The Living Book

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Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, “It will not benefit me.” As by the falling of raindrops a jar of water is filled, so the wise man becomes full of good, even though he collects it little by little.

Buddha (circa 560 – 483 B.C.E.)

To imagine that five hundred men, drawn from every corner of the kingdom, will make a good law! Is it not a dreary joke, for which the people will sooner or later have to pay? They have a change of masters, that is all.

Honore de Balzac (1799 – 1850)

I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot… I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your own companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh today? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and if we follow the truth it will bring us out safe at last.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

Every night we should call ourselves to account: “What weakness have I overcome today? What passions opposed? What temptations resisted? What virtue acquired?” Our weaknesses will decrease of themselves if they are brought every day to the light.

Seneca (4 B.C.E. – 65 A.D.)

The spiritual life justifies itself to those who live it, but what can we say to those who do not understand? This, at least, we can say: that it is a life whose experiences are proved real to their possessor, because they remain with him when brought closest into contact with the objective realities of life. Dreams cannot stand this test. We wake from them to find that they are but dreams. Wanderings of an overwrought brain do not stand this test. These highest experiences that I have had of God’s presence have been rare and brief — flashes of consciousness which have compelled me to exclaim with surprise, “God is here!”

William James (1842 – 1910), from The Varieties of Religious Experience, attributed to J. Trevor

Take another example: a room full of guests in full dress, being received with great ceremony. You could almost believe that this is a noble and distinguished company; but, as a matter of fact, it is compulsion, pain and boredom who are the real guests. For where many are invited, it is a rabble — even if they all wear stars. Really good society is everywhere of necessity very small. In brilliant festivals and noisy entertainments, there is always, at bottom, a sense of emptiness prevalent. A false tone is there.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860)

Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation,
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not a mental chloroform
Or unconscious state without wilful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond limits of the mortal frame
To the farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in me.

Paramhansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952)

You must perform your spiritual exercises without prophesying the nature of your reward. If you have a preconceived notion of the reward, you may or may not get it, but the very desire for that reward blocks the higher reward, which is above all mental prophecy. As you actually receive a few higher rewards, and your cosmic confidence rises, you feel from yourself that this way, which was at first so strange and frightening, is the way of endless riches.

Vernon Howard (1918 – 1992)

Let none of us entertain the desire for possessions, for what gain is it to acquire those things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather acquire those that we can take: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, understanding, charity, love of the poor, faith in Christ, goodness, hospitality? If we obtain these, we shall find them there before us preparing a welcome for us in the land of the meek.

Athanasius of Alexandria (circa 296 – 373)