Category: Religious Texts

Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most historically important texts in Buddhism, in part because a copy of it is the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world (868 A.D.). Also known by its Sanskrit title Vajracchedika, the Diamond Sutra states that something is what it is only because of what it is not. The text challenges the common belief that inside each and every one of us is an immovable core, or soul. Instead, it proposes a more fluid and relational view of existence. The text is full of negative, or seemingly paradoxical statements by the Buddha, such...

Sermon on the Mount

The  “Sermon on the Mount” is a central to the teachings of Jesus. It is a sermon that he gave to his disciples relatively early in his journey, and it contains the famous “Beatitudes”, blessings of people who are in the eyes of the world poor, stupid, unfortunate, or suffering. It also contains the “Lord’s Prayer,”  the direction on how to pray. This text is from the Gospel of Matthew,  and I quote chapters 5 to 7, from the “New International Version (NIV)” translation. Introduction 5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat...

St.Paul: Letter to the Romans. Law and Sin.

The text was written around 54/55 in Corinth, Greece.  It is one of the core texts of Christian theology, and discusses the relations between nature, law, sin, and redemption.  I am quoting chapter 7, and the beginning of chapter 8. The translation is from the  New International Version, and the numbers in the text represent chapter and verse numbers. 7 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to...

What are religious texts?

Before we can say what religious texts are, we have to define the concept of religion.  The idea of a “religious text” is already an interpretation, unless one just says that the text in question is central to a particular tradition of faith.  Texts like the Torah, the Bible, or the Vedas “anchor” religions, because they are considered to be the word of God, or based on divine inspiration, and as such the text itself can sometimes considered to be sacred. Here are some of the oldest known religious texts: Pyramid texts of Ancient Egypt,  2400-2300 BCE. The Sumerian Temple...

Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster)

The text of the prayer is from Matthew 6:9–13 (English Standard Version): “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Heart Sutra

This is the quintessential Buddhist text. It was written in the first century CE, and the earliest record of a copy of the sūtra is a 200-250CE Chinese version attributed to the monk Zhi Qian. Translation by George Boeree. Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty*, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this: Body is nothing more than emptiness, emptiness is nothing more than body. The body is exactly empty, and emptiness is exactly body. The other four aspects...

Confucius – Analects, Excerpts

The Analects, or Lunyu, contain the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his students. They were written during the Spring and Autumn Period through the Warring States Period (ca. 475 BC – 221 BC). The Analects are  the main work of Confucianism; the work continues to have a substantial influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today. This page contains quotes from the Analects, arranged by the themes found in Confucian Teaching: Jen – Humaneness Junzi (chün-tzu)- the Superior Man, or Gentleman, or Scholar Li – Rites Yüeh –Music Learning and Teaching...

Buddha’s First Sermon

It is the Holy Eightfold Path, namely, Right Belief [understanding the truth about the universality of suffering and knowing the path to its extinction], Right Aspiration [a mind free of ill will, sensuous desire and cruelty], Right Speech [abstaining from lying, harsh language and gossip],
Right Conduct [avoiding killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse], Right Means of Livelihood [avoiding any occupation that brings harm directly or indirectly to any other living being], Right Endeavor [avoiding unwholesome and evil things], Right Memory [awareness in contemplation], Right Meditation.

Genjokoan – The Actualization of Enlightenment

By Eihei Dogen Written in mid-autumn, 1233 Translated by Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens (1975). When all things are the Buddha-dharma, there is enlightenment, illusion, practice, life, death, Buddhas, and sentient beings. When all things are seen not to have any substance, there is no illusion or enlightenment, no Buddhas or sentient beings, no birth, or destruction. Originally the Buddhist Way transcends itself and any idea of abundance or lack–still there is birth and destruction, illusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas. Yet people hate to see flowers fall and do not like weeds to grow. It is an illusion...

I was sent forth from the power…

from James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990. I was sent forth from the power, and I have come to those who reflect upon me, and I have been found among those who seek after me. Look upon me, you who reflect upon me, and you hearers, hear me. You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves. And do not banish me from your sight. And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing. Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard! Do...

Tao Te Ching

The following introduction is from the Tao Te Ching, Translation by Gia Fu Feng & Jane English. With Comments and layout by Thomas Knierim: “The Tao Te Ching  was written in China roughly 2,500 years ago at about the same time when Buddha expounded the Dharma in India and Pythagoras taught in Greece. The Tao Te Ching is probably the most influential Chinese book of all times. Its 81 chapters have been translated into English more times than any other Chinese document. The Tao Te Ching provides the basis for the philosophical school of Taoism, which is an important pillar...