Moderation: What Each Religion Says About its Importance

10 Quotes on Moderation, reflecting common themes across religions

This is part of a weekly series of over 50 common themes across religions. Stay subscribed to read about next week’s theme!

Be neither too extravagant, nor too ascetic. Eat enough, but not too much. Experience emotions, but do not enable them to swing too high or too low. This principle of moderation as part of religious life appears in many of the most important scriptures across religions and wisdom systems, variously known as The Middle Way, The Golden Mean, and other such phrases.

Plato highlighted both the importance and difficulty of moderation in The Republic, where he defined it as the virtue that allows us to control or temper our passions, emotions and desires. This core virtue of moderation was echoed by the ancient Greco-Roman philosophical tradition of Stoicism, championed by figures like Epictetus, Seneca, and the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius.

I learnt moderation from the life of my father — like the Buddha, my father had taken spirituality and asceticism to the extreme and began to neglect family and other important material aspects of life. But then around the age of 60, he realized the folly in this and became much happier and fulfilled as he sought the proper balance. He lived a great life until the age of 90, finding a nice balance between spiritual and material life and leaving us with a great model to follow.

Usually, we assume that more is better, whether it’s money or food or even prayer. But everything has its limits and a healthy life is typically one characterized by balance and moderation. As one Hindu proverb puts it, “Even nectar is poison if taken to excess.”

Buddhism

“The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial. Without veering toward either of these extremes, the Tathāgata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, and leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.”
— The Buddha

Hinduism

“He who eats too much food or too little, who is always drowsy or restless, will never succeed in the yoga of meditation. For the man who is moderate in food and pleasure, moderate in action, moderate in sleep and waking, yoga destroys all sorrow.”
— The Bhagavad Gita (6:16–17), Hindu scripture

Islam

“[Prophet], do not be too loud in your prayer, or too quiet, but seek a middle way.”
— The Qur’an (17:110), Islamic scripture

Daoism

“Follow the Middle Course, for this is the way to keep yourself together, to sustain your life, to care for your parents and to live for many years.”
— Chuang Tzu, Daoist sage

Baha’i

“Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.”
— Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i prophet

Judaism

“It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.”
— The Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 25:27), Jewish scripture

Christianity

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
— The New Testament (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8), Christian scripture

Confucianism

“My Master [Confucius] spoke only when it was time for him to speak. So people never grew tired of his speaking. He laughed only when he was feeling happy. So people never grew tired of his laughing. He took only when it was right for him to take. So people never grew tired of his taking.”
— The Analects, Confucian scripture

Ancient Greco-Roman Philosophy

“He that holds fast the golden mean,
And lives contentedly between
The little and the great,
Feels not the wants that pinch the poor,
Nor plagues that haunt the rich man’s door
Imbittering all his state.”
— Horace, Ancient Roman poet

“Choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible.”
— Plato, Ancient Greek philosopher

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