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Question of the Month: What About Benevolence in Other Religions and Cultures?

What is benevolence in Buddhism?
Benevolence may be defined as having kindness, conjugal duty, goodwill, and being well-mannered. It is a trait closely related to the concept of compassion in Eastern philosophy. Within the Mahayana Buddhism tradition, for example, compassion is expressed by serving and caring for others.
Benevolence funds are established with the purpose of caring and providing for members of the community in need. These funds often help people pay for living expenses such as rent, utilities, and groceries.
What does Buddha say about caring for others?
Buddhism upholds this desire to see others become happy as the highest, most noble aspect of the human heart. Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda (Featured in my book Leadership for the Greater Good) shares, “When we look after and care for others—that is, help others draw forth their life force—our own life force increases.”
From Native American wisdom, the idea of benevolence has 4 stages of growth:
(1) When a child is born through adolescence it needs belonging.
(2) In becoming an adult, a person needs to gain mastery in skills that they excel at.
(3) In adulthood, they can enjoy independence and further develop their skills.
(4) In their senior years, they practice generosity – that is, giving back.
As a native American adage teaches us, “Regard Heaven, as your father, Earth as your mother, and all things as your sisters and brothers.”
From Judaism’s wisdom and teachings on benevolence, we learn:
For a person to aspire to infinite benevolence, he must first possess the quality of self-effacement; as long as a person thinks primarily of himself, it will be impossible to give totally of himself to others. Diminishing one’s own ego and desires enables one to become immersed in the act of kindness — a kindness not confined by a sense of self, but a kindness without end.
When a Jew is truly cleaving to God, feeling only the Almighty and himself not at all, then he can rest assured that his acts of kindness will emulate God’s — he too will perform acts of boundless benevolence.
As you can see, benevolence is highly valued and practiced by many spiritual practices all over the world. I truly believe that the more we learn from each other — with empathy and understanding — and recognize how we are already unified in our beliefs and practices, the sooner we will achieve world peace. That is my prayer.
There is an inspiring opportunity for us through considering how benevolence already aligns with all our various faiths — which is why the word means so much to me this year. I hope the same resonates with you.


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