Below are moral commandments and creeds representing the Bible, Buddhism, Hinduism, American Deism, the 17th Century European Enlightenment, and the Quakers in America.
1. The Bible: Ten Commandments
The Decalog, or Ten Commandments, occur with some subtle differences in both Biblical books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Scholars have disputed over their precise division and numbering, particularly with regard to commandments one and two. But they remain, in their simple power, guide posts and stop signs to keep humanity on the path of Life.* Do not have any god but God
* Do not worship a graven image
* Do not dishonor the Name of God
* Do not murder
* Do not steal
* No not lie
* Do not commit adultery
* Do not covet
* Keep the Sabbath
* Honor Father and Mother
2. Hinduism: Yamas & Niyamas of Astanga Yoga
The Yoga system has eight "limbs", according to the sage Patanjali. They must all be practiced together in an integrated system of physical, moral and spiritual growth that encompasses the whole person. The eight limbs of Yoga ("astanga Yoga") are: Moral restraints and commandments, Postures, Breath control, Sense control, Concentration, Meditation, and Union with God.
The Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (commandments) are very close to the Ten Commandments of the Bible. These moral rules are intended to accompany physical and spiritual practices.
5 Yamas* Sexual abstinence (except in marriage)
5 Niyamas* Truth
* Study of scriptures
* Devotion to one's chosen form of God
3. Buddhism: The Five and Ten PreceptsEvery Buddhist lay-person must follow the Five Precepts. Buddhist monks and monks must add to these another five, making the '10 Commandments' of Buddhism.
Five Precepts* No sexual impurity (sexual intimacy only in marriage)
* No lying
* No stealing
* No killing (violence can be used only in self-defense)
* No intoxicants
Five Additional Precepts for Monks and Nuns* No gossip or malicious speech
* No self-display (jewelry, luxurious clothes or sensual behavior)
* No eating after noon (fasting)
* No defaming of the Three Jewels**
* No accepting of money
** The Three Jewels are the basic vows of Buddhism, repeated every morning to honor:
(1) The Buddha (both the historical Teacher and the Buddha-nature within each person)
(2) The Dharma (teaching of the Buddha)
(3) The Sanga (Buddhist community)
4. Rock Edict of King Ashoka (300 BC)
The first and only Buddhist emperor was King Ashoka, who ruled the Mauryan Empire in India. He inscribed his ordinances on rock monuments. The 12th 'Rock Edict' contains the world's first political expression of religious tolerance.
"The Beloved of the Gods (the king) honors all religions with gifts and various forms of recognition. But the Beloved of the Gods does not consider gifts or honors to be as important as the advancement of the essence of all religions. This essence takes many forms, but its basis is the control of one's speech, so as not to extol one's own religion by disparaging another's.... On each occasion one should honor another person's religion, for by doing so one increases the influence of one's own and benefits that of the other's; while by doing otherwise one diminishes the influence of one's own religion and harms the other's.... Therefore, contact between religions is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. The king desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions."
Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Washington and other Founding Father's of the U.S. were influenced by "Deism," the rationalistic and empirical philosophy of the 17th Century Enlightenment. Like the Greek philosophers, they viewed God as universal Reason, who creates the world and allows it to operate by natural rules, including ethical as well as physical laws. The good life is a life of rational action in harmony with these eternal laws. The good life does not depend upon prayer, sacrament, or belief in a personal God.
True believers tried to convince Jefferson, Franklin, and Paine that they must attend church and be baptized. But they never yielded their spiritual independence to an institutionalized religion. At the age of 84, Franklin wrote down the following "Deist's Creed," which he said was all he needed for a "religion":
"This is my creed:
I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe;
That he governs it by his providence;
That he ought to be worshiped;
That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children;
That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this one."
6. Civil Religion (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
Written in 1762, 'The Social Contract' by Jean-Jacques Rousseau had a profound influence on the founders of the United States. Our very concept of liberal democracy derives from that book. In it, Rousseau defines 'Civil Religion': the limits of common religion that should be supported by the state. Beyond these limits, religion should be left to the individual and to private denominations, free of state influence. ('Social Contract' 1v. 8)
"The subjects then owe the Sovereign an account of their opinions only to such an extent as they matter to the community. Now, it matters very much to the community that each citizen should have a religion. That will make him love his duty; but the dogmas of that religion concern the State and its members only so far as they have reference to morality and to the duties which he who professes them is bound to do to others. Each man may have, over and above, what opinions he pleases, without it being the Sovereign's business judge them; for, as the Sovereign has no authority in the other world, whatever the lot of its subjects may be in the life to come, that is not its business, provided they are good citizens in this life. There is therefore a purely civil profession of faith of which the Sovereign should fix the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject....
"The dogmas of civil religion ought to be few, simple, and exactly worded, without explanation or commentary.
* The existence of a mighty, intelligent and beneficent Divinity, possessed of foresight and providence;
* The life to come, the happiness of the just, the punishment of the wicked;
* The sanctity of the social contract and the laws:
"These are its positive dogmas. Its negative dogmas I confine to one: intolerance. Those who distinguish civil from theological intolerance are, to my mind, mistaken. The two forms are inseparable. It is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned... Now that there is and can be no longer an exclusive national religion, tolerance should be given to all religions that tolerate others, so long as their dogmas contain nothing contrary to the duties of citizenship."
7. A Quaker Statement of Faith (John Woolman)
The 17th Century American Quaker, John Woolman, wrote one of the world's classic spiritual autobiographies. He was instrumental in the founding of the American anti-slavery movement. Quakers have no official creeds, for each is encouraged to work out his or her own relationship with God, through the Inward Light of the heart. Yet Quakers such as George Fox, William Penn and Woolman have expressed their personal faith in writings that inspire many. This is Woolman's famous statement concerning the divine spark in every human being.
"There is a principle that is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages has had different names. It is, however, pure, and it proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no form of religion, nor excluded from any where the heart stands in perfect sincerity."