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Intuitively, most of us believe that the harder we work, the more successful we will be; the more we assert ourselves, the more we will come to establish control over the world around us. But upon further inspection, this may not be the way the world works at all. Working too hard leads to burnout, which in turn can lead to physical ailments and even death in extreme cases. Athletes who overexert themselves put themselves at greater risk for injury. And as we all know, actively trying to fall asleep is the best way to not get any sleep at all. Sometimes it is necessary to put our conscious minds in abeyance and relax our efforts rather than intensify them in order to get what we want.  Wisdom is more about unlearning than learning. In order for God, that which is most binding and common to come forth, we must kill the ego, that which is most individual and selfish. In order to see the outer world clearly, we must empty ourselves out to let the other in.

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Quotations

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Teresa of Avila
Christian saint
Christianity

“However great the effort we make to do so, we cannot enter. His Majesty must place us there and enter Himself into the center of our soul."

C.S. Lewis
Christian theologian and writer
Christianity

“A man who starts anxiously watching to see whether he is going to sleep is very likely to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I am talking of now may not happen to every one in a sudden flash — as it did to St Paul or Bunyan: it maybe so gradual that no one could ever point to a particular hour or even a particular year. And what matters is the nature of the change in itself, not how we feel while it is happening. It is the change from being confident about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for ourselves and leave it to God.”

C.S. Lewis
Christian theologian and writer
Christianity

"In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the only thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair."

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

“It was He who made His tranquility descend into the hearts of the believers, to add faith to their faith."

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

“Our Lord, make us devoted to You; make our descendants into a community devoted to You. Show us how to worship and accept our repentance, for You are the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful.”

Martin Buber
Austrian-Israeli Jewish philosopher
Judaism

“This is the activity of the human being who has become whole: it has been called not-doing, for nothing particular, nothing partial is at work in man and thus nothing of him intrudes into the world. It is the whole human being, closed in its wholeness, at rest in its wholeness, that is active here, as the human being has become an active whole. When one has achieved steadfastness in this state, one is able to venture forth toward the supreme encounter."

‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

“The grace of God is beating down upon mankind, even as the rains in spring, and the rays of the manifest Light have made this earth to be the envy of heaven. But alas, the blind are deprived of this bounty, the heedless are closed off from it, the withered despair of it, the faded are dying away -- so that even as flooding waters, this endless stream of grace passeth back into its primal source in a hidden sea. Only a few receive this grace and take their share of it. Wherefore, let us put our hopes in whatever the strong arm of the Beloved can bring about."

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Those who surrender to Brahman all selfish attachments are like the leaf of a lotus floating clean and dry in water. Sin cannot touch them.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.”

Mahatma Gandhi
Acknowledged by Indians as Father of the Nation
Hinduism

“This is the unmistakable teaching of the Gita. He who gives up action falls. He who gives up only the reward rises. But renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it.”

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“Life stops and starts, is born and dies, grows and declines, and there is nothing which can be done about this. People think the ruler of all this is humanity. Forget that, forget Heaven and be known as one of those who forgot self. The person who forgets self can be known as the one who enters Heaven."

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“It is said, ‘One who follows the Tao daily does less and less. As he does less and less, he eventually arrives at actionless action. Having achieved actionless action, there is nothing which is not done.’ Now that we have become active, if we wish to return to our original state, we will find it very difficult!"

Lao Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“Those who seek learning gain every day
Those who seek the Way lose every day
They lose and they lose
Until they find nothing to do
Nothing to do means nothing not done
Those who rule the world aren’t busy
Those who are busy
Can’t rule the world”

Hermann Hesse
German-Swiss novelist
Art & Literature

"I learned from my body and my soul that I was in great need of sin; I needed sensual pleasures, the ambition for possessions, vanity, and I needed the most humiliating despair in order to learn how to give up my resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to cease comparing it with some world of my wishes or my imagination, with some type of perfection that I had concocted, but to leave it the way it is, to love it, and to be a part of it gladly."

Jiddu Krishnamurti
Philosopher and speaker
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“Only when you discard completely, through understanding, the whole structure of the self, can that which is eternal, timeless, immeasurable, come into being. You cannot go to it; it comes to you."

William James
American psychologist and philosopher
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“There is a state of mind, known to religious men, but to no others, in which the will to assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the floods and waterspouts of God.”

William James
American psychologist and philosopher
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“You know how it is when you try to recall a forgotten name.  Usually you help the recall by working for it, by mentally running over the places, persons, and things with which the word was connected.  But sometimes this effort fails: you feel then as if the harder you tried the less hope there would be, as though the name were JAMMED, and pressure in its direction only kept it all the more from rising.  And then the opposite expedient often succeeds. Give up the effort entirely; think of something altogether different, and in half an hour the lost name comes sauntering into your mind, as Emerson says, as carelessly as if it had never been invited.”

Marcus J. Borg
New Testament scholar and theologian
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“The image of following ‘the way’ is common in Judaism, and ‘the way’ involves a new heart, a new self centered in God. One of the meanings of the word “Islam” is “surrender”: to surrender one’s life to God by radically centering in God. And Muhammad is reported to have said, ‘Die before you die.’ Die spiritually before you die physically, die metaphorically (and really) before you die literally. At the heart of the Buddhist path is ‘letting go’—the same internal path as dying to an old way of being and being born into a new. According to the Tao te Ching, a foundational text for both Taoism and Zen Buddhism, Lao Tzu said: ‘If you want to become full, let yourself be empty; if you want to be reborn, let yourself die.’ This process of personal spiritual transformation—what we as Christians call being born again, dying and rising with Christ, life in the Spirit—is thus central to the world’s religions."

Pierre Hadot
French philosopher and historian
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“This is the case, for instance, in Dorotheus of Gaza, who describes spiritual perfection in completely Stoic terms: it is the transformation of the will so that it becomes identified with the Divine Will: He who has no will of his own always does what he wishes. For since he has no will of his own, everything that happens satisfies him. He finds himself doing as he wills all the time, for he does not want things to be as he wills them, but he wills that they be just as they are."

Babylonian Talmud
Collection of Jewish writings
Judaism

"No one lifts a finger on earth unless it is so decreed in heaven."

Shunryu Suzuki
Zen master
Buddhism

“Bowing helps to eliminate our self-centered ideas. This is not so easy. It is difficult to get rid of these ideas, and bowing is a very valuable practice. The result is not the point; it is the effort to improve ourselves that is valuable. There is no end to this practice.”

Zhu Xi
Confucian scholar
Confucianism

"A student asked, 'How can a person develop his sincerity and reverence and get rid of his desires?' Zhu Xi responded, “These are the end-points. Sincerity requires getting rid of all sorts of falseness. Reverence requires getting rid of all sorts of laziness. Desires should be blocked.”

Taoteching
Daoist Text
Daoism

“Which of you can assume such murkiness, to become in the end still and clear?
Which of you can make yourself inert, to become in the end full of life and stir?” (15)

Shoni Labowitz
Rabbi and author
Judaism

"You are born with grace. There is nothing for you to do to deserve grace; it is an ordained state of generosity, goodness, and purity that already resides in your consciousness. When you are gracious to another, grace emanates through you and serves humanity and the earth."