CULTIVATE THE GOOD
If, continually and over a long time, a person practices good
deeds, he will form good habits. Good habits cultivated over a long time
lead to the formation of good character. According to the Parable of the
Sower, the human spirit is like a field that must be sowed, cultivated,
and weeded if it is to bear a good crop. People can only develop good
habits by constant practice; otherwise they will develop bad habits that
become progressively more difficult to break. Thus good begets good,
while evil begets evil. We also include several passages which suggest
that even doing good for bad or base motives can be beneficial by
encouraging good habits.
Not to do any evil, to cultivate good, to purify one's mind--this is the
teaching of the Buddhas.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 183
A watery hole at the foot of a mountain amidst uncultivated growth.
The superior man by determined good conduct nourishes his virtue.
Confucianism. I Ching 4: Immaturity
By the... soul, and Him who perfected it
and inspired it with conscience of what is wrong for it and right for it:
He is indeed successful who causes it to grow,
and he is indeed a failure who stunts it.
Islam. Qur'an 91.7-10
By sustained effort, earnestness, discipline, and self-control, let the
wise man make for himself an island which no flood can overwhelm.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 25
Dhammapada 183: This may well be the most famous aphorism of the Buddha.
Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value,
godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present
life and also for the life to come.
Christianity. 1 Timothy 4.7-8
This Atman, resplendent and pure, whom the sinless disciples behold
residing within the body, is attained by unceasing practice of
truthfulness, austerity, right knowledge, and continence.
Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.5
Birth does not lead to greatness; but cultivation of numerous virtues by a
man leads him to greatness. It is a pearl that possesses real greatness
and not the pair of shells in which it is produced.
Jainism. Vajjalagam 687
The superior man, seeing what is good, imitates it;
Seeing what is bad, he corrects it in himself.
Confucianism. I Ching 42: Gain
The domain of voidness, yet where one cultivates all types of virtues,
such is the domain of the bodhisattva.
Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 5
Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with
knowl- edge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with
steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with
brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these
things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or
unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks
these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was
cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to
confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so
there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christianity. 2 Peter 1.5-11
1 Timothy 4.7-8: Paul frequently compares inner training to the physical
training of an athlete: see 1 Corinthians 9.24-27, p. 745. Cf. Dhammapada
80, p. 731; Chuang Tzu 19, p. 204. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.5: Cf. Bhagavad
Gita 5.24, p. 533. I Ching 42: Cf. Analects 7.3, 7.28, p. 657. Holy
Teaching of Vimalakirti 5: This and the following passage teach that
attaining enlighten- ment or receiving salvation are not excuses for
ceasing to cultivate the good. Mahayana Buddhism teaches that everything
phenomenal is void (sunya), yet that void is the womb of everything.
Voidness correctly realized generates wisdom and compassion; these direct
one to cultivate the good.
Run to do even a slight precept, and flee from transgression; for precept
draws precept in its train, and transgression, transgression; for the
recompense of a precept is a precept, and the recompense of a
transgression is a transgression.
Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.2
Make haste in doing good; check your mind from evil; for the mind of him
who is slow in doing meritorious actions delights in evil.
Should a person commit evil, he should not do it again and again; he
should not find pleasure therein: painful is the accumulation of evil.
Should a person perform a meritorious action, he should do it again and
again; he should find pleasure therein: blissful is the accumulation of
Buddhism. Dhammapada 116-18
Do not disregard evil, saying, "It will not come nigh unto me": by the
falling of drops even a water jar is filled; likewise the fool, gathering
little by little, fills himself with evil.
Do not disregard merit, saying "It will not come nigh unto me": by the
falling of drops of water even a water jar is filled; likewise the wise
man, gathering little by little, fills himself with good.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 121-22
Black goats must be caught early, before it is dark.
African Traditional Religions. Igala Proverb (Nigeria)
If you neglect the Torah, many causes for neglecting it will present
themselves to you.
Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.12
Mencius said to Kau Tzu, "A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes
a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an
equally short time. Now your heart is blocked by grass."
Confucianism. Mencius VII.B.21
If one guards himself against sin three times, the Holy One guards him
from then on.
Judaism. Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 1.9
Engage in Torah and charity even with an ulterior motive, for the habit of
right doing will lead also to right motivation.
Judaism. Talmud, Pesahim 50b
Igala Proverb: This means nip problems in the bud before they escalate.
The Master said, "The inferior man is not ashamed of unkindness and does
not shrink from injustice. If no advantage beckons he makes no effort.
If he is not intimidated he does not improve himself, but if he is made to
behave correctly in small matters he is careful in large ones. This is
fortunate for the inferior man. This is what is meant when it is said in
the I Ching, 'His feet are fastened in the stocks, so that he cannot walk.
No blame' [Hexagram 21, Biting Through].
"If good does not accumulate, it is not enough to make a name for a man.
If evil does not accumulate, it is not enough to destroy a man. Therefore
the inferior man thinks to himself, Goodness in small things has no value,
and so neglects it. He thinks, Small sins do no harm, and so does not
give them up. Thus his sins accumulate until they can no longer be covered
up, and his guilt becomes so great that it can no longer be wiped out. In
the I Ching it is said, 'His neck is fastened in the wooden cangue, so
that his ears are hidden. Misfortune' [Hexagram 21, Shih Ho]."
Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 2.5.7-8
The Holy One gives wisdom only to him who has wisdom.
Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 55a
For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but
from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Christianity. Bible, Matthew 13.12
If there is no host on the inside to receive it [the Tao], it will not
stay; if there is no mark on the outside to guide it, it will not go. If
what is brought forth from the inside is not received on the outside, then
the sage will not bring it forth. If what is taken in from the outside is
not received by a host on the inside, the sage will not entrust it.
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 14
"Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell
along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on
rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up,
since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and
since it had no root it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and
the thorns grew up and choked it. And other seeds fell into good soil and
brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold,
and sixtyfold and a hundredfold....
"Do you not understand this parable?... The sower sows the word.
And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they
hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in
them. And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who,
when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no
root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or
persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And
others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word,
but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for
other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But
those that were sown upon good soil are the ones who hear the word and
accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixty- fold and a hundredfold."
Christianity. Mark 4.3-20: Parable of the Sower
Chuang Tzu 14: Cf. Tao Te Ching 41, p. 805 Matthew 13.12: Cf. the Parable
of the Talents, Matthew 25.14-30, p. 1015. Mark 4.3-20: The individual's
capacity for truth determines the degree of its reception. Yet that
capacity is itself something to be cultivated, by clearing away the thorns
and pulling up the weeds so that the Word of God may bear fruit. Cf. Tao
Te Ching 41, p. 805.