But amid the diverse practices one form of discipline is common to all four of the sages. Its commonality and centrality in their lives makes it tempting to suggest that perhaps this exercise was the secret of their success. But I’m reluctant to reduce the richness of their experiences and insights to just one thing. But if I had to name just one thing, this would be it.
Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad all took time to be quiet.
Confucius called it “abiding in reverence” and “rectifying the mind.”
The Buddha called it “bhavana” or “mental cultivation.”
Jesus and Muhammad called it praying.
In practice each of these activities was slightly different from one another.
Muhammad liked to retreat to a cave or stay up half the night.
The Buddha preferred to sit at the base of a tree.
Jesus liked the hills and gardens.
Confucius sat on a mat in his room. But their disciplines shared common basic features.
They each involved making time to be alone, to focus on interior experience, and to allow the mind to settle and become receptive to what the world had to teach them.
Excerpted from this exceptional seminar by Mark Muesse, The Great Courses.