Sunday, May 10, 2020

Inter-Being and the Trinity

Gate’ Gate’ Paragate’ Parasamgate’ Bodhisvaha.  This is a popular Mantra in Yoga and is part of the Prajnaparamita or the Heart Sutra.  Mantra is a popular word in the west. Often debated is its pronunciation.  But never debated is its usefulness in life.  At times of trouble we all have our go to mantra or collection of sounds repeated to aid in concentration or meditation.  Words can be healing; sound and vibration can be healing.  Sanskrit is thought to be a language of sounds and vibration.  You can understand the meaning of the words by the way they make you feel, not knowing what the words are. Try experiencing it before we discuss its meaning… I was singing this mantra at the exact moment my father died, go here to experience .  I was not with him.  He was in Myrtle Beach, SC and I was in Rome, GA. I knew his death was imminent, but not the exact moment it would come.  I called to check on him as I finished singing and was told he had just died.

My deep understanding and love for this mantra began not only with Deva Premal’s beautiful voice but also with the poetic and beautiful teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk that Martin Luther King, Jr. once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work during the Paris Peace Talks. He still lives but in a post-stroke world, contributing what he can.  His mere presence is a joy to me.  But, as I have learned from Thay, he will always be present. As the law of the conservation of mass states: Matter cannot be created nor destroyed (Lavoisier). This scientific concept is at the root of Thay’s beautiful interpretation of the Heart Sutra in the small text The Heart of Understanding.  I reread it this weekend and took a deep dive. If I were to sum it up in a word that word would be a new one Thay uses in this book, “Inter-be.”  To inter-be means you understand the connection between all living things.  He lays out example after example of this: A piece of paper contains sunshine, trees, a logger, his breakfast, his parents, all the things that contributed to that making of the sheet of paper.  Or if a glass is empty it must be empty of something, therefore, is it empty? Or your body/form had a life long before you [son] remember it, it came from your parents [father], grandparents, great-grandparents, the plants and animals [Holy Spirit] you consume to make up your present form, the former lives of those plants and animals. Meditate on your face, before you were born. A leaf is both child and mother to the tree. Nothing is born or dies, everything is, we all inter-are.  Here are my rough notes sequentially taken as I re-read this weekend….

Notes on the Heart of Understanding

Paper. Inter-be. Empty of what? Nothing. No separate self. Full of everything. Penetrate or be that which we want to understand. Emptiness is impermanence. Everything is changing. Nothing is born or dies. Dharma/things are changing - form changes - forms of being are different - forms have history beyond this form that we don't know anything about. To say you don't know is the beginning of knowing. Do you see the link between you and me? If you are not there, I am not here.  As I leave… I will wave… I will see you very soon. Life IN, not OF [“I am IN the Father and the Father is IN Me” John 14:11]. Emptiness is an optimistic word. No longer subject to fear. You Have always been here. Rose and garbage: transform into each other, inter-are. Wealth and poverty: inter-are. Good and evil: inter-are. A speck of dust contains the whole universe. Understanding made of non-understanding. Buddha made of non-Buddha. Buddha and Mara (devil­). Mara wanting to be Buddha, Buddha it's not all great to be me. Understanding interbeing is liberating, removes fears, allows Nirvana. Gone-gate’-empty. Empty of what? No separation, just change, enlightenment alleluia. Everything is interconnected what I do affects you.  Gone Gone Gone all the way over, everyone gone to the other shore, oh what Enlightenment! Hallelujah! Gate’ Gate’ Paragate’ Parasamgate’ Bodhisvaha.

It is my opinion that on some level St. Stephen understood this Heart Sutra and that is was led to his stoning.  In the first few verses he mentions trinitarian concepts, perhaps for the first time all together.  No one understands Stephen, therefore they stone him to death.  But did he die? Would St. Stephen consider himself dead?  He repeats words very similar to Jesus’ last words. In saying “receive my spirit” is there an implication of inter-being?

This week’s readings use the concept of stones, rocks, houses, places, and dwellings in various ways.  At one point even using the term “living stone.” We don’t think of stones as living.  But as Thay points out there is no birth or death, we simply change forms. We inter-are with everything.  With all the mass that makes up this Earth.

Here is my own, not so poetic metaphor: This week I will participate in a webinar in which my anatomy teacher will be leading us through an unfixed dissection of a human teacher, or FORM. We will watch this form begin to transFORM.  Some of this form will stay with me. Some will stay with everyone participating in this experience. Some will be cremated and continue the journey of this form to its next form, its next dwelling place or room or rock or living stone.

I struggle very little with the concept of the Trinity.  Looking at the conservation of mass – earthside, beautifully interpreted by the Heart Sutra, seeing the connection of all, makes it very easy to see the connection of God in the Trinity in the father, son, and holy spirit. The inter-being of all, “the way, the truth, and the life.”


Acts 7:55-60

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.


Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; * deliver me in your righteousness.

2 Incline your ear to me; * make haste to deliver me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; * for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, * for you are my tower of strength.

5 Into your hands I commend my spirit, * for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.

15 My times are in your hand; * rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.

16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, * and in your loving-kindness save me."


1 Peter 2:2-10

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner”,  And “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.


John 14:1-14

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”


Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”


The Heart of Understanding PDF by Thich Nhat Hanh


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