At our Bible class yesterday, we looked at the parable of the mustard seed from Matthew 13: “The realm of heaven is like a mustard seed, which someone took and planted in a field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
I believe religion to be a global conversation so I often ask the class to look at other world scriptures. In this case, I asked them to look at the Chandogya Upanishad of Hinduism.
“This Soul of mine within the heart is smaller than a grain of rice, or a barley-corn, or a mustard-seed, or a grain of millet, or the kernel of a grain of millet. This Soul of mine is greater than the earth, greater than the atmosphere, greater than the sky, greater than these worlds.”
In the Hindu version of the parable, a child is asked to look at a very tiny, almost invisible, Banyan seed, and then at a giant Banyan tree. The father then explains that the whole universe expresses this same mysterious interconnectedness. The “self” within us is a microcosm or seed of the whole universe. “You are that,” the father tells the son in so many words. “You must teach every being they are as well. We are branches of one vine.”
I hear both of these stories telling us that religion or faith begins small and personal, and then grows organically into a universal sense of connection with all beings. We cannot force this growth to happen. As some say in Hinduism, “the truth we cannot know, the truth we can only BE.”