Spiritual Heritage Education Network Inc. is an organization established to develop, deliver, and promote education in the spiritual heritage of entire humanity.  In view of the universal nature of its scope, the educational material must be developed cooperatively and jointly by a diverse group of faculty worldwide and delivered to diverse students located in diverse geographical locations around the globe.  Towards this end, SHEN is organized to make an effective use of the Internet, for development of courses, their promotion and their delivery.  It is hoped that the traditional mode of delivery of the proposed courses will follow the lead taken by distance education through Internet.

 The name that has been chosen for the organization is meant to be fairly descriptive of its purpose.  The operative word in the name is education.  The approach will be purely academic, reason based, and with rigour and certitude appropriate to the context.  Education is the sole reason for the creation of this organization – there will be no preaching and proselytizing.  The object of the said education is the spiritual heritage – not of one community, one religion, or one culture but the spiritual heritage of entire humanity.  The last word namely network expresses the methodology of operation in two senses.  In one sense, it means that SHEN proposes to achieve its objectives using an open network of volunteers worldwide.  In the second sense, it means that the modern worldwide network of computers, i.e. the Internet, is expected to play a key role in achieving the educational objectives using distance education for its universal reach.  In addition Internet enables intercommunication between stakeholders such as volunteers, teachers, students, etc. in diverse geographical locations.

 The curriculum concept developed by SHEN is entitled Towards Oneness, because as SHEN sees it, the purpose of spirituality is to connect individuals through the underlying ONENESS of our Ultimate Reality.

 We are conscious of our existence and the existence of the whole universe.  We do not need any other proof of our existence.  We wonder how we came about and how the universe in which we exist comes about.  This natural curiosity leads to a belief or an inference about the existence of a causal reality. We do not agree with each other regarding the nature of the causal reality, and how we and the universe come about through it.  We refer to the causal reality in various ways.  Some of us call it God, some call it Allah, and some by various other names.  Some of us are not convinced that there is causal reality different form the universe.  The universe just is and it goes on by itself indefinitely.  Some of us are not curious about the causal issues and we just want to live our lives with contemplative guidance from within.  Some of us just want to live as we see fit depending upon the conditions that prevail from time to time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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We are conscious of our existence and the existence of the whole universe.  We do not need any other proof of our existence.  We wonder how we came about and how the universe in which we exist comes about.  This natural curiosity leads to a belief or an inference about the existence of a causal reality. We do not agree with each other regarding the nature of the causal reality, and how we and the universe come about through it.  We refer to the causal reality in various ways.  Some of us call it God, some call it Allah, and some by various other names.  Some of us are not convinced that there is causal reality different form the universe.  The universe just is and it goes on by itself indefinitely.  Some of us are not curious about the causal issues and we just want to live our lives with contemplative guidance from within.  Some of us just want to live as we see fit depending upon the conditions that prevail from time to time.

The curriculum proposal is based on the following postulates:

Existence of an individual in the universe is a reality.

The proof of existence lies in the individual being consciousness of the self and of the universe.

There is another reality conceived variously as Universal Principle, First Cause, or Ultimate Reality, not necessarily outside of the above.  This reality may be a reality of faith, reason, or contemplative perception depending upon the individual.

Nature of this other reality is relative and private to an individual.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Top of Page

 Nothing can come out of nothing.  The fact of existence of the universe points to the existence of an ultimate cause or an ultimate reality that is the causal source of not only the essence but also the material of being.  Some view this ultimate cause as apart from the universe and some regard it as part of it.  Some regard it simultaneously as part of the universe and apart from it.  Irrespective of the way the ultimate cause is viewed by various people, we all agree that it is one, not two and not many.  The most fundamental principle of spiritual legacy of humanity is this principle of oneness of ultimate reality.

Humanity variously labels this ultimate cause as God, Godhead, Allah, Brahman, or Shunya, etc.  All great religions of the world are based on this principle of oneness of ultimate reality.  No finite vision can monopolize the infinite scope of this ultimate reality.  In whichever way we may perceive this ultimate reality, it is one, and howsoever we believe we came about through it, we are one in its oneness.  We believe that humanity is ready for formal education of the principle of oneness of ultimate reality with all its various implications, and that the teaching of this principle of oneness is the foremost goal of spiritual education.  For this education to be acceptable in our post modern era and effective in personal development by shaping of inclusive worldviews incorporating oneness, it must be delivered in a non-judgemental and religion or culture neutral manner without endorsing, diminishing or denouncing any one of the manifold ways of perceiving the infinity of ultimate reality.

 “All of God’s creatures are His family; and he is the most beloved of God who tries to do most good to God’s creatures.”

Prophet Mohammed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Top of Page

 The following design criteria shall apply to curriculum research, development, and delivery:

    The curriculum shall be equally applicable to the whole humanity irrespective of religion, belief, faith, and culture and without any discrimination of any kind whatsoever.

    The curriculum shall not, explicitly or implicitly, affirm any religion, belief, faith, or culture.

    The curriculum shall not explicitly or implicitly diminish nor deny any religion, belief, faith, or culture.

    The curriculum shall acknowledge due academic credits to ideas and concepts used from any religion, belief, faith, or culture.

    The approach used to research, develop and deliver the curriculum shall be based strictly on academic considerations.

      There shall be absolutely no preaching.

      The curriculum shall promote love, respect and understanding for all human beings without any discrimination.

8.       The curriculum will be complimentary to the existing educational systems.

9.       Education will incorporate totality of human experience with multi-discipline approach.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 These flow from the dictionary meaning of the word spirit.  The relevant meanings of essence are “that what makes a thing what it is” or “the inner nature”.  Essence of humankind and that of the universe along with their mutual relationships form a study leading to intelligibility of humanity and its environment.

We also talk of real meaning and purpose underlying something when we refer to its spirit.  Search for the real meaning and purpose of human life in this universe and means of attaining that purpose is another study that is most relevant in our context.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Top of Page

 Spiritual heritage of humanity is therefore that literature of any origin that relates with the essence of the individual and that of the universe along their relationships, meaning and purpose of being human, and practical ways of achieving the meaning and purpose of being human.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Top of Page

 We are and we change.  These two principles highlight the essence of all beings.  We are something and we are going to become something different – the process is continuous.  In this regards, both being and becoming are the same with being defined as the current state of becoming at any instant in time.

The term principle of being apart from the principle of becoming is used primarily to indicate the enabler of being – our connection with the source that enables our very existence.

Spiritual development lies in directing the principle of becoming in view of the enabler of being.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Top of Page

 It is matter of common perception that nature is imbued with dynamism.  Principles of being and becoming are the forces that propel this dynamism.  The former principle in one sense relates with the element of constancy in what we are, we were, and continue to be and in the other sense it relates with what we have become at a given instance in time; while the latter with the element of change in what we are going to be.  Natural entities simultaneously have a certain state of being and also a certain tendency of becoming somewhat different.  Without this tendency of becoming, there would be no creativity in nature and there will be no dynamism of change, everything would be totally static and dead.

The element of constancy is generally associated with the principle of being.  It is manifest through the principle of life or consciousness enabling the capacities of perception, thought, feeling and will in the mind stuff.

This concept is no different from that of the Holy Spirit both immanent in all things and yet transcendent – above and beyond all without which there would be no activity in the created world.                                        Top of Page

 Contrary to the principle of being, the element of change is generally associated with the principle of becoming.  It is manifest through the objects of perception, thought and feeling expressed through matter, subtle or gross. 

In the dynamism seen in nature, the principle of being indicative of free will characteristic of life, and the principle of becoming of determinism, i.e., purely an interplay of cause and effect characteristic of material processes.  Both free will and determinism play a part in the dynamism of nature.

All objects of consciousness, perception, feeling, and thought change.  All material principles, whether gross or subtle, undergo incessant change.  All activity is centered in the principle of becoming. 

Principle of becoming is the unified principle of nature or the created world comprising the principles of heaven and hell that God created in the beginning, according to the Book of Genesis.                                          Top of Page


 It is a marvel how nutrients from nature combine in the mother’s womb to compose human body and how marvelously the body works in its various functions.

The systemization of the physical bodies of beings and their inner and outer functions or activities are of essence to human beings.  They all indicate changes that are going on in nature or within an individual mind.

Consciousness, feelings, sensations, reason, thought and will are inner activities of human beings.  They are the activities that are of essence in relation to all human activities since inner activities drive the outer ones
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 Ask yourself this fundamental question, “What are we conscious of?”

The answer could be summed up as indicated in this slide.  We are conscious of ourselves and we are conscious of the world outside of ourselves.  Self consciousness and consciousness of the environment are the the sum total of all the objects of human consciousness.

The tools of consciousness are our senses.  Since they are directed outwards, we tend to be conscious more of the external world than the goings on within us.  It is the consciousness of our own state of being that lies at the root of root of our tendency of being.  Our tendency of becoming is guided by our sense of values, which depend upon our consciousness of ourselves.                                                                                                                          Top of Page

 Feelings of likes and dislikes underlie all human activity and define human condition. 

Our feelings of craving and aversion must be under control of the self in a state of proper attenuation, otherwise our reason, thought, and will are subject to being in the control of runaway sensations of pleasure and pain resulting from uncontrolled feelings.

All other feelings seem to originate from the two feelings of likes and dislikes.  Human feelings determine human condition.

Lack of any feeling of like or dislike is trivial and of no significance in the determination of human condition.                                                                                                                                                                                                               Top of Page

 Agreeable things and events create a feeling of pleasure and disagreeable ones create a sense of displeasure or pain.

Lack of any sensation is trivial and of no significance in motivating human will.

It is interest to note that all pleasures are of temporary nature and so is all displeasure or pain.  They last as long as their cause is present in itself or its effect.

Although small pleasures are what make lives worth living, they do not guarantee a happy life with a happy life defined as the one with overall happiness.  Just as a few good days do not make spring, a few days of pleasure do not make a happy life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Top of Page

 Relevant dictionary meaning of spirit is essence.  What is the essence of humanity, its actuality, and its potential?  What is it that unites it in a human family and what divides?  What are the factors underlying human condition?  How we can change our individual determinants of our personal human condition?  Research and reflection identify the following as comprising human essence:

  • Body and senses
  • Consciousness of self and the rest of the environment
  • Feelings of likes and dislikes
  •  want and don’t want
  •  cravings and aversions
  • Sensations of pleasure and pain
  • Reason
  • Thought
  •  Will 

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 Our awareness or consciousness, feelings, sensations, reason, thought, our body and senses in their interaction with the foregoing processes, principles of being and becoming, First Cause, and search and attainment of meaning and purpose of being human comprise the scope of the envisaged spiritual education.

Spirit of something is its essence, its true reality, and its underlying meaning.  It is proposed that we keep our focus on this meaning while considering how to define the spiritual heritage of humankind.  Broadly speaking, the spiritual heritage of humanity for our purpose would imply that body of knowledge created by humankind anywhere in the world that concerns human essence, the essence of the universe, reality underlying humanity and the universe, the relationship between realities of the humankind and that of the universe, the meaning and purpose of being human in the universe, and the means of fulfillment of our purpose.                                          Top of Page


 Feelings of our likes and dislikes, wants and don’t wants, and cravings and aversions etc. underlie all other human feelings and all human activity.  They may be natural to an individual as one’s inborn inclinations or acquired from the environment.  Likes and wants strengthen to become desires, yearnings, coveting, cravings, lust, and greed for the agreeable things.  Similarly dislikes strengthen to become aversions, loathing, repugnance and hatred of the disagreeable.  If we do not get the agreeable things or get the disagreeable things we get angry and look for venues for our anger.  If we get the agreeable, we become attached and fearful of losing them.  We are also fearful of getting the disagreeable.  These feelings underlie all strife and struggle.  They also underlie worry, tension and lack of peace.  Indulgence only leads to temporary pleasures not in happy lives.  They are the key determinants of human condition.  They keep us agitated and running around in mindless activity.  They have the capacity to hijack human reason, thought and will.

Noting their importance in determining human condition, understanding, attenuation and control of human cravings and aversions would be the first and foremost goal of education in the spiritual heritage of humanity.  Vital issues of human essences such as consciousness, being, becoming, ultimate reality, meaning, purpose, body, senses, reason, thought and will etc. all need to resolve in the light of the underlying oneness through ultimate reality with a view to understanding, controlling, attenuating, and subtilizing feelings of human cravings and aversions.  Therein lies a measure of human spiritual development and education.                                     Top of Page

 Unchecked passions seem to take control especially when pleasure seeking efforts are unsuccessful.  Pleasure seeking through consumption of all kinds of goods, especially alcohol and drugs, seems to be commonplace.  Family commitments seem to weaken.  Divorces and single parents abound with accompanying human misery.  Love, respect, and compassion generally seem to be absent or lacking.  Violence is commonplace.  Emphasis on sex and pornography is alarming.  Individual pleasure seeking seems to replace noble goals of life.  As a consequence, loneliness and depression seems to be increase and mental health seems to deteriorate as we have more external facilities with increased development.

Hatred and lack of tolerance abound.  Short sighted profit motive and greed drive everything.  Environments are being polluted to the extent that the very life on earth is threatened by climate change and ozone depletion.  Weapons of genocide and destruction are so numerous that the whole population of the earth can be destroyed many times over.  Humankind seems to be rushing towards hatred, violence and destruction without looking back.  In general, we seem to lack the internal human tools to deal with changes in lifestyle brought about by increased development in the sphere of external environment.  On the other hand, in the less developed parts of the world, comparisons with the developed parts have generated feelings of injustice and despair leading to loss of hope and growth of radicalism and extremism.  Intolerance, hatred, and acts of terrorism have sent shockwaves around the world.  Humankind seems to be in turmoil.  Peace, both individual and collective, seems illusive.  Fear and greed appear to have humanity in a tight grip.         

The primary objectives of spiritual education are:

  • Intelligibility
  • Search for meaning and purpose
  • Attainment of meaning and purpose

The process of attainment of meaning and purpose must be guided by the principle of oneness.  Test of it being so is the relative freedom of the will from human cravings and aversions leading to harmonious and happy lives.
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We perceive the following courses or course categories as the educational core that characterize and define the uniqueness and universality of SHEN.  The core courses will look at different spiritual issues in a non-judgmental and an inclusive manner.  The purpose will be to assist the student in the student’s individual spiritual quest for intelligibility and meaning.  Because of the importance we attach to these objectives, we intend to develop and offer them using diversely constituted teams of faculty.  We intend to continue making every effort in developing and maintaining excellent resources in offering them:

  • Universal Principle and the Individual
  • Intelligibility is the purpose of this course.  The student will learn how different people view ultimate reality of the universe and its relationship with the essence of the self.

Meaning and Purpose

  • The purpose of this course is to assist the student in the personal search for the      purpose of meaning of life.

Contemplation Methods

  • The purpose of this course is to assist the student in personal search using reflection and contemplation.

Spiritual Ethics

  • The student will learn how purpose and meaning of human life is attained in real living

 The term “Universal Principle” refers to that principle, which can be considered as the substratum of the universe.  Terms such as “Ultimate Reality”, “Ground of Being”, “Godhead”, “Absolute”, First Cause, etc. are used synonymously.  There is a general agreement about uniqueness and oneness of the Universal Principle and its self sufficiency in explaining the totality of universal phenomena, although different religions, different disciplines, different cultures and different individuals have various views about it, as to how the universe comes about from it; and how an individual in the universe relates to it. The universe is infinite and its cause has to be infinite in potential as well.  The differences in peoples’ view point about it can be explained by the impossibility of describing infinity in finite words.

The goal of this course on Universal Principle is to explore major schools of thought about it and emphasize the fact of its oneness and that all schools of thought seem plausible to their respective proponents.  Such an exploration, it is hoped will lead to intelligibility of the universe, a feeling of tolerance of different points of view, and a feeling of kinship with others in the universe.

There is a general agreement about uniqueness and oneness of the Universal Principle and its self sufficiency in explaining the totality of universal phenomena, although different religions, different disciplines, different cultures and different individuals have various views about it, as to how the universe comes about from it; and how an individual in the universe relates to it.                                                                                                      
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 Spiritual life implies living according to ones concepts of what is vital and of essence.  Reflection and contemplation of the Universal Principle and its oneness is thought to be necessary to attenuate one’s feelings, to sort out the trivial from the vital, and to understand your relationship with others in the universe.  This course or category of courses will explore the methods of study of the self, surrender to the Universal Principle, and various contemplation and meditation systems in general including Patanjali’s system of yoga and the approach according to the Anonymous Author of The Cloud of Unknowing.   This course will also explore the lives and thoughts of the great contemplatives and mystics of the world                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Spiritual ethics flow from the oneness of the Universal Principle.  Irrespective of the approach used to achieve intelligibility, whatever underlies one individual underlies all.  Whatever the individual understanding may be of the underlying substratum and the individual’s relationship with it, he/she must behave with others and the environment as if all are similarly related with it.  Spiritual ethic lies in the unity of the essence of all beings and objects.  Good lies in the recognition of this essential unity in living one’s life, and on the contrary, evil in the non-recognition of this unity.  Good is what makes for unity or oneness and evil is what makes for separateness or division.  Spiritual ethic emphasizes this essential unity with due regard to the practicality of superficial differences.  The course explores ways of how life can be lived emphasizing this underlying unity irrespective of our concept of this unity.  This ethic, by its very nature, is simultaneously satisfactory in both spiritual and practical domains.                                                                                                                                                                                       Top of Page

 In addition to the above mentioned core courses, we intend to develop and offer various support courses in the following categories:

  • Religious Leaders & Literature
  • Philosophy & Psychology
  • Theology & Mythology
  • Natural & Life Science

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 This course category studies how the Universal Principle and its oneness are reflected in the great scriptures of the world and in the thought of various religious leaders and mystics.  We intend to offer various courses to study spiritual thought in diverse spiritual works and of spiritual leaders such as but not limited to the Upanishads, the Bhagvad Gita, the Ramayana, the Bible, the Talmud, Theologica Germanica, the Quran, the Hadith, the Lankavatara Sutra, the Heart Sutra, the Dhammapada, the Tibetan Book of Dead, the Lotus Sutra, Spiritual thought of the Aboriginal Americans, Shankara, Ramanaujan, St. Teresa, William Law, Meister Eckhart, Chuang Tzu, Yung-chia Ta-shih, Sen T’sen, Kabir, St Catharine of Genoa, St Bernard, Bayazid of Bistun, Ruysbroeck, Hans Denk, George Fox, William Penn, Abraham, Moses, Philo of Alexandria, the Maimonides, the Kabalists, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jalal-uddin Rumi, Evelyn Underhill, Patanjali, Anonymous Author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Buddha, Nagarjuna, Chinul, Hui Neng, Padmasambhava, Dalai Lama, Bodhidharma, Shinran, Atisha, Mahavira, Guru Nanak, Mohammed, Jesus, St. Augustine, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti,  St. Thomas, Darwin, Einstein, Baha’u’llah, Thomas Merton, Ramana Maharishi, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Shelby Spong, etc.
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 Philosophy studies human ideas in general.  Spirituality studies human ideas relating to the essence of humanity and of the universe, relationship of the universe and its Philosophy studies human ideas in general.  Spirituality studies human ideas relating to the essence of humanity and of the universe, relationship of the universe and its essence, meaning and purpose of life, etc.  Understanding of philosophic ground related with first principles such as the human ego, human instincts, beginning of human thought, sense perception, nature of sense perception, subjectivity, validation of understanding, world views, metaphysics, different bases of ethical behaviour etc. are considered essential to the understanding of the spiritual heritage with which humanity is endowed.  This course covers such thoughts of philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Shankara, Kapila, Patanjali, and others as are considered relevant in the understanding of the spiritual heritage of humanity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Top of Page

 Theological topics such as different exegeses of the book of Genesis, Samkhya and Yoga schools of thought etc.; heaven and earth; consciousness and material nature; grace and human effort; contemplative and active lives; salvation according to different religions and cultures; importance of mythology and its shortcomings in communicating spiritual principles, examples of important parables and mythological stories, and other topics that are considered complementary to the understanding of the spiritual heritage of humanity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Top of Page

 This course or course category is related with ideas from Physics, Chemistry, Cosmology, Neuroscience, Biotechnology, Life Sciences and Computer Science etc. that add to the understanding of the unity of essence of humanity, the universe and of life in the universe.  Sciences as well as spirituality are in the realm of human experience in a continuum of understanding.  They must compliment each other without contradictions.

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”   

Einstein                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Top of Page

 It is the purpose of this article to generate discussion with a view to arriving at a consensus about the details of the proposed curriculum.  An outcome expected of the process of developing the consensus is felt to be a pool of willing volunteers worldwide.  Having developed the pool of likeminded volunteers, the next step is perceived to be to divide each of the courses into small modules to be developed by volunteers with appropriate backgrounds.  The nature of the proposed curriculum demands such an approach in course development.  The volunteers will be supplied with guidelines for module development complete with examples of developed module so that the developed modules are received and easily integrated into coherent web deliverable courses at a coordinating office.

Initially, the courses will be targeted at postsecondary levels.  Younger students will be targeted in due course of time.

It is hoped that the established educational systems worldwide will feel compelled to take notice if we do an excellent job of high academic standards in developing course material, which we plan to share on request.
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 Recognizing the value of education in orienting life, the article presents a philosophical argument in favour an increased emphasis in public education on developing inner capacity of humankind through the study of human essence, essence of the universe, and the relationship between the two.  It is hoped that this new emphasis will equip the human mind better to develop inner tools to cope in a human way with the fast paced scientific and technological changes in the external world.  It is also hoped that the resulting spiritual understanding will pave the way for increased religious tolerance and understanding leading to mutual love and respect amongst the various religions of the world and amongst diverse inhabitants of open and secular societies.

The principle guiding the proposed curriculum is the unifying principle of Oneness of Ultimate Reality of the universe and beyond.  The proposed curriculum is divided into core and support courses.  The core courses are related primarily with the Oneness of Ultimate Reality of the entire universe and beyond including us as individuals, how different peoples of the world reflect on it and view it, how different peoples of the world make sense of the universe and their lives in it, and how we should live our lives in conformity of the oneness of our cause.  The support courses include studies from human history, and those related with the understanding of nature in general and human nature in particular that are considered necessary for the understanding of the core courses.

The core curriculum includes a study of the rational for the existence of a first cause of the universe and how different cultures and different disciplines of study view this first cause in their own ways.  Reflections on the first cause lead to a discovery of the purpose of the universe and meaning of human life.  Core curriculum thus includes an exploration of how different schools of thought perceive the purpose of the universe and meaning of life.  Contemplative techniques used in such reflections and their philosophies form another core subject.  Yet another core subject area explores ethics based on the Oneness of Ultimate Reality.  We in the universe are one through that Oneness; and an ethic based on that oneness is seen to be a truly spiritual and inclusive ethic worthy of exploring in this post-modern era of diverse global societies.

Studies that are thought to be in the supporting role include a courses on spiritual leaders and spiritual literature of the world, philosophic and psychological studies related with first principles of being human, theological and mythological studies related with communicating and understanding of human essence, and social and natural sciences related with the oneness of ultimate reality.

It is hoped that such spiritual studies will contribute significantly in promoting civilized behaviour by individuals and nations alike by equipping the individuals in the world with means of intelligibility that imbibes unity and oneness of our essence with simultaneous affirmation of their personal faith structures and denial or diminishing of none.  Justice requires the capacity of seeing everyone with the same eye as an essential pre-requisite.  The proposed curriculum aims at contributing in equipping humanity with that point of view.

A measure of human spiritual development has been identified.  Spiritual development lies in resolving all issues of human essence with a view to understand, control, and attenuate feelings of human cravings and aversions in the light of the underlying oneness of all creation through its ultimate reality.  This measure of spiritual development could also be the definition of the spiritual heritage education.

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 “To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. “

Preamble of The Earth Charter

www.earthcharter.org                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Top of Page