The Stone Sutra

Palmer ends his book with a translation of the Stone Sutra that inspired his search for Da Qin and a brief history of the Christian Church in China, both of which proved quite interesting.

I was especially impressed by the opening lines of the Stone Sutra where the author restates Genesis and accounts for Man’s fall from Grace:

He beat up the primordial winds and the two vapors were created. He differentiated the gray emptiness and opened up the sky and the earth. He set the sun and moon on their course and day and night came into being. He crafted the myriad things and created the first people. He gave to them the original nature of goodness and appointed them as the guardians of all creation. Their minds were empty; they were content; and their hearts were simple and innocent. Originally they had no desire, but under the influence of Satan, they abandoned their pure and simple goodness for the glitter and the gold. Falling into the trap of death and lies, they became embroiled in the three hundred and sixty-five forms of sin. In doing so, they have woven the web of retribution and have hound themselves inside it. Some believe in the material origin of things; some have sunk into chaotic ways; some think that they can receive blessings simply by reciting prayers; and some have abandoned kindness for treachery. Despite their intelligence and their passionate pleas, they have got nowhere. Forced into the ever-turning wheel of fire, they are burned and obliterated. Having lost their way for eons, they can no longer return.

Without looking at other translations of the Stone Sutra it’s impossible to know exactly what it says, but I love the phrase “appointed them as the guardians of all creation” rather than the more common translation of granting man dominion over the earth. Of course, I love it because that’s what I’ve always felt was man’s role.

I tend to agree that man’s fall from grace probably came as a result of abandoning “their pure and simple goodness for the glitter and the gold” rather than from eating of the tree of knowledge, but, again, that might be just my prejudice since I’ve spent most of my life eating from that tree, hoping it would provide answers to some of life’s most intriguing questions. I’d have been rather foolish to spend most of my life as a teacher if I hadn’t held these values.

Although the last chapter of the book seems anticlimactic, it did provide historical details that were surprising, if not actually shocking. Am I the only person that didn’t have a clue that “when Genghis Khan unified the Mongol tribes and burst out of Mongolia to conquer much of the world, a goodly proportion of his army was Christian?”

Perhaps even more shocking is that I actually found myself agreeing with a jacket blurb, where Thich Nhat Hanh is quoted, “The Jesus Sutras tells a valuable history of the beautiful teachings of a faith built on living practices of brotherhood and peace. The Sutras show us the interbeing nature of Jesus, Buddha, Tao, peoples, cultures, transformation, salvation, and unity through deep and mindful living.”

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