World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Persecution And Martyrdom

The summit of sacrifice is often thrust upon a man or woman in the form of persecution and even martyrdom. Few desire to be persecuted, yet persecution can be a blessing for it pushes people to the realm of total self-sacrifice and self-denial. Hence we have the paradoxical fact of history that religion thrives in times of persecution.

Persecution is of no value if the person is crushed by it. But those who persevere with faith--even unto death--and gain victory over persecution achieve the highest goal and fellowship with God. They can enter the realm of the miraculous; they can attain the highest heaven, reserved for the martyrs and saints. In view of the beatification which comes through sacrifice, it is not surprising that those who receive persecution in faith often lose any negative feelings of hate or vengefulness towards their persecutors and even develop compassion for them.

This chapter begins with general passages on persecution, followed by passages on martyrdom. It concludes with specific examples of faithful people who have endured persecution and triumphed over it.

The Messenger of God said, "Surely, the gates of Paradise are beneath the shadow of swords."

Islam. Hadith of Muslim

As the elephant in the battlefield withstands the arrows shot from a bow, even so will I endure abuse; verily most people are lacking in virtue.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 320

In Ch'en, supplies ran short and his followers became so weak that they could not drag themselves onto their feet. Tzu-lu came to the Master and said indignantly, "Is it right that even gentlemen should be reduced to such straits?" The Master said, "A gentleman can withstand hardships; it is only the small man who, when submitted to them, is swept off his feet."

Confucianism. Analects 15.1

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Christianity. Matthew 5.11-12

Assuredly you will be tried in your property and in your persons, and you will hear much wrong from those who were given the Scripture before you and from the idolators. But if you persevere and ward off [evil], then that is the steadfast heart of things.

Islam. Qur'an 3.186

The right attitude for the seeker of truth on this lofty Path is, "Let my people look askance; let my wife and children forsake me; let men deride; let kings punish; but I shall be steadfast, O Supreme Deity; I shall serve and ever serve Thee with mind, speech, body, and act; I shall not leave Thy Law."

Hinduism. Kularnava Tantra 2

Or do you think that you shall enter the Garden without such trials as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried, "When will come the help of God?" Ah! Verily the help of God is always near!

Islam. Qur'an 2.214

Monks, this is the meanest of callings, this of an almsman. A term of abuse in the world is this, to say "You scrap-gatherer! With bowl in hand you roam about!" Yet this is the calling entered on by those clansmen who are bent on the good because of good, not led thereto by fear.

Buddhism. Itivuttaka 89

It is painful never to take but what is freely given, and begging is a hard task. Common people say that men become monks because they will not work and are wretched. Weak men who are unable to bear these insults in villages or towns become disheartened like cowards in the battle. Perhaps a snarling dog will bite a hungry monk; in that case the weak will become disheartened like animals burnt by fire. Some who hate monks, revile them, "Those who lead such a miserable life are but atoning for their sins." Some call them names, as "naked, lowest of beggars, baldhead, scabby, filthy, nasty."... Some fools in outlying countries take a pious monk for a spy or a thief, bind him, and insult him with angry words. A weak monk, being hurt with a stick or a fist or a fruit, remembers his kind relations, just as a woman who in a fit has left her husband. All these hardships are difficult to bear; the weak return to their house like elephants who break down when covered with arrows.

Jainism. Sutrakritanga

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christianity. Romans 8.35-39

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 116.15

If you win over absolute persecution, you can stand as the object of God and God can intervene on your behalf. The reason for the development of religions is that they have overcome a great deal of persecution.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 4-3-83

Count not those who were slain in God's way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him provided, rejoicing in the bounty that God has given them, and joyful in those who remain behind and have not joined them, because no fear shall be upon them, neither shall they sorrow, joyful in the blessing and bounty from God, and that God leaves not to waste the wage of the believers. And those who answered God and the Messenger after the wound had smitten them--to all those of them who did good and feared God--shall be a mighty wage. To those to whom men said, "The people have gathered against you, therefore fear them"; but it increased them in faith, and they said, "God is sufficient for us; an excellent Guardian is He." So they returned with blessing and bounty from God, untouched by evil; they followed the good pleasure of God; and God is of bounty abounding.

Islam. Qur'an 3.169-74

Hadith of Muslim: This hadith recommends jihad, struggle on the way to God. The meaning of such struggles for God lies not in the killing of others, but in offering one's own life to defend true religion. Cf. Matthew 16.24-25, p. 875. Analects 15.1: Cf. Mencius VI.A.10, p. 877. Matthew 5.11-12: Cf. Matthew 10.24-25, p. 821; Hebrews 11.1-38, pp. 655f.; Canticles Rabbah 2.5, p. 764. Qur'an 2.214: Cf. Qur'an 3.145-47, p. 712; 4.74-76, p. 1052. Romans 8.35-39: Cf. Matthew 10.1-20, p. 821, 16.24-25, p. 875; 2 Corinthians 5.20-6.13, p. 1028. Psalm 116.15: Cf. Doctrine and Covenants 135.1, p. 609, on the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Qur'an 3.169-74: Cf. Qur'an 4.74-76, p. 1052; A Winnebago Father's Precepts, p. 1051.

Holy is the death of heroic men, Who lay down their lives in an approved cause. Such alone may be called heroes, as at the Divine Portal obtain true honor: Obtaining honor at the Divine Portal, with honor they depart, And in the hereafter they suffer not.

Such reward they shall obtain if on the Sole Lord they meditate, Whose service drives away all fears. They utter not aloud their suffering; they bear all in their minds-- The Lord Himself knows all. Holy is the death of heroic men, Who lay down their lives in an approved cause.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Wadhans, Alahaniyan Dirges, M.1, pp. 579f.

Miracles were performed for our ancestors... because they were ready to sacrifice their lives for the sanctification of God's Name.

Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 20a

When Rabbi Akiba was taken out for execution, it was the hour for the recital of the Shema, and while they combed his flesh with iron combs, he was accepting upon himself the kingship of heaven [by reciting the Shema]. His disciples said to him, "Our teacher, even to this point?" He said to them, "All my days I have been troubled over this verse, "with all your soul" [Deuteronomy 6.5], [which I interpret] "even if He takes your soul." When shall I have the opportunity of fulfilling this? Now that I have the opportunity shall I not fulfill it?" He prolonged the last word [of the prayer] until he expired while saying it.

Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 61b

Arms pinioned, was I thrown down in a heap. The elephant violently was goaded in the head. The elephant ran away trumpeting, Declaring, "To this prostrate figure am I a sacrifice; Lord, in You alone lies my strength." The Kazi urged the mahout to goad on the elephant, Threatening, "Mahout! I shall cut you to pieces! Goad and drive the elephant!" But the elephant, meditating on God, would not move: In his heart was lodged the Lord. The people queried, "What offense has this holy man committed, That in bonds he is thrown to be trampled by the elephant?" The elephant bowed again and again to the heap before it. The benighted Kazi did not realize this; Three times he ordered this trial But his hard heart still was not softened. Says Kabir, The Lord is my guardian. In absorption in Him lies His servant's life.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gaund, Kabir, p. 870

Berakot 20a: The sanctification of God's Name is to suffer martyrdom with the Jewish confession of faith, the Shema (p. 55), on the lips. See the following passage. Berakot 61b: See the previous note and Canticles Rabbah 2.5, p. 764. Gaund, Kabir: The Adi Granth contains numerous compositions by Indian saints, both Hindu and Muslim, called bhaktas, who preceded Guru Nanak. Among them the Muslim poet Kabir (1380-1460) has pride of place; over 500 of his hymns are recorded in the Adi Granth. This hymn describes one of his trials.

After the Buddha's extinction, In the last dread evil age, We will proclaim this sutra. Though many ignorant men Will with evil mouth abuse us, And beat us with swords and staves, We will endure it all. Monks in that evil age, Heretical, warped, suspicious, Crying "attained" when they have not, Will have minds full of arrogance.... Others, greedy for gain, Will preach the Law to laymen And be revered by the world as arhats Of the six transcendent powers; These men, cherishing evil minds, Ever thinking of earthly things, Assuming the name of "forest dwellers," Will love to calumniate us, Saying words such as these-- "All these bhikshu-fellows, Because of love of gain, Preach an heretical doctrine; Themselves have composed this sutra To delude the people of the world; For the sake of acquiring fame, They specialize in this Sutra." Always in the assemblies, In order that they may ruin us, To kings and to their ministers, To brahmins and to citizens, To other groups of bhikshus, Of us they will speak slanderously, Saying, "These are men with false views, Who proclaim heretical doctrines." But, from reverence for Buddha We will endure those evils. Though contemptuously addressed as-- "All you Buddhas!" Even such scorn and arrogance We will patiently endure In the corrupt kalpa's evil age. Abounding in fear and dread, Devils will take possession of them To curse, abuse, and insult us. But we, reverently believing Buddha, Will wear the armor of long-suffering; For the sake of preaching this sutra Every hard thing we will endure. We will not love body nor life, But care only for the Supreme Way.

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 13

Lotus Sutra 13: This stanza, called the Kanji-hon, gave inspiration and fortitude to Nichiren, Japan's leading champion of the Lotus Sutra, when he was exiled and persecuted by the leaders of rival Buddhist schools for his dedication to spreading its message.

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.... [At] the dedication of the image... the herald proclaimed aloud, "You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bag- pipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace." Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshipped the golden image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

At that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live for ever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no heed to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image which I have made, well and good; but if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace; and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."

Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he ordered certain mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. These men bound them in their mantles, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king's order was strict and the furnace very hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He said to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" They answered the king, "True, O king." He answered, "But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods."

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their mantles were not harmed, and no smell of the fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set at naught the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God."

Judaism and Christianity. Daniel 3.1-28

Daniel 3.1-28: Cf. Qur'an 21.51-71, p. 613; Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda 118-20, pp. 783f.; Mahaparinirvana Sutra 13.19, pp. 754f.; Hebrews 11.32-34, p. 756.

Seated on the naked ground, Sita, who was fixed in virtue, resembled a branch severed from a tree that had fallen to earth. Her limbs covered with a soiled cloth, she, who was worthy of ornaments, now no longer adorned, resembled a lotus stalk stained with mud and, though radiant, her beauty was dimmed. In imagination, she took refuge with that lion among men, Rama, her mind a chariot drawn by the steeds of resolution. Yet that charming princess, devoted to Rama, emaciated, weeping, separated from her kinsfolk, was a prey to anxiety and grief and saw no end to her misfortune....

And beholding that blameless Maithili [Sita] with her beautiful dark eyes and graceful lashes, Ravana, to his own destruction, sought to seduce her: "O lady whose thighs resemble the trunk of an elephant, who, beholding me seeks to conceal your breasts and your body as if you feared me, O lady of large eyes, I love you. Be gracious to me, O lady of charming looks, adored by all the world! There is no man present here nor any titan able to change his form at will; therefore banish the fear which I inspire in you, O Sita.

"It has ever been the unquestioned and special privilege of titans to unite themselves with the wives of others, either taking them of their own free will or bearing them away by force. In spite of this, O Maithili, I shall not lay hands on you since you have no affection for me but, for myself, I am completely under your sway. Therefore trust in me and respond to my love. O goddess, have not fear of me, take courage, O dear one, and do not let yourself be consumed with grief. To wear but a single plait, to lie on the earth in soiled attire and fast unnecessarily does not become you. In my company, O Maithili, enjoy garlands, perfumes, sandalwood, ornaments, wine, rich beds and seats, singing, dancing, and music. You art a pearl among women; do not remain in this condition; adorn yourself as heretofore. Having united yourself with me, O lady of lovely form, what will not be yours?..."

Hearing the words of that terrible titan, Sita, overwhelmed with grief, answered in a faint and feeble voice. The unfortunate Sita, afflicted and trembling, faithful to her lord and anxious to preserve her virtue, her heart fixed on Rama, placed a straw between Ravana and herself and with a sweet smile answered him, saying, "Take back your heart and set it on your own consorts. As a sinner may not aspire to heaven, so you should not expect to win me. That which should never be done and is condemned in a woman faithful to her lord, I shall never do. Born in a noble house, I have been joined to a pious family."

Then turning her back on him, she continued, "You are not able to tempt me with wealth and riches; as the light of the sun cannot be separated from the sun so do I belong to Raghava [Rama]. Having rested on the arm of that Lord of Men, how should I depend on any other? Like unto the spiritual truth known to a brahmin faithful to his vows, I belong to the Lord of the World alone and am lawfully wedded to him. It is to your own advantage to restore me to Rama, wretched as I am like a she-elephant anxiously awaiting her mate in the forest. It behoves you to seek Rama's friendship, that lion among men, if you desire to preserve Lanka and do not wish to bring about your own destruction...."

Ravana, lord of the titans, was filled with indignation, and said, "I shall grant you two months as the term assigned to you, after which you must share my bed. If you should refuse, my cooks shall mince your limbs for my morning repast."

Hinduism. Ramayana, Sundara Kanda 19-22

Ramayana, Sundara Kanda 19-22: In addition to remaining unmoved by Ravana's threats, Sita must further prove her fidelity to Rama, and she submits herself to an ordeal; see Yuddha Kanda 118-20, pp. 783f.

When Joseph attained his full manhood, We gave him power and knowledge; thus do We reward those who do right. But the woman in whose house he lived sought to seduce him from his true self: she bolted the doors and said, "Now come, dear!" He said, "God forbid! Truly your husband is my lord! He made my sojourn agreeable! Truly to no good come those who do wrong!" And with passion did she desire him, and he would have desired her, but that he saw the evidence of his Lord: thus did We order that We might turn away from him all evil and shameful deeds, for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified. So they both raced each other to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back; and they met her husband near the door.

She said, "What is the penalty for one who formed an evil design against your wife but prison or a grievous chastisement?" He said, "It was she that sought to seduce me--from my true self." And one of her household saw and bore witness, "If it be that his shirt is rent from the front, then is her tale true, and he is a liar! But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then is she the liar, and he is telling the truth!" So when he saw his shirt, that it was torn at the back, her husband said, "Behold, it is a snare of you women! Truly, mighty is your snare! O Joseph, pass this over! O wife, ask forgiveness for your sin, for truly you have been at fault."

Ladies said in the city, "The wife of the 'Aziz is seeking to seduce her slave from his true self; truly he has inspired her with violent love; we see she is evidently going astray." When she heard of their malicious talk, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them; she gave each of them a knife and said [to Joseph], "Come out before them." When they saw him, they did extol him and cut their hands; they said, "God preserve us! No mortal is this! This is none other than a noble angel!" She said, "There before you is the man about whom you blamed me! I did seek to seduce him from his true self, but he did firmly save himself guiltless.... And now, if he does not do my bidding, he shall certainly be cast into prison and be of the company of the vilest!"

Islam. Qur'an 12.22-32

Qur'an 12.22-32: For the Bible's version of this story, and subsequent events when Joseph is cast into prison on account of the charges made against him, see Genesis 39-40. Gittin 57b: Another well-known instance where Jews preferred suicide to enslavement occurred at the defense of Masada. This desert fortress, defended by less than 1,000, including women and children, was besieged by a Roman army of 15,000 for almost two years after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 <c.e. When the Romans finally breached the walls, they found that the defenders had taken their own lives. Today Masada has become a symbol of Israeli national heroism. Cf. Analects 15.8, p. 877; Hebrews 11.35-37, p. 756; Acarangasutra 1.7.6, p. 344; Canticles Rabbah 2.5, p. 764.

On one occasion four hundred boys and girls were carried off for immoral purposes. They divined what they were wanted for and said to themselves, "If we drown in the sea we shall attain the life of the future world." The eldest among them expounded, "'The Lord said, I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea' [Psalm 68.23].... 'I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,' [refers to] those who drown in the sea." When the girls heard this they all leaped into the sea. The boys then drew the moral for themselves, saying, "If those for whom it is natural [to succumb] act so, shall not we, for whom it is unnatural?" They also leaped into the sea. Of them the text says, "Yea, for Thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter" [Psalm 44.23].

Judaism. Talmud, Gittin 57b

Jeremiah stood in the court of the temple of the Lord, and said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to heed my words." Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the temple....

O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; You are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout "Violence and destruction!" For the Word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering, "Terror is on every side!" "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him." But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, who tries the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, Let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.

Judaism and Christianity. Jeremiah 19.14-20.2, 20.7-12

Jeremiah 20.7-12: The people mock Jeremiah by his own words, 'Terror on every side.' Yet it was not long before Jeremiah's prophecies of terror and destruction came to pass and Jerusalem was laid waste. For other verses on the suffering of the prophets, see Micah 2.6-11, p. 1039; Amos 7.10-17, p. 1041; Mark 6.4, p. 601; Qur'an 25.31, p. 603; Hebrews 11.32-38, p. 756.; Matthew 23.37, p. 458; Acts 7.51-52, below.

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And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the congregation of the Freedmen [as it was called], and some of the Cyrenians, the Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false wit- nesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place [the temple], and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

And the high priest said, "Is this so?" And Stephen said, "Brethren and fathers, hear me.... The Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What house would you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?' You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the Law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together against him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he died.

Christianity. Acts 6.8-7.60

When the Rajah of Kalinga mutilated my body, I was at that time free from the idea of an ego-identity, a personality, a being, and a separated individuality. Wherefore? Because then when my limbs were cut away piece by piece, had I been bound by the distinctions aforesaid, feelings of anger and hatred would have been aroused within me.

Buddhism. Diamond Sutra 14

Acts 6.8-7.60: Stephen's classmate Saul helped instigate his death. Later Saul would convert and, renamed Paul, become the greatest of the Apostles. Note Stephen's last words of utter forgiveness for those who killed him, following the example of Jesus on the cross; see Luke 23.34, pp. 602f.; Matthew 10.24-25, p. 821; also Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73, p. 995. Under the Roman persecutions of the first three centuries, tens of thousands of Christians would follow Stephen's example of faith when offered the choice: deny Christ or be thrown to the lions. Diamond Sutra 14: Buddha is referring to one of his previous incarnations, the lives of whom are popularized in the Jataka tales.

The Master said, "Po I and Shu Ch'i never bore old ills in mind and had but the faintest feelings of rancor.

"Po I and Shu Ch'i starved at the foot of Mount Shou-yang; yet the people sing their praises down to this day."

Confucianism. Analects 5.22, 16.12

Analects 5.22 and 16.12: Po I and Shu Ch'i were legendary brothers who, out of loyalty, refused to take up arms against their wicked overlord when the occasion arose, despite his having wronged them. Rather, without complaint, they resigned their rights of accession to their state and lived in poverty. Their example is a model of goodness, according to Confucius. Cf. Analects 15.8, p. 877.

They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers; and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to practice." The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore their garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's fetters were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"

Christianity. Acts 16.19-30

The demon-king Hiranyakashipu had formerly brought the three worlds under his authority, usurped the sovereignty of Indra, and exercised of himself the functions of the sun, of air, of water, of fire, of the moon. He himself was the god of riches, and he appropriated all to himself.

One day his son Prahlada came to the court and bowed before his father. Hiranyakasipu said to him, "Repeat, boy, what you have acquired in your studies." "Hear, sire," replied Prahlada, "the substance of what I have learned. I have learned to adore Him who is without beginning, middle, or end, increase or diminution; the imperishable Lord of the world, the universal Cause." On hearing these words, the sovereign of the demons, his eyes red with wrath and lips swollen with indignation, turned to his son's preceptor and said, "Vile brahmin, what is this preposterous commendation of my foe that, in disrespect to me, you have taught this boy to utter?" "King of the demons," replied the guru, "do not give way to passion; that which your son has uttered, he has not been taught by me." "By whom, then, boy, has this lesson been taught you?" "Vishnu, father," answered Prahlada, "is the instructor of the whole world: what else should anyone teach or learn, save Him, the Supreme Spirit?" "Blockhead," exclaimed the king. "Who is this Vishnu, whose name you thus reiterate so impertinently before me, who am the sovereign of the three worlds? Are you desirous of death, fool, that you give the title of supreme lord to anyone whilst I live?" "Vishnu, who is God," said Prahlada, "is the Creator and Protector, not of me alone, but of all human beings, and even, father, of you: He is the Supreme Lord of all. Why should you, sire, be offended?"...

Prahlada returned to his studies. Later he again came before his father, who asked him to recite a poem. Prahlada began, "May He from whom matter and soul originate, He who is the cause of all this creation, Vishnu, be favorable to us." On hearing which, Hiranyakashipu exclaimed, "Kill the wretch; he is not fit to live, a traitor to his friends, a burning brand to his own race!" and his attendants obediently snatched up their weapons and rushed in crowds upon Prahlada to destroy him. The prince calmly looked upon them, and said, "Demons, as truly as Vishnu is present in your weapons and in my body, so truly shall these weapons fail to harm me," and accordingly, although struck heavily and repeatedly by hundreds of the demons, the prince felt not the least pain, and his strength was ever renewed.

[After suffering many tortures at that hands of his father for the sake of his devotion to Vishnu, Vishnu finally appeared to him.]

Prahlada said [to Vishnu], "I have been hated, for that I assiduously proclaimed Thy praise, do Thou, O Lord, pardon in my father this sin that he has committed. Weapons have been hurled against me; I have been thrown into the flames; I have been bitten by venomous snakes; and poison has been mixed with my food; I have been bound and cast into the sea; and heavy rocks have been heaped upon me, but all this, and whatever ill besides has been wrought against me; whatever wickedness has been done to me, because I put my faith in Thee; all, through Thy mercy, has been suffered by me unharmed. Do Thou therefore free my father from this iniquity."

Hinduism. Vishnu Purana 1.17-20

Vishnu Purana 1.17-20: For variations on the theme of a righteous son to a demonic father, see Matsya Purana 180.5-7, p. 710; Vishnu Purana 3.17-88, p. 448.


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