God’s Divine Maternal Qualities: Buddhism and Christianity in Perspective
RELIGION, 28 May 2012
Ascetical writers tell us that God is both Father and Mother. This means that in God’s essence we find the perfection of all paternal and maternal qualities. In our earthly community, men generally rule from their mind, which often tends to be doubtful and suspicious. On the other hand, women as a whole, tend to rule from their heart, which reveals trust and generosity. This explains why women in the world at large tend to be much more peaceful.
Character and Personality
Needless to say, in human relations what makes the real man and woman is not their physical structure but the virtues they demonstrate in action. In view of this, we may understand why we do come across men who are kind and trusting and across women who reveal to be full of machismo in almost anything they do. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit tend to be channeled fully well through the maternal aspect of our humanity.
These may be enlisted as follows: wisdom to see things in proper perspective, understanding as to help make the life of others easier, counsel to enable people make the right decisions, courage to do what needs to be done in the best interest of everyone, knowledge as to see things in proper perspective, compassion to look properly after the needy, and fear of God consisting of not offending Him because of His infinite love and kindness for all of us.
As a good and infinitely loving Father, God found ways as to implement in us His full maternal divinity to our full benefit in a very real but mysterious way. This phenomenon was revealed in Buddhism as well as in Christianity. To this end, God chose to transfuse this maternal divinity of His, somewhat differently in Buddhism and in Christianity. Both approaches are real and effective and both reveal God’s high regard for human beings when it comes to the usage of His divine maternal qualities.
Although in both Buddhism and Christianity God is revealed as a Supreme Being, the source of anything that exists, yet the eventual structure of this Divine Being is conceived somewhat differently. In Buddhism, like in Judaism and Islam, God is viewed as Unitarian… as one absolute being who is the cause of everything that existed and could possibly exist. On the other hand, in Christianity God is conceived as Trinitarian – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although each of these three individual divine beings is viewed as God, yet we do not have three gods but one solid indivisible God.
Divine Motherhood in Christianity
Needless to say, each of these divine persons has a specific mission, while the three continue to work harmoniously in the best interest of all people without exception. God the Father is viewed as the Creator of heaven and earth. God the Son is viewed as the Redeemer of the world, and God the Holy Spirit is viewed as the Sanctifier of all humans without exception. From the early days of human existence, God wanted to make His only one and beloved Son materialize to become one of us as to redeem fallen humanity from its sins.
God’s Son was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, the Redeemer of the whole world. Hence, God spent all the time He needed to search for the most holy girl that ever existed to become the Holy Mother of His Son whose name was Jesus. The Holy Mother’s name was Mary who was virgin from the moment of conception. She conceived Jesus through a direct intervention of God the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Virgin Mary has intermingled deeply in the various spheres of God’s divinity.
Theologically, Mary is viewed as the daughter of God the Father, as the mother of God the Son, and as the spouse of the God the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Virgin Mary can be rightly viewed as Divine Mother in the strict sense of the word. Her great power of intercession between God and all human beings is exceeded by no one. God loves her so dearly that He can never in practice refuse her anything she may ask for. In her all human beings have a true and genuine Mother of love and mercy.
Through her perfect intermingling with these three divine persons of this one Triune God, Mary has merited to be called the Divine Mother of God. Through her we all became children of God who loves us dearly and infinitely. Of course, we need to keep in mind that when we deal with God’s essence we soon find ourselves in the midst of a profound mystery, which we have simply to accept and take for granted. This explains why for the past 2,000 years millions of faithful Christians referred to Mary as their Divine Mother.
Of course, God did not wait until the arrival of His Son Jesus to reveal to us God’s divine motherhood. A few centuries before the birth of Jesus, God set His eyes on a holy man who dwelt in Central Asia. His name was Siddhartha Gautama who initially led a life of luxury. Later he renounced his earthly possessions and detached himself fully from the material things of this world. He then devoted himself to contemplation. As he meditated beneath a tree, he reached enlightenment and became Buddha. His depth of spirituality invited God to implant in him all the divine maternal attributes in a very vivid way.
Divine Motherhood in Buddhism
From that moment, Buddha and his followers renounced the material things of this world completely and gave themselves to helping others in an effort to create a genuine peaceful world. God was so pleased with this kind of spiritual behavior as created and promoted by Buddha that He decided to implant in Buddha and his followers God’s divine maternal attributes such as love, compassion, generosity, mercy, patience, inner joy, dedication to others, perseverance, humility, along with several other constructive virtues.
These maternal attributes of God materialized mysteriously into the vivid projection of God’s Motherhood. While the paternal and maternal aspects of God constituted the real Divine Unitarian God, the maternal aspects of this same Divine God evolved into the miraculous and mysterious vision of God’s Divine Motherhood that later was viewed in Buddhism as Guan Min or Guan Yin. This devotion to Guan Min as God’s Divine Mother started from the outset of Buddhist spiritual development.
Hence, Guan Min was viewed from the outset as the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion, that is, the final stepping stone that leads to God Himself. Guan Min is depicted in many forms, some of which were inspired by miracles attributed to her. The most popular form has been that of the white robed lady. Guan Min has also manifested herself as having 1,000 arms, a symbol of her aspiration to reach out to any human being in any form deemed appropriate to help them. We have today many Buddhist monasteries dedicated to Guan Min.
Hainan Island in China has the world’s tallest Guan Min standing at 108 meters. Guan Min as a great Bodhisattva has been an inspiration for people through the ages and as a result many were associated with her. Also, Guan Min reaches periodically to her many devotees to help and comfort them during very difficult times. She always reaches out to her devotees in a way they can relate to. Moreover, Guan Min is highly respected in Asian cultures. She is viewed as the pinnacle of mercy, compassion, kindness and love.
Guan Min, like the Madonna in Christianity, holds many titles including Goddess of Mercy, Gentle Protector, Bodhisattva of Compassion, in addition to others. Many view her as the Virgin Mary of the East. She has been acclaimed as the Buddhist Madonna. In addition, Guan Min has referred to herself as the Mother of all Buddhas, that is, of all the enlightened ones. And she is regarded as the protector of women and children. Buddhists in general have tried to portray Guan Min holding a child in resemblance to the Virgin Mary. The devotion and love for Guan Min is beginning to extend in the non-Buddhist world as well.
Divine Motherhood from God’s Perspective
Those that show devotion to Guan Min often express great joy in keeping close to her. She is viewed as the Buddhist saint of Barren women. The whiteness of her clothing is the symbol of purity, which identifies her with God’s perfection in all virtues conceivable. Since Guan Min, as we have already seen, may be viewed as God’s Divine Mother we should cultivate in ourselves great love and affection toward her. Her infinite love and great compassion toward us will make us always be viewed as her most dear and beloved children.
Let us keep in mind, as already explained, that God decided to bestow on Siddhartha Gautama his divine maternal attributes, because of his detachment to all the material things of this world. Such attributes, as fully observed earlier, were materialized in the divine presence of Guan Min. There were many articles and books written about Guan Min who has been constantly associated with the Virgin Mary over the past several centuries. There are two major theories about these two Divine Mothers.
One theory states that Guan Min and the Virgin Mary are the same person who appeared differently in two different eras of history. The other theory states that Guan Min and the Virgin Mary are two different divine mothers of the same God, the creator of heaven and earth. One represented the divine motherhood of the Triune God, which evolved with clarity in the Second Testament, while the other represented the divine motherhood of the Unitarian God, the way He presented Himself in the Old Testament.
These two theories do not contradict each other. On the contrary, they seem to complement each other fully well. Considering that God in His infinite power could provide all of his beloved children on earth with a genuine divine mother of His, all we need to do is to penetrate God’s essence and view God’s divine motherhood fully from His own perspective. When it comes to the best spiritual interests of His own most dear and beloved children, God is capable to perform great mysterious wonders beyond the level of human comprehension.
Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament.
-Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University.
-Hon President & Professor, SBS Swiss Business School, Zurich.
-Member, TRANSCEND-A Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 May 2012.
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