Monday, September 11, 2006
THE BEATITUDES, #1 from the Gospel of St Matthew 5:+
The Jerusalem Bible: "How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
King James, Authorized Version: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The New Testament, J.B. Phillips: "How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs!"
Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text*: "Blessed are the humble for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
*This is the Holy Bible translated directly from the Aramaic (Syriac) text --the language of Jesus -- by renowned scholar, George M. Lamsa.
The Sermon in the Mount and Jesus' teachings known as the Beatitudes are more complete in Matthew than they are in Luke. Some scholars believe Jesus chose a high spot from which to the deliver this core message to make a connection with the Temple in Jerusalem which was also situated on a "mount". Jesus' new community, the kingdom of God, was to be the replacement for the Temple in this new dispensation or covenant. Jesus' teachings although not replacing The Torah would have the more preeminent position.
These ruminations on the Beatitudes are just my own and at this point of time. I certainly don't claim for myself any real scholarly background in this area.
What is so fortunate, so lucky, so blessed to be poor in spirit? Why does this condition make it easier for people to find God, the Truth, the Absolute?
A person could have a high position in the land or even possess wealth and land and still be poor in spirit -- although I think this would be much more difficult.
To be poor in spirit, IMO, is to be humble, to have the virtue of humility. Both these words derive from the Latin for earth or earthy. Perhaps in the sense of being "down to earth"; not being full of oneself; not being self-promoting; not feeling that one is "special" or the center of the universe.
Such people could be said to be, in a sense, "empty," open. Empty vessels in which the wine of wisdom or grace can find a home.
The old Chinese Zen story of the self-important magistrate who visits a respected Zen master in search of profound wisdom: the Zen teacher pours tea into the magistrate's cup, but when the brim of the cup is reached, he continues pouring, the tea flooding over the table. When the important official asks what the master is doing --- he is told "Wisdom can only be imparted to one who is empty of pre-conceived ideas and self. Come back when you are a suitable vessel."
Jesus spoke of the last becoming the first when the disciples were vying for positions in the coming kingdom. Their minds were on themselves; they were self assertive.
Jesus used children as an ideal example of those who are open. People who have this childlike attitude of being receptive, not having made up their minds about everything ---- are much easier for God's grace to penetrate.
The important thing to hear clearly to listen with awareness to be present with reality, with grace, with the presence of God. To enter the kingdom of heaven is to be transformed in an essential way, and is easier when one has simplicity, openness and a receptive heart.
A person filled with self, striving to assert himself continuously in his pursuit of wealth or power has little chance of becoming a member of Jesus' kingdom, of his community. Such a person may be amassing much in the eyes of the world, but at the cost of his soul.
How would Hinduism and Buddhism possibly respond to the first beatitude? What would they think of Jesus' saying the the humble-minded/ poor in spirit/those who possessed humility are truly blessed?
In Hinduism's Bhagavad Gita Arjuna objects to fighting a war to defend righteousness, Arjuna, the warrior, objects to fighting a battle in which so many will be killed on both sides, with relatives and friends in both camps. Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, the second person of the Hindu trinity convinces him that he, Krishna is God in human form and that Arjuna should have the humility to listen to Krishna's answers to Arjuna's questions and surrender to his duty as a warrior.
*Avatar---a being who is a manifestation of God or the Absolute
In the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism, it is believed that Amida, the Buddha of Compassion sincerely seeks to save all beings, especially the worst, who need salvation the most. All that is needed is to have the humility to accept one's inability to achieve salvation, to step aside and allow Amida to take over.
In both cases, faith and trust iareneeded, but without humilty and humble-minded the divine message does not have a chance to penetrate the proud ego.