by Michael Ketterhagen
“A sower went out to sow.”
The parable in Mark’s gospel about “the sower and the seed” has been on my mind a lot lately because of the beginning of the gardening season and my propensity to plant many vegetables, without considering the maintenance or harvest. One time, because of my desire to not kill any of the 300 tomato seeds I planted in the greenhouse trays, I transplanted them all in the outside gardens and was overwhelmed with the work ahead. I had forgotten about the weeding and the harvesting and preserving of the food. It wasn’t like planting seeds that Jesus of Nazareth was talking about.
Jesus, and the Himalayan Tradition as well, specifically refers to planting small phrases or words that are used in meditation as seeds. That’s what Jesus meant when he mentioned in his explanation of the parable in 4:10-20. Jesus was a sower of “beej” mantras in his followers.
“Beej” means “seed” in Sanskrit. It is often the first part of a mantra that is given to an initiate in the Yogic spiritual tradition. It is given to the new spiritually-initiated student to determine the nature of the student’s “soil,” namely, the student’s preparedness for the rigors of the spiritual life.
Jesus gave mantras, too. The most common mantra that has been passed down through the Christian monastic tradition is “Maranatha,” which means “Come, Lord, come!” The initiate would sit peacefully and repeat the word in a repetitive manner.
In yoga, this repetitive listening to the vibrational sound of a word or phrase and the still experience that the listening engenders is called “japa.”
The Hebrew mystical tradition also has a practice of repetitive meditative prayer. It is called “mishnah,” which means “repeated study.” Also, the name of God, the four-syllable word “yod-heh-vav-heh,” which is the name of God that Moses heard on Mount Sinai. English bibles translate this word as “Yahweh, or Lord, or Jehovah.”
In all these spiritual and religious traditions, the seed or mantra is planted by the sower/the gardener/the farmer and unlike the physical planter of the seed, like myself, all the sower has to do is nurture and maintain the growth of the mantra. It leads the meditator closer and closer to the harvest, which completely happens when we let go of our physical body and consciously move into the spiritual realms of consciousness and union with our divine nature.
So, I wonder about my deep desire to plant lots of vegetable seeds. Is this awareness of my planting practice the beginning of my cooperation with the true planter/sower of the seed in my life. My growth began when I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Christian Tradition and when I was initiated into the Himalayan Sri Vidya Tradition. My daily practice of the mantra(s) in the Himalayan Sri Vidya Tradition has been the fast-track for the growth of my spiritual consciousness. In that daily practice I maintain as consciously as possible my “environment/body/mind/soul” so that I can be prepared for my harvest, the joining of myself with the Divinity running my life.
May I fulfill that purpose and my I continue to “sow” many seeds in the minds and hearts and bodies of all who are prepared for a spiritual journey towards God.