is but one ultimate Power. This Power is to each one what he is to it. Ernest Holmes
3 God has many names, though He is only one Being. Aristotle
4 God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. Joseph Campbell
God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. Voltaire
6 God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite. Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. Mary Baker Eddy
7 God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different. Rabbi Harold Kushner
8 Not only then has each man his individual relation to God, but each man has his peculiar relation to God. George Macdonald
9 It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty Gods or no God. Thomas Jefferson
10 If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my God. Napoleon Bonaparte

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. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one. Judaism: Tanakh, Deuteronomy 6:4
2 I am the Father of this universe, even the source of the Father. I am the Mother of this universe and the Creator of all. I am the highest to be known, the Path of purification, the holy OM, the Three Vedas. I am the Way, and the Master who watches in silence; thy friend and thy shelter and thy abode of peace. I am the beginning and the middle and the end of all things; their seed of Eternity, their Treasure supreme. Hinduism: Bhagavad Gita 9:17-18
3 This is the land of the gods. The people should revere them. In my essence I [Amaterasu] am the Buddha Vairocana. Let my people understand this and take refuge in the Law of the Buddhas. Shinto. Revelation of the Sun Goddess to Emperor Shomu
4 Absolute truth is indestructible. Being indestructible, it is eternal. Being eternal, it is self-existent. Being self-existent, it is infinite. Being infinite, it is vast and deep. Being vast and deep, it is transcendental and intelligent. It is because it is vast and deep that it contains all existence. It is because it is transcendental and intelligent that it embraces all existence. It is because it is infinite and eternal that it fulfills or perfects all existence. In vastness and depth it is like the Earth. In transcendental intelligence it is like Heaven. Infinite and eternal, it is the Infinite itself. Such being the nature of absolute truth, it manifests itself without being seen; it produces effects without motion; it accomplishes its ends without action. Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 26
5 When appearances and names are put away and all discrimination ceases, that which remains is the true and essential nature of things and, as nothing can be predicated as to the nature of essence, it is called the "Suchness" of Reality. This universal, undifferentiated, inscrutable, "Suchness" is the only Reality but it is variously characterised as Truth, Mind-essence, Transcendental Intelligence, Noble Wisdom, etc. This Dharma of the imagelessness of the Essence-nature of Ultimate Reality is the Dharma which has been proclaimed by all the Buddhas, and when all things are understood in full agreement with it, one is in possession of Perfect Knowledge, and is on his way to the attainment of the Transcendental Intelligence of the Tathagatas. Buddhism. Lankavatara Sutra Chapter IV (p.82)
6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. Christianity: New Testament, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
7 There is only one God; all the "gods" are but His ministering angels who are His manifestations. Omoto Kyo. Michi-no-Shiori
8 They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutman. To what is One, sages give many a title: they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan. Hinduism: Rig Veda 1-164-46 (Hymn CLXIV)
9 At any time, in any form and accepted name, if one is shorn of all attachment, that one is you alone. My Lord! You are one although variously appearing. Jainism. Hemachandra, Dvatrimshika 29
10 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; Christianity: New Testament,1Peter 3:8

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?

The Gods and Brahman
Once upon a time the Gods won a victory against the Devils and thought with pride that they did so solely by their own efforts. Brahman appeared to them at that moment but none of the Gods recognized the Universal Mystery. They wondered about the Spirit and asked Agni, the God of Fire, to find out. Agni approached Brahman and boasted how he knew all things and how he could burn everything on the surface of the earth. Then Brahman placed a straw before Agni and asked him to burn it. Agni mustered all his power to burn the piece of straw but he was unable to burn it. He returned and told the other Gods how he lost his power in the presence of the “SPIRIT”. So they sent Vayu, the God of air. Like Agni Vayu approached Brahman and boasted how he could blow away everything on the surface of the earth. Again Brahman placed the same straw before Vayu and asked him to blow it away. Vayu tried with all his strength but was unable to move the piece of straw. Vayu also returned to the Gods and told them how he lost his power before the “SPIRIT”. Finally they sent Indra, the God of the heavens to find out but Brahman disappeared. In Brahman’s place Indra saw Uma, God the mother. Uma told Indra that they won their victory through Brahman; and that Brahman is the underlying power in all creatures.

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.

Imagine a situation in which there is only one GOD. You might likely put your God up there and ignore all the other Gods. This is not right. The one GOD is neither your image of GOD nor my image of GOD. The one GOD is pure without cultural adulteration. In other words the one GOD has no books, no chosen people, no sacred places and no sacred text. But all these stem from the one GOD. The Unity of GOD goes beyond cultural and religious images of GOD. The images of GOD separate us but the Unity of GOD unites us. There is nothing wrong in seeing GOD according to our own experiences. But there is something wrong to insist on an image of GOD. A cultural image of GOD as the GOD of the Universe goes against every human aspiration for truth, understanding, and unity. In addition the idea itself diminishes the majesty and grandeur of the Universal Spirit. We may never agree on the images of GOD because we see and experience different aspects of the Mystery. However our understanding of the Unity of GOD could usher in a new spiritual reality that includes all people irrespective of beliefs, nationality, culture or religion.

Donations
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.

A Buddhist Prayer for Happiness and Equality: Translated by Sogyal Rinpoche
By the power and the truth of this practice, may all beings have happiness, and the causes of happiness,

May all be free from sorrow, and the causes of sorrow,
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness that is without sorrow,
And may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion,
And live believing in the equality of all that lives.
In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen

Refreshments
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play
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?

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

Creativity
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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