World Scripture


       Spiritual growth is a long process that requires perseverance and
patience. Once the resolution is made and the journey is begun, it should
not be abandoned, for the result is often not decided until the very end.
Patience is not merely to wait for fate to intervene; rather it means to
persevere in the practices of the discipline until the goal is achieved.
The scriptures express the virtue of perseverance through various
metaphors: running a race, climbing a tree, digging a well, and boring to
the pith of a tree.

       To conclude this section, we have singled out two passages which
tell stories of great patience.  One, from the story of Job in the Bible,
describes his patience and faith in the midst of suffering.  The other,
from the Qur'an, is the story of Moses' mystic journey, where the mark of
a patient man is that he can accept the vicissitudes of life, as unlikely
as they might be, without doubting the ever-present but unseen hand of

Be patient; surely God's promise is true.  And ask forgiveness for your
sin, and proclaim the praise of your Lord at evening and dawn.

                           Islam.  Qur'an 40.55

Though he be ever so tired by repeated failure, let him begin his
operations again and again; for fortune greatly favors the man who
perseveres in his undertakings.

                      Hinduism.  Laws of Manu 9.300

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap,
if we do not lose heart.

                   Christianity.  Bible, Galatians 6.9

How long can you continue to sacrifice with a heart of love?  This is what
determines whether you have victory or defeat.

               Unification Church.  Sun Myung Moon, 9-1-72

Once when the Master was standing by a stream, he said, "Could one but go
on and on like this, never ceasing day or night!"

                       Confucianism.  Analects 9.16

The snail has no hands,
The snail has no feet,
Gently the snail climbs the tree.

         African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

If fishermen, hunters, and farmers,
Thinking merely of their own livelihood,
Endure the sufferings of heat and cold,
Why am I not patient for the sake of the world's joy?

      Buddhism.  Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life

He who endures to the end will be saved.

                        Christianity.  Mark 13.13

The day that the sun sets and does not rise again is indeed an evil day.

         African Traditional Religions.  Igala Proverb (Nigeria)

Perseverance prevails even against Heaven.

                     Judaism.  Talmud, Sanhedrin 105a

Prosperity forsakes those who always dream of fate and favors those who
persevere.  One should therefore always be active and alert.

                      Hinduism.  Matsya Purana 221.2

Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life 4.40: Cf. Dhammapada 80, p. 731, another comparison of the spiritual task to worldly labors. Igala Proverb: Even the worst problems have solutions if one only perseveres. Sanhedrin 105a: 'Heaven' here may mean one's God-ordained destiny. Cf. Matsya Purana 180.5-7, p. 710. Matsya Purana 221.2: Cf. Acarangasutra 1.35-37. p. 739.
Master Tseng said, "The true Knight of the Way must perforce be both broad-shouldered and stout of heart; his burden is heavy and he has far to go. For Goodness is the burden he has taken upon himself; and must we not grant that it is a heavy one to bear? Only with death does his journey end; then must we not grant that he has far to go?" Confucianism. Analects 8.7 Life is like a hill. Mawu the Creator made it steep and slippery, To right and left deep waters surround it, You cannot turn back once you start to climb. You must climb with a load on your head. A man's arms will not help him, for it's a trial, The world is a place of trial. African Traditional Religions. Dahomey Song You who believe, seek help through patience and prayer; God stands alongside the patient! We will test you with a bit of fear and hunger, and a shortage of wealth and souls and produce. Proclaim such to patient people who say, whenever disaster strikes them, "We are God's, and are returning to Him!" Such will be granted their prayers by their Lord as well as mercy. Those are guided! Islam. Qur'an 2.153-57 Race with one another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden. Islam. Qur'an 57.21 Heedful among the heedless, wide awake amongst the slumbering, the wise man advances as does a swift horse, leaving a weak jade behind. Buddhism. Dhammapada 29 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. Christianity. 1 Corinthians 9.24-27
Analacts 8.7: Cf. I Ching 58, p. 201; Lotus Sutra 13, pp. 882f. Qur'an 2.153-57: Cf. Qur'an 2.177, p. 861; 3.186, p. 879. 1 Corinthians 9.24-27: Cf. 1 Timothy 4.7-8, p. 716; Hebrews 12.1-2, pp. 754f.
You will be running to the four corners of the universe: To where the land meets the big water; To where the sky meets the land; To where the home of winter is; To the home of rain. Run this! Run! Be strong! For you are the mother of a people. Native American Religions. Apache Song Scripture credits with performance not him who begins a task, but him who completes it. Judaism. Talmud, Sota 13b You have crossed the great ocean; why do you halt so near the shore? Make haste to get on the other side, Gautama; be careful all the while! Jainism. Uttaradhyayana Sutra 10.34 Mencius said, "To try to achieve anything is like digging a well. You can dig a hole nine fathoms deep, but if you fail to reach the source of water, it is just an abandoned well." Confucianism. Mencius VII.A.29 Rabbi Akiba, illiterate at forty, saw one day a stone's perforation where water fell from a spring, and having heard people say, "Waters wear stones," he thought, "If soft water can bore through a rock, surely iron-clad Torah should, by sheer persistence, penetrate a tender mind"; and he turned to study. Judaism. Talmud, Abot de Rabbi Nathan 6 Suppose a man goes to the forest to get some of the pith that grows in the center of a tree and returns with a burden of branches and leaves, thinking that he has secured what he went after; would he not be foolish? A person seeks a path that will lead him away from misery; and yet, he follows that path a little way, notices some little advance, and immediately becomes proud and conceited. He is like the man who sought pith and came back satisfied with a burden of branches and leaves. Another man goes into the forest seeking pith and comes back with a load of branches. He is like the person on the path who becomes satisfied with the progress he has made by a little effort, and relaxes his effort and becomes proud and conceited. Another man comes back carrying a load of bark instead of the pith he was looking for. He is like the person who finds that his mind is becoming calmer and his thoughts clearer, and then relaxes his effort and becomes proud and conceited. Then another man brings back a load of the woody fiber of the tree instead of the pith. Like him is one who has gained a measure of intuitive insight, and then relaxes his effort. All of these seekers, who become easily satisfied after insufficient effort and become proud and overbearing, relax their efforts and easily fall into idleness. All these people will inevitably face suffering again. Buddhism. Majjhima Nikaya i.192-95: Simile of the Pith
Apache Song: This is a song for the girls' initiation to adulthood, which takes place at puberty. Mencius VII.A.29: Cf. Luke 14.28-31, p. 736.
It matters not what you learn; but when you once learn a thing, you must never give it up until you have mastered it. It matters not what you inquire into, but when you inquire into a thing, you must never give it up until you have thoroughly understood it. It matters not what you try to think out, but when you once try to think out a thing you must never give it up until you have got what you want. It matters not what you try to sift out, but when you once try to sift out a thing, you must never give it up until you have sifted it out clearly and distinctly. It matters not what you try to carry out, but when you once try to carry out a thing you must never give it up until you have done it thoroughly and well. If another man succeed by one effort, you will use a hundred efforts. If another man succeed by ten efforts, you will use a thousand efforts. Let a man really proceed in this manner, and though dull, he will surely become intelligent; though weak, he will surely become strong. Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 20 Now there was a day when [Job's] sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and there came a messenger to Job, and said, "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "The Chaldeans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you." Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshipped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Judaism and Christianity. Job 1.13-22
Majjhima Nikaya i.192-95: Cf. Parable of the Sower, Mark 4.3-20, pp. 718f. Job 1.13-22: Cf. Job 2.9-10, pp. 707f.; Anguttara Nikaya iii.33, p. 697.
Moses... found one of Our servants to whom We had given mercy from Ourself and taught him knowledge from Our very presence. Moses said to him, "May I follow you so you may teach me some of the common sense you have been taught?" He said, "You will never have any patience with me! How can you show any patience with something that is beyond your experience?" He said, "You will find me patient, if God so wishes. I will not disobey you in any matter." He said, "If you follow me, do not ask me about anything until I tell you something to remember it by." So they both started out until, as they boarded a ship, he bored a hole in her. [Moses] said, "Have you scuttled her to drown her crew? You have done such a weird thing!" He said, "Didn't I say that you would not manage to show any patience with me?" He said, "Do not take me to task for what I have forgotten, nor weigh me down by making my case too difficult for me." They journeyed on and when they met a youth, he killed him. Moses said, "Have you killed an innocent soul, who himself had not murdered another? You have committed such a horrible deed!" He said, "Did I not tell you that you would never manage to have any patience with me?" He said, "If I ever ask you about anything after this, do not let me accompany you. You have found an excuse so far as I am concerned." They both proceeded further till when they came to the people of a town, they asked its inhabitants for some food, and they refused to treat either of them hospitably. They found a wall there which was about to tumble down, so he set it straight. Moses said, "If you had wished, you might have accepted some payment for it." He said, "This means a parting between you and me. Yet I shall inform you about the interpretation of what you had no patience for. "As for the ship, it belonged to some poor men who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it because there was a king behind them seizing every ship by force. The young man's parents were believers, and we dreaded lest he would burden them with arrogation and disbelief. We wanted the Lord to replace him for them with someone better than him in purity and nearer to tenderness. The wall belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and a treasure of theirs lay underneath it. Their father had been honorable, so your Lord wanted them to come of age and claim their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. That is the interpretation of what you showed no patience for." Islam. Qur'an 18.65-82
Qur'an 18.65-82: The biblical Moses had a weakness of anger and impatience; once he killed an Egyptian and as a consequence had to flee Egypt and live in exile in Midian; cf. Numbers 20.2-13, p. 924. This parable about Moses has no parallel in the Bible. Moses seeks out a teacher, which shows that despite his great faith and wisdom, he was always humble to truth and eager to learn more. The unnamed teacher whom he meets is one who is deeply acquainted with the secrets of life; tradition assigns him the name Khidr. He has such spiritual insight that he can see the reality behind appearances. For Moses, and all of us who lack such unusual powers of insight, the truth is hidden, and we make mistakes if we rely on quick judgments. The truth can only be found out through patience and trust in God. Cf. Proverbs 3.5-6, p. 752.