Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – Beatitudes-1 & 2 – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective (2)

bible-2461826_1920

In the first post on “The Sermon on the Mount” the context and the setting was discussed. It was also speculated and postulated that recent evidence seems to suggest that Jesus must have been inspired by Hindu and Buddhist philosophies – the pre-eminent religions of the time.

In this the second post on the “Sermon on the Mount” the first beatitude is taken up.

The first 9 lines of the sermon are known as the “Beatitudes”  because each sentence begins with “Blessed” derived from the Latin root “Beatus” meaning “Blessed

In talking about the beatitudes, it was highlighted (in the first post) how these are the exact opposites of the “Ten Commandants” revealed/given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the old testament in the “Book of Exodus”

St. Gregory of Nyssa says: “Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good, from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want. Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us if it is compared with its opposite. Now the opposite of beatitude is misery. Misery means afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings…

Beatitudes-1 and 2: As mentioned in the first post, the first two and the last two beatitudes are so closely related in their meaning that it may be a good idea to club the first and the second and the last and the penultimate beatitudes making it 7 beatitudes in all

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven {Matthew 5:3}
  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. {Matthew 5:4}

What does he mean when he says “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”? Does it mean that those who choose to tread this path must by its very nature live like beggars and wear rags? This is often the interpretation that is made even by those considered experts making the “poverty is a virtue” an industry by itself. Surely, a seer of Jesus stature would not be saying something as inane and banal as this. And, where is this “Kingdom of Heaven“? – is it up in the clouds where one will be ushered in by St. Peter, the gatekeeper of the pearly gates of heaven ?

Let us examine the second question first – “Where is this “Kingdom of Heaven?” To get an answer to this question, one only needs to look within the same sermon to when Jesus talks about “how one should pray to our father in heaven” He did not approve of any show and pomp in prayer. In fact he considered these people hypocrites. Look at the verses below:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are:] for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may
be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward {Matthew 6:5} .  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly {Matthew 6:6}.

Now where is this closet that he refers to? Is it a cupboard or a small room, or a secret hiding place where you shut yourself up and pray? No, what he is referring to is the “Heart” which is the spiritual center in the human being. The spiritual consciousness dwells in the heart, the brain is but the repository of intellectual consciousness. That is why the Head is “Rational” and the Heart “Emotional” 

All progress in the spiritual realm happens when there is at first a descent from the ego-center of the brain into the spiritual center of the heart followed by an ascent again into the higher echelons of the spiritual sphere.

That the heart is the spiritual center of the “Atman” is well established in Hindu/Sanatana Dharma.

In the Katha Upanishad {1-2-20} Yama, the lord of death tells Nachiketa:
अणोरणीयान्महतो महीयानात्मास्य जन्तोर्निहितो गुहायां । (1)
The “Self” or the “Atman” is tinier than the tiniest and subtler than the subtlest; greater than the greatest; larger than the largest… This “Self” is hidden/lodged in a “Cave” (Guhaayam) of the being – “The Heart”

The Svetaswatara Upanishad also clearly points to the heart being the seat of the “inner self

Svetashwara upanishad
Swami Tyagisananda (2)

The Prasna Upanishad is even more direct when it says: “This atman that dwells in the heart…

Prasna-upanishad
Swami Sharvananda (3)

In his book “All about Soul” Madhava (4) points to several other references including the one in “Yogachudamani Upanishad” which says “In the great Chakra of twelve petals… the soul whirls round and round.” a clear reference to the “Anahata Chakra of 12 petals corresponding to the level of the heart.

Therefore when Jesus says “when thou prayest, enter into thy closet…” he is referring to the “closet of the Heart” i.e. a descent from the ego-centered brain to the emotional center in the Heart and the “Kingdom of Heaven…” is the realization of the divinity of the “Self” within.

And what does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” The operative phrase is “…in spirit” – It is an inner renunciation of the attachment to all things “material” and “ephemeral” You can have all the possessions in the world but so long as you are not “attached” you are spiritually free. King Janaka of Mithila was one such Raja Yogi who remained unattached and calm despite the pressures of running a kingdom and possessing wealth. Krishna was another who remained untouched despite being in the midst of wealth and political intrigue.

As long as a person remains attached to any possession – material, mental, or emotional that dominates his/her consciousness he/she remains “poor in spirit” To be poor in spirit is to possess the humility to know that all these possessions are but ephemeral, temporary, and fleeting.

Sankara also in his Vivekachudamani says “The first step to liberation is the extreme aversion to all perishable things…” and it is this poverty that Jesus is referring to

vivekachudamani
Swami Madhavananda (5)

And who are the mourners? They are those that yearn for the realization of the divinity within – that “Kingdom of Heaven” within. It is these who find comfort in the the realization of the divinity within…


  1. https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/katha-upanishad-shankara-bhashya/d/doc145197.html
  2. Svetaswataropanisad by Swami Tyagisananda; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras; 1949
  3. Prasna Upanishad by Swami Sharvananda; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras; 1922
  4. All About Soul. Madhava. First Edition. Pai and Company. Master Printers. Kochi. 
  5. Vivekachudamani of Sri Sankaracharya by Swami Madhavananda; The Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati. Almora Himalayas; 1921.

 

 

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective – deeper aspects of what he said (1)

Sermon on the MountCopenhagen Church Alter Painting

This post comes after a relatively long hiatus and it also goes against the grain when it comes to the type of posts I have written to date. I have for long been fascinated by St. Matthew’s account of “The sermon on the mount” having first read it when I was still in school.  In talking about the teachings of Jesus and more specifically the “Sermon on the Mount” one wonders how he arrived at a set of teachings that run completely contrary to the prevalent teachings of the time in that part of the world – The Ten Commandments. It is quite clear that he could not have arrived at these in the synagogues he prayed in during his first 12 years of life.

What Jesus taught were the exact opposites of the “negative” commandments which were essentially  a set of “don’ts” – “Thou shall not…” Therefore the question – Was he influenced by the teachings of Hinduism and/or Buddhism the dominant religions of the time? is a valid and relevant question

There is also the question of the “missing years” of what Jesus did and where he went or lived during the 18 years between age 12 and 30. After a reference to Jesus being baptized by the wandering, eccentric minstrel “John the Baptist” whose food was “Locusts and wild honey” there is a long and unexplained gap before Jesus appears again when he fasts for 40 days and nights, is tempted by “evil”, prevails, attains enlightenment, and leads the multitudes up the mount of olives to preach – this was when he was 30, just three years before his gruesome death. Where was he and what did he do in the interim remains a mystery.

There has been much speculation that Jesus spent his “missing” years in India. This speculation is now congealing into fact – You can read about it here and watch a BBC video here.

Another documentary by the Government of India hints at Jesus in Kashmir “The story of the life of Isah

Anecdotal, circumstantial, and even recorded information clearly point to Jesus having been in India and or at least having been influenced either by Buddhist or Hindu philosophical thought or more likely both. These speculations add to the mystery of the person called Jesus and his definitive teachings summarized in “The Sermon on the Mount”

There are several other reasons for my fascination with this “Sermon on the Mount”:

  1. This sermon stands out from the rest of what appears in the Bible both in the old and new testaments in terms of its directness, brevity, and pithiness
  2. It embodies in a sense the entire essence of all that Jesus wanted to say and share coming as it did soon after his 40-day/night “fast” that led to his “realization”
  3. It is also a defining moment in the life of Jesus – it was in all probability an event that occurred in 30 CE just three years before his gruesome death
  4. While a lot of western authors have read and written about Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, the reverse of Hindus writing or commenting about other religions is a rarity. There are exceptions – Eknath Easwaran’s commentaries or Swami Prabhavananda’s (Ramakrishna Math) brilliant book “The Sermon on the Mount, according to Vedanta” – These however remain exceptions and in today’s times the need to study other religions and make comparative commentaries is an urgent need.
  5. For too long the Christian church has interpreted these lines literally when a deeper reading and analysis of the sermon show that Jesus was speaking from a high philosophical plane much removed from the one we live on.
  6. This (point-5 above) is perhaps why he resorted to parables and such in his subsequent teachings – he was perhaps bringing it down a few notches to serve the needs of those who had not reached the exalted plane he had.
  7. Finally, I am also of the opinion that a “grounding” in the tenets of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism provides one with the flexibility to view all religions objectively – It is the only religion that considers and accepts all other religions to be true

This is going to be a series of posts on the sermon interpreted from a Sanatana Dharma/vedantic perspective or more simply an attempt to delve deeper into what he could have actually meant when he said what he said.

Right at the beginning of this sermon Jesus lists what are popularly called the “Beatitudes” which are the condensed essence of his teachings or in other words the goals that one can attain when he/she sets out on the path to enlightenment. These are 9 in number but can be reduced to 7 because the first two (1 & 2) and then the last two (8 & 9) are so closely related in terms of the message they convey that they can be treated as one.

Just before this momentous event when Jesus leads the multitudes up the mount, he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was sorely “tempted of the “devil” who offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” and the “glory (associated) of them”

Who is this devil? Is he the satan of the Bible? Or is it someone or something else? As Paul Brunton says “The devil then as now is that adverse element in nature that seeks to keep man’s consciousness imprisoned in the lower form of nature… as our experiences increase we gain more understanding of the forces which are at work… and as we understand them we can consciously take our stand and work out our… full liberation”

In an earlier post in discussing the story of “The Churning of the Ocean” I had referred to the constant fight within each human being between the forces of evil/dark forces – the Asuras, and the forces of Light – the Devas. This is the satan of the bible and this is what Jesus strived against too in his Quest for enlightenment.

The 9 beatitudes are listed below and as mentioned earlier and as is evident 1 & 2 as well as 8 & 9 can be clubbed together which would make it 7 beatitudes in all and each one would be taken up in the subsequent posts to delve into their deeper meaning and also examine them in the light of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

  8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


 

References:

  1. Picture credit: http://www.theology21.com/2011/06/30/sermon-on-the-mount-why-the-law-according-to-jesus-is-impossible-to-follow/
  2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Chapter) in “The Inner Reality” by Paul Brunton. July 1952. Anchor Press. Great Britain.
  3. The Holy Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society
  4. The King James Version of the Bible. Published January 2004. 

 

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective – deeper aspects of what he said (1)

Sermon on the MountCopenhagen Church Alter Painting
Photo Courtesy: Theology 21*

This post comes after a relatively long hiatus and it also goes against the grain when it comes to the type of posts I have written to date. I have for long been fascinated by St. Matthew’s account of “The sermon on the mount” having first read it when I was still in school.  In talking about the teachings of Jesus and more specifically the “Sermon on the Mount” one wonders how he arrived at a set of teachings that run completely contrary to the prevalent teachings of the time in that part of the world – The Ten Commandments. It is quite clear that he could not have arrived at these in the synagogues he prayed in during his first 12 years of life.

What Jesus taught were the exact opposites of the “negative” commandments which were essentially  a set of “don’ts” – “Thou shall not…” Therefore the question – Was he influenced by the teachings of Hinduism and/or Buddhism the dominant religions of the time? is a valid and relevant question

There is also the question of the “missing years” of what Jesus did and where he went or lived during the 18 years between age 12 and 30. After a reference to Jesus being baptized by the wandering, eccentric minstrel “John the Baptist” whose food was “Locusts and wild honey” there is a long and unexplained gap before Jesus appears again when he fasts for 40 days and nights, is tempted by “evil”, prevails, attains enlightenment, and leads the multitudes up the mount of olives to preach – this was when he was 30, just three years before his gruesome death. Where was he and what did he do in the interim remains a mystery.

There has been much speculation that Jesus spent his “missing” years in India. This speculation is now congealing into fact – You can read about it here and watch a BBC video here.

Another documentary by the Government of India hints at Jesus in Kashmir “The story of the life of Isah

Anecdotal, circumstantial, and even recorded information clearly point to Jesus having been in India and or at least having been influenced either by Buddhist or Hindu philosophical thought or more likely both. These speculations add to the mystery of the person called Jesus and his definitive teachings summarized in “The Sermon on the Mount”

There are several other reasons for my fascination with this “Sermon on the Mount”:

  1. This sermon stands out from the rest of what appears in the Bible both in the old and new testaments in terms of its directness, brevity, and pithiness
  2. It embodies in a sense the entire essence of all that Jesus wanted to say and share coming as it did soon after his 40-day/night “fast” that led to his “realization”
  3. It is also a defining moment in the life of Jesus – it was in all probability an event that occurred in 30 CE just three years before his gruesome death
  4. While a lot of western authors have read and written about Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, the reverse of Hindus writing or commenting about other religions is a rarity. There are exceptions – Eknath Easwaran’s commentaries or Swami Prabhavananda’s (Ramakrishna Math) brilliant book “The Sermon on the Mount, according to Vedanta” – These however remain exceptions and in today’s times the need to study other religions and make comparative commentaries is an urgent need.
  5. For too long the Christian church has interpreted these lines literally when a deeper reading and analysis of the sermon show that Jesus was speaking from a high philosophical plane much removed from the one we live on.
  6. This (point-5 above) is perhaps why he resorted to parables and such in his subsequent teachings – he was perhaps bringing it down a few notches to serve the needs of those who had not reached the exalted plane he had.
  7. Finally, I am also of the opinion that a “grounding” in the tenets of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism provides one with the flexibility to view all religions objectively – It is the only religion that considers and accepts all other religions to be true

This is going to be a series of posts on the sermon interpreted from a Sanatana Dharma/vedantic perspective or more simply an attempt to delve deeper into what he could have actually meant when he said what he said.

Right at the beginning of this sermon Jesus lists what are popularly called the “Beatitudes” which are the condensed essence of his teachings or in other words the goals that one can attain when he/she sets out on the path to enlightenment. These are 9 in number but can be reduced to 7 because the first two (1 & 2) and then the last two (8 & 9) are so closely related in terms of the message they convey that they can be treated as one.

Just before this momentous event when Jesus leads the multitudes up the mount, he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was sorely “tempted of the “devil” who offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” and the “glory (associated) of them”

Who is this devil? Is he the satan of the Bible? Or is it someone or something else? As Paul Brunton says “The devil then as now is that adverse element in nature that seeks to keep man’s consciousness imprisoned in the lower form of nature… as our experiences increase we gain more understanding of the forces which are at work… and as we understand them we can consciously take our stand and work out our… full liberation”

In an earlier post in discussing the story of “The Churning of the Ocean” I had referred to the constant fight within each human being between the forces of evil/dark forces – the Asuras, and the forces of Light – the Devas. This is the satan of the bible and this is what Jesus strived against too in his Quest for enlightenment.

The 9 beatitudes are listed below and as mentioned earlier and as is evident 1 & 2 as well as 8 & 9 can be clubbed together which would make it 7 beatitudes in all and each one would be taken up in the subsequent posts to delve into their deeper meaning and also examine them in the light of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

  8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


 

References:

  1. Picture credit: http://www.theology21.com/2011/06/30/sermon-on-the-mount-why-the-law-according-to-jesus-is-impossible-to-follow/
  2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Chapter) in “The Inner Reality” by Paul Brunton. July 1952. Anchor Press. Great Britain.
  3. The Holy Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society
  4. The King James Version of the Bible. Published January 2004.