Kindness: Why All Religions Say it’s the Best Way to Live
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My parents celebrated my tenth birthday in an unusual way. My mother told me that it will be a very special celebration. I expected some wonderful present and I did get a very special present, but not the kind I was expecting.
My mother cooked a lot of good food and took me with her to feed the poor people outside the temples of six different faiths: a Sikh temple, a Hindu temple, a Jain temple, a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue, and an Islamic Mosque.
As I handed over two pieces of bread and some very appetizing curry to each person, I did not see Muslim or Hindu or Christian faces — I only saw grateful human faces. Even though it was a fleeting exchange — a small act of kindness and the acknowledgment of gratitude — I can still vividly remember the deep human connection I felt that day, and the profound sense of joy it gave me. This truly was the best birthday celebration for me. My mother gave me a very effective lesson in kindness and caring.
Kindness is a moral obligation across religions, but more importantly it is something that connects us with others and tends to offer mutual benefits. When we see the common humanity in others through acts of kindness, as I did on my 10th birthday, we are better able to tap into our capacity for loving and learning from others.
Acts of kindness are good to do, but they are also good for us!
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
— The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader
The world endures because of three activities: study of Torah, divine worship, and deeds of loving-kindness.
— Sefer Ha-Aggadah, collection of Jewish writings
“Tsze-chang asked Confucius about perfect virtue. Confucius said, ‘To be able to practise five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue.’ He begged to ask what they were, and was told, ‘Gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.”
— The Analects (17:6), Confucian text
“Dignity, kindness, courage, a benevolent, loving heart — these are the qualities of men born with divine traits, Arjuna.”
— The Bhagavad Gita (16:1–3), Hindu text
“And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other.”
— The New Testament (Ephesians 4:32), Christian text
“Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents […] and say, ‘Lord, have mercy on them, just as they cared for me when I was little.’ Your Lord knows best what is in your heart.”
— Qur’an (17:23–25), Muslim text
“It is your duty to be exceedingly kind to every human being, and to wish him well.”
— ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i leader
“Excessive wealth and desire wearies and harms the spirit. The rich should help the poor, and the powerful should aid the oppressed.”
— Ho-Shang Kung, Chinese philosopher
“Let’s stop thinking about giving as just this moral obligation and start thinking of it as a source of pleasure.”
— Elizabeth Dunn, social psychologist
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