Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 17: UNIVERSAL LOVE AS TRUE GOD

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 LOVE AS TRUE 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.

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.

The word ‘GOD’, is perhaps the most common word in the world to refer to the Ultimate Ground of our being, but the name GOD often lends itself to cultures, nations and peoples. Universal Love on the other hand is non-local, or is universal; it is not culture bound. Besides the moment we use the word GOD we are inclined to look for a book, a congregation, a sacred place or a chosen people. All these variables make the real or true GOD difficult to pinpoint and to complicate matters more the images of GOD differ from place to place and when a culture talks about GOD they usually draw from their own experiences at the exclusion of others who may also have their own experiences. When I visited Abalama, my birthplace during the summer of 2010 to pay my last respects to Dad after being away for about 30 years my mother knelt and thanked Tamuno, the God of the Ijaw people of Nigeria for bringing me home safely. I stood there waiting for a welcome home hug but mother was busy thanking Tamuno for answering her prayers. If mother were born in India and she were a Vaishnavite, that is a devotee of Lord Vishnu and I retuned to Mumbai for example after 30 years she could be thanking Lord Vishnu for safely bringing me home. If she were a Shivite, that is a devotee of Lord Shiva, on the other hand she would be thanking the Great God Shiva for hearing her prayers. If mother were born in Tibet as the mother of Milarepa, the beloved Buddhist saint and assuming that she lived to see the return of her son from his years of study with Marpa the translator, the direct disciple of the Great Naropa, she would be thanking the Buddha for bringing me home. Again if she were the mother of Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan Muslim scholar who traveled for over 30 years through the Islamic world and assuming she were alive when he finally returned she would give thanks to Allah. And if mother were born in Tarsus as the mother of Saint Paul, a Christian missionary and theologian, and if Saint Paul returned home safely after his missionary journeys, mother would be giving thanks to Jesus. Finally if mother were the mother of an ascetic, that is someone who devotes his or her life to only spiritual pursuits, searching for union with ultimate reality, and the ascetic returned home after 30 years, mother would be giving thanks to Universal Love, the Ultimate Mystery,  to Brahman or to the Tao. I could go on and give many instances in which the image of GOD differs from culture to culture and sometimes within the same culture. There is no doubt from this brief example that there is a plurality of images of GOD and our question is which image is the image of the TRUE GOD?

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 “God has no religion. Mahatma Gandhi
2 “The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. Empedocles
3 “God... a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive. Ayn Rand
4 “People fashion their God after their own understanding. They make their God first and worship him afterwards. Oscar Wilde
5 All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours. Aldous Huxley
6 God is a reality of spirit... He cannot... be conceived as an object, not even as the very highest object. God is not to be found in the world of objects. Bertrand Russell
7 “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that. Joseph Campbell
8 The highest revelation is that God is in every man. Ralph Waldo Emerson
9 That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. Albert Einstein

10 There is One Infinite Mind, which of necessity includes all that is, whether it be the intelligence in man, the life in the animal, or the invisible Presence which is God. Ernest Holmes

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 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 
2 There is not a single place in all the corners of the world where God is absent. Omoto Kyo. Michi-no-Shiori
3 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)
4 Ekam sat viprā bahudhā vadanti. (Truth is One, but sages call it by many names).  Rig Veda 1:164:46
5 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. Bhagavad Gita 4.11
6 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
7 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
8 I look at all the major religions of the world as one big family. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-87
9 Those who praise their own doctrines and disparage the doctrines of others do not solve any problem. Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.1.50
10 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

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 Elephant and the Blind Men
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today." They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.  “Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.  "Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail. "Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant. "It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant. "It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.  "It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant. They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said." "Oh!" everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

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.

If after learning from the sacred texts quotes and the stories and you are still not sure about the TRUE GOD ask yourself the following questions:

Is the TRUE GOD Brahman (UNIVERSAL LOVE), the Universal Spirit that pervades the Universe, with no ties to any culture, group of people or nation and with no particular image as revealed in the Upanishads:

He is the one God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the Self within all beings, watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, the only one, free from qualities. Hinduism: Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.11?

Is the TRUE GOD Tamuno, the God of the Ijaw people of Nigeria who mother thanked for safely returning me home? Is the TRUE GOD Lord Vishnu who will return at the end of the age as Kalki to judge the world? Is the TRUE GOD Lord Shiva who creates and destroys the world? Is the TRUE GOD Yahweh as revealed in the Tanakh who declared to the Israelites:

If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  Judaism: Exodus 19.5-6? 

Is the TRUE GOD Allah as revealed in the Koran :

Say, He is God, the One! God, the eternally besought of all! He neither begets nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. Islam: Koran 112?

Is the TRUE GOD the Lord Jesus as revealed in the New Testament: Jesus answered,

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Christianity: New Testament, John: 14:6?

Is the TRUE GOD Lord Krishna whose cosmic form was revealed in the Bhagavad Gita:

If the light of a thousand suns were to rise in the sky at once, it would be like the light of that great spirit. Hinduism: Bhagavad Gita 11:12?

Is the TRUE GOD the Lord Buddha seated at the center of a basic Buddhist Mandala and radiating to the four quarters of the Universe?

From all indications it is not easy to determine the TRUE GOD by just reading the texts from the different cultures. All claim to have the TRUE GOD which is not surprising because no wise culture would claim an inferior or false God. However the question is not a new one. Today if there is a way to know that we are worshipping the real GOD we would be Awakened and happy that we are doing the right thing. But for our ancestors having their Gods as supreme and above all other Gods was a coveted title. With it they could become the dominant culture in the region and as a dominant culture they could take other’s lands, capture slaves for menial work, manual labor and to sacrifice to their Gods. 

In the year 2021 we live at a different time from our ancestors. We are more concerned with taking care of each other than terrorizing our neighbors because we now know that all creatures have the same destiny. Further when life happens to us it is usually our fellow creatures who come to our rescue and in most cases our Gods might not be there, our church members might not be there, members of our religion might not be there or our family members might not be there. Instead an animal might show up, a gay person might show up, an atheist might show up, a religious person might show up; in short what shows up is not within our control when life happens.

If we are subject to the same destiny, that is, we are born, we live for some time and we die; is it not evident that we are also subject to the same "GOD" instead of to different Gods?. Consider the above representation of "GOD", the ULTIMATE MYSTERY or UNIVERSAL LOVE. Notice that all the Gods, Deities, saviors, Religions, Creatures, including You, are connected to the ULTIMATE MYSTERY. Beyond the cultural manifestations of God is a MYSTERY that does not separate us, but unites us with one another and with the Universe. We may be doing the works of our Gods but wisdom dictates that we seek that which unites us rather than that which separates us. What unites us is the GOD of the UNIVERSE or the TRUE GOD. 

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.

God Is Our Hope Judaism: The Tanakh Psalms 46: 1-4
God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof rage and swell,
and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same.
There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,
the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
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 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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