今世三綱淪。九法斁。人不人。而國不國。致 使天災人禍。相繼迭乘。余不忍坐視。願濟斯民於塗炭。因集合五教精蘊。括以廿字曰。忠恕廉明德 正義信忍公 博孝仁慈覺 節儉真禮和。定名爲天德聖教。蓋本上天好生之德。古聖遺傳之教。綜儒釋道耶回。而一以貫之。凡入道者。不論爲男爲女。皆以廿字爲主旨。 因此廿字。乃天地一元之理。流行之氣。懸於太空而無形。附於人身而莫外。果能人人遵守。則成人成己。內外兼修。不獨爲我天德聖教之真弟子。抑亦五教聖人之真弟子也。因輟數語以儆之曰。
Preface of Compass of Life
The Book of Shang states: “Heaven bears mortals to Earth along with leaders and teachers.” The purpose of the teachers is to educate sentient beings and keep them on the right track. In Chinese history, Taoism and Confucianism emerged after Lao-Tze and Confucius. In the period between the Han and Ming dynasties, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam rose to prominence one after the other. These five religions have shined on side by side all while adhering to the natural righteous spirit. At first, these religions bore no discerning which were true and which were false. The only differences between them were the time, the place and the people. Therefore, each of their followers believed in their faith and treasured the knowledge that was passed onto them.
Confucianism’s loyalty and forgiveness, Buddhism’s mercifulness, Taoism’s metaphysical induction, Christianity’s broad passion, and Islam’s purity and genuineness are all precious philosophies that help us lead a perfect life. A common thread running through the doctrine of all five religions depicts only a broad sense of social ethical conduct. However, the essential purpose of our mind and soul is quite hidden; it lies in wait for us to comprehend its intrinsic value through our life experiences. Henceforth, the longer the doctrine of the religion has been circulating, the vaguer it becomes, giving rise to sectarianism. Some religions are deserted as the popularly endorsed religions become the norm. Thus, Confucianism no longer exhibits its genuine Confucianism, and, likewise, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam all lose its initial genuine essence. This predicament was totally beyond the anticipation of the five religions’ founders.
Nowadays, the Three Cardinal Principle (relationships between ruler and subject, parents and children, husband and wife) and the Nine Pacifying Methods to govern a country have fallen by the wayside. Mankind doesn’t behave like beings and the rulers don’t comport with any governing capability. Thus, natural and man-made disasters occur so frequently that I cannot bear to sit and watch passively and hope to salvage people from sufferings. Therefore, I have distilled the essence of the five religions into Twenty Characters which are: ZHONG(Loyalty), SHU(Forgiveness), LIAN(Integrity), MING(Brightness), DE (Ethic), ZHENG(Uprightness), YI(Righteousness), XIN(Trust), YEN(Forbearance), GONG(Impartiality), BO(Broadness), XIAO(Filial Piety), REN(Benevolence), CI(Mercifulness), JUE(Consciousness), JIE(Temperance), JIAN(Frugality), ZHEN(Genuineness), LI (Propriety), and HO(Harmony). Together, they comprise Tien De Sheng Jiao (Heavenly Virtue Saint Teachings). The meaning of the name adheres to the heavenly virtue of longing for life and the teachings of ancient saints. In this way, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam are integrated into ONE – “Tao”. Every follower, male or female, must live according to the principle of the Twenty Characters because they are the principal spirit circulating between heaven and earth. This spirit is formless in space but can be exhibited through our embodiment. If everyone truly lives by these Twenty Characters, it will benefit others as well as provide us with mental and spiritual cultivations simultaneously. Thus, you are not just a true disciple of Tien De Sheng Jiao, but also a true disciple of all the five religions. Finally, allow me to conclude this preface with a couple of words of exhortation.
Heaven has a precise vision and an acute hearing,
therefore its reward and punishment are supreme unbiased.
Mankind should remember and adhere to such impartiality,
and thus be in touch with the Tao.
We should respect and not omit this Tao.
Tien De Sheng Jiao will be nobly flourishing.
Hsiao, Chang Ming