This small group ministry session based on resources from SpiritualityandPractice.com contains a favorite concept of mine, Albert Schweitzer’s “reverence for all that is called life.” While the session itself has only a quote about it, you can find a fuller excerpt of his Reverence for Life here. In it, Schweitzer says, “The ethic of Reverence for Life…comprehends within itself everything that can be described as love, devotion, and sympathy whether in suffering, joy, or effort.” These thoughts work well with what Edward Hays calls “the challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century”: “to comprehend the sacred in the ten thousand things of our world”
The challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century is to begin again to comprehend the sacred in the ten thousand things of our world; to reverence what we have come to view as ordinary and devoid of spirit.
— Edward Hays
A Spiritual Exercise from Awakening the Buddhist Heart: Integrating Love, Meaning, and Connection into Every Part of Your Life by Lama Surya Das
Lama Surya Das demonstrates how to activate a “spiritual intelligence” in all aspects of our lives. In the following passage, he suggests a reverence practice.
The great Indian sage Shantideva, whose name means the “Gentle Master,” lived in the 7th and 8th century. He spent his life teaching others how to see the equality of self and other, and to act from this belief. He said that if you raise even one hand in a gesture of reverence to anything or anyone, all the Buddhas clap, rejoice, and rain down blessings. Shantideva lived in a world where people regularly put two hands together and bowed. Yet he taught that even one hand could make a difference. In a practical sense, raising a hand in reverence means that we must put down our weapons. After all, it’s difficult to harm or manipulate someone when you are bowing to them.
Questions: Who has helped you cultivate a sense of reverence for life and for the natural world?
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I cannot but have reverence for all that is called life. I cannot avoid compassion for everything that is called life. That is the beginning and foundation of morality.
— Albert Schweitzer quoted in Reverence for Life edited by Harold E. Robles
To Practice This Thought: Raise your hand in reverence to someone or something.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Reverence.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.