Ancient Wisdom From Around the World

J. B. Nash - July 19, 2020 

There‘s a generous abundance of wise quotes from around the world in both ancient and modern times. Many of them are found in books, particularly ancient philosophical tomes from writers who experienced a world exponentially different from our own, yet still managed to capture the essence of what it means to be human, and to be alive in this universe.

Even if we don’t believe everything from a given text or philosopher, there’s always some grain truth in the subtleties of how humans communicate to each other and to the world around them.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from long ago: 

“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”

THE BHAGAVAD GITA

Often times we stick to the easier path because it’s clearer and we can see ahead, but the endless sharp rocks create an eternity of pain and hopelessness. The higher goal is often filled with dense trees, twists and turns, walls, and rivers to cross, but the water is soothing to the feet and fulfilling to the soul.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

PROVERBS 18:21 OF THE BIBLE

A short, but meaningful bit of advice the next time you get angry or resentful. The words we speak have an effect on others. A single kind word can spark a smile in the souls of the lonely. And a single harsh word can create an entire years-worth of doubt. 

“There are no contests in the Art of Peace. A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.”

MOREHEI UESHIBA

It’s important to understand what the true enemy is, particularly in relationships. Humans are easily swayed by influences that infect the mind and damage the heart, and our emotions quite often become unstable. Instead of chopping off the branches, use a soothing ointment to ease the infestation at the roots. In other words, your enemy is not the person, but the ego. The ego is defeated through humility and seeing past the person’s outer appearance to look within and truly understand where they’re coming from. 

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

EPICTETUS

This one really speaks to me on a personal level. I’m a people pleaser, and I will end up doing almost anything that will make people happy and fulfill their own expectations that they’ve placed on me, even if I neglect my own values and convictions. In part, I am afraid to look foolish and embarrass myself in front of others for fear of judgement. This prevents me from improving and going out of my comfort zone to experience new things as a person with absolutely zero knowledge on many things. However, I realize that it’s okay to look foolish and stupid in front of other people. I do not take it as a mark of shame, but rather as a lesson and a guide. Don’t let fear of judgement stop you from learning new things. 

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 

LAO TZU

We are so determined to get everyone on our side, to believe us and to live exactly as we live, even attempting to make nature itself bend to our will. This only creates an inner suffering of things we cannot change. Life is forever changing. Be content with how it is and you will see all the good there is around you. And understand that there is a difference between forcing and inviting. Instead of trying to force things, simply be the person you want to see. If no one follows you, reevaluate yourself. If everyone is inspired by you, don’t say a word.

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