Wisdom, love and compassion in other spiritual traditions

You may know Inward meditation center as a place where we practice buddhist and stoic meditations. We attempt to deepen our mindfulness and broaden our friendliness to ourselves and others in everything we do, say or intend, without succumbing to the temptation to get tied down by the results of our practice. We try our best, which really is all we can do.

This way of living helps us to develop wisdom and harmony, but also to LIVE from that place of wisdom and harmony. The practices we do – mindfulness and metta meditations, negative visualisation, gratitude and practicing mindfulness in daily life – aim to further the experience of wisdom and harmony, even (or yet precisely!) when we tend to experience disharmony and are enticed by simplistic judgements.

But that does not mean that Buddhism or Stoicism are the exclusive sources of wisdom, compassion and love.

All spiritual traditions, including but not limited to ALL spiritual traditions contain great wisdom, compassion and love. Practices to develop such virtues are often seen as part of the esoteric lessons of a faith – the soft, vulnerable core that is often seen to be in need of protection of the rougher initiations of exoteric laws and bylaws, and by which a believer is able to approach God.

Personally, I don’t care so much about destiny or creation mythologies, but I’m not ready to call myself an atheist, either. Atheism is just as much a belief in fairy tales. My position is that of the agnostic – a calm and dignified not-knowing, informed by pragmatism: if it helps you to be a happier, wiser and calmer person, I will whole-heartedly celebrate your religiosity together with you.

If it should transpire that God commands you to torture the weak, persecute those who differ in opinion or to see yourself as fundamentally secluded from the universe that gave rise to you, I don’t see much of value in your religion. That fault generally does not lie with the religion itself, but with the elements of unfreedom or faux superiority that have attracted you (and your insecurities) to it. I would even go as far as to say that it is not your religion that ultimately matters, but your moral operationalisation of it in your own life. How do you live?

But, of course, I digress. The point that I’m trying to get across is that developing wisdom, compassion and love is a core facet of all spiritual traditions. A short anthology follows below. The God connection might leap out at you – which is different from most buddhist and stoic writings. If it helps, feel free to superimpose the unfathomable mystery of your existence as a God concept.

Wisdom, love and compassion in Christianity

Francis of Assisi was the son of a wealthy trader, who chose to forgo worldly and ecclesiastical wealth (which was considerable in Thirteenth Century Italy) to lead a simple life of poverty. He wore rough cloth, went barefoot and started two monastic orders that emulated this very behaviour. Both of these orders exist today, and Francis is still widely admired.

The prayer below is attributed to him.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace!
That where there is hatred, I may bring love.
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness.
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony.
That where there is error, I may bring truth.
That where there is doubt, I may bring faith.
That where there is despair, I may bring hope.
That where there are shadows, I may bring light.
That where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted.
To understand, than to be understood.
To love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

Wisdom, love and compassion in Islam

Also hailing from the Thirteenth Century, not that long after Francis, lived Rumi – also known as the Mevlana. Mohammad (which was his actual name) was a refugee from Afghanistan who found his spiritual friend Shams in Konya, in modern-day Turkey. After Shams’s death, Rumi dedicated his life to writing poems about love and about the experience that all life, while it may seem separated by discrete bodies, is not only highly connected but in fact One. Rumi is admired by people from varying backgrounds; from practicing Sufis to Western poetry lovers.

The excerpt below is from his magnum opus, the Masnavi.

Seek God in self-abasement and in self-extinction, for nothing but forms is produced by thinking.

And if you derive no comfort except from form, then the form that comes to birth within you involuntarily is the best.

Suppose it is the form of a city to which you are going: you are drawn there by a formless feeling of pleasure, O dependent one;
Therefore you are really going to that which has no locality, for pleasure is something different from place and time.

Suppose it is the form of a friend to whom you would go: you are going for the sake of enjoying his society;
Therefore in reality you go to the formless (world), though you are unaware of that.

In truth, then, God is worshipped by all, since wayfaring is for the sake of the pleasure (of which He is the source).

Masnavi VI: 3749-3755

Wisdom, love and compassion in Hinduism

The epic Mahabharata’s hero Arjuna wavers. He sees no choice but to battle family members, mentors and long-time friends. But he struggles with the morality of it, and can’t get himself to assume his duty. On the eve of battle, he seeks counsel. The resulting dialogue is considered one of the holy scriptures of Vaishnavism – one of Hinduism’s great sects.

An excerpt:

He who has let go of hatred,
who treats all beings with kindness
and compassion, who is always serene,
unmoved by pain and pleasure,

free of the “I” and “mine,”
self-controlled, firm and patient,
his whole mind focused on me—
that man is the one I love the best.

Bhagavad Gita, 12: 13-14

Whomever allows herself to be inspired by wisdom, compassion and love without being too picky about its provenance can find a lot to discover in the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. Do take advantage and never stop learning.

Do you have an additional source of inspiration? Feel free to leave a comment…

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