The Living Book

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Our strength grows out of our weakness. The indignation which arms itself with secret forces does not awaken until we are pricked and stung and sorely assailed. A great man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; he is cured of the insanity of conceit; he’s got moderation and real skill. The wise man throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

Receive every inward and outward trouble, every disappointment, pain, uneasiness, temptation, darkness, and desolation, with both your hands, as a true opportunity and blessed occasion of dying to self, and entering into a fuller fellowship with your self-denying, suffering savior. Look at no inward or outward trouble in any other view; reject every other thought about it, and then every kind of trial and distress will become the blessed day of your prosperity. Be afraid of seeking or finding comfort in anything but God alone: For that which gives you comfort, takes so much of your heart from God.

William Law (1686 – 1761)

The man who spends his life in sensual acts performs acts that depend on temporary causes beyond his control. Of himself he does nothing, but it seems to him that he is acting independently. In reality, all that he imagines he is doing by himself is done through him by a higher power; he is not the creator of life but its prisoner. But the man who devotes his life to the recognition and practice of the truth revealed to him unites himself with the source of universal life, and accomplishes not personal or individual acts that depend upon time and space, but acts that have no cause, but are in themselves causes of all else, and have an endless significance.

Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)

This is the greatest work of all. In order to show and release her powers, Nature has no need of fortune; she shows herself equally on all levels, and behind a curtain as well as without one. To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win, not battles and provinces, but order and tranquility in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately. All other things, to rule, to lay up treasure, to build, are at most but little appendices and props.

Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

The new birth, as signifying only a change of moral behaviour, is not only thus false and absurd in itself, but is also exceedingly prejudicial to true conversion, and saps the foundation of our redemption.

William Law (1686 – 1761)

A little boy wearing the mask of a lion looks quite fierce. He runs out where his little sister is playing and shrieks out in a horrible voice, which shocks and terrifies his sister, making her cry out in terror, and making her attempt to escape from the frightening creature. But when her brother takes off the mask, she runs back to exclaim, “It is my nice brother after all!”

Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886)

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

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)