Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Quaker Prayer

If we hope to overcome the ocean of darkness in the world,
we must first light a candle in our own hearts...
Committing oneself to the path of love can be the most revolutionary
way to change. Make the most of your time every day of your life...
As living human beings we are impermanent,
but we are surely not insignificant, Everything we do matters.

-- Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker book of Wisdom

When I was studying for my Interfaith ministerial ordination, I had the privilege of studying the tenets and beliefs of many different religions.  One that I had been quite unfamiliar with was Jainism, but as I began my study, I was fascinated by  what they call the world's most peaceful religion.  

Jainism is an ancient dharmic religion born thousands of years ago in India that focuses its efforts on being peaceful, gentle and respectful towards any living being, whether human, plant or animal.  When I read the above prayer yesterday, I began to ruminate on how much many of the different religions have in common.  For example, although the above is a Quaker prayer, it fits right into the Jain ideals.

The Universal Jain symbol encompasses the core Jain teachings. In its comprehensive form it consists of a moon crescent, three dots, Swastika, palm of hand with a wheel inset and an outline encompassing all these symbols.

  • The upper, the realm of heaven containing the heavenly abodes of all the celestial beings and abode of the Siddhas
  • The lower represents the seven hells. 
  • The center, the Earth and the planets.
The raised hand means 'stop'. There is a word in the center of the wheel  which means non-violence. The two together signify the importance of careful thought before action and also non-violence in thought, speech and action. The wheel in the hand shows that if careful thought does not precede actions, humans are destined to follow the cycle of birth, rebirth and death just as a wheel goes round and round. The four arms of the swastika represent birth into any one of the four destinies...heavenly beings, human beings, animal beings and hellish beings during the incessant cycle of birth and death. The three dots above the swastika represent the three jewels of Jainism: Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. 

Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,
Let me once know.
I sought thee in a secret cave,
And ask'd, if Peace were there,
A hollow wind did seem to answer, No:
Go seek elsewhere.

I did; and going did a rainbow note:
Surely, thought I,
This is the lace of Peace's coat:
I will search out the matter.
But while I looked the clouds immediately
Did break and scatter.

Then went I to a garden and did spy
A gallant flower,
The crown-imperial: Sure, said I,
Peace at the root must dwell.
But when I digged, I saw a worm devour
What showed so well.

At length I met a rev'rend good old man;
Whom when for Peace
I did demand, he thus began:
There was a Prince of old
At Salem dwelt, who lived with good increase
Of flock and fold.

He sweetly lived; yet sweetness did not save
His life from foes.
But after death out of his grave
There sprang twelve stalks of wheat;
Which many wond'ring at, got some of those
To plant and set.

It prospered strangely, and did soon disperse
Through all the earth:
For they that taste it do rehearse
That virtue lies therein;
A secret virtue, bringing peace and mirth
By flight of sin.

Take of this grain, which in my garden grows,
And grows for you;
Make bread of it: and that repose
And peace, which ev'ry where
With so much earnestness you do pursue,
Is only there.

George Herbert 


  1. So I guess when the Nazis misappropriated the swastika symbol, they were signaling that they had been reincarnated as hellish beings. An interesting take on an old symbol!

  2. ~mary...thank you for sharing this...something i will be looking more into...much love light and blessings~

  3. Nice of you to share this view of religion. I too like to learn how other people view the world, their beliefs and rhythms of life.