THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY
The pillars of a nation are those exceptional people who provide its spiritual and moral anchor and bestow its vision and purpose. These are not ordinarily its politicians or rulers. Rather, they are the righteous people, saints, and teachers, ordinary people of courage, principle and conscience, people who realize the truth within themselves and are willing to take responsibility for their community. Rarely are they recognized and honored in their lifetime; sometimes they are tolerated as goads and troublemakers and only appreciated after their death; most often they are unsung, anonymous people who, because they are sincere and conscientious, suffer in a world of vanities. These are people who have a deep realization of truth and are called to serve as society's internal leaders. Their example and message has a transforming effect on those who approach them with humility and deference. It is often of far greater value than the policies and speeches of the governing authorities.
There are [always] thirty righteous men among the nations, by whose virtue the nations of the world continue to exist.
1. Judaism. Talmud, Hullin 92a
The earth is upheld by the veracity of those who have subdued their passions, and, following righteous practices, are never contaminated by desire, covetousness, and wrath.
2. Hinduism. Vishnu Purana 3.12
Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
3. Judaism and Christianity. 1 Kings 19.18
When the righteous man is in the town, he is its luster, its majesty, and its glory. When he leaves it, its luster, its majesty, and its glory depart.
4. Judaism. Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 68.6
The perfume of flowers blows not against the wind, nor does the fragrance of sandalwood, tagara and jasmine, but the fragrance of the virtuous blows against the wind; the virtuous man pervades every direction.
5. Buddhism. Dhammapada 54
Hard to find is a man of great wisdom: such a man is not born everywhere. Where such a wise man is born, that family thrives happily.
6. Buddhism. Dhammapada 193
Hullin 92a: God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for want of ten righteous men; see Genesis 18.20-33, pp. 680f. Cf. Berakot 17b, p. 202; Abot 1.2, p. 255; Tanhuma, p. 609. 1 Kings 19.18: In God's message to the prophet Elijah on Mount Sinai, we have mention of a righteous remnant that will be spared when God judges Israel. The concept of the remnant is found throughout the prophets: see Isaiah 6.13; 7.3-4; 10.20-23; Amos 5.15. Genesis Rabbah 68.6: Cf. Analects 4.1, p. 277.
Surely Allah will raise for this community at the beginning of every century one who shall revive for it its faith.
7. Islam. Hadith of Abu Dawud 1
The myriad objects owe their existence to the mutual stimulation subsisting between Heaven and earth. Similarly, the holy sage stimulates men's hearts and the whole world is thenceforth at peace.
8. Confucianism. I Ching 31: Attraction
Take responsibility for the most difficult problem in your nation. Take responsibility for the most difficult problem of your church. Take responsibility for the most difficult problem of the world.
9. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 5-1-81
The bodhisattvas, guardians of the city of Dharma, uphold the true doctrine, and their great teachings resound like the lion's roar throughout the ten directions. Without having to be asked, they are the natural spiritual benefactors of all living beings.
10. Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 1
In the Book of Songs it is said,
He makes no show of his moral worth, Yet all the princes follow in his steps.
Hence the moral man, by living a life of simple truth and earnestness, alone can help to bring peace and order in the world.
11. Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 33
My saints are under my protection, and only I know them.
12. Islam. Hadith
The saying goes, "The fish should not be taken from the deep pool; the sharp weapons of the state should not be shown to men." The sage is the sharp weapon of the world, and therefore he should not be where the world can see him.
13. Taoism. Chuang Tzu 10
Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 1: Cf. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 4, p. 277. Doctrine of the Mean 33: In Shinto, the emperor is most perfecty in accord with the kami and is set forth as an example for others; see Divine Injunctions, p. 207. Hadith: This is a Sufi tradition; Sufi groups are often secret societies. Chuang Tzu 10: Taoist sages typically live in seclusion; Cf. Tao Te Ching 20, p. 528.
Confucius remarked, "Among the means for the regeneration of mankind, those made with noise and show are of the least importance."
14. Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 33
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
15. Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 42.2-3
A stranger colonial administrator, however vigilant, Cannot perceive a locality as clearly as an indigene [village elder]. It is the attitude of the indigine to the affairs of his locality Which determines that of the stranger to the same. Malofin, the entire town is in your hand. "Situations do not get spoiled when elders are around," This is the age-old wise saying.
16. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Song (Nigeria)
Rabbi Assi and Rabbi Ammi, on an educational inspection tour, came to a town and asked for its guardians. The councilmen appeared, but the rabbis said, "These are not guardians, but wreckers of a town! The guardians are the teachers of the young, and instructors of the old, as is written: 'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain' [Psalm 127.1]."
17. Judaism. Midrash, Lamentations Rabbah, Proem 2
They say, "Why is not this Qur'an sent down to some leading man in either of the two chief cities?" Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of the Lord? It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in the life of this world: and We raise some of them above others in ranks, so that some may command work from others. But the Mercy of the Lord is better than the wealth which they amass.
18. Islam. Qur'an 43.31-32
Isaiah 42.2-3: This is part of the Servant Song given in full on p. 449. Lamentations Rabbah, Proem 2: Cf. Sutta Nipata 261, p. 686, and related passages on the value of education.