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All things are within me, and on self-examination, I find no greater joy than to be true to myself. We should do our best to treat others as we wish to be treated. Nothing is more appropriate than to seek after goodness. — Mencius, Confucian philosopher (372-289 BCE)


This workshop introduces a cluster of faiths that coalesced between 600 and 500 BCE in the Middle East (Iran), South Asia (India), and Central Asia (China). While differing in their details, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are linked by some foundational principles as well as by their emergence within a few thousand miles and a hundred years of one another. Each represents a response to people's urgent need for meaning, purpose, and spiritual sustenance. All are still followed in some form today.

The workshop emphasizes Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Confucianism, as the program provides other workshops on Taoism (Workshop 8) and Buddhism (Workshops 9 and 10). The Faith in Action activity introduces a sixth Eastern religion, Shintoism, which originated earlier and was formalized later than the other religions, yet shares similarities with them.

By presenting this cluster of faiths together in overview, the workshop invites youth to recognize both similarities and differences among Eastern religions. Showing similarities will likely prove easy, as the workshop highlights commonalities that link these faiths. To avoid the impression that the Eastern religions are "all alike," highlight differences among them, too. As with other religions explored in the program, participants will likely discover ideas and practices that resonate with their own.

This workshop provides a large amount of overview information. The group may react with inattentive or physically restless behavior. Be ready to add short energy breaks when needed.


This workshop will:

  • Deepen understanding of how societies develop different religions to meet the same basic needs, through exploring five religions that emerged within a short period of time in the Eastern hemisphere
  • Introduce fundamental aspects of Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism and some of the precepts they share
  • Demonstrate ways Unitarian Universalists can draw wisdom from Eastern faiths by exploring the Buddhist concept of ahimsa, or nonviolence; Confucian aphorisms; fire's symbolism in Zoroastrianism; and an allegorical story about interconnectedness, "Indra's Magnificent Jeweled Net," from Hindu and Buddhist traditions
  • Enhance appreciation for the global diversity of faiths and world views.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand how different societies embrace different religions to meet the same basic needs, by exploring five Eastern religions born between 500-600 BCE
  • Become familiar with fundamental aspects of Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Confucianism, including some common qualities of these faiths
  • Explore the Buddhist and Jain concept of ahimsa, nonviolence, as an Eastern faith wisdom embraced by many Unitarian Universalists
  • Discover universal wisdom in sayings of Confucius, and learn how Confucianism has been trivialized in Western cultures
  • Connect Eastern faith perspectives with our seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle, respect for the interconnectedness of living beings, through the allegorical story from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, "Indra's Magnificent Jeweled Net."




Welcoming and Entering




Activity 1: Story — Indra's Magnificent Jeweled Net


Activity 2: Sayings of Confucius


Activity 3: Fire, Symbol of God


Activity 4: Life of a Jain


Activity 5: Fact Sheet


Activity 6: Time Line


Faith in Action: Beauty All Around Us




Alternate Activity 1: What Goes Around, Comes Around



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