The Jesus Sutras (Part 7): Mindfulness

(For an introduction to this series, read Part 1.)

The Sutra of Cause, Effect, and Salvation, in addition to addressing the issue of karma, exhorts people to live in continuous mindfulness of Christ’s work on the cross. Mindfulness (sati) is a key practice in Buddhism. It basically means having a pure awareness that extends to all aspects of life. It’s a way of being fully present to what you’re doing at every moment throughout the day, to really experience things directly and immediately, and with loving attention—the ground you walk on, for example, or the texture of your food, or the sensation of cold, or the rhythm of your breath. It also means seeing things exactly as they are, without distortion.

This Buddhist practice is, in most ways, very compatible with Christianity. Christians should live in constant awareness of God’s goodness and grace and should be grateful for all experiences, whether good or bad, because we know that God has allowed them for our growth and his glory. That’s mindfulness—embracing, accepting, watching, comprehending, and participating fully in the ongoing process of living. 

Mindfulness is one of the factors of the Eightfold Path, which the Buddha laid out as a practice that leads to enlightenment:

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right intention
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right meditation

The Buddhist scriptures expound on these eight points, teaching how one must labor intensively at each one in order to attain that desired end state. The writer of the Jesus Sutras, however, teaches that the desired end state has already been won by Christ on the cross, and that we don’t have the ability to do anything “right” apart from his Holy Spirit working righteousness in us.

As far as mindfulness goes, the Sutra of Cause, Effect, and Salvation teaches that all deeds must be performed with an awareness of Christ’s sacrifice. This is the ground of reality: that when we were dead in our sins, Christ died for us, so that we can be made righteous and free (Romans 5). It is this cosmic act of charity that should motivate and give meaning to all our small acts of charity and that defines “rightness” in the first place.

There was no other way to free us from sins but for Him to enter this world. So He came and suffered a life of rejection and pain before returning. To know this is to know who He was, to know that the One Sacred Spirit became incarnate in the Holy Sacred Spirit. Knowing this, you should do as is commanded: follow these teachings and worship the One Sacred Spirit. A benevolent act done in the knowledge of this suffering is the only truly benevolent act, acceptable only by these teachings and none other. (Sutra of Cause, Effect, and Salvation 5:17-21)

This sutra, harkening back to Matthew 7:24-27, it seems, describes Jesus as the “firm foundation” on which we must build a life of virtue. No other foundation will suffice:

Always do good and keep your heart pure. Remain true to God. Unless you realize this, all your virtuous acts will fail just as the house without firm foundations will fall. As soon as the wind blows, the house is gone. But built on firm foundations, not even the strongest wind can conquer. Thus a virtuous deed done without understanding of God fails. (Sutra of Cause, Effect, and Salvation 5:27-32) 

Jon Babcock translates the middle part thusly: “When we lack mindfulness, we are like someone who builds a house out of ignorance. . . . The wind comes and blows it away.”

So, if you are a Christian, remember to act always out of a cognizance of who you once were and who God has made you, through Christ. You are set apart; “therefore, turn to the One Sacred Spirit and find true holiness in your actions” (Sutra of Cause, Effect, and Salvation 6:45).

Read Part 8: The Virgin “Mo Yan.”

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