Monday, 10 May 2010

Christ's thumb, Buddha's pinkie

Detail of Hand, Phra Atchana, Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai Historical Park.
Posture of 'Subduing Mara' or 'Calling the Earth to witness'.

Our temple has solid doors (a sure indication that it will remain for generations to come!).

A couple of weeks ago, my little finger was slammed in the door. (ouch!) The finger nail has been black since then, and I'm still waiting for it to drop off...

Meanwhile, a Christian sister slammed her thumb in her convent window, and wrote this blog:
Much is written about the Body of Christ, but does anyone every pay attention to the lowly thumb? Today, we celebrate the thumb of Christ. Why the thumb? Well, because I just smashed mine when I too vigorously closed the convent window. I now have renewed appreciation for all the little parts that make up the Body of Christ.

Christ Pantocrator mosaic from Daphni, Greece, ca. 1080-1100. I especially like this image of Christ because he looks like he just slammed his thumb in a carpentry mishap.

Here’s the thing. The thumb is a very small part of the whole body. It’s not all that fancy, and it almost never gets the attention that parts such as the heart receive. But that little guy is part of the whole, and its presence or its absence affects everything else....Until part of the body ceases to function “normally” we tend to take it for granted....

So this of course gets me thinking about the imagery of the Body of Christ, an image Saint Paul uses to talk about how we are all interconnected with each other and Jesus the Christ.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

Just as the thumb is a small part of the body, not very glamorous or coveted (no one asked the Wizard of Oz for a thumb, after all), so we too might feel like a small, barely significant part of the whole Body of Christ. Yet we are indispensable. Our gifts and talents and unique way of being in the world are needed to fully make Christ present in the world, present to one another and to the whole world. And even when we feel crushed, tired, weighed down, we can still live fully. Even a crushed thumb can still eke out a space bar or two!

So here’s to the Thumb of Christ, my friends!
Experiencing one sleepless night of pinkie pain, after I had slammed my finger in the door, and reading this blog from sister Julie, I am reminded of a teaching which Sogyal Rinpoche shares with us: When the left foot has a thorn in it, does the right hand say "that's none of my business - it's the foots' problem!"? No, without hesitating, our hand will remove the thorn, to alleviate the pain.

I also recall these verses from the Meditation chapter of Shantidevas' Bodhicaryavatara:

Verse 91:
The hand and the other limbs are many and distinct,
But all are one–one body to be kept and guarded,
Likewise, different beings in their joys and sorrows,
Are, like me, all one in wanting happiness.
Verse 114:
Hands and other limbs
Are thought of as members of a body.
Shall we not consider likewise–
Limbs and members of a living whole?