The Corner

The Joy of Man’s Desiring

The heart of man is religious, groaning in expectation of the revelation of his true nature even as he struggles with the World — “World” understood as the realm of sin and delusion (this is the “world” of which people speak, when they refer to the devil as “the prince of this world”).

The destiny of man is to realize intimacy with the divine – with the ultimate truth of the source of his very being. The universality of this longing is demonstrated by the fact that very different cultures express it with similar metaphors. I just came across the way the 13th-century Chinese Buddhist master Wumen Huikai expressed this realization:

A thunderclap under the clear blue sky

All beings on earth open their eyes;

Everything under heaven bows together;

Mount Sumeru leaps up and dances.

To those of us who grew up in the Western religious tradition, the echo is unmistakable:

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,

    Sirion like a young wild ox.

That’s from Psalm 29 (NIV trans.), King David’s celebration of the divine majesty. “Sirion” is another name for Mount Hermon; David is saying that Mts. Lebanon (in Lebanon) and Hermon (on the Lebanon-Syria border) will leap in the same fashion as Mt. Sumeru (the Buddhist world-mountain). The heart of man, wherever he is, has the same deepest longing; it should be no surprise that his religious poets sometimes reach for the same words to express it.

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