World Scripture


Texts on loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-felt love for others fall into four groups. First we have general admonitions to kindness, benevolence, and gentleness. Next come passages which recommend loving-kindness and mercy as superior to ritual observances. Third are passages which stress the impartiality and universality of the heart of mercy; it transcends considerations of family, race, nationality, or religion. Love that naturally develops between members of a family should be extended to embrace all beings. Among the texts gathered here is Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan; also a text from the Upanishads on the Voice of Thunder, who utters three "Da's" to describe the three interrelated virtues of self-control, giving, and compassion.

Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.

1.Islam. Qur'an 39.10

Those who do not abandon mercy will not be abandoned by me.

2.Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Itsukushima

Love covers a multitude of sins.

3.Christianity. 1 Peter 4.8

Mencius said, "'Benevolence' means 'man.' When these two are conjoined, the result is 'the Way.'"

4.Confucianism. Mencius VII.B.16

Have benevolence towards all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the indolent and ill-behaved.

5.Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 7.11

God enjoins justice, kindness, and charity to one's kindred, and forbids indecency, abomination, and oppression. He admonishes you so that you may take heed.

6.Islam. Qur'an 16.90

The world stands upon three things: upon the Law, upon worship, and upon showing kindness.

7.Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 1.2

Gentle character it is which enables the rope of life to stay unbroken in one's hand.

8.African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

He who can find no room for others lacks fellow feeling, and to him who lacks fellow feeling, all men are strangers.

9.Taoism. Chuang Tzu 23

Treat people in such a way and live amongst them in such a manner that if you die they will weep over you; alive they crave for your company.

10.Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Saying 9

What sort of religion can it be without compassion?
You need to show compassion to all living beings.
Compassion is the root of all religious faiths.

11.Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 247

The bhikkhu who abides in loving-kindness, who is pleased with the Buddha's teaching, attains to that state of peace and happiness, the stilling of conditioned things, Nibbana. Let him be cordial in all his ways and refined in conduct; filled thereby with joy, he will make an end of ill.

12.Buddhism. Dhammapada 368, 376

Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai said, "Go forth and see which is the good way to which a man should cleave." Rabbi Eliezar said, "A good eye"; Rabbi Joshua said, "A good friend"; Rabbi Jose said, "A good neighbor"; Rabbi Simeon said, "One who foresees the fruit of an action"; Rabbi Elazar said, "A good heart." Thereupon he said to them, "I approve the words of Elazar ben Arach, rather than your words, for in his words yours are included."

13.Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 2.13

Monks, whatsoever grounds there be for good works undertaken with a view to [favorable] rebirth, all of them are not worth one-sixteenth part of that goodwill which is the heart's release; goodwill alone, which is the heart's release, shines and burns and flashes forth in surpassing them.

14.Buddhism. Itivuttaka 19

Even though it be the home of someone who has managed for long to avoid misfortune, we gods will not enter into the dwelling of a person with perverse disposition. Even though it be a dwelling where a man be in mourning for father and mother, if he be a man of compassion, we deities will enter in there.

15.Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Kasuga

Mencius VII.B.16: In Chinese characters, 'benevolence' ( ) and 'man' ( ) are cognates. Nahjul Balagha: See Hadith, p. 569, on the Prophet's mercy, which made such a strong impression. Dhammapada 368, 376: See Digha Nikaya iii.76-77, p. 211. Itivuttaka 19: While Mahayana Buddhism often criticizes the Theravada discipline as a path of self-seeking, this Theravada text takes the position that such self advancement is inferior to goodwill. By loving others, the heart is released from egoism and stands on a truly selfless, universal foundation. Cf. Precious Garland 283, p. 741; Micah 6.6-8, p. 742; Gauri Sukhmani 12, M.5, p. 813. Abot 2.13: Cf. Kiddushin 40a, p. 403. Oracle of the Kami of Kasuga: Shinto regards a dwelling where such mourning is going on to be polluted by death, normally a state which the gods would strictly avoid. Cf. Precious Garland 283, p. 741; Micah 6.6-8, p. 742.

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and the disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'"

16.Christianity. Matthew 9.10-13

Once, as Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai was coming forth from Jerusalem, Rabbi Joshua followed after him and beheld the Temple in ruins. "Woe unto us," Rabbi Joshua cried, "that this, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for, is laid waste!"

"My son," Rabbi Yohanan said to him, "be not grieved. We have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of loving-kindness, kindness, as it is said, 'For I desire mercy and not sacrifice' [Hosea 6.6]."

17.Judaism. Talmud, Abot de Rabbi Nathan 6

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all-embracing embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine.

18.Buddhism. Khuddaka Patha, Metta Sutta

Anas and 'Abdullah reported God's Messenger as saying, "All [human] creatures are God's children, and those dearest to God are those who treat His children kindly."

19.Islam. Hadith of Baihaqi

Do not rebuke an older man but exhort him as you would a father; treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, all in purity.

20.Christianity. 1 Timothy 5.1-2

A man once asked the Prophet what was the best thing in Islam, and the latter replied, "It is to feed the hungry and to give the greeting of peace both to those one knows and to those one does not know."

21.Islam. Hadith of Bukhari

Matthew 9.10-13: Jesus is quoting Hosea 6.6; cf. Micah 6.6-8, p. 742. The following passage from the Talmud also quotes Hosea 6.6 to make a similar point. Metta Sutta: Cf. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 4, p. 277; Leviticus 19.18, p. 158. 1 Timothy 5.1-2: Cf. Anupreksa 337-39, p. 798; Sutra of Forty-two Sections 29, p. 798.

The bodhisattva should adopt the same attitude towards all beings, his mind should be even towards all beings, he should not handle others with an uneven mind, but with a mind which is friendly, well-disposed, helpful, free from aversions avoiding harm and hurts, he should handle others as if they were his mother, father, son, or daughter. As a savior of all beings should a bodhisattva behave towards all beings. So should he train him- self if he wants to know full enlightenment.

22.Buddhism. Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 321-22

Treat the aged of your own family in a manner befitting their venerable age and extend this treatment to the aged of other families; treat your own young in a manner befitting their tender age and extend this to the young of other families, and you can roll the empire on your palm. The Book of Songs says,

He set an example for his consort
And also for his brothers,
And so ruled over the family and the state.

In other words, all you have to do is take this very heart here and apply it to what is over there. Hence one who extends his bounty can bring peace to the Four Seas; one who does not cannot bring peace even to his own family. There is just one thing in which the Ancients greatly surpassed others, and that is the way they extended what they did.

23.Confucianism. Mencius I.A.7

Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 321-22: Cf. Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 402-03, p. 869; Garland Sutra 11, pp. 718-19; Digha Nikaya xiii.76-77, p. 21; and the Bodhisattva Vow: Sikshasamuccaya 280-81, p. 837a, and Garland Sutra 23, p. 837a. On treating others as members of one's own family, see Gandavyuha Sutra, p. 841; Mahaparinirvana Sutra 15.20b, pp. 211f.; Digha Nikaya iii.185-90, pp. 223f.; also Sutra of 42 Sections 29, p. 798. Mencius I.A.7: The principle of extending the heart of love within the family to others outside the family is the Confucian answer to the allegation that Confucian ethics leads to partiality. Cf. Book of Ritual 7.1.2, pp. 259-60; Chuang Tzu 23, p. 211; Analects 4.3-4, p. 210.

A lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half-dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go, and do likewise."

24.Christianity. Luke 10.25-37: Parable of the Good Samaritan

The threefold offspring of Prajapati--gods, men, and demons--dwelt with their father Prajapati as students of sacred knowledge.

Having lived the life of a student of sacred knowledge, the gods said, "Speak to us, sir." To them then he spoke this syllable, "Da." "Did you understand?" "We did understand," said they. "You said to us, 'Restrain yourselves (damyata).'" "Yes (Om)!" said he. "You did under- stand."

So then the men said to him, "Speak to us, sir." To them he spoke this syllable, "Da." "Did you understand?" "We did understand," said they. "You said to us, 'Give (datta).'" "Yes (Om)!" said he. "You did understand."

So then the demons said to him, "Speak to us, sir." To them he spoke this syllable, "Da." "Did you understand?" "We did understand," said they. "You said to us, 'Be compassionate (dayadhvam).'" "Yes (Om)!" said he. "You did understand."

The same thing does the divine voice here, thunder, repeat, Da! Da! Da! that is, restrain yourselves, give, be compassionate. One should practice this same triad, self-restraint, giving, compassion.

25.Hinduism. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.2.2: The Voice of Thunder

I have three treasures. Guard and keep them:
The first is deep love,
The second is frugality,
The third is not to dare to take the lead in the world.
Because of deep love, one is courageous.
Because of frugality, one is generous.
Because of not daring to take the lead in the world, one becomes the leader of the world.
Now, to be courageous by forsaking deep love,
To be generous by forsaking frugality,
And to take the lead in the world by forsaking following behind--
This is fatal.
For deep love helps one to win in case of attack,
And to be firm in the case of defense.
When Heaven is to save a person,
Heaven will protect him through deep love.

26.Taoism. Tao Te Ching 67

Luke 10.25-37: This parable is both a lesson on universal compassion and a warning against self-righteousness on the part of religious people. 'My neighbor' means the man half-dead on the road, whom the priest passed by on the other side because of the ritual prohibition against touching a dead body: this recalls the controversy over healing on the sabbath, see Matthew 12.9-14, p. 744; also Hitachi Fudoki, p. 862. Such concern for ritual purity must yield before the demand for compassion. Then it is the Samaritan, long despised as a heretic by right-thinking Jews, who properly shows mercy and fulfills the Law, while the priest and Levite, who were respected religious leaders, did not. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.2.2: Cf. Matthew 22.36-40, p. 159n.