Religions are holistic systems that provide us with comprehensive worldviews and corresponding codes of conduct for how best to live in accordance with such views. It is not surprising that religions stress the importance of wholeness and becoming a well-rounded person who embraces a diverse range of thought and orientation, from the scientific to the spiritual.
There are many religious texts that invite us to view all of humanity as a single body. The Prophet Muhammad is purported to have said, ‘The Muslims are like a single man. If the eye is afflicted, the whole body is afflicted.’ Similarly, in the New Testament it is written, ‘For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.’
One more example of this ‘one body’ metaphor comes from the Baha’i Prophet Bahá’u’lláh, who wrote to his followers: ‘Be ye as the fingers of one hand, the members of one body.’ This imagery is reminiscent of the Hindu notion that each individual is like ‘the crest of a wave in the ocean of Brahman’. The implication of this Hindu belief is that wholeness lies within, as the composition of each droplet of the wave is identical to the ocean as a whole, we all also share the same fundamental essence: atman. Taoist practice also strives for wholeness through the inner cultivation of a balance between the two forces of yin and yang.
The Abrahamic religions, with the doctrine of the ‘fall’, claim that we have fallen out of grace with God and are incomplete versions of what we were and are meant to be. Here, wholeness means reforming ourselves in a way that more closely resembles our divine nature as beings originally created in God’s image.
We have learned through millennia of human observations, research, knowledge, and wisdom – whether through science, religion or other discipline – that the natural state of the world is one of profound unity and interconnectedness. Restoring wholeness is imperative in our world today.
Mahatma Gandhi had once said that happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony – and this idea of wholeness can only be achieved if we treat the world as one whole.
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
—The New Testament (Colossians 3:14), Christian text
“Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being.”
—Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet
“Now, take the bees, son. They prepare the honey by gathering nectar from a variety of trees and by reducing that nectar to a homogenous whole.”
—The Upanishads, Hindu text
“When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”
—Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Buddhist monk and teacher
“If a man remembers what is right at the sight of profit, is ready to lay down his life in the face of danger, and does not forget sentiments he has repeated all his life even after having been in straitened circumstances for a long time, he may be said to be a complete man.”
—The Analects (14:12), Confucian text