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Deism

http://www.compellingtruth.org/deism.html

Deism - What is it? What do deists believe?

The term "deism" comes from the Latin word deus, which means god. Deism is the belief that God, or a god, exists; this belief is based solely on evidence from the natural world and human reason apart from the revelation of the Bible or other sacred writings. Deism became important during the Age of Enlightenment in 17th and 18th Century Western worldviews, also influencing some early American intellectuals and political leaders.

Some aspects of deism include the belief that God is not involved in His creation, the rejection of supernatural miracles, the rejection of the Bible as the inspired Word of God (though many Deists believe it is a good book), and the rejection of the Christian belief in the Trinity. Two primary forms of deism include classical deism and modern deism.

Classical deism has existed since ancient times and centers on the idea of one Supreme Being who created all things. This thought system evolved in ancient Greek literature as well, and can be seen in the apostle Paul's argument for the Christian message to those in Athens in Acts 17:23-27: "What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him."

Modern deism attempts to integrate the teachings of classical deism with modern scientific knowledge. While classical deism adheres to a view of God as a Creator who has no personal relationship with humanity, some modern deist teachings suggest a view of God that defies the category of being personal or impersonal but is rather transpersonal, or simply beyond understanding.

How does the Christian faith compare and contrast with deism? Both systems agree in a single Creator God. Beyond this, little agreement exists. Since deism rejects supernatural revelation, deism does not accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God that serves as the basis for other Christian beliefs. Of special importance is deism's rejection of Jesus Christ as divine. The Bible teaches Jesus alone is the way to know God personally and to spend eternity with Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 4:12). In addition, deism's rejection of supernatural miracles is at odds with the many miracles recorded in the Bible.

A final note of difference is found in the contrast between deism's impersonal view of God and Christianity's personal view of God. In deism, the Creator has no personal involvement with humanity. Christianity teaches Jesus came because of His love for us. He desires to know each of us personally, providing salvation to those who believe and making them children of God (John 1:14).

http://www.deism.com/deism_defined.htm

Deism:    Deism is the recognition of a universal creative force greater than that demonstrated by mankind, supported by personal observation of laws and designs in nature and the universe, perpetuated and validated by the innate ability of human reason coupled with the rejection of claims made by individuals and organized religions of having received special divine revelation.

Is Deism a form of atheism?    No. Atheism teaches that there is no God. Deism teaches there is a God. Deism rejects the "revelations" of the "revealed" religions but does not reject God.

Do Deists pray?    Only prayers of thanks and appreciation. We don't dictate to God.

Are there Deist rituals, vows, etc.?     No. Since Deism does not attempt to control people, there is no need for rituals. Regarding vows, like wedding vows or words at a funeral, we believe they are too important to the individuals involved to have been written by anyone else. Deists are too independent to rely on a member of the clergy to do these important things for them.

Are there Deist churches or temples?     No. However, we are working towards having Deist Reason Centers all around the world.

How do Deists view God?    We view God as an eternal entity whose power is equal to his/her will. The following quote from Albert Einstein also offers a good Deistic description of God: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."

Is Deism a cult?    It's impossible for Deism to be a cult because Deism teaches self-reliance and encourages people to constantly use their reason. Deism teaches to "question authority" no matter what the cost.

Unlike the revealed religions, Deism makes no unreasonable claims. The revealed religions encourage people to give up, or at least to suspend, their God-given reason. They like to call it faith. For example, how logical is it to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, or that Jesus walked on water, or that Mohammed received the Koran from an angel? Suspending your reason enough to believe these tales only sets a precedent that leads to believing a Jim Jones or David Koresh.

What's Deism's answer to all the evil in the world?     Much of the evil in the world could be overcome or removed if humanity had embraced our God-given reason from our earliest evolutionary stages. After all, all the laws of nature that we've discovered and learned to use to our advantage that make everything from computers to medicine to space travel realities, have existed eternally. But we've decided we'd rather live in superstition and fear instead of learning and gaining knowledge. It's much more soothing to believe we're not responsible for our own actions than to actually do the hard work required for success.

Deism doesn't claim to have all the answers to everything, we just claim to be on the right path to those answers.

Deism has a lot to offer you! It also has a lot to offer society! Deism is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason on the designs/laws found throughout Nature. The designs presuppose a Designer. Deism is therefore a natural religion and is not a "revealed" religion. The natural religion/philosophy of Deism frees those who embrace it from the inconsistencies of superstition and the negativity of fear that are so strongly represented in all of the "revealed" religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (These religions are called revealed religions because they all make claim to having received a special revelation from God which they pretend, and many of their sincere followers actually believe, their various and conflicting holy books are based on.) When enough people become Deists, reason will be elevated over fear and myth and its positive qualities will become a part of society as a whole. Then, instead of having billions of people chasing after the nonsensical violence promoting myths of the "revealed" religions, people will be centered on their God-given reason which will lead to limitless personal and societal progress!

This is not a utopian pipedream. Deism has the potential to connect with every human being because every human being possesses God-given reason. Because of this fact, Deism clicks with the vast majority of people who are made aware of it. This God-given reason, which is so dear and key to Deism, is the natural state of humanity. The superstitions of the man-made "revealed" religions are NOT the natural state of humanity. The cause of our God-given reason being overrun with these man-made myths and superstitions is very simple.  ACTIVE people promoted these falsehoods. Some of these active people were motivated by self gain while others were acting on ignorance. Since the problem was brought about by ACTIVE people, it can be corrected by ACTIVE people. As the number of ACTIVE Deists grows, our actions and energies will cause Deism to eclipse the "revealed" religions of the world and Deism will eventually, through lots of hard teamwork and altruism, replace the "revealed" religions. Humanity and the individuals who make up humanity will then be able to reach their full progressive potential!


The definition of false teaching is of course, those ideologies that lead away from God and the truth. Here are some more false religions that need to be studied with God’s help in order to be able to refute their positions and rescue their members.
 

The Bahai Faith

http://www.bahai.org/beliefs/

In thousands upon thousands of locations around the world, the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith inspire individuals and communities as they work to improve their own lives and contribute to the advancement of civilization. Bahá’í beliefs address such essential themes as the oneness of God and religion, the oneness of humanity and freedom from prejudice, the inherent nobility of the human being, the progressive revelation of religious truth, the development of spiritual qualities, the integration of worship and service, the fundamental equality of the sexes, the harmony between religion and science, the centrality of justice to all human endeavours, the importance of education, and the dynamics of the relationships that are to bind together individuals, communities, and institutions as humanity advances towards its collective maturity.

The Bahá’í Faith began with the mission entrusted by God to two Divine Messengers—the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. Today, the distinctive unity of the Faith They founded stems from explicit instructions given by Bahá’u’lláh that have assured the continuity of guidance following His passing. This line of succession, referred to as the Covenant, went from Bahá’u’lláh to His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and then from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh. A Bahá’í accepts the divine authority of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and of these appointed successors.

Since the inception of the Bahá’í Faith in the Nineteenth Century, a growing number of people have found in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh a compelling vision of a better world. Many have drawn insights from these teachings—for example, on the oneness of humanity, on the equality of women and men, on the elimination of prejudice, on the harmony of science and religion—and have sought to apply Bahá’í principles to their lives and work. Others have gone further and have decided to join the Bahá’í community and participate in its efforts to contribute directly to the realization of Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous vision for humanity’s coming of age.
 

The Christadelphians

http://christianity.about.com/od/christadelphians/a/christadelphianbeliefs.htm

Baptism - Baptism is mandatory, a visible demonstration of repentance and contrition. Christadelphians hold that baptism is the symbolic participation in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, resulting in forgiveness of sins.

Bible - The 66 books of the Bible are the inerrant, "inspired word of God." Scripture is complete and sufficient for teaching the way to be saved.

Church - The word "ecclesia" is used by Christadelphians instead of church. A Greek word, it is usually translated "church" in English Bibles. It also means "a people called out." Local churches are autonomous.

Clergy - Christadelphians have no paid clergy, nor is there a hierarchical structure in this religion. Elected male volunteers conduct services on a rotating basis. Christadelphians means "Brothers in Christ." Members address each other as "Brother" and "Sister."

Creed - Christadelphian beliefs adhere to no creeds; however they do have a list of 53 "Commandments of Christ," most drawn from his words in Scripture but some from the Epistles.

Death - The soul is not immortal. The dead are in the "sleep of death," a state of unconsciousness. Believers are resurrected at Christ's second coming

Heaven, Hell - Heaven will be on a restored earth, with God reigning over his people, and Jerusalem as its capital. Hell does not exist. Amended Christadelphians believe the wicked are annihilated. Unamended Christadelphians believe those "in Christ" will be resurrected to eternal life while the rest will remain unconscious, in the grave.

Holy Spirit - The Holy Spirit is only a force of God in Christadelphian beliefs, because they deny the Trinity doctrine. He is not a distinct Person.

Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is a man, Christadelphians say, not God. He was the Son of God and salvation requires acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior. Christadelphians believe that since Jesus died, he cannot be God, because God cannot die.

Satan - Christadelphians reject the doctrine of Satan as the source of evil. They believe God is the source of both good and evil (Isaiah 45:5-7).

Trinity - The Trinity is unbiblical, according to Christadelphian beliefs. God is one and does not exist in three Persons.
 

Eckankar

http://www.religioustolerance.org/eck.htm

Eckankar is a unique religious and spiritual path, sometimes called the Religion of the Light and Sound of God. Its name can be translated " co-worker with God". Eckankar members are called ECKists or ECK chelas. ("Chelas" means "student").

Eck teachings have ancient roots. Unfortunately much knowledge was lost to history until Paul Twitchell (Paulji) rediscovered it. He founded Eckankar in 1965 and established it as a non-profit religious organization in 1970. Details of Twitchell's life are obscure: his date of birth has been listed variously as 1908, 1912 and 1922. Eckankar followers believe that he studied under two Eck Masters: Sudar Singh in Paris and India, and a elderly monk Rebazar Tarzs in Tibet. They believe that he received the title of the 971st Eck Master from Tarzs in 1965, thus becoming the latest in a series of Masters which began before recorded history. Some of the past Masters are known historical figures; most have been solitary practitioners or have taught small groups. Paul Twitchell apparently gained additional knowledge from Kirpal Singh, an Eastern Guru, founder of the Ruhani Satsang movement.

After Paul Twitchell's death in 1971, Darwin Gross, the 972nd Eck Master became the Mahanta of Eckankar. (A Mahanta is the spiritual leader of Eckankar, a "living manifestation of God"). Subsequently, Sri Harold Klemp (1942-) became the 973rd Eck Master in 1981; he now heads the movement as its Mahanta.

Eckankar currently has over 50,000 members, who live in over 100 countries. They maintain facilities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. The main spiritual center is the Temple of ECK, located in Chanhassen, MN near Minneapolis-St. Paul. A public reading room, chapel, fellowship hall, classrooms and administration offices are located on the same site. They publish a periodical, the Eckankar Journal.

Beliefs:

          Sugmad is a sacred name of God. God is perceived as neither male nor female.

          An ECK Current connects every person with the Heart of Sugmad. It flows from the Creator to the lower levels of existence and then returns to God. It is often called the Holy Spirit. ECK manifests itself in two forms:

          an "Inner Sound", the "Voice of God calling us home". The Sound may be present as a sound of nature or as music.

          an "Inner Light which is a beacon to light our way". During spiritual exercises, the light sometimes materializes as "brightness or colors on your inner visual screen".

          Eckankar believes in the duality of the soul and body. The soul is the inner, most sacred part of an individual. It is eternal, without beginning or end. It lives only in the present. One's soul can exist and travel separately from the body and even from the mind.

          A person is capable of exploring other planes of existence, through Soul Travel. Unlike "Astral Projection" which is taught by other spiritual traditions, Soul Travel is not limited to the Astral Plane; it allows you to go further and explore any of the God worlds.

Among the 11 worlds there are 5 lower (psychic or material) and 6 upper (spiritual) planes. Each has a regular name; a classical name; an associated sound and light; a Temple of Golden Wisdom and a guardian. The lower planes are

Physical plane: the coarsest material level

Astral plane: the "source of human emotion, psychic phenomena, ghosts and UFO's".

Causal plane: where memories of previous lives are stored

Mental plane: which contains the source of ethics, moral teachings and philosophy

Etheric plane: this is the boundary with the higher worlds. It is the source of the "subconscious and primitive thoughts".

Before entering the spiritual levels, the chela (student) discards their mind and continues in their Tuza (soul).

          Eckankar has a concept of Karma which is somewhat similar to that found in Hinduism. Through attachment to the five passions (anger, greed, lust, undue attachment to the physical world and vanity) one's bad karma accumulates. This requires a person to be reincarnated at death, in order have an opportunity to work off the debt of karma in their next life. The goal of Eckists is to pay off all of this accumulated debt and achieve Self-Realization in their present life. Once this state is reached, at death one need not return and spend another lifetime on earth. One is freed from the endless cycles of reincarnation.

Eckankar is regarded by its followers as the best (but not the only) path to God-realization. Christianity is recognized as an alternative path that can aid a follower to achieve a degree of enlightenment. Christians, and others, may join Eckankar without renouncing their existing religion.

 
 
 
Love Family/ Children of God

http://www.eaec.org/cults/cog.htm

Overview

The Family is a high-demand faith group that requires great personal sacrifice on the part of its members. They emphasize Jesus' teachings against loyalties to one's family-of-origin. They stress Jesus' preaching in favor of poverty and a simple life. The group merges traditional Christian beliefs and practices with the belief in universal salvation, contacts with spirits, communal living, and free love among adults within the group.

The roots of The Family can be traced back to the counter-culture movement of the late 1960's. Many young adults, called flower children, or hippies, left the middle-class life of their families of origin and sought a simpler lifestyle in the form of communal life in southern California. Out of this hippie movement came a loosely connected group of Evangelical Christian organizations collectively known as The Jesus People, which were described as "a diverse collection of pastors, street-preachers, oddballs and intellectuals all trying to communicate the gospel to the counterculture." 

The Children of God were founded by one of these individuals. David Berg began his professional life as an evangelist for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1964. He became the leader of a Teen Challenge chapter in Huntington Beach, CA. in 1967. Teen Challenge was a youth ministry of the Assemblies of God denomination. He separated the group from the national Teen Challenge organization in 1968 and renamed it Light Club. Members were called "Lightclubbers."

 Many flower children were encouraged by rock music and free peanut butter sandwiches to spend some time in the coffee house. Some evangelized other hippies; a few on a full time basis. Berg received a "revelation" from God in 1969 that a disastrous earthquake was about to hit California, and cause part of the state to slide into the ocean. He led the group out of Huntington Beach to wander throughout the American southwest for 8 months. During that time, they changed their name to the Children of God. The earthquake never materialized as Berg prophesied.

Also in 1969, David Berg became a polygamist by marrying a second wife, Maria. He based this decision on passages from the Old Testament which permitted multiple wives. He received "revelations" from God identifying himself as the "End Time Prophet" who would play a major role in the Second Coming, the long anticipated return to earth of Jesus Christ.

New members were encouraged to sever all contact with their families of origin, to donate almost their entire possessions to the group, and become full time evangelists. Their parents were justifiably concerned about the status, future and safety of their adult children.

David Berg, now called Moses David, first attempted to disperse the membership among many communes (called colonies) throughout the United States. He later prophesied that a comet would hit the United States and destroy all life. This motivated the group to organize the "Great Escape", an exodus whereby almost all of the members left the U.S. and settled in various countries in Europe, South America, India and Australia.

Berg made contact with Abrahim, a spirit guide, which he had acquired in a Gypsy camp. Later he revealed "other spiritual contacts with the dead."

In 1973, Berg introduced "litnessing." This was a method of Christian witnessing through the distribution of literature in exchange for donations. Berg wrote many "Mo Letters" for this outreach. He eventually produced in excess of 2,500 letters.

In 1976, Berg encouraged the women members of the group to engage in "flirty fishing". The term was based on Jesus' injunction "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). Women members were urged to go into bars and befriend men. They were expected to seduce potential male converts if necessary to in order to encourage them towards a religious conversion and membership in the organization. The media had a feeding frenzy with this innovative form of evangelism, portraying the COG women as "Hookers for Jesus." In his 1979 annual report, Berg stated that his "FFers" (Flirty Fishers) had "witnessed to over a quarter of a million souls, loved over 25,000 of them and won about 19,000 to the Lord."

The COG was reorganized as the Family of Love in 1977 after some "abuses of authority" were revealed among the leadership. The original autocratic organization of Dad (David Berg), apostles, elders, and deacons was replaced by a democratic structure. Each commune (called "home") became an autonomous unit. Their organizational name was later shortened to The Family. At this time, Berg introduced "sexual sharing", which is free consensual sexual activity among the membership. "The free expression of sexuality, including fornication, adultery, lesbianism (though not male homosexuality), and incest were not just permitted but encouraged."

Cult Beliefs

They believe that a person can be saved and spend eternity in heaven if they repent of their sins and accept Christ as Lord and Savior. But they differ from fundamental Christian beliefs in that they believe all people will eventually be saved and attain heaven.

They reject the doctrine of salvation as laid out in the Bible. They do not believe that all unsaved humans will be tortured forever in lake of fire after death.

The Family represents, in their view, "a return to the roots of the true Christian church." All other Christian faith groups are false.

They condemn "The System", which includes governments and the rest of society. The System is regarded as evil; society generally is seen as near collapse.

 They base their religion on their interpretation of the Bible. A secondary source are the writings of their founder. Two sources state that Berg's writings are considered to override the Bible in cases of conflict; another says the opposite.

They believe sexual enjoyment, from masturbation to intercourse is considered a gift of God. It is an activity that is to be thoroughly enjoyed as a major focus of one's life. Both male and female Family members are urged to masturbate while fantasizing about engaging in sexual activity with Jesus. They embrace free, consensual sexuality as a gift of God.

They believe that Jesus had sexual relations with Martha and Mary.

 They believe the angel Gabriel engaged in sexual intercourse with Mary at the time of Jesus' conception.They perceive the Holy Spirit as feminine in nature, and is referred to as a "Dream Queen" or "Holy Queen of Love".

They believe that people can sometimes be adversely affected by deceased people from the spirit world. Exorcisms are occasionally performed to rid people of evil spirits.

 They believe in communication with the spirits of dead people.

 
 
 
Unity School Of Christianity

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Cults/unitysch.htm

Unity School of Christianity, also known as Unity (with headquarters on a 1,400-acre campus in Unity Village, Missouri -- near Lee's Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City), was "founded" in 1889 (with the publishing of a national monthly magazine called Modern Thought -- renamed Unity Magazine in 1894) by Charles S. Fillmore (1854-1948), a spiritist with no Christian background, and Myrtle (Paige) Fillmore (1845-1931), a Methodist; this was after Myrtle said she was healed of tuberculosis by repeating an occultic mind-over-matter affirmation, "I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherent sickness" (she had been dabbling heavily in Christian Science). It was later incorporated as a church in 1903 by the Unity Society of Practical Christianity. In 1948, the control of Unity was assumed by the Fillmore's two sons, Lowell and W. Rickert Fillmore, and has since experienced tremendous growth. Unity currently claims about 200,000 U.S. members and 1.5 million members worldwide.

Unity's leader is now Connie Fillmore Bazzy, a great-granddaughter of the founders. She controls everything from publishing Unity's magazines to the 24-hour Silent Unity Prayer ministry that generates the majority of the organization's approximately $30 million in annual income. Charles R. Fillmore is the grandson of the founder and acts as Chairman of the Board for Unity.

Unity's roots are to be found in the ministry of Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, who practiced what was called "animal magnetism." His work involved manipulating the "subconscious" mind, and he was the first modern user of hypnotism (hence, the term "mesmerism"). Some years later, Unity joined the International New Thought Alliance (along with Christian Science and New Thought) from which many of their doctrines have emanated.1

The Fillmores studied Spiritualism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Brahmanism, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, New Thought, Christian Science, and other Mind Science religions, believing that there was some good in every religion. (They did disagree, however; with the Christian Science doctrine that matter is not real.) Charles Fillmore admits that he and Myrtle had taken "more than forty courses (in metaphysical subjects)" (The Story of Unity, James Dillet Freeman, Unity Books publishing, pp. 35, 41-42). The Fillmores also took "several courses" from Emma Curtis Hopkins to further their understanding of New Thought. Hopkins had been an editor on the Christian Science Journal, Mary Baker Eddy's publication (The Story of Unity, pp. 43-45).

Charles Fillmore chose the ancient Egyptian winged disc, an occult symbol, as the symbol to represent Unity. Steeped in Hinduism, Fillmore felt that he had been associated with the symbol in previous lives. (He believed he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul!) A Unity video states that this symbol is a representation of the "Earth being lifted in consciousness." Unity Magazine says it is "a soul giving wings to the body." These are thoroughly pagan ideas. (Frank Yurco, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, says the "winged disc" symbol represents "a fear of demons and evil gods. ... It represents the sun-god, Ra, as he flees across the sky.")

This occultic fixation eventually led to the formation of a group which would pray, or meditate, for the healing of others. This became the Society of Silent Help, later changed to Silent Unity, that extolled the virtues of creative thinking and the power of the human mind to cure any ailment. The Fillmores never thought of starting a church, so they took the name "Unity School of Practical Christianity." "Practical" was dropped from the name in 1914, at which time the Unity Tract Society and Silent Unity incorporated under the name of Unity School of Christianity. Fillmore, during a time of silent prayer, is said to have received the name Unity. Fillmore explained he heard the name "just as the voice of Jesus was heard by Paul" (The Story of Unity, p. 61).

Today the "school" is a centralized group with churches in many areas. They distribute millions of pieces of literature a year; their most popular publications (with a total circulation of about three million) are Unity Magazine (articles on metaphysical topics) and Daily Word (their daily devotional magazine). There are many "authoritative" Unity writings, two of which are Mysteries in Genesis and Christian Healing, both by Charles Fillmore. They also air a number of radio broadcasts. They have over 500 churches and/or study groups in America, with an additional 100 or so congregations and study groups in 15 foreign countries.

Unity's doctrines are a mish-mash of borrowed teachings from different religions and philosophies -- Hinduism, Spiritism, Theosophy, Christian Science, and Christianity. At the heart of Unity's teachings is a "health and wealth" philosophy so popular to many in the professing Christian church today. But according to a Unity booklet by Elizabeth Sand Turner, What Unity Teaches, Unity has no dogmatic statement of faith to which the people must adhere. Instead, the follower is to "accept what he finds helpful to lift his consciousness to a higher level." Nevertheless, Charles R. Fillmore, grandson of Charles S. and Myrtle, wrote The Adventure Called Unity in 1963, which clearly delineates Unity's teachings.

Below are the highlights of what Unity believes concerning its source of authority, the Godhead, Christ, sin and salvation, hell, sickness, and reincarnation:

1. Source of Authority. Because of Unity's philosophy that all religions teach truth, the Bible is simply another book of Scripture. Charles Fillmore wrote, "It is not necessary that you despise the scriptures of the Jews, of the Hindus, or of any people, but you are to take them for what they are: the records of men as to what their experiences have been in communing with the omnipresent God" (The Twelve Powers of Man, p. 115). Unity does not believe that the Scriptures are the complete and absolute authority, but that they are merely the "testimonials of men." They do not even consider their own teachings to be permanently binding, but believe that such teachings are always open to new revelation. They teach that the Bible is an "allegory" -- i.e., that experience, if you are 'in tune' with God, is more accurate and reliable than the Bible. They give metaphysical interpretations to many obvious truths in the Bible so that the normal meaning is twisted and the passage then fits their theology. (In other words, Unity says the Bible doesn't mean what it says.) They consider reason and "logic of the mind" to be their final authority. [HJB]

2. Trinity. Unity has given a metaphysical meaning to the word "trinity"; they say the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit refer to "mind, idea, and expression." They believe that God is Universal Law or divine Principle, not a person. [HJB] They teach the New Age/Pantheistic idea that God is All and All is God. They explain, "God is Spirit, or the creative energy which is the cause of all visible things. God is not a being or person having life, intelligence, love, power. God is that invisible, intangible, but very real, something we call life. Each rock, tree, animal, everything visible, is a manifestation of the one Spirit -- God -- differing only in degree of manifestation; and each of the numberless modes of manifestation, or individualities, however insignificant, contains the whole" (Lessons In Truth, H. Emilie Cady, pp. 6, 8).

3. God. Under the heading "spirit," Unity's Metaphysical Bible Dictionary states, "A name for God. Spirit and Mind are synonymous; therefore we know God-Spirit as Mind, the one Mind, or Intelligence, of the universe." The Dictionary continues with "The Father is Principle. Thus, we might also say, Father is Being in the absolute, the unlimited, the unrelated" (p. 629). "Childlike, untrained minds say God is a personal being. The statement that God is principle chills them, and in terror they cry out. God is the name we give to that unchangeable, inexorable principle at the source of all existence. To the individual consciousness God takes on personality, but as the creative underlying cause of all things, He is principle, impersonal; as expressed in each individual, He becomes personal to that one -- a personal, loving, all-forgiving Father-Mother" (Lessons In Truth, p. 11).

4. Jesus Christ. Unity teaches that Christ is an idea, the essence of "divine Mind." They claim that Jesus was merely a perfect man who fully possessed the Christ principle, which He obtained by advancing "through many reincarnations" (What Unity Teaches). They say that every person is potentially perfect, and that Jesus expressed that perfection, and while we are still only working toward it, we are part of the divine universal consciousness, and therefore, divine by nature. They believe that we can do anything Jesus did, in effect raising mankind to the level of the divine, and making us equal with Jesus Christ. [HJB] Unity tells us that studying about God and Jesus Christ is not enough. We must discover the Christ principles of successful living and then be ready to apply them to our own daily living. In summary, rather than viewing Jesus as the Savior from our sins, Unity views Him as merely the "Way Shower."2

Unity believes in the Second Coming of Christ, not in the flesh, but as the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit to all who are prepared to receive it. The Holy Spirit is a latent power within every man. This, they believe, is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to his disciples (e.g., Unity says, "In this day of great spiritual awakening, when the hearts and minds of many are turning to God, the Second Coming of Christ is taking place for them.").

5. Holy Spirit. Charles Fillmore, again in harmony with the Pantheistic ideology of his day, stated that the Holy Spirit was not a personal being, but rather only an impersonal force. He wrote, "The Holy Spirit in Divine Mind corresponds to our thought in our minds. So we can ideate the unlimited Divine Mind, but when this Mind is brought into our world or consciousness it is limited to our conception of it" (Atom-Smashing Power of Mind, p. 99).

6. Sin and Salvation. Unity denies the reality of sin and evil. They do not recognize man as being sinful or in need of salvation, because they believe that every person is part of God. They teach that we can overcome weaknesses and mistakes through wisdom and right thinking, not by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. [HJB] Instead, Unity tells us that man's mind is his connecting link with God, and that if man is to control his spiritual growth and fulfillment, he must control his thinking. They teach that the atonement is the reconciliation of our minds with the Divine Mind.

In Talks on Truth, Unity says: "Salvation is finally attained when the cycle of rebirth is broken and man comes to birth no more. The true spiritual body is to replace the physical body and the man becomes like Christ. This is to be done on earth ... eternal life means conscious existence in the body." For Unity, then, salvation and true religious growth are "do-it-yourself projects" (The Adventure Called Unity, pp. 6-7).

7. Hell. With the Unity concept of the power of positive thinking, there is no talk about sin, and therefore, no eternal hell and no eternal punishment. They deny that hell is a real place, but claim that both heaven and hell are "states of mind," not geographical locations, that people experience as a result of their thoughts, words, and deeds. [HJB] Unity, thereby, is one of the most dangerous cults, because it lulls followers into thinking that they will never have to face the living God of the Bible.

8. Sickness. Unity claims that pain, sickness, old age, and death are not real. Instead, they teach a process of healing that uses "denial" and mental power: "Unity believes in the creative power of thoughts and words. We can have neither good nor ill unless we think and speak it into manifestation. ... what we think and speak will act to lift the consciousness to a higher level" (What Unity Teaches).

9. Reincarnation. Unity goes a step beyond Christian Science in its teaching of "transmigration of souls." Unity believes in reincarnation, i.e., that through a long process of rebirths we eventually reach perfection and immortality. (Unity teaches that Christ had been David, Moses, and Elijah in previous lives.) This was borrowed directly from Hinduism, in effect, lifted right out of Hindu's sacred writings. (However, unlike Hinduism, Unity's reincarnation is only to a new human body, never to an animal body.) They claim that God never intended for man to die, but that reincarnation was His merciful provision (cf. Heb. 9:27). They teach that once we reach perfection, we become part of the "Divine Mind," an eternal state of peace and tranquility [HJB]. Fulfillment, for the Unity adherent, is to come to the end of countless reincarnations, because one has then finally arrived at his Christ-like perfection state -- "The second birth is that in which we 'put on Christ.' It is a process of mental adjustment and body transmutation that takes place right here on earth." [From Unity's Statement of Faith, Article 22: "We believe that the dissolution of spirit, soul and body caused by death, is annulled by rebirth of the same spirit and soul in another body here on earth. We believe the repeated incarnations of man to be a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus."]

 
 
EST

http://skepdic.com/est.html

Werner Erhard's est [Erhard Seminar Training and Latin for "it is"] was one of the more successful entrants in the human potential movement. est is an example of what psychologists call a large group awareness training program.

The first est seminar was held in October, 1971, at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco with nearly 1,000 in attendance. Erhard and est were known for training people to get "It", a concept taken from author, teacher and expert communicator Alan Watts. At the time Erhard arrived in the Bay Area, Watts was teaching his version of Zen to small groups on his houseboat in Sausalito. Erhard, like Watts, would teach people to "Get It." Watts, however, did most of his teaching through books. His seminars were small. Erhard and his trainers would not teach through books, but in large hotel ballrooms and auditoriums to hundreds at a time.

(Writing about a program that no longer exists and that was taken by hundreds of thousands of people is risky, to say the least. Clearly, the experiences of those who took the program varied greatly. Whatever I say that resonates with one group of participants will seem false to another group. What follows is an attempt to reflect the background and the experience of est, but the reader should realize that whatever I say will be inadequate, perhaps even false, for some participants.)

est adopted, in part, the Zen master approach, which was often abusive, profane, demeaning, and authoritarian. (One of my favorite Zen stories is of the master who asks his disciple a series of questions. No matter what the disciple answers, the master hits him with a stick. Even contradictory answers are met with the stick. The result is not resentment but enlightenment. If you stick around long enough, life will teach you this lesson for free: no matter what you do, it hits you with its stick!) While many participants did not perceive the training as particularly abusive, some were not used to the discipline requested of them. Some have claimed that one typically abusive approach was the requirement of extraordinary bladder control in est training. Participants were advised not to leave the room, even to go to the toilet, during training. According to one est participant, however, "bathroom breaks were scheduled at regular and reasonable intervals....Two or three rows at the back of the room were reserved for those who required more frequent bathroom breaks (and I think either some sort of documentation or personal insistence were required to qualify). No one was ever physically required to stay in the room at any time" (personal correspondence). (This aspect of est training was humorously ridiculed in the movie "Semi-Tough" (1978) with Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristoferson.) In any case, one should expect some sort of discipline and required order for this kind of training. Having people come and go as they please is distracting and not conducive to the concentration necessary for such a program.

Erhard and Scientology

In the late 1960s, Erhard studied Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard became a significant influence. Scientologists to this day accuse Erhard of having stolen his main ideas for est from Hubbard. We do know that when Erhard set up est he considered making it a non-profit, as Hubbard had done with dianetics and the Church of Scientology. But Erhard decided to incorporate as an educational firm for profit in a broad market.

Erhard and his supporters accuse Scientology of being behind various attempts to discredit Erhard, including hounding by the IRS and accusations of incest by his children. Erhard won a lawsuit against the IRS and the incest accusations were recanted. Erhard has claimed he has good evidence that Scientologists made a strong and concerted effort to destroy him.

est is not dianetics

est bears little resemblance to Dianetics or Scientology, however. est is a hodgepodge of philosophical bits and pieces seemingly culled from the carcasses of existential philosophy, motivational psychology, Maxwell Maltz's Psycho-cybernetics, Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, Freud, Abraham Maslow, L. Ron Hubbard, Hinduism, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, P. T. Barnum, and apparently anything else that Erhard's intuition told him would work in the burgeoning human potential market. (I'm not saying that such eclecticism is a bad thing or that Erhard consciously constructed est out of just these sources. I employ bits and pieces from many of the same sources in my teaching. In fact, after a Socratic performance on the first day of an Introduction to Philosophy course, a student once blurted out: "This is just like est!")

What did Erhard promise those who would shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for his programs? He promised he would "blow their minds"* and "empower" them "to produce effective action." He would enable them "to produce new ways of working." He would transform the basis of their communication. They would be able "to cause life instead of just living it." "Werner Erhard held out the tantalizing promise of transformation, a word and a concept never precisely defined in the fuzzy syntax-twisted jargon of est" (Pressman 1993).

Erhard's self-training

Where did Erhard get his training? Mostly, he is self-taught. His study was undirected and accidental. In 1960 he was John Rosenberg, a 25-year-old married with children. Apparently dissatisfied with his life but with no Large Group Awareness Training available to him, he did what many unhappy men have done: he abandoned his family. He left Philadelphia and went to St. Louis, changed his name and sold cars. Some might find it interesting that a man with a Jewish father whose parents had him baptized in the Episcopal church would come to identify himself with a German name. Of more interest to his transformation, however, are the books he read and was influenced by. William Warren Bartley III (Werner Erhard: the Transformation of a Man) tells us that Erhard was "profoundly dissatisfied with the competitive and meaningless status quo" and was deeply affected by Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich.

    Hill's three basic principles are: every achievement begins with an idea; plans call for their implementation and; what you think is what you do. Think positive, you will do positive deeds.

Hill also advised visualizing objectives and selecting similar-minded friends. Hill gives good advice, but it is very vague and is not very systematic. It doesn't offer much to people who haven't got a clue what their objectives are or should be. Some of his ideas can be harmful, if not properly applied. For example, some people are taught that they should always talk positive, even if this means lying. Even if you haven't made a sale in two years, you must put on a positive front and tell everyone that business couldn't be better. Even if you know nothing about the product you are selling, you must praise it beyond belief. Even if you are experiencing one failure after another, you must lie to yourself and tell yourself that you are doing great. You must never blame the product for not selling. You must try harder, have more faith, be more positive. The est training was not, however, a prelude to, say, The Secret, where the message is an extension of Hill's think it and it will become so philosophy. est was not just more Norman Vincent Peale.

Another significant influence on Erhard was Maxwell Maltz's Psycho-cybernetics. As a young man, Erhard apparently had a lot of negatives in his self-image and was deeply affected by Maltz who emphasized, among other things, self-hypnosis.

Erhard put his new ideas and new self to work as a traveling salesman for a correspondence school. The basic idea he came to espouse is that we've developed debilitating habits and beliefs. The point is to get rid of them and replace them. As one participant said, his est trainer told them that

    the brain always was functioning as a self-perpetuating machine, programmed to repeat over and over again the same mechanistic responses to similar situations facing people in their daily lives.

    "I'll tell you everything there is to know about life," the trainer gleefully announced. "What is, is, and what ain't, ain't." (Pressman 1993)

Another participant describes what he got out his est training this way:

    Perhaps the most eloquent and concise description of "it" that I have ever come across is from an Alan Watts essay, "This Is It":

    "To the individual thus enlightened it appears as a vivid and overwhelming certainty that the universe, precisely as it is at this moment, as a whole and in every one of its parts, is so completely right as to need no explanation or justification beyond what it simply is....the mind is so wonder-struck at the self-evident and self-sufficient fitness of things as they are, including what would ordinarily be thought the very worst, that it cannot find any word strong enough to express the perfection and beauty of the experience...The central core of the experience seems to be the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living."

    That, in a nutshell, is "it," and as Watts indicates, it occurs now. And I do believe, some two decades later, that that is what I got at the est training. Of course, that was then. (Although when I got it, it was now.) (Sobel 1998)

For Sobel, the training was something like one might expect in a Zen Buddhist retreat:

    And so yes, I did "get it" at the est training twenty years ago, and what I got is that it always already is (and isn't), so therefore I still have it today (and don't), and it includes at times having the absolute certainty that I in fact never truly got it (or lost it) and nor do I still have it (although I do.) Get it?

This is the sound of one hand clapping for itself, I guess.

By the time Erhard arrived in San Francisco, he'd had jobs selling and managing salespersons for Great Books and Parent's magazine. He became part of the self-help movement after hiring Robert Hardgrove, who introduced Erhard to the work of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Maslow and Rogers were unique in psychology at the time, for they emphasized not the disturbed or ill person, but the healthy, happy, satisfied, accomplishing person. The human potential movement was just getting started and Erhard would be in on the ground floor.

It is estimated that some 700,000 people did the training before the seminars were halted in 1991, when Erhard packed up and left the country [Faltermayer]. There must have been a lot of satisfied customers to rack up that kind of participation over little more than a decade. He sold the est "technology" to some followers who established Landmark Forum. Erhard's brother, Harry Rosenberg, heads Landmark Education Corp. (LEC), which does some $50 million a year in business and has attracted some 300,000 participants. LEC is headquartered in San Francisco, as was est, and has 42 offices in 11 countries. Apparently, however, Erhard is not involved in the operation of LEC.
 
 
 

Gnosticism

http://www.religioustolerance.org/gnostic.htm

Gnosticism is a philosophical and religious movement which started in pre-Christian times. Some religious historians believe that it had is source in the Jewish community of Alexandria and was later picked up by some Christian groups in Judea and the Galilee. 1

The name is derived from the Greek word "gnosis" which literally means "knowledge."  However, the English words "Insight" and "enlightenment" capture more of the meaning of "gnosis."  It is pronounced with a silent "G" (NO-sis). Gnosticism is not factual, intellectual, rational knowledge, such as is involved in mathematics and physics; that would have been more accurately represented by the Greek world "episteme." Rather, Gnosticism involves the relational or experiential knowledge of God and of the divine or spiritual nature within us. A visitor to this web site wrote:

"...we believe that gnosis-knowledge requires ultimate transcendence of the merely intellectual to be actualized." 2

Gnostics believe that they have secret knowledge about God, humanity and the rest of the universe of which the general population was unaware. It became one of the three main belief systems within 1st century Christianity, and was noted for four factors by which differed from the two other branches of Christianity:

Novel beliefs about Gods, the Bible and the world which differed from those of other Christian groups.

Tolerance of different faith groups within and outside of Gnosticism.

Lack of discrimination against women. Although Jesus treated women as equals, and Paul mostly did the same, the other Christian belief systems started to oppress women in later generations. This is readily seen by reading the books in the Christian Scriptures that say they were written by Paul, but were -- according to many mainline and liberal Christian theologians -- in fact forgeries written by unknown authors long after Paul's death either:

 During the 1st Century CE, like Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians, and  During the 2nd century CE like the Pastoral epistles: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.

A belief that salvation is achieved through relational and experiential knowledge. In the words of The contemporary Gnostic Apostolic Church, humanity needs to be awakened and brought:

    "... to a realization of his true nature. Mankind is moving towards the Omega Point, the Great day when all must graduate or fall. This day is also the Day of Judgment in that only those who have entered the Path of Transfiguration and are being reborn can return to the Treasury of Light." 3

The movement and its literature were almost wiped out before the end of the 5th century CE by Catholic heresy hunters and the Roman Army. Its beliefs are currently experiencing a rebirth throughout the world, triggered in part by the discovery of an ancient Gnostic library at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in the 1940s, and the finding of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas at El Minya, Egypt, in the 1970s.

One modern Gnostic faith group is Novus Spiritis. It has churches in San Jose, CA; Renton, WA; and Las Vegas, NV. Their glossary of religious terms defines Novus Spiritus as:

    "A Gnostic Christian Church, that believes in reincarnation, the duality of God as both masculine and feminine, and in tenets that explain how we can best advance our souls for God -- while living with the negativity here on Earth. Founded by psychic Sylvia Browne on 1986-APR-14, Novus Spiritus is based on a long line of Gnostic churches that have existed for over 7,200 years. The first church service was conducted on 1986-JUL-12. Gnostics believe in finding their own truth, and don’t believe in “hell,” “sin,” or that Jesus came to die for our sins -– but was a human messiah who served as a living example of how we should think and behave. Church members believe in an all-loving, all-merciful and benevolent God, in the power of prayer, and that we write a 'chart' for each life, to learn the life lessons we have chosen to learn through experience – to reach our own desired level of perfection for God, who loves us unconditionally and equally."4

Novus Spiritis' lack of belief in "sin" may well be surprising to many. According to GotQuestions.org:

    "Gnostics assert that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good. As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believe anything done [while] in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only."

 
 
 
Hare Krishna

http://iskcon.org/what-is-iskcon/

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, includes five hundred major centers, temples and rural communities, nearly one hundred affilated vegetarian restaurants, thousands of namahattas or local meeting groups, a wide variety of community projects, and millions of congregational members worldwide. Although less than fifty years on the global stage, ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in New York City in 1966.

ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic or Hindu culture. Philosophically it is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā and the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad Bhagavatam. These are the historic texts of the devotional bhakti yoga tradition, which teaches that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.

God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama, etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra, or the great prayer for deliverance: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Many leading academics have highlighted ISKCON’s authenticity. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, describes the movement as “a tradition that commands a respected place in the religious life of humankind.” In the 1980s Dr. A. L. Basham, one of the world’s authorities on Indian history and culture, wrote of ISKCON that, “It arose out of next to nothing in less than twenty years and has become known all over the West. This, I feel, is a sign of the times and an important fact in the history of the Western world.”

ISKCON’s founder, Srila Prabhupada, has drawn appreciation from scholars and religious leaders alike for his remarkable achievement in presenting India’s Vaishnava spiritual culture in a relevant manner to contemporary Western and worldwide audiences.

Members of ISKCON practice bhakti-yoga in their homes and also worship in temples. They also promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of the society’s literatures. ISKCON members have also opened hospitals, schools, colleges, eco-villages, free food distribution projects, and other institutions as a practical application of the path of devotional yoga.

Vaishnavism is one of the major traditions within the broader Vedic, or Hindu, spiritual culture. Unlike some Vedic traditions, Vaishnavas believe that the ultimate reality is personal. Thus, they understand that God is the Supreme all-attractive person, or Krishna. They acknowledge that all living beings are eternal persons, and that all life’s problems are rooted in the individual soul’s forgetfulness of his or her relationship with God.

Vaishnavas teach that by chanting God’s names the soul can reawaken his original spiritual knowledge, live peacefully in this life and return to the spiritual realm, or Vaikuntha, the place of no anxiety, at the time of death.

There are four main sampradayas or Vaishnava lineages all based originally in India. Vaishnavas worship Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama, and Lord Krishna as different manifestations of the same Supreme Lord or one supreme divinity, although the styles of worship and emphasis differ.

The Vaishnava tradition has widely influenced South Asian culture through music, dance, theater and art. Vaishnavism’s heartfelt philosophy and poetic sacred texts integrate a profound theology with astute social discourse. The key Vaishnava sastras, or scriptures, are Krishna’s teachings in the Bhagavad-gita, included in the longer work, the Mahabharata), the Srimad Bhagavatam (one of the eighteen Puranas), the Ramayana, and the more recent 16th Century Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita.

ISKCON is part of the Gaudiya, or Chaitanya Vaishnava, tradition, which hails from the eastern regions of India. Gaudiyas place special emphasis on the teachings of 16th Century saint and avatar, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Gaudiya Vaishnavism in turn gave rise to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which was founded by Srila Prabhupada in 1966. His organization, ISKCON, has increased the awareness and growth of Vaishnavism worldwide since the late 1960s. Today Vaishnava teachings have crossed all geographic borders and proven relevant in addressing humanity’s essential needs.

Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root Yuj which means to link up with, or combine. Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word bhaj, which means – loving service. Bhakti-yoga means to connect to the Supreme by means of loving devotional service.

The Bhagavad Gita, the core spiritual text for ISKCON, describes variety of yoga practices. Among them are karma-yoga (the practice of conscious action), jnana-yoga (philosophical study and contemplation), and hatha-yoga (the practice of yoga-asanas and breathing exercises).

Today, some yoga practitioners consider the physical benefits of yoga to be the end in themselves. But according to the traditional yoga systems, physical exercises are just one step on path of God realization. The Gita ultimately prescribes bhakti-yoga (the path of dedication and love) as the culmination of other yoga practices. Bhakti-yoga focuses on developing our dedication, service and love for the Divinity, Lord Krishna.

The path of bhakti-yoga is developed through a variety of activities. These include mantra meditation, or the chanting of the names of God. The chanting is done either individually on beads (japa) or in community by chanting mantras accompanied by music (kirtan). The study of sacred texts such as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, associating with like-minded spiritual aspirants, eating sanctified vegetarian food, and living in a way that upholds the principles of truthfulness, mercy, austerity, and cleanliness, are all core practices for a life of follower of bhakti.

Often people become puzzled when they see a picture of Lord Krishna playing a flute. Even though the Western religious philosophy describe that God is our eternal father of every living entity – but it gives a little description about his form and features. As a result, many people think Lord is formless or void.

However, the Vedic literature describe that Lord is not abstract. He has impersonal and personal aspects to his personality which is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. The sacred texts conforms in exact details to descriptions of the Supreme Being – His name, His activities, His opulences, His associates and His form.

To elucidate further, if we agree that everything in this creation has a form or say that God is our eternal father, logically it does not make sense the source of all existence can be formless and without any personal qualities. As a single drop of water has the same qualities as an unlimited drops of water in ocean , so does our individual personality with the limitless qualities of God’s personality.

The Vedic authorities delineates ,one who is possession of all these six opulences – wealth, power, fame,beauty,wisdom, and renunciation at the same time to unlimited degree is understood to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The scriptures describes various aspects of the Lord from bluish hue to blooming youthfulness. The Bramha Samita describes the Lord who is adept at playing on His flute, has lotus like eyes, whose head is bedecked with a peacock feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of monsoon clouds, and whose unique loveliness charms millions of cupids.

Meditation is a spiritual practice found in practically all religious and spiritual traditions, although the methods differ.

Traditional yogic systems employ complex meditation techniques, often working with different postures to align our external and subtle selves and focus our minds towards self-realization. To quiet the mind and provide a point of focus, yogis are advised to concentrate on upon mantras including Sanskrit syllables and the names of God.

The Vaishnava tradition recommends the chanting the names of God to be a particularly effective method of spiritual awakening, simultaneously opening us to an incredibly empowering experience.

In this system, meditation has three distinct forms: japa, kirtan and sankirtan. In japa, the meditator individually and softly recites God’s name with the use of beads, similar to a rosary. Kirtan is a public meditation, in which one loudly sings the names of God accompanied by musical instruments. When performed in a group this is called sankirtan.

This entire process is centred around the recitation of the names of God. The prayer or mantra that ISKCON devotees repeat is called the Maha Mantra, or the “great mantra for deliverance.” It is made up of three words Hare, Krishna and Rama. Hare refers to God’s energy. Krishna and Rama refer to God as the all-attractive and all-powerful one who is the source of all pleasure. Repetition of this mantra awakens the soul and brings strength, peace and happiness. It ultimately connects us with Lord Krishna and reveals our original spiritual life of eternal bliss and knowledge.

Everyone at some time in life wonders what happens after death. Throughout history, some of the most thoughtful minds have advocated that life does not end with the death of our body, but continues on via a process known as reincarnation. In the Western world, followers of the Orphic religion in ancient Greece were the first known exponents of reincarnation. They were succeeded by Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and a host of other philosophers.

The Vedic literature of India advocates that the soul, or atma, gives life to the body. Life does not arise from a particular combination of material elements as some modern scientists theorize. At the time of death, we leave one body and enter a new one. That is called reincarnation.

The concept is not as alien as it might seem. We can observe that we change from one body to another throughout our lifetime. Our body at birth is completely different from our adult body. Yet throughout these changes, the conscious self remains the same. Similarly, the conscious self remains the same at death and transfers from one body to the next in the cycle of reincarnation.

Our present body is the result of a long series of actions and reactions in previous lives. The law that governs this is known as karma: every action has a reaction. Our previous actions have produced our present body, and our current actions will determine our next body.

Only in the human form can we free ourselves from the endless cycle of reincarnation, of birth and death, by re-establishing our eternal, loving relationship with Lord Krishna. As Krishna states in Bhagavad Gita 8.16, “From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one attains to My abode.. never takes birth again.”

No sacred treatise, has a setting as intriguing as the Bhagavad Gita. The dialogue between the princely warrior Arjuna and Lord Krishna, the Supreme Godhead before the onset of the Mahabharata War is universally renowned as the jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom.

Paralyzed by the fear of killing his kinsmen, friends and teachers in the opposite army, Arjuna decided not to fight putting aside his social duty  as Kshatriya (warrior). Krishna, who agreed to become the driver of Arjuna’s chariot, eloquently explains him on the battlefield about His duties of  being a warrior.      The conversation moves to  a series of questions and answers  about  metaphysical concepts such as soul, relationship with God, liberation, Karma Yoga ( the principle of non-attached action), Gyaan Yoga (knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (devotion).

In translating the Gita, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has unlocked all the secrets of the ancient knowledge of the Gita and placed them before us as an exciting opportunity for self-improvement and spiritual fulfillment. The Bhagavad Gita As It Is the largest selling edition of Gita in the Western world and translated in over 76 languages.

The word Veda can be traced to the sanskrit word vid which means “to know” or “knowledge.” The Vedic texts contain information on varied topics: from medicine to cosmology , from techniques of yoga and meditation to explanation of lessons in governmental organisation and military protocols.

Written by  Lord Vyasadeva, the vedas are divided into four books Rig Veda (earliest sacred hymns of Vedas), Sama Veda (the Vedas of melodies), Yajur Veda (Rituals) and Atharva Veda (the Vedas of incantations.). The Vedas also included Upanishads, numerous Sutras (books of concise truth) and the Vedangas (auxiliary science related with Vedic study like astronomy, astrology and phonetics.)

In addition, there are Upavedas (sciences not directly related to Vedic study) like Ayurveda (study of holistic medicine) and Gandharva-Veda study of music. It also included Puranas such as Srimad Bhagavatam and epics like as Mahabharata and Ramayanas.

According to the Vaishnava tradition,  this knowledge was passed down, from master to disciple in disciplic succession or parampara.

Ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Why we suffer? Why some days are awesome and others morose? If God exists, why does He keep quiet about it? The answer to all the above questions is karma.

Karma is one of those topics that many people know about, but few understand the intricacies of it. In literal terms, “karma” means “activity” and the law of karma regulates the reactions to our activities. If we act in good, or pious ways, we reap good reactions. If we act in impious, sinful, or destructive ways, we reap bad reactions in the future. Christian theology explains, “As ye sow so ye shall ye reap” while in physics karma is expressed by Newton’s Law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Karmic reactions include not only things that happen to us, but determine our health, wealth, intelligence, physical appearance, and social status, as well as our personalities and inclinations. While we have some degree of freedom to choose our current actions, our choices are influenced by our natures, or personalities, which have developed from our previous actions.

Karma thus locks us up in a cycle of action and subsequent reaction. As long as we are in this cycle, we will experience both happiness and distress. Even if we act in a pious way, we destine ourselves to accept another material body at death to enjoy the reactions to our materially good actions. As long as we accept a material body we can not avoid the miseries of disease, old age, and death.

Fortunately karma is temporary. We can break free from its bonds by performing spiritual acts in service to Krishna. Such acts of devotion, or bhakti-yoga, purify the soul and gradually awaken our spiritual knowledge and innate love for Krishna. Thus, both our karma and our long-standing desire to enjoy life within the illusory material world—the root cause of our bondage—are destroyed.