Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bible Upanishad Parallel / Tree Idea

My Mother first pointed this out to me, when I was around 16 and had decided to read the entire Bible from cover to cover. There is an interesting parallel between Jesus' "Parable of the Mustard Seed," and certain verses in the Upanishads. I don't know whether she had read about it, or had simply noticed it herself.

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The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Luke 13:18–9 (see also Mark 4:30-32, Matthew 13:31-32, Thomas 20)

Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? [Jesus replied] It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Thomas 20

The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us what the Reign of Heaven is like." He said to them, "It is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a large plant and becomes shelter for birds of the sky."

1. Katha Upanishad
Chapter III, Verse 1

This is that eternal Asvattha Tree with its root above and branches below. That root, indeed, is called the Bright; That is Brahman and That alone is the Immortal. In That all worlds are contained and none can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.

5. Svetasvatara Upanishad
Chapter IV, Verse 6

He from whom this universe proceeds is higher and other than all forms of the Tree of the World and of time. When one knows Him who is the indweller, the bringer of good, the destroyer of evil, the Lord of powers, the immortal support of all, one attains final Liberation.

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Presumably religious scholars have previously noted this parallel, probably many centuries ago, but I recently came across it again, remembered what my Mother had said, and felt it was worth sharing.

Posted 12-18-07.