A tradition is a pattern of thought or action that is passed down from past generations, as part of inherited culture. It’s often used to describe a body of religious practice and belief, or stories and beliefs that are thought to be historical but may not be. These quotations about tradition explore what traditions mean and whether we ought to respect or break free from them.

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Raghead (The Sonnet)
Some call me raghead,
Some call me desert dweller.
Some call me curry-breath,
Some call me f-ing nigger.
This is not just my story,
But of every person of color.
In a world stolen by whites,
Anything non-white is inferior.
Upon receiving so much hate,
I admit, sometimes I do feel gloomy.
I know how it is to be cussed everyday,
So I choose love no matter the agony.
The tradition of hate has gone on long enough.
I choose to be the break in habit on the world’s behalf.

— Abhijit Naskar, Handcrafted Humanity: 100 Sonnets For A Blunderful World

The problem to be faced is: how to combine loyalty to one’s own tradition with reverence for different traditions.

— Abraham Joshua Heschel

Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.

— Aldous Huxley

All our institutions, our traditional attitudes, our laws, our morals, our customs, give evidence of the fact that they are determined and maintained by privileged males for the glory of male domination. These institutions reach out into the very nurseries and have a great infl uence upon the child’s soul.

— Alfred Adler, 1927

To the highest leadership among women it is given to hold steadily in one hand the sacred vessels that hold the ancient sanctities of life, and in the other a flaming torch to light the way for oncoming generations.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

When visitors come to a worship service in my own religious tradition, a great deal depends on how warmly they are welcomed and whether they feel included or excluded by what they hear during the short time they are with us. We may have exactly one shot at communicating who we are to people who know nothing about us – or who think they already know a lot about us – but who, in either case, will remember us at the embodiment of our entire tradition, the prime exemplars of our faith.

— barbara brown taylor

Malcolm was a firm believer in the value and importance of our heritage. He believed that we have valuable and distinct cultural traditions which need to be institutionalized so that they can be passed on to our heirs.

— Betty Shabazz

Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.

(Sometimes translated: Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. )

— Buddha

I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a person who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.

— C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

— Carl Sagan, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Beliefs and values that have held sway for thousands of years will be questioned as never before.

— Carol P. Christ

If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.

— Charles Kettering

But reason has no power against feeling, and feeling older than history is no light matter.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Conservatives have no understanding of modern capitalism. They have a distorted understanding of the traditional values they claim to defend.

— Christopher Lasch

Tradition requires a wealth of discipline in order to be adhered to, hence it is rarely found in youth.

— Criss Jami

Every profound new movement makes a great swing also backwards to some older, half-forgotten way of consciousness.

— D.H. Lawrence

One of the biggest challenges for people involved in interfaith dialogue is to break down the stereotypes of the “other” that exist within their own … traditions and groups…. [G]roups need to first acknowledge and confess their own role in fostering and contributing to injustice and conflict.

— David R. Smock

The best thing about the battered but not totally defeated American tradition of separation of church and state is that we can and should avoid mixing up God and country.

— Ed Kilgore

The separation of church and state is extremely important to any of us who hold to the original traditions of our nation. To change these traditions by changing our traditional attitude toward public education would be harmful, I think, to our whole attitude of tolerance in the religious area.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Those of us who are warm and dry and safe and well-fed must show up for those who are cold and wet and endangered and hungry. That’s a rule of life. Every ethical and religious and spiritual tradition in the world agrees on that rule.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

You can sit with us.
You can live beside us.
You can play your music.
You can listen to mine.
We can dance together.
We can share our food.
We can keep an eye on each other’s kids.
We can teach each other new languages.
We can respect traditions.
We can build new ones.
You can ask for a cup of sugar.
You can ask for directions.
You can tell me when things are hard.
You can tell me when beautiful things happen.
We can listen to stories.
We can disagree.
We can agree.
We can come to understandings.
You can wear what you want.
You can pray as you feel compelled to.
You can love who you want.
You can sit with us.

— Elizabeth Tambascio

Religion is not necessarily allied with dogma, a new kind of faith is possible, based not upon legend and tradition, not upon the authority of any book, but upon the moral nature of man.

— Felix Adler

What replaces fear? A capacity to trust the abundance of life. All wisdom traditions posit the profound truth that there are two fundamental ways to live life: from fear and scarcity or from trust and abundance…. We come to believe that even if something unexpected happens or if we make mistakes, things will turn out all right, and when they don’t, life will have given us an opportunity to learn and grow.

— Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations

Our cautious ancestors, when yawning, blocked the way to the entrance of evil spirits by putting their hands before their mouths. We find a reason for the gesture in the delicacy of manner which forbids an indecent exposure.

— George H. Mead

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.

— Gilbert K. Chesterton

Who never walks save where he sees men’s tracks makes no discoveries.

— J.G. Holland

Whereas underprivileged strata of society religiously hope for a better future, the overprivileged, disavowing any idea of transcendence, “live for the present by exploiting their great past.”

— James MacGregor Burns, The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America

Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.

— Joseph Campbell

In my community, we are taught that leadership qualities include humility, compassion, a sense of fairness, the ability to listen, preparation and carry-through, a love for the people, and a strong spiritual center that begins with a connection to Earth.

— Joy Harjo

It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear . . . . It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.

— Marilyn Ferguson
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