Unity honors the universal truths in all religions and respects the right of each individual to choose a spiritual path that speaks to him or her. In light of recent national events, a series of articles about other spiritual traditions that have encountered discrimination and severe challenges during their past and current histories will be presented. This is an effort to promote greater understanding and acceptance of those who seek God in different, peaceful, and beautiful ways. These very basic overviews will focus primarily on two things: (1) guidelines for living (comparable to Christianity’s ten commandments), and (2) an accepted primary prayer (comparable to the Lord’s Prayer in Christianity).
Buddhism does not necessarily have a primary “prayer,” but it does have a well-known and much-utilized chant, “Om Mani Padme Hum” – the manta of compassion, used for meditation. It is said that all the teachings of the Buddha are contained in this mantra and that the words cannot be translated into a simple phrase. You may listen to this chant by Tibetan Buddhist monks in the video available at the conclusion of the article.
When approaching the study of Buddhism and guidelines for living, most of us initially encounter the Noble Eightfold Path which aims at developing and perfecting virtue, concentration, and wisdom through eight factors. These eight factors include right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. There is, however, another set of Buddhist guidelines for living.
In Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh provides principles Buddhists use to make choices in everyday life called The Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing (pp. 127-130). These principles include:
- Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.
- Do not think that the knowledge you present possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.
- Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.
- Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, and sound. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.
- Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
- Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them while they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as anger or hatred arises, turn your attention to your breathing in order to see and understand the nature of your anger or hatred and the nature of the persons who have caused your anger or hatred.
- Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing in order to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing, both inside and around yourself. Plant the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.
- Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
- Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things that you are not sure of. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.
- Do not use the religious community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice, and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
- Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realize your ideal of compassion.
- Do not kill. Do not let other kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.
- Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others but prevent others from enriching themselves from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.
- Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies for the realization of the Way. Sexual expression should not happen without love and commitment. In sexual relationships, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the right and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are brining new beings.
There is an excellent educational opportunity scheduled for October 13, 2010, at the Bradley Turner Center at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. It is entitled “Living Religions I: Wisdom From the East” and will be presented by Dr. Ian Bond. In this class, the origins and development, central teachings, and principle devotional practices of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism will be studied. The required textbook is The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions by Philip Novak.
For residents of Columbus, Georgia, who seek spiritual support that honors other spiritual traditions, the following six Unity churches are within driving distance:
- Unity of Albany (GA) – approximately 75 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 178 Hugh Road, Leesburg, GA. Phone: (229) 435-1001.
- Unity of Montgomery (AL) Spiritual Center – approximately 77 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 1922 Walnut Street, Montgomery, AL 36106. Phone: (334) 263-1225.
- Unity in the Heart of Georgia (Byron, GA) – approximately 78 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 127 Peachtree Parkway #701, Byron, GA. Phone: (478) 737-7537.
- UnitySouth Atlanta Church (Jonesboro, GA) – approximately 84 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 10 a.m. on Sundays is 7541 Mr. Zion Boulevard, Jonesboro, GA. Phone: (404) 578-3033.
- Unity of Dothan (AL) – approximately 90 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 942 South Oates, Dothan, AL 36301. Phone: (334) 794-2840.
- Unity West Church (Douglasville, GA) – approximately 94 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 6472 East Church Street – Suite F, Douglasville, GA 30134. Phone: (678) 570-1487.
An available resource on Unity’s website is: The Lotus Still Blooms: Sacred Buddhist Teachings for the Western Mind by Joan Gattuso ($12.99 in paperback).
Available on Amazon are the following books: (1) Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh ($10.20 in paperback); (2) Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh ($11.53 in paperback); and, (3) The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions by Philip Novak ($11.55 in paperback).