Interfaith Programs in Central New Jersey
‘Om bhur bhuvah swaha tat sa vitur varen yam bargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracho daya’
Let us honor the unity of Divine Spirit that pervades all realms of existence: the earth, the atmosphere and the heavens. May that most brilliant Divine Light protect us, sustain us and illuminate our consciousness that we might realize our inherent goodness, our inborn divinity and our unity with all that is.
Hinduism is the oldest of the world's major religions. It evolved from the Vedic religion of ancient India. Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called Brahman and its identity with the individual soul, or atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can only be broken by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. The principle of karma determines a being's status within the cycle of rebirth. The greatest Hindu deities are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. In the 20th century Hinduism blended with Indian nationalism to become a powerful political force in Indian politics
Religion and philosophy founded in Nepal in the 5th century BC based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. Buddhism takes as its goal the escape from suffering and the cycle of rebirth and the attainment of nirvana, and it emphasizes meditation and the observance of moral precepts. Buddhism's main teachings are summarized in the Four Noble Truths, of which the fourth is the Eightfold Path. Buddhism has two major branches, Mahayana and Theravada. In the early 21st century, the various traditions of Buddhism together had more than 350 million followers.
Taoism or Daoism
Major Chinese religion-philosophical tradition Laozi is traditionally regarded as the founder of Daoism and the author of its classic text, the Daodejing. In Daoism, dao is the force or principle about which nothing can be predicated, but that latently contains the forms, entities, and forces of all phenomena. This natural wisdom should not be interfered with. The tradition holds that all beings and things are fundamentally one. Daoism's focus on nature and the natural order complements the societal focus of Confucianism, and its synthesis with Buddhism is the basis of Zen.
Christianity started from the teachings of Jesus in the 1st century AD. Its sacred scripture is the Bible, particularly the New Testament. Its principal tenets are that Jesus is the Son of God (the second person of the Holy Trinity), that God's love for the world is the essential component of his being, and that Jesus died to redeem humankind. The major divisions of Christianity are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Most Christian churches administer two sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist. In the early 21st century there were more than two billion adherents of Christianity throughout the world, found on all continents.
Indian monotheistic religion founded in the late 15th century by Guru Nanak. Most of its 18 million members, called Sikhs, live in the Punjab, the site of their holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, and the center of Sikh authority, the Akal Takht. The Adi Granth is the canonical scripture of Sikhism. Human beings, irrespective of caste and gender distinctions, have the opportunity to become one with God. The basic human flaw of self-centeredness can be overcome through proper reverence for God, commitment to hard work, service to humanity, and sharing the fruits of one's labor. Sikhs consider themselves disciples of the 10 Gurus. They accept the Hindu ideas of samsara and karma, and they view themselves as the Khalsa, a chosen race of soldier-saints committed to a Spartan code of conduct and a crusade for righteousness. The emblems of the Khalsa, called the five K's, are kes (uncut hair), kangha (a comb), kachha (long shorts), kirpan (a sword), and karka (a steel bracelet).
One of the three great monotheistic world religions, Judaism began as the faith of the ancient Hebrews, and its sacred text is the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Torah. Fundamental to Judaism is the belief that the people of Israel are God's chosen people, who must serve as a light for other nations. The great body of oral law and commentaries were committed to writing in the Talmud and Mishna. Judaism emerged in 19th-century Germany as an effort to modify the strictness of Orthodox Judaism. By the end of the 19th century Zionism had appeared as an outgrowth of reform. European Judaism suffered terribly during the Holocaust, when millions were put to death by the Nazis, and the rising flow of Jewish emigrants to Palestine led to declaration of the State of Israel in 1948
Baha’i Faith was founded in Iran during the mid-19th century by Baha’ Ullah. The Worship consists of readings from scriptures of all religions. Baha’i Faith proclaims the essential unity of all religions and the unity of humanity. It is concerned with social ethics and has no priesthood or sacraments. The number 19 is sacred. Baha’i has experienced major growth since the 1960s but has been persecuted in Iran since the fundamentalist revolution of 1979
Indigenous religion of Japan based on the worship of spirits known as kami. Shinto has no founder and no official scripture. Its mythology is collected in the Kojiki (“Records of Ancient
Matters”) and Nihon shoki (“Chronicles of Japan”), written in the 8th century. The Japanese imperial family claims descent from Izanagi's daughter, the sun goddess Amaterasu. All kami are said to cooperate with one another, and life lived in accordance with their will is believed to produce a mystical power that gains their protection, cooperation, and approval. Through veneration and observation of prescribed rituals at shrines (e.g., ritual purity), practitioners of Shinto can come to understand and live in accordance with divine will.
Religion of India established in the 6th century BC by Vardhamana, who was called Mahavira. Jainism's core belief is ahimsa, or no injury to all living things. Jainism has no belief in a creator god Jains believe their religion is eternal and hold that it was revealed in stages by a number of Conquerors, of whom Mahavira was the 24th. Living as an ascetic, Mahavira preached the need for rigorous penance and self-denial as the means of perfecting human nature, escaping the cycle of rebirth, and attaining moksha, or liberation. In keeping with their principle of reverence for life, Jains are known for their charitable works, including building shelters for animals. Jainism preaches universal tolerance and does not seek to make converts.
Scholarly tradition and way of life propagated by Confucius in the 6th–5th century BC and followed by the Chinese for more than two millennia. Though not organized as a religion, it has deeply influenced East Asian spiritual and political life in a comparable manner. The core idea is ren (“humaneness,” “benevolence”), signifying excellent character in accord with li (ritual norms), zhong (loyalty to one's true nature), shu (reciprocity), and xiao (filial piety). Together these constitute de (virtue).
Major world religion founded by Muhammad in Arabia in the early 7th century AD. The Arabic word Islam means “submission”—specifically, submission to the will of the one God, called Allah in Arabic. Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion, and its adherents, called Muslims, regard the Prophet Muhammad as the last and most perfect of God's messengers, who include Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others. The sacred scripture of Islam is the Qur'an, which contains God's revelations to Muhammad. Observant Muslims pray five times a day and join in community worship on Fridays at the mosque, where worship is led by an imam. Every believer is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city, at least once in a lifetime, barring poverty or physical incapacity. The month of Ramadan is set aside for fasting. About 90% of Muslims belong to the Sunnite branch. The Shi'ites broke away in the 7th century and later gave rise to other sects, including the Isma'ilis. In the early 21st century, there were more than 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.
Unitarian Universalist believes in the salvation of all souls. Arising as early as the time of Origen and at various points in Christian history, the concept became an organized movement in North America in the mid-18th century. It maintains the impossibility that a loving God would bestow salvation on only a portion of humankind while dooming the rest to eternal punishment. It stresses the use of reason in religion and the modification of belief in light of the discoveries of science. The miraculous elements of traditional Christianity are rejected, and Jesus, while a worthy teacher and model, is not held to be divine. Universalist and Unitarian churches in the U.S. merged in 1961
Religious beliefs and practices of the indigenous peoples of North America are characterized by a conviction that spirit moves through all things, animate and inanimate, and that the living are intimately connected with the souls of the dead. They discover recognizable beings in the natural world of animals, plants, and trees, as well as in natural features such as mountains, lakes, and clouds. Iroquois elders speak of a perfectly wise and good Creator who planned the universe, the Koyukon envision the creator as Raven, atrickster god who is only one of many powerful spirits. Navajo ceremonies are performed on behalf of individuals in response to specific needs Pueblo ceremonies are performed communally and scheduled according to the cycles of nature