World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


The Man For Others

The founder is the man for others, who gives his life and substance to save them. He manifests the quality of divine compassion and becomes the savior of humanity. The diverse passages in this section describe how each of the founders showed selfless love for others. Some texts recount his compassionate deeds of serving the people and giving of his means; some describe his self-sacrifice and bearing others' burdens; some describe his earnest efforts to preach and impart wisdom to lead the ignorant to enlightenment; and some describe how the founder put himself at risk in order to overcome ignorance and enmity.

We sent you [O Muhammad] not save as a mercy for the peoples.

Islam. Qur'an 21.107

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Christianity. Bible, John 1.29

This man, the holy one through righteousness, Holds in his spirit the force which heals existence, Beneficent unto all, as a sworn friend, O Wise One.

Zoroastrianism. Yasna 44.2

Qur'an 21.107: See Hadith of Ibn Sa`d, p. 648. John 1.29: Cf. Galatians 2.20, p. 898; Romans 3.23-25, p. 506; John 3.16, p. 506. Yasna 44.2: 'This man' is Zarathustra.

The Tathagata with unimpeded compassion pities the three worlds. The reason the Tathagata appeared in this world is to propagate the Buddha's teachings, to save all sentient beings, and to bestow true benefit upon them.

Buddhism. Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 2

The World-honored One is very rare; Only with difficulty can he be encountered. Fully endowed with incalculable merits, He can rescue and preserve all. The great teacher of gods and men, He takes pity on the world, And living beings in the ten directions All everywhere receive his favors.

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 7

When evil prevailed upon earth, when truth had been forgotten and life had become a sinful burden to mankind, there went out a prayer to God entreating Him to come down upon the earth as a Savior of humanity. The omniscient, omnipresent Lord knew the sufferings of mankind, and out of His great and all-consuming love for His children wished to lift the veil of ignorance which covered their sight--to be born as man, Krishna, in order to show them once more how to ascend towards Himself.

Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 10

The Tirthankara or Supreme Lord is adorable, endowed with omniscience, uncontaminated by human infirmities, immaculate and pure, devoid of any desire whatsoever, without beginning, middle, or end, and uniquely benevolent--all these are the characteristics of the Supreme Lord. Besides, without any selfish design, he preaches for the benefit of the unemancipated and suffering beings. True scripture, which flows spontaneously out of the Supreme Lord, is irrefutable, is salutary for the well-being of all kinds of beings, is capable of undermining the perverse path, and reveals the objective nature of things.

Jainism. Samantabhadra, Ratnakarandasravakacara 7-10

Confucius said, "From the very poorest upwards--beginning even with the man who could bring no better present than a bundle of dried flesh--none has ever come to me without receiving instruction."

Confucianism. Analects 7.7

Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 2: Cf. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 575-76, p. 527n. Lotus Sutra 7: The Lotus Sutra is full of parables depicting the Buddha's compassion. See the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Lotus Sutra 4, pp. 510f.; the Parable of the Good Physician, Lotus Sutra 16, pp. 1023f.; and the Parable of the Burning House, Lotus Sutra 3, p. 145n.; cf. Lotus Sutra 4, pp. 779f. Srimad Bhagavatam 10: The avatar is a manifestation of divine grace. Cf. Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8, p. 662; Ramayana, Bala Kanda 15, p. 625.

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his 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.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Christianity. Bible, Matthew 9.10-13

Seated under a palm tree the Holy One pondered, "The profound wisdom so hard to be understood is now known by me. These sin-defiled worlds understand not this most excellent Law, and the unenlightened shamelessly censure both me and my wisdom. Shall I proclaim this Law? It is only produced by knowledge; having attained it thus in my lonely pondering, do I feel strong enough to deliver the world?" Having remembered all that he had heard before, he again pondered; and resolved, "I will explain it for the sake of delivering the world."

Buddhism. Ashvaghosha, Buddhacarita 15.79-82

The apostles returned to Jesus... and he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." And the disciples said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Christianity. Bible, Mark 6.30-44: Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes

Matthew 9.10-13: This expresses Jesus' preference for sinners and outcasts. He was critical of a society which sharply distinguished the "good" and upright people from sinners and those, like tax-collectors, whom society scorned. He taught that God's mercy embraces even the meanest and most sinful of His creatures; compare Tannisho, pp. 757f. Buddhacarita 15.79-82: This episode comes shortly after Buddha won enlightenment but prior to his first sermon at Varanasi. Mark 6.30-44: While tradition regards the feeding of the five thousand as a supernatural miracle, some scholars explain it by saying that when Jesus brought out the five loaves and two fish to share with the multitudes, his generosity led many others in the audience to bring out the food which they had carried with them for the journey and share it with their fellows. As the spirit of generosity multiplied, the people found that they had more than enough food. This episode from Jesus' life is reflected in the fellowship of the Christian common meal. Other manifestations of Jesus' mercy can be found in his healings; see Mark 5.24-34, p. 526. Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 8.18: The Eighteenth Vow of the Amitabha Buddha--to effect universal salvation before he sets foot in Nirvana--is at the heart of Pure Land Buddhism. It represents the highest degree of the Buddha's compassion. At the same time, one who relies on this vow and its power can avoid the traps of self-dependence and striving, which only bind one to samsara. Striving on the path is useless; rather it is through faith in the power of this vow, called by Shinran the Power of Another, that one can have confidence in salvation; see Tannisho, pp. 757f. See Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 9.1-5, p. 516; compare Galatians 3.21-22, p. 163. On the 'five deadly sins,' see p. 185n. John 12.46-60: Cf. Matthew 7.24-27, p. 161. 2 Corinthians 3.7-16: Cf. Galatians 3.10-13, 21-26, p. 163. Yet there is also continuity between the new revelation and the old; see Matthew 5.17-18, p. 662. Cf. Book of Certitude, 33-41, p. 1095.

If, after my obtaining Buddhahood, all the beings in the ten quarters who, with sincerity of heart hold faith and wish to be reborn in my country, repeating my name perhaps ten times, are not so born, may I not achieve the highest enlightenment. Excluded only are those who have committed the five deadly sins and those who have abused the true Dharma.

Buddhism. Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 8.18

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.

Christianity. Bible, John 10.11-16

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up like a pale shoot, like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one who from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Arrested and convicted, he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked, and his tomb with demons, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was be numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 53.1-12

Isaiah 53.1-12: This is the famous prophecy of the Suffering Servant. It contains imagery of a man who is stricken with illness, a leper, and an innocent man who is convicted and executed. Yet in this man of sorrows is revealed the power and mercy of God. Though he makes himself an offering, suffering to atone for the sins of others, in the end he is vindicated by God. For Christianity, this passage is regarded as a prophecy which is fulfilled in the suffering life of Jesus Christ; see Luke 22-23, pp. 602f. Rabbinic Judaism similarly applies these verses to the suffering of the Messiah to come; see Pesikta Rabbati 162b-63a, pp. 1104f. More commonly, Jews interpret the servant to be Israel itself, or the faithful in Israel. In either interpretation, the Servant's suffering brings redemption for all humanity. In fact, some Jews and Christians have come to understand their relatedness as peoples of God through their vocations to fulfill the role of suffering servant. Cf. Isaiah 42.1-4, pp. 515f., on the Servant as a light to the nations, where the same range of interpretations applies.

A man should share in the distress of the community, for so we find that Moses, our teacher, shared in the distress of the community.

Judaism. Talmud, Taanit 11a

At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me [Moses] the two tables of stone, the tables of the covenant. Then the Lord said to me, "Arise, go down quickly from here; for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molten image.... Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they."

So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire; and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord your God; you had made yourselves a molten calf; you had turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded you. So I took hold of the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and broke them before your eyes. Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin which you have committed... because the Lord had said that he would destroy you. And I prayed to the Lord, ''O Lord God, destroy not your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness, or their sin, lest the land from which you brought us say, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.' For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm."

Judaism. Bible, Deuteronomy 9.11-29

T'ang said, "I, Lu, the little one, dare to offer a black bull and to make this declaration before the great God. I dare not pardon those who have transgressed. I shall present Thy servants as they are so that the choice rests with Thee alone. If I transgress, let not the ten thousand states suffer because of me; but if the ten thousand states transgress, the guilt is mine alone."

Confucianism. Analects 20.1.3

My Lord! Others have fallen back in showing compassion to their benefactors as you have shown compassion even to your malefactors. All this is unparalleled.

Jainism. Vitaragastava 14.5

Deuteronomy 9.11-29: Cf. Pesikta Rabbati 32b-33a, p. 785. For an example of Muhammad's intercession on behalf of the people, see the Hadith of Bukhari, p. 785, describing his Night Journey, where he bargains with God to reduce the number of statutory prayers. Cf. Hadith of Bukhari, pp. 648f. Vitaragastava 14.5: On the Buddha's compassion for his enemies, see Mahaparinirvana Sutra 575-76, p. 527n.

We, truly, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes of the world for your salvation. Do you flee the one [Baha'u'llah] who has sacrificed his life that you may be quickened?... Do you imagine that he seeks his own interests, when he has, at all times, been threatened by the swords of the enemies; or that he seeks the vanities of the world, after he has been imprisoned in the most desolate of cities?...

Verily, he has consented to be sorely abased that you may attain glory, and yet, you are disporting yourselves in the vale of heedlessness. He, in truth, lives in the most desolate of abodes for your sakes, while you dwell in your palaces.

Baha'i Faith. Tablets of Baha'u'llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas

Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob." But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, "Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran, and stay with him a while, until your brother's fury turns away."...

[After twenty years with Laban, Jacob arose, and] sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, "Thus you shall say to my lord Esau, 'Thus says your servant Jacob, "I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I have oxen, asses, flocks, menservants, and maidservants; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight."'"

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men with him." Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, thinking, "If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company which is left will escape."

And Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, 'Return to your own country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,' I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all, the mothers with the children. But you said, 'I will do you good, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'"

So he lodged there that night, and took from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau, two hundred she-goats and twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty she-asses and ten he-asses. These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, "Pass on before me, and put a space between drove and drove." He instructed the foremost, "When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, 'To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these before you?' then you shall say, 'They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.'" He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, "You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, and you shall say, 'Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.'" For he thought, "I may appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me."...

And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided his children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And when Esau raised his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, "Who are these with you?" Jacob said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant." Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, "What do you mean by all this company which I met?" Jacob answered, "To find favor in the sight of my lord." But Esau said, "I have enough, my brother, keep what you have for yourself." Jacob said, "No, I pray you, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God, with such favor have you received me."

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 27.41-44; 32.3-20, 33.1-10

Genesis 32.3-20: Cf. Matthew 5.44, p. 1000; Tosefta, Baba Metzia 2.26, p. 1001, and related passages.


Download entire book in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Copyright Information