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


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…

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

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…

  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.