Sang (상 上) means “supreme” and Je (제 帝) means “ruling God.” (Korean adds the honorific nim) A formal title for God the Ruler, who governs heaven, earth, humanity, and spirits. Sangjenim (상제님 上帝) is “God the Ruler of the universe” The Korean people of the ancient Northeast Asia worshiped in Sangjenim and offered heavenly rituals to Him. People have known Him since ancient times as Samsin Sangjenim, Samsin God, or Sangjenim. Sangjenim governs the universe in accordance with the principle of cosmic change. In other words, Sangjenim rule over heaven, earth, humanity, and spirits based upon governing principle of the universe.
Upon achieving unity with the Creator Samsin (the Spirit of Creation-Transformation, Edification and Governance) that generates and changes all, Samsin-Sangjenim is the governing God that rules over all things of the universe.
In the time of Singyo, people worshiped Samsin-Sangjenim. Shangdi in Confucianism, Okhwang-Sangje in Daoism, Maitreya Buddha in Buddhism, and God the Father in Christianity are the same, and Jeung-san Sangjenim was the incarnation of this entity.
All the great religions worship the same supreme spiritual being: Sangjenim, the Ruling God. He governs the universe harmoniously through His command of its supreme order, known in the East as li (리 理 “principle”).
The religions and philosophies of the world recognize Sangjenim by many names. Since ancient times, the East has known the Supreme Being who commands li as Sahng-jeh (上帝), sahng (上) meaning “supreme” and jeh (帝) meaning “ruling god.” (Korean adds the honorific nim). Christianity worships Sangjenim as God the Father and as God on the White Throne. Buddhism knows Him as Maitreya Buddha, the Lord of Tushita Heaven. Daoism and Confucianism name Him as Sahng-jeh or Ohk-hwahng Sahng-jeh (“Jade Emperor of Heaven”).
Above all, we must understand that there exists Okhwang-Sangjenim (Jade Emperor of Heaven), who rules the universe—He who is the Absolute, the True God.
To understand the cosmic principles—to understand the marrow of humanity’s culture—is to understand Okhwang-Sangjenim, God the Ruler, who rules the universe. If you cannot attain this understanding, all your innumerable days of study will be for naught.
According to the history book of Hwandangoggi, at the time of Hwan about 9000 years ago, people had worshiped Sangjenim, the Supreme spiritual being who governs the universe. At that time, 5 different colored race worshiped one God Sangjenim(上帝), 12 states becoming one united as “United States of brightness of Heaven (桓國).”
People of Hwan(桓) meaning “people who had experienced the brightness of heaven” had followed the heavenly commandment(天命) from Sangjenim on Heavenly palace. Teachings from Sangjenim(上帝) were called Singyo(神敎).
First, let us look into the difference in understanding, the difference in the descriptions between the Western understanding of God and the Eastern understanding of Sangjenim. The difference in the meaning of God and the meaning of Sangjenim comes from the difference in understanding the nature itself. That is, the difference is understanding of the concept of God and the concept of Sangjenim comes from the difference in understanding what the universe, the nature of the universe, as well as the changing process of the universe is.
As you are all very well aware, the western understanding of universe comes from the idea that the God, himself, created the universe or the nature. That is, the universe, itself, began through the process of the creation of God.
In the East, in Jeung San Do, when we speak of Sangjenim, it is something that is completely different from this viewpoint of the universe. The meaning of “nature” in the West could roughly be translated as “Heaven and Earth” in the East. In its understanding of nature – that is, Heaven and Earth – and in its understanding of change in nature, the Western concept of nature is defined in terms of creation. Heaven and Earth were made from the beginning to be the way they were eternally.
In the East, the nature is looked at as an ongoing process of change. In Taoism, the nature, or Heaven and Earth, is defined as being of itself. If you look at the “Tao Te Ching,” it is said that “the universe is something that is of itself, that makes itself”, rather than an object that was created by a God.
The universe is not an entity or an object that was created by a Spirit or a God outside of the universe. Rather, this Heaven and Earth, this universe, is an entity that is itself, of itself, by itself, that becomes itself, that transforms itself, that is within itself.
By looking at the difference in understanding of nature between the East and the West, we can understand the difference between God-nature and Sangje-nature. In the East, the nature is looked at as a changing process, a changing process of the cycle of time. That is, the process of Gaebyeok itself. In the Western concept of God, God is an entity that creates the universe as an object.
However, the Eastern concept of Sangje, the Heavenly Ruling Lord God, is an entity that takes charge of the changing nature of the universe which is contained within itself, and rules the universe within its boundaries. The Eastern concept of Sangje, roughly translated as ‘Heavenly God,’ is different from the Western concept of God.
-Sabunim’s second lecture to America from London Expo on May 26, 1996-