Friday, May 6, 2011

The Tripod of Spirituality

I'm in the last 2 weeks of my two World Religion courses. We've worked our way through Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It's a lot to cover in a single semester.

At the end of the course, I ask my students, "What do these world religions have in common?" I get a wide range of answers: a commitment to peace, an ethical code, the Golden Rule and more.

My own view is that there are three spiritual values that can be found in all of the above religions. These are: compassion, humility and gratitude. I call these values, the "tripod" of spiritual life because they uphold and support it.

Compassion is the ability to not only empathize with another's pain, but to act in a compassionate way. Humility is the ability to see yourself as you truly are and to recognize your commonality with humanity. Gratitude is the ability to see all of life as a gift and to give thanks for this multitude of gifts.

It's impossible for me to comprehend a healthy spiritual life that lacks any of these values. Obviously, we can't perfectly embody these values. However, when it comes to the spiritual life, progress trumps perfection. To strive to internalize and to live by compassion, humility and gratitude is to live the best possible life. As the Dalai Lama once said, "The purpose of religion to make us better people."


  1. Thanks for the good thoughts and thanks for sharing about your class/students.

  2. Religion teaches us how to pray. I think for the person who is praying, it is his direct communication with God. Praying for someone else is better than praying for him/herself. It may give you comfort to know that God is listening.
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