Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Tag: Buddhism (page 1 of 2)

Jesus and the Jewel in the Lotus, Part 2

Continuing with the discussion of Jesus and the Jewel in the Lotus mantra from a few days ago, we have the final three syllables of the mantra (pad-me hum) to consider. If you missed my last post, which considered the first three syllables of the mantra (Om man-i), you can find it here. In that post, I said that I prefer the translation by the Dalai Lama.

The first two of those final syllables, pad-me, mean lotus, and  the Dalai Lama says that the lotus symbolizes wisdom. Wisdom is a central tenet in the development of Christianity. The old Apostle Paul said that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” Sophia is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for wisdom in the Septuagint. In Catholic theology and in Protestant mysticism, Sophia is the wisdom of God.

So, up to this point, we have Om, which is purity of mind, body, and speech; mani, which is compassion or love; and now padme, which is wisdom. Wisdom is simply too abstract to translate into action, so I take the statement in Proverbs that “the beginning of wisdom is the fear (reverence) of the Lord,” and I translate “reverence” into faithfulness or trust. Those are terms I can see in action. So when I repeat, to myself or with others, the syllables pad-me, I am yearning for faithfulness and trust–i.e., faithfulness to “the way” and trust in the one to whom the way leads.

The final syllable in the Jewel in the Lotus mantra, hum, is translated by the Dalai Lama as indivisibility, or oneness. The indivisibility of method (compassion) and wisdom. But also the inter-relation or inter-being of all creation. All human beings are inter-related. We are, in a very essential way, one. As a species, we like to think of ourselves as separate from, or above, the rest of creation. Yet we were created from dirt (in the Genesis story), consist mostly of water, must constantly synthesize both air and the flora/fauna to live, and reproduce through a process of cell division, just like everything else in creation. When we die, the atoms that made up our physical form return to the storehouse of nature from which other creatures/things come. Oneness.

Often when I pray, I use the simple translations of the syllables of the Jewel in the Lotus as my mantra. Purity, compassion, faithfulness, oneness. Those are all important words/ideas in the teachings of Jesus. They are words that describe Jesus. We are told to be transformed, to have the mind of Jesus. In the beginning, Christianity was not called “Christianity.” It was called “the Way.” Jesus is the Way. Meditating on the words of this mantra is one of the ways I try to follow the way. I like to think of Jesus as the Jewel in the Lotus, the Compassion in the Wisdom.

Purity, compassion, faithfulness, oneness.



Jesus and The Jewel in the Lotus

One of the most popular Buddhist mantras is known as The Jewel in the Lotus, consisting of a six-syllable phrase that Jesus would have loved. There is some debate about the exact origin of the mantra, but it appeared in Buddhist teachings as early as the 11th or 12th century. A  mantra is like a short prayer, which tends to be a word or phrase that, when repeated continuously in meditation and worship, has a positive spiritual effect on the worshiper. Christianity has its share of verses, songs, and early prayers that have become mantras. Consider, for example, the Jesus Prayer (“Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me, a sinner”), which is used widely in Christian meditation, especially in the Eastern  Orthodox Church. Or phrases from the Gloria (“Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us”) or the Phos Hilaron (“O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!”) or the Te Deum (“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts”). Or hundreds of verses from both testaments of the Bible.

Buddhist Mantras are frequently not literally translatable into English, or only loosely so. The Flower in the Lotus is translated in different ways, but the translation I love is from the Dalai Lama. It is the translation I think Jesus would affirm. In the original language, the six syllables are “Om Ma-ni Pad-me Hum.” The syllable “Om” is the essential sound in the Buddhist tradition and has a wide array of applications. It’s the sound you always see/hear a group of monks chanting in any documentary on Buddhism. It is frequently translated for Westerners as the vibration of the Universe/God, which has no literal translation but has great spiritual power. The Dalai Lama translates it in a simple but profound way as purity of mind, body, and speech. I apply this translation in my own meditations as follows: Think only those thoughts that promote the good, the beautiful, the well-being of others; Do only those acts that are healthy for the body and make physical life good; Speak only those words that comfort, build up, and give dignity to other people/creatures. So the Dalai Lama’s translation of this simple syllable, Om, offers not just a definition of a word, but a way of life. Every time I sound that Om, to myself or with others, I am asking for purity of mind, body, and speech.

The next four syllables–mani padme–are generally translated as “jewel” (mani) and “lotus” (padme), hence the name of the mantra. The Dalai Lama considers the  jewel to be a symbol of altruism, compassion, and love. The lotus symbolizes wisdom. If we want to become like a Buddha, or like Jesus, these four syllables represent the path, the way. Compassion combined with Wisdom. Every time I sound the syllables Mani, to myself or with others, I open myself to compassion–from the Latin, com + pati (with + suffer) to suffer with. To suffer with those who suffer, to experience the deep sympathy that leads to action to relieve suffering. Consider Paul’s beautiful hymn to selfless love in I Cor 13.

Well, since I try to keep these postings to about 500 words maximum, I’m going to deal with the last three syllables of the mantra (pad-me hum), and why Jesus would love the whole thing, in another post, in a few days.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Anger as Hell

In Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Jesus did not say that if your are angry with your brother, you will be put in a place called hell. He said that if you are angry with your brother, you are already in hell. Anger is hell.” I like that. A lot. It is an intriguing reading of the passage from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Jesus says there, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the fire of hell.” I have almost always heard this passage interpreted to mean that Jesus was ratcheting up the intensity of the law so that it would be impossible for a person to keep the law, and we would realize that only through grace can we escape the fire of hell. Not just murder will send you there, but anger and insults will, and of course none of us escapes both of those little numbers.

Here’s why I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s reading of Jesus’ words. I’m with C. S. Lewis all the way on this whole heaven and hell business. To oversimplify just a bit, Lewis saw heaven as the presence of God (Love, Light) and hell as the absence of God (Love, Light). Lewis says that we don’t just go to these places when we die, we are in them all along. So I understand Jesus, C. S. Lewis, and Thich Nhat Hanh to be saying that any time we step away from Love and Light (and by extension no longer communicate those things to others) we are in hell. And any time we experience Love and Light (and by extension communicate those things to others) we are in heaven. Lewis’s book The Great Divorce creates beautiful concrete metaphors for both those conditions.

Even Pogo, in the old comic strip, got got it right several decades ago when he said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” It would be hard to put it more succintly. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Our enemy is not the other person, no matter what he or she has done. If we look deeply into ourselves, we can see that their act was a manifestation of our collective consciousness.” He means that we all have violence, hatred, and anger in us, and it is manifested by some people in extreme ways. This all reminds me of something else Jesus said, that the judgment you use against others will be used to judge you. That is a hard one, as so many of Jesus’ little broadsides are, especially in a time like ours, when every day the violence and hatred are manifested on TV and the internet.

Older posts

© 2019 Gary Guinn

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑