ON VANITY

One thing on which, at some point, all the great teachings agree is that they counsel humility and caution against vanity.  In Christian creed vanity is counted one of the seven deadly sins.  The rendering of one of the Ten Commandments in English reads, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain,”  which, perhaps should read, “in vanity,” which sounds to me as saying one should not presume to be so vain as to think one can speak as if with the voice and authority of God.  The voice from the burning bush tells Moses it is nameless, a way of saying to him that its totality is beyond the limits of his finite mind to encompass, as is the prohibition in the Commandment of attempting to make a graven image of it.  So too is the question to Job from the voice in the whirlwind, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?”  Always, the admonition to know the limits of our understanding.

And, beyond the many gods of the Hindu pantheon there is the Atman which cannot be defined but is the source of all.

Lao Tsu tells us,

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He describes the sage as humble and not taking credit.

Over and over we are reminded to be humble in the face of the great mystery at the core of being.

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So, I ask this:  Is it not a great vanity for someone to say their understanding or opinion of the will of God or their interpretation of some scripture is the only truth and that that with offends them also offends God?  Is it not a vanity if they say this love is blessed and that is damned, and that they are commanded by God to allow the one and prevent the other from being acknowledged?  Or, that they know when a developing embryo is endowed with a soul?  Who do they think they are?  Are they not speaking vainly in the name of the Deity?

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