How To Live Well According To the Ancients (Part Two)

In my last Refresher, I selected a range of sayings from philosphers, religious figures and thinkers on how to live a deep and meaningful life. There are so many insights, I had to split the Refresher into two, so here’s part two: 

Watch your tongue 

It is better to conceal your ignorance than to reveal it to the world (Heraclitus, Greek philosopher, 5th century BC) 

The wise person does not talk, the talented ones talk and the stupid ones argue (Kung Ting-an, Chinese writer, 19th century) 

He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know (Tao Te Ching, Taoist text, 6th century BC) 

The food that enters your mouth doesn’t harm you; but rather the words that come out of it.  (St Matthew 15:11) 

Your words are in your control before you have spoken, but once said, the words have power over you, and you’ve lost all control. (Shekel Hakodesh, Hebrew text of aphorisms, 12th century

You think you’re smart? 

The wise person doesn’t learn anything new, but rather reviews what others have passed through (Tao Te Ching

Knowledge without action is not knowledge (al-Hujwiri, Iranian/Indian sufi mystic, 11th century) 

A little knowledge carried into action is more profitable than much knowledge not carried into action. The best are those who know and act (Georg Hermes, German catholic theolgian, 19th century) 

The truly clever person is someone who understands they know little compared to what they don’t know (‘Ali, cousin of Prophet Muhammad, 7th century) 

Deceived by looks

All that glitters is not gold (William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, 16th century) 

I have seen servants upon horses and princes walking as servants upon the earth (Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 10:7, 3rd century BC ) 

One should not take outward beauty for reality: if you don’t understand this, you’ll be lost (Ching Hao, Chinese artist, 9th century) 

Can earthly things seem important to you if you know the vastness of the universe? (Cicero, Roman statesman and philosopher, 1st century BC) 

Pay it forward 

It is more blessed to give than to receive (New Testament,  Acts 20:35, 1st century) 

Spending your wealth for a good cause is like a grain which sprouts seven ears, and in every ear, there are another hundred grains. (Quran 2:261, 7th century) 

‘Blessed is the person who gives up a present desire for a distant promise which they haven’t seen yet’ (a saying attributed to Jesus Christ in Islamic tradition, 7th century) 

I have always avoided following the wrong path: I have given food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, transport to the stranded, to the orphan I was a father, to the widow a husband, to the roofless I gave a home (Egyptian traditional saying) 

Simple action plan 

What’s better than practices like fasting, charity and meditation? Making peace between one another: hostility and nastiness tear up the greater good by the roots (Prophet Muhammad, 7th century) 

Whoever knocks persistently, ends up entering (Ali) 

Replace doing things in which you have doubts, for things in you don’t have doubts (Prophet Muhammad) 

 ‘May I ask what is the art of  government?’ Confucius: ‘The art of government simply consists in making things right  or putting things in their right places’ (Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 5th century BC) 

The good action and bad action are not the same. So respond to the bad action with one which is better, and then watch how the hatred between you and someone else disappears and you become like best friends. (Quran, 41:34) 

Human Being, not Human Doing 

Hope that your outward actions and inward being are the same. (Plato, Phaedrus 4th century BC) 

Master your random thoughts, try to raise yourself above the fluctuations of life and you will see all your anxiety disappear around what the right thing to do is (Anandamayi Ma, Hindu sprirual leader, 20th century) 

Give up over thinking and be just like a child. Follow simple wisdoms and the path will be become obvious. (Saraha, Buddhist monk, 9th century) 

Just try to be; and not to be this or that (Sri Ramana Maharshi, Indian sage, 20th century) 

When asked  “What shall I do to not waste time?” The Prophet Muhammad answered “Learn to know yourself” (Prophet Muhammad) 

First, I must know myself. So to be nosy about others, while I am still ignorant of my own self, is silly (Plato, Phaedrus) 

We’re not so different after all 

Languages differ, but mankind is one; and speech likewise is one. It is translated from tongue to tongue, and we find it to be the same in Egypt, Persia and Greece….Speech then is a reflection of intellect; and intellect is an image of truth (Hermes) 

The goal for everyone is the same. Yet different names are given to the goal only to suit the process before reaching the goal (Sri Ramana Maharshi) 

All are one, both the visible and invisible  (Shabistari, Persian sufi poet, 14thcentury) 

All the great rivers, like the Ganges, the Jumna, the Aciravati– these, on reaching the great ocean lose their former names and identities and are viewed simply as the great one  ocean (Vinaya-Pitaka, Buddhist text, 5th century BC) 



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