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reverence

Reverence for all

Reverence is one of the vital attributes that the seeker on the path needs to cultivate. Reverence is the secret of true sadhana.

The Law of Reverence is fundamental to the Hindu way of life. It is the law of shraddha. The essence of the Vedas—what we call Vedanta—teaches us that there is but one life in all! The one life permeates the entire universe and all of creation. The one life sleeps in the mineral and in the stone, stirs in the vegetable and in the plant, dreams in birds and in animals and wakes up in man. Therefore, it is incumbent upon every Hindu to respect, revere life in all its myriad forms.

Reverence for life, let me add, is also the fundamental concept of ethics. It’s one essential rule, it’s one sadhana, is that I give myself for other lives. For all life is sacred, even the life of savages, of primitive people, of uncivilised ones, of wild jungle men, of the criminal, the robber, of the bird and the beast. All life is sacred. All life has its claims on every one of us. True ethics, therefore, rests on recognition of this thought—the reverence for life.

When I guard my words, deeds, and thoughts, to ensure that they do not cause pain to others in any way, I am practicing reverence for others.


Reverence for life includes sympathy or fellow-feeling and, something more, love. Reverence for life is love for all living beings—the whole universe. This reverence makes it imperative on us not to cause pain to anybody—pain by thought, pain by word, pain by deed. When I guard my words, deeds, and thoughts, to ensure that they do not cause pain to others in any way, I am practicing reverence for others.

Reverence, as the great German world-poet Goethe said, is of three aspects: Reverence for what is above us, reverence for what is around us and reverence for what is below us. Reverence for the vast universe that God created; reverence for the great ones of humanity; reverence for the poor and needy; reverence for the speechless world of birds and animals—this is what will enable us to be liberated from the vain and empty cult of the ego—and this, we must aim to achieve. For true liberation is emancipation from the ego; and I repeat these beautiful words from our scriptures: Ya vidya sa vimuktyate—that is true knowledge, which liberates us!

It was the poet Tennyson who penned those memorable lines, which I love to quote again and again: “Let knowledge grow from more to more, But more of reverence in us dwell! If there is one quality which is sadly lacking in our lives today, it is the beautiful virtue of reverence: reverence for what is above us, reverence for what is around us, and reverence for what is below us.”

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