[ by Charles Cameron — days, months, years, Saints, Josaphat, Buddha, problems, issues, solutions — I think that about captures it all ]
Today is the International Day against Nuclear Tests — and since I don’t much like tearing open the fabric of the world I’m living in to witness and geiger-count the radiance it usually hides, I favor the idea. But the Day was already a Festival as far as I’m concerned: I woke up.
Look, there are International and National Days, Weeks, Months and Years — this month, for instance, in addition to Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month was also National Catfish Month. It was Don’t be a Bully Month and National Dirty Harry Month, quite a pair! It was also Never Leave a Child Unattended in a Car Purple Ribbon Month, National Water Quality Month – which needs to be Internationalized – and Win with Civility Month. And there are many more…
See — we have enough issues to go around twenty-four slash seven slash three-sixty-five plus one on leap years…
That remarkable fellow Anthony Judge is largely responsible for the Union of international Association’s Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, which includes:
a World Problems database with 56,000+ entries and 276,000+ links
a Global Strategies and Solutions database with 32,000+ entries and 284,000 links
a Human Values database with 3,200+ entries and 119,000+ links
a Human Development database with 4,800+ entries and 19,000+ links, and
a Patterns and Metaphors database with 1,200+ entries and 4,500+ links.
So that’s how many problems we have, and how many solutions, and naturally we can offer prayers about the problems, and perhaps the prayers will be answered by the solutions, or with new ideas…
So it’s also not surprising that there are a vast number of saints who can intercede for us…
And since my birthday happens to fall on November 27, I have a special affection for St Josaphat, whose Feast Day that is.
He’s the fellow preaching in the panel at the top of this post, from a 12th Century Greek manuscript…
Josaphat’s story is recounted in Wikipedia:
According to the legend, King Abenner or Avenier in India persecuted the Christian Church in his realm, founded by the Apostle Thomas. When astrologers predicted that his own son would some day become a Christian, Abenner had the young prince Josaphat isolated from external contact. Despite the imprisonment, Josaphat met the hermit Saint Barlaam and converted to Christianity. Josaphat kept his faith even in the face of his father’s anger and persuasion. Eventually Abenner converted, turned over his throne to Josaphat, and retired to the desert to become a hermit. Josaphat himself later abdicated and went into seclusion with his old teacher Barlaam.
A fine tale it is, and curiously reminiscent of that of the young bodhisattva Siddhartha, who was to become known as the Buddha:
Siddhartha Gautama was also a prince whose birth was accompanied with a prophecy that he would become a great holy man but not a king. He was also protected from the outside world by his father but on leaving the palace he also recognised that the world was full of suffering. He sought to pursue an ascetic life and to reach enlightenment but during this process he was subjected to many attempts to deflect him from this path. He was tempted by the demon Mara who sent his three beautiful daughters, Tanha (desire), Raga (lust), and Arati (aversion) to try to seduce him while he sat meditating under a banyan tree. After resisting these temptations, the prince attained Buddhahood at the age of thirty five.
And yes, that would make an excellent DoubleQuote!
In fact, stories travel — and the Buddha we know became Josaphat as his story traveled from India via St John Damascene to the farthest west:
Bodhisattva in Sanskrit became rendered as Bodhisav in Persian, then as Budhasaf in Arabic, Iodasaph in Georgian, Ioasaph in Greek and then finally Josaphat in Western Europe
I used to collect books about the kindly teacher Barlaam and his student Saint Josaphat the Boddhisattva: most of them are now in storage, alas.
And you can now see how the Catholic in me feels warmly-disposed towards the Buddhist, while the Buddhist in me is on amicable terms with the Catholic.
And i haven’t even begun to talk about the Sufis yet…