I have sometimes wondered if the soul is unchangeable or if it is something that can learn and grow in the manner of our hearts and minds. In other words, what is the nature of the soul?
I remember a passage from the Buddhist sutras (scriptures) in which a seeker left the Buddha’s presence in tears because he felt, from their conversation, that he had no “atman” (what Hindus thought of as the immutable soul). Afterwards, the Buddha told Ananda, his chief disciple, that it was wrong to teach that Man has a soul, but it was also wrong to teach that he does not. Interesting stuff!
Jesus taught little concerning the nature of the soul, although He had a lot to say about how to secure its salvation.
Full disclosure: I am a relatively recent Catholic convert, but I have learned a lot from other traditions and do not hesitate to find meaning in them when and where I can.
Anyway, I have written a poem that was inspired by much of the above, and I present it here for your consideration:
An earnest seeker to the Buddha came,
his troubled mind possessed by fears,
then left, his eyes downcast
and full of tears.
Ananda, puzzled, of his master asked
what caused the seeker so much pain.
The Buddha answered him,
“I will explain.
“He sought to know what Man’s true nature was,
I said, ‘It is an empty bowl,’
for it is wrong to teach
Man has a soul.”
The Buddha added, then, contrarily,
regarding what he had just taught,
“It, too, is wrong to teach,
that Man does not.”
One wonders, in that weighty paradox,
what lofty truth that Buddha knew
was left for us to learn –
truth comes in twos?
Years later, in Jerusalem, a rich
young man unto Lord Jesus came,
but then he left, his face
downcast in shame.
St. Peter asked of Jesus, “Tell me, Lord,
why does the rich man turn away?”
Said Jesus, “He cannot
accept the way
“that leads a man unto eternal life.
He does all the commandments say;
one thing, alone, he lacks:
to give away
“his worldly wealth and Heaven’s treasures win
if, truly, he makes it his goal
to gain the Kingdom and
perfect his soul.”
And in that teaching Christ shares with us all
this wisdom, prized at any cost:
one’s life is only found,
when it is lost.
Do these two ancient teachings both ring true,
and to our minds are they as leaven
when some, Nirvana seek,
and others, Heaven?
Perhaps, salvation and enlightenment,
through death of all self-centeredness,
both issue from the womb