DEVELOPING A GLOBAL CODE OF LIVING

The Los Angeles Interfaith Network, an activity of UDC, spent a number of months developing a Global Code of Living within the last couple of years.  The project is not completed, but it appears that the time for enlarging the number of individuals and groups seeking to participate in and complete the project has now come.  The urgency has become even more crucial with the national Presidential campaign and the ethical and spiritual issues which it is raising.

Below are both the Global Code of Living and Twelve Universal Avoidances for your consideration.  If you would like to be part of this project, please respond by email or phone, so that you can be included in helping to make the final decision before we start to use these two documents.

 

A GLOBAL CODE OF LIVING

When we seek fulfillment in our lives by following a particular path, so that we may realize our total potential, and if we can relate to the many other paths, we should be able to find a place for the following twelve guidelines:

 

(1)           Be in touch with the Spirit of All Life, called by any name or no name.

(2)           Practice meditation, contemplation, and/or prayer.

(3)           Show all-embracing love toward all beings.

(4)       Experience the true nature of our self and our universe.

(5)           Cultivate truth, respect, and gratitude.

(6)          Live simply and harmoniously with our whole self.

(7)       Use our energy for vigorous and constructive activity.

(8)           Rejoice in our connection with all human beings and all life.

(9)    Strive for peaceful family and community development.

(10)             Get involved in improving the world’s condition.

(11)              Preserve the best of our universal heritage.

(12)             Take heart and act upon our ideals.

 

May we experience each of these dimensions of our total being and discover their interconnections.  At the same time, we ask to become a responsible participant in the emerging global civilization based on the dynamic integration of diversity among all peoples and all life.

 

TWELVE UNIVERSAL AVOIDANCES

A Global Code of Living is an affirmative declaration of principles to live by in the unity-and-diversity global civilization now emerging.  However, while we are affirming what to do, it is also important to state what types of conduct are essential to avoid in order to clear the way for what is possible.  Below are twelve such avoidances:

Those who seek to be fulfilled individuals will resolve to avoid the following temptations;

(1)  Living as if no Higher Power exists.

(2)  Needlessly killing any living creature.

(3)  Committing adultery.

(4)  Taking what is not ours.

(5)  Telling lies.

(6)  Gambling, overeating, or hoarding material goods.

(7)  Being prejudiced against any ethnicity, culture, or religion

(8)  Hating another person or form of life.

(9)  Living in fear and anger.

(10) Damaging or destroying property

(11) Smoking, drinking excess alcohol, or using other drugs

(12) Doing anything which keeps the energy of the Higher Power from expressing itself in every aspect of our life!

TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE OTHERS TREAT YOU

by Rev. Leland Stewart

“Ethics consist in my experiencing the compulsion to show all will-to-live the same reverence as I do to my own life.”    – Albert Schweitzer, Science and Spirituality, page 143

The theme of our message is the Golden Rule, which in some form is present in all religions.  It is the heart of ethics, which has to do with the relation of one human being to another and to all humanity and all life.  The same ethics apply in government as in our individual lives, and a responsible society needs to have a powerful ethical basis in order to fulfill its mission.

This applies to how a society handles its finances as well as in every other aspect.  Not every person and organization in our society should have the same amount of money available to spend, but a society in which the 1% has as much money as the other 99% is clearly out of bounds for a responsible society.  There need to be laws that prevent this unbalance, but an important part of changing the balance should be based on what is ethical.  When 44,000 people in Los Angeles County alone are homeless, while others live in exorbitant luxury is clearly out of balance and in need of the increase of ethical principles and governmental support.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who is quoted at the beginning of this message, says in his Philosophy of Civilization, that civilization is essentially ethical in character.  The transitional nature of our present condition, moving from the end of western civilization to the birth of global civilization, is that our sense of the need for ethics has weakened, and with it the quality of civilization itself.  Our awareness of human values needs to be expanded now to include all races, cultures, and religions.  Making the transition from the predominance of western civilization over others to where a global standard is necessary takes time and patience, but we need to understand where we are going and why we now need a global ethic.

The Parliament of World Religions in 1993 introduced “A Global Ethic”, which since that time has been kept alive and further developed.  It is becoming the task of religions cooperating with each other to make clear what the global ethic will look like, and eventually to put forth a code of living that gives guidance to the emerging global civilization.  The second part of Schweitzer’s book has as its title, “Civilization and Ethics”.  In his later life, Schweitzer had a spiritual experience while on the Ogowe River in Africa, in which we became aware that the central teaching of the new ethic is “Reverence for Life”.  The Golden Rule is very similar in its focus to this teaching.

It is time that the world as a whole, and in particular the United States of America, chooses to live by a personal, social, and global ethic that is based on respect for all life.  Our survival depends upon it.

May peace prevail on earth!!!

THE INTERNET AND THE INNER LIFE

“Life is the center where the material and spiritual forces of the universe seem to meet and to be reconciled.  Spirit is born in life.”  –Edmond W. Sinnott, Science and Spirituality, page 182

 

The internet offers a whole new range of possibilities for reaching out to the world and connecting more directly and quickly than ever was possible in the past.  It is a product of technology, and it can be a help or a hindrance to the cultivation of the inner life.  With the advent of science and technology, there has been a tendency to feel that we now live in a world of machines, robots, and other things mechanical.  Is there room in this kind of world for a deepened spiritual life?  The first conclusion has been that the inner world is no longer as important as it once was, but then we need to look at this question more carefully.

The choices we make are based on our values, and if life is sacred, then we need to provide time for reflection and meaningful decision-making.  There needs to be a balance between facts and values.  Facts give us data about what is going on, but it takes human values to make decisions as to what is important.

The world we now live in seems to be getting increasingly taken up with computers, iphones, ipads, and other things mechanical.  Does this mean that we must give up our thoughts about what matters in life and be told by our technology how we are to live?  Are our religions becoming less important, since they are the source of many of our most important values?  Our services of worship, by whatever name they are called, need to be an important part of our lives; we need the inspiration they provide to guide us in our value choices.

As much as I value the work of Farmers Markets in terms of the foods they provide, I am very concerned that holding them on Sunday mornings takes us away from the time which for most people needs to be devoted to the quest for the awakened spiritual life.  I realize that some faiths do not worship on Sunday mornings, but the vast majority do.  If for some people, other times for worship are provided, then the problem is solved.  But my impression is that many people in our society do not take time to seek the awakened life for one reason or another, and I have to say that no life is complete unless it includes an ongoing time to go within and reflect on the meaningfulness of our personal lives.

In the educational world, more time needs to be devoted to human values for this same reason.  Learning about facts is important, but unless we are equally aware of the values we live by and the sacredness of life itself, we will be as a boat adrift at sea with no rudder to steer our life in a meaningful direction.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!

-by Rev. Leland Stewart

UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF MORAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUES

~by Leland Stewart

May we experience each of (the Declaration’s) dimensions of our total being and discover their interrelationships. At the same time, we ask to become a responsible participant in the emerging global civilization based on the dynamic integration of diversity among all peoples and all life.

  Concluding paragraph of the Declaration, World Scriptures 2, p. 136

For more than a year the World Interfaith Network of Los Angeles has been exploring various teachings that might be included in a global code of living.  Now that the Unity-and-Diversity World Council has entered into its 50thanniversary, the Interfaith Network has chosen to begin the outreach phase using some appropriate code of living.

The core group of the Unity-and-Diversity Fellowship some years ago put together such a code, and it is published inWorld Scriptures, Vol. 2.  It includes the Universal Declaration of Moral and Spiritual Values, an Expansion on These Guidelines, and a set of Twelve Universal Avoidances.  These are all part of the effort to provide the different aspects of a global code of living.  The code itself was based on the research done by Prof. Charles Morris at the University of Chicago and later at Harvard University.  I had the privilege of studying with Prof. Morris at Harvard and have adapted his work to the code of living.

In beginning to outreach with the Universal Declaration of Moral and Spiritual Values, we will undoubtedly find that some parts of it will change, including possibly the title.  We will need to make sure that any changes are an improvement in the document, but we should not be insistent on keeping everything the same.  The goal needs to be to create a code of living that meets human needs.  The absence of such grounding at this time makes it difficult to know what values are essential for establishing the global civilization.

In 1993, at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a Global Ethic was introduced and discussed by many of the faith’s leaders.  No changes were allowed at that time.  Perhaps no changes have been allowed since then.  A book has been written based on the Global Ethic, and an organization has been formed to continue the work.  What was created was not a Global Code of Living but rather a much longer document which focused particularly on the ethical aspect of the code.  A Global Code of Living needs to cover both the ethical and the spiritual dimensions.  The idea of God needs to be part of the code, with an understanding of this spiritual reality that people can accept.  There could be many different names, or perhaps for some people it could be nameless.

You are cordially invited to get a copy of the Universal Declaration of Moral and Spiritual Values and read it thoroughly.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome, and you are invited to help with this process in whatever way you can.  Together we can assist the process of providing a more stable base for the conduct of individuals, groups, and networks in the emerging global civilization.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!

THE IMPORTANCE OF RESPECT

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough.

– Franklin Roosevelt, qtd. in Science and Spirituality, page 160

The violent events that took place in Paris in the last few days bring up two principles that seem to be in conflict with each other.  One is freedom of speech, and the other is the need to avoid violence.  A magazine in Paris prided itself on its satirizing of important matters: in this case the person of Islam’s prophet Mohammed.  Instead of treating him as the revered figure he is for millions of Muslims, he was belittled and made light of.

The contrast was that religions are supposed to be nonviolent and respectful of different opinions.  It is well known that Muslims are very sensitive about how their religious leader is treated.  The magazine did not take that into account in its pages.  While one can say that the principle of free speech would allow different opinions to be aired, it is not respectful to downgrade any individual, and especially the head of a religion who is held in high esteem by millions of people.

These two contrasting principles came into conflict in Paris because of the way in which the magazine pushed the limits of free speech.  The result was a violent confrontation that resulted in the death of a number of people and the unsettling of a major city and its surrounding communities.

One of the most needed attitudes in order to have a world at peace is respect.  The world’s religions generally teach respect as one of their most important values.  In the present period of transition, this sacred value and others have found themselves ignored, with other lesser values take their place.  The situation in Paris is a good illustration as to what can happen when the basic human values, which are supposed to be taught and followed by religions, are not kept in the consciousness of the world’s peoples.

Perhaps the simplest way of teaching this principle so that it is remembered and applied is The Golden Rule, which now is most quoted as “Treat others as you would have them treat you”.  UDC’s Interfaith Celebration in the Los Angeles area has been focusing for the last year on developing a Global Code of Living.  Now that we have entered 2015, which is UDC’s 50thanniversary, we are moving into applying the teachings of a Global Code of Living.  We invite those who are concerned about having such a code of living as guidelines for our present and future ways to live are invited to join us in this effort.

Spirit is One; paths are many!

~Rev. Leland Stewart

SCIENCE AND RELIGION: The Need for Ongoing Cooperation

“Life is the center where the material and spiritual forces of the universe seem to meet and to be reconciled.  Spirit is born in life.”
~ Edmund W. Sinnott, Science and Spirituality, p. 182

Science is a product of the modern world, whereas religion goes back to the beginning of time.  The major religions of the world are of previous eras, where science is of this age.  How then can the two come together and cooperate?

Science is based on a method of examining evidence and coming to conclusions based on the examination: it is called “the scientific method”.  Religion, on the other hand, is based on revelation, which is an inner experience and may not be readily proven through reason.  People of this age have come to trust science because of its ability to produce visible results and through technology make many changes in the world we live in.

The reason that I use the word “religion” rather than spirituality is that it includes both morality and spirituality.  Both are important, and they do go together.  Religions exist as teachings, buildings, communities, and in many other ways.  “Spirituality” is the vertical aspect of religion; that is, it is the relation between the individual and God, called by any name or no name.  “Morality” is behavior based upon the teachings of religion that have certain standards.  Religions teach people how to live in ways that are supposed to be honest, loving, merciful, nonviolent, respectful, and hopefully also healthy.

The problem is that religions are largely ancient, and their ways of doing things are not necessarily congruent with the ways that people relate to in this age.  It is therefore an opportunity for science to approach religion differently, to make it more understandable and more applicable to this age.  We do need standards to live by, things to do and not to do, but we also need to be reached in a way that fits for this age.

We are in transition now between the end of western civilization and the beginning of global civilization.  The reason that there is so much violence and unrest in the world is largely due to the uncertainty which this transition brings.  As the guidelines become clearer as to what is acceptable behavior, and what are the goals of the new civilization, then gradually people will find a clearer purpose for their life and will be able to settle into fulfilling that purpose.

Our reaching out into space, seeking to discover what the other planets have to offer, and perhaps to find life on some of the other planets, is part of the discovery that awaits us on our journey.  Live has much to offer us as we look around and observe its many gifts.  It is in that discovery that life increases its meaning and becomes enriching for all of us.  “Spirit is born in life.”

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!

~Leland Stewart

SPIRITUAL SOLUTIONS TO WORLD PROBLEMS

“Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. …Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.”

              —Dalai Lama, Science and Spirituality, page 177

 

Moral and spiritual values have been developed by the various religions of the world, and at the end of the civilizations of past generations these values have often come into conflict with each other.  One of the obvious ones right now is the conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Islam.  These two sects, having had their point of origin with the birth of the same religion, they have had slight theological differences which have been magnified into major areas of contention.

The differences between religions have been sources of disagreement that have often led to conflict and even war.  What we need to be aware of is that we are now moving beyond these separate civilizations into the need for a planetary civilization.  This is not to say that the previous civilizations are going to disappear.  What is needed is what we call “unity-and-diversity”.  It is the necessity of accepting different ways of life – different races, cultures, religions, and life styles – and at the same time a new creation that encompasses all of these differences as well as their similarities.

What is being called for is a global ethic and spirituality which is powerful and which has the capacity to unify all of these differences.  Some people have called this state of affairs “oneness”.  At the spiritual level this is true, yet at every other level we have differences to accept and live with.  That is why the Unity-and-Diversity World Council has come to use the term “unity-and-diversity” as the actual need.  We cannot and should not expect all differences to disappear in the process of finding peace and harmony. Rather, we need to be good listeners and to respect the differences that are very real and need to be understood and appreciated.

To resort to war is to have failed to find more lasting solutions that involve understanding and mutual respect.  These ethical and spiritual solutions take more courage and responsibility.  The world is gradually rising up and saying that there is another way, and that it is time to find that way and put it into practice.  Mahatma Gandhi called it “satyagraha”, which means to declare your own truth and live by that truth while accepting the consequences of your action.  Martin Luther King called it “nonviolence”, which sounds negative but is really a new way to live without violence.

We are at the time when a global ethic and spirituality are necessary, and all of us need to do our part to help bring it about.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!

~Leland Stewart

MEDITATION MUST PREPARE US FOR THE WORLD

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For those who are hearers and not doers, they are like the ones who observe their natural faces in the mirror; they observe themselves and go away, at once forgetting what they were like.  But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers that act, they shall be blessed in their doings.

—  James the Apostle, Science and Spirituality, p. 431

 

Religion contains both moral and spiritual dimensions.  Those who want to substitute “spiritual” for “religious” have a tendency to leave out the horizontal dimension of morality, which connects us to all human beings and all life.  Today we have many religions, and yet if in fact we tune into some form of Higher Power we often neglect to  connect that Higher Power to living a moral life in the world.  With all of the corruption in our society, and the great amount of misunderstanding and violence now present, we cannot afford just to live within a cocoon that keeps us from acting in line with our beliefs.

Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra have been doing a series of meditation experiences that help to link us with our deeper natures and help us to find personal and spiritual meaning for our lives.  All this is good, and the language used seems to move beyond words that are apt to cause blockages in terms of being sectarian or tied to one religion.  All this is most helpful.  But neither should meditation be only about ourselves.  We live in a world that needs our help, and part of the meaning of our lives should lead us to serve others and the world.  We are challenged to find ways of serving that are in tune with the universality of the Life Force, called by any name or no name.

Beyond political parties and antagonistic points of view there is that Essence that unites and helps to remind us that we are part of that Wholeness which is the Life Force itself.  Our living of a nonviolent life is one of the major challenges of our time, and we need to be able to apply that attitude at many levels as we live our daily existence, and in particular when we are faced with those who have a different point of view than we do.

The Peace Wheel that the Unity-and-Diversity World Council has developed contains twelve different sectors that show the many different interests and fields that make up our society.  In the midst of the Oneness of the Spirit, there is the manyness of everyday life in which we are all involved.  In a democracy we are called upon to live in both worlds and to encourage others to do the same.  Together we can find our way through the maze of the modern world and the coming of the global civilization.

 

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!