“Know thyself” is a phrase that has been attributed to various ancient philosophers and sages, and it has been interpreted and used in different ways across different religions and spiritual traditions.
–Inscription at the Ancient Greek Oracle of Delphi
“But ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of the Self within. The light of this knowledge shines like the sun, revealing the supreme Brahman.”
— The Bhagavad Gita (5:16), Hindu text
“True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self.”
–Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i prophet
Hinduism: In Hinduism, the concept of “know thyself” is closely associated with the idea of self-realization or self-knowledge. The ancient Hindu texts, known as the Upanishads, emphasize the importance of self-inquiry and self-realization as a means to understand the true nature of the self, which is believed to be immortal, divine, and interconnected with the ultimate reality, or “Brahman.”
Buddhism: In Buddhism, the concept of “know thyself” is often associated with mindfulness and self-awareness. Buddhist teachings emphasize the cultivation of mindfulness and self-awareness as a means to understand the nature of the mind, the impermanence of all things, and the cessation of suffering. Through mindfulness and introspection, Buddhists seek to understand the true nature of oneself and the interconnectedness of all beings.
Christianity: In Christianity, the concept of “know thyself” is often linked with the idea of knowing God and knowing oneself in relation to God. Christian teachings emphasize the importance of self-examination, repentance, and introspection as a means to understand one’s own sinful nature and the need for redemption through faith in God. Knowing oneself in light of God’s teachings and grace is seen as crucial for spiritual growth and salvation.
Islam: In Islam, the concept of “know thyself” is often associated with the idea of self-accountability and self-awareness before God. Islamic teachings emphasize the importance of self-reflection, self-examination, and self-improvement as a means to cultivate a closer relationship with God and fulfill one’s responsibilities as a servant of God. Knowing oneself in the light of Islamic teachings and striving for self-improvement is considered essential for leading a righteous and purposeful life.
Sikhism: In Sikhism, a monotheistic faith founded in the Indian subcontinent, the concept of “know thyself” is closely related to the idea of recognizing the divine spark within oneself and others. Sikh teachings emphasize the importance of self-realization and realizing the divine presence within all beings as a means to cultivate humility, compassion, and service to others. Understanding the true nature of oneself and others is considered essential for living a spiritually fulfilling life.
New Age Spirituality: In New Age spirituality and various metaphysical beliefs, the concept of “know thyself” is often associated with self-discovery, self-expression, and self-actualization. It emphasizes the importance of introspection, self-reflection, and self-awareness as a means to uncover one’s true nature, desires, and purpose in life. The concept is often linked with the idea of self-empowerment, personal growth, and the pursuit of inner truth and authenticity.
To learn more about other common themes across religions, visit us at uef.org/weekly-wisdom.