Friday, September 1, 2017

082. Live A Pure And Selfless Life Of Service; Be a Friend To All, Your Own Critic, And Ever Kind; Become One With All Life


Dhammapada Part VII

The final two chapters of the Dhammapada are included in this post. These chapters speak of those who have overcome this world...freeing themselves from every kind of worldly ambition and selfish desire. In Buddhism, one is not judged on their status or external characteristics, but by their spiritual growth. Those who have learned what life has to teach them are not compelled by past karma to take on a body again. The Buddha understood that the most suitable environment for working towards such goals was away from the world, surrounded by others who were engaged in the same quest.

The final two chapters included here are entitled "bhikshu" (monk) and "brahmin" (priest). These terms do not necessarily refer to a member of an established religious order, but to anyone who wholeheartedly commits to a life focused on an inward spiritual journey and practice; who desires to set themselves apart from the world and pursue the things of God above all else. So, when used in the following passages, think of these terms as what yourself, as a spiritual seeker, can become. Such persons accept with an equal mind and heart all that comes their way, they live to give instead of receive, and they exhibit good will toward all life. Although the Buddha attempted the practice of self-depravation of the body early on in his search for enlightenment, he learned for himself that such an approach did not help him progress. Instead, he taught a "middle way", in which self-will was crushed through meditation, doing good, and vanquishing selfish desires, rather than starvation and denying oneself joys that are important to the soul. He rejected asceticism, and it is incorrect to think of the Buddha as a shaved head mendicant who ate only leftovers put into his bowl. Overzealous followers may have starved and tortured their own bodies, just as monks and nuns have done in other religious traditions, but the Buddha himself advocated a long, vigorous, and healthy life dedicated to the service of all.

I hope reading these passages over the past week has been helpful to you in preparing for what lies ahead in your life. God bless you in your quest to overcome this world and to come into contact more fully with God.

The Bhikshu

Train your eyes and ears; train your nose and tongue. The senses are good friends when they are trained. (360) Train your body in deeds, train your tongue in words, train your mind in thoughts. This training will take you beyond sorrow. (361)

He is a true bhikshu who has trained his hands, feet, and speech to serve others. He meditates deeply, is at peace with himself, and lives in joy. (362)

He is a true bhikshu who keeps repeating his mantram (i.e., short prayer), lives simply, and explains the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way) in sweet words. (363)

He is a true bhikshu who follows the dharma, meditates on the dharma, rejoices in the dharma, and therefore never falls away from the dharma. (364)

He is a bhikshu who is content with what he receives and is never jealous of others. Those who are jealous cannot do well in meditation. (365) 

Even the gods praise the bhikshu who is contented and lives a pure life of selfless service. (366) Free from the desire to possess people and things, he does not grieve over what is not. (367)

Bhikshu, empty your boat. It will go faster. Cast out greed and hatred and reach nirvana. (369)

Overcome the five obstacle, rise above the five selfish attachments, and you will cross the river of life. (370)

Meditate, bhikshu, meditate. Do not run after sense pleasures. Do not swallow a red-hot iron ball and then cry "I am in great pain". (371)

There can be no meditation for those who are not wise, and no wisdom for those who do not meditate. Growing in wisdom through meditation, you will surely be close to nirvana. (372) 

When a bhikshu stills his mind, he enters an empty house; his heart is full of the divine joy of the dharma. (373) Understanding the rise and fall of the elements that make up the body, he gains the joy of immortality. (374) 

Learn to be wise, O bhikshu. Train your senses; be contented. Follow the teachings of the dharma and keep pure and noble friends. (375) Be a friend of all. Perform your duties well. Then, with your joy ever growing, you will put an end to sorrow. (376) 

As the varsika plant sheds its faded flowers, O bhikshu, shed all greed and hatred. (377) He is a bhikshu who is calm in thought, word, and deed, and has turned his back upon the allurements of the world. (378)

Raise yourself by your own efforts, O bhikshu; be your own critic. Thus self-reliant and vigilant, you will live in joy. (379) Be your own master and protector. Train your mind as a merchant trains his horse. (380)

Full of peace and joy is the bhikshu who follows the dharma and reaches the other shore beyond the flux of mortal life. (381) Full of light is the young bhikshu who follows the dharma. He lights up the world as the moon lights a cloudless sky. (382)

The Brahmin

Cross the river bravely; conquer all your passions. Go beyond the world of fragments and know the deathless ground of life. (383)

Cross the river bravely; conquer all your passions. Go beyond your likes and dislikes and all fetters will fall away. (384)

Who is a true brahmin? That one I call a brahmin who has neither likes nor dislikes and is free from the chains of fear. (385)

Who is a true brahmin? That one I call a brahmin who has trained the mind to be still and reached the supreme goal of life. (386)

That one I call a brahmin who has shed all evil. I call that one a recluse whose mind is serene; a wanderer, whose heart is pure. (388)

That one I call a brahmin who is never angry, never causes harm to others even when harmed by them. (389)

That one I call a brahmin who clings not to pleasure. Do not cause sorrow to others; no more sorrow will come to you. (390)

That one I call a brahmin who does not hurt others with unkind acts, words, or thoughts. Both body and mind obey him. (391)

It is not matted hair nor birth that makes a brahmin, but truth and the love for all of life with which one's heart is full. (393) What use is matted hair? What use is a deerskin on which to sit for meditation if your mind still seethes with lust? (394)

Saffron robe and outward show do not make a brahmin, but training of the mind and senses through practice of meditation. (395) Neither riches nor high caste makes a brahmin. Free yourself from selfish desires and you will become a brahmin. (396)

The brahmin has thrown off all chains and trembles not in fear. No selfish bonds can ensure such a one, no impure thought pollute the mind. (397)

That one I call a brahmin who has cut through the strap and thong and chain of karma. Such a one has got up from sleep, fully awake. (398)

That one I call a brahmin who fears neither prison nor death. Such a one has the power of love no army can defeat. (399)

That one I call a brahmin who is never angry, never goes astray from the path who is pure and self-controlled. This body is the last. (400)

That one I call a brahmin whose wisdom is profound and whose understanding deep, who by following the right path and avoiding the wrong has reached the highest goal. (403)

That one I call a brahmin who has put aside weapons and renounced violence toward all creatures. Such a one neither kills nor helps others to kill. (405)

That one I call a brahmin who is never hostile to those who are hostile toward him, who is detached among those who are selfish and at peace among those at war. (406)

That one I call a brahmin from whom passion and hatred, arrogance and deceit, have fallen away like mustard seed from the point of a needle. (407)

That one I call a brahmin who is ever true, ever kind. (408) Such a one never asks what life can give, only "What can I give life?" (409)

That one I call a brahmin who has found his heaven, free from every selfish desire, free from every impurity. (410) Wanting nothing at all, doubting nothing at all, master of both body and mind, such a one has gone beyond time and death. (411) 

That one I call a brahmin who has risen above the duality of this world, free from sorrow and free from sin. Such a one shines like the full moon with no cloud in the sky. (413)

That one I call a brahmin who has crossed the river difficult and dangerous to cross, and safely reached the other shore. (414)

That one I call a brahmin who has turned his back upon himself. Homeless, such a one is ever at home; egoless, he is ever full. (415)

Self-will has left his mind; it will never return. Sorrow has left his life; it will never return. (416)

That one I call a brahmin who has overcome the urge to possess even heavenly things and is free from all selfish attachments. (417)

That one I call a brahmin who is free from bondage to human beings and to nature alike, the hero who has conquered the world. (418)

That one I call a brahmin who is free from I, me, and mine, who knows the rise and fall of life. Such a one is awake and will not fall asleep again. (419)

That one I call a brahmin whose way no one can know. Such a one lives free from past and future, free from decay and death. (420)

Possessing nothing, desiring nothing for their own pleasure, their own profit, they have become a force for good, working for the freedom of all. (421)

That one I call a brahmin who is fearless, heroic, unshakable, a great sage who has conquered death and attained life's goal. (422)

Brahmins have reached the end of the way; they have crossed the river of life. All that they had to do is done: they have become one with all life. (423)


The End



Thursday, August 31, 2017

081. Bear Harsh Words With Patience; Avoid Negative Thoughts; Break Bonds Of Selfish Desire

Dhammapada Part VI

Patiently I shall bear harsh words as the elephant bears arrows on the battlefield. People are often inconsiderate. (320)

Best among men are those who have trained the mind to endure harsh words patiently. (321)

Best among men is one with a well-trained mind. (322)

No animal can take you into nirvana; only a well-trained mind can lead you to this untrodden land. (323)

Eating too much, sleeping too much, like an overfed hog, those too lazy to exert effort are born again and again. (325)

Long ago my mind used to wander as it liked and do what it wanted. Now I can rule my mind as the mahout (i.e., a tender of elephants) controls the elephant with his hooked staff. (326)

Be vigilant; guard your mind against negative thoughts. Pull yourself out of bad ways as an elephant raises itself out of the mud. (327)

If you find a friend who is good, wise, and loving, walk with him all the way and overcome all dangers. (328)

If you cannot find a friend who is good, wise, and loving, walk alone, like a king who has renounced his kingdom or an elephant roaming at will in the forest. (329) 

It is better to be alone than to live with the immature. Be contented, and walk alone like a roaming elephant in the forest. Turn away from evil. (330)


It is good to live in virtue, good to have faith, good to attain the highest wisdom, good to be pure in heart and mind. Joy will be yours always. (333)

The compulsive urges of the thoughtless grow like a creeper. They jump like a monkey from one life to another, looking for fruit in the forest. (334)

When these urges drive us, sorrow spreads like a wild grass. (335) Conquer these fierce cravings and sorrow will fall away from your life like drops of water from a lotus leaf. (336)

Therefore I say, dig up craving root and all, as you would uproot birana grass, if you do not want Mara (i.e., adversary/tempter) to crush you as the stream crushes reeds on its banks. (337)

As a tree, though cut down, recovers and grows if its roots are not destroyed, suffering will come to you more and more if these compulsive urges are not extinguished. (338)

All human beings are subject to attachment and thirst for pleasure. Hankering after these, they are caught in the cycle of birth and death. (341) Driven by this thirst, they run about frightened like a hunted hare, suffering more and more. (342) Overcome this thirst and be free. (343)

Some, if they manage to come out of one forest of cravings, are driven into another. Though free, they run into bondage again. (344)

Fetters of wood, rope, or even iron, say the wise, are not as strong as selfish attachment to wealth and family. (345) Such fetters drag us down and are hard to break. Break them by overcoming selfish desires, and turn from the world of sensory pleasure without a backward glance. (346)

Like a spider caught in its own web is a person driven by fierce cravings. Break out of the web, and turn away from the world of sensory pleasure and sorrow. (347)

If you want to reach the other shore of existence, give up what is before, behind, and in between. Set your mind free, and go beyond birth and death. (348)

If you want to reach the other shore, do not let doubts, passions, and cravings strengthen your fetters. (349) Meditate deeply, discriminate between the pleasant and the permanent, and break the fetters of Mara (i.e., adversary/tempter). (350)

Those who are free from fear, thirst, and sin have removed all the thorns from their life. This body is their last. (351)

They are supremely wise who are free from compulsive urges and attachments, and who understand what words really stand for. This body is their last. (352)

I have conquered myself and live in purity. I know all. I have left everything behind, and live in freedom. Having taught myself, to whom shall I point as teacher? (353)

Greed ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from greed. (356)

Lust ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from lust. (357)

Hatred ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from hatred. (358)

Selfish desires ruin the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from selfish desire. (359)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

080. 1st Time In History: Complete New Translation Of The Bible Published

On August 28, 2017, for the 1st time in history, and 184 years, 1 month, and 27 days following the completion of Joseph Smith's revelatory work on the New Translation of the Bible (July 2, 1833), a complete edition that includes all of his additions, corrections, and deletions from 446 pages of dictated translation manuscripts, as well as insertions and deletions written into his personal KJV Bible, has been published. With little fanfare and in an understated announcement, the Restoration Edition (RE) Scripture Committee released the full text here on August 29, 2017.

This is certainly something to rejoice over, express gratitude for, and celebrate!

Although there are many versions of the "Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible" (or JST) in existence, all include only a portion of the total number of revisions that Joseph made to the Bible. For example, although it is estimated that Joseph Smith made edits to more than 3,400 verses in the Bible, only about 600 of those changes are included in the KJV currently used by the LDS Church. The LDS church has only officially canonized the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith's revision to part of the Gospel of Matthew in their scriptures, both published in the Pearl of Great Price.

The importance of the New Translation of the Bible to the LDS church is summed up by this statement, published in the church-owned Church News on December 7, 1974: "The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages." Yet, in 1984, and speaking of then created LDS JST of the Bible with its roughly 600 edits included, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated the following:
"The Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version, is a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth. It contains all that the King James Version does, plus pages of additions and corrections and an occasional deletion. It was made by the spirit of revelation, and the changes and additions are the equivalent of the revealed word in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. For historical and other reasons, there has been among some members of the Church in times past some prejudice and misunderstanding of the place of the Joseph Smith Translation. I hope this has now all vanished away. Our new Church Bible footnotes many of the major changes made in the Inspired Version and has a seventeen-page section which sets forth excerpts that are too lengthy for inclusion in the footnotes. Reference to this section and to the footnotes themselves will give anyone who has spiritual insight a deep appreciation of this revelatory work of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is one of the great evidences of his prophetic call" (The Bible - A Sealed Book, 1984).
Indeed, the New Translation contains corrections that shed light on countless issues, problems, questions, and doctrines, and also restores many lost truths. Many of the revelations in the LDS Doctrine & Covenants are in some way connected to Joseph's work on the New Translation, including background on the Apocrypha (LDS section 91), the three degrees of glory (LDS section 76), teachings on baptism for the dead (LDS section 124), the Book of Revelation (LDS sections 77 and 86), and various revelations on priesthood (LDS sections 84, 88, 107), as well as other sections (LDS sections 37, 45, 73, and 91).

Scriptural Basis for the New Translation of the Bible

LDS 1 Nephi 13:26-29  And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

LDS 1 Nephi 14:23  Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 6:26-27 (April 1829)  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people; And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 42:14-15, 56-58 (February 9 and 23, 1831)  And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. And all this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching, until the fulness of my scriptures is given....Thou shalt ask, and my scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety; And it is expedient that thou shouldst hold thy peace concerning them, and not teach them until ye have received them in full. And I give unto you a commandment that then ye shall teach them unto all men; for they shall be taught unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 45:60-62 (March 7, 1831)  And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come. For verily I say unto you, that great things await you;

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 73:3-4 (January 10, 1832)  Now, verily I say unto you my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, saith the Lord, it is expedient to translate again; And, inasmuch as it is practicable, to preach in the regions round about until conference; and after that it is expedient to continue the work of translation until it be finished.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 90:12-14 (March 8, 1833)  And now, verily I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment that you continue in the ministry and presidency. And when you have finished the translation of the prophets, you shall from thenceforth preside over the affairs of the church and the school;

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 93:53 (May 6, 1833)  And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 94:10 (August 2, 1833)  And again, verily I say unto you, the second lot on the south shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures, and all things whatsoever I shall command you.

LDS Articles of Faith 1:8  We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Joseph Smith: On Error in the Bible

"From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points, touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled." History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805 - 30 August 1834], p. 183. January 25 - February 16, 1832)

"From what we can draw from the scriptures relative to the teachings of heaven we are induced to think, that much instruction has been given to man since the beginning which we have not...We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain; but to say that God never said any thing more to man than is there recorded, would be saying at once, that we have at last received a revelation; for it must be one to advance thus far, because it is no where said in that volume by the mouth of God, that he would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again." (Letter to the Church, circa March 1834, p. 143.)

"[There are] many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelation of the Holy Ghost to me." (The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat & Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 211; From 11 June 1843. spelling and capitalization modernized).

"I believe the bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers; ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors." (History of the Church, 1838 - 1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843 - 30 April 1844], p. 1755. October 15, 1843).

"God may correct the scripture by me if he chooses." (Words of Joseph Smith, 191).

"I have the oldest book in the world and the Holy Ghost. I thank God for the old book, but more for the Holy Ghost." (Words of Joseph Smith, 345).

Joseph Smith's Work of Translation

Thus, the work on the New Translation began in June of 1830, starting with work on the Book of Genesis and the vision of Moses. This was just after the Book of Mormon was published and the church was organized, both in the Spring of 1830, which was a very busy time for the work of the Restoration. The translation and review of the New Testament was completed on February 2, 1833 and the Old Testament was completed on July 2, 1833.

Why Was the New Translation Never Published?

Although the New Translation work was completed 11 years before the prophet's death, it was never published in its entirety during his lifetime. During that time, Joseph continued to revise the manuscripts to prepare them for printing and excerpts from the New Translation were published in early church periodicals and various verses were also used in the Lectures on Faith. The failure to publish the New Translation was not due to any lack of effort on Joseph Smith’s part, but was rather due to the saints inability to provide the temporal support to Joseph so that he could complete the work. As early as 1831 through nearly the end of his life, the Lord instructed the saints to temporally support Joseph's translation of the Bible as well as it's publication. Regarding the way in which the New Translation should be published, Joseph Smith said the following: "It is not the will of the Lord to print any of the new Translation in the Star; but when it is published, it will all go to the world together, in a volume by itself; and the New Testament and the Book of Mormon will be printed together." (April 21, 1833, Letterbook 1, p. 35). As early as August 6, 1833, a month after the New Translation was completed, Joseph Smith stated the following: "You will see by these revelations that we have to print the new translation here at kirtland for which we will prepare as soon as possible" (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams to Edward Partridge, August 6, 1833, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History 235 Library). This statement had reference to the printing press owned by the church that was destroyed in July of that same year just as the translation work had completed, and that a new printer would need to be sought for. Such an approach would require the enlistment of a printer to typeset the entire Bible, a very costly endeavor in those days. Thus, the primary reason for the New Translation not being published during the lifetime of the prophet Joseph Smith was a lack of available funds and temporal support of the prophet. The saints also faced many other challenges and difficulties during this period, which made the accumulation of sufficient funds difficult. However, several sources show that Joseph felt an urgent desire to publish the New Translation and regularly expressed disappointment that the Saints could not raise the money to get it printed:

  • The following revelation was received in February 1831, “And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him.” (LDS D&C 43:12–13.) The "mysteries of the kingdom", as a direct result of the knowledge revealed in the translation, were promised as the saints sacrificed to support the work that Joseph was asked to do. 
  • Later that year on October 25, 1831, also during the process of translation, at a conference of the church in Hiram, Ohio, Joseph Smith petitioned the saints for temporal aid to enable him to do his work, specifically mentioning the translation of the scriptures: “Brother Joseph Smith, Jr. said … that the promise of God was that the greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while he was translating the fulness of the Scriptures...that God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church...and except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail.” (Far West Report, p. 16, quoted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 9). 
  • The journal entry of Reynolds Cahoon of November 9, 1831 indicates he was sent on a mission to gather funds for the translation work: “Started for hiram to fulfill my mission to the churches which was given to Br. David and myself to obtain mony or property for Brs Joseph and others to finish the translation.” (Journal of Reynolds Cahoon, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). 
  • On 25 June 1833, the Prophet wrote to Brother W.W. Phelps in Missouri: “In regard to the printing of the New Translation: It cannot be done until we can attend to it ourselves, and this we will do as soon as the Lord permits.” (History of the Church, 1:365). 
  • Again on April 23, 1834, the Lord asked the saints to publish the New Translation: “And for this purpose I have commanded you to organize yourselves, even to print my words, the fulness of my scriptures, the revelations which I have given unto you.” (LDS D&C 104:58.) 
  • Again on June 18, 1840, the plea went out to support the work of Joseph in the spiritual affairs of the church, including the publication of the Bible: "[for] the time has now come, when he should devote himself exclusively to those things which relate to the spiritualities of the Church, and commence the work of translating the Egyptian records, [and] the Bible.” 
  • And again in July of that same year, two elders were called to collect money for the publication of various books, including the New Translation: “To all whom it may concern:—This is to certify that Elders Samuel Bent and George W. Harris are authorized agents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being appointed by the First Presidency and High Council of said Church to visit the branches of the Church … to obtain donations and subscriptions for the purpose of printing the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, hymn-books, the new translation of the scriptures. … We do hope the Saints will do all in their power to effect the object proposed. [signed] Joseph Smith, Jun., President.” (History of the Church, 4:164). 
  • And again, on September 1, 1840 an “Epistle of the First Presidency to the Saints Scattered Abroad” included a call to the members of the church to provide financial contributions to the building up of the kingdom and specifically “the printing and circulation of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, hymn-book, and the new translation of the Scriptures.” (History of the Church, 4:187; also Times and Seasons, vol. 1, no. 12, Oct. 1840, p. 179).
  • On January 19, 1841, in a revelation to William Law, the Lord spoke about publishing the New Translation: “If he will do my will let him from henceforth hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph, … and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth.” (LDS D&C 124:89.)
  • On January 15, 1842, the Times & Seasons contained a notice that the “Trustee [Joseph Smith] needed time to arrange the scriptures, including the New Translation of the Bible … for the press.” (Vol. 3, no. 6, p. 667).
  • In February of 1842, the Council of the Twelve published a notice in the Times & Seasons, requesting assistance from the saints, especially in the building of a temple and supporting the prophet so that he could work on projects “such as the new translation of the bible, and the record of Father Abraham [can be] published to the world.” (Vol. 3, no. 9, March 1842, p. 715.
  • On October 15, 1842, another announcement was made in the Times & Seasons “the new translation of the bible, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants are entirely dependent on the liberality of the well-disposed for the cause of our Redeemer.” (Vol. 3, no. 24, 15 October 1842, p. 958.) 
  • On March 1, 1843, the Council of the Twelve issued another epistle requesting financial and material aid for the prophet to enable him to bring forth the spiritual things of the church, specifically mentioning the “revelations, translation, and history”:
    • “BELOVED BRETHREN:—As our beloved President Joseph Smith is now relieved from his bondage and his business, temporarily, and his property, too, he has but one thing to hinder his devoting his time to the spiritual interests of the Church, to the bringing forth of the revelations, translation, and history. And what is that? He has not provision for himself and family, and is obliged to spend his time in providing therefor. His family is large and his company great, and it requires much to furnish his table. And now, brethren, we call on you for immediate relief in this matter; and we invite you to bring our President as many loads of wheat, corn, beef, pork, lard, tallow, eggs, poultry, venison, and everything eatable at your command, (not excepting unfrozen potatoes and vegetables, as soon as the weather will admit,) flour, etc., and thus give him the privilege of attending to your spiritual interest.
A little over a year later, Joseph Smith was murdered and the New Translation remained unpublished. Despite all the attempts and reminders to gather funds to support the work of publishing the translation, it was never completed. It can be concluded that the major reason for failure to publish the New Translation of the Bible is the inadequate response from the saints in providing temporal assistance. It would appear that the work of translation was largely acceptable to the Lord very early on, and although the manuscript itself and other details were not completely ready for the press at that time, it was the lack of effort and acceptable sacrifice on the part of the saints to provide the means for the publication of the New Translation to become a reality.

New Translation after the Death of Joseph Smith

Emma Smith retained the manuscripts and documents pertaining to the New Translation and was not willing to turn them over to the Quorum of the Twelve. In 1845, John Bernhisel asked Emma permission to use the manuscript to copy notes into his own KJV Bible. The LDS Church has Bernhisel's Bible in its archives, but it contains less than half of the corrections. For many years the "Bernhisel Bible" was the only New Translation source for LDS Church members living in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1866, Emma Smith gave the manuscript into the custody of the RLDS Church, of which she was a member and her son Joseph Smith III was the prophet-president. In 1867, the RLDS Church published the 1st edition of the New Translation and obtained a copyright for it (which has now expired). The publication committee added chapter and verse divisions patterned after those in traditional Bibles (rather than following those on the manuscripts), and they standardized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. The RLDS Church (CoC), still retains the original manuscripts and publishes the Inspired Version through its publishing arm, Herald House Publishing.

Conclusion

After more than 184 years since the conclusion of the work on the New Translation, a complete edition has now been published, faithful to the process of translation followed by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. and including all of his edits and revisions. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will notice many significant and important differences between the LDS KJV and the Restoration Edition of the New Translation, published this week. No more is there a need to flip to an appendix (and lose your train of thought in the process) or to search through footnotes in order to find revisions made by the prophet Joseph Smith. All additions, corrections, and deletions are made unabashedly and seamlessly within the text itself, to be read in one continuous flow of revelation and truth. This is truly a gift to be cherished, studied, and appreciated by all seekers of truth.

It is not the point of this post to castigate the early saints for their failure to follow the counsel received from the Lord to support the work of translation. Coming from an institution that is allergic to any discussion of its past failures, its member are unable to learn from them. Only by learning from our past mistakes will we be less likely to repeat them. The early saints were prophetically warned: "except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail". Thus, the inability of the saints to muster the will to publish the New Translation was likely a key contributor to the interruption in the restoration following the death of Joseph Smith. The publication of the complete New Translation of the Bible represents a step in our collective repentance before the Lord for taking His word and work lightly. 


Reference: Matthews, RJ (1983). Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible “Translation”. Ensign, Jan, 57-64.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

079. Harm No One; Vanquish Your Ego; Guard Your Thoughts, Words, and Deeds

Dhammapada Part V

One is not wise because he talks a good deal. They are wise who are patient, and free from hate and fear. (258) Dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way) is not upheld by talking about it. Dharma is upheld by living in harmony with it, even if one is not learned. (259)

Gray hair does not make an elder; one can grow old and still be immature. (260) A true elder is truthful, virtuous, gentle, self-controlled, and pure in mind. (261) 

Neither pleasant words nor a pretty face can make beautiful a person who is jealous, selfish, or deceitful. (262) Only those who have uprooted such impurities from the mind are fit to be called beautiful. (263)

Shaving one's head cannot make a monk of one who is undisciplined, untruthful, and driven by selfish desires. (264) He is a real monk who has extinguished all selfish desires, large and small. (265)

Observing silence cannot make a sage of one who is ignorant and immature. (268) He is wise who holding the scales, chooses the good and avoids the bad. (269)

One is not noble who injures living creatures. They are noble who hurt no one. (270)

Not by rituals and resolutions, nor by much learning, nor by celibacy, nor even meditation can you find the supreme, immortal joy of nirvana until you have extinguished your self-will. (271-2)

Now is the time to wake up, when you are young and strong. Those who wait and waver, with a weak will and a divided mind, will never find the way to pure wisdom. (280)

Guard your thoughts, words, and deeds. These three disciplines will speed you along the path to pure wisdom. (281)

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom. (282)

Cut down the whole forest of selfish desires, not just one tree only. Cut down the whole forest and you will be on your way to liberation. (283)

If there is any trace of lust in your mind, you are bound to life like a suckling calf to its mother. (284) Pull out every selfish desire as you would an autumn lotus with you hand. (285)

"I will make this my winter home, have another house for the monsoon, and dwell in a third during the summer." Lost in such fancies, one forgets his final destination. (286)

Death comes and carries off a man absorbed in his family and possessions as the monsoon flood sweeps away a sleeping village. (287)

Do not try to build your happiness on the unhappiness of others. You will be enmeshed in a net of hatred. (291)

Do not fail to do what ought to be done, and do not do what ought not to be done. Otherwise your burden of suffering will grow heavier. (292) Those who meditate and keep their senses under control never fail to do what ought to be done, and never do what ought not to be done. Their suffering will come to an end. (293)

Kill mother lust and father self-will, kill the kings of carnal passions, and you will be freed from sin. (294) 

It is hard to leave the world and hard to live in it, painful to live with the world and painful to be a wanderer. Reach the goal; you will wander and suffer no more. (302)

Sitting alone, sleeping alone, going about alone, vanquish the ego by yourself alone. Abiding joy will be yours when all selfish desires end. (305)

One who says what is not true, one who denies what he has done, both choose the downward course. After death these two become partners in falsehood. (306)

Those who put on the saffron robe but remain ill-mannered and undisciplined are dragged down by their evil deeds. (307)

Adultery leads to loss of merit, loss of sleep, condemnation, and increasing suffering. (309) On this downward course, what pleasure can there be for the frightened lying in the arms of the frightened, both going in fear of punishment? Therefore do not commit adultery. (310)

As a blade of kasha grass can cut the finger when it is wrongly held, asceticism practiced without discrimination can send one on the downward course. (311)

An act performed carelessly, a vow not kept, a code of chastity not strictly observed: these things bring little reward. (312) If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart. A half-hearted ascetic covers himself with more and more dust. (313)

Refrain from evil deeds, which cause suffering later. Perform good deeds, which can cause no suffering. (314) Guard yourself well, both within and without, like a well-defended fort. Do not waste a moment, for wasted moments send you on the downward course. (315)

Those who are ashamed of deeds they should not be ashamed of, and not ashamed of deeds they should be ashamed of, follow false doctrines on the downward course. (316)

Those who fear what they ought not to fear, and do not fear what they ought to fear, follow false doctrines on the downward course. (317)

Those who see wrong where there is none, and do not see wrong where there is, follow false doctrines on the downward course. (318)

But those who see wrong where there is wrong, and see no wrong where there is none, follow true doctrines on the upward course. (319)

Monday, August 28, 2017

078. Give Up Anger and Pride; Do Not Dwell On Faults Of Others

Dhammapada Part IV

Give up anger, give up pride, and free yourself from worldly bondage. No sorrow can befall those who never try to possess people and things as their own. (221)

Those who hold back rising anger like a rolling chariot are real charioteers. Others merely hold the reigns. (222)

Conquer anger through gentleness, unkindness through kindness, greed through generosity, and falsehood by truth. (223) Be truthful; do not yield to anger. Give freely, even if you have but little. The gods will bless you. (224)

Injuring no one, self-controlled, the wise enter the state of peace beyond all sorrow. (225) Those who are vigilant, who train their minds day and night and strive continually for nirvana, enter the state of peace beyond all selfish passions. (226)

There is an old saying: "People will blame you is you say too much; they will blame you if you say too little; they will blame you if you say just enough." No one in this world escapes blame. (227)

There never was and never will be anyone who receives all praise or all blame. (228) But who can blame those who are pure, wise, good, and meditative? (229) They shine like a coin of pure gold.  Even the gods praise them, even Brahma the Creator. (230)

Use your body for doing good, not for harm. Train it to follow the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way). (231) Use your tongue for doing good, not for harm. Train it to speak kindly. (232) Use your mind for doing good, not for harm. Train your mind in love. (233) The wise are disciplined in body, speech, and mind. They are well controlled indeed. (234)

You are like a withered leaf, waiting for the messenger of death. You are about to go on a long journey, but you are so unprepared. (235) Light the lamp within; strive hard to attain wisdom. Become pure and innocent, and live in the world of light. (236)

Your life has come to an end, and you are in the presence of death. There is no place to rest on this journey, and you are so unprepared. (237) Light the lamp within; strive hard to attain wisdom. Become pure and innocent, and you will be free from birth and death. (238)

Make your mind pure as a silversmith blow away the impurities of silver, little by little, instant by instant. (239) As rust consumes the iron which breeds it, evil deeds consume those who do them. (240)

The mantram (i.e., short prayer) is weak when not repeated; a house falls into ruin when not repaired; the body loses health when it is not exercised; the watchman fails when vigilance is lost. (241)

Lack of modesty is a drawback in women; lack of generosity taints those who give. (242) Selfish deeds are without merit here and hereafter. But there is no impurity greater than ignorance. Remove that through wisdom and you will be pure. (243)

Life seems easy for one without shame, no better than a crow, a mischief-maker who is insolent and dissolute (i.e., self-indulgent). (244) Life is hard for one who is humble, gentle, and detached, who tries to live in purity. (245)

They dig their own graves who kill, lie, get drunk, or covet the wealth or spouse of another. (246) Those who drink to intoxication are digging up their own roots. (247) Any indiscipline brings evil in its wake. Know this, and do not let greed and vice bring you lingering pain. (248)

Some give out of faith, others out of friendship. Do not envy others for the gifts they receive, or you will have no peace of mind by day or night. (249)

Those who have destroyed the roots of jealousy have peace of mind always. (250)

There is no fire like lust, no jailer like hate, no snare like infatuation, no torrent like greed. (251)

It is easy to see the faults of others; we winnow them like chaff. It is hard to see our own; we hide them as a gambler hides a losing draw. (252)

But when one keeps dwelling on the faults of others, his own compulsions grow worse, making it harder to overcome them. (253)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

077. Cultivate Good and Patience; Avoid Evil; Live Without Hatred

Dhammapada Part III

Even the chariot of a king loses its glitter in the course of time; so too the body loses its health and strength. But goodness does not grow old with the passage of time. (151) A man who does not learn from his life grows old like an ox: his body grows, but not his wisdom. (152)

I have gone through many rounds of birth and death, looking in vain for the builder of this body. Heavy indeed is birth and death again and again! (153) But now I have seen you, house builder; you shall not build this house again. Its beams are broken; its dome is shattered: self-will is extinguished; nirvana is attained. (154)

Those who have not practiced spiritual disciplines in their youth pine away like old cranes in a lake without fish. (155) Like worn-out bows they lie in old age, sighing over the past. (156)

Learn what is right; then teach others, as the wise do. (158) 

The evil done by the selfish crushes them as a diamond breaks a hard gem. (161) As a vine overpowers a tree, evil overpowers those who do evil, trapping them in a situation that only their enemies would wish them to be in. (162) Evil deeds, which harm the doer, are easy to do; good deeds are not so easy. (163) 

Foolish people who scoff at the teachings of the wise, the noble, and the good, following false doctrines, bring about their own downfall like the khattaka tree, which dies after bearing fruit. (164)

By oneself evil is done; by oneself one is injured. Do not do evil, and suffering will not come. Everyone has the choice to be pure or impure. No one can purify another. (165)

Do not neglect your own duty for another, however great. Know your own duty and perform it. (166)

Do not follow wrong laws; do not be thoughtless; do not believe false doctrines. Do not follow the way of the world. (167)

Wake up. Do not be lazy. Follow the right path, avoid the wrong. (168) You will be happy here as well as hereafter. (169)

Look on the world as a bubble; look on it as a mirage. Then the King of Death cannot even see you. (170) Come look at this world. Is it not like a painted royal chariot? The wise see through it, but not the immature. (171)

When those who are foolish become wise, they give light to the world like the full moon breaking through the clouds. (172) When their good deeds overcome the bad, they give light to the worlds like the moon breaking free from behind the clouds. (173)

In this dark world, few can see. Like birds that free themselves from the net, only a few find their way to heaven. (174) Swans fly on the path of the sun by their wonderful power; the wise rise above the world, after conquering Mara (i.e., adversary/tempter) and his train. (174)

Avoid all evil, cultivate the good, purify your mind. (183) 

Cultivate the patience that endures. Do not oppress others or cause them pain. (184)

Do not find fault with others, do not injure others, but live in accordance with the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way). Be moderate in eating and sleeping, and meditate on the highest. (185)

They are wise who know that passions are passing and bring pain in their wake. (186)

Let us live in joy, never hating those who hate us. Let us live in freedom, without hatred even among those who hate. (197)

Let us live in joy, never falling sick like those who are sick. Let us live in freedom, without disease even among those who are ill. (198)

Let us live in joy, never attached among those who are selfishly attached. Let us live in freedom even among those who are bound by selfish attachments. (199)

Let us live in joy, never hoarding things among those who hoard. Let us live in growing joy like the bright gods. (200)

Conquest breeds hatred, for the conquered live in sorrow. Let us neither be conqueror nor conquered, and live in peace and joy. (201)

There is no fire like lust, no sickness like hatred, nor sorrow like separateness, no joy like peace. (202) No disease is worse than greed, no suffering worse than selfish passion. (203)

It is good to meet the wise, even better to live with them. But avoid the company of the immature if you want joy. (206)

Keeping company with the immature is like going on a long journey with an enemy. The company of the wise is joyful, like reunion with one's family. (207) Therefore, live among the wise, who are understanding, patient, responsible, and noble. Keep their company as the moon moves among the stars. (208)

Do not get selfishly attached to anything, for trying to hold on to it will bring you pain. When you have neither likes nor dislikes, you will be free. (211)

Selfish attachment brings suffering; selfish attachment brings fear. Be detached, and you will be free from suffering and fear. (212)

Selfish desires give rise to anxiety; selfish desires give rise to fear. Be unselfish, and you will be free from anxiety and fear. (215) 

Cravings bring pain; cravings bring fear. Do not yield to cravings, and you will be free from pain and fear. (216)

Those who have character and discrimination, who are honest and good and follow the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way) with devotion, win the respect of all the world. (217)

If you long to know what is hard to know and can resist the temptations of the world, you will cross the river of life. (218)

As your family and friends receive you with joy when you return from a long journey; so will your good deeds receive you when you go from this life to the next, where thy will be waiting for you with joy like your kinsmen. (219)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

076: Conquer Yourself and Hasten To Do Good

Dhammapada Part II

The immature are their own enemies, doing selfish deeds which will bring them sorrow. (66) That deed is selfish which brings remorse and suffering in its wake. (67) But good is that deed which brings no remorse, only happiness in its wake. (68)

Sweet are selfish deeds to the immature until they see the results; when they see the results, they suffer. (69)

As fresh milk needs time to curdle, a selfish deed takes time to bring sorrow in its wake. Like fire smoldering under the ashes, slowly does it burn the immature. (71)

Even if they pick up a little knowledge, the immature misuse it and break their heads instead of benefitting from it. (72)

The immature go after false prestige -- precedence of fellow monks, power in the monasteries, and praise from all. (73) "Listen, monks and householders, I can do this; I can do that. I am right and you are wrong." Thus their pride and passion increase. (74)

As irrigators guide water to their fields, as archers aim arrows, as carpenters carve wood, the wise shape their lives. (80)

As a solid rock cannot be moved by the wind, the wise are not shaken by praise or blame. (81) When they listen to the words of the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way), their minds become calm and clear like the waters of a still lake. (82)

Good people keep on walking whatever happens. They do not speak vain words and are the same in good fortune and bad. (83) If one desires neither children nor wealth nor power nor success by unfair means, know such a one to be good, wise, and virtuous. (84)

Few are those who reach the other shore; most people keep running up and down this shore. (85) But those who follow the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way), when it has been well taught, will reach the other shore, hard to reach, beyond the power of death. (86)

They leave darkness behind and follow the light. They give up home and leave pleasure behind. (87) Calling nothing their own, they purify their hearts and rejoice. (88) Well trained in the seven fields of enlightenment, their senses disciplined and free from attachments, they live in freedom, full of light. (89)

They have completed their voyage; they have gone beyond sorrow. The fetters of life have fallen from them, and they live in full freedom. (90)

The thoughtful strive always. They have no fixed abode, but leave home like swans from their lake. (91)

Wisdom has stilled their minds, and their thoughts, words, and deeds are filled with peace. (96) Freed from illusion and from personal ties, they have renounced the world of appearance to find reality. Thus they have reached the highest. (97)

They make holy wherever they dwell, in village or forest, on land or at sea. (98) With their senses at peace and minds full of joy, they make the forests holy. (99)

Better than a speech of a thousand vain words is one thoughtful word which brings peace to the mind. (100)

One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield. (103) Be victorious over yourself and not over others. (104) When you attain victory over yourself, not even the gods can turn it into defeat. (105)

Better than performing a thousand rituals month by month for a hundred years is a moment's homage to one living in wisdom (107)

Better to live in virtue and wisdom for one day than to live a hundred years with an evil and undisciplined mind. (111) Better to live in freedom and wisdom for one day than to lead a conditioned life of bondage for a hundred years. (113)

Hasten to do good; refrain from evil. If you neglect the good, evil can enter your mind. (116)

If you do what is evil, do not repeat it or take pleasure in making it a habit. An evil habit will cause nothing but suffering. (117) If you do what is good, keep repeating it and take pleasure in making it a habit. A good habit will cause nothing but joy. (118)

Evildoers may be happy as long as they do not reap what they have sown, but when they do, sorrow overcomes them. (119) The good may suffer as long as they do not reap what thy have sown, but when they do, joy overcomes them. (120)

Let no one think lightly of evil and say to himself, "Sorrow will not come to me." Little by little a person becomes evil, as a pot is filled with drops of water. (121) 

Let no one think lightly of good and say to himself, "Joy will not come to me." Little by little a person becomes good, as a pot is filled by drops of water. (122) 

If you have no wound on your hand, you can touch poison without being harmed. No harm comes to those who do no harm. (124) If you harm a pure and innocent person, you harm yourself, as dust thrown against the wind comes back to the thrower. (125)

Some are born again. Those caught in evil ways go to a state of intense suffering; those who have done good to a state of joy. But the pure in heart enter nirvana. (126)

If, hoping to be happy, you strike at others who also seek happiness, you will be happy neither here nor hereafter. (131) If, hoping to be happy, you do not strike at others who are also seeking happiness, you will be happy here and hereafter. (132)

Speak quietly to everyone, and they too will be gentle in their speech. Harsh words hurt, and come back to the speaker. (133) If your mind is still, like a broken gong, you have entered nirvana, leaving all quarrels behind you. (134)

As a cowherd(er) with his staff drives cows to fresh fields, old age and death lead all creatures to new lives. (135) The selfish, doing harm, do not know what is in store for them. They are burned as if by fire by the results of their own deeds. (136)

But those whose mind is serene and chaste, whose senses are controlled and whose life is nonviolent -- these are true brahmins (i.e., priests), true monks, even if they wear fine clothes. (142)

As a well-trained horse needs no whip, a well-trained mind needs no prodding from the world to be good. (143)


Friday, August 25, 2017

075. Overcome All Things Through Discipline Of Mind And Heart

The Dhammapada is a collection of the teachings of Buddha (~600BC), assembled by his disciples after his death. They represent only his essential teachings, as the extent of Buddhist scripture is much more vast, exceeding the Bible many times over in volume. Extensive excerpts from the Dhammapada are included in this and the next several posts, taken from the translation by Eknath Easwaran (1985). The reader is encouraged to obtain their own copy and read it for his or herself. Although the text is divided into many smaller chapters, the divisions across these posts are my own.


Dhammapada Part I

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it. (1) Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves. (2)

"He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me" -- those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hatred. (3) -- those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely become free from hatred. (4)

For hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law. (5)

People forget that their lives will come to an end soon. For those who remember, quarrels come to an end. (6)

As the strongest wind cannot shake a mountain, Mara (i.e., the adversary/tempter) cannot shake those who are self-disciplined and full of faith. (8)

Those who put on the saffron robe without purifying the mind, who lack truthfulness and self-control, are not fit to wear the saffron robe. (9)

But those who have purified their minds, who are endowed with truth and self-control, are truly fit to wear the saffron robe. (10)

The deluded, imagining trivial things to be vital to life, follow their vain fancies and never attain the highest knowledge. (11)

But the wise, knowing what is trivial and what is vital, set their thoughts on the supreme goal and attain the highest knowledge. (12)

As rain seeps through an ill-thatched hut, passion will seep through an untrained mind. (13) As rain cannot seep through a well-thatched hut, passion cannot seep through a well-trained mind. (14)

Those who are selfish suffer here and hereafter; they suffer in both worlds from the results of their own actions. (15) But those who are selfless rejoice here and hereafter. They rejoice in both worlds from the results of their own actions. (16)

Those who are selfish suffer in this life and in the next. They suffer seeing the results of the evil they have done, and more suffering awaits them in the next life. (17)

But those who are selfless rejoice in this life and in the next. They rejoice seeing the good they have done, and more joy awaits them in the next life. (18)

Those who recite many scriptures, but fail to practice their teachings are like a cowherd(er) counting another's cows. They do not share in the joys of the spiritual life. (19) But those who know few scriptures yet practice their teachings, overcoming all lust, hatred, and delusion, live with a pure mind in all the highest wisdom. They stand without external supports and share in the joys of the spiritual life. (20)

Be vigilant and go beyond death. If you lack vigilance, you cannot escape death. Those who strive earnestly will go beyond death; those who do not can never come to life. (21) The wise understand this, and rejoice in the wisdom of the noble ones. (22) Meditating earnestly and striving for nirvana, they attain the highest joy and freedom. (23)

If you meditate earnestly, pure in mind and kind in deeds, leading a disciplined life in harmony with the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way), you will grow in glory. (24) If you meditate earnestly, through spiritual discipline you can make an island for yourself that no flood can overwhelm. (25)

The immature lose their vigilance, but the wise guard it as their greatest treasure. (26) Do not fall into the ways of sloth and lust. (27)

Overcoming sloth through earnestness, the wise climb beyond suffering to the peaks of wisdom. They look upon the suffering multitude as one from a mountaintop looks on the plains below. (28)

Earnest among those who are indolent, awake among those who slumber, the wise advance like a racehorse, leaving others behind. (29)

Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants. But a trained mind brings health and happiness. (35) The wise can direct their thoughts, subtle and elusive, wherever they choose: a trained mind brings health and happiness. (36)

Those who can direct thoughts, which are unsubstantial and wander so aimlessly, are freed from the bonds of Mara (i.e., the adversary/tempter). (37)

They are not wise whose thoughts are not steady and minds are not serene, who do not know dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way), the law of life. (38) They are wise whose thoughts are steady and minds serene, unaffected by good and bad. They are awake and free from fear. (39)

Remember, this body is like a fragile clay pot. Make your mind a fortress and conquer Mara with the weapon of wisdom. Guard your conquest always. (40) Remember that this body will soon lie in the earth without life, without value, useless as a burned log. (41)

More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an undisciplined mind does greater harm. (42) More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-disciplined mind does greater good. (43)

As a flood sweeps away a slumbering village, death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers. (47) Death sweeps them away while they are still gathering, caught in the pursuit of pleasure. (48) But the wise live without injuring nature, as the bee drinks nectar without harming the flower. (49)

Do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do. (50)

Like a lovely flower, full of color but lacking in fragrance, are the words of those who do not practice what they preach. (51) Like a lovely flower full of color and fragrance are the words of those who practice what they preach. (52)

If you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone. There is not companionship with the immature. (61) They think, "These children are mine; this wealth is mine." They cannot even call themselves their own, much less their children or wealth. (62)

The immature who know they are immature have a little wisdom. But the immature who look on themselves as wise are utterly foolish. (63)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

074. Overcome Sin Through True Repentance

No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God (Luke 17:40 [JST], 1 Nephi 10:21, Alma 11:37, 40:26, 3 Nephi 27:19, Moses 6:57, D&C 109:20). Christ atoned for the sins of all that they might be cleansed by His blood (Alma 5:27). Thus, Christ has proven His love and power to us by all that He has accomplished and overcome. In this life we are tried and tested to our very core, so as to be proven worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Abraham 3:25-26). Christ's desire is that we overcome the world as He has so that we can be in His Kingdom: "For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you." (D&C 64:2; see also John 16:33).

One of my favorite parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien is commonly referred to as the "Mirror of Galadriel." The Fellowship of the Ring had entered into the elvish forest realm of Lothlorien, which was protected from evil by the power of Lady Galadriel. Here, members of the fellowship rested and were given magical gifts by Lady Galadriel to help them in their quest to destroy the One Ring. One day during their stay, as a means to test and reveal their hearts, Lady Galadriel showed Frodo and Sam her "mirror", which was a basin filled with water from a nearby stream. The mirror showed the viewer "things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be." When Frodo looked into the mirror he saw the eye of Sauron searching for the ring. The ring around Frodo's neck became heavier and heavier as he beheld the scene in the mirror, and just as he was about to fall forward into the basin, Lady Galadriel closed the vision. During this experience she witnessed the purity and selflessness of his heart. However, much disturbed by what he saw, and also seeing that Lady Galadriel wore one of the three lesser rings, Frodo offered the One Ring to her. Frodo was now, unknowingly, trying her heart. Although she was greatly tempted by the ring and its power, she did not yield to it and left the ring untouched in Frodo's hand. She told Frodo that if she were to have taken it, she would become corrupted, as would anyone else who bore the ring. Lady Galadriel had passed the test. See the video below for a portrayal of this interaction (warning: some content may be disturbing).


How do we demonstrate, and even prove, our repentance before God? One way that we can demonstrate our repentance before God is when we experience evil thoughts, aspirations, desires, feelings, or a temptation to do something that is wrong, we can choose to turn away from those things, extinguishing them in our hearts and not pursuing them. "But he that remaineth steadfast and is not overcome, the same shall be saved." (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:11,30). In this way, we have shown God that we are serious about our repentance. We have shown God that we do not want to be a slave or a servant to the devil or to sin any longer. We have shown God that we are devoted to following the Savior Jesus Christ.

However, if we instead give in and choose to pursue evil thoughts, aspirations, desires, feelings, or temptations, then we have not shown true repentance nor devotion to the Savior, and we are not of Him: "And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me." (D&C 52:18). If we are not of Him, whose are we? If we are not interested in demonstrating true discipleship by following Him at all costs and being among His sheep, then whose are we? Only those who overcome shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. We can only overcome sin through Jesus Christ if we choose to turn away from temptation when it presents itself in its various forms in our daily life. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." (1 John 3:6).

So, why doesn’t God just remove all our temptations? Perhaps God wants to prove our hearts. It is all to do with our hearts. When our hearts turn to God in meekness and humility, and we ask Him for help in overcoming or fleeing from temptation and sin, we are showing Him that we want to obey His commandments and be true to Him. We are showing Him that we want to follow Him, even though we may be struggling in our weaknesses. This is part of the pattern we are to follow if we want to overcome: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27). When God sees our willingness and desire to turn away from sin, and we turn to Him for help, He gives us strength and power to overcome. This is how we prove our repentance. If we are presented with temptation, and we give into it, we cannot prove ourselves to Him. If our heart is true to the Lord, we will turn away from sin and temptation and pay it no heed. Pray for strength to overcome and the Lord will bless you with power to overcome. "And he who is faithful shall overcome all things, and shall be lifted up at the last day." (D&C 75:16,22).

As we overcome sin we can be filled with His spirit and He will abide with us more fully. We can have much confidence in our relationship with the Savior as it is built up through overcoming sin and being allegiant to Him and His commandments to us. All can overcome sin through the power of the Lord and His atonement. "Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come;" (D&C 63:20,47,66).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

072. CS Lewis: An Archetype of Coming to Know God

CS Lewis published his 1st book, a collection of poems entitled Spirits in Bondage, in 1919, when he was just 20 years old. He had recently returned home from fighting on the front lines in the trenches of the Somme Valley in France during World War I. He had been wounded and two of his close friends were killed by a British mortar shell that had fallen short of its target. Lewis had also made a pact with another friend that was killed in the war that if either of them died the survivor would take care of both families; a pact which Lewis fulfilled and treated the mother of his fallen friend as his own until the day she died. His first book was also published nearly a decade before his acceptance of and full conversion to Christianity. Therefore, the content of his writings in this book are different from his later works. Here, his views on religion seem more pessimistic, and there is a sense that he believed that God had instilled in mankind deep, yearning desires for something much greater that could not actually be attained; things that were always, disappointingly, out of one's reach. He also takes an attitude toward nature that is somewhat inconsistent with his later works, with nature being for the most part cruel, hard, deceptive, and unworthy of trust.

However, contrary to popular belief, there are elements of his writings in this book that suggest to me that he was not an atheist; perhaps agnostic, but he was searching to understand God. He writes of forces of good and evil, God and Satan, obedience and disobedience; cycles of eternal lives, seasons, and stars; of differences between people who seek for truth and those who do not seem to care; and seers, and prophets, and deceivers. These poems to me are actually a reflection of the inner-workings of a person who is deeply seeking to know God. There is some occasional skepticism at God's power or benevolence (or lack thereof), and anger at why God seems not to care about what befalls His children, and confusion at how He could allow such wickedness to occur in our world. But haven't we all had the same wonderings and questions and doubts? Haven't we all wondered aloud or within ourselves, whether God is really there, or if He really cares? Yet, despite all the inconsistencies and lack of evidence for a benevolent God in Lewis' world, there was something inside of him that made him seek. I see in these writings Lewis working through the conflicts he observed in his world; trying to reconcile the loss, sorrow, bitterness, and disappointment of life against what he wanted to believe God to be.

In his writings, one can observe the transformation in understanding, light, and truth that Lewis acquired as he came into contact with the Divine and dedicated himself to the truth he received. I do not claim to know or understand the extent of Lewis' interactions with the Divine, but there are elements in his writings that I have only found to independently exist in very few trusted sources, the scriptures of the restoration included. To me, Lewis follows the same archetypal pattern, or the same path, as others who have come to know God for themselves. And although I do not know if Lewis was a type of messenger (even to his own people) or if he was just someone who received God's word for himself and then proceeded to share it with others in his own style and creative manner of writing, his life, at least to me, is another testimony of someone who sought and truly found. A life that moved along a continuum of belief as he struggled with doubt and despair and questions, and came into contact with something greater than himself, which he came to recognize and believe in as God. You can see in his later writings his deep respect and love for Mother Earth, her vegetation and animal life, as well as his understanding of the efforts of the Powers of Heaven to intervene here in this fallen world to redeem its inhabitants from their eternally cyclic wanderings. Lewis develops insights into the operation of evil and the cunning ways in which the adversary and his devils tempt mankind, thwart them from rising up into their true potential, and lead them into continual hell. His writings often seem to be inspired by a higher source, filled with content that comes from beyond what he could come to know through study or learning by himself, as if he had been exposed to some wider aperture of the heavens and had had thousands of dots about the purposes of life and our roles with the heavens connected within a short amount of time. In some of his writings, you wonder if it was of himself he wrote when he described people who have traveled to other worlds and times and who returned transformed, and from then on seemed as if they belonged elsewhere.

Most remarkably, and almost out of nowhere in the early 1930s soon after his full conversion to Christianity, in an explosion of light, depth, insight, and profound understanding, Lewis writes, in his now almost entirely forgotten Space Trilogy, about cycles of creation, Powers of Heaven vs. Powers of Darkness, choice, temptation, knowledge, the nature of the Fall, angels (good and bad), other worlds where there was no Fall, why God chooses to work with imperfect human representatives on Earth, eternal laws, priesthood, faith, repentance, and also manages to throw in an array of topics including sacrifice, eternal lives, polygamy (not in favor), love, marriage, personal transformation and redemption, etc. It is almost impossible to write a summary of such books, and perhaps it would be a disservice to do so...almost like the deep teachings of the temple, really meant to be experienced oneself. So, I will briefly say that I cannot recommend highly enough Lewis' Space Trilogy and Narnia series, particularly The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Final Battle, among others. The archetypal teachings in these books can serve to better equip you for the onslaught of temptation and evil that lies ahead; or, if someone you know who has fallen victim to great evil and deception, these books can be extremely helpful in understanding the source of such things and recovering through continued faith in Christ.

I'll close with this, a poem that CS Lewis wrote nearly 100 years ago, published in 1919 in Spirits in Bondage, called Tu Ne Quaesieris, ("Do not ask"); his own version of Horace's famous ode of the same name (my comments in parentheses). It is a somber reflection of his own state and struggle at this time in Lewis' early life, and what he wonders might lie ahead for him in eternity...you may have your own interpretations.

Tu Ne Quaesieris

For all the lore of Lodge and Myers      (late 1800s spiritualist researchers)
I cannot heal my torn desires,
Nor hope for all that man can speer       (speer = seek after)
To make the riddling earth grow clear.

Though it were sure and proven well
That I shall prosper, as they tell,
In fields beneath a different sun
By shores where other oceans run,

When this live body that was I
Lies hidden from the cheerful sky,
Yet what were endless lives to me
If still my narrow self I be

And hope and fail and struggle still,
And break my will against God’s will,
To play for stakes of pleasure and pain
And hope and fail and hope again,

Deluded, thwarted, striving elf
That through the window of my self
As through a dark glass scarce can see
A warped and masked reality?

But when this searching thought of mine
Is mingled in the large Divine,
And laughter that was in my mouth
Runs through the breezes of the South,

When glory I have built in dreams
Along some fiery sunset gleams,
And my dead sin and foolishness
Grow one with Nature’s whole distress,
To perfect being I shall win,
And where I end will Life begin.

Friday, June 16, 2017

071. Institutional Shell Shock: The Lost Art of Respectful Disagreement


Coming from a religious institution that tightly controls almost all facets of ones life, there is little room or tolerance for disagreement or differences of opinion of any kind. In such settings, if any such differences arise, they are quickly swept under the rug and settled by a deference to an authority figure who makes a judgment call. Additionally, since decisions come from the top down, by the time the layperson could possibly have a say in the matter, "the thinking has already been done”. This system works well to keep things neat and tidy and moving forward, and the ends are more important than the means. Thus, in such institutions there is little chance to openly discuss and debate issues of real importance, unless you sit in the inner circle at the top of the hierarchy or find yourself perching on one of its mid-level echelons. Instead of a reliance on the spirit, exercising persuasion, unfeigned love, and gentleness, and viewing one another as equals, such institutions resort to a reliance on much more conventional means of control, such as authority, hierarchy, rules and handbooks, insider knowledge, history/tradition, "unwritten orders of things", myths, and all sorts of rubrics to sort things out. It is much easier to automatize the process of decision-making, rather than to muck it up with the personalities, problems, weaknesses, opinions, and egos of real people. In such polished institutions, disagreements and differences of opinion are therefore viewed asbad”, “contentious”, orof the devil”, and in violation of the "unwritten order of things." Such internal discord, at any level, seems to conflict with the outward image of perfection, peace, and harmony that such institutions wish to project. If you speak up you are at risk of beingout of line with the brethren,” which can place your very own salvation in jeopardy, so they say.

When a person exits from such a system, they often carry the institutional baggage and scars gained from their experiences therein. For example, in a newfound environment, where choices do actually need to be made and opportunities for disagreement do arise, how does one share their deeply held opinions on topics of religion with another person and work through differences in point of view in a faith-filled way without deferring to an authority figure, rules and handbooks, history/tradition, etc? Or, if presented with an opinion that differs from your own, how do you maneuver through the discussion without automatically labeling such a person ascontentious”, “bad”, andof the devil”, or "out of line with the brethren", or violating some sort of "unwritten order of things"? 

Have our years inside such institutions atrophied these kinds of skills and abilities to the point where we no longer posses them, if we ever possessed them in the first place

On the one hand, have we lost the art of how to respectfully disagree with one another and still come away as friends, even if we disagree? Do we know how to put forward an argument for our point of view in a way that is non-combative, allows room for discussion, and is more of an invitation to dialogue? And then do we know how to listenconsider, evaluate, persuade, reflect, ask questions, and respond in a sincere and respectful manner? And on the other hand, are we programmed to throw down the field flags ofcontention”, “jarring”, andstrifeas soon as someone offers an opinion that differs from our own, cutting off the discussion and perhaps more significantly, cutting off the warm hand of fellowshipDo we take disagreements personally, viewing them as a personal attack on our beliefs and who we are

As individuals trying to work together towards real unity, does that mean we simply sit around smiling at one another and agreeing with every idea that comes out of every person's mouth when inside we might have significant disagreement? Is that charity or is that a lazy way to create a sort of false unity, or does it depend on the situation? Or, do we work towards true unity by hearing one another out, really listening and trying to understand, asking questions, and then exchanging our own point of view in a loving, kind, and open way that allows for dialogue and discussion? Can we be unified if we don't agree on every topic? Many believe that in an effort to keep the peace andavoid contention”, the best thing to do is to simply put their head in the sand and wait for the gray clouds of possible contention to float on by. However, are opportunities for greater unity lost when we do this? Are opportunities for greater unity also lost when we dominate in conversation or use leverage to silence another's opinion, refusing to be persuaded or consider another point of view

Are all of these perhaps some of the symptoms and manifestations of institutional shell shock that we must cure from ourselves if we are to rise above our current state and become one

There is a scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants that describes why, in part, the early saints failed in their efforts for Zion (D&C 101:6): “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.What really are these attributes manifested by the early saints? How do we know if we are falling into the same patterns? Here are some definitions from the 1828 Websters Dictionary

Contention:
1. Strife; struggle; a violent effort to obtain something, or to resist a person, claim or injury; contest; quarrel.
2. Strife in words or debate; quarrel; angry contest; controversy.

Jar (as in jarrings):
1. To strike together with a short rattle or tremulous sound; to strike untunably or harshly; to strike discordantly; as a jarring sound.
2. To clash; to interfere; to act in opposition; to be inconsistent.
3. To quarrel; to dispute; to clash in words.

Envy (as in envyings):
1. To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.
2. Rivalry; competition.
3. Malice; malignity.
4. Public odium; ill repute; invidiousness.

Strife:
1. Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts.
2. Contention in anger or enmity; contest; struggle for victory; quarrel or war.

To me, collectively, these words describe an open, often public, vitriolic, mean-spirited, angry, personal, caustic, biting, ferocious interchange or quarrel that rises above the level of a disagreement or a difference of opinion.

In my profession, I am constantly engaged in debate and discussion with othersWe all have different perspectives, experiences, and knowledge. Therefore, it is only natural for us to have differences of opinion, and therefore we should expect that to be the norm, not the exceptionIn such cases, I do not ask or expect others to share my opinions or convictions, and my goal is not to change othersviews so they accord more nearly with my own. I want to learn and share, plain and simple, and perhaps we can both come away from the exchange for the better. Any time I engage in debate and discussion with another person, for me, it is outside of who that person is, it is not personal or about them. Although any discussion has the potential to rise to the level of contention, jarrings, and strife, that is up to the people involved to regulate themselves. Therefore, discussion and debate and differences of opinion should not be feared, and on the contrary, they should be welcomed. WhyHaving different perspectives on issues and challenges can be enormously helpful. They can help us to make our own thinking and ideas clearer, and most importantly of all, we ourselves might be in error. In my profession, there is a maxim that holds true for me in all of life, and it sort of goes something like thisIt is not a matter of being right or wrong, it is a matter of determining the degree to which you are (or I am) wrong. In other words, I just assume I am always wrong to some degree. I lack the full picture, all the pieces of the puzzle, all the cards in the deck, etc. I lack full truth. I gather intelligence from as many sources as I can, I compare and contrast ("by proving contraries, truth is made manifest" - Joseph Smith), and then I use the mind and heart that God gave me, along with whatever degree of inspiration I can gather, to help me sort out how off I am and determine the best path forward. And with all of that, I still make plenty of mistakes and errors in judgment, huge ones sometimes, so I thank God for the atonement.

However, I try not to let disagreements become personal. I try to distinguish the person from the persons opinion, and I try to differentiate between a healthy argument and a personal quarrel. Sometimes it is important to agree to disagree and just move on, but it is important to not fear someone who holds an opposing view. If we are comfortable with our own standards, we can be accepting and tolerant of variety and differences of opinion. As I respect the opinions and views of others, I genuinely feel that in most cases they in turn respect and better understand my own. Often, I am pleasantly surprised by how my own views are improved by a healthy discussion with others who hold opposing views. This mutual respect can transcend a mere difference of opinion on a minor issue, but can lead to friendships with people quite different than yourselfyou can truly be one with a variety of individuals without having to agree on every topicJust because you listen to another's opinion, that does not mean you have to act on it, and of course, there may come a point, or there may be some topics, where you do not want to listen anymore for various reasons, and you have the right to walk away or discontinue the conversation

A near Zion-like society is described in the Book of 4th Nephi the prophet says that there was no contention among them four times

2 and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.

13 And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.

15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

18 and there was no contention in all the land.

Certainly these people were in harmony on many things, but does this also mean there were no differences of opinion or disagreements among them? Obviously their hearts were filled with the love of God, so might this mean that the people also loved their brothers and sisters so much that they learned the importance of listening to one another respectfully, considering differences of opinion, asking each other questions, and engaging in the art of respectful disagreement when needed

There is no need to waste time hating people with whom you disagree. We can try to focus on the fruitful nature of such disagreements; how they have helped you to shape our own views of what we are doing, or who we are, or why we are doing something in a certain way. We can be magnanimous and generous in accepting othersfailings. It might be the case that sources of disagreement and differences of opinion can be an important vehicle for arriving at greater unity