Excerpts from the Writings of Henry David Thoreau

Henry DavidDavid was the King of Israel (c. 1000 BCE) credited with uniting the many tribes of Israel into a centralized kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. David is said to have planned for the Temple in Jerusalem, which was subsequently built by his son Solomon... Thoreau was introduced to Indian thought by Emerson. From 1845-7, he retreated to “confront the essential facts of life” at Walden Pond. His writings make clear that he had the Bhagavad GitaThe Bhagavad Gita or “Song of the Lord” forms part of the sixth book of the epic Mahabharata and contains Lord Krishna’s teachings to the warrior Arjuna. The Gita is beloved by Hindus for its message of selfless action and devotion to God. with him. His works A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers (1849) and Walden (1854) give expression to his inner dialogue with the East.


These same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to all the wide men; not one has been omitted; and each has answered them according to his ability, by his words and by his life. The solitaryA solitary is a Pagan who does not regularly practice with a group. Solitaries may join groups for special occasions, but the bulk of their practice occurs alone. Today, solitaries make up the majority of self-identified Pagans. hired man on a farm in the outskirts of Concord, who has had his second birth and peculiar religious experience, and is driven as he believes into silent gravity and exclusiveness by his faith, may think it is not true; but ZoroasterKnown to the Greeks as “Zoroaster,” the Prophet Zarathushtra lived and taught in ancient Persia in the second millennium BCE, some scholars say as early as 1,750 BCE. His divinely revealed teachings emphasized ethical monotheism, with one supreme God,..., thousands of years ago, travelled the same road and had the same experience; but he, being wise, knew it to be universal, and treated his neighbors accordingly, and is even said to have invented and established worship among men. Let him humbly commune with ZoroasterOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... then, and through the liberalizing influence of all the worthies, with JesusJesus is the historical figure considered by Christians to be the Christ, the Messiah, whose life and teachings, death and resurrection give clear evidence of God’s love for humankind. Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great (d. 4 BCE... Christ himself, and let “our church” go by the board.

[From Henry David ThoreauHenry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was one of the first American intellectuals to take an interest in Buddhism and is said to have translated part of the Lotus Sutra from French., Walden (Boston: Tinckor and Fields, 1854), 117-18.]

In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the godsThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities. have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! I meet the servant of the BrahminA brahmin is a member of the priestly class, charged with the duties of learning the Vedas, teaching the Vedas, and performing rituals. It is the highest of the four general castes of Hindu society., priestA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the... of Brahma and VishnuVishnu is one of the great Gods of the Hindu tradition. He is known in the Vedas and comes to be famous as the Lord who pervades the entire universe. He is Supreme but wholly auspicious, only occasionally displaying the dark side that is embraced by Shiva... and Indra, who still sits in his templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... on the Ganges reading the VedasVeda means “wisdom” and specifically refers to the sacred wisdom of the four Vedic collections: Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. Associated with each of these Vedas is literature called Brahmanas, which are concerned especially with rituals, and U..., or dwells at the root of a tree within crust and water jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.

[From Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Boston: Tinckor and Fields, 1854), 318-19.]