Spiritual echoes in the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita and the Bible

tgb1Here are some remarkable spiritual echoes from the 3 ancient texts namely the Tao Te Ching by the Chinese sage Lao Tzu, the Bhagavad Gita as propounded by Sri Krishna and Jesus Christ in his sermon on the mount in the Bible.

It amazing that there are so many parallels in the Tao Te Ching,  the Gita and the Bible. What is more interesting is that these happened many millennia ago at 3 different places on the earth.

So here goes …

In the Tao Te Ching, the Tao is described as ‘the changeless’  and ‘the formless’. Similarly the Gita talks of the Brahman, which is beyond the senses, intellect and the mind,   as ‘changeless, tasteless, odorless and colorless’. These texts discuss the need for the attainment of  this Tao or the Brahman as the ultimate goal of man

Echoes in the Tao Te Ching and the Gita

Both the Tao and the Gita suggest that we need to perform actions without a desire or an attachment to the fruits or results

Tao: “All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself;
they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership;
they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results).”

Gita: “Perform your duty in the spirit of ‘niskama-karma’ or desireless action. Offer the fruits and the results thereof to God”

The Tao-te-Ching and the Gita discuss that one who knows and has attained the Brahman or enlightenment do not care to speak about it as the Tao & the Brahman cannot be described verbally. The Brahman & Tao are beyond verbalization and can only be experienced.

Tao: “He who knows (the Tao) does not (care to) speak (about it);
he who is (ever ready to) speak about it does not know it.””

Gita: “He who knows (the Brahman) talks not, he who talks knows not (the Brahman)”

Regarding action, both the Tao and the Gita discuss that for those who have attained enlightenment performing action becomes unnecessary. These enlightened souls transcend action completely.

Tao: “He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose).
Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.”

Gita: “A true Brahman is one who has renounced action through devotion and whose doubt has been removed by knowledge and is composed in his self is not bound by karma”

Echoes in the Tao Te Ching and the Bible

The Tao and the Bible suggest that gentleness and flexibility can overcome power and inflexibility. In the Tao Te Ching the example of gentle water eroding the strongest rocks is provided as an example of this principle.

Tao : “The soft overcomes the hard; and the weak the strong.”

Bible: “The meek shall rule the world.” (Thanks to Steve Tanner for pointing out that ‘the meek’ in this context refers to a person who is moderate in his/her approach and who does not go to extremes)

Both the Bible and the Tao Te Ching underscore the importance of forgiveness. They extol the need to be shower kindness and blessings even on those who treat you with derision and contempt.

Tao : “To those who are good (to me), I am good;
and to those who are not good (to me), I am also good;—
and thus (all) get to be good.
To those who are sincere (with me), I am sincere;
and to those who are not sincere (with me), I am also sincere;—
and thus (all) get to be sincere.”

Bible: “Love thy enemy”.
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who treat you with disdain..
Show your right cheek if somebody slaps your left.”

Echoes in the Bible and the Gita

The Gita and the Bible re-iterate the fact that we should not judge or form opinions about others when we ourselves are not faultless

Bible: Judge not, lest ye be judged. Condemn not, lest ye be condemned.

Gita: Enlightened men are those who see the same in a Brahmana with learning, a cow, an elephant or a dog. In other words the yogi does not form opinions or judgments about others. A true yogi treats all persons with the same footing.

Another common thread in the Bible and the Gita is that we need to look into ourselves to understand the divine

Bible : The kingdom  of God cometh not with observation. For behold, the kingdom of the God is within you.

Gita: Above the senses, the mind and the intellect is the Atman which is within you. In the Upanishad’s this is also mentioned as “Tat tvam asi”, “Thou art that”.  The Atman is inside you and we become aware of it through self-inquiry.

The Gita and the Bible enjoin us to cut desire at the root.

Bible: You cannot serve God and Mammon at the same. Here Mammon refers to the desire for wealth.

Gita:  Perform ‘niskama-karma’ or desireless action.

It is really amazing that these 3 enlightened souls had such remarkable clarity and similarity in their view of the path towards enlightenment.

Life’s lessons from the Gita & the Bible

Here a list of key lessons from the Gita and the Bible. These are really difficult lessons to practice in daily life but well worth trying.

– Maintain your poise towards success or failure, pleasure or pain, sorrow or joy (A true yogi is one who has transcended the dualities – Gita)

– Maintain your equanimity at all times. Do not swayed by praise or criticism ( A true yogi is neither elated at praise nor is he upset by criticism – Gita). If we have this attitude we will not crave for recognition nor will fear criticism

– Treat everyone equally without bias or partiality (To a true yogi a brahmin, an outcast or a dog is one and the same – Gita). We should not form opinions or pass judgments on others.

– Repay with love when an act of unkindness (Love your enemy – Bible).

– Never harbor any hatred towards anybody at anytime (Forgive those who hurt you. Pray for those who persecute you – Bible). It never helps to nurse a grudge against anyone. A grudge is an unnecessary burden than be destroyed utterly only through forgiveness.

– Give and give freely. Do not trumpet your acts of charity (Your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing – Bible)

– Avoid finding fault with others or criticizing another (Judge not, lest ye be judged. Condemn not, lest ye be condemned – Bible)

– Perform all actions without any ulterior motive (Do your duty without any desire for the fruits of your actions – Gita)

These lessons from the Gita and the Bible are truly eternal in their concept. They are living lessons that will live till eternity


The mind has its own reasons

“The mind has its own reasons” may come as a surprise. But this is very true. While we may consciously reason and want to react in a certain way, when a situation presents itself we react instantaneously based on our internal conditioning. In other words we behave according to the reasoning of our mind.

We may read profound philosophy, be able to articulate noble ideas and thoughts. But in our daily lives when someone attacks our ego we react with anger. All our spirituality and philosophy simply goes up in smoke. We may cool down as an afterthought.

What this indicates to us is that intellectual understanding of spirituality is one thing but adherence to it in real life is completely different. It is not enough that we understand spirituality. We have to internalize it through constant practice.

We have to be able to remove the deep programming that is within us. We have to peel layer by layer this conditioning of ours. It is not easy to react with kindness when somebody is mean to us. Generations of conditioning will make us spew venom in retaliation to meanness. Is there a way to remove this conditioning?

In my opinion, spirituality like any other discipline requires years of practice and a constant unswerving devotion to God. We must through practice internalize good values in our lives.

It is only then will be able to be unruffled by “criticism or praise” as the Gita requires us. It is only then will be able to “love our enemy” as suggested by Christ.

But to achieve such a state in life is no easy task and requires discipline, and an in-depth understanding of our own mind. We must dispel all the cobwebs of evil in our mind.

Only then can we lead a truly virtuous life.