I have enjoyed a long love affair with sacred texts. My definition of sacred text or scripture is when revelations and understandings of the Divine are made available to one during study of a traditional or nontraditional spiritual text.
I started seriously reading sacred texts at the age of 14 and have continued to this day-mostly Buddhist texts and have studied Chinese and Tibetan to understand them more fully.
Just a few of my favorite sacred texts:
The Heart Sutra
I first came upon this sutra at the age of 18. Something went off deep inside my soul. I developed an unquenchable thirst which led me to study all the translations and commentaries I could find on this sutra. The Heart Sutra has remained the main sutra of study for me over decades now. I have studied both Chinese and Tibetan specifically to develop a deeper understanding of this teaching. The Heart Sutra is considered to be the “condensed” essence of all the Buddha’s teachings. The study of it has provided a container for all my inner and outer inquiries into my chosen faith tradition.
The Bhagavad Gita
I also came upon this book as an early teen (see Early Awakenings.) The stark contrast of the setting and language of this text compared to the teachings of the Bible satisfied something so deep in my stirring soul. The teachings of this great text also awakened me to the experience of devotion.
This sacred Buddhist text was a lifesaver for me during an eight year period where I lost the normal use of my hands and arms, and fell through many medical and bureaucratic cracks (see My Dark Night of the Soul.) This text outlines the behavior necessary to walk the Bodhisattva’s path. Each chapter relates to the Six Perfections, another one of my favorite teachings.
In my extreme time of loss, grief and poverty the meaning of this text resonated deeply and created a grounded, reflective basis for my spiritual practice to strengthen and blossom. It was thanks to this text accompanying me in those difficult years that I feel my spiritual practice began to do me. I continue to study the Bodhicaryavatara, most recently in the Tibetan language.
During my Interfaith studies I had extended opportunities to study the sacred texts of different traditions. Each one of these texts really excited me, and prompted me to get a few translations of each in order to go deeper, beyond the words into the meanings.
My teacher Ven. Dhubthob Rinpoche told me that the work of the Bodhisattvas can lead us to and speak to us through these sacred texts. I continue to find that to be true, as I study on a daily basis the same texts I have lived with for decades.
It truly is a love affair of the spirit.