Quotes are a source of endless inspiration that you can use as a tool to pick you up when you’re down and also guide you in life when you feel like you’re lost and don’t know where to go from here.
The following is a short list of my favorite quotes so far, with a short introduction to the teachers who spoke these wise words and the reason why these are my favorite.
Krishna is the ancient hindu equivalent of the Christ. In the Bhagavad-Gita, he was the servant of Prince Arjuna, but also secretly an incarnated God, much like JesusChrist in the Bible. This doesn’t mean Krishna actually lived and existed in a physical plane in ancient india. Much of the Bhagavad-Gita is allegorical, including its characters. Krishna is depicted as an incarnated God in this work for altogether different reasons, one of them being for dramatic purposes.
I have my own theories as to why Krishna is depicted as an incarnated God, but this is a subject for a different post.
The following quote is from the second chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, after Prince Arjuna refuses to kill his enemies right before battle. Krishna looks at the Prince he has served all his life, and says,
“For a warrior, nothing is greater than a war against evil, for it comes as an open doorway to heaven.”
I love this quote for so many different reasons. First of all, I like the warrior culture that is implicit behind it. Prince Arjuna is a warrior-prince, and for a second he forgets it, so Krishna reminds him of his status at once. I also like how definitive the quote is. NOTHING is greater than a war against evil. This means you must use all your energies to defeat that which is impure within you, because there is no higher mission or purpose than this.
I also love the second part, ‘for it comes as an open doorway to heaven‘. He who defeats his enemies, or everything that is impure within him, will be admitted into heaven. It’s a chance to reach the ultimate glory, and of course, towards the end of his speech, Krishna has inspired the Prince enough for him to pick up his sword and slay his enemies entirely.
JesusChrist gets a bad rap these days, which is not surprising given the extremely lousy job the church has done spreading his teachings. I’m going to go off on a tangent here and say that if the church were more focused on creating an atmosphere of love and acceptance where anyone who is drawn to JesusChrist can freely commune with other likeminded individuals, instead of focusing so much on salient issues like gay marriage and abortion, our religious system would be much better off, and the people who practice religion way happier and more tolerant.
But I digress; this is also a topic for another post.
I’m not an expert on the Bible, but I have seen this quote in both the Gospel of Mark and of Luke (the only two gospels I have read from beginning to end so far), and it caught my attention at once. When somebody asks JesusChrist what they must do to follow him, he answers:
“Whosoever shall come with me, shall deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me.”
I like this quote because it’s so spartan, in a way. It’s short and it gets to the point. There are precisely three requirements for everyone who wishes to be a disciple of the Christ:
1. Deny every selfish or self-seeking desire (abstain from sense-pleasures).
2. Do your duty and fulfill the purpose for which you were born (your Dharma).
3. Follow his teachings (love, compassion, forgiveness).
It’s simple, and yet powerful. This quote is great for meditative inspiration, and even though it’s short and laconic, the content of the quote is anything but simple. In fact, these three things are probably the hardest things you will do in all your life.
Aristotle can be quite a divisive philosopher. Modern thinkers hail him as the most inspired thinker of ancient Greece. His detractors label him small-minded and speculative. I spoke a little about his history in my post Christian Rosenkreutz and the Order of the Rosy Cross, and as you can see there, I view him as neither of these things.
Aristotle was a great thinker, but he wasn’t the most inspired philosopher of ancient Greece. In all objectivity, that title would have to be awarded to Plato (Aristotle’s teacher). But Aristotle wasn’t small-minded or speculative either. Some people label him so on the basis of reading a few of his works and then forming a critical judgment on them and deciding to mentally block any new information that challenges this judgment.
That’s why forming a judgment is a serious matter. Once you form a negative judgment on any subject, it’s difficult to learn something new from the subject, because your mind is wired to react negatively to anything related to it, so you close yourself off. It’s better to not let judgments crystallize your thoughts. This way, you remain open to new ideas and concepts. A flexible mind is one of the most important things to have as a philosopher, after all.
Besides being a philosopher, Aristotle was also a scientist. And what he studied was human behavior. The fact that he was a scientist explains his method of philosophizing. He observed his surroundings, gathered information, and then came to conclusions. Two of his best quotes, based on his observation of human behavior, are the following (If I’m not mistaken you may find the first quote in his book Nicomachean Ethics):
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
This is one of the fundamental truths of life. That which you don’t practice or repeatedly do, you lose. That’s why if you want to be a great student, for example, you must repeatedly and regularly study, until the habit of study is ingrained in your soul and then, you will have become an excellent student.
Another example: If I wish to become a meditator (a person who meditates), it does me no good to meditate for half an hour one day and then not meditate at all for the next seven days. I must meditate constantly, every day, until it becomes a habit. This way, I will reap the benefits of this practice in its full potential.
Habit can be your best friend and carry you through the most difficult or tedious chores (training, work), or it can become your worst enemy (the habit of overeating, abusing substances, etc.). If you wish to become a better person, start by building better habits. It’s really as simple as that, but of course, as with everything in life, the practice is much more difficult than the theory.
Another one of my favorite Aristotle quotes is the following:
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
This is a good one, because it shines light on an aspect of human character that most people don’t understand. I’m going to give a concrete example. An addict, when he chooses to battle his addiction, will go about his day abstaining from using his substance of choice. He will do everything he normally does, go through all the motions, and maybe it seems he’s fine from the outside. But inwardly, there’s a fierce battle going on. Every moment he’s thinking of using, and when the addiction is that big, it’s easy to fall into old patterns of behavior and start using again, despite all of the recovering user’s honest efforts.
This situation can be repeated again and again, and the user falls into a vicious cycle of saying he will quit, using again, feeling awful, saying he will quit, using again, feeling awful, saying he will quit… ad infinitum.
What Aristotle expresses with this quote is that this whole situation can be turned around if we approach the problem from a different perspective. When the addict does everything he usually does sober, all the time wishing he was high, he’s focusing all of his energy on fighting the old, when what he should be doing is devising a strategy to build the new.
What do I mean by this?
Practically, it means that if the user’s schedule looks like the following (notice I’m talking about a heavy user here):
go to work
go to sleep
Then he should shake things up a bit. Maybe he can wake up half an hour earlier and go for a run. He could join some activity or club after work that will take his mind off things, or he can socialize more, or do any number of other things to take his mind off from the fact that he’d rather be high right now. This way, he will be focusing his energies on building the new, instead of fighting the old.
This quote can be applied to any number of situations where a person desires change in his life, not only addiction.
Rudolf Steiner was a 19th century philosopher, teacher, literary critic, and renaissance man. He made numerous contributions to the fields of education, agriculture, science, and spirituality. In the beginning of the 20th century he founded the movement called ‘Anthroposophy’, which literally means ‘awareness of one’s humanity’. The aim of this movement is to provide a system of knowledge–with methods akin in their integrity to those practiced in the natural sciences–that will enable the serious student and practitioner to build their own bridge from the physical world to the spiritual world in a logical, concrete, observable, and scientific way.
One of my favorite quotes from him is the following:
“The way is open to anyone whose will is sincere.”
I love this quote because of the inclusiveness inherent in it. Anyone who desires to embark upon a spiritual path for the right reasons is welcome, no matter how much of a mess his life is. If you wish to know more about the right reasons to embark upon a spiritual path, please refer to my post Rules for Esoteric Research. This quote is taken from Rudolf Steiner’s book ‘How to Know Higher Worlds’, which is a manual for 1) developing clairvoyance (the ability to see into the spiritual worlds) and 2) modern initiation (the act of entering into a conscious relationship with spiritual forces).
I discussed initiation in my post Christian Rosenkreutz and the Order of the Rosy Cross, but I have not yet made the distinction between the modern forms of initiation and the ancient forms of initiation, which are different. I will address this in a future post.
In conclusion, anyone who really wants to be spiritual is welcome on the path, and will be helped by higher forces. And this is a very, very comforting thought.
William Blake was an 18th century poet and painter. Allegedly, he had visions of angels and demons that inspired his poems and his art, like the following painting:
The Ghost of a Flea
William Blake has one quote that was made famous first by writer Alduous Huxley, who wrote a book called ‘The Doors of Perception’ in which he details the changes of consciousness he undergoes while on hallucinogens, and then by Jim Morrison, who was a big fan of Blake and even named his band after this quote.
It is the following:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is — infinite.”
The doors of perception refer to sense-perception, which is everything we can perceive with our five senses, and also our patterns of thought, feeling and behavior, which determine the way we perceive the world. If we purify our sense-perception so that we transcend that which is base, carnal, and physical, we would see the world around us and perceive much more than what we do with our ordinary senses. In fact, we would not only perceive the physical world, but also the spiritual world, which is infinitely more vast, complex and interrelated than the material-physical world.
That’s what William Blake was getting at. Of course, the real meaning of this quote has been obscured by drug culture and now many people interpret it differently.
Johann Woflgang von Goethe was an 18th century writer, politician, and scientist. He wrote several books on natural science and also many notable fiction novels. You have probably heard of his most famous work, ‘The Faust’, in which the main character sells his soul to the devil (called Mephistopheles in the story). I must be sincere and confess that excluding The Faust, I haven’t yet studied Goethe’s works that deeply, but there is one quote that caught my attention from the moment I laid eyes on it:
“The relics of my earthly sojourn are indestructible throughout the eons of time.”
The ‘relics’ he mentions is everything in our character that we have refined during our path through earthly life and existence. This means that everything good we have built within ourselves won’t be forgotten at the moment of our death. It means our essence, and what we create from it, is indestructible, even though the flesh is not. And that is also a very comforting thought.
So there you have it, my list of favorite quotes and the reasons I like them. What are some of your favorite quotes, and why?