Obviously, this I the actual (unchanged) text of Chapter 7 of the Rule of St Benedict. I find its content to be compatible with Buddhist thinking and practice, and that to penetrate its deepest aspects, we must ‘give-up’ superficial interpretations of certain words and concepts. Non-attachment to past (conditioned) history is the key to this interaction. Buddhists (even atheists) have nothing to fear from a loving god – just as a loving god has nothing to fear from a peaceful and compassionate Buddhist. Do not be forceful and allow the mind’s awareness to expand into the deep and profound meaning of the words written by St Benedict. If this process is repeated with purity and commitment, then a deeper understanding of the text, its construction and its meaning will become apparent. As Buddhists we must practice ‘non-identification with thought’ as a means to ‘enter’ ideologies that may not be familiar or at first seem even incompatible, this should not be the case with Christian monasticism. Anyone can benefit by maintaining a ‘divine silence’ and growing into the vibrant void that is experienced. Belief is not an issue for Buddhists, as we seek to penetrate the ‘essence’ of the functioning of the mind which gives birth to all its processes. When this is master, we will be free to move In the Ten Directions…
Chapter 7, or the 7th Rule of St. Benedict is a lengthy guide on Humility and how to obtain it. St. Benedict describes 12 steps towards humility, each one detailing how one reaches it, with relevant references to scripture. The 12 steps towards humility can be summarized as:
1. Never lose sight of God, do not fall into forgetfulness.
2. One doesn’t act on his own will nor take pride in satisfaction of personal desires; One should do God’s will and exercise constraint.
3. Submit oneself in perfect obedience to God and our superiors.
4. When faced with difficulties and unfairness, one embraces and endures suffering.
5. Do not hide sinful thoughts or acts. Confess them humbly.
6. Accept yourself and treatment as being a low workman and full of faults.
7. Admit and accept being inferior and of less value in order to follow God.
8. A good monk follows the rules of the monastery and his superior’s example.
9. One avoids speaking, maintaining silence, unless asked to speak.
10. One avoids laughter, as being easily given to laughter is considered foolish.
11. When one must speak, they speak modestly, quietly, reasonably, and respectfully.
12. Humility should shine through from the heart into one’s attitude for all others to see.
Overall, Rule 7 speaks of complete transparency with God, and submitting oneself as a flawed and imperfect sinner to God in order to achieve forgiveness and in order to be worthy for His kingdom. It concludes by saying that once one has arrived to the last step of humility, one is no longer serving God out of fear, but out of complete love.
Rule, Chapter Seven (70 lines total)
1. The Divine Scripture calls to us, brothers, saying: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
2. In saying this, therefore, it shows us that every exaltation is a kind of pride,
3. Of which the Prophet indicates He shuns, affirming: “Lord, my heart is not exalted, my eyes are not lifted; and I haven’t walked among the great things nor gone after marvels too high for me”
4. And why? “If I didn’t have a humble spirit, if my heart swelled, then you would treat me like a child weaned on his Mother’s breast.”
5. Therefore, brothers, if we want to touch the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life,
6. We must then by our ascending actions set up that ladder on which Jacob, in a dream , saw angels descend and ascend.
7. This descent and ascent, can signify only that we descend by exaltation, and ascend by humility.
8. The ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we have humility in our hearts the Lord will direct it upwards to heaven.
9. We in fact say that our body and soul are the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.
10. The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps God always before his eyes, inspired by His fear, he escapes forgetfulness,
11. And he must always remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them;
12. While he guards himself always from sins and vices, of thought or tongue, of hand or foot, of self-will or bodily desire,
13. He recalls that he is always seen by God in heaven,that his actions everywhere are in God’s sight and are reported by angels at every hour.
14. The Prophet indicates exactly this to us when he shows that our thoughts are always present to God, saying: “God peers into our hearts and backs”.
15. And similarly: “The Lord knows the thoughts of men.”
16. So he also says, “You saw my thoughts from far away.”
17. And: “The thought of man shall be revealed before You.”
18. Now so that he may take care to avoid sinful thoughts, the virtuous brother must always repeat in his heart: “I shall be the world before him, when I will be watched for each and every sin.”
19. We are forbidden to do our own will, for Scripture orders us: “Turn away from your desires”
20. And similarly in prayer we ask God that his will be done in us.
21. We are rightly taught not to do our own will, since we want to avoid the evil of which the Scripture speaks: “There are ways which to men seem right, that in the end plunge them into the depths of hell”,
22. And similarly we must fear what is said of those who ignore this: “They are corrupt and have become depraved in following their desires.”
23. As for the inclinations of our defective nature, we must believe that God is always with us, declaring: “All my desires are known to You.”
24. We must then be on guard against any evil desire, because death is stationed near the gateway of pleasure.
25. For this, the Scripture warns us: “Do not pursue your lusts.”
26. Therefore, if the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked,
27. And at all times the Lord looks down from heaven at the sons of men to see whether any understand and seek God;
28. And if every day the Angels assigned to us report our deeds to the Lord day and night,
29. Then, brothers, we must be vigilant every hour or, as the Prophet says in the psalm, God may observe us falling at some time into evil and thereby made worthless,
30. And after sparing us for now, because he is a merciful father who waits for us to convert, he may tell us later: “This you did, and I remained quiet.”
31. The second step of humility is when one loves not his own will, nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires;
32. But imitating the Lord by his actions that saying of the Lord: “I haven’t come to do my own will, but the will of He who sent me.”
33. Similarly the Scripture says, “One’s own will merits punishment; constraint procures a crown.”
34. The third step of humility is that one with perfect obedience submits for the love of God to his superior, imitating the Lord of whom the Apostle says: “He became obedient even to death.”
35. The fourth step of humility is that of the monk that in his obedience, even under difficult, unfavourable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering,
36. And endures it patiently without weakening or seeking escape, because the Scripture says: “He who perseveres until the end, he will be saved.”
37. And also: “Your heart is strong and knows how to handle the test of the Lord.”
38. And to demonstrate that the faithful must endure everything, even contradiction, for the Lord’s sake, the Scripture says of those who suffer: “For your sake we are put to death continually; we are regarded as sheep for slaughter.”
39. And they are so confident in their hope of reward from God, that they continue joyfully and say: “But in all this we overcome because of Him who so greatly loved us.”
40. Similarly the Scripture says elsewhere: “God, you have tested us, you have tried us as silver is tried by fire; you have led us into a snare, you have placed afflictions on our backs”
41. And to indicate that we need to be under a superior, it adds: “You have placed men over our heads”
42. And in observing the Lord’s command with patience in adversity and insults, when struck on one cheek, they turn the other, who takes off their coat offers their cloak also, when forced to walk one mile of road, they walk two,
43. And with the Apostle Paul, they tolerate false brothers, endure persecution, and bless those who curse them.
44. The fifth step of humility one achieves when one doesn’t conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongdoings committed in secret, but rather confesses them humbly to his abbot,
45. The Scripture urges us: “Make known your way to the Lord and hope in Him”
46. Similarly it says: “Open your souls to the Lord, because He is good, because his mercy is eternal.”
47. So too the Prophet: “My sin I have acknowledged to You, my faults I have not hidden,
48. I said: Against myself I will report my flaws to the Lord, and You have forgiven the wickedness of my heart”
49. The sixth step of humility consists of a monk being content with the lowest and most despicable treatment, and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given,
50. Appropriating the Prophet’s saying: “I am insignificant and ignorant, no better than a beast before You, yet I am with You always.”
51. The seventh step of humility is that one not only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value,
52. Humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: “I am truly a worm, and not a man, scorned by men and rejected by the people”
53. “I was exalted, then I was humbled and confused.”
54. And similarly: “It is good that You humbled me, so that I can learned your commandments.”
55. The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is suggested by the common rule of the monastery and the example of his superiors.
56. The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, mainting faithfully silence, not speaking until asked a question,
57. For Scripture warns: “In many words you will not escape sin”
58. And that “a talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth”
59. The tenth step of humility is that one is not easily given to laughter, because it is written: “A fool raises his voice in laughter”
60. The eleventh step of humility is that of a monk that speaks gently when he speaks and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice,
61. How it is written: “With his few words one recognizes a wise man.”
62. The twelfth step of humility is that a monk manifests humility not only in his heart, but showing it in his attitude also for others to see;
63. In the Divine Office, in the oratory, the monastery or the garden, on the road, or in the fields, or anywhere else, whether he sits, walks or stands, his head must be bowed and his eyes cast down;
64. And thinking always of his sins, he considers that he is already at the fearful judgment of God,
65. Repeating always in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said with downcast eyes: “Lord, I am not worthy, as a sinner, to look up with my eyes to heaven”
66. As with the Prophet: “I am always bowed down and humbled.”
67. Now, therefore, after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly reach that perfect love of God which casts out fear:
68. And all that he once performed with dread, he will now begin to observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit,
69. Not anymore for fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit and the taste of virtue.
70. These are the fruits that the Lord will, by the Holy Spirit, graciously manifest in his worker now cleansed of his vices and sins.