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It is better to speak one word of sense which brings one close to peace, than to recite a hundred gathas [songs, verses] that are without sense. - Udanavarga, 24.1

Udanavarga is a collection of sayings ascribed to Buddha. The Dhammapada contains about a third of its verses. The word of sense that helps a human to peace, can be a favourable mantra. Reciting words has three levels, says the ancient Manu Samhita 2.85: muttered, almost silent, and silent. Silent repetition is "a hundred times" better than muttered words, the work also says.

The art of repeating one good word is exemplified by ◦Transcendental Meditation. It makes sense: sound research shows how.

At any rate, here are some works - world literature - in case a "well-gifted word" (mantra) and education and so on leaves a surplus of interest or enterprise.


In this archive section are several classics of antiquity. Some of them show how deep humanism goes, with roots in ancient Egypt even thousands of years before Buddha, for example.

  • Egyptian. On the next page and the page after that again, are ancient Egyptian Sayings. They are followed by the intriguing Papyrus of Ani, also called the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

  • Babylonian. After that comes a Babylonian page.

  • Persian. Zoroaster hymns, gathas, are next. They are followed by some teachings of Zoroastrianism.

  • Greek. Next are two ancient Greek works ascribed to Homer: The Iliad and the Odyssey. These are followed by all of what Plato has written about Atlantis in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, and next the ancient culture hero Heracles.

  • Hellenistic (Greek between 23–146 BCE) Next: Argonautica, a Hellenistic work about Jason and his crew.

Glimpses from Pharaonic Egypt

The reputation which the world bestows
is like the wind, that shifts now here now there,
its name changed with the quarter from where it blows.

- Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): Divina Commedia 'Purgatorio'.

Some names survive in their respective cultures, and good stories, architecture, and much else. The most outstanding among them blend into the current world history too: great names, great buildings, and a lot more.

Culture is maintained and transmitted by help of stories, says Jerome Bruner. Monuments like the pyramids of Egypt do it too, and artefacts, customary ways of living, and major beliefs. Different cultures offer in part different means or regulating peoples' lives. And there are many lines of transmission.

Western culture owes much to Hebrew thought, for example its Torah (the five books of Moses and the Old Testament), and also to ancient Romans and Greeks that the Renaissance drew on. Not so immediately visible are the effects of civilisations that fed both Hebrew and Greek ways of dealing with life. But the impact of Egypt and Babylonia on Hebrews and Greeks and through them on later European cultures has been much underestimated

Egypt. Pharaonic Egypt has benefitted many; also by its immense and wide-ranged influence for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians were concerned with balanced, proper living and much else. Dr Wallis Budge has a say on the characteristics of ancient Egyptians on the next page. He points out their sense of humor; love for eating and drinking, music and dancing, festivals and processions, and display of all sorts and kinds, enjoyments of many sorts, combined with a mature morality - kindly and humane for most part. What is more,

The influence of [their] beliefs and religion, and literature, and arts and crafts on the civilization of other nations can hardly be overestimated" - Dr Wallis Budge. [In Brown 1923:xiv-xvi]

There is surprisingly much in store to be dug out in Egypt: "Countless" ancient cities and pyramids are still buried below Egypt's sand. A satellite floating 400 miles overhead, equipped "with powerful space cameras and infrared imagery can now pinpoint and record structures less than two feet wide and completely invisible to the naked eye," maintains National Geographics, referring to "thousands of new sites, including lost pyramids, temples, monasteries, tombs, homes, and even entire towns."

Archaeologist Sarah Parcak finds: "Less than 1 percent of ancient Egypt has been discovered and excavated." [◦National Geographics: "Sarah Parcak"]

Population estimates for ancient Egypt need to be adjusted upwards many times according to the surfacing data.

Ancient Egypt was for the living first and foremost. Muck knowledge form their time stems from how they treated their dead, though. Famous texts from pyramids, lime-stone coffins, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead deal with the after-life, but also the art of living, of moral living. There are many depictions of the vivid, old life in pyramid chambers and on sarcophaguses too. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says about ancient Egyptian wisdom teachings:

Practical wisdom consisted chiefly of wise sayings that appealed to experience and offered prudential guidelines for a successful and happy life. Such wisdom is found in a collection of sayings bearing the name of Ptahhotep, a vizier to the Egyptian pharaoh about 2450 BCE, in which the sage counsels his son that the path to material success is by way of proper etiquette, strict discipline, and hard work. Although such instructions were largely materialistic and political, they were moral in character and contributed to a well-ordered society. [EB, "Proverbs"] [Egyptian sayings]

The Book of Proverbs in the Bible contains seven collections of wise, short sayings from after Solomon's time. The third collection (22:17-24:22) has a close affinity to the Egyptian "Wisdom of Amenemope", from between the 900s and 500s BC. The likeness suggests that wisdom literature of Egypt was imported by smaller neighbours. [EB, "Proverbs, the"]

As mentioned above, culture is far more than stories and brief sayings. Customs, forms of buildings and gardens and towns, and tools are parts of it too, among many other things. For example, see an article on ancient Egyptian gardening and living: [Link]

Some of the hugely culture-influential fables known as fables of Aeso, stem from Africa too, Olivia and Robert Temple show [Aesop 1998].

Culture classics, Literature  

Aesop. The Complete Fables. Translated by Olivia and Robert Temple. London: Penguin, 1998.

Brown, Brian, ed. The Wisdom of the Egyptians: The Story of the Egyptians, the Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, the Ptah-Hotep and the Ke'gemini, the "Book of the Dead," the Wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus, Egyptian Magic, the Book of Thoth. New York: Brentano's, 1923.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, equals Britannica Online today.

Gardiner, Alan H. The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage from a Hieratic Papyrus in Leiden (Pap. Leiden 344 recto). Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1969.

Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature. Vols 1-3. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

Padmasambhava. Advice from the Lotus-Born: A Collection of Padmasambhava's Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and Other Close Disciples. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt). 3rd ed. Århus, DK, and Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2012. ⍽▢⍽ Recommended.

⸻. Guru' Heart Practices: Texts for Dispeller of Obstacles. Revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Ed. and comp. Marcia Dechen Wangmo [Marcia Binder Schmidt]. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt), Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2014.

⸻. The Light of Wisdom: The Conclusion. Root Text by Padmasambhava. Commentary by Jamgöl Kongtrül. Comp. Chokgyur Lingpa. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt). Commentary by Lodro Taye. Notes by Jamyang Drakpa. Contributor: Pema Trinley Nyingpo. Ed. Marcia Binder Schmidt. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2013.

⸻. Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos. Commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche. Tr. B. Alan Wallace. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1998.

⸻. Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness: An Introduction to the Nature of One's Own Mind from The Profound Teaching of Self-Liberation in the Primordial State of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities. A terma text of Guru Padmasambhava Expounding the View of Dzogchen, Rediscovered by Rigdzin Karma Lingpa. 2nd ed. Tr. John Myrdhin Reynolds. Itacha, NY: Snow Lion / Shambhala, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ John Reynolds is a good translator/editor/author in the field of Tibetan Dzogchen, although perhaps a little bit biased.

Simpson, William Kelly, red. The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, Stelae, Autobiographies, and Poetry.3rd ed. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Sparham, Gareth. The Tibetan Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha. A Translation of the Tibetan Version of the Udanavarga. 2nd ed. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986.

Yutang, Lin, ed. The Wisdom of China and India. New York: Random House, 1942.

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