These five principles form the foundation of just about every major religion and philosophical system which emerged in that incredible span of years from the 8th to the 3rd century BCE called the Axial Age when Taoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Classic Greek Philosophy, and Christianity all flowered in the same time period. Why? Simple, it is because they are universal and when put into active practice in our daily lives they work.
The practice of these principles will garb you in a suit of spiritual armor. Even in the midst of chaos and in the face of evil your heart will be unsullied, calm and serene.
The five principles: Wisdom of the Axial Age
1. Be compassionate. Compassionate in both thought and deed. Learn to recognize that the actions of others are often caused by spiritual pain. Avoid contempt. Avoid those mental judgments we always make of others. Compassion leads to harmony and harmony and balance is the key to inner peace.
2. Be kind. Very simple. In every interaction, you have you have an opportunity to add to the sum total of good. No act of kindness or charity is too small. It does not matter if you receive gratitude. At times your acts of kindness will even cause resentment in others. That is their way. Let yours be kindness.
3. Be Forgiving: Forgive others and mostly yourself. Forgiveness is not easy. It requires effort to let past harms and slights go. You may be perfectly justified in your anger, sorrow or resentment but it does not matter. Resentments do not harm the object of your resentment. They harm only you. Much of our spiritual disharmony is caused by our own self-contempt. We magnify our failings. We mull over our mistakes and shortcomings again and again. We compare ourselves to an impossible ideal and then hate ourselves when we fail to measure up. Forgive yourself. Let it go. There is so much that is good in you and tomorrow brings a new opportunity to achieve your dreams.
4. Be Loving. When you have been compassionate, kind and forgiving you will sense a flood of a unique form of love. Love of all. It will well up within you and influence your every action. It will baffle and confuse others. People who would confront you, engage you in argument or dispute and who would transmit their own anger to you will be astounded when they see that you are unruffled. They will not know what to do. Your calm and peace will affect them.
5. Be Accepting: You are not in control of the universe. Stop taking everything so personally. It is not all about you. Be humble before the majesty of the universe knowing that it is you and you are it. Things are often not going to go your way. You may be treated unfairly by others, or be the target of hatred or cruelty. You are not going to get everything you want. Accept this. Move on.
(Picture: Artist unknown)
The story goes that the young Jesus who had fled to Egypt to escape Herod took a job with a caravan on the ancient Silk Road which led from China to Egypt to India. We all think of Jesus as a carpenter but what the Christian Gospels call him in Greek is “τεκτων” in our alphabet “tekton” meaning hand worker. He would have been useful addition to any expedition. He may have picked up some ideas on the journey.
When Jesus tells a man to “give away all you have to the poor and follow me” he is not suggesting that everyone do this. Society would collapse. He was making a point. A point about giving up our attachment to material things. When he says “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” he was talking about living in the now rather than fretting over an imagined future.
All of his words about compassion, charity, forgiveness, kindness and love are almost identical to the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. No other Middle Eastern religion of the time talked about these things. Religion in that area of the world at that time was concerned with appeasing God so he did not punish you. It was about priests, ritual and sacrifice. Then along comes Jesus talking about love. It must have been like a breath of fresh air to those oppressed people.