A Simple Common Morality Across All Religions


It may be impossible to know about death and the afterlife for sure, but by accepting the limits of our knowledge and the limits of our influence over ourselves and the world around us, perhaps we can accept our own mortality with grace and see objectively that death is not inferior to life—that they are two sides of the same coin which should be embraced equally.

Additional Quotes

The Buddha

"'When the Aggregates arise, decay and die, O bhikkhu, every moment you are born, decay, and die.' This, even now during this life time, every moment we are born and die, but we continue. If we can understand that in this life we can continue without a permanent, unchanging substance like Self or Soul, why can't we understand that those forces themselves can continue without a Self or a Soul behind them after the non-functioning of the body?”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“Do not say that those who are killed in God’s cause are dead; they are alive, though you do not realize it.”

Pascal Boyer
Cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“Dead people, like vegetables, can be pickled or preserved. You can also abandon them to the beasts of the field, burn them like rubbish or bury them like treasure. From embalming to cremation, all sorts of techniques are used to do something with the corpse. But the point is, something must be done. This is a constant and has been so for a long time[…]the fact that early humans did decorate corpses, lay out the bodies in particular postures or bury people with flowers, aligned horns or tools would support the notion that some ritualization of death is a very ancient human activity.”

The New Testament
Christian scripture

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Ramprasad Sen
Hindu poet

“Tell me, brother, what happens after death?
The whole world is arguing about it—
Some say you become a ghost,
Others that you go to heaven,
And some that you get close to God,
And the Vedas insist you’re a bit of sky
Reflected in a jar fated to shatter.

When you look for sin and virtue in nothing,
You end up with nothing.
The elements live in the body together
But go their own ways at death.

Prasad says: you end, brother,
Where you began, a reflection
Rising in water, mixing with water,
Finally one with water.”

Shunryu Suzuki
Zen master

“You are living in this world as one individual, but before you take the form of a human being, you are already there, always there. We are always here. Do you understand? You think before you were born you were not here. But how is it possible for you to appear in this world, when there is no you? Because you are already there, you can appear in the world. Also, it is not possible for something to vanish which does not exist. Because something is there, something can vanish. You may think that when you die, you disappear, you no longer exist. But even though you vanish, something which is existent cannot be non-existent. That is the magic.”

Sefer Ha-Aggadah
Collection of Jewish writings

“A raven whose companion had just died said: I will teach Adam what to do. The raven took his dead companion, dug up the earth before the eyes of Adam and his mate, and buried him in it. Adam said: We will do as the raven. At once he took Abel's corpse and buried it in the ground.”

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage

“We can point to the wood that has burned, but when the fire has passed on, we cannot know where it has gone.”

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage

“When she first died, I certainly mourned just like everyone else! However, I then thought back to her birth and to the very roots of her being, before she was born. Indeed, not just before she was born but before the time when her body was created. Not just before her body was created but before the very origin of her life’s breath. Out of all this, through the wonderful mystery of change she was given her life’s breath. Her life’s breath wrought a transformation and she had a body. Her body wrought a transformation and she was born. Now there is yet another transformation and she is dead. She is like the four seasons in the way that spring, summer, autumn, and winter follow each other. She is now at peace, lying in her chamber, but if I were to sob and cry it would certainly appear that I could not comprehend the ways of destiny.”

Universal House of Justice
Baha'i governing body

“As at the time of death, the real and eternal self of man, his soul, abandons its physical garment to soar in the realms of God, we may compare the body to a vehicle which has been used for the journey through earthly life and no longer needed once the destination has been reached.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture

“Those who remember me at the time of death will come to me. Do not doubt this. Whatever occupies the mind at the time of death determines the destination of the dying; always they will tend toward that state of being.”