UNITED RELIGIONS INITIATIVE Southeast Asia & the Pacific Regional E-Newsletter

DIVINE LIGHT (InterSPECT - Interfaith Perspectives)

This section features central themes and subject matters viewed from the perspective of the different religions and faith traditions.

The most alluring of religious symbols is the light, the light that radiates everywhere within and without.

In spiritual traditions light stands for many different things. It stands for the original goodness and purity. It also stands for the Truth as well as the joy and delight and bliss associated with enlightenment. It appears that Light, Truth and the Divine One are synonymous in some respects.

When we experience higher state of consciousness, we tend to try to describe it in terms of divine light. So light can also refer to Supreme Consciousness.
In every tradition, light symbolizes the Divine One, or, more specifically, the energy of the Divine One, that Being who is the Ultimate Reality and Source of everything. It is called by many names depending upon the person’s religious or spiritual orientation. In Christianity and Judaism, it would be God; in Sufism, the Beloved; in Hinduism, Bhagavan or Shiva or Brahman or Vishnu.

Usually Buddhists deny the existence of a personal god. However, when a person has done extensive spiritual practice and emptied even the emptiness, there is still a presence in the void that Zen Buddhists call the Transcendent or “Faceless One.”


The famous verse of “light” in the Qur'an is the Ayat Al-Nur. ( Nur is the word for light). Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche,and within it a Lamp; the Lamp enclosed in Glass: The Glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West,Whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it. Light upon Light! God guides whom He will to His Light: God sets forth parables for men, and God knows all things. (Islam. Qur'an 24.35)

This parable of light of God in Islam does not express His reality which is inconceivable to any created being and therefore inexpressible in any human language but only to allude to the illumination which He, who is the ultimate Truth, which bestows upon the mind and the feelings of those who are willing to be guided.


Light is the first of the Creator's works, manifesting the divine operation in a world that is darkness and chaos without it. While light is not itself divine, it is often used metaphorically for life (Psalm 56:13), salvation (Isa 9:2), the commandments (Prov 6:23), and the divine presence of God (Exod 10:23). In the first creative act, "God saw that the light was good" (Gen 1:3).
Light represents the presence of God. God is light, who dispels the darkness of this world. Jesus came as the light of the world, breaking through the darkness of sin by his work on the cross. It follows that believers are a light to the world as well. Jesus describes his disciples as light and light-bearers (Matt 5:14-16). When Jesus spoke to the people, he said,”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” ( John 8:12)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (John 1:5)

Light also represents the direction and guidance of God. Psalm 119:105 says God's Word is a lamp to the) and a light to our path. Jesus was called the “Light of the World” because He taught us how to see the truth.


The "Brahman-OM" is "the highest light, the foundation and sovereign lord of all...." Brahma is light, says the Maitri Upanishad, and the mystic symbol OM is "a leader, brilliant, sleepless, ageless [and] deathless...." Brahma, "the limitless One," is that "shining form which gives heat in yonder sun.... Unending are the rays of him." Brahman is "self-shining," "self-luminous," and "shines by his own brightness." As He shines "does everything else shine after."
Brahma is the Light of lights.He is Self-luminous. He is Supreme Light. He is ultimate light. He is an embodiment of Light. By His Light all else shines. (Maitriya Upanishad)

"There, where there is no darkness, nor night, nor day, nor being, nor nonbeing, there is the Auspicious One, alone, absolute and eternal. There is the glorious splendor of that Light from whom in the beginning sprang ancient wisdom" (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.18).

God Almighty (Brahman) resides within all humans as Light,
"the light which shines higher than this heaven... is the same as this light which is here within a person." The Taittiriya Upanishad spells out that "the knower of the unity of the human person with the Universal Being attains unhampered desire."

The Upanishads say that God and the human soul both have characteristics of light and bliss because Brahman and Atman are essentially the same. In a famous commentary on the nature of truth, the Chandogya Upanishad relates the following: This point is made even more explicitly in the Maitreya Upanishad: I am free from space and time. Mine is the joy of the unclad... My form consists of total light; The light of pure consciousness am I.44 The same Upanishad goes on to say that "the light which shines higher than this heaven... is the same as this light which is here within a person."


Shakyamuni Buddha said, 'This light of lights is not blue, yellow, red, white, or black. It is not matter, not mind. It is not existent, nor nonexistent. It is not a phenomenon resulting from causes. It is the source of all Buddhas, the basis of practicing the Way of enlightening beings, fundamental for all Buddhists.' . .

This spiritual light is unbroken from the infinite past through the infinite future, this is called perpetual energy. Utterly free of senses and objects, the essence manifests, real and eternal, this is called permanent stability of radiance

Just as when those born blind don't see the sun It is not because there is no sun appearing in the world -- All those who have eyes can clearly see it, Each doing their work according to their occupations, So it is with the lights of the Great Being -- Those who have wisdom all can see, While ordinary folk with false beliefs and low understanding Cannot perceive these lights at all... So it is with the Great Being's lights: Those of deep knowledge are all illumined, While the ignorant, with false beliefs and poor understanding Are not able to see these lights at all.

Flower Ornament Scripture

Hindu: Lead me from the unreal to the real, From darkness lead me to Light.

Jewish: Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord!

Buddhist: Hold firm to the truth as a lamp and refuge.

Christian: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

Islam: God is the light of the heaven and the earth. Shinto: She lights the far corners of Heaven and Earth – the great Kami of the Sun

Sikh: There is a light in all and that light is the Ultimate One.

URI Statement on the Crisis in the Middle East

(Approved by the Standing Committee on behalf of the Global Council of
the United Religions Initiative)

As trustees of the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative, we write to urge an immediate and complete ceasefire of violence that is currently happening in the Middle East, and a commitment by all parties, including the international community and the world's religions, to find the will to complete, implement and invest in a comprehensive peace agreement that will allow current and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives in peace.

We write as leaders of the URI, a global interfaith organization active in 70 countries, through the work of 400 member Cooperation Circles. URI's purpose is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. We have many members in the Middle East, including Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians and Egyptians. The URI has consultative status at the UN through ECOSOC.

As leaders of an interfaith organization dedicated to resolving conflict without resorting to violence, we recognize and laud the heroic work of Palestinians, Israelis and peace advocates all over the world who are dedicated to rising above the violence and working for peace, justice and healing.

We believe that a new day is possible when a comprehensive, just peace will allow current and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives in peace.

We call on all involved - Israelis and Palestinians, people of other nations, international bodies, religions, and grassroots groups working heroically for peace - to take the following steps to speed the dawning of that day:

* To stop the violence immediately.

* To supply immediate humanitarian aid to address urgent suffering and long-term aid to rebuild.

* To commit to negotiate, invest in and implement a comprehensive peace agreement that will allow current and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives in peace.

* To invest in every means possible to weave a fabric of genuine, mutually honoring community among Palestinians and Israelis at the grassroots level.

* To invest less in armaments and more in social and economic infrastructure.

We commit to do all we are able, beginning with support for URI member Cooperation Circles in Israel and Palestine, and engaging our members around the world to help these steps be fulfilled.

And we commit to pray and meditate that violence will cease, peace prevail and a life of hope be restored to the long-suffering people of this region.

URI Global Youth CC Statement on the current situation in Gaza.

We, the members of the Global Youth Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative, wish to express our concern at the current situation in Gaza. Conflict creates hardship and fear for people on both sides and takes its toll on civilians, both young and old, and the livelihood of communities and economies.

As a youth network we sympathise with our fellows, the young people who are caught up in the crisis, in both Gaza and in the Israeli communities that live in fear of rocket attacks. Young people are the future of any community and we feel that they should not have to live amidst a cycle of violence and hardship. In order for young people to make meaningful and healthy contributions to society, it is imperative that they grow and develop within a space of security and integrity.

We are also concerned about those who are vulnerable in these times, such as the elderly and the sick. They need access to medical resources and clean, safe environments. In times of crisis these people suffer the most because basic facilities are less accessible.

They also need to live without the fear created by constant attacks. This situation is robbing people on both sides of basic human rights that are theirs by international law.

We implore both sides to pursue the path of peace and reconciliation and reduce hostilities so that aid and supplies can reach the people of Gaza to alleviate their suffering and so the Israeli people can live without fear. It is our hope that both sides can cooperate in order to achieve a lasting peace and quality of life for all people. Our goal, as members of a global interfaith community, is to achieve this all over the world.