Here is a wealth of inspirational source-material on spiritual realization, leadership, excellence, character, virtue, service and more, drawn from the words of just a few of our great spiritual luminaries, including Jesus, the sagely authors of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, the Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, Epictetus, Antony the Great, Muhammad, Qadir al-Gilani, Atisha of India-Tibet, Francis of Assisi, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila (many of whom were persons who led large communities or organizations), up through the wisdom of modern-era spiritual leaders, orators and authors like R.W. Emerson, H.D. Thoreau, G.K. Chesterton, Swami Rama Tirtha, M.K. Gandhi, M.L. King Jr., Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and other heroes of spiritual realization and leadership excellence.
May this large offering of wisdom-gems empower all individuals and their organizations for more effective, loving leadership-service at a time in history when principled, enlightened “servant leadership” is so greatly needed!
QUOTES FROM JESUS / YESHUA OF NAZARETH, Palestine (For a discussion of our most reliable sources on Jesus’ teachings, see: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Teachings_of_Jesus.html)
[Jesus quotes the Jewish Torah on the two greatest commandments:] You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second: You must love your neighbor as your self. (Reconstructed “Q”-Source text, used by compilers of the Matthew and Luke Gospel)
I am telling you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. As you want people to treat you, do the same to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?… Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend without expecting anything in return. (Q text)
Be merciful (or: perfect) even as your Father is merciful (perfect). (Q text)
Can the blind lead the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? (Q text and Gospel of Thomas, 34)
How can you look for the splinter in your brother’s eye and not notice the stick in your own eye?… Hypocrite, first take the stick from your own eye, and then you can see to remove the splinter that is in your brother’s eye. (Q text and Gospel of Thomas, 25-6]
A good tree does not bear rotten fruit; a rotten tree does not bear good fruit…. Every tree is known by its fruit. The good man produces good things from his store of goods and treasures; and the evil man evil things. (Q text)
I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear…. Which one of you can add a single day to your life by worrying?… Your Father knows that you need these things. Instead, make sure of His domain in you [“seek ye first the kingdom of God”]. (Q text)
Sell your possessions and give to charity. Store up treasure for yourselves in a heavenly account, where moths and rust do not consume…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. (Q text)
What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul/self? (Q text)
Everyone who glorifies himself will be humiliated, and the one who humbles himself will be praised. (Q text)
The Kingdom [Domain] of God is inside you and it is outside of you…. There is Light within a man of light, and it lights up the whole world. (Thomas 3, 24)
Blessed is he who will stand at the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death. Blessed is he who was before he came into being. (Thomas 18-19)
I say, if one is undivided, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness. (Thomas 61)
If you have money do not lend it at interest, but give to one from whom you will not get it back. (Thomas 95)
Woe to the soul that depends on the flesh. (Thomas 112)
You savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. (Mark 8: 33)
Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8: 34-6)
If you can believe, all things are possible to one who believes. (Mark 9: 23)
If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9: 35)
[A sincere man asked:] “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said: “…You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor thy father and thy mother.” Finally: “Sell whatever you have, and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, take up thy cross, and follow me.” [Jesus later remarked:] “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10: 18-25; also Lk 18: 18-27; Matt 19: 16-26)
Inasmuch as you have done it [feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, etc.] unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me. (Matt. 25: 34-40)
Father… forgive us our trespasses, even as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Matt. 6: 12)
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. (Matt. 5:43)
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23: 34)
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THE ANCIENT HINDU VEDANTA SCRIPTURES (c.800-400 BCE), India:
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (c.800 BCE):
When there is some other thing, then one can see the other, smell… taste… greet… hear… ponder… touch… perceive the other. [But in Brahman-realization (God-Realization)] one becomes the single ocean, the nondual Seer…. This is the highest goal, the highest treasure, the highest world, the greatest bliss. (iv.3.31-2)
As one behaves, so does one become… By virtuous action one becomes virtuous, by evil action evil…. The man who desires transmigrates (reincarnates); but the man freed from desire, whose desire is the Self, doesn’t transmigrate. Being but Brahman [spiritual Reality], he is merged in Brahman. On this a verse says: ‘When all desires dwelling in the heart are banished, then a mortal becomes immortal; he becomes Brahman here (in this life).’ (iv.4.5-7)
He who knows Brahman, having become calm, self-controlled, interiorized (withdrawn), patient and collected sees the Self in his own self, sees all in the Self.… Evil does not burn (affect) him, he burns up all evil. Free from evil, from taint, from doubt, he becomes brahmana, a knower of Brahman. … This is that great unborn Self [Atman] who is undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless—Brahman. Verily, Brahman is fearless. He who knows this becomes the fearless Brahman. (iv.4.22-3)
Chandogya Upanishad (c.800 BCE):
The Supreme Self is, indeed, [manifest as] all this. One who sees and understands in this way, delights and dallies in the Self, mates and finds bliss in the Self—becomes independent (svaraj, self-ruled), with unlimited freedom in all worlds. But those who perceive it otherwise are dependent (other-ruled) and get perishable worlds; they have no freedom of movement in any of the worlds. (vii.23-25)
The infinite is happiness. No happiness lies in anything small (finite). Only the infinite is happiness. But one must yearn to realize the infinite. (vii.23)
That (Self) does not age with old age, is not killed, when this body is slain—That is the real city of Brahman…. It is the Self free from evils, old age, death, sorrow, hunger, thirst…. (viii.1.1-6)
Just as a hidden treasure of gold is again and again trod over by people who don’t know the terrain, even so all creatures go daily (in sleep) into the world of Brahman (spiritual Reality) yet don’t discover It, for they are led astray by the unreal. This Self is located in the Heart (the spiritual Heart, Hridayam). (viii.3.2-3)
Kena Upanishad (c.600 BCE):
By whom willed and directed does the mind light on its objects… the breath move… speech utter? Who is the Divine prompting sight and hearing? That which is the [power of] hearing behind hearing, thinking behind thinking, speaking behind speaking, seeing behind seeing—is also the breathing behind breathing…. That which one can’t grasp by the mind, by which, they say, the mind itself is grasped… That which one can’t see by sight, by which one sees sight itself… That which one can’t hear with one’s hearing, by which hearing itself is heard… That which one can’t breathe through breathing, by which breathing itself is drawn forth—you must know That alone is Brahman [Reality], and not what they [the masses] here venerate [folk religion]. (i.1-8)
Katha Upanishad (c.500 BCE):
[Lord Yama (Death) instructed young aspirant Naciketas:] The good [the preferable, shreyah] is one thing; the pleasant [preyah], another…. The wise choose the good over the pleasant; but the fool chooses the pleasant over the beneficial…. Deluded by the glamour of wealth, thinking, ‘this is my world, there is no other,’ he falls into my power again and again…. The sage relinquishes joy and sorrow, having realized by Self-contemplation (adhyatma-yoga)… that primal Divine, deeply hidden, seated in the heart-cave. The knowing Self isn’t born, doesn’t die, hasn’t sprung from anywhere, hasn’t become anyone. Unborn, eternal, primeval and abiding, It isn’t killed when the body dies. (i.2.1-18)
The Self isn’t to be sought via the senses.… One looks outward and not within oneself. A certain wise man, seeking life eternal, turned his sight inward and found the Self within. Fools pursue outward desires and enter death’s trap. The wise, knowing the immortal, don’t seek the stable in the unstable…. That by which one perceives both dream and waking states—having known that great, omnipresent Self, the wise don’t grieve. (ii.1.1-2,4.)
Isha Upanishad (c.500 BCE):
He who sees all beings in his very Self and his Self in all beings, feels no doubt or revulsion. When, to one who knows, all beings have truly been realized as one with the Self, then what delusion or sorrow can persist in this oneness? He (the Self or the Self-realized one) fills all; He is radiant, bodiless, invulnerable, pure, untouched by evil. He, the Seer, omniscient ruler of the mind, all-pervading, self-existent… (6-8)
Mundaka Upanishad (c.500 BCE):
Two types of knowledge one should learn… the higher and the lower. The lower consists of [language, math, science, etc.]; while the higher is That by which one realizes the imperishable. What is That by knowing which all else becomes known? …That which cannot be seen nor seized, which is colorless, without origin …eternal, all-pervading, omnipresent, exceedingly subtle, immutable (undecaying), which the wise fully realize as the source of all beings (bhuta-yoni).” (i.1.4-5,3,6)
Wallowing in ignorance, but calling themselves wise, thinking they are learned, fools go around, hurting themselves badly, like a group of blind men, led by a man himself blind. (i.2.8)
By truth, austerity, right wisdom, and constantly chaste living can the Supreme Self (Atman) be realized, the Self abiding within the body, brilliant and full of light…. Vast, divine, of inconceivable form, It shines forth, subtler than the subtlest, farther than the far, yet here at hand, right here within those who see, hidden in the heart’s secret space. (iii.1.5-6)
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THE BHAGAVAD GITA (Hindu Vedanta-Yoga text, c.4th century BCE, detailing Lord Krishna’s teachings to disciple Arjuna):
When one drops all desires of mind, when spirit is content in itself, then one is called stable in intelligence (sthitaprajna). One whose mind is untroubled in the midst of sorrows and free from eager desire amid pleasures, one from whom passion, fear and rage have passed away, is called a sage of settled intelligence (steady wisdom). (ii.55-6)
One of disciplined mind, moving among sense-objects with senses under control, free from attachment and aversion (raga-dvesha), this one attains purity of spirit. And in that purity of spirit is the end of all sorrow. (ii.64-5)
One who abandons all desires and acts free from longing, without any sense of “mine,” attains to peace. This is the divine state (brahmisthiti); realizing this, one is never again bewildered; fixed in this state at the time of bodily death, one realizes Divine bliss (Brahmanirvana). (ii.71-2)
The unselfish performance of works is better than their renunciation. (v.2)
One should not give up the work suited to one’s nature. (xviii.48)
Do your allotted work, for action is better than non-action. (iii.8; iii.4ff.,19)
The wise understand by ‘renunciation’ the giving up of works prompted by desire; the abandonment of the fruits (results) of all works … is relinquishment. (xviii.2)
To action alone have you a right and never to its fruits; don’t let action’s fruits be your motive; neither let there be any attachment to inaction. Fixed in yoga, do your work, abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind (samatvam) is called yoga [Divine union]. (ii.47-8)
He who is satisfied with whatever comes by chance, who has passed beyond dualities… who remains the same in success and failure, even when he acts, he is not bound [to the reincarnational cycle]. (iv.22)
He who does the work which he ought to do without seeking its fruit, he is the true renunciate, he is the yogin. (vi.1)
Do works with a view to the welfare of the world (lokasamgraha)…. As the unwise act with attachment to work, the wise should also act, but without attachment, for maintaining the world. (iii.20-2,25)
While all kinds of work are done by the modes (gunas) of Nature (prakriti), one bewildered by self-sense thinks, ‘I am the doer.’ But one who knows… understands it is simply nature’s modes acting on modes, and doesn’t get attached.… So, resigning all works to Me [the Divine Self], with your consciousness fixed in Atman [the Supreme Self of all], free from desire and egotism, do thy duty. (iii.27-30)
He who is… pure, master of self, senses conquered, his self being the Self of all beings, he isn’t tainted by works while he works. United with the Divine, he knows ‘I do nothing at all,’ for in seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, speaking, etc., he knows that only the senses are occupied with the objects of the senses [and that the Divine manifests all actions]. (v.7-9)
He who can see inaction in action, and action in inaction, is wise among men, a yogin, all his work accomplished. (iv.18)
He does nothing while ever engaged in work. (iv.20)
[The Hindu Vedanta sage Shankara (c.700 CE) commented on this prime teaching of the Bhagavad Gita: “Devoid of attachment to action and its result, therefore, having no selfish end in view, such a man really does nothing. His action is equivalent to inaction, since all his actions are consumed in the fire of wisdom… [and] since he has been endowed with true knowledge of the actionless Self…. He is ever steady in his knowledge of the Self’s real nature, always disowning agency: ‘I do nothing at all, energies act upon energies.’… Yet as he appears to act like the generality of mankind, agency is imputed to him by people…. From his own point of view, however,… he is no agent at all… since [he has] realized the actionless Self as one with Brahman (Divine Reality) and has seen the (fundamental) non-existence of agent, action, and results…. To one who realizes that all is Brahman, there is no action.” (Comment on Bhagavad Gita iv.19-20, 22, 24)]
When one does not get attached to sense-objects or to works, and has renounced all (selfish) purposes, then he is said to have attained to yoga [Divine union]. (vi.4)
Supreme happiness comes to the yogin whose mind is peaceful, whose passions are at rest, who is stainless, and who has become one with Brahman (Brahmabhutam). (vi.27)
He who is harmonized by yoga sees the Self abiding in all beings and all beings in the Self; everywhere he sees the same…. The yogin established in oneness, worshipping Me [the Divine Self] in all beings, lives in Me, howsoever he may be active. (vi.29,31)
[On the true devotee or sage:] One who has no ill will toward any being, who is friendly and compassionate, free from egoism and self-sense, even-minded in pain and pleasure and patient, the yogi who is ever content, self-controlled, unshakable in determination, with mind and understanding given up to Me [the Divine Self]—this one, My devotee, is dear to Me. One from whom the world does not shrink and who does not shrink from the world, who is free from joy and anger, fear and agitation, is dear to Me. One who has no expectation, is pure, skillful in action, unconcerned, untroubled, who has given up all selfish initiative, My devotee, is dear to Me. One who neither rejoices nor hates, neither grieves nor desires, and who has renounced good (attachment to it) and evil, is dear to Me. One who is alike to foe and friend, and those of good and evil reputation, who is alike in cold and heat, pleasure and pain, who is free from attachment, who holds equal blame and praise, who is silent and content with anything (that comes), who has no fixed abode and is firm in mind, that one who is devoted is dear to Me. (xii.13-19)
Humility, integrity, nonviolence, patience, uprightness, service of the teacher, purity, steadfastness and self-control, indifference to the objects of sense, self-effacement,… non-attachment, absence of clinging to son, wife, home and the like, and a constant equal-mindedness to all desirable and undesirable happenings, unswerving devotion to me with wholehearted discipline,… constancy in the knowledge of Spirit, insight into Truth—this is declared to be (true) wisdom-knowledge…. (xiii.7-11)
Those freed from pride and delusion, who have conquered the evil of attachment, who, all desires stilled, are ever devoted to the Supreme Spirit, liberated from the dualities known as pleasure and pain and undeluded, go to that eternal state. The sun doesn’t illumine That, nor the moon, nor the fire. That is My supreme abode, from which those who reach it never return. (xv.5-6)
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THE BUDDHA, SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA (c.566-486), India:
Buddha, in the Sutta Nipata: [A liberated being is:] one who has given up anger, completely destroyed lust and pride, who doesn’t see any substantiality in forms of becoming, who has no ill-temper, who has destroyed speculations, who is neither restless nor indolent, who knows that all in the world is insubstantial, who is freed from greed, lust and anger and all unhealthy tendencies, anxieties and cravings whatsoever, who has eradicated the five hindrances (sensuality, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, skepticism), and who is freed from confusion, having overcome doubts and sorrow…. (1-17)
Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, let one cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world… without any enmity. Whether one stands, walks, sits or lies down, as long as one is awake, one should develop this mindfulness. (146-51)
Resting places for the mind have gone. Grasping is no longer there at all. (470)
He doesn’t see himself in terms of self… There’s nothing in him that can lead to bewilderment; causes of ignorance are gone, there are none whatsoever. He perceives with insight all phenomena. He bears the last body. Full enlightenment is reached, ultimate and blissful. (477-8)
The sage has abandoned the notion of self or ego and is free from clinging. He doesn’t depend even on knowledge. He has no dogmatic views. (800)
Sorrow and avarice don’t cling to him, as water doesn’t stick to the lotus leaf…. The sage doesn’t cling to anything—seen, heard or thought. (811-812)
He has no anger, fear or pride. Nothing disturbs his composure and nothing gives him cause for regret. He is restrained in speech. He has no longing for the future and no grief for the past…. He doesn’t conceal anything and there’s nothing he holds onto…. He remains unobtrusive; he has no disdain or insult for anyone. He is not a man full of himself or addicted to pleasure. He is gentle and alert,… showing no aversion (to anything). He is not a person who works because he wants something; if he gets nothing at all he remains unperturbed…. His mindfulness holds him poised in a constant even-mindedness where arrogance is impossible… Because he understands the Way Things Are, he is free from dependency and there’s nothing he relies on. For him there is no more craving to exist or not to exist. This is what I call a man who is calmed [in nibbana / Skt.: nirvana] … nothing to tie him down, gone beyond the pull of attachment…. A man with nothing in him that he grasps at as his and nothing in him that he rejects as not his. (848-58)
By cutting out the root obstacle, the delusion: he eradicates all thought of ‘I am.’ By being mindful all the time, he trains himself to let go of all cravings that arise in him. (916) There is nothing in this world that is solid at base and not a part of it that is changeless. (937)
When a man doesn’t identify himself with mind and matter at all, when he doesn’t grieve for what doesn’t exist, then he can’t sustain any loss in this world. When he doesn’t think, ‘This is mine’ or ‘That belongs to them,’ then, since he has no egoism, he can’t grieve with the thought of ‘I don’t have.’… When a man is the same in all circumstances, then you have what I would call the praiseworthy condition of a man unshakeable. A man of discernment, without a flutter of desire, doesn’t accumulate—he has no conditioning—he has stopped all effort of every kind; so everywhere he sees peace and happiness…. He is free from possessiveness; he holds on to nothing and he rejects nothing. (948-54)
A wise man doesn’t have desires, nor does he need to learn. He is wishless, he has wisdom, and you can recognize him because he is a man of nothing; he isn’t hanging onto pleasure or to being. (1091)
Lose the greed for pleasure. See how letting go of the world is peace. There’s nothing you need hold onto and nothing you need push away. Dry up the remains of your past and have nothing for your future. If you don’t cling to the present then you can go from place to place in peace. There’s a greed that fixes on the individual body-mind. When that greed has utterly gone, then … you are immune from death. (1098-1100)
Buddha, in the Udana Sutta: The abolition of the conceit ‘I am’—that is truly the supreme bliss. (ii.1)
Any sensual bliss in the world, any heavenly bliss, isn’t worth one sixteenth-sixteenth of the bliss of the ending of craving. (ii.2)
Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse. (iv.3)
People who only see one side of things engage in quarrels and disputes. (vi.4)
People are intent on the idea of ‘made by me’ and attached to the idea of ‘made by another.’ Some don’t realize this, nor do they see it as a thorn. But to one who sees, having extracted this thorn, [the idea] ‘I am doing,’ doesn’t occur; ‘another is doing,’ doesn’t occur. This human race is possessed by conceit, bound by conceit, tied down by conceit. Speaking hurtfully because of their views they don’t go beyond transmigration—the wandering on. (vi.6)
One who is independent has no wavering. No wavering, there is calm. Being calm, there’s no desire. No desire, there’s no coming or going. No coming or going, there’s no passing away or arising. No passing away or arising, there’s neither a here nor a there nor a between-the-two. This, just this, is the end of suffering.” (viii.4)
Buddha, in the Itivuttakka Sutta: Whoever is wakeful, mindful, alert, centered, sensitive, calm and clear, rightly exploring the Truth [Dhamma], will, at once, shatter the darkness. So be devoted to wakefulness [and you realize] right here a self-awakening unsurpassed.” (47)
For those with confidence in the supreme, supreme is the result. (90)
Centered, mindful, alert, the Awakened One’s disciple discerns [egocentric] feelings, how feelings come into play, where they cease, and the path to their ending. With the ending of feelings, a monk free of want is totally unbound…. A master of direct knowing, at peace, he [or she] is a sage gone beyond bonds. (52-3) One should investigate in such a way that—his consciousness neither externally scattered and diffused, nor internally fixated—he is, from lack of clinging, unagitated, and there is no seed for the origination of future birth, aging, death or misery. (94)
Buddha, in the Dhammapada: Hate is not overcome by hate, whatever the occasion; by freedom from hate is hate appeased. This is the eternal law. (5)
Childish ones, of little intelligence, go about with a self that is truly an enemy; performing the deed that is bad, which is of bitter fruit.…When the bad deed (karmically) ripens, then the childish one comes to misery. (66, 69)
Buddha, in the Majjhima Nikaya: Suppose a cloth were defiled and stained and dipped in some colored dye, it would look poorly dyed and impure… So too, when the mind is defiled, an unhappy destination may be expected…. What are the imperfections that defile the mind? Covetousness and greed, ill will, anger, resentment, contempt, insolence, envy, deceit, fraud, obstinacy, rivalry, conceit, arrogance, vanity, negligence…. A monk abandons them… and abides pervading all quarters with a mind of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. (7.2ff.)
All unwholesome states lead downwards and all wholesome states lead upwards. (8.15)
Monks, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb by limb with a saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate towards them would not be carrying out my teaching. So you should train thus: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no evil words; we shall abide compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner hate. We shall abide pervading them and the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility.’ (21.20)
Are material form, feeling, perception, reactions and cognizing consciousness [the five aggregates of personality, all of them “impermanent, suffering, subject to change”] fit to be regarded as ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’? [“No.”] Seeing this, a well-taught noble disciple becomes disenchanted [with the five aggregates]… Being disenchanted he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion [mind] is liberated. (22.22-9)
If one doesn’t strive, one won’t finally arrive at truth, but because one strives, one does finally arrive at truth. (95.22)
One sees all form,… sensation,… perception,… reactions,… consciousness [the five aggregates] as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ It is when one knows and sees thus that in regard to this body with its consciousness and all external signs [objects] there is no I-making, mine-making or underlying tendency to conceit [or clinging].” (109.12-13)
Conceiving [of a thing-like self and thing-like world] is a disease…. Overcoming all conceivings, one is a sage at peace. And the sage at peace isn’t born, doesn’t age, doesn’t die, isn’t shaken and isn’t agitated. (140.31)
[A true disciple] is one who acts in full awareness when going forward and returning, when looking ahead and away,… when eating, drinking, tasting,… defecating, urinating, walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking and keeping silent. (119, passim)
Buddha, in the Digha Nikaya: Wisdom is purified by morality and morality is purified by wisdom: where one is, the other is, the moral man has wisdom and the wise man has morality, and the combination of morality and wisdom is called the highest principle in the world. (4.22)
If defiling states disappear… nothing but happiness and delight develops, tranquility, mindfulness and clear awareness…. (9.40-2)
There are two kinds of happiness (and two kinds of equanimity, bodily conduct, speech, etc.): the kind to be pursued and the kind to be avoided. Avoid that by which unwholesome mental factors increase and follow that by which wholesome factors increase and unwholesome factors decrease. (18.ii.3-5 condensed)
An Arahant [perfected one]… is incapable of doing nine things: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, storing goods for sensual indulgence, or acting wrongly through attachment, hatred, folly or fear. (29.26 condensed)
Buddha, in the Samyutta Nikaya: When seized by the End-maker (Death), as you abandon the human state, what’s truly your own? What do you take along when you go? What follows behind you like a shadow that never leaves? Both the merit and evil that you as a mortal perform here: that’s what’s truly your own, what you take along when you go; that’s what follows behind you like a shadow that never leaves. (3.4)
Wealth, silver, gold, or whatever other belongings you have; slaves, servants, errand runners and any dependents: you must go without taking any of them; you must leave all of them behind. What you do with body, speech or mind: that is yours; taking that you go; that’s your follower, like a shadow that never leaves…. Acts of merit are the support for beings in their after-death world. (3.20)
Few are those people in the world who, when acquiring lavish wealth, don’t become intoxicated and heedless, don’t become greedy for sensuality, and don’t mistreat other beings…. Impassioned with sensual possessions, greedy dazed by sensual pleasures, they don’t awaken to the fact that they’ve gone too far—like a deer into a trap laid out. (3.6)
Aging and death come rolling over living beings: noble warriors, outcastes and scavengers. They spare nothing. They trample everything…. One who practices the Dhamma [Truth or Spiritual Way] in thought, word, and deed, receives praise here on earth and after death rejoices in heaven [and finally comes to Supreme Release, Nibbana]. (3.25)
Seven factors for awakening, when developed and pursued, lead to direct knowledge, to self-Awakening, to Unbinding [Nibbana]. Which seven? Mindfulness, investigation of qualities, persistence, rapture, serenity, concentration and poised equanimity. (46.14)
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SOCRATES (469–399 BCE), philosopher of Athens, Greece (sentenced to a willing death for his “subversive” influence):
All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.
An honest man is always a child.
Wisdom begins in wonder.
True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.
True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.
As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.
Be as you wish to seem…. The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be…. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.
Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.
Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher and that is a good thing for any man.
[On fear of death:] How do we know but that Death may be the greatest of all human blessings?
Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.
He is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy.
He is richest who is content with the least, for contentment is the wealth of nature.
Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live.
If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it.
Let him that would move the world first move himself.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
It is not living that matters, but living rightly.
Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.
Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior.
One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.
Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.
Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us.
The end of life is to be like God, and the soul following God will be like Him.
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K’UNG FU-TZU / CONFUCIUS (552-479 BCE), moral philosopher for Lu state (modern Shantung), China:
The jen [gentle man or great human] does not grieve that other people do not recognize his merits. His only anxiety is lest he should fail to recognize theirs. (Analects, I, 16)
If … I had to take one phrase to cover all my teachings, I would say, ‘Let there be no evil in your thoughts.’ (II, 2)
The true gentle man does not preach what he practises till he has practised what he preaches. (II, 13)
A gentle man can see a question from all sides without bias. The small man is biased and can see a question only from one side. (II, 14)
What has already taken its course, one does not criticize. (III, 21)
He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon Goodness will dislike no one. (IV, 4)
In the presence of a good man, think all the time how you may learn to equal him. In the presence of a bad man, turn your gaze within. (IV, 17)
[In a group of people] there will be good qualities that I can select for imitation and bad ones that will teach me what requires correction in myself. (VII, 21)
If attacked, be ready to die for the Good Way. (VIII, 13)
The gentle man calls attention to the good points in others; he does not call attention to their defects. The small man does just the reverse. (XII, 16)
If he cannot put himself aright, how can he hope to succeed in putting others aright? (XIII, 13)
The true gentle man is conciliatory [harmonizing] but not accommodating. Common people are accommodating [ready to sacrifice principles to agreement] but not conciliatory. (XIII, 23)
To demand much from oneself and little from others is the way [for a leader] to banish discontent. (XV, 14)
A gentle man is distressed by his own lack of capacity; he is never distressed at the failure of others to recognize his merits. (XV, 18)
The demands that a gentle man makes are upon himself; those that a small man makes are upon others. (XV, 20)
Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you. (XV, 23)
[The only ‘hatred’ a gentle man has is this:] He hates those who point out what is hateful in others. (XVII, 24)
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LAO-TZU, CHINA’S FOUNDER OF CONTEMPLATIVE TAOISM, in the contemplative Taoist scripture, Tao Te Ching, 5th cent. BCE)(–the following are my renderings, based on translations by Ellen Chen, Henry Wei, Wing-tsit Chan, Gia-fu Feng, Lin Yutang, Red Pine/Bill Porter, Chad Hansen, Stephen Mitchell, and others):
The sage manages affairs without action (wu-wei), and imparts teaching without speech. Ten thousand things arise and he does not initiate them, they come to be and he claims no possession of them. He works without holding on, accomplishes without claiming merit. Because he does not claim merit, his merit does not go away. (chapter 2)
When the sage rules, he empties people’s minds, fills their bellies (their cores), weakens their ambition, and strengthens their bones/resolve. He makes them guileless (wu-chih; without cunning knowledge) and desireless (wu-yü) so that the crafty don’t act. By acting without action (wu-wei), nothing is not in order. (3)
Much talk often leads to exhaustion. Better concentrate on the center (chung). (5)
The sage, putting himself behind/last, finds himself at forefront. He puts himself away, and yet always remains. Is it not because he is selfless (wu szu), that he fulfills himself (has his ends realized)? (7)
The superior man (or: supreme good) is like water, whose goodness benefits all things without contention. Situated in (lowly) places disdained by others. This is why it is so like the Tao [Supreme Spirit, Way, or Reality]. In dwelling, value the earth. In heart-mind, value depth. In being-with, value kindness. In words, value reliability. In rectifying, value order. In social affairs, value ability. In action, value timing. Not competing, there’s no indiscretion/reproach. (8)
In bringing your spiritual (hun) and bodily (p’o) souls to embrace the One, can you never depart/deviate from it? In attuning your breath/vital force (ch’i) to induce softness/gentleness, can you be like an infant (ying erh)? In cleansing the mirror (lan) of the dark (hsüan) (profound insight), can you make it spotless? … In the opening and closing of heaven’s gate (t’ien men), can you be the female (tz’u)? In being all-comprehending / enlightened (ming), can you do it without artificial knowledge? In loving the people and guiding the state, can you practice wu-wei? Giving birth yet not claiming possession, acting yet not holding on, leading yet not dominating, this is called dark/profound/secret virtue (yüan te). (10)
Clay is fashioned into a vessels; but it is on the empty hollowness (wu) that their use depends. Doors and windows are hewn out to make rooms; it is on the empty space that their use depends. Therefore, while being (yu-chih) is beneficial/profitable (li), it is non-being (wu-chih) that is truly useful (yun). (11)
Deeming I have a self is what makes it possible for me have trouble. And if I had no self, what trouble could I have? Surrender yourself humbly, then you can be trusted to care for all things; love the world as your own self, then you can truly care for all things. (13)
Stay with the ancient Tao [Spiritual Reality] to move in the now. Knowing the ancient beginning is the essential thread of Tao. (14)
Ancient masters of Tao were subtle, mysterious, dark, intuitive-penetrating (wei miao yüan t’ung), deep and unrecognizable…. Careful, like crossing a river in winter; … reverent, like being guests; dissolving (easy going), like ice beginning to melt; unaffected, like uncarved wood; open, like a valley; chaotic (hun), like murky water. Who can wait quietly while the mud settles to become clear? Who can remain still until the moment of action? Those who keep this Tao don’t want to be filled to the full (don’t want to go to the limit). Because they are not full (at the limit), they can renew themselves before being worn out. (15)
Get utterly emptied to the limit (hsü-chi), abide in genuine quietude (ching). All things come into being, I contemplate their return. They flourish, yet each one returns to its root. This return to the root is to attain quietude (ching). It is called to renew life (ming). To renew life is to attain the Eternal/Changeless (ch’ang). To know the Eternal is to be illumined (ming). Not knowing the Eternal brings disaster. Knowing the Eternal one is broad-minded/all-embracing (yung). Being broad-minded, one is impartial. Being impartial, one is kingly. Being kingly, one is like heaven/Divine. Being like heaven, one is like Tao. Being in accord with Tao, one is everlasting, imperishable even after the disappearance of the body. (16)
The best rulers are (merely, inconspicuously) known to the people. The next best are loved and praised. The next are feared. The next are despised/reviled. [For great, wise rulers:] task is accomplished, work completed. The people say it all happened naturally of itself (tzu jan). (17)
On abandoning the Tao, there comes (self-conscious doctrines of) “humanity” and “righteousness.” And when cleverness and knowledge come, there is monstrous hypocrisy/artificiality. (18)
Manifest plainness (“look to the undyed silk”), embrace simplicity (“take to the uncarved wood”), reduce selfishness (szu), and have few desires (yü). (19)
Yield and overcome… empty and be full… have little and gain…. The sage embraces the One (pao i), and manifests it to (becomes exemplary to) all the world. He is free from self-display, thus he shines / is enlightened; free from self-assertion, thus he is distinguished; free from boasting, thus his merit is acknowledged; free from self-complacency, thus he acquires superiority. Because he is free from striving, no one in the world can strive with him. (22)
When you don’t trust (hsin) enough, people are untrustworthy. (17, 23) One who stands on tiptoe isn’t steady…. One who regards himself is not enlightened (ming). One who justifies himself isn’t outstanding. One who shows off his deeds isn’t meritorious. One who boasts of himself doesn’t lead. These, from the standpoint of Tao, are called: excess nature (yü te) and superfluous actions (shui hsing), detested by creatures. Thus, the Taoist (one of Tao) doesn’t indulge in them. (24)
The sage takes care of all people, leaving no one unsaved; takes care of things, abandoning nothing. This is called following the light (ming). (27)
To know the male (strength), but to abide by the female (care), is to be the valley energy (ch’i) of the world (or: universal stream)…. Being exemplary, and deviating not from the everlasting power, one again returns to the unlimited (wu-chi). (28)
One who desires to take over the world and act on (improve) it—I see that this will fail. The world is a divine/spirit vessel (shen ch’i) that can’t be improved. Try to change it, you ruin it. Try to hold on, you lose it.… Thus, the sage drops over-doing, drops extravagances, drops extremes. (29)
One who assists the ruler with Tao doesn’t dominate the world with force…. The good person achieves results but dares not glory in them; achieves results, yet does not boast; achieves results, yet does not show off; achieves results, yet is not haughty; achieves results, because this is natural; achieves results, but not by violence. Force is followed by loss of strength. This is not the way of the Tao. That which goes against Tao comes to an early demise. (30)
Tao eternal is the nameless uncarved wood. Though appearing puny, nothing under heaven can subjugate it. If kings and nobles can abide by it, all creatures will gladly obey…. One must know when to rest; one who knows when to rest does not become exhausted. (32)
Knowing others is knowledge, knowing self is enlightenment. One who conquers others has force, one who conquers self is strong/valiant (ch’iang). One who knows contentment is rich; one who perseveres has will power (chih). One who has not lost his proper abode endures (lasts long). To die but not to perish is to become immortal / eternally present. (33)
When there are music and dainty dishes, passersby stop. But a description of Tao seems so bland and tasteless! We look at Tao, it is imperceptible. We listen to it, it is inaudible. We use it, it is inexhaustible (its utility never ends). (35)
The soft overcomes the hard, the weak overcomes the strong. (36)
Eternal Tao does not act (wu wei), yet there’s nothing it does not do (erh wu pu wei). If kings and nobles can abide by it, the ten thousand things will reform by themselves (tzu hua). If after the reform they desire to be active, I shall calm them with Nameless Simplicity (p’u). The Nameless Simplicity will induce desirelessness (wu yü). Desirelessness will tend to quietude (ching). And the world shall be self-ordered (on the right course) (tzu ting). (37)
Superior virtue (te) is not virtue-conscious, therefore it has real virtue. Inferior virtue never [self-consciously] forgets virtue, therefore it has no virtue. Superior virtue does not act/interfere, and has no motive to interfere. Inferior virtue interferes, and has a motive to interfere…. Therefore, true heroes abide in the depth (the thick, substantial) and stay away from the shallow (thin). They abide by the fruit and stay away from the (showy) flower. They leave this and adopt that. (38)
Rather than tinkle like polished jade, rumble like the rocks. (39)
Great perfection appears lacking, yet its use is unending. Great fullness appears empty, yet its use is inexhaustible. (45)
No sin is greater than yielding to desires; no misfortune greater than not knowing contentment; no fault greater than hankering after wealth. He who is contented with contentment is always content. (46)
Without going out of doors, you may know the world. Without looking out the window, you may know the Tao of Heaven. The farther you go, the less you know. Thus, the sage knows without going out, discerns without looking, and works without doing (wu wei). (47)
In pursuing [mere] learning, one increases day by day; in cultivating Tao, one reduces/decreases day by day. Reduce and reduce and keep on reducing, until non-action (wu wei, non-interference with the Tao) is reached. No action is undertaken (nothing is done), yet nothing is left undone. The world is ruled by letting things take their course. It can’t be ruled by meddling. (48)
The sage has no mind of his own; he is aware of the needs of others. I am good to those who are good; I am good to those who are not good. Thus goodness is attained. I am honest (sincere, trustworthy) to those who are honest; I am also honest to those who are not honest; thus honesty is attained. The sage, in the governing of his empire, has no subjective (fixed) viewpoint. His mind forms a harmonious whole with that of his people. (49)
Close the mouth, shut the doors (of cunning and desire), and life will be full. Open the mouth, meddle with affairs, and life is beyond salvation. (52)
The great Way (Tao) is very easy and plain. Yet people prefer (complicated) bypaths…. To accumulate wealth and treasures in excess, this is called robbery and crime. This is not to follow Tao. (53)
The sage … has a high sense of integrity, but is not offensive to people. He is upright and straightforward, but does not push people around. He is bright and brilliant, but does not outshine people. (58)
To all beings, Tao is the hidden secret (ao); to the good persons it is their secret treasure (pao). (62)
Act without action, do without ado. Taste without tasting (or: taste the tasteless). Regard small as great, little as much. Requite injury with virtue. Prepare for the difficult while it is still easy; deal with the big while it is still small…. Therefore, the sage never strives for the great, and thereby the great is achieved. (63)
A journey of one thousand miles begins right at one’s feet (or: with one step). He who [self-consciously] acts fails; he who holds on loses. Therefore, the sage does not act so he does not fail. He does not hold on, so he does not lose…. Thus, the sage… does not treasure hard-to-get goods; he learns what is unlearned by others (or: he learns to be unlearned), and returns to what the multitude has missed (the Tao). He assists the natural self-becoming (tzu-jan) trend of things, but does not act/tamper/interfere with it. (64)
Primal virtue is deep and far. It leads all back to the great Oneness. (65)
That rivers and seas can be kings of all valleys is because they are good at staying lowly…. If the sage would guide people, he must serve with humility. In order to lead people, he must follow behind them. Thus, the sage rules, yet people don’t feel oppressed; he places himself in front of them and they don’t harm him. The world rejoices in praising him without tiring of it (or him). It is precisely because he does not compete that the world cannot compete with him. (66)
All under heaven say my Tao is great…. I have three treasures: first, compassion/motherly love, second, frugality, third, daring not to be at the world’s front. With compassion, one can be courageous. With frugality, one can be generous. Daring not be at the world’s front, one can grow to a full vessel (ch’i) of leadership. (67)
A good warrior is not warlike; a good fighter doesn’t get angry; a good conqueror doesn’t instigate combat; a good employer of people humbly puts himself below them. This is called the virtue of non-contention. This is called using the strength of others. It is also called harmony with Heaven’s Eternal Supreme Will. (68)
My words are very easy to understand, very easy to put into practice. But no worldlings understand them, no one puts them into practice. My teaching has an ancient source, my practices have a ruling principle. As people are ignorant of this, so they fail to understand me. When those who understand me are few, then I am distinguished indeed. Thus the sage wears coarse clothing while carrying the jade jewel in his breast. (70)
To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease. Only when one recognizes this disease as a disease can one be free from the disease. The sage is free from this disease. (71)
The sage knows himself (tzu chih) but does not show himself (tzu chien). He loves himself (tzu ai) but does not exalt himself (tzu kuei). He leaves that and adopts this. (72)
Who knows why Heaven doesn’t favor some things (dislikes what it dislikes)? Even the sage considers this a difficult question. The Way of Heaven … is not anxious about things and yet it plans well. (73)
At birth one is soft and yielding, at death hard and unyielding. All beings, grass and trees, when alive, are soft and bending, when dead, dry and brittle. Thus, the hard and unyielding are companions of death, the soft and yielding are companions of life. (76)
The Tao of Heaven is like the bending of a bow. What is high is brought low, what is low is pulled up. What is superfluous is taken off; what is deficient is strengthened. The Tao of Heaven takes from what has a surplus to supply what has a deficit. The way of men acts differently. It takes from what has a deficit to serve what has a surplus. Who will use his surplus to serve the world? Only the man of Tao. Therefore, the sage acts, but doesn’t hold on (to the result). He accomplishes his task without claiming credit. He has no desire to display his excellence. (77)
Nothing under heaven is softer and more yielding than water, yet nothing can compare with it in attacking the hard and strong…. Everyone knows the yielding overcomes the strong, and soft overcomes hard, yet no one puts it into practice. (78)
True words don’t sound sweet; sweet words aren’t truthful. Good men don’t argue; those who argue aren’t good. One who knows doesn’t accumulate knowledge; people with accumulated knowledge don’t know. The sage does not hoard. The more he serves the people, the more he gains. The more he gives to people, the more he possesses. The Way of Heaven is to benefit, but not injure. The way of the sage is to act/work, but not contend. (81)
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TAOIST SAGE CHUANG TZU (c.370-286 BCE) From the respected 1891 translation of the Chuang Tzutext by James Legge, as slightly modified by editor Clae Waltham; and from a recent translation by Burton Watson, 1996.
The perfect man [Taoist sage] has no thought of self; the spirit-like man, none of merit; the sagely-minded man, none of fame. (i.3) (Watson notes: these are “not three different categories but three names for the same thing.”)
Great knowledge (understanding) is wide and comprehensive; small knowledge is partial and restricted. Great words are clear and limpid; little words are shrill and quarrelsome. (ii.2)
As soon as one finds the pivot of the Tao, one stands in the center of the ring of thought where one can respond without end to the changing views, without end to those affirming and without end to those denying (“this or that,” “right or wrong”). Therefore, I say, ‘There is nothing like the proper light of the mind.’” (ii.3)
The perfect man is spirit-like (god-like). Great swampy lakes might be boiling about him and he would not feel their heat; the Ho and the Han rivers might be frozen up and he would not feel the cold; the hurrying thunderbolts might split the mountains and the wind shake the ocean without being able to make him afraid. Being such, he mounts on the clouds and mist, rides on the sun and moon, and rambles at ease beyond the four seas. Neither death nor life makes any change in him, and how much less should the considerations of advantage and injury (profit and loss) do so! (ii.8)
There is the great awaking after which we shall know that this life was a great dream. All the while the stupid think they are awake and with nice discrimination insist on their knowledge, now playing the part of rulers, now of grooms…. Confucius and you are both dreaming. I who say that you are dreaming am dreaming myself. These words seem very strange…. (ii.9)
[Chang Wu-tzu:] Suppose you and I have had an argument…. Is the one of us right and the other wrong? Are we both right or both wrong? … Harmonize them all [all viewpoints] with the Heavenly Equality, leave them to their endless changes, and so live out your years.… Forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home. (ii.10)
There should not be the practice of what is good with any thought of the fame that it will bring… (iii.1)
Quiet acquiescence in what happens at its proper [destined] time and quietly submitting to its ceasing afford no occasion for grief or for joy. (iii.4)
Virtue is dissipated in the pursuit of the name for it…. In pursuit of the name, men overthrow one another; wisdom becomes [for them] a weapon of contention. (iv.1)
Serve your own mind so that sadness or joy do not sway or move it; understand what you can do nothing about and be content with it as with fate—this is the perfection of virtue…. The best thing you can do is to be prepared to sacrifice your life, and this is the most difficult thing to do. (iv.4)
He [the sage] is entirely occupied with his proper self. By his knowledge he has discovered the [original] nature of his mind [as Awareness], and to that he holds as what is unchangeable. (v.1)
Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “Can a man indeed be without desires and passions?” The reply: “He can…. The Tao gives him his personal appearance and powers; Heaven gives him his bodily form; should we not call him a man?” Hui Tzu rejoined, “Since you call him a man, how can he be without passions and desires?” The reply: “… What I mean when I say that he is without these is that this man does not allow his likings and dislikings to get in and do him harm; he always pursues his course without effort and does not try to increase his store of life.” (v.5)
Where lusts and desires are deep, the springs of the heavenly are shallow. The true men of old knew nothing of the attachment to life or of the hatred of death. Entrance into life occasioned no joy; exit from it awakened no resistance (they emerged without delight and went back in without a fuss). Composedly, they came and went. They did not forgot what their beginning had been, and they did not inquire into what their end would be. They accepted life and rejoiced in it; they forgot all fear of death and returned to their state before life. Thus there was in them what is called the want of any mind to resist the Tao, and attempts by means of the human to assist the Heavenly. Such were they who are called the true men. Their minds were free from all thought; their demeanor was still and unmoved; their foreheads beamed simplicity. (vi.2-3)
The true men of old judged others aright, but without being partisans…. Their humility was evident, but there was nothing of unreality or display about it. Their placidity and satisfaction had the appearance of joy; their every movement seemed to be a necessity to them. (vi.4)
Wu-wei [“non-action,” not interfering with Tao’s spontaneous, powerful activity] makes its exemplifier [the Taoist sage] the lord of all fame. Wu wei serves him as the treasury of all plans. Wu wei fits him for the burden of all offices. Wu wei makes him the lord of all wisdom. The range of his action is inexhaustible, but there is nowhere any trace of his presence. He fulfills all that he has received from Heaven, but he does not see that he was the recipient of anything. A pure vacancy of all purpose is what characterizes him. When the perfect man employs his mind, it is a mirror. It conducts nothing and anticipates nothing. It responds to what is before it but does not retain it. Thus he is able to deal successfully with all things and injures none. (Watson translates this same passage as: Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail. Hold on to all that you have received from Heaven but do not think that you have gotten anything. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror—going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself.) (vii.6)
He who understands the Tao … is tranquil equally in calamity and happiness…. Understand the actions of Heaven and man, base yourself upon Heaven, take your stand in virtue, and then, although you hasten or hold back, bend or stretch, you may return to the essential and speak of the ultimate…. Do not let what is human wipe out what is Heavenly; do not let what is purposeful wipe out what is fated; do not let [the desire for] gain lead you after fame. Be cautious, guard it, and do not lose it—this is what I mean by returning to the True (reverting to your true nature). (xvii.7)
Is there such a thing as perfect enjoyment (supreme happiness) in the world or not? … What the world of society honors is riches, dignities, longevity, and being deemed able. What it delights in is bodily rest, rich flavors, fine garments, beautiful colors, and pleasant music. It looks down on poverty, lowly condition, short life and being deemed feeble…. If people don’t get the wanted things, they are sorrowful and troubled. Their thoughts are all about the body. Are they not silly? … As to what common people do and what they find their happiness in, I don’t know whether the happiness is really happiness or not. I see them in their pursuit of it, racing around as though they couldn’t stop—they all say they’re happy with it. But what they call happiness would not be so to me. Yet I do not say that there is no happiness in it. I take inaction to be true happiness, but ordinary people think it is a bitter thing. It is said (or: I say): the highest happiness has no [self-conscious] happiness…. Heaven does nothing and thence comes its serenity. Earth does nothing and thence comes its rest. By the union of these two inactivities, all things are produced. How vast and imperceptible is the process! It seems to come from nowhere! How imperceptible and vast! … Hence it is said: “Heaven and Earth do nothing, and yet there is nothing that they do not do.” [cf. Tao Te Ching, ch. 48] (xviii.1)
Confucius said [as reported by Chuang Tzu]: A man should not retire and hide himself. He should not push forward and display himself. He should stand stock-still in the middle (center). (xix.5)
The ideas of profit and of injury rub against each other and produce in men a very great fire. The harmony of the mind is consumed in the mass of men…. They thereupon fall away more and more and the Way (Tao) they should follow is altogether lost. (xxvi.1)
Put away your small wisdom [knowledge], and your great [true] wisdom will be bright; discard your [self-conscious] “skillfulness” (or goodness) and you will become naturally skillful (good). (xxvi.6)
A will that takes refuge in conformity, behavior that is aloof and eccentric—neither of these, alas, is compatible with perfect wisdom and solid virtue…. It is only the perfect man (sage) who is able to enjoy himself in the world and not be deflected from the right, to accommodate himself to others and not lose himself. (xxvi.8)
Stillness and silence are helpful to those who are ill; … rest serves to calm agitation; but they are the toiled and troubled who have recourse to these remedies. Those who are at ease do not need them and are not bothered to ask about them. (xxvi.10)
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EPICTETUS (c.55-c.135 CE) Epictetus was a slave-boy in Rome, later a Stoic sage par excellence with a school in Nicopolis, Greece (from Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors, Both Ancient and Modern, F.B. Dickerson, 1908)
All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain.
The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing.
The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.
Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the world.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.
Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee.
Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil.
Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them.
First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.
It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them.
If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.
If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.
Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public.
If you desire to be good, begin by believing that you are wicked.
If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
If you seek truth you will not seek victory by dishonorable means, and if you find truth you will become invincible.
It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.
It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.
It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.
Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.
Never in any case say I have lost such a thing, but I have returned it. Is your child dead? It is a return. Is your wife dead? It is a return. Are you deprived of your estate? Is not this also a return?
No man is free who is not master of himself.
God has entrusted me with myself.
Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.
One that desires to excel should endeavor in those things that are in themselves most excellent.
No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake in little things, and then proceed to greater.
Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
Silence is safer than speech.
The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.
The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.
There is nothing good or evil save in the will.
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.
Unless we place our religion and our treasure in the same thing, religion will always be sacrificed.
The philosophers say that the well-educated alone are free.
We should not moor a ship with one anchor, or our life with one hope.
We tell lies, yet it is easy to show that lying is immoral.
When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.
Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit.
All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven in his own way.
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ST. ANTONY THE GREAT(c.251-356), Father of Desert Christianity, Egypt:
“Let us purify our mind, for I believe that when the mind is completely pure and is in its natural state, it gains penetrating insight, and it sees more clearly and further than the demons, since the Lord reveals things to it.” (quoted by St. Hesychios)
[After a discussion of the various virtues such as detachment and compassion, Antony stated:] The grace of discrimination [discernment] is the virtue that teaches a man to walk along the royal road, swerving neither to the right through immoderate [excessive] self-control, nor to the left through indifference and laxity. Discrimination is a kind of eye and lantern of the soul, as is said in the Gospel: ‘… if your eye is pure, your whole body will be full of light.’ (Matt. 6:22). For the power of discrimination, scrutinizing all the thoughts and actions of a man, distinguishes and sets aside everything that is base and not pleasing to God, and keeps him free from delusion. (quoted by John Cassian)
Exercise your hearts, to know how to discern the good from the bad, the right from the left, reality from unreality. (Letter III)
Since we are all created of the same invisible substance,… we may love one another with a single love. For all who know themselves, know that they are of one immortal substance…. Therefore we are all members one of another, and the body of Christ. Therefore we ought greatly to love one another. For he who loves his neighbor, loves God. (Letter VI)
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ISLAM’S PROPHET MUHAMMAD (570-632), Mecca, Arabia: From the Hadith, the sayings and customs of the Prophet:
He who knows himself knows his Lord.
Man is asleep; must he die before he wakes?
Treat this world like I do, like a wayfarer; like a horseman who stops in the shade of a tree for a time, and then moves on.
It is your attachment to objects that makes you blind and deaf.
Do you think you love your Creator? Love your fellow-creature first.
Die before you die.
The holy warrior is he who struggles with himself.
An hour’s contemplation is better than a year’s worship.
Whoever makes all his tasks one task [i.e., dwelling on God], God will help him in his other concerns.
If someone devotes himself entirely to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), He will provide him with everything he needs, but if a person devotes himself entirely to this world, Allah will leave him [unsafely] in its care.
[In one of the qudsiyyah Hadiths, God speaks in the first person:] “My servant draws near unto Me, and I love him; and when I love him, I am his ear, so that he hears by Me, and his eye, so that he sees by Me, and his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, and his hand, so that he takes by Me.”
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SHAIKH ‘ABDU’L-QADIR AL-JILANI (1077-1166), Muslim mystic Sufi master, the “Sultan of Saints,” probably the most popular saint in the Islamic world:
The innermost being [sirr] is the secret of the mystery [sirru’s-sirr].
[To a powerful, rich man:] Open your eyes and take notice…. You will soon be dead. All that you are now involved in must fade away and be scattered. This fellow here will have to part with his children, wife and home, and then make friends with the dust, the grave, and either the stokers of Hell or the angels of mercy [mala’ikat ar-rahma]. O passing traveler, O transient, O temporary loan!… You are lazy. You are a little ignoramus, a silly little fool. You think you have something to give. How many like you this world has fattened and then devoured! It made them plump with fame and fortune, then ate them up. If we had seen any good in it [worldly fortune], you would not have beaten us to it. Do not all things come home to Allah? (Qur’an 42:53) As for what we are involved in, it all comes from Allah (Exalted is He).
There is nothing worth talking about until your lords [arbab, everything that “rules” you] become one single Lord [Rabb, Allah], until your interests become single and the object of your love becomes single. Your heart must be unified…. When will your heart come to be enraptured [majdhub] and your innermost being [sirr] drawn near [muqarrab, near to God], and when will you meet your Lord after taking your leave of creatures?
Do you know anything at all about Allah (Exalted is He)? No, by Allah! You are all madly in love with this world and its glamour…. If you realized that this world was sure to leave you in the lurch, you would not ask so much of it. When your inner reality [batin] becomes worthy to serve Allah, only then will this world become fit to serve you.
These people [of the Lord] have dissolved their lower selves [nufus], natural impulses [tiba’], passions [ahwiya] and tastes [sharab], to the point where they have died in the spiritual sense [ma’nan], where they have become extinct [fanu] in the spiritual sense. The hand of Divine power [qudra] has taken control of them.
[When one turns entirely to God:] The veils will be removed. Trouble and confusion will disappear. The lower self [nafs] will become calm. Tranquility [sukun] will arrive. The gifts of grace [altaf] will arrive.
What is required of the faqir [emptied-out mystic] is that he should be flexible in thinking [fikr], centered in remembrance [of God, dhikr], courteous in disagreement and ready to assist in reconciliation [muraja’a]. He must seek nothing from the Lord of Truth but the Spiritual Truth [Haqq], and he must practice nothing but truthfulness [sidq]. He must be the most tolerant of people, and the most self-effacing. His laughter should be of the cheerful, smiling kind, and his curiosity should be used as an instrument of learning. He should be a reminder to the heedless, and a teacher to the ignorant. He mustn’t hurt those who hurt him, and he mustn’t meddle in things of no concern to him. He must give plenty in the way of favors, but little in the way of offense. He must be careful to abstain from things that are unlawful, and stand well clear of things that are of dubious legality. He must be a helper [ghawth] to the stranger, and a father to the orphan. His joy should be apparent in his face, while his sadness is stored in his heart. He should be engrossed in his contemplation [fikr] and happy in his poverty [faqr].… He must be graceful in movement, bountiful in kindness, charming in outlook, generous in providing benefits, refined in taste, excellent in moral character, and very gentle. He should be a precious substance that melts and flows. He should be long on silence, agreeable in manner, forbearing when he is treated foolishly, and very patient with anyone who treats him badly. There should be no freezing [jumud] of the feelings in his presence, and no extinguishing [khumud] of the fire of Truth.… He must treat the elderly with deference, and the young with compassion. He must be worthy of trust [amana] and far from betrayal [khiyana]. His habit should be true devotion, and modesty should be his natural disposition. He should always be on the alert, and make vigilance his constant practice. He should take little for granted, and be very patient in tribulation. He should mean little to himself, but a great deal to his brothers. His behavior should be an example of good conduct [adab], and his speech should be a marvel [‘ajab]. He must never gloat over anyone’s misfortune, nor speak ill of anyone behind his back. He must be dignified and very patient, content and very thankful. He should spend little time in talking, and make a frequent practice of ritual prayer [salat] and fasting…. He should treat his guests with cordial hospitality, and supply everyone present with whatever food is available.… He must not be a verbal abuser, backbiter, slanderer, calumniator, or faultfinder. He must not be impetuous, inattentive, envious, irritable, malicious, or ungrateful. He must have a tongue that is stored away [makhzun], a heart that is grief-stricken [mahzun] [over the evil in the world], a way of speaking that is measured [mawzun], and a way of thinking that travels far and wide, through what has been and what is yet to be [ma yakun].
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ATISHA (DIPAMKARA SHRIJNANA, c.982-1054), “the Incomparable” Buddhist master-teacher of India-Tibet:
[Asked “What is the highest teaching of the path?” Atisha replied:] The highest skill is in the realization of egolessness. The highest nobility is in subduing [taming] your own mind. The highest excellence is in having a mind that seeks to help others. The highest precept is continual mindfulness. The highest remedy is in understanding the naturelessness [intrinsic emptiness] of everything. The highest activity is not to conform with worldly concerns. The highest accomplishment is the lessening and transmutation of the passions. The highest giving lies in non-attachment. The highest morality is having a peaceful mind. The highest patience is humility. The highest effort is to abandon attachment to works. The highest meditation is the mind without pretension. The highest wisdom is not to grasp anything as it appears…. The ultimate goal of the Teaching [Dharma] is that Emptiness whose essence is Compassion…. The realization of voidness… remedies all the fettering passions. [Q: “But many say they have realized voidness. Why do their anger and attachment remain?”] They are speaking empty words, for when you fully realize the meaning of voidness, your body, speech and mind react with pleasure, like slipping fresh butter into barley soup.
[A teacher asked, “How do you condense the essential meaning of the Dharma?” Atisha replied:] “Practice love, compassion and bodhi-mind [the mindset wishing for the enlightenment of all] toward all sentient beings. Make effort to accumulate merit and wisdom on behalf of them all. Dedicate all roots of virtue to the attainment of buddha-hood together with all sentient beings, whose number would fill the sky. Understand that all these things are empty of self-nature, like a dream or a magician’s illusion.
Merely understanding the Dharma [Spiritual Truth] is not enough to be a Buddha; you must practice constantly…. Dedicate your virtue day and night [for the liberation of all beings], and always be mindful…. Friends, there is no satisfaction in the things you desire. It is like drinking sea water to satisfy thirst. Therefore be content. Annihilate all forms of pretentiousness, pride and conceit; be subdued and peaceful.… As if they were stones on a narrow slippery path, you should clear away all ideas of gain and respect, for they are the rope of the devil. Like snot in your nose, blow out all thoughts of fame and praise, for they serve only to beguile and delude…. Future life is longer than this life, so carefully secure your treasure of virtue to provide for the future. You leave everything behind when you die; do not be attached to anything. Leave off despising and deprecating others and generate a compassionate mind to those who are your inferiors. Do not have deep attachment to your friends and do not discriminate against your enemies. Without being jealous or envious of others’ good qualities, with humility take up those good qualities yourself. Do not bother examining the faults of others, but examine your own faults. Purge yourself of them like bad blood. Nor should you concentrate on your own virtues…. Extend loving-kindness to all beings as though they were your own children. Always have a loving mind. Speak honestly and without anger. If you go about saying many senseless things, you will make mistakes; thus speak in moderation. If you do many senseless things, your virtuous work will cease; give up actions that are not spiritually pure. It is useless to make effort in unessential work. Because whatever happens to you comes as a result of your karma from long ago, results never match your present desires. Therefore be calm. Always be straightforward and without deceit. All the misery and happiness of this life arise from the karma of this and previous lives; do not blame others for your circumstances. Until you subdue [tame] yourself, you cannot subdue others; therefore, first subdue yourself…. You will surely die, leaving behind whatever wealth you have accumulated, so be careful not to gather defilement due to wealth. As distracting enjoyments are without substance, adorn yourself with the virtue of giving. Always keep pure moral practice, for it is beautiful in this life and ensures happiness in future lives. In this world-age of the Kaliyuga [the Dark Age], where hatred is rampant, don the armor of patience, which nullifies anger. We remain in the world by the power of sloth; thus we must ignite like a great fire the effort of achievement. Moment after moment your life is wasted led by the lure of worldly activities; it is time to meditate. Because you are under the influence of wrong views, you do not realize the nature of voidness. Zealously seek the meaning of reality! Friends, samsara [the cycle of rebirths] is a vast swamp in which there is no real happiness; hurry to the place of liberation. Meditate according to the precept of the teacher and dry up the river of samsara misery…. Listen well to this advice, which is not mere words but comes straight from my heart. If you follow these precepts you will make not only me happy, but yourselves and all others as well. Though I am ignorant, I urge you to remember these words.
Whenever you see any sentient beings, look upon them as [very dear] parents and children…. Avoid attachment to anything, and live without attachment. Attachment will not gain a happy rebirth…. When haughty thoughts arise, then break down your pride…. Continually cultivate Emptiness: whenever objects of love or hate arise, look upon them as magical creations. When unpleasant words are heard, regard them as echoes; and when bodily harm is incurred, see it as the result of previous karma…. In order to have a care for the minds of others, avoid all quarrels and always be patient…. Avoid contempt for others and live in a reverent way…. When in the presence of many, watch your speech; when all alone, watch your mind…. Whatever basic virtue you gain at any time, dedicate all to the great and supreme Awakening; share your merit with creatures.
The process of [mere] conceptual understanding is the very thing the whole world is about. Perfect Awakening is knowing it is dream-like—and knowing that the knowing is dream-like!
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ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Italy (c.1182-1226), founder of the Franciscan Order of mendicant friars and Poor Clare nuns:
Let the brothers [and sisters] wherever they may be… receive kindly whomever may approach them, whether friend or foe, or thief or robber…. And let the brothers take heed not to appear sad exteriorly and be gloomy hypocrites, but let them prove to be joyful in the Lord, and merry and becomingly courteous. And every one of them should love and take care of his brother [and sister] like a mother loves and takes care of her children.
[Concerning the rich:] God is the Lord over them as well as over us. He can call them to his service and justify them when called…. They are our brothers, because they have the same Creator as we; and our masters, because they lend their help [as patrons].
The malice of detraction [backbiting] is greater than that of robbers, inasmuch as the law of Christ, which finds its fulfillment in charity, binds us to desire the welfare of a person’s soul.
And all the brothers, ministers and servants as well as the rest, should take care not to be disturbed or angered over anyone else’s sin or bad example…. But let them spiritually, as well as they can, help the one who has sinned….
The servant of God that does not get angry or upset on anyone’s account, lives as is right…. You can tell by this whether a servant of God has anything of the spirit of God, that, when the Lord does anything good through him,… [he] is not puffed up about it….
A man has only as much knowledge as he puts into action.
Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor loss of composure. Where there is poverty borne with joy, there is neither grasping nor hoarding. Where there is quiet and meditation, there is neither worry nor dissipation…. Where there is mercy and discernment, there is neither luxury nor a hardened heart.
Blessed is the servant [of God] that takes direction, blame, and reproof as patiently from anyone else as from himself. Blessed is the servant that on being reproved cheerfully agrees, modestly complies, modestly complies, and readily makes amends. Blessed is the servant that is not quick to excuse himself….
Whatever gives you trouble… and whoever causes you such trouble,… you ought to regard that as a favor. You should want it that way and not otherwise. Regard that as true obedience to the Lord God…. And love those who do such things to you…. Let there be no brother in the world who has sinned as much as ever he could sin, yet who, after looking in your eyes, would ever go away without mercy.
Be resolved at heart to bear everything in patience and humility.
So great is the good I have in sight, that any pain is my delight.
I have always taken less than was due to me for fear other poor people be cheated of their portion. To do otherwise would be robbery.
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MEISTER ECKHART(1260-1328), mystic theologian-sage-preacher, Germany:
–From Talks of Instruction, 1290s:
True and perfect obedience is a virtue above all virtues…. Being obedient, if a man purifies himself, God will come into him in course; for when he has no will of his own, then God will command for him what God would command for Himself…. You will never hear an obedient person saying, ‘I want it so and so; I must have this or that.’ You will hear only of utter denial of self. (1)
Let us learn self-forgetting until we call nothing more our own. (21)
Comes now the question: How is man to work together with God? … An answer: … to reduce self to nothingness…. All our being depends therefore on not being…. Therefore, if God is to give us Himself and everything else, freely to be our own, He must first take all we have away…. If, therefore, I deny myself, God will be mine much more than any thing could be; He shall be mine as much as His own… Nothing was ever owned to the degree that God may be my own, together with all that is His. (23)
A pure heart is capable of anything…. A pure heart is one that is unencumbered, unworried, uncommitted, and which does not want its own way about anything but which, rather, is submerged in the loving will of God, having denied self. (2)
To the extent that you eliminate self from your activities, God comes into them…. Begin with that, and let it cost you your utmost. In this way, and no other, is true peace to be found. (4)
When you are about to begin a new life or work, go to God and ask with all your might and devotion that He will make it turn out for the best…. Then whatever God brings about, take it as direct from Him—the best as he sees it—and be completely satisfied. (22)
We are to be changed into Him and made One with Him, so that what is His shall be ours and what is ours, His: our heart and His are to be one heart; our body and his, one body. So, too, it shall be with our senses, wills, thoughts, faculties, and members: they are all to be transported into Him, so that we feel with Him and are made aware of Him in every part of body and soul. (20)
God does not look at what you do but only at your love and at the devotion and will behind your deeds. (16)
People ought not to consider so much what they are to do as what they are; let them but be good and their ways and deeds will shine brightly. If you are just, your actions will be just too. Do not think that saintliness comes from occupation; it depends rather on what one is…. Thus take care that your emphasis is laid on being good and not on the number or kind of thing to be done. (4)
If [a man] really has God, and only God, then nothing disturbs him. Why? Because he has only God and thinks only God and everything is nothing but God to him. He discloses God in every act, in every place…. If we mean God and only God, then it is He who does what we do and nothing can disturb him [the man devoted to God]. (6)
We ought to learn how to keep a free mind in all we do…. It requires great diligence. Expert attention is necessary…. We must learn to look through every gift and every event to God. (21)
One may test the degree to which one has attained to virtue by observing how often one is inclined to act virtuously rather than otherwise. (21)
Everything takes its flavor from God and becomes divine; … things all have this one taste; and therefore God is the same to this man alike in life’s bitterest moments and sweetest pleasures. (11)
–Meister Eckhart, from Book of Divine Consolation: (Written in 1308 for Queen Anne of Hungary, who had lost her husband, mother and father.)
In God there is neither sorrow, nor crying, nor any pain…. [For the person immersed in God,] his whole being, life, knowing, and loving will be of God, in God and will be God Himself. (1)
I turn toward the creature from which discomfort comes in course and turn away from Him from whom joy and comfort naturally come. What wonder, then, that I am sad and grow sadder?… Those who love only God in the creature and the creature only in God shall discover real and true comfort on all sides. (1)
How can one whose attention is fixed on his loss and misfortune ever be comforted, especially if he keeps visualizing it, brooding over it, his eyes heavy with sorrow…? When one longs for outward things,… it is a sure sign that God is not in his human heart. (2)
There can be no good man who does not want what God wants, because it is not possible that God should want anything but goodness, and just because of this, when God does want something, it must be not only for the good but for the best. That is why our Lord has taught us, through the apostles, to pray every day [in the Our Father] that God’s will be done. And yet, when the will of God is done, we complain and are sad and troubled. (2)
A really perfect person will be so dead to self, so lost in God, so given over to the will of God, that his whole happiness consists in being unconscious of his self and its concerns, and being conscious, instead, of God, in knowing nothing and wishing to know nothing except the will and truth of God…. This kind of person is so unified with God and in unison with His will that he wants what God wants and wants it God’s way. (2)
The soul that is empty of creatures is lifted up to God…. I have spoken before of emptiness, that is, of innocence, to the effect that the more innocent and poor [empty] the soul is, the less it has to do with creatures, the emptier of things that are not God, the more surely it takes to God, gets into Him and is made One with Him, itself becoming God…. Our Lord Jesus Christ besought his Father that we should be made one—not merely united—but joined together in Him and with Him in the one single One. (2)
Our Lord said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross.”… Surely there can be no more crucifixion in suffering and pain for the man who has denied and forgotten self. To him it is all joy, delight, and heart’s content. He really is following God and nothing can make this man suffer or be sorry any more than it can God…. God loves One to one… He gathers all up into unity, the unity which all creatures really seek. (2)
–from the German language Sermons:
God is at home, man is abroad. God is at the center, man out on the periphery.
All creatures are pure nothing. I do not say that they are at least a little something but that they are pure nothing, because no creature has being [except in God’s Being]…. When I pray for something, I do not pray; when I pray for nothing, I really pray…. To pray for anything except God might be called idolatry or injustice…. When I pray for some person such as Henry or Conrad, I pray least, but when I pray for no one in particular, I pray most of all. Really to pray, one must want nothing… But when one puts something before God, he makes God nothing, and nothing, God.
“Ego,” the Latin word for “I,” can be used properly by God alone in His unity…. That we may become this unity and may remain within it, so help us God. Amen.
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TERESA OF AVILA (1515-82) Catholic Carmelite reformer and foundress of many convents/monasteries for women religious in Spain:
Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass: God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.
Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth–that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.
God is everywhere; and… wherever God is, there is Heaven.
The whole mischief comes from our not really grasping the fact that He is near us, and imagining Him far away–so far, that we shall have to go to [a distant] Heaven in order to find Him.
[Teresa used to say that God walked among the pots and pans as well as anywhere else.]
There is a great difference between the [spiritual realm and the world]…, the one being eternal and the other only a dream.
Think and meditate upon what is real and upon what is not.
It is absurd to think that we can enter Heaven without first entering our own souls–without getting to know ourselves.
Each of us possesses a soul, but… we do not understand the great secrets which they contain.
We actually have something within us incomparably more precious than anything we see outside. Do not let us suppose that the interior of the soul is empty…. If we took care always to remember what a Guest [God] we have within us, I think it would be impossible for us to abandon ourselves to vanities and things of the world, for we should see how worthless they are by comparison with those which we have within us…. Perhaps you will laugh at me and say that this is obvious enough; and you will be right, though it was some time before I came to see it. I knew perfectly well that I had a soul, but I did not understand what that soul merited, or Who dwelt within it, until I closed my eyes to the vanities of this world in order to see it. I think, if I had understood then, as I do now, how this great King [God] really dwells within this little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often, but should have stayed with Him and never have allowed His dwelling-place to get so dirty…. If we fill the palace with vulgar people and all kinds of junk, how can the Lord and His Court [the saints and angels] occupy it?
His will is for us to desire truth, whereas we desire falsehood; His will is for us to desire the eternal, whereas we prefer that which passes away; His will is for us to desire great and sublime things, whereas we desire the base things of earth; He would have us desire only what is certain, whereas here on earth we love what is doubtful.
What matters is not whether or no we wear a religious habit; it is whether we try to practise the virtues, and make a complete surrender of our wills to God and order our lives as His Majesty ordains; let us desire that not our wills, but His will, be done.
What do you suppose His will is, daughters? That we should be altogether Perfect, and be one with Him and with the Father … The Lord asks only two things of us: love for His Majesty and love for our neighbour. It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing His will and so shall be united with Him. … The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbour… [Yet] I do not believe we could ever attain perfect love for our neighbour unless it had its roots in the love of God.
The important thing is not to think much, but to love much.
True perfection consists in the love of God and of our neighbour, and the more nearly perfect is our observance of these two commandments, the nearer to perfection we shall be. Our entire Rule and Constitutions are nothing but means which enable us to do this the more perfectly.
Do not suppose, my friends and sisters, that I am going to charge you to do a great many things…. There are only three things… One of these is love for each other; the second, detachment from all created things; the third, true humility, which, although I put it last, is the most important of the three and embraces all the rest.
There is nothing, however annoying, that cannot easily be borne by those who love each other, and anything which causes annoyance must be quite exceptional.
There are two kinds of love which I am describing. The one is purely spiritual … The other is also spiritual, but mingled with it are our sensuality and weakness; yet it is a worthy love, which, as between relatives and friends, seems lawful.
When we desire anyone’s affection, we always seek it because of some interest, profit or pleasure of our own. Those who are perfect, however, have trodden all these things beneath their feet… in such a way that, even if they wanted to, so to say, they could not love anything outside God, or unless it had to do with God…. Such persons… care nothing whether they are loved or not. Do you think that such persons will love none and delight in none save God? No; they will love others much more than they did, with a more genuine love, with greater passion and with a love which brings more profit; that, in a word, is what love really is. And such souls are always much fonder of giving than of receiving, even in their relations with the Creator Himself. This [holy affection], I say, merits the name of love, which name has been usurped from it by those other base affections…. If they [noble souls] love anyone they immediately look right beyond the body… fix their eyes on the soul and see what there is to be loved in that.
Let us now come to the detachment which we must practise, for if this is carried out perfectly it includes everything else. I say “it includes everything else” because, if we care nothing for any created things, but embrace the Creator alone, His Majesty will infuse the virtues into us.
O Lord! All our trouble comes to us from not having our eyes fixed upon Thee.
Our life lasts only for a couple of hours; our reward is boundless…
Always see to it that your conversation is benefiting those with whom you speak. For your prayers must be for the profit of their souls…
It remains for us to become detached from our own selves and it is a hard thing to withdraw from ourselves and oppose ourselves… It is here that true humility can enter, for this virtue and that of detachment from self, I think, always go together…. Oh, how sovereign are these virtues… He that possesses them can safely go out and fight all the united forces of hell and the whole world and its temptations.
Subduing the body to the spirit… consists mainly or entirely in our ceasing to care about ourselves and our own pleasures.
Learn to suffer a little for the love of God without telling everyone about it.
As there can be nothing in our supreme Good [Lord] which is not perfect, all that He gives is for our welfare.
I know that, with the Lord’s help, the gradual attainment of this freedom, and of renunciation and self-detachment, is quite possible.
God deliver us from … lukewarmness.
[One time the Lord came to Teresa,] assuring me that anyone who served Him would never lack what was necessary to live.
[Regarding the wealthy nobility:] One of the lies the world tells is to call such persons lords and ladies, for to me [Teresa was forced to live with a noblewoman for a period of months] they seem only slaves of a thousand things.
[Nevertheless, let us not criticize others:] Let us … always try to look at the virtues and good things we see in others, and mantle their defects with our own great sins.
Those who really love God love all good, seek all good, help forward all Good, praise all good, and invariably join forces with good men [and women] and help and defend them. They love only truth, and things worthy of love. Do you think it possible that anyone who really and truly loves God can love vanities, riches, worldly pleasures or honours? Can he engage in strife or feel envy? No; for his only desire is to please the Beloved.
God deliver us, sisters, from saying “We are not angels,” or “We are not saints,” whenever we commit some imperfection. We may not be; but what a good thing it is for us to reflect that we can be if we will only try and if God give us His hand! … We must have a holy boldness, for God helps the strong, being no respecter of persons; and He will give courage to you and to me.
It’s true that we cannot live without faults, but at least there should be some change so that they don’t take root. If they take root, they will be harder to eradicate.
[Teresa speaks of a lady very devout, contemplative, and free from almost all sins but one–she has too much self-interest concerning her reputation:] She and two other souls that I have seen in this life … who were saints in their own opinion, caused me more fear [for the state of their souls], after I spoke with them, than all the sinners I have seen. I beg the Lord to give us light.
God deliver us from people who wish to serve Him yet who are mindful of their own honour.
We think that we have no desire for honour and that we care nothing about anything; but as soon as our honour comes to be slighted in some detail our feelings and actions at once show that we are not humble at all. If an opportunity occurs for us to gain more honour, we do not reject it.
You must practise simplicity and humility, for those are the virtues which achieve everything.
True humility consists to a great extent in being ready for what the Lord desires to do with you and happy that He should do it…. [These include] contemplation and mental and vocal prayer and tending the sick and serving in the house and working at even the lowliest tasks… What should it matter to us if we do one of these things rather than another?
Even if you think you possess it [one of the virtues], … suspect that you may be mistaken; for the person who is truly humble is always doubtful about his own virtues; very often they seem more genuine and of greater worth when he sees them in his neighbours.
We in this [monastic Carmelite] house, and for that matter anyone who would be perfect, must flee a thousand leagues from such phrases as: “I had right on my side”; “They had no right to do this to me”; “The person who treated me like this was not right.” God deliver us from such a false idea of right as that! Do you think that it was right for our good Jesus to have to suffer so many insults…? … When … some offence is done to us … I do not see what we can find to complain of. Either we are the brides of this great King [Jesus] or we are not. If we are, what wife is there with a sense of honour who does not accept her share in any dishonour done to her spouse… To desire to share in the kingdom [of our Spouse Jesus Christ], … and yet not to be willing to have any part in His dishonours and trials, is ridiculous.
I cannot believe that a soul which has approached so nearly to Mercy Itself, and has learned to know itself and the greatness of God’s pardon, will not immediately and readily forgive, and be mollified and remain on good terms with a person who has done it wrong. For such a soul remembers the consolation and grace which He has shown it.
[Teresa emphasized joyousness in all of this:] God deliver me from gloomy saints!
To suffer without making excuses is a habit of great perfection, and very edifying and meritorious…. It takes great humility to find oneself unjustly condemned and be silent, and to do this is to imitate the Lord.
If, then, you are really surrendering yourselves to God, as you say, cease to be anxious for yourselves, for He bears your anxiety, and will bear it always.
Those who attain perfection do not ask the Lord to deliver them from trials, temptations, persecutions and conflicts–and that is another sure and striking sign that these favours and this contemplation which His Majesty gives them are coming from the Spirit of the Lord and are not illusions. … Perfect souls are in no way repelled by trials, but rather desire them and pray for them and love them.
Let us endure everything, and be very glad to do so, and love those who do us wrong….
Love is the measure of our ability to bear crosses, whether great or small.
How true it is that nothing seems impossible to the one who loves! Oh, happy the soul that has obtained this peace from its God, for it is master over all the trials and dangers of the world.
This [spiritual] journey has the advantage of giving us very much more than we ask or shall even get so far as to desire.
The soul… sees that worldly things are nothing but toys; so in due course it rises above them.
When I repeat the [Lord’s Prayer, beginning with] “Our Father,” my love should make me want to understand Who this Father of ours is and Who the Master is that taught us this prayer. … [Don’t] assert that you know Who He is already, and so there is no need for you to think about Him…
You must not doubt the possibility of this true union with the will of God.
[For deeply contemplative or meditative souls:] In the active--and seeming exterior work the soul is working interiorly. And when the active works rise from this interior root, they become lovely and very fragrant flowers. For they proceed from this tree of God’s love and are done for Him alone, without any self-interest. The fragrance from these flowers spreads to the benefit of many. I want to explain myself further so that you understand. Someone preaches a sermon with the intention of benefitting souls, but he is not so detached from human considerations that he doesn’t make some attempt to please, or to gain honor or credit; or he has his mind set on receiving some canonry for having preached well. There are also other things people do for their neighbor’s benefit–many things–and with a good intention, but with much care not to lose anything through them and not to displease. They fear persecution; they want to be pleasing to kings, lords, and the people… These persons will serve His Majesty, and they profit much. But, in my opinion, such are not the works and flowers … [of the soul] who looks only for the honor and glory of God in everything…. They keep before their minds the benefit of their neighbor, nothing else. So as to please God more, they forget themselves for their neighbor’s sake.
* * * * * * * * * *
QUOTES FROM RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-82), a leader of New England Transcendentalism:
Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. (1838)
The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence. (1839)
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. (1842)
Self-reliance, the height and perfection of man, is reliance on God. (1854)
Standing on the bare ground– my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space– all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. (1836)
The man who renounces himself, comes to himself. (1838)
Character is higher than intellect. (1837)
To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. (1841)
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. (1841)
These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence…. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time. This should be plain enough…. If we live truly, we shall see truly…. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. (1841)
Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing…. Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist…. Imitation is suicide. (1841)
Be it how it will, do right now…. The force of character is cumulative. (1841)
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. (1841)
The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one. (1841)
Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society. (1841)
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great. (1841)
We think our civilization near its meridian, but we are yet only at the cock-crowing and the morning star. In our barbarous society the influence of character is in its infancy. (1844)
The reward of a thing well done is to have done it. (1844)
Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence. (1850)
You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. (1860)
Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can. (1860)
Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any. (1860)
To live without duties is obscene. (1883)
People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character. (1860)
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered. (1878)
God said, I am tired of kings, I suffer them no more; / Up to my ear the morning brings the outrage of the poor. (1867)
Wilt thou seal up the avenues of ill? Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill. (1867)
The music that can deepest reach, And cure all ill, is cordial speech (1867)
Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good. (1870)
The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out. (1870)
Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy. (1876)
Every really able man, in whatever direction he work — a man of large affairs, an inventor, a statesman, an orator, a poet, a painter — if you talk sincerely with him, considers his work, however much admired, as far short of what it should be. (1876)
Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world. (1876)
Every man I meet is in some way my superior. (1876)
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart. (1824)
Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.
To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven. (1882)
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Finish every day and be done with it…. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
When it is darkest, men see the stars.
Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.
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QUOTES FROM HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817-62), another leading Transcendentalist and naturalist:
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about? (1857)
If a man believes and expects great things of himself, it makes no odds where you put him, or what you show him … he will be surrounded by grandeur. He is in the condition of a healthy and hungry man, who says to himself: How sweet this crust is! (1860)
One cannot too soon forget his errors and misdemeanors. To dwell long upon them is to add to the offense. Repentance and sorrow can only be displaced by something better, which is as free and original as if they had not been. (1842)
Nothing is so much to be feared as fear. (1851)
It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. (1849)
They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the Constitution, and drink at it there with reverence and humility; but they who behold where it comes trickling into this lake or that pool, gird up their loins once more, and continue their pilgrimage toward its fountain-head. (1849)
A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the State with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated by it as enemies. (1849)
Men remain in their present low and primitive condition; but if they should feel the influence of the spring of springs arousing them, they would of necessity rise to a higher and more ethereal life. (1849)
When were the good and the brave ever in a majority? (1859)
Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity is open. (1862)
Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives…. If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if a town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down! (1862)
Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it. (1862)
An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not. (1862)
[On the Gold Rush:] That so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society!… Men rush to California and Australia as if the true gold were to be found in that direction; but that is to go to the very opposite extreme to where it lies. They go prospecting farther and farther away from the true lead, and are most unfortunate when they think themselves most successful. (1862)
I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality. Read not the Times. Read the Eternities. Conventionalities are at length as bad as impurities. Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are in a sense effaced each morning, or rather rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth. Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven…. Have we no culture, no refinement, — but skill only to live coarsely and serve the Devil? — to acquire a little worldly wealth, or fame, or liberty, and make a false show with it, as if we were all husk and shell, with no tender and living kernel to us? (1862)
* * * * *
QUOTES FROM SWAMI RAMA TIRTHA (1873-1906) Rama Tirtha was a former prominent math professor and family man in India who became an ecstatic yogi-poet-patriot-preacher, and traveled through the USA on lecture tours from 1902 to 1904 before returning to India, where his promising life as a spiritual and political leader was cut short by an accidental river-drowning. Emphasized here are the Swami’s teachings from his USA tour on God-Self-realization and work.
Everybody desires to become Christ, to realize Truth, to become a Prophet, but very few, if any, are ready to pay the price….
Free yourself of all desires and that very second you find yourself free…. A whole man is an inspired man, a whole man is Truth…. Persist in standing by Truth, and you will find that you live in no ordinary world. The world will be a world of miracles for you….
Ignorant people, not knowing their true Self [the Divine God-Self], given to egoism and selfishness, make even their palaces and castles worse than jails, graves and hells. By their petty cares, low sordid desires and imaginary fears and apprehensions, they forge their own chains…. Realize the Truth and you are free.
When walking on Mt. Sinai, Moses saw a bush aflame. He asked, “Who are you? Who is there?”… The answer came: “I am what I am.” This pure “I am” is your Self.
The basic cause of all evils is… ignorance of the true Atman, and the desire to identify one’s self with the body, with pleasures from without, and liability to be grieved, injured, afflicted. When you realize that you are the Infinite Self, how can you be subject to passion or grief?…
In order to understand Christ, you will have to become a Christ. In order to understand Krishna, you will have to become a Krishna, you will have to become a Buddha to understand Buddha…. You will have to realize their character, you will have to realize the depth of their realization, you will have to realize the deep spirit, the genuine power that they had…. All the prophets and saints… are merged in you the moment you wake up to your real Self, God-Truth.
I am the Light of lights. I am the Light of the world…. How can I be limited? The world, the world is in Me; the universe is in Me! And still I am in each and all. I am in the minds and in the thoughts of each and all. I am in the throbbing breasts of the lover. I am in the laughing eyes of the proud beloved. I pulsate in the nerves of each and all. I am in you, I am in you! Nay, there can [finally] be no you and I, no difference.
When shall I be free? When “I” shall cease to be… Deny little self (atonement), assert Real Self (at-one-ment), and you are liberated. Denial… is perfect relaxation, relief, rest, renunciation…. Let the mind be relaxed of all care and anxiety for the body or anything. Give up and deny all desire, ambition or expectation. This is denial or relaxation…. Second, GODHEAD. Make God’s will your own…. Feel yourself to be the all-pervading Supreme, the Sun of suns; above causation, above phenomena; and one with the all-Bliss, the free Divine….
According to Vedanta [India’s ancient scriptural Truth], all this world that you see is but a mere dream, is maya, and what about yourself who sees the dream? You are the dreaming ego…. This is no speculation but a truth or fact which you can verify from your own experience…. There is but one Reality…. All this phenomenal universe of difference is no reality, the Reality is only one…. It is just as much a matter of experience as any experiment performed in any laboratory, it is a solid, stern fact…. Live that Reality, feel that Reality…. You put more faith in the outside phenomena than in the Divinity, you make the world more real than God. You have hypnotized yourself into a rigidity with regard to outside phenomena, and thus it is that you involve yourself in all sorts of sickness and trouble…. All the so-called facts which you believed to be facts are simply an illusion…. Be not dupes of the senses…. There is but one [Divine] Reality.
Oh, what wonder of wonders that it is one Infinite power that shows Itself in all bodies, in all the apparent personalities, in all the apparent figures. O, It is the “I,” the “I,” the Infinite One, that is manifesting itself in the bodies of the greatest men, in the bodies of the most wretched creatures!
[An American wondered if Vedanta was promoting a state of vacancy, senselessness or unconsciousness.] Brother, my own Self,… there is a whole world of difference between this Realization and the state of fainting or swooning…. The state of Realization is all Energy, all Power, all Knowledge, all Bliss…. The sage of Realization is full of energy and strength, full of bliss and knowledge, he can heal and strengthen others, he can raise and elevate others, and is far, far from being himself enfeebled or weakened.
People make this mistake… [identifying only with actions voluntarily initiated] through the agency of mind…. All the other acts that are being performed directly without the agency of intellect or mind, are disclaimed entirely…. and by this mistake, by this imprisoning the real Self in the little mind, identifying the Infinity with the small brain, people are making themselves miserable and wretched…. Now the power that makes these trees grow cannot be different from the power that makes your body grow…. The same universal power of nature, the same universal Divinity or the Unknowable, which makes the stars shine, makes your eyes twinkle,… [this] same power makes the blood course through the veins of each and all. Indeed, and then what are you? Are you not that power which makes your hair grow,… your blood flow,… your food get digested? Are you not that power? That power which is beyond the intellect, the mind, indeed you are. You are the same power which is governing the force of the whole Universe,… you are the same God, the same Unknowable, the same energy, force, substance anything you may call it, the same Divinity, the All which is present everywhere…. If the people in this world know themselves, they will find the true Self to be God Almighty, the Infinite Power, but they have taken a fancy for this particular… head, this brain…. This is the cause of all selfishness, anxiety and misery. Get rid of this false notion; realize your true Self to be the All; rise above this selfish egoism, you are happy this moment, one with the whole universe you are. Get rid of it [ignorance] and then the Power itself you become…. To you the whole world will be your body.
That power, energy or force is, according to Vedanta, your real Self. Realize that. That same power, energy or force is called Love….
The one aim and goal of life is not in wasting energy and accumulating riches, but in cultivating the inner powers, in educating yourself, to free yourself, to become God [Theosis, in Christian theology, Atma-Bodha in Sanskrit].
Wanted: Reformers—not of others, but of themselves, who have won—not university distinctions, but victory over the local self. Age: the youth of Divine joy. Salary: Godhead. Apply sharp: … to the Director of the Universe, Your own Self.
“Having nothing to do, be always doing” sums up Vedanta teaching.
We enjoy the fruits of the labors of others. Let us try to leave the world better than we found it…. Then work, work, work with all your heart, with all your might, remembering that work is worship.
[On Practical Vedanta and its first two principles—work and unselfish sacrifice (along with love, cheerfulness, fearlessness, self-reliance and purity):] Rama brings Vedanta to you… from the fountainheads of Nature…. Intense work, according to Vedanta, is rest…. The greatest worker, when he is at the height of his work, when he is doing his best, mark him. In the eyes of others he is engaged in strenuous efforts, but examine him from his own standpoint, he is no doer. Just as in the eyes of distant observers, the rainbow contains beautiful colors, examine it on the spot, there are no colors of any kind present therein. The body works automatically, as it were, the mind is absorbed in the work to such a degree that “I am working” is entirely gone, the small enjoying ego is absolutely lost, the credit-seeking little self is absent. This incessant work unwittingly leads you to the highest yoga…. Let the body and mind be continuously at work to such a degree that the labor may not be felt at all. A poet is inspired when… he has no thought of “I am writing poetry.” [Likewise with solving difficult math problems, work tasks, etc.]… The more a man can rise above the little ego or the small self, the more glorious works come out of him. Thus does Vedanta teach rising above the little ego by dint of earnest work and losing everything in the real indescribable principle which, according to Vedanta, is the real Self, Atman or God. When a thinker, philosopher, poet, scientist or any worker attunes himself… and rises to the heights of resignation to such a degree that no trace of personality is left in him, and Vedanta is practically realized, then and then only does God, the Master Musician, take up in His own hands the organ or instrument of his body and mind and send forth grand vibrations, sweet notes, exquisite symphonies out of him. People say, “Oh, he is inspired!” whereas there is no I or me in him, no doing…. This is realizing Vedanta in practical life. Thus all success flows from Vedanta being unknowingly [un-self-consciously] put into practice. There is no necessity of your retiring into the forests and pursuing abnormal practices to realize Vedanta Yoga…. There is something higher which puts all your working powers at their best…. That higher mood or that higher secret… is nothing else but being in perfect harmony with the universe, being in tune with the Divinity, practically living in the true Atman or God within you and being raised above the little ego or selfish desires…. Worry not about the consequences [of work], … bother not about favorable reviews of your work or severe criticism thereon. Care not whether what you are doing will tell or not…. Do the work for its own sake…. Free yourself from desire… [and] yearning restlessness…. The most effective and best cure for all sorts of distracting passions and temptations is work. But that would be only a negative recommendation. The positive joy that accompanies faithful work is a spark of Salvation, unconscious Self-realization. It keeps you pure, untainted, and one with Divinity….
So the second essential to success is sacrifice, crucifying the little self, renunciation. Misunderstand not that word “renunciation.” Renunciation does not mean asceticism. [To illustrate:] Everybody wants to be white, dazzling, brilliant, bright…. Science tells you that the secret of [the color] whiteness is renunciation, nothing less. The seven colors in the rays of the Sun impinge upon different objects. Some objects absorb and retain most of these colors and project back only one. Such objects are known by the very color they throw back or deny to themselves…. The black objects absorb all the colors in the rays of the Sun. They give out no color, they renounce nothing,… and they are dark, black. The white objects absorb nothing, claim nothing, they renounce everything. They do not try to keep selfish possession… and thus they are white, dazzling, bright, brilliant. Similarly if you want to become glorious and prosperous, you shall have to rise in your heart of hearts above the selfish, proprietary spirit…. Be always a giver, a free worker; never throw your heart in a begging, expecting attitude. Get rid of the monopolizing habit…. Be not vain, be not proud. Never feel that anything belongs to your little self; it is God’s, your real Atman’s.
Work is no work to the man of Self-knowledge…. There is no work which can ever appear a task to him; all is fun, all is play, all is joy…. He never worries, he never hurries… he frets not, he regrets not, is ever fresh and firm, free from the fever of “doing.”
While at work, take short intervals of rest and devote those short intervals of a minute or so to the thought that the body is nothing, you never had anything to do with it. You are simply a witness, you have nothing to do with the consequences or the results of its actions.
[Regarding any apparent hindrances:] Convert your stumbling block into a stepping stone…. See through them, observe them, watch them intently, and they will become transparent; you will be able to look through them and be able to see the Divinity beyond them…. When you realize Vedanta, you see—O wonder of wonders!—you see God. You eat God, you drink God, and God lives in you…. A Vedantin’s eyes make God of everything. Every object here is the Dear one, Divinity. God facing us on every side, staring at us from every nook and corner, the whole world is changed into a paradise.
Let God work through you… Let God shine forth…. Live God, eat God, drink God, breathe God.
Fighting with darkness will not remove it. Bring the light in, and the darkness is over.
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QUOTES FROM MAHATMA GANDHI (1869-1948) We present here an especially lengthy collection of quotes from the Mahatma (“Great Soul”) Mohandas K. Gandhi, spiritual leader and political father of the Indian subcontinent’s 500 million people from the 1920s until his assassination in 1948, five months after India’s Independence from British occupation.
We are daily witnessing… the impossible of yesterday becoming the possible of today.
A reformer’s business is to make the impossible possible by giving a visible demonstration of the possibility in his own conduct.
Action for one’s own self binds, action for the sake of others delivers from bondage.
The history of the world is full of instances of men who rose to leadership by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity.
A burning passion coupled with absolute detachment is the key to all success.
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
Patience and perseverance, if we have them, overcome mountains of difficulties.
Character alone will have real effect on masses.
Men and women of stainless character and self-purification will easily inspire confidence and automatically purity the atmosphere around them.
The human society is a ceaseless growth, an unfoldment in terms of spirituality.
All your scholarship, all your study… be vain if at the same time you do not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions.
In the times to come the people will not judge us by the creed we profess or the label we wear or the slogans we shout but by our work, industry, sacrifice, honesty and purity of character.
Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants.
Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as co-operation with good.
Heroes are made in the hour of defeat. Success is, therefore, well described as a series of glorious defeats.
Democracy is a great institution and, therefore, it is liable to be greatly abused…. Democracy is an impossible thing until the power is shared by all, but let not democracy degenerate into mobocracy…. Democracy is not a state in which people act like sheep…. Evolution of democracy is not possible if we are not prepared to hear the other side…. To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect and their oneness.
Man is the maker of his own destiny, and I therefore ask you to become makers of your own destiny.
The state [or organization] is the sum total of the sacrifice, on its behalf, of its members.
The stability of a State [or organization] depends upon the readiness of every citizen to subordinate his rights to those of the rest.
The true source of rights is duty…. No people have risen who thought only of rights. Only those did so who thought of duties.
Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful.
By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man – body, mind and spirit.
Once we recognize the common parent stock from which we are all sprung, we realize the basic unity of the human family, and there is no room left for enmities and unhealthy competition.
Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man.
I have never in my life regarded anyone as my servant, but as a brother or a sister.
I recognise no one as my enemy on the face of the earth.
In the dictionary of satyagraha [Truth force], there is no enemy.
No man could look upon another as his enemy unless he first became his own enemy.
My idea of society is that while we born equal, meaning that we have a right to equal opportunity, all have not the same capacity…. The real implication of equal distribution is that each man shall have the wherewithal to supply all his natural needs and no more.
Let there be no distinction between rich and poor, high and low.
Not until we have reduced ourselves to nothingness can we conquer the evil in us.
God demands nothing less than complete self–surrender as the price for the only real freedom that is worth having.
Freedom from all attachment is the realization of God as Truth.
God will rule the lives of all those who will surrender themselves without reservation to Him.
I am endeavouring to see God through service of humanity; for I know that God is neither in heaven, nor down below, but in everyone.
I believe in God, not as a theory but as a fact more real than life itself.
God alone is truth and everything else is transitory and illusory.
I can see that in the midst of death, life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness, light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good.
I trust men only because I trust God.
For me the only certain means of knowing God is nonviolence, ahimsa, love.
It is my conviction that the root of the evil is want of a living God.
My creed is service of God and therefore of humanity.
To me God is Truth and love, God is ethics and morality, God is fearlessness.
The truth is that God is the force. He is the essence of life. He is pure and undefiled consciousness. He is eternal.
To bear all kinds of tortures without a murmur of resentment is not possible for a human being without the strength that comes from God.
Where love is, there God is also.
You are not going to know the meaning of God or prayer unless you reduce yourself to a cipher.
The law of love will work just as the law of gravitation will work, whether we accept it or not.
It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine.
True humility means most strenuous and constant endeavour entirely directed to the service of humanity.
The greatest menace to the world today is the growing, exploiting irresponsible imperialism…. Imperialism is a negation of God. It does ungodly acts in the name of God.
If it is man’s privilege to be independent, it is equally his duty to be inter–dependent…. Only an arrogant man will claim to be independent, it is equally his duty to be inter-dependent.
Agitation against every form of injustice is the breath of political life.
For infallible guidance man has to have a perfectly innocent heart incapable of evil.
All criticism is not intolerance. I have criticized the [violent] revolutionary because I have felt for him. He has the same right to hold me to be in error as I believe him to be in error.
Is not labour, like learning, its own reward?
Labour was priceless, not gold.
No labour is too mean for one who wants to earn an honest penny.
I do not regard capital to be the enemy of labour.
Each and every one of you should consider himself to be a trustee for the welfare of the rest of his fellow labourers and not be self-seeking.
Nothing will demoralize the nation so much as that we should learn to despise labour.
The rich cannot accumulate wealth without the co-operation of the poor in society.
This mad rush for wealth must cease and the labourer must be assured not only of living wage but a daily task that is not a mere drudgery.
Individual liberty is allowed to man only to a certain extent. He cannot forget that he is a social being and his individual liberty has to be curtailed at every step.
Absolute calm is not the law of ocean. And it is the same with the ocean of life.
Dignity of human nature requires that we must face the storms of life.
Every single act of one who would lead a life of purity should be in the nature of yajna [sacrificial offering].
Man is sent into the world to perform his duty even at the cost of his life.
Love is the subtlest force in the world.
Love can never express itself by imposing sufferings on others. It can only express itself by self-suffering, by self-purification.
Love is no love which asks for a return.
The only way love punishes is by suffering.
Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.
My goal is friendship with the world and I can combine the greatest love with the greatest opposition to wrong.
My religion teaches me to love all equally.
Having flung aside the sword, there is nothing except the cup of love which I can offer to those who oppose me.
Hatred can be overcome only be love. Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred.
True ahimsa [nonviolence] should mean a complete freedom from ill-will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all.
A man who throws himself on God ceases to fear man.
The more a man gives his life, the more he saves it.
Man is neither mere intellect not the gross animal body, nor the heart or soul alone.
Man cannot be transformed from bad to good overnight.
I own no property and yet I feel that I am perhaps the richest man in the world.
The secret of happy life lies in renunciation. Renunciation is life.
A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good he has done to his fellowmen.
What distinguishes the man from the brute is his conscious striving to realise the spirit within.
I always welcome an honest difference of opinion, for I have always an open mind and have no axe to grind.
Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.
Nonviolence is not a weapon of the weak. It is a weapon of the strongest and the bravest.
The force of nonviolence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the material forces of nature, like electricity.
Nonviolence is an active force of the highest order. It is soul-force or the power of the godhead within us.
Nonviolence is impossible without humility.
Nonviolence is the summit of bravery.
If one does not practise nonviolence in one’s own personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken.
The votaries of nonviolence cannot harbour violence even in thought, let alone the question of doing it.
The meticulous care for the rights of the least among us is the sin qua non [essential requisite] of nonviolence.
Nonviolence does not signify that man must not fight against the enemy, and by enemy is meant the evil which men do, not the human beings themselves.
It is the acid test of nonviolence that in a nonviolent conflict there is no rancor left behind, and in the end the enemies are converted into friends.
Just as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence, so one must learn the art of dying in the training for nonviolence.
For a nonviolent person, the whole world is one family. He will thus fear none, nor will others fear him.
No man could be actively nonviolent and not rise against social injustice, no matter where it occurred.
Organizations, like men, if they are to command respect and grow, must have a sense of honor and must fulfill their promises.
To conquer the subtle passions seems to me to be far harder than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms.
The one condition for fighting for peace and liberty is to acquire self-restraint.
Politics divorced from religion have absolutely no meaning.
Human life being and undivided whole, no line could ever be drawn between its different compartments, nor between ethics and politics.
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love.
Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.
There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything.
The meaning of prayer is that I want to evoke that Divinity within me.
Prayer has been the saving of my life. Without it I should have been a lunatic long ago.
The man of prayer will be at peace with himself and with the whole world.
To a pure heart all hearts are pure.
I would beseech you not only to be pure beyond suspicion but I would ask you to combine with stainless purity, great wisdom and great ability.
Reason has to be strengthened by suffering, and suffering opens the eyes of understanding.
Religion is a thing to be lived. It is not merely sophistry.
The essence of true religious teaching is that one should serve and befriend all.
Religion taught us to return good for evil.
All the great religions of the world inculcate the equality and brotherhood of mankind and the virtue of toleration.
Religions are not for separating men from one another, they are meant to bind them.
A religion cannot be sustained by the number of its lip-followers denying in their lives its tenets.
To befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion.
Hypocrisy and distortion are passing currently under the name of religion.
My religion teaches me that whenever there is distress which one cannot remove, one must fast and pray.
My politics and all other activities of mine are derived from my religion.
The final goal of all religions is to realise the essential oneness.
“Do not worry in the least about yourself, leave all worry to God,” this appears to be the commandment in all religions.
All research will be useless if it is not allied to internal research.
Immediately I arrogate to myself the exclusive title to being in the right, I usurp the function of the Deity.
One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.
Three-fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world will disappear if we step into the shoes of our adversaries and understand their standpoint.
Wrong has no prescriptive right to exist merely because it is of a long standing.
Loyalty to a state [or organization] so corrupt is a sin, disloyalty a virtue.
All taxation to be healthy must return tenfold to the taxpayer in the form of necessary services.
A satyagrahi [person of “truth force,” satyagraha] turns the searchlight inward relentlessly to weed out all the defects that may be lying hidden there still.
A satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, and ample hope.
A satyagrahi loves his so-called enemy even as he loves his friend. A satyagrahi must ceaselessly strive to realize and live truth. And he must never contemplate hurting anyone by thought, word or deed.
A votary of ahimsa [nonviolence] must cultivate a habit of unremitting toil, sleepless vigilance, ceaseless self-control.
There is always the fear of self-righteousness possessing us, the fear of arrogating to ourselves a superiority that we do not possess.
For me, humanitarian service, or rather service of all that lives, is religion. And I draw no distinction between such religion and politics.
My creed is service of God and therefore of humanity.
Human body is meant solely for service, never for indulgence.
My soul refuses to be satisfied so long as it is a helpless witness of a single wrong or a single misery.
A person who has truly realised the principle of nonviolence has the God-given strength for his weapon and the world has not yet known anything that can match it.
The seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.
We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.
A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon.
My life is my message.
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QUOTES FROM G.K. CHESTERTON Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was an Anglican convert to Catholicism and one of the world’s most prolific writers, arguing eloquently against all the dominant 20th-century trends: materialism, scientific determinism, moral relativism, agnosticism-atheism, and also socialism and capitalism as practiced.
Mysticism is a transcendental form of common sense.
Love means loving the unlovable–or it is no virtue at all.
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.
It has been often said, very truly, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary.
To the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sun is really a sun; to the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sea is really a sea.
Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.
What we call emancipation is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.
The man of the true religious tradition understands two things: liberty and obedience. The first means knowing what you really want. The second means knowing what you really trust.
There are some desires that are not desirable.
In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.
It is the decisive people who have become civilised; it is the indecisive, otherwise called the higher sceptics, or the idealistic doubters, who have remained barbarians.
What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.
The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade other people how good they are.
To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.
Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals.
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.
The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.
Comradeship is quite a different thing from friendship. […] For friendship implies individuality; whereas comradeship really implies the temporary subordination, if not the temporary swamping of individuality. Friends are the better for being two; but comrades are the better for being two million. […] Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
True contentment is… the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.
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QUOTES FROM DALE CARNEGIE (1888-1955), American lecturer, developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills, and author of (among others) How to Win Friends and Influence People, the most influential business book of the twentieth century.
The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates…. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?
Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade.
Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.
Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.
It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.
Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.
Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.
Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.
Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.
Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.
[And:] If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.
Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.
You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.
If only the people who worry about their liabilities would think about the riches they do possess, they would stop worrying.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
Instead of worrying about what people say of you, why not spend time trying to accomplish something they will admire.
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
Most of us have far more courage than we ever dreamed possible.
We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.
One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are bloom-ing outside our windows today.
Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.
Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare…. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.
When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.
Each nation feels superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism–and wars.
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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (1929-68), American civil rights leader & advocated for peace and economic justice, won Nobel peace prize in 1964; assassinated April 4, 1968.
Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.
And when we allow freedom to ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” (–delivered at the Aug. 1963 civil rights march to 250,000 demonstrators at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC)
We must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. (–from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 1964)
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
There are two types of laws: just and unjust…. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” … A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law…. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust…. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law. Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in… [the civil disobedience of the ancient Jewish prophets, Jesus and the early Christians, Socrates, America’s founding fathers, et al.] We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was “illegal.”
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. (–Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 1963)
6 Principles of Nonviolence: 1) Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil… 2) Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. 3) Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evil doers are also victims. 4) Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts. 5) Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is active, not passive. Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater. Love restores community and resists injustice. Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated. 6) Nonviolence believes the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has faith that justice will eventually win.
All reality hinges on moral foundations….This is a moral universe, and … there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws. I’m not so sure we all believe that. We never doubt that there are physical laws of the universe that we must obey…. We just don’t jump out of airplanes or jump off of high buildings… We unconsciously know that there is a final law of gravitation, and if you disobey it you’ll suffer the consequences—we know that. But I’m not so sure if we know that there are moral laws just as abiding as the physical law.… I’m not so sure if we really believe that there is a law of love in this universe, and that if you disobey it you’ll suffer the consequences…. We have accepted the attitude that right and wrong are merely relative… Most people can’t stand up for their convictions, because the majority of people might not be doing it…. But I’m here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. Eternally so, absolutely so. It’s wrong to hate…. And it’s wrong to throw our lives away in riotous living…
We have adopted a sort of pragmatic test for right and wrong… If you don’t get caught, it’s right. That’s the attitude, isn’t it? It’s all right to disobey the Ten Commandments, but just don’t disobey the eleventh, “Thou shall not get caught.”… That’s the prevailing attitude in our culture.… A sort of attitude of the survival of the slickest.… It’s all right to lie, but lie with dignity. It’s all right to steal and to rob and extort, but do it with a bit of finesse.… My friends, that attitude is destroying the soul of our culture. It’s destroying our nation. The thing that we need in the world today is a group of men and women who will stand up for right and to be opposed to wrong, wherever it is…. God has made the universe to be based on a moral law. So long as man disobeys it he is revolting against God.
Keep your struggle on high Christian standards.… He who loves God is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God.
The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.
I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
You must come to see that it is possible for a man to be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous is his self-sacrifice. He may be generous in order to feed his ego and pious in order to feed his pride…. So the greatest of all virtues is Love. It is here that we find the true meaning of the Christian faith. This is at bottom the meaning of the cross…. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.
Agape [love] is more than eros [erotic love]; agape is more than philia [familial devotional love]; agape is… the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love… the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likable, but because God loves them.…. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.… You love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.”
There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; … they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”
We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.
I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love… men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom.
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MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA (1910-97), Albanian-Indian foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, who work among the “poorest of the poor”; winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and the Templeton Prize in Religion:
Holiness is not the luxury of the few but a simple duty for you and me, so let us be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. … Our progress in holiness depends on God and on ourselves–on God’s grace and on our will to be holy. We must have a real living determination to reach holiness…. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things… If we really want God to fill us, we must empty ourselves through humility of all that is selfishness in us…. Make sure that you let God’s grace work in your souls by accepting whatever he gives you, and giving him whatever he takes from you. True holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile.
What is a saint but a resolute soul, a soul that uses power plus action…. To resolve to be a saint costs much. Renunciation, temptation, struggles, persecutions, and all kinds of sacrifices surround the resolute soul. One can love God only at one’s own expense. “I will be a saint” means: I will despoil [purify] myself of all that is not God; I will strip my heart and empty it of all artificial things; I will live in poverty and detachment. I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims, and fancies and make myself a willing slave to the will of God.
I want very much people to come to know God, to love Him, to serve Him for that is their true happiness.
The meaning of my life is the love of God. It is Christ in his distressing disguise whom I love and serve. Jesus has said, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was naked and you clothed me; I was homeless and you took me in…”
My secret is quite simple. I pray and through my prayer I become one in love with Christ, and see that praying to him is to love him, and that means to fulfil his words [“I was hungry and you gave me to eat…”].
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Deut. 6.5) This is the commandment of our great God, and he cannot command the impossible. Love is a fruit in season at all times and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set. Everyone can reach this love through meditation, the spirit of prayer and sacrifice, by an intense inner life. Do we really live this life?
If we are full of sin, God cannot fill us, because even God cannot fill what is full. That’s why we need forgiveness to become empty and then God fills us with himself.
Let us thank God for all his love for us, in so many ways and in so many places. Let us in return, as an act of gratitude and adoration, determine to love him.
We all want to love God, but how? The Little Flower [St. Therese of Lisieux, 1873-97, after whom Mother Teresa took her name] is a most wonderful example. She did small things with great love. Ordinary things with extraordinary love. That is why she became a great saint. I think we can bring this beautiful thing into our lives.
Have we played well? slept well? eaten well? … Each one of our actions done with and for and through Jesus Christ [God] is a great success.
Our hearts must be separated from earthly motives and united to the will of God. The more united we are to God, the greater will be our love and readiness to serve the poor wholeheartedly. Much depends on this unison of hearts.
We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with him right now–to be happy with him at this very moment. But being happy with him now means:
loving as he loves, helping as he helps, giving as he gives, serving as he serves, rescuing as he rescues, being with him for all the twenty-four hours, touching him in his distressing disguise.
What a wasted life is ours if it is so full of self instead of Him.
Let Him empty and transform you and afterwards fill the chalice of your hearts to the brim, that you in your turn may give of your abundance.
If we are Christian we must be Christlike.
Put yourself completely under the influence of Jesus, so that he may think his thoughts in your mind, do his work through your hands, for you will be all-powerful with him to strengthen you.
I need to give up my own desires in the work of my perfection. Even when I feel as if I were a ship without a compass, I must give myself completely to Him.
Total surrender consists in giving ourselves completely to God… I give up my own self and in this way induce God to live for me. Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our souls…. The more we surrender the more we love God and souls. If we really love souls, we must be ready to take their place, to take their sins upon us and expiate them…. There is no limit to God’s love… Now reverse the picture. There must be no limit to the love that prompts us to give ourselves to God…
We cannot be free unless we are able to surrender our will freely to the will of God.
I am nothing. He is all. I do nothing of my own. He does it. That is what I am, God’s pencil. A tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes. God writes through us, and however imperfect instruments we may be, he writes beautifully.
All of us are but his instruments, who do our little bit and pass by.
We do nothing. He does everything. All glory must be returned to Him.
The more we empty ourselves, the more room we give God to fill us. Let there be no pride nor vanity in the work. The work is God’s work.
Knowledge of God gives love and knowledge of self gives humility…. Humility is nothing but truth. “What have we got that we have not received?” asks St. Paul. … If we are convinced of this, we will never raise our head in pride. If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace… If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal…. Make it possible and even easy for your Superior [in the convent or a spiritual director elsewhere] to treat you and operate on you like the surgeon whose knife must cause pain in order to heal. When a sculptor carves a statue, what has he in his hand? A knife, and he cuts all the time.
The one way that will make us most Christlike is humility.
My Dearest Children, it is our emptiness and lowliness that God needs and not our plenitude. These are a few of the ways we can practice humility: Speak as little as possible of oneself. Mind one’s own business. Avoid curiosity. Do not want to manage other people’s affairs. Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully. Pass over the mistakes of others. Accept blame when innocent. Yield to the will of others. Accept insults and injuries. Accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked. Be kind and gentle even under provocation. Do not seek to be specially loved and admired. Never stand on one’s own dignity. Yield in discussion even though one is right. Choose always the hardest.
We learn humility through accepting humiliation cheerfully.
It is a great virtue to practice humility without our knowing that we are humble.
If we really want God to fill us we must empty ourselves through humility of all that is selfishness in us.
We must never think any one of us is indispensable. God has ways and means. He may allow everything to go upside down in the hands of a very talented and capable Sister. God sees only her love. She may exhaust herself, even kill herself with work, but unless her work is interwoven with love it is useless. God does not need her work. God will not ask that Sister how many books she has read, how many miracles she has worked, but He will ask her if she has done her best, for the love of Him…
If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride, because it shows that you trust in your own powers. … Be humble and you will never be disturbed.
Let us from the beginning try to live the spirit of the Missionaries of Charity, which is one of total surrender to God, loving trust in each other, and cheerfulness with all. … This spirit must radiate from your own heart to your family, neighbor, town, country, the world. Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God; the rest will be given.
We take vows of chastity to love Christ with undivided love; to be able to love him with undivided love we take a vow of poverty that frees us from all material possessions, and with that freedom we can love him with undivided love, and from this vow of undivided love we surrender ourselves totally to him in the person who takes his place [e.g., one’s spiritual director or the Superior of the convent]. So our vow of obedience is another way of giving, of being loved. And the fourth vow that we take is to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. By this vow, we bind ourselves to be one of them, to depend solely on divine providence, to have nothing, yet possess all things in possessing Christ.
They say that God never gives you anything you cannot handle. And that’s true. I just wish he didn’t have such a high opinion of me.
Suffering is a gift of God, a gift that makes us most Christlike. People must not accept [construe] suffering as a punishment.
Suffering is meant to purify, to sanctify, to make us Christlike.
Suffering, if it is accepted together, borne together, is joy. Remember that the passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the resurrection of Christ… Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ.
Joy was the password of the first Christians. St. Paul–how often he repeated himself: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice.” … Joy is prayer–joy is strength–joy is love…. He [or she] gives most who gives with joy…. The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. Happiness is the axle of our religious life…. Those who have the gift of happiness reach the peaks of perfection…. When people find in your eyes that habitual happiness they will understand that they are the beloved children of God.
Charity is patient, is kind, feels no envy, is never perverse or proud or insolent; it has no selfish aims, cannot be provoked, does not brood over an injury; it takes no pleasure in wrong-doing but rejoices over the victory of the truth; it sustains, believes, hopes, endures to the last.
Our purpose is to take God and his love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethical origin or the faith that they profess. … We never try to convert those who receive to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or agnostics become for this better men–simply better–we will be satisfied.
How you live your life is the proof that you are or not fully his, whether one is a Hindu or a Moslem or a Christian.
Some weeks back I heard there was a family who had not eaten for some days--a Hindu family–so I took some rice and I went to the family. Before I knew where I was, the mother of the family had divided the rice into two and she took the other half to the next-door neighbors, who happened to be a Moslem family. Then I asked her: “How much will all of you have to share? There are ten of you with that bit of rice.” The mother replied: “They have not eaten either.” This is greatness.
[Hindus] call him Ishwar, … [Muslims] call him Allah, some simply God, but we all have to acknowledge that it is he who made us for greater things: to love and to be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer and so whatever religion we are we must pray together.
The way to holiness is prayer.
Prayer is joy, prayer is love, prayer is peace. … God gives it for the asking. “Ask and you shall receive.” The father knows what to give his children–how much more our heavenly father knows.
You should spend at least half an hour in the morning, and an hour at night in prayer. You can pray while you work. Work doesn’t stop prayer, and prayer doesn’t stop work. It requires only that small raising of mind to Him.
The more you pray, the easier it becomes. The easier it becomes, the more you’ll pray.
St. Thomas [Aquinas] tells us: “Those who are called to the works of the active life would be wrong in thinking that their duty exempts them from the contemplative life.” … Thus these two lives [the active and contemplative], instead of excluding each other, call for each other’s help, implement and complete each other.
We need much prayer, which unites us with others. Our works of charity are nothing but the overflow of our love for God from within.
The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say [in prayer or in words to others], but what God says to us and through us.
If we really want to pray we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks…. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence…. Practise internal and external silence. God is the friend of silence…. Interior silence is very difficult but we must make the effort. In silence we will find new energy and true unity. The energy of God will be ours to do all things well.
Consider that you are in God, surrounded and encompassed by God, swimming in God.
It is not we who live, it is He who has to live in us. Allowing Him to live His life in us is prayer. And the more we allow Him the more we grow in likeness of Christ.
We all should become the carriers of God’s love. But to do this, we must deepen our life of love and prayer and sacrifice. We must bring peace, love and compassion to the world today. … We need deep love, deep union with Christ to be able to give him to others. Compassion and love have to grow from within, from our union with Christ. And from that union, love for the family, love for the neighbor, love for the poor is a natural fruit. So let us deepen our love for Jesus,… and love will lead us to serve him as instruments of peace, of love, of compassion.
If we really fully belong to God, then we must be at his disposal and we must trust in him. We must never be preoccupied with the future. There is no reason to be so. God is there. There has not been one single day that we have refused somebody, that we did not have food, that we did not have a bed or something, and we deal with thousands of people…. It is always there, though we have no salaries, no income, no nothing, we receive freely and give freely. This has been such a beautiful gift of God. In Calcutta alone we cope for 7,000 people every day…. One Friday morning Sister came and told me, “Mother, Friday-Saturday, there is no food, we will have to tell the people we have nothing to give today and tomorrow.” I had no words, I had nothing to say to her, but by nine o’clock the Government for some unknown reason closed all the schools, and all the bread that would have been given to the children was sent to us and our children and our 7,000 people ate bread and bread for two days. They had never eaten so much bread in their lives. Nobody in the whole city knew why the schools were closed, but I knew. I knew the delicate thoughtfulness of God-such a delicate love. Our dependence on Divine Providence is a firm and lively faith that God can and will help us. That he can is evident, because he is almighty; that he will is certain because he promised it in so many passages of Holy Scripture…
I don’t want the work to become a business but to remain a work of love. I want you to have that complete confidence that God won’t let us down. Take im at his word and seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all else will be added on.
Money? I never give it a thought. It always comes. We do all our work for our Lord; he must look after us. If he wants something to be done, he must give us the means. If he does not provide us with the means, then it shows that he does not want that particular work. I forget about it.
We depend solely on divine providence that comes through to us to the love of the people. … God is taking care of his poor people through us. He has shown such thoughtfulness and kindness to our people in so many small details! … If I wrote or spoke for hours and hours, I would be able to give thousands of proofs of the delicate kindness and thoughtfulness of God. We deal with thousands of people and yet there has not been one occasion when we have had to say to somebody, “Very sorry, we don’t have…”
Live simply. Give example through simplicity. The spirit of poverty is dependency on God. Trust him.
People now are trying to prove that they can do things, that they don’t need God in their lives, that they are all-powerful. And so, trying to do things without God, they are producing more and more misery and poverty…. I find the poverty in the West much more difficult, much greater than the poverty I meet in India, in Ethiopia and in the Middle East, which is a material poverty.
I think people are so preoccupied with material difficulties. In the industrial world where people are supposed to have so much, I find that many people, while dressed up, are really, really poor. … [Whereas,] the Sisters are always smiling and happy. We are so free… we are so free…. By having nothing we will be able to give everything-through the freedom of poverty.
It is not a sin to be rich. There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. But I tell you this provokes avarice, and there comes sin. Richness is given by God and it is our duty to divide it with those less favoured.
I hope you are not giving only your surplus. You must give what costs you, make a sacrifice, go without something you like, that your gift may have value before God. Then you will be truly brothers and sisters to the poor who are deprived of even the things they need. I want the gifts to be given not from the giver’s abundance, but rather they should be the spontaneous giving of those who are not afraid to love until it hurts.
Many factors in the industrial world suffocate the joy of loving. People have too much and they want more. They are discontent. A family in Australia with six or seven children talked together and decided not to buy a new television. They wanted to enjoy each other more completely. They had enough of what they needed for each other in each other. Instead of buying the television, they gave the money to me to do something for the poor Aborigines there. They overcame something they thought divided them, an obstacle to the joy of loving. And they recognized the sharing, the talking, the laughing, the loving, the teasing. The whole family is simply delighted.
Our Sisters are working around the world and I have seen all the trouble, all the misery, all the suffering. From where did it come? It has come from lack of love and lack of prayer. There is no coming together in the family, praying together, coming together, staying together. Love begins at home and we will find the poor even in our own home…. It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.
If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.
Reconciliation begins not first with others but with ourselves. It starts by having a clean heart within. A clean heart is able to see God in others. The tongue [then] … can become an instrument of peace and joy…. Forgive and ask to be forgiven; excuse rather than accuse.
Thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity. If you learn this art of being thoughtful, you will become more and more Christlike, for his heart was meek and he always thought of the needs of others.
We tell people how kind, forgiving and understanding God is but are we the living proof? Can they really see this kindness, this forgiveness, this understanding alive in us? Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness… Because of God’s goodness and love every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things. Be open, ready to receive and you will find him everywhere. Every work of love brings a person face to face with God.
Be kind to each other. I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness.
Some people came to Calcutta, and before leaving, they begged me: “Tell us something that will help us to live our lives better.” And I said: “Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other-it doesn’t matter who it is–and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” And then one of them asked me: “Are you married?” and I said: “Yes, and I find it difficult sometimes to smile at Jesus.” And it is true, Jesus can be very demanding also, and it is at those times when he is so demanding that to give him a big smile is very beautiful.
Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Peace begins with a smile-smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at at all-do it for peace. Let us radiate the peace of God and so light his light and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power.
The spirit pours love, peace, joy into our hearts proportionately to our emptying ourselves of self-indulgence, vanity, anger and ambition, and to our willingness to shoulder the cross of Christ. Without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the Redemption.
I tell the sisters not to be ashamed when people praise them for what they do. They must let people see what Christ does through us, his humble instruments. It is all to his glory.
It is not how much we are doing but how much love, how much honesty, how much faith, is put into doing it. It makes no difference what we are doing.
Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. … What we are doing in the slums, maybe you cannot do. What you are doing in the level where you are called--in your family life, in your college life, in your work–we cannot do. But you and we together are doing something beautiful for God.
I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” So you begin… I begin. I picked up one [dying] person–maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in the church where you go, just begin… one, one, one.
When I see people suffer, I feel so helpless! It’s difficult, but the only way I find is to say, “God loves you.”
The other day somebody asked me, “What would you advise the politicians?” I never mix up in politics, but it came from my heart, “They don’t spend enough time on their knees [in prayer and devotion]. I think they would be better politicians if they did…”
I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody to no one.
The spiritual poverty of the western world is much greater than the physical poverty of our people [in India]. You in the West have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness. They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing really is a living relationship with God.
I think if we can spread this prayer, if we can translate it into our lives, it will make all the difference…. It has made a great difference in the lives of the Missionaries of Charity.
Dear Jesus [God], Help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be ours. It will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around us. Let us preach [to] you without preaching not by words, but by our example by the catching force the sympathetic influence of what we do the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen.
The poorest of the poor are free, happy and without the aggression of those who aspire or can aspire to many things. The poor of the third world can teach us contentment. That is something that the West does not have much of.
In Calcutta our Sisters and Brothers work for the poorest of the poor, who aren’t wanted, aren’t loved, are sick and die, for the lepers and the little children, but I can tell you I have never yet in these twenty-five years heard a poor person grumble or curse or feel miserable.
Their very life is a prayer. They continually intercede for us [for our sins] without knowing it.
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TENZIN GYATSO, H.H. THE 14th DALAI LAMA (b.1935), spiritual and political leader in exile for the Tibetan people in their homeland and in diaspora, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1989:
Religion is like going out to dinner with friends. Everyone may order something different, but everyone can still sit at the same table.
All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
In Tibet we say that many illnesses can be cured by the one medicine of love and compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness… Unfortunately, love and compassion have been omitted from too many spheres of social interaction for too long. Usually confined to family and home, their practice in public life is considered impractical, even naive. This is tragic. In my view point, the practice of compassion is not a symptom of unrealistic idealism but the most effective way to pursue the best interest of others as well as our own…. Merely recognizing our need for harmony is not enough. A mind [deeply] committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir– a constant source of energy, determination and kindness. This is like a seed; when cultivated, [the mind of compassion] gives rise to many other good qualities, such as forgiveness, tolerance, inner strength and the confidence to overcome fear and insecurity. The compassionate mind is like an elixir; it is capable of transforming bad situation into beneficial ones. Therefore, we should not limit our expressions of love and compassion to our family and friends. Nor is the compassion only the responsibility of clergy, health care and social workers. It is the necessary business of every part of the human community.
When I consider the lack of cooperation in human society, I can only conclude that it stems from ignorance of our interdependent nature. I am often moved by the example of small insects, such as bees. The laws of nature dictate that bees work together in order to survive. As a result, they possess an instinctive sense of social responsibility. They have no constitution, laws, police, religion or moral training, but because of their nature they labour faithfully together. Occasionally they may fight, but in general the whole colony survives on the basis of cooperation. Human beings, on the other hand, have constitutions, vast legal systems and police forces; we have religion, remarkable intelligence and a heart with great capacity to love. But despite our many extraordinary qualities, in actual practice we lag behind those small insects; in some ways, I feel we are poorer than the bees…. Even though we are social animals compelled to live together, unfortunately, we lack sense of responsibility towards our fellow humans…. The most immediate cause of our present dilemma is our undue emphasis on material development alone. We have become so engrossed in its pursuit that, without even knowing it, we have neglected to foster the most basic human needs of love, kindness, cooperation and caring…. To me, it is clear: a genuine sense of responsibility can result only if we develop compassion. Only a spontaneous feeling of empathy for others can really motivate us to act on their behalf.
I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
Human beings, indeed all sentient beings, have the right to pursue happiness and live in peace and in freedom…. Therefore, the protection of these rights and freedoms are of immense importance both for the individuals affected and for the development of the society as a whole. It is my belief that the lack of understanding of the true cause of happiness is the principal reason why people inflict suffering on others. Some people think that causing pain to others may lead to their own happiness or that their own happiness is of such importance that the pain of others is of no significance. But this is clearly shortsighted. No one truly benefits from causing harm to another being. Whatever immediate advantage is gained at the expense of someone else is short-lived. In the long run causing others misery and infringing upon their peace and happiness creates anxiety, fear and suspicion for oneself. The key to creating a better and more peaceful world is the development of love and compassion for others. This naturally means we must develop concern for our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than we are…. The acceptance of universally binding standards of Human Rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenants of Human Rights is essential in today’s shrinking world. Respect for fundamental human rights should not remain an ideal to be achieved but a requisite foundation for every human society. When we demand the rights and freedoms we so cherish we should also be aware of our responsibilities. If we accept that others have an equal right to peace and happiness as ourselves, do we not have a responsibility to help those in need?
As we approach the end of the 20th century, we find that the world is becoming one community. We are being drawn together by the grave problems of overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental crisis that threaten the very foundation of our existence on this planet. Human rights, environmental protection and great social and economic equality, are all interrelated…. Human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for one self, one’s own family or one’s nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and the proper care of the environment.
It is mainly the authoritarian and totalitarian regimes who are opposed to the universality of human rights. It would be absolutely wrong to concede to this view. On the contrary, such regimes must be made to respect and conform to the universally accepted principles in the larger and long term interests of their own peoples. The dramatic changes in the past few years [e.g., the fall of Soviet communism] clearly indicate that the triumph of human rights is inevitable. There is a growing awareness of peoples’ responsibilities to each other and to the planet we share. This is encouraging even though so much suffering continues to be inflicted based on chauvinism, race, religion, ideology and history. A new hope is emerging for the downtrodden, and people everywhere are displaying a willingness to champion and defend the rights and freedoms of their fellow human beings…. It is not only our right as members of the global human family to protest when our brothers and sisters are being treated brutally, but it is also our duty to do whatever we can to help them…. Artificial barriers that have divided nations and peoples have fallen in recent times. With the dismantling of Berlin wall the East-West division which has polarized the whole world for decades has now come to an end…. Yet there still remains a major gulf at the heart of the human family. By this I am referring to the North-South divide. If we are serious in our commitment to the fundamental principles of equality… today’s economic disparity can no longer be ignored. It is not enough to merely state that all human beings must enjoy equal dignity. This must be translated into action. We have a responsibility to find ways to achieve a more equitable distribution of world’s resources.
When I meet people in different parts of the world, I am always reminded that we are all basically alike: we are all human beings. Maybe we have different clothes, our skin is of a different colour, or we speak different languages. That is on the surface. But basically, we are the same human beings. That is what binds us to each other. That is what makes it possible for us to understand each other and to develop friendship and closeness.
We are dependent on each other in so many ways, that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside those communities, and we must share the good fortune that we enjoy.
The realisation that we are all basically the same human beings, who seek happiness and try to avoid suffering, is very helpful in developing a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood; a warm feeling of love and compassion for others. This, in turn, is essential if we are to survive in this ever shrinking world we live in. For if we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our own interest, without caring about the needs of others, we not only may end up harming others but also ourselves. This fact has become very clear during the course of this century. We know that… by polluting the air or the oceans, in order to achieve some short-term benefit, we are destroying the very basis for our survival. As interdependents, therefore, we have no other choice than to develop what I call a sense of universal responsibility.
Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.
Business is very much a part of politics today. Whether openly or not, business interests play a major role in political decisions. Not only does action affect politics, but inaction has an impact. Business leaders must take their responsibility in this respect seriously.
I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus on the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.
From the viewpoint of absolute truth, what we feel and experience in our ordinary daily life is all delusion. Of all the various delusions, the sense of discrimination between oneself and others is the worst form, as it creates nothing but unpleasantness for both sides. If we can realize and meditate on ultimate truth, it will cleanse our impurities of mind and thus eradicate the sense of discrimination. This will help to create true love for one another. The search for ultimate truth is, therefore, vitally important.
I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace. Each of us in our own way can try to spread compassion into people’s hearts. Western civilizations these days place great importance on filling the human “brain” with knowledge, but no one seems to care about filling the human “heart” with compassion. This is what the real role of religion is.
It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects…. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require…. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mother’s breast, we naturally feel close to her, and she must feel love for us in order to feed us properly; if she feels anger or resentment her milk may not flow freely. Then there is the critical period of brain development from the time of birth up to at least the age of three or four, during which time loving physical contact is the single most important factor for the normal growth of the child. If the child is not held, hugged, cuddled, or loved, its development will be impaired and its brain will not mature properly. Since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is its most important nourishment. The happiness of childhood, the allaying of the child’s many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence all depend directly upon love…. Recently I met a group of scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high– around 12% of the population. It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of the others. So, as you can see,… whether or not we are consciously aware of it,… no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that, although some modern schools of thought seek to do so, human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind….
It is also true that we all have an innate self-centeredness that inhibits our love for others. So, since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by only a calm mind, and since such peace of mind is brought about by only a compassionate attitude, how can we develop this? Obviously, it is not enough for us simply to think about how nice compassion is! We need to make a concerted effort to develop it; we must use all the events of our daily life to transform our thoughts and behaviour.
Our self-centeredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of an independent, self existent “I,” works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self-grasping is eliminated…. We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled…. While it is true that anger [seemingly] brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind…. It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy with which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger…. They are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful and soft, but it is very powerful.
[Again:] Merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them. And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble. So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teacher!… We should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind! Also, it is often the case in both personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends…. Anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary “enemies” who appear intermittently throughout life.
I often joke that if you really want to be selfish, you should be very altruistic! You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles. The result? When you yourself need help, you find plenty of helpers! If, on the other hand, you neglect the happiness of others, in the long term you will be the loser…. In today’s materialistic society, if you have money and power, you seem to have many friends. But they are not friends of yours; they are the friends of your money and power.
We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.
Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.
If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it.
There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.
The essence of any religion is good heart. Sometimes I call love and compassion a universal religion. This is my religion. Complicated philosophy, this and that, sometimes create more trouble and problems. If these sophisticated philosophies are useful for the development of good heart, then good: use them fully. If these complicated philosophies or systems become an obstacle to a good heart then better to leave them. This is what I feel.
To encourage myself in this altruistic attitude, I sometimes find it helpful to imagine myself standing as a single individual on one side, facing a huge gathering of all other human beings on the other side. Then I ask myself, ‘Whose interests are more important?’ To me it is quite clear that however important I may feel I am, I am just one individual while others are infinite in number and importance.
Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.
Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
Spend some time alone every day.
The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.
The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.
True peace with oneself and with the world around us can only be achieved through the development of mental peace.
We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.
Material development without spiritual development can cause serious problems. In some countries too much attention is paid to external things and very little importance is given to inner development. I believe both are important and must be developed side by side so as to achieve a good balance between them. Tibetans are always described by foreign visitors as being a happy, jovial people. This is part of our national character, formed by cultural and religious values that stress the importance of mental peace through the generation of love and kindness to all other living sentient beings, both human and animal. Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems do not affect your deep sense of peace and tranquility. In that state of mind you can deal with situations with calmness and reason, while keeping your inner happiness. That is very important. Without this inner peace, no matter how comfortable your life is materially, you may still be worried, disturbed or unhappy because of circumstances.
Responsibility [for ending war, injustice, etc.] does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. Peace, for example, starts with each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighbouring communities, and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. And there are ways in which we can consciously work to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment we live in seriously.
As a free spokesman for my captive [Tibetan] countrymen and women [under murderously oppressive and destructive Chinese military occupation since 1950], I feel it is my duty to speak out on their behalf. I speak not with a feeling of anger or hatred towards those who are responsible for the immense suffering of our people and the destruction of our land, homes and culture. They too are human beings who struggle to find happiness and deserve our compassion. I speak to inform you of the sad situation in my country today and of the aspirations of my people, because in our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.
Many people seem to be excited about the new millennium, but the new millennium in itself will be nothing special. As we enter into the new millennium things will be the same; there will be nothing unusual. However, if we really want the next millennium to be happier, more peaceful and more harmonious for humankind we will have to make the effort to make it so…. If we are going to make the right kind of efforts to make the future of the world better, I believe the following matters are of great importance. • While engaging in material progress and taking care of physical well-being we need to pay equal attention to developing peace of mind and thus taking care of the internal aspect of our being. • Along with education, which generally deals only with academic accomplishments, we need to develop more altruism and a sense of caring and responsibility for others in the minds of the younger generation studying in various educational institutions. This can be done without necessarily involving religion. One could therefore call this ‘secular ethics’, as it in fact consists of basic human qualities such as kindness, compassion, sincerity and honesty. • This past century in some ways has been a century of war and bloodshed. It has seen a year-by-year increase in defense spending by most countries in the world. If we are to change this trend we must seriously consider the concept of non-violence, which is a physical expression of compassion. In order to make non-violence a reality we must first work on internal disarmament and then proceed to work on external disarmament. By internal disarmament I mean ridding ourselves of all the negative emotions that result in violence…. • We need to address the issue of the gap between the rich and the poor, both globally and nationally. This inequality, with some sections of the human community having abundance and others on the same planet going hungry or even dying of starvation, is not only morally wrong, but practically also a source of problems…. • For the sake of our future generations, we need to take care of our earth and of our environment….
These are times when destructive emotions like anger, fear and hatred are giving rise to devastating problems throughout the world. While the daily news offers grim reminders of the destructive power of such emotions, the question we must ask is this: What can we do, person by person, to overcome them?… I believe that there are practical ways for us as individuals to curb our dangerous impulses — impulses that collectively can lead to war and mass violence. As evidence I have not only my spiritual practice and the understanding of human existence based on Buddhist teachings, but now also the work of scientists. For the last 15 years I have engaged in a series of conversations with Western scientists…. Mindfulness meditation strengthens the neurological circuits that calm a part of the brain that acts as a trigger for fear and anger. This raises the possibility that we have a way to create a kind of buffer between the brain’s violent impulses and our actions. Experiments have already been carried out that show some practitioners can achieve a state of inner peace, even when facing extremely disturbing circumstances…. [One Tibetan Buddhist] monk, the abbot of one of our monasteries in India, was tested by Dr. [Richard] Davidson using electroencephalographs to measure brain waves. According to Dr. Davidson, the abbot had the highest amount of activity in the brain centers associated with positive emotions that had ever been measured by his laboratory…. The implications of all this are clear: the world today needs citizens and leaders who can work toward ensuring stability and engage in dialogue with the “enemy” — no matter what kind of aggression or assault they may have endured…. These methods are not just useful, but inexpensive. You don’t need a drug or an injection. You don’t have to become a Buddhist, or adopt any particular religious faith. Everybody has the potential to lead a peaceful, meaningful life. We must explore as far as we can how that can be brought about. I try to put these methods into effect in my own life. When I hear bad news, especially the tragic stories I often hear from my fellow Tibetans, naturally my own response is sadness. However, by placing it in context, I find I can cope reasonably well. And feelings of helpless anger, which simply poison the mind and embitter the heart, seldom arise, even following the worst news…. If humanity is to survive, happiness and inner balance are crucial. Otherwise the lives of our children and their children are more likely to be unhappy, desperate and short. Material development certainly contributes to happiness — to some extent — and a comfortable way of life. But this is not sufficient. To achieve a deeper level of happiness we cannot neglect our inner development.
As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but everyone who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind!
It is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister…. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.
I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion.
Let me share with you a short prayer which gives me great inspiration and determination: For as long as space endures, And for as long as living beings remain, Until then may I, too, abide To dispel the misery of the world.
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MISCELLANEOUS INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES:
Dignity does not consist of possessing honors, but in deserving them. –Aristotle
The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. –Plutarch
If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. –René Descartes
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. –Sir Francis Bacon
Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself. –Desiderius Erasmus
Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them. -–Albert Einstein
It is bad enough that so many people believe things without any evidence. What is worse is that some people have no conception of evidence and regard facts as just someone else’s opinion. –Thomas Sowell
Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people. –Nido Qubein
Whatever you are, be a good one. –Abraham Lincoln
Only a mediocre person is always at his best. –W. Somerset Maugham
To be pleased with one’s limits is a wretched state. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge. –Elbert Hubbard
It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. –Herman Melville
Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life. –Bertrand Russell
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear– not absence of fear. –Mark Twain
That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. –Aldous Huxley
To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life. –Robert Louis Stevenson
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. –Albert Szent-Györgyi
Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers. –Bruce Calvert
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. — Charles Darwin
A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle. –Kahlil Gibran
Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. –Henri Louis Bergson
If there is no struggle there is no progress. –Frederick Douglass
It is in meeting the great tests that mankind can most successfully rise to great heights. Out of danger and restless insecurity comes the force that pushes mankind to newer and loftier conquests. –Isaac Asimov
One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. –Elbert Hubbard
Don’t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps. –David Lloyd George
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. –Winston Churchill
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. –Winston Churchill
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. –Winston Churchill
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. –Winston Churchill
The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is. –Winston Churchill
God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars. –Elbert Hubbard
If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. –-Anonymous
Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us. — T. L. Holdcroft
To solve the human equation, we need to add love, subtract hate, multiply good, and divide between truth and error. –Janet Coleman
When you truly engage the lives of others, you open yourself to profound change. –Lisa Kennedy
The compilation of the following materials is © copyright 2008 by Timothy Conway
Source (1 July 2011): www.rare-leadership.org