The Jesus Sutras were carried from Persia to China by a group of Christian monks who arrived in the imperial capital in 635 C.E.A. They translated these sacred texts into Chinese as a unique blend of the teachings of Jesus and the wisdom of the East. The scrolls were hidden in a cave sometime around 1000 C.E. and not discovered until 1900 when a Taoist monk found them in a sealed cavern.
Editor Ray Riegert, co-author of The Lost Gospel Q and The Gospel of Thomas, and best-selling author Thomas Moore (The Care of the Soul) provide more background on the 1300-year journey of the Jesus Sutras. They also give us some very insightful commentary on this new translation by Jon Babcock. As the editors note in their foreword, "Reading these Sutras is like opening a message-in-a-bottle from the seventh century. They tell a tale from ancient times and present a refreshingly new set of teachings. But the real treasure in the bottle is that he message powerfully resonates even today."
The selections here from the Jesus Sutras include the Ten Methods for Meditating on the World, The Nature of the One Spirit, Creation, The Four Laws of the Dharma, Jesus' Teachings for Those Who Have Escaped the Realm of Desire, a Parable, the Five Skandhas, and Prayers. These texts present a wonderful blend of Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism. They celebrate the One Spirit that blows freely like a wind and is active in people's lives as well as in the whole creation. In these teachings there is no denigration of the world nor is there a separation of the body and spirit.
The moral guidelines found in the Sutras bring to mind the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Riegert and Moore add: "Religion must be an art of memory, allowing us to live from our ideals in the most demanding and complicated situations. These sayings are the tools of that art, interior flash cards to keep us honest and open-hearted."
We were especially taken by the third of four laws of the Dharma: "The third law is no virtue. Don't try to find pleasure by making a name for yourself through good deeds. Practice instead universal loving kindness that is directed toward everyone. Never seek praise for what you do. Consider the earth. It produces and nurtures a multitude of creatures, each receiving what it needs. Words cannot express the benefits the earth provides. Like the earth, you are at one with Peace and Joy when you practice the laws and save living creatures. But do it without acclaim. This is the law of no virtue."
Reading this passage, we realize how Jesus' practice of humility in the Gospels is very similar to the Buddhist path of selflessness. They reinforce each other and challenge us to find other ways to practice the idea of no self in everyday life. The Lost Sutras of Jesus is a fine and fetching lure to more multi-faith adventures.