Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Faith As A Grain of Mustard Seed
King James Bible, Matthew 17:
14And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
It struck me like a bolt of lightning in the clear night sky just now as I was walking. It occurs to me that in Matthew 17:20, Jesus made a very sneaky statement. I have quoted the entire paragraph so that it is read in context, before I am criticised for throwing quotes around the place. I want to point out one very unquestioned assumption in this paragraph: Jesus says "faith AS a grain of mustard seed", NOT "faith AT LEAST AS MUCH AS a grain of mustard seed". Sit with that for awhile. Is a realisation dawning?
The traditional assumption is that it means we are so pathetically lacking in faith (a view I do not agree or disagree with) that we cannot achieve anything. I note that Jesus may not even have been referring to a quantity. It says "as", which could just as easily be interpreted as "similar to" a grain of mustard seed. Now THAT is a very different tale. I propose it meant the latter meaning, which by its very definition covers quantity as well.
Let's deal with the quantity question first: I think it literally means, we need to have faith as SMALL as a mustard seed. Ironic, no? I propose that more is less, and less is more in matters of faith. The problem is this - in "faith" we actually separate ourselves from the creator principle, whatever that may be for you. In the Bible, that would of course be God, the Father. The greater the "faith" you have, the greater a perceived difference between you and God there must be. That is why, I believe the bible says, of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest. (See 1 Corinthians 13). And if you read the whole chapter you will see that "love" looks suspiciously parallel to the Buddhist "bodhichitta heart".
Anyway, smaller is better because if we sit in separation, we put more conditions on belief, and that actually hinders manifestation. The nature of manifestation is homeopathic. That is why the seed is symbolic - it is tiny, yet it contains the potential for an entire plant. Even the mustard plant is symbolic - it isn't a huge oak tree. Quite the contrary. It suggests that even in the process of manifestation we need to maintain flexibility. So, the slightest touch is needed.
There are other parallels and similes we could draw to the mustard seed, but I'll leave that to you. Just consider that piece of advice in a slightly different light and you might be surprised by what you find.