World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Spiritual Growth

Life as a process of growth that is spiritual as well as physical, from one stage to the next. These stages may be described in many ways, but fundamentally they include a foundation stage when the knowledge of truth or the gift of salvation is first acquired, a growth stage where the person practices that truth and develops virtue, self-control, insight, and self-confidence, and finally the stage of maturity where the person realizes the fullness of perfection as demonstrated in the person of the founder: the stage of arahat, or of the bodhisattva, or oneness with Christ. This theme of growth is sometimes expressed by the metaphor of sprouting grain.

O man! Verily you are ever toiling on towards your Lord--painfully toiling--but you shall meet Him.... You shall surely travel from stage to stage.

Islam. Qur'an 84.6, 19

We must begin... with the more simple demonstrations of control, and the sooner we begin the better. The final demonstration takes time for its accomplishment. When walking, we are guided by the eye. We look before our feet, and if we are wise, we look beyond a single step in the line of spiritual advancement.

Christian Science. Science and Health, 428-29

To the pupil training, in the straight way walking, By ending [his sins] first comes knowledge; Straight follows insight; by that insight freed He knows in very truth: Sure is my freedom By wearing out the fetter of becoming.

Buddhism. Itivuttaka 53

Practicing step by step, One gradually fulfills all Buddha teachings. It is like first setting up a foundation Then building the room: Generosity and self-control, like this, Are bases of enlightening beings' practices.

Buddhism. Garland Sutra 10

The Master said, "At fifteen I set my heart upon learning. At thirty, I had planted my feet upon firm ground. At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities. At fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven. At sixty, I heard them with a docile ear. At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart; for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right."

Confucianism. Analects 2.4

Through constant effort over many lifetimes, a person becomes purified of all selfish desires and attains the supreme goal of life.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 6.45

Qur'an 84.6, 19: Cf. Qur'an 91.7-10, p. 715; Chun Boo Kyung, p. 180. Bhagavad Gita 6.45: What in some religious conceptions requires many lifetimes, other doctrines regard as attainable in one life, through God's grace. Yet the seeker who attains the supreme goal may look back to the efforts of his ancestors or his own incarnations in previous lives, grateful for the foundations of faith and good works which they sowed and which he could finally reap.

By degrees, little by little, from time to time, a wise person should remove his own impurities as a smith removes the dross from silver.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 239

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts.

Christianity. Romans 5.3-5

Study of Torah leads to precision, precision to zeal, zeal to cleanliness, cleanliness to restraint, restraint to purity, purity to holiness, holiness to meekness, meekness to fear of sin, fear of sin to saintliness, saintliness to the holy spirit, and the holy spirit to life eternal.

Judaism. Talmud, Aboda Zara 20b

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

Christianity. Mark 4.26-29: Parable of the Sprouting Seed

Muhammad is the Apostle of God; and those who are with him are strong against unbelievers, but compassionate amongst each other.... And their similitude in the Gospel is: Like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, filling the sowers with wonder and delight.

Islam. Qur'an 48.29

Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.... to equip the saints for the work of ministry, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be called children, tossed to and fro on every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ--from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

Christianity. Ephesians 4.7-16

Mark 4.26-29: This parable represents the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven--interpreted either corporately or within the heart of the individual believer--as a natural process that occurs mysteriously and gradually, enlivened by God's fertilizing grace. It is likened to the growth of grain in three stages of formation--'the blade', growth--'the ear', and maturity--'the full grain', followed by a fourth stage of returning to God--the harvest'. Qur'an 48.29: The 'similitude in the Gospel' is Mark 4.26-29, preceding. Ephesians 4.7-16: The gift of salvation is only the beginning of the saint's spiritual growth to 'mature manhood' which is oneness with Christ.


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