One Heart: Universal Wisdom from the World's Scriptures?is a collection of passages from various world religions that aim to show universal truths present in most every faith tradition. Edited by Bonnie Louise Kuchler, passages from Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, and Taoism are offered in support of eight universal religious concepts: compassion, acceptance, humility, integrity, faith, wisdom, discipline, and surrender. Bonus passages from Baha'i, Sikhism, Jainism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Unification Church, Christian Science, Tenrikyo, Omoto Kyo, and indigenous religious beliefs from Africa, New Zealand, and Native Americans were also included. Independent scholar Andrew Harvey wrote introductions to each concept and offered eight universal spiritual practices (prayer beads, meditation, home alters, sacred reading, worship through song, labyrinth, fasting, and breathing) one can incorporate into their own spiritual routine.
As a global spiritualist, I think this book is right up my religious alley. I recognize the unity of core beliefs found in all of the religions in the world while also understanding the important differences. Kulcher also has this same type of religious framework and wrote the following in the editor's note: “My hope is that readers, upon seeing their own values vividly expressed by the sacred texts of traditions other than their own, will begin to understand the heart of Spirit, God, Allah, the Ultimate Reality, and take a step toward religious tolerance” (xvi). Personally, I would hope more for understanding than tolerance.
A big however needs to be said here to keep me balanced. Many times people use a technique known as cherry picking to justify their religious beliefs. Most of the time these people are fundamentalists bent on justifying oppressive acts and beliefs. Taking anything out of context is dangerous in balanced, critical thinking and when you add in the religious dimension, it can become deadly. While I am not saying this book is dangerous, I cannot help but think this book is also cherry picking scriptures to bolster their claims about universal truths in the world's religions.
An example of this is found in a quoted passage from Christianity. Here is the passage in question:
A farmer went out to sow his seed?
some fell along the path?some fell on rock?
other seed fell among thorns?
still other seed fell on good soil?
The seed is the word of God.
The seed on good soil stand for those with a noble and
good heart, who hear the word, retain it,
and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8.5-8, 11, 15)
The problem here is that the editor left out what happens to the seed that did not fall on good soil. Here is the rest of the story:?
“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.
Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.
But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in times of temptation fall away.
Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
But the ones that fell on the good gorund are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:5-8, 11-15 NKJV)?
I am uncomfortable with cutting up religious passages. There is significant information here that cannot be ignored. I caught this because I have plenty of experience with the Bible. I cannot imagine what was done in passages found in other traditions. There are also translation issues that I will leave for another discussion.?
Rather than simply list the passages, I think a better way would be to write eight chapters on the concepts themselves, much like the eight spiritual practices found at the end of each chapter. This way, a person could see the reasoning used to link the passage to the concept. The outline is already in the book and I have started it below using the sections in each chapter:
Most religions teach you about compassion, feeling what other people feel, loving all people, being a faithful friend, helping the helpless, giving, doing good deeds, and not harming others.
Most religions teach you about acceptance, looking at the heart and not the face, judging yourself and not others, forgiving and letting go of resentments, being impartial, overcoming hate with love, living in harmony with everyone, and being tolerant of others' beliefs.
Most religions teach you about humility, being humble and modest (not proud), admitting when you're wrong and repenting, finding harmony with your spouse, honoring your parents and respecting your elders, loving and taking care of your family, and leading with virtue and concern for others.
Most religions teach you about integrity, examining your motives, purifying your heart, being honest and trustworthy, choosing not to steal an commit adultery, practicing what you preach, not being hypocritical, and cultivating a strong work ethic.
Most religions teach you about faith, believing your body is temporary and your spirit immortal, living without fear of death, knowing that truth is eternal and unchanging, acknowledging an all-knowing presence, knowing that if you seek you will find, recognizing a loving and universal Parent, communicating through prayer or worship, and accepting the existing of spiritual beings.
Most religions teach you about wisdom, knowing that you are accountable for your actions, accepting that you reap what you sow, learning the difference between right and wrong, avoidance of wrongdoing and learning of its consequences, seeing one's life as a journey and the need to chose a wise path, seeing one's heart as a garden to be planted well, seeing goodness as a light to be turned on, choosing companions wisely, learning from a wise mentor, and thinking for one's self.
Most religions teach you about discipline, acknowledging one's inner conflict, controlling one's thoughts, meditating, controlling one's words, being aware of the power of one's tongue, controlling one's self, guarding against lust, conquering vices, exercising moderation, and persevering through adversity.
Most religions teach you about surrender, accepting circumstances, not allowing anger to take one over, giving up natural reactions for spiritual benefits, being content, giving up self-gratification to obtain true happiness, not being greedy, giving up transient riches to gain everlasting treasure, and detaching from the temporal to attach to the Eternal.
Accepting the most of the world's religions teach all of these has brought me clarity and peace. While this book gives me a scriptural foundation for my beliefs, I would much rather have it be more philosophical and whole. However, I have to recognize what the book is and do see its value in promoting a global spiritual unity.
Despite my objections above concerning scriptural accuracy, I did find many gems that could serve as springboards for further reflection and meditation. Here two gems that I find interesting.
Like the bee, gathering honey from different flowers,
the wise accept the essence of different scriptures
and see only the good in all religions. (Bhagavata Purana 11.3)
That great cloud rains down on all
whether their nature is superior or inferior.
The light of the sun and the moon
illuminates the whole world,
both those who do well and those who do ill,
both those who stand high and those who stand low. (Lotus Sutra, chapter 5)