As stated above, I am inspired to be more benevolent and to teach benevolence through my actions and efforts. “Benevolence” is my word for the year, my mantra, or “mind tool” to help me stay focused on how I can become a better version of myself. This inspiration came from Richard Rohr’s recent sharing by Satish Kumar (a former Jain monk, who has studied both Eastern religions and Western economics and cultures). He writes that recognizing a benevolent universe helps us participate in the flow of generosity. He elaborates beautifully:
“We live in a benevolent universe. . . The benevolence of the soil is endless; it helps one single seed to multiply into millions of seeds for hundreds of years, producing colorful, aromatic, juicy, and delicious fruit, feeding birds, bees, humans, and animals. The tree celebrates the benevolence of the soil and becomes benevolent in return, offering its fruit to whoever is in need, without condition, and without judgment. . .
The benevolence of the sun is beyond the capacity of words to describe. It burns itself to maintain life. . . It provides conditions for photosynthesis for the whole plant kingdom to nourish itself and give nourishment to bacteria, insects, birds, and animals.
The moon is benevolent. It maintains the cycle of life and the cycle of time. Time and tide are sustained by its presence. . .
Rain is benevolent. It delivers itself to every farm, field, forest, mountain, and human habitat, free of charge, without needing any external supply of energy. It moistens the soil, quenches the thirst, fills rivers, ponds, lakes, and wells and in partnership with the sun it feeds the world. . .
Air is benevolent. We breathe; therefore, we are. Air is related to the spirit, to inspiration, to spirituality. . . Air is breath of Brahman, breath of the universe, breath of God. In Sanskrit air is ‘prana,’ which means life itself. . .
Space is benevolent. All and everything are held in space and by space. All movements, all changes, and every kind of dynamism are sustained in the stillness of space. We always need to be mindful of reducing our clutter and maintaining spaciousness to be detached and free.
Soul is benevolent. Compassion, kindness, generosity, and inner luminosity are the qualities of the soul. Mind, intelligence, and consciousness are held in and processed by soul. Soul is the seed of life. Feelings, emotions, sentiments, intuition, and reason pass through soul and manifest in the world. . . It is not only humans who have soul; animals, birds, insects, and microbes have soul. Soil, trees, rocks, and rivers have soul. . .”
The world is how you see it and what you make of it. If you look at the world with benevolent eyes, the world reciprocates with benevolence. If you project suspicion and self-interest, you get the same in return. Trust begets trust and fear begets fear. Recognizing the benevolence of the universe is not to deny the shadow side but seeing nature as red in tooth and claw and people as selfish and greedy makes us respond in a similar vein. If we sow seeds of malevolence, malevolence will grow; if we sow seeds of benevolence, benevolence will grow.”
The above is a brilliant example from Hinduism, which also gifted us with the Upanishads – the basis of the Vedanta practice – what I find to be a complete and most rigorous spiritual training.
From the Christian faith, here is what Jesus said about benevolence:
Benevolence takes many forms, but a story told by Jesus provides many churches with the foundation for their efforts. In brief, He says His disciples will do six things: ”feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the unclothed, care for the sick and visit prisoners.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
From the scriptures, benevolence refers to the morally valuable character trait—or virtue—of being disposed to act to benefit others.
What are the 3 most important virtues?
The three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love), are named in 1 Corinthians 13. But the greatest of these is love.
In my Muslim tradition, all prayers begin with “Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem” which is Arabic for “In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful.”
The Benevolence of Islam explains that Islam is a way of life, based on divine teachings such as kindness, equity, justice, and charity. Injunctions, permissions, and even prohibitions aim to improve the quality of life for people by forbidding vice and commanding what is good.
“Hadith” is the Arabic word for “the Prophet’s life and practices.” Much like the scriptures and Upanishads, there are several volumes that scholars avidly study. Indeed, Allah is benevolent, and “He loves benevolence to everything.”
The prominent signs of a Muslim are kindness and benevolence–sincere kindness and generosity that are inspired by a special motive.
Benevolence resonates deeply with me and I am inspired by how each of these prominent spiritual faiths embodies this practice in their teachings. Read below in the Question of the Month for even more expansion on the beauty of benevolence.
You are welcome to join me in making this your new year’s word or use this musing as a starting point for you to choose your own word. Be sure to choose a word that provides inspiration for you during 2023!
Peace and many blessings!