World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
Goodness And Love
The following two sections bring together passages describing some personal attributes of Ultimate Reality. This section has passages from scripture discussing God's attributes of goodness and love. Most of them describe God as good, loving, beautiful, truthful, compassionate, and faithful in personal terms. Theologians have argued that the personality of God is the highest aspect of God's nature, just as the faculties of intellect, emotion, and will make human beings the highest achievement of the created order. The opening passages depict goodness, compassion, and love as the primary attributes of Ultimate Reality. We follow with passages which describe God's gracious provision to human beings, where God's goodness is especially manifest in His help for the poor and downtrodden.
In addition, there are passages which describe the absolute goodness of Ultimate Reality in impersonal terms. Ultimate Reality is above the fetters of human cravings and above relative human judgments of good and evil. This goodness is universal and all-embracing. Common metaphors liken this goodness to the beneficial influences of the rain and the sun to promote growth and abundance to all nature.
The passages in this section focus on the nature of Ultimate Reality itself as loving, merciful, and good. Related themes on various manifestations of divine love and mercy may be found throughout the anthology: see Grace, pp. 505-12, Help and Deliverance, pp. 557-68; and themes on human love as a response to divine love in True Love, pp. 236-41, Husband and Wife, pp. 251-64, Devotion and Praise, p. 760-66, and Loving Kindness, pp. 967-73.
God is love.
Christianity. Bible, 1 John 4.8
My mercy embraces all things.
Islam. Qur'an 7.156
The Great Compassionate Heart is the essence of Buddhahood.
Buddhism. Gandavyuha Sutra
To love is to know Me, My innermost nature, The truth that I am.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.55
The hawk says, "All God did is good."
African Traditional Religions. Ashanti Proverb (Ghana)
God is All-gentle to His servants, providing for whomsoever He will.
Islam. Qur'an 42.19
Tao never acts, yet nothing is left undone.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 37
That which is free from birth, old age, disease, death, grief, pain, and fear, is eternal, blissful, and the nature of pure delight, is called Nirvana.
Jainism. Samantabadhra, Ratnakarandasravakacara 131
This is Peace, this is the excellent, namely the calm of all the impulses, the casting out of all "basis," the extinction of craving, dispassion, stopping, Nirvana.
Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya v.322
He, indeed, is the great Purusha, the Lord, who inspires the mind to attain the state of stainlessness. He is the Ruler and the imperishable Light.
Hinduism. Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.12
Qur'an 7.156: The mercy and beneficence of God are the foremost of His attributes mentioned in the Fatihah, Qur'an 1, p. 53. Ashanti Proverb: cf. Kikuya Prayer, p. 779. Qur'an 42.19: Cf. Qur'an 2.268-69, p. 508. Tao Te Ching 37: Wu wei or Non-action is the Taoist concept comparable to love in Christianity or mercy in Buddhism. It is the essence of Ultimate Reality's way of being and relating to creatures. It is impartial, and wholly benificent, whereas its opposite, action, is partial and leads to division, inequality, and strife. Cf. Tao Te Ching 34, p. 141. Ratnkarandasravakacara 31 and Anguttara Nikaya v.322: Nirvana is the Ultimate Good because it is the complete end of all the impulses and passions that produce evil.
Then did I recognize Thee in mind, to be the first and the last, O Lord,
Father of good thought, when I apprehended Thee in my eye,
True creator of Right, the Lord over the actions of life!
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 31.8
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 145.8-9
The Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds--
Who created me, and it is He who guides me;
Who gives me food and drink,
And when I am ill, it is He who cures me;
Who will cause me to die, and then to live again;
And Who, I hope, will forgive me my faults on the Day of Judgment.
Islam. Qur'an 26.77-82
The Dwelling of the Tathagata is the great compassionate heart within all the living. The Robe of the Tathagata is the gentle and forbearing heart. The Seat of the Tathagata is the "spirituality of all existence."
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 10
I have no corporeal existence, but Universal Benevolence is my divine body.
I have no physical power, but Uprightness is my strength.
I have no religious clairvoyance beyond what is bestowed by Wisdom,
I have no power of miracle other than the attainment of quiet happiness,
I have no tact except the exercise of gentleness.
Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Sumiyoshi
God is beautiful and loves beauty.
Islam. Hadith of Muslim
Lotus Sutra 10: This is another way of asserting the one ultimate which is all-embracing. The twin pillars of Mahayana Buddhism are wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna). At the level of feeling or experience, compassion is that which embraces all things. Wisdom teaches the oneness and inter-connectedness of all existence; hence it, too, evokes compassion. Hadith of Muslim: Cf. Atharva Veda 10.8.31, p. 76.
All that is evil, Savitri, God, send away from us, and send us what is good.
Purified, for spiritual might, under God Savitri's impulsion, we think of all beautiful things.
The universal God, Lord of goodness, we with hymns elect today, Savitri, whose power lies in truth.
Hinduism. Rig Veda 5.82.5-7
Love is the firstborn, loftier than the gods, the Fathers and men. You, O Love, are the eldest of all, altogether mighty. To you we pay homage!
Greater than the breadth of earth and heaven, or of waters and Fire, You, O Love, are the eldest of all, altogether mighty. To you we pay homage!
In many a form of goodness, O Love, you show your face. Grant that these forms may penetrate within our hearts. Send elsewhere all malice!
Hinduism. Atharva Veda 9.2.19-20, 25
One attempting to express God's creation and to contemplate it Shall find it beyond counting and innumerable. The Bull of Dharma is born of compassion; Content of mind holds creation together. Whoever understands this is enlightened; How great is the load under which this Bull stands!
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 16, M.1, p. 3
Rig Veda 5.28.5-7: God is recognized to be the source of goodness, truth, and beauty. Atharva Veda 9.2.19-20,25: Kama, translated 'Love,' is often translated Desire. Specifically, it is desire which seeks fulfillment in love, comparable to the Western concept of eros. According to the Rig Veda 10.129, p. 130, this love is the creative and generative power for all life. Kama appears in myth as the enemy of asceticism and spiritual attainment, yet he cannot be destroyed; all life depends upon the working of desire; see Skanda Purana 126.96.36.199-99, pp. 421f. Adi Granth, Japuji 16: The underlying source of the universe within its laws, the 'Bull of Dharma,' is the divine mind, specifically divine compassion. The world's pain and suffering is a heavy burden indeed: cf. pp. 457-62.
O good man! One who acts good is the "true thinking." The true thinking is compassion. Compassion is the Tathagata.
O good man! Compassion is the bodhi path; The bodhi path is the Tathagata. The Tathagata is compassion.
O good man! Compassion is Great Brahma. Great Brahma is compassion. Compassion is the Tathagata.
O good man! Compassion acts as parent to all beings. The parent is compassion. Know that compassion is the Tathagata.
O good man! Compassion is the Buddha Nature of all beings. Such a Buddha Nature is long overshadowed by illusion. That is why beings cannot see. The Buddha Nature is Compassion. Compassion is the Tathagata.
Buddhism. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 259
God drives away flies for a cow which has no tail.
African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
It is the Way of Heaven to show no favoritism. It is for ever on the side of the good man.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 79
What is God? He/she is an existence that absolutely lives for others.
Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 4-16-88
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Deuteronomy 10.17-18
Mahaparinirvana Sutra 259: Buddhist compassion is closer to the Western concept of agape love. It is not desire seeking fulfillment, but rather the unconditional offering of love, like that of parents to their children. Based on his compassion, Buddha is called the Father of the world in the Lotus Sutra 3, pp. 144f. Tao Te Ching 79: By 'favoritism' is meant the perquisites which the world gives to the rich and powerful. Cf. Bhagavad Gita 9.29 and comparable passages, pp. 278-82. Sun Myung Moon, 4-16-88: Cf. Matthew 5.43.48, p. 1000. Deuteronomy 10.17-18: God liberated Israel from slavery; the foundational experience of God in the Judeo-Christian tradition is as defender of the poor and powerless. Cf. 1 Samuel 2.4-9, pp. 545f.
O Rudra, that form of Yours which is benevolent, not fearful, not manifesting the sinful, with that most beneficent form, You who extend happiness to humankind from your mountain abode, reveal Yourself to us often. This Rudra of blue neck and red complexion, who glides aside, Him the shepherds saw, the servant maids that bring water saw, and even [the lowliest of] all beings saw--may He make us happy.
Obeisance to the God who is benevolent as well as terrible, who destroys beings and is their protector as well. Obeisance to the small and the puny, to the big and the aged. Obeisance to Him who is to be lauded with hymns and who is there where hymns do not reach. Obeisance to the redeemer, to the bringer of peace and happiness, to the producer of well-being and joy. Obeisance to Him who is auspicious and exceedingly so.
Hinduism. Black Yajur Veda 6.6
Lo! We have shown man the way, whether he be grateful or disbelieving.
Islam. Qur'an 76.3
He [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Christianity. Bible, Matthew 5.45
The Tao is the refuge for the myriad creatures. It is that by which the good man protects, And that by which the bad is protected.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 62
This world is a garden, The Lord its gardener, Cherishing all, none neglected.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Majh Ashtpadi, M.3, p. 118
Abundant is the year, with much millet and much rice; And we have our high granaries, With myriads, and hundreds of thousands, and millions [of measures in them]; For spirits and sweet spirits, To present our ancestors, male and female, And to supply all our ceremonies. The blessings sent down on us are of every kind.
Confucianism. Book of Songs, Ode 279
Black Yajur Veda 6.6: Rudra is another name for Shiva. The last sentence is the sacred Shiva mantra. Qur'an 76.3 and Matthew 5.45: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 9.29, p. 246; Romans 2.9-11, p. 246; Sun Myung Moon, p. 506; Vitaragastava 13.1, p. 506.
The scent of the sakaki leaves is fragrant; Drawing near, I see countless kinsmen Assembled all around, Assembled all around.
On divine-dwelling mountain of sacred altar, The sakaki leaves have grown thick In the presence of the kami. Before the kami They have grown in profusion.
The great Tao flows everywhere; It can go left; it can go right. The myriad things owe their existence to it, And it does not reject them. When its work is accomplished, It does not take possession. It clothes and feeds all, But does not pose as their master. Ever without ambition, It may be called Small. All things return to it as their home, And yet it does not pose as their master, Therefore it may be called Great. Because it would never claim greatness, Therefore its greatness is fully realized.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 34
It is He who sends down to you out of heaven water of which you may drink, and by which [grow] trees, for you to pasture your herds, and thereby He brings forth for you crops, and olives, and palms, and vines, and all manner of fruit.
Surely in that is a sign for a people who reflect. And He subjected for you the night and day, and the sun and moon; and the stars are subjected by His command.
Surely in that are signs for a people who understand. And He has multiplied for you in the earth things of diverse hues.
Surely in that is a sign for a people who remember. It is He who subjected for you the sea, that you may eat of it fresh flesh, and bring forth out of it ornaments for you to wear; and you may see the ships cleaving through it; that you may seek of His bounty, and so haply you will be thankful.... If you count God's blessing, you can never number it; surely God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.
Islam. Qur'an 16.10-18
Kagura-Uta: The branches of the sakaki tree, called tamagushi, are sacred in Shinto rites, and worshippers attach to them their offerings of hemp and paper streamers containing the prayers and fortunes of loved ones. The branches symbolize the spirit of the kami bestowing blessings to the world. Shinto worship incorporates ritual dances (kagura) which seek to bring about harmony in the universe. In the Kojiki, the kami are themselves seen performing a cosmic dance. Compare the dance of Shiva in Hinduism, which has both a creative and preservative role. Cf. One Hundred Poems on the Jewelled Spear, pp. 780f. Tao Te Ching 34: This selfless Tao is the way of the sage; cf Tao Te Ching 2, p. 941. Qur'an 16.10-18: Cf. Qur'an 6.95-99, pp. 76f.; 30.20-25, p. 77; 55.5-30, pp. 128f.
It is like unto a great cloud
Rising above the world,
Covering all things everywhere,
A gracious cloud full of moisture;
Lightning-flames flash and dazzle,
Voice of thunder vibrates afar,
Bringing joy and ease to all.
The sun's rays are veiled,
And the earth is cooled;
The cloud lowers and spreads
As if it might be caught and gathered;
Its rain everywhere equally
Descends on all sides,
Streaming and pouring unstinted,
Permeating the land.
On mountains, by rivers, in valleys,
In hidden recesses, there grow
The plants, trees, and herbs;
Trees, both great and small,
The shoots of the ripening grain,
Grape vine and sugar cane.
Fertilized are these by the rain
And abundantly enriched;
The dry ground is soaked,
Herbs and trees flourish together.
From the one water which
Issued from that cloud,
Plants, trees, thickets, forests,
According to their need receive moisture.
All the various trees,
Lofty, medium, low,
Each according to its size,
Grows and develops
Roots, stalks, branches, leaves,
Blossoms and fruits in their brilliant colors;
Wherever the one rain reaches,
All become fresh and glossy.
According as their bodies, forms
And natures are great or small,
So the enriching rain,
Though it is one and the same,
Yet makes each of them flourish.
In like manner also the Buddha
Appears here in the world,
Like unto a great cloud
Universally covering all things;
And having appeared in the world,
He, for the sake of the living,
Discriminates and proclaims
The truth in regard to all laws.
The Great Holy World-honored One,
Among the gods and men
And among the other beings,
Proclaims abroad this word:
"I am the Tathagata,
The Most Honored among men;
I appear in the world
Like unto this great cloud,
To pour enrichment on all
Parched living beings,
To free them from their misery
To attain the joy of peace,
Joy of the present world,
And joy of Nirvana....
Upon all I ever look
Without distinction of persons,
Or mind of love or hate.
I have no predilections
Nor any limitations;
Ever to all beings
I preach the Law equally;
As I preach to one person,
So I preach to all.
Ever I proclaim the Law,
Engaged in naught else;
Going, coming, sitting, standing,
Never am I weary of
Pouring it copious on the world,
Like the all-enriching rain.
On honored and humble, high and low,
Law-keepers and law-breakers,
Those of perfect character,
And those of imperfect,
Orthodox and heterodox,
Quick-witted and dull-witted,
Equally I rain the Law-rain
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 5
Lotus Sutra 5: This Parable of the Rain Cloud describes the impartial and equal care which the Buddha gives to all creatures. In addition, it speaks to the specific issue of this sutra, which is the unity of the various paths (shravaka-vehicle, pratyekabuddha-vehicle, and bodhisattva-vehicle) as stepping stones in the overarching dispensation of the Buddha--the One Vehicle.
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