Tibetan Sand Mandalas

 

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The sacred art of sand painting comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Tib: dul-tson-kyil-khor – mandala of coloured powders; ‘mandala’ means circle in Sanskrit). Tibetan Buddhism (7th century) is based on Indian Buddhism (5th century). Its main goals are: a) to reach individual enlightenment, 2) the liberation of all beings, and c) the development of unconditional compassion and insight wisdom.  

Mandalas which are cosmic maps indicating the succession of initiations from the historical Buddha 2600 years ago to present day are a crucial aspect of most Buddhist traditions. They are used to guide practitioners to enlightenment and are usually painted or woven on scrolls and huge wall-hangings placed in the main prayer halls of temples or occasionally constructed in 3 dimensions (the Kalachakra Mandala at the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet). As new teachers, or acharyas, are initiated, lineage mandalas are updated so that all those who have succeeded to the teachings are indicated there.

Each mandala represents the entire universe with Mount Meru, a sacred mountain with 5 peaks manifesting physically, metaphysically and spiritually in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cosmologies, in the centre. There are 3 realms inside the mandala: Arupyadhatu – the formless realm, Rupudhatu – the realm of form and Kamadhatu – the desire realm.

 

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In the Tibetan tradition, however, they are usually created from coloured sand laid on to a geometrical blueprint and represent a ritual in their own right. In addition they  are a sacred object of meditation in the memories of viewers. Similarly, the deities adopted in each lineage reside inside the mandala, the principal deity in the centre. The sand mandala is a two-dimensional representation of 3-dimensions and could be said to resemble an intricate palace where the deities reside.

It is ritualistically dismantled once it has been completed and all accompanying ceremonies and viewings come to a close. This process and its conclusion symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life, in other words, impermanence. Buddhists aspire to be liberated from all attachments to objects and beings on the material plane or in the visible world.  According to this tradition, the world we can perceive with our eyes is but a dream and reality is to be found inside and accessed by meditation.

History

The first references to mandalas made of sand in Tibet come from ‘The Blue Annals,’ an ancient history of Tibetan Buddhism written by Go Lotsawa Zhonnu Pel c. the 14th century called ‘The Treasure of Lives: A Biographical encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia and the Himalaya Region.’ He started to write this seminal work by dictating it to his at the age of 84. The mandala was originally metaphysical or spiritual rather than tangible.  It was a way of accessing or unlocking the power of the universe during meditation and there are references to Buddhist teachers transforming themselves into mantras and then dispersing into the universe. 

 

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Purpose

The sand mandala is an intricate focus of meditation which monks study in depth, sometimes for as long as 3 years. It is designed to guide those who aspire to enlightenment by purifying and healing their minds, transforming them from an ordinary mind into an enlightened mind. When completed and dispersed, mixed with water and given back to the Earth, its blessings and beauty can be shared with all beings.  In this way, it is truly a metaphor for human life in that each being grows from a dependent child into a complex system of structures, memories, experiences and relationships.  But at death, this disintegrates and is returned to the earth.  In other words, nothing and no-one ever truly dies but just changes, growing at the same pace as the universe. The mandala is deeply rooted in the mind of its creator or creators and is often made at the request of a particular teacher or guru. The deities which reside inside its palace serve as role models or Bodhisattvas for practitioners.

 

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Materials

Originally, granules of crushed coloured rock and precious gems were used to create mandalas, but today white rock dyed with coloured inks is preferred. The grains form a dense kind of sand which is needed to limit interference from sneezing or sudden breezes. The colours used are white (crushed gypsum), yellow ochre, red sandstone, blue made from a mixture of gypsum and charcoal, red and black making brown, red and white making pink, etc. Also, corn meal, flower pollen and powdered roots and bark are used depending on their availability.  

The monks wear masks to preserve their work from breath. Small tubes and funnels called chak-pur are gently tapped with metal rods to create vibrations which lay down the sand into the blueprint a controlled way.  A skilled mandala maker can enable the sand to flow like liquid. Also, large pairs of compasses are used to draw circles accurately, but there is no engraving of any kind as the sand is laid on a flat surface.

 

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Method

First, the site where the mandala is to be made is consecrated with sacred chants, incense burning and Tibetan music played on sacred Buddhist instruments.  The leader of the team of as many as 20 monks will use white chalk or pencils to mark out the detailed drawing or blueprint of the lineages from memory with an area outside representing the charnel grounds or sacred area where bodies are left to decompose naturally. They can be as big as 7 feet square. It is important to note that Tibetan Buddhism is Esoteric in that teachings are handed down from Master to pupil and preserved orally.  They are rarely written down.

One monk is assigned to each of the four gateways aligned with the compass points and he and his team will work specifically on that quadrant until completion. Assistants or novices fill in the forms while the senior monks attend to the detail.  Adding the coloured sand always starts from the centre where the principal teacher or guru resides.

When the mandala is complete, it is once more consecrated with an elaborate ceremony, and the final stage is the sweeping away of the grains in towards the middle which reverses the original process. Deities are removed scrupulously in a particular order and the sand is collected in a jar, wrapped in silk and taken to a body of water to be released. According to the scriptures, this constitutes a healing, transmitting positive energies back into the environment and sharing the blessings from the beautiful ephemeral form with the universe.

 

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Famous examples

The Kalachakra Mandala mentioned above, a 3-dimensional ornate golden palace, embraces 722 different deities in a complex 2-dimensional representation of 3. According to scholars, it is now more or less certain that the ornate structures of Borobudur in eastern Java and Angkor Wat in Cambodia are 3-dimensional mandalas. Their carvings and devotional intensity are a living meditation for those who visit to pay homage. However, due to the esoteric nature of Mahayana Buddhism, this can never be entirely confirmed. Both of these structures are mystical and not intended to be analysed or labelled.

 

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Sand Painting exponents today

It is thought that there are only 30 people in the world today who are qualified to teach the techniques and secrets of Tibetan sand painting.  Losang Samten, an American Tibetan scholar and sand painting artist is one of them. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan nation, instructed his monks to make a sand mandala following the Sept 11 tragedy at the New York World trade Centre as a protection from future disasters and to heal the environment and the human life so devastated by it.

 

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Images courtesy of various Tibetan websites and Linden Thorp

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The Evolution of Buddhist Schools

 

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4 Apr 2017 in Culture Hype Favourite Shares
by Charley Linden Thorp

published on 03 April 2017 : see original article at – http://www.ancient.eu/article/1043/

All Buddhist schools today despite their differences in ritual, doctrine, and practice are based on the original teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became enlightened at approximately the age of 35 whilst sitting under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, northern India, about 2600 years ago. ‘Enlightenment’ is the most common translation of the Sanskrit term ‘bodhi,’ in Japanese ‘satori’ or ‘kensho,’ which means awakening and should not be confused with the western idea of intellectual enlightenment which means ‘informed, aware, knowledgeable, illuminated’ and so on. In Buddhism, enlightenment is the state that marks the culmination of the Buddhist religious path as established by Buddha Shakyamuni.

The release from human suffering and continual rebirths, known in Indian religions as the world of ‘samsara,’ is Nirvana (Skt: moksha or mukti; Pali: Nirbanna) which literally means the ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ of all human cravings. This is recognised as a state of perfect quietude, freedom, and the highest form of happiness which all humans are seeking. But in Buddhism, this liberation refers to a realisation of non-self (Skt: anatta) and emptiness (Skt: shunyata) which bring an escape from samsara.

 

Evoltuion of Buddhist Schools

 

To fully understand the diversity of Buddhist schools, it is important to recognise the Dharmachakra (Skt: wheel of the law with eight spokes) which represents the Eightfold Path (Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Occupation, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration). This wheel turns eternally with no beginning or end and is significant because it was the theme of the very first sermon Buddha gave, ‘Setting in Motion of Wheel of Law’ (Dharmacakrapravartana Sutra) in which he sets out the Four Noble Truths (first: suffering is inevitable in human life; second: suffering arises due to attachment; third: suffering ceases with the attainment of Nirvana; fourth: the Eightfold Path described above). At this time, Buddha predicted two more turnings of the Wheel of Dharma to suit the condition of humans as time went by. The second would be Mahayana Buddhism and the third Vajrayana Buddhism.


THE THREE TURNINGS OF THE WHEEL

The first turning of the wheel was Thervada. This is the oldest and most orthodox of the Buddhist schools and is known also as the ‘Teaching of the Elders or Hearers’ (Skt: Hinayana or Sthavira school). Originating in Sri Lanka, it is characterized by a strong division between monks and lay practitioners: the monks meditate, study, and teach, working for individual enlightenment, while the laity follows the basic five precepts (refraining from harming living beings, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from lying/gossip, and from intoxication, e.g. drugs/drinks), gives alms, makes donations, chants and offers prayers.

In summary, these teachings are plain and guide aspirants to abstain from evil, accumulate good, and purify the mind. They focus on the human Buddha and the Three Trainings: ethical conduct, meditation, and insight wisdom. The key figure in Theravada Buddhism is Buddhaghosa, and the key text is Visuddhimagga (‘The Path of Purification’). The ideal of this individual path is the arhat or worthy person, but this may take several lifetimes to achieve.

Theravada practitioners aim for a life in which all birth is at an end, holy life is fully achieved, where all that has to be done has been done, and there is no more returning to worldly life. The texts of this Early Period, written in Pali which is thought to be the spoken language of the Buddha, are called Pali Canon, although Thervadans acknowledge all sutras from the following wheel-turnings also. Its limitations may be said to be that the figure of the Buddha is remote to practitioners, that it may take several lifetimes to become an arhat and women are, even today, thought of as inferior.

The second turning of the wheel was Mahayana, known also as the Mahayanas, (the ‘Great Vehicle’ or ‘Truth’) a movement of diverse teachings systematised by Nagarjuna c. 2nd century CE. It follows the basic Theravada structure, but the demarcation between the monks and lay practitioners is blurred because all beings can become equally enlightened. The body of Mahayana sutras, the Wisdom Sutras, has seen many cultural adaptations due to the spread of Buddhism to the north to Nepal and Tibet and east to northern and southern Asia. Stupas, depositories for relics of Holy Beings and sacred texts, appeared, maintained and patronised by lay practitioners; and ideal became the Bodhisattva, a being who served all humanity and put their own enlightenment aside. The figure of the Buddha became supernatural with many aspects or emanations. All beings can reach Nirvana within their lifetime through meditation, rituals, and chanting because all beings contain the seed of Buddhahood, Buddha Nature.

 

Evolution of Buddhist Schools 1


Mahayana Buddhists work towards the salvation of all who sincerely seek enlightenment, monks and laity alike, therefore, compassion and wisdom are towering values and the Bodhisattva ideal dominates all practice. Its limitations may be said to be that enlightenment is often perceived as a goal rather than a step in a much larger process and rituals and practice are so elaborate that the life of suffering may easily be forgotten and practitioners instead become attached to life.

The third turning of the wheel was Vajrayana (‘Diamond Vehicle’), an extension of the Mahayana Buddhism, also known also as Tantric or Esoteric Buddhism, which came into existence circa 700 CE. Vajra is a thunderbolt used the symbolise the imperishable nature of enlightenment. Tibet has always been isolated with its mountainous terrain, few natural resources and tiny population, but there were three diffusions of Buddhism: first, at the hand of Songsten Gampo, the first religious king who had an Indian and Chinese wife who were acquainted with Buddhism; the second, King Trisong Detsen who invited Santaraksita from India to promulgate the teachings, succeeded by Padmasambhava, a powerful guru who established the first monastery; and the third, King Relpa Chen was assassinated and succeeded by Lang Darma, but quickly followed by the great Atisha (982-1054), an Indian teacher, who perfected the Buddhist system in Tibet.

VAJRAYANA BUDDHISTS ASPIRE TO BECOME BODHISATTVAS, TAKING THEIR INNATE BUDDHA NATURE AS THE STARTING POINT.

In the 20th century CE, Tibet was invaded by China, leading to the political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fleeing to India. Over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet were destroyed. Since then Tibetan Buddhism has become an international practice led by Tibetan gurus resident in UK, US, and many parts of Europe.

Vajrayana Buddhists aspire to become Bodhisattvas, taking their innate Buddha Nature as the starting point. Employing tantric techniques, the practitioner works to attain the empty nature of the enlightened mind and to purify all perceptions so that they can see the ultimate truth. Its limitations are that Vajrayana Buddhists can be boastful and competitive and the four main schools constantly fight for supremacy. This school also tends to value myth more highly than history and the rituals are complex because of the inherited indigenous practices of Tibet (Bon and other superstitious beliefs).

THE FIRST RIFTS

After the Buddha’s death, his disciples worked hard to disseminate his teachings. In 480 BCE, the First Council meeting was held led by Mahakassyapa, Ananda, and Upali, those disciples closest to the Buddha. As a result, the teachings of Buddha were then codified and later recorded in writings known as the sutras. The Second Council was held in 350 BCE mainly to stamp out heresy which was growing among the followers. Due to unrest, this is when the first major rift appeared in the sangha (the community of monks) led by Mahadeva who protested against the arrogance of the elite, in other words, the enlightened, who still had many shortcomings but had become complacent. This is when the first and second turnings of the wheel of Dharma can be traced back to.

TWO IMPORTANT MAHAYANA SCHOOLS

Madhyamaka, or the Middle School, was founded by the first great name in Buddhism, Nagarjuna c. 2nd century BCE, about whom little is known. This school, which claimed to be faithful in spirit to the original teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni, advocated the Middle Way between extreme practices and theories, for example, either that ‘things exist’ or ‘things do not exist,’ believing the essence of the Dharma lay in between the extremes. Debate was popular then, so the strategy of attacking the opposite views rather than defending their own was adopted. Through this intellectual process, reality became like a film strip, each independent frame constantly giving way to the next producing the illusion of stability and continuity. Their conclusion was that the true nature of phenomena can only be described as emptiness which is synonymous with the doctrine of Dependent Origination (Skt: Pratityasamutpada) – all phenomena arise because they depend on causes and conditions and therefore lack intrinsic being, i.e. when A exists, B arises. If A does not exist, B does not arise. This reasoning is set out in the root text of this school, Mulamadhyamakakarika.

The important implication for the future of Buddhism was that if emptiness is the true nature of everything that exists, there is no difference between samsara and Nirvana and any difference that is perceived must come from ignorance or misconception. Therefore, Madhyamaka suggests there are two levels of truth: the Ultimate Truth (the view of the enlightened); and the Relative or Veiled level of Truth (the view of the unenlightened).

After Nagarjuna, his disciple Aryadeva continued to develop the school. But later there was a division in this school leading to two branches of Madhyamaka: the Svatantrika and the Prasangika. These systems were transmitted from India to Tibet and East Asia. In China, it was known as San-lun (the three treatises school), but due to its negative doctrines, it was heavily criticised by Buddhists and non-Buddhists and eventually converged with the Yogacara School.

The Yogacara School (or Yogachara), which practised yoga, emerged in the 4th century CE. This school is also known as Vijnanavada or the ‘Way of Consciousness.’ Its origins are shrouded in mystery, and its founders were Maitrayanatha, Asanga, and Vasubandhu. It flourished in India until the 8th century CE when it combined with the best elements of the Madhyamaka. It was transmitted to China through the efforts of Paramartha and Hsuan-tsang and was also introduced and widely studied in Tibet.

 

Evolution of Buddhist Schools 2

The key scriptures are the Sandhinirmocana Sutra, Dasabhumika Sutra and the Avatamsaka Sutra. Many Buddhist classics are attributed to this period, but the encyclopaedic Yogacarabhumi Sastra is perhaps the best known attributed to the three founders. Its doctrines and theories are derived from meditational experiences and focus on two themes: the nature of the mind and the nature of experience. Eight aspects of consciousness were distinguished: the afflicted mind, the six perceptual consciousnesses of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and thought; deluded awareness a result of self-grasping; and the all-encompassing foundation consciousness, the result of memory. Rebirth in samsara leaves a string of imprints derived from experiences and actions which will eventually ripen when the conditions are right to produce dualistic delusions of subject and object. This gives rise to the production of a false self and the potential production of more imprints. There are three natures: the imagined, the dependent, and the consummate. At enlightenment, a radical transformation occurs creating a mirror-like Awareness.

Yogacara also contributed to a refining of the Three Bodies (trikaya), the Five Awarenesses and brought to prominence the ten stages of Bodhi, that of a Bodhisattva being the most important.

FIVE SCHOOLS POPULAR IN THE WEST

Pure Land Buddhism. There are Pure Land Schools in both China and Japan. It comes from the term Buddha-land or Buddha-field, a Mahayana term describing the idea that when beings become enlightened they do not disappear but remain to help others. Each of the five Buddhas, the Five Dhyani Buddhas, was assigned a different colour, wisdom, and realm in early 19th century CE, as follows: white Buddha Vairochana in the centre; green Amoghasiddhi in the north; red Amitabha in the west; yellow Ratnasambhava in the south, and blue Akshobya in the east. In Esoteric Buddhism, these areas of the Cosmos were charted on sacred maps known as mandalas, but although outside samsara, the human world, they were not to be confused with the idea of heaven. These practices have become very popular in the west.

Zen. The Chinese word ‘Ch’an’ means meditation and is pronounced ‘Zen’ in Japanese. Zen is comprised of a number of particular religious techniques and is an umbrella term for various schools of Zen in Japan: Rinzai, Soto, Obaku, and Fuke. Zen is also used to cover the whole tradition of Ch’an in China and other countries such as Vietnam and Korea. Its main practice is seated meditation (zazen)’ and koans or riddles, brief stories or dialogues from the Ch’an tradition, which are used as the main focus of meditation. Zen is famous for austerity and aggressive teaching techniques, including shouting and beating, which shock practitioners into awakening.

Tendai. One of the major schools of Japanese Buddhism that appeared between 794-1185 CE. It was founded by the monk Saicho who brought the Chinese teachings of T’ien-t’ai to Japan and is widely eclectic embracing both Esoteric rituals, Exoteric studies in doctrine and scripture, and early forms of Zen and Pure Land. Unlike Shingon Buddhism established by Kukai at the same time, Tendai was patronised by the imperial family and became wealthy. This made it a breeding ground for new reform movements such as Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren and combined with corruption and military conflicts caused it to recede into the background. It was eclipsed by the newer schools and today is a minor sect.

Nichren-shu. Nichiren (1222-1282 CE) was the first non-aristocratic leader of a Japanese Buddhist sect which may account for his uncompromising style of religion. Ordained as a Tendai priest which championed the Lotus Sutra, the penultimate teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, he is famous for promoting his views and openly attacking the teachings of other schools which were considered intolerant and arrogant. As a result of this behaviour, he was exiled to remote islands several times and heavily persecuted. According to him, the Daimoku mantra – ‘Namo myoho renge kyo’ – was the sole chant and only practice. There have been many divisions in this sect, and in 1937 CE, one of the most successful and controversial, Soka Gakkai International, has evolved into the third largest political party in Japan, blending politics and religion together.

 

Evolution of Buddhist Schools 3


The Order of Interbeing. Thich Nhat Hanh, the international Vietnamese peace activist established this international order in 1966 CE. It is a mixed lay and monastic group which now has its headquarters in Plum Village, the Dordogne region of southern France. Hanh also established the Unified Buddhist Churches of France and Vietnam and coined the term ‘Engaged Buddhism,’ meaning Buddhism in action in a society promoting the non-violent solutions to conflict of the individual. He has published over 100 books, 40 of which are written originally in English. This term was inspired by a 13th-century CE king of Vietnam who abdicated his throne to become a monk and founded the School of the Bamboo Forest tradition. In 1960, Hanh was exiled from Vietnam at the outbreak of the Vietnam War, going to study comparative religions at Princeton, and eventually returned to Vietnam in 1963 to aid his fellow practitioners in non-violent peace efforts. His approach combines traditional Zen teachings with insights from other Mahayana and Theravada traditions, offering modern meditation techniques and strategies.

SECULAR BUDDHISM

Today, in the 21st century CE, Secular Buddhism, which focuses on Buddhism as an applied philosophy rather than a religion, is gaining ground. This is based on humanistic values rather than religious. It looks closely at how we see the world as individuals and how to change that view.

The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.

Thich Nhat Hahn – Buddha Mind, Buddha Body: Walking Toward Enlightenment

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHARLEY LINDEN THORP

Linden is a ValidLit writer/teacher living in Japan. Ordained as a Buddhist Priest, she is a Dharma/Meditation teacher working to make the ideas of Buddha Nature accessible to everyone, which involves many thousands of years of historical research.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Keown, D., A Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Shambhala Publications, Radical Compassion (Shambhala, 2014).

Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddha Mind, Buddha Body (Parallax Press, 2003).

Thurman, R.A.F., Essential Tibetan Buddhism (HarperOne, 1996).

Tuffley, D., The Essence of Buddhism (Altiora Publications, 2013).

Williams, P., Mahayana Buddhism (Routledge, 2008).


I really recommend this free encyclopedia if you are interested in ancient history! It has just won an award for best web-site of the year.

http://www.ancient.eu

 

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Esoteric Buddhism: a definition

 

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Esoteric Buddhism
Definition
by Charley Linden Thorp
published on 30 March 2017

to view the original go to : http://www.ancient.eu/Esoteric_Buddhism/

Esoteric Buddhism

Esoteric Buddhism is also known by the terms Mantrayana and Tantra. These teachings are secret and not available to just anyone, whereas Exoteric teachings learned from books are accessible to everyone. The student of Esotericism (Jap: mikkyo) must have received proper initiation from a master or guru from a valid lineage of masters before him or her. Esoteric teachings have a mystical element, and Exoteric teachings are of a philosophical nature.

In Esotericism, the practitioner creates a special bond with a guardian Buddha, Bodhisattva, or deity during their initiations and eventually becomes spiritually united with that being. In Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana), this strongly characteristic practice is referred to as ‘Guru Yoga.’ Ritual formulae, such as mantras, mudras, meditation, and mandalas are essential devices enabling a shortcut to enlightenment.

FIRST APPEARANCE & EVOLUTION

Its roots are in northern India, as are all schools of Buddhism, originating with the enlightenment (Skt: bodhi; Jap: satori or kensho) of the Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, present-day Bihar. Buddha deliberately forbade the fashionable magic and overt mystical ritualism of the Brahmins and Hindus of the time to seek benefit in the form of health, wealth, and other basic human needs. In fact, he strove to set new practical goals of spiritual liberation by means of self-awareness for the whole of humanity, insisting that seekers quit their role as householders, take vows, and enter a monastery. However, several hundred years after Shakyamuni’s death, people missed the excitement of dramatic rituals and mantras, so priests searched for other routes to enlightenment, and people, in general, were not willing to live apart from their families.

Then, Brahmanism and Hinduism witnessed a revival, and the mystical element of Buddhism again became fashionable. It was Nagarjuna, in the 2nd century CE, the first Indian Buddhist living in southern India, who developed the Buddhist Middle Way which people were searching for. He is known as the probable founder of Esoteric Buddhism which systematised all the different practices uniting them in something more recognisable to us today as Buddhism.

The Esoteric secrets, rituals, and symbols evolved to enable the student to communicate with a spiritual Buddha, the Dharmakaya, the true nature of the Universe and to aspire for rapid enlightenment. In Exoteric practice, the focus remained on the historical or physical body of the Buddha, or Nirmanakaya, and enlightenment lay beyond the horizon in another lifetime.

This shift to the spiritual was achieved by moving outside the intellectual limitations of space and time. The Dharmakaya of Buddha is represented by the great Vairochana Buddha, (also spelt Vairocana, Jap. Dainichi Nyorai), the Illuminator and embodiment of Awareness of the Continuum of Reality. In Esotericism this became the central Buddha form like the sun whose rays touch everywhere to stimulate growth.

THE SECRETS OF ESOTERICISM

This oral tradition of handing on teachings, along with initiations into certain levels of knowledge made in person by a guru, is perhaps the hallmark of Esotericism. Connection with the Dharma Stream is so crucial to the furthering of faith and to the protection of the teachings in Esotericism, as is the purification of body, speech, and mind in one’s daily life.

THE ORAL TRADITION OF HANDING ON TEACHINGS, ALONG WITH INITIATIONS INTO CERTAIN LEVELS OF KNOWLEDGE MADE IN PERSON BY A GURU, IS PERHAPS THE HALLMARK OF ESOTERICISM.

The notion that all sentient beings possessed Buddha Nature which could be uncovered intensified. This generated more lay orders and eradicated gender discrimination.

The emergence of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan is a vast subject, but briefly, Kukai, (Kobo Daishi) recognised as the 8th Patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism, embraced the richness of ritual and symbolism for his nation. While studying in China, he was recognised and initiated by Huiguo, the sole Chinese master of the teachings given by Amoghavajra, the great Indian mystic, at Qinglong-si temple in Chang’an, in 804. He was conferred with the title of Vairochana, the Great Illuminator (Jpn: Namu Henjo Kongo). As a consequence, Shingon Buddhism was established by Kukai, Japan’s first fully initiated great Master.

THE ORIGIN OF RITUALS OF ESOTERICISM

Ancient Indians believed wholly in the supernatural and the natural world. They especially envied the characteristics of some animals. The peacock was one such creature they revered and desired to emulate, especially when they realised it could eat poisonous creatures and survive. They were gifted at communicating with the spiritual or invisible world, so they developed mantras (spoken or chanted formulae) which emulated the peacock and brought the animal god closer to the human world. Then the concept of ‘poisons’ in general came to represent negative aspects of the human mind which required an antidote, mantras and invocations becoming viewed as antidotes.

The Homa (Jpn: Goma) ritual, Brahmin in origin, is one of the most dramatic of Esoteric rituals and originates with the making of offerings to the heavens and the god of fire, Agni.

Body, Speech, and Mind as represented by the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya and the Dharmakaya are united in a single entity in Esoteric Buddhism represented by mudra, mantra, meditation, and mandala. According to Kukai,

These are symbolised in the elements, the syllables, wisdoms, and so on, in an always fluid whole contained in the Four Mandalas, the three-secrets empowerment, the 5 bodhisattva wisdoms which make a perfect mirror to reflect true enlightenment. (Yamasaki, 106)

 

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MUDRA
Representing the Body, the use of the hands in gassho (Jpn: Skt; anjali, Chi: ho-chang) palms pressed together and fingers long is a highly significant gesture which aids entering and self-entering between oneself and the Buddha. It is the main mudra known as ‘dharmakaya mudra.’ Buddha images show a variety of significant hand mudras, for example, the earth-touching mudra fearlessly calling the Earth to witness the Buddha’s enlightenment and the Dharmachakra mudra (the wheel of Dharma) in which the first finger and thumb of each hand touch to form a circle, and so on. Mudras are said to be like a seal which leaves an identical impression on clay or paper, imprinting certain qualities which will change the practitioner.

MANTRA
Representing Speech, the recitation or chanting of mantras. Mouths should be kept pure and speech Buddha-centred in order to chant and to reach the spiritual world. In fact, concentrated recitation of mantric syllables, according to Kukai, “employs the sound, the image, and the meaning of the syllable” (Yamasaki, 116). And as he wrote in The Secret Key to the Heart Sutra, “One syllable embraces a thousand truths, manifesting universal reality in this very body.”

Originally, in the Indian Buddhist tradition, silent recitation was said to have a thousand times greater effect than the voiced; and in advanced meditation, the practitioner learns to voice the sound within the mind. Kukai taught five methods of mantra recitation. The first involves the visualisation of a conch shell above a lotus within the mind and then the projection of the voice through the imagined conch shell. So the Esoteric practitioner evokes a level of mind in which the practitioner becomes the chant itself, as the deity or guru and the practitioner exist in inseparable unity.

MEDITATION
Representing the Mind, the original goal of exoteric meditation was to achieve a state of ‘no mind, no thought’ (Skt: asphanaka Samadhi; Jap. munen muso). However, in the Dainichi-kyo, one of the two principal sutras of Esoteric Buddhism, it is stated that visualisation may employ images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities, human beings or non-human beings; in other words, any forms are embodiments of the universal self.

Mahayana Buddhism, in general, developed many practices of meditation focusing on virtues and powers, as well as the appearance of the Buddhas and deities. An early Esoteric sutra, the Kanjizai Bosatsu Tabatari Zuishin Darani-kyo, which focuses on the Bodhisattva Kannon, was the first to systematise so-called ‘three secrets’ visualisations. The practitioner first forms hand mudras and visualises Kannon as a mantric ‘seed-syllable,’ then as a symbolic object and finally in human form. In this way, the abstract gradually becomes concrete and the practitioner can relate directly to it.

 

Esoteric Buddhism 2

 

MANDALA
This is a sacred or circular diagram (occasionally oblong in Japan), also believed to represent the Body, Speech, and Mind of a Buddha (sometimes specifically one of these), usually used during initiations. Mandalas are said to exist in many dimensions as they convey things which cannot be conveyed in writing. The word ‘mandala’ means ‘that which has essence’ roughly translated. Buddhguhya, the 8th-century master, wrote that the ‘essence’ refers to that of the Buddha’s enlightenment itself so that the mandala is the realm.

ESOTERIC SUTRAS

The three principal sutras (scriptures) of Esotericism are the Mahavairochana Sutra (Jpn: Dainichikyo), The Diamond Peak Sutra (Jpn: Kongochokyo), and the Mahaparinirvana Sutra delivered from the deathbed of the Buddha. These are the core works of the three streams of Esotericism in Japan; the Shingon School, the Tendai School founded by Kukai’s peer Saicho, and the Shinnyo School founded by Shinjo Ito more recently. The first two were transmitted from India around the 8th century CE by fearless monks travelling the Silk Roads. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra arrived in China in three different versions: the Hokkien Text in 418 CE, the Northern Text in 421 CE, and the Southern Text in 436 CE.


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These three sutras hold the secrets of the Universe. The Mahaparinirvana sutra is “like a healer who has a secret cure that contains all possible medical treatments” and “like the most delicious milk having eight different flavours.” The Dainichikyo and the Kongochokyo contain the essence of the main Esoteric Mandalas.

ESOTERIC BUDDHISM TODAY
It is almost impossible to assess how many people practice Esoteric Buddhism worldwide, but it is certain that the main schools are all in the Mahayana tradition, ie. from the 2nd century CE onwards. Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or Tantra) is found in Tibet, Bhutan, northern India, Nepal, southwestern China, Mongolia, Russia, and a variety of western countries and has existed since the 8th century CE. In China, three Indian teachers, Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra brought it to great popularity in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), and today many schools there share the same doctrines as Japanese Shingon. In Japan, Shingon Buddhism is exclusively esoteric, and Tendai Buddhism uses many esoteric practices. Shugendo, mountain asceticism in which practitioners rid themselves of their human ego by exposing themselves to the elements with waterfall training and hot candle skin burning, was founded in 7th-century CE Japan and survives today as a combination of Esoteric Buddhism, Shinto (the national religion), and Taoist influences.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHARLEY LINDEN THORP
Linden is a ValidLit writer/teacher living in Japan. Ordained as a Buddhist Priest, she is a Dharma/Meditation teacher working to make the ideas of Buddha Nature accessible to everyone, which involves many thousands of years of historical research.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Armstrong, K., The Great Transformation (Atlantic, 2017).
Bharati, A., Tantric Traditions (Hindustan Publ., 1992).
Keown, D., A Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Kornfield, J., Shambala Living Dharma (Shambala, 1996).
EXPabongka (author); Riinpoche, Trijang (editor); Richards, Michael (translator) Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand (Wisdom Publications, 1993).
Rinpoche, K., Dharma Teachings Given At Samdrup Darjay Ling Sonada Summer, 1973 (San Francisco, (1990), 1990).
EXShinjo Ito, The Path of Oneness , 2017).
EXSinnett A. P. (Alfred Percy), Esoteric Buddhism – Scholar’s Choice Edition (Scholar’s Choice, 2015).
EXTaiko Yamasaki, Shingon (Shingon Buddhist International Institute, published by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, 1996).
Thurman, R.A.F., Essential Tibetan Buddhism , 1999).
Williams, P., Mahayana Buddhism (Routledge, 2008).

 

 

 

The beauty of Mahayana Buddhism: a definition


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Mahayana Buddhism (or the Mahayanas) can be defined as a major movement in the history of Buddhism which has its origins in India. It comprises many schools and reinterpretations of fundamental human beliefs, values and ideals, not only those of the Buddhist teachings themselves. The recorded starting point for Mahayana, known also as the ‘Great Vehicle’ (Maha meaning great, yana meaning cart or vehicle in Sanskrit) because it embraces so much, is 2nd century C.E., but it is assumed that this tidal wave of shifts began to grow before that date building on existing schools and systems. The exact origins of Mahayana Buddhism are still not completely understood because it is so broad and encompasses so much.

To help to clarify this complex movement of spiritual and religious thought and religious practice, it may help to understand the 3 main classifications of Buddhism to date: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. These are recognized by practitioners as the 3 main routes to enlightenment (Skt: bodhi – awakening; Jpn; satori or kenshö), the state that marks the culmination of the Buddhist religious path. The main countries which practice Buddhism currently are China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Tibetan Buddhism due to the Chinese occupation of Tibet (June 1950) has been adopted by international practitioners in a variety of different countries.

 

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The main schools of Buddhism or Mahayanas practised today are: Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren, Shingon, and Tendai; Tibetan Buddhism is classified as Vajrayana (the Vajra vehicle, focusing on the Tantric teachings, a set of advanced and mysterious techniques to bring practitioners to enlightenment quickly).

It is significant that Theravada texts appear exclusively in Pali (thought to be the spoken language of the Buddha’s lifetime) and concern the Buddha’s life and early teachings; whereas, due to widespread propagation (spreading of the teachings), Mahayana and Vajrayana texts appear in at least 6 languages. Mahayana texts contain a rich mixture of ideas, the early probably composed in south India confined to strictly monastic Buddhism, and the later written in northern India and no longer confined to monasticism but lay thinking also.

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The term ‘Mahayana’ was first mentioned in the Lotus Sutra (among the final teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha) at an indeterminate date between 5th and 1st century C.E. However, according to recent scholars, it may have been a mistaken term because instead of ‘yana’ meaning ‘vehicle’ or ‘cart,’ it could have been mahajana, ‘jana’ meaning ‘knowing,’ therefore ‘great (maha) knowing.’ In this era, the Dharma, (Pâli: Dhamma), the natural law of all existence according to Buddhism, was no longer regarded as a doctrinal element but as a medicine that would heal all worldly suffering.

 

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The main tenets of this epoch of Buddhism are compassion (karunā) and insight or wisdom (prajnā). The perfection of these human values would culminate in the Bodhisattva, a model being who devotes him or herself altruistically to the service of others; in contrast is the preceding pursuit of self-interested liberation (Hīnayana or Sravakayana). The term Hinayana has been incorrectly referred to as the ‘Small Vehicle’ (in contrast to the ‘Great Vehicle’), but ‘Vehicle of the Hearers’ or Theravada is perhaps more appropriate, ie. those who follow the teachings of the Buddha exclusively in order to become enlightened.

Compassion can be tangibly used by Mahayana practitioners in the transfer of merit to all sentient beings which is accumulated through devotional practice.

Wisdom or insight can be used to transcend the human condition via the conviction that all beings have been sown with the Buddha seed so can, therefore, become a Buddha. The basis of the Bodhisattva vow is the 6 paramitas (Skt:perfections): generosity (dãna), morality (śīla), patience (ksãnti), courage (vīrya), knowledge (jñãna) and intuitive insight (prajñã). In early Buddhism, there were 10 paramitas and later in the Mahayanas they were increased again to 10 to match the 10 stages (bhūmi) of a Bodhisattva’s spiritual progress. Liberating or saving those who were lost or suffering becomes the sole life-purpose of those who take this Bodhisattva vow, even today.

 

 

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Another feature of Mahayana Buddhism is the presence of stūpas – religious towers or domes which evolved from pre-historic burial mounds and eventually had tall spires becoming known as pagodas, common structures found throughout Asia. Buddha Gautama instructed that on his death a stūpa should be constructed over his relics.

Today, surviving stūpas often contain sacred objects such as texts as well as relics or remains of revered beings. Their popularity as representing a place of worship increased as Buddhism spread to the masses who were illiterate laymen (see my article Chunda: the first lay Buddhist https://niume.com/post/118268) On the inside walls of stūpas pictures were inscribed and sculptures made depicting the life of Buddha and his previous lives as a bodhisattva.

 

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Biographical literature of the Buddha first appeared during this Mahayana era and aided the rapid spread of Buddhism across the Silk Roads to the east of India and north into Nepal and Tibet. In addition, Buddhist poets expressed their faith using literary expressions which transcended the doctrinal lines between the different schools.

The new Mahayana epoch long after the Parinirvana (death exclusive to a Buddha) of Buddha Gautama was accompanied by a canon of scriptures or sutras known as the Prajna-paramita Sutras (‘Perfection of Insight’). They are characterized by the doctrine of emptiness (Skt:sūnyatā) which entails viewing Buddha for the first time as a supernatural being worthy of devotion. This later led to the doctrine of his nature as the trikāya or three wheel bodies – the Dharmākaya (the enlightenment or truth body), the Sambhogakāya (the bliss or clear light body) and the Nirmānakāya (the form body manifesting in time and space).

 

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After this, new schools started to appear such as the Mādhyamaka, the Yogācāra, the Pure Land tradition, and the Vajrayāna. Mahayana Buddhism is prevalent in north Asia having spread from northern India, then to Tibet and central Asia, China, Korea and lastly Japan. Due to the cultural influences and diversity of countries, the scope of Buddhist practice has widened even more to include: the Tantric practices – (Tantra meaning techniques to reach Enlightenment more quickly) and Shamanism – (a shaman is an intermediary who has access to the world of spirits and healing) from central Asia; Taoism and Confucianism giving rise to the Ch’an school of contemplation in China and Korea which developed eventually into Japanese Zen, and so on.

Notable figures of this movement are: Aśvaghosa who wrote ‘The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana’ translated into Chinese circa 550 CE; Maitreyanātha who compiled the ‘Mahayana path from the Yogācāra perspective’ made up of 800 verses; Nāgārjuna, founder of the Mādhyamaka school, born in circa 2nd century in south India and Aryadeva, his foremost disciple; Dõgen known for his teachings on Buddha Nature in Japan; Kūkai, founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan; and Huayan for the ‘Flower Garland’ tradition in China, Korea and Japan.

In the 21st century it is estimated that 488 million (9-10% of the world population) people practice Buddhism. Approximately half are practitioners of Mahayana schools in China. Mahayana Buddhism continues to flourish.

 

 

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Images courtesy of megapixyl.com and Linden Thorp

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Prince Shotoku: Father of Japanese Buddhism and the Japanese nation.

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2600 years ago in northern India, the beautiful Queen Maya married a wise King, Suddhõdana of the Shakya family and soon gave birth to their first child. When the time came, she was carried by her ladies-in-waiting to Lumbini (present day Nepal), a secluded wooded garden. There, the Queen gracefully stood under an Ashoka tree in full blossom, reached out to hold a branch and a Holy Being (Bodhisattva) was born without pain from her right side.

The newborn child took seven steps in each cardinal direction proclaiming that he would put an end to the sufferings of the world. The entire universe trembled with joy as this miraculous event took place. The child was named Siddhārtha Gautama, meaning one who fulfills all, and seven days later, Queen Maya passed away. Siddhārtha, adored but troubled Prince, later left his privileged life to become fully enlightened and became known universally as the Buddha.

In Japan in 573, more than two thousand years later, Anahobe, the wife of the Emperor’s son, had a dream of a priest in golden robes. He asked her if he could lodge in her womb as he was about to be born as a world-saving Holy Being (Bodhisattva). The child was born painlessly and unexpectedly in the imperial stables and was named Shotoku (sho meaning ‘sacred,’ and toku meaning ‘virtue’).

At the age of 2, he naturally placed his palms together in gassho (reverence), faced the East, and recited the words, Namu Butsu (praise be to Buddha). Buddhism had hardly been heard of in Japan at that time! Prince Shotoku was to rule Japan between 594-622 as Regent and to unite his nation of warring clans in the dual roles of the first Buddhist statesman in the world and the lay founder of Japanese Buddhism.

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Prince Shotoku had several titles:

1. Prince of the Stable Door (Umayodo no Miko) due to the unusual circumstances of his birth.

2. Prince of Eight Ears (Yatsumimi no Miko) because of his special intelligence and his ability to listen to 8 people at one time and understand each of them.

3. Prince of the Upper Palace (Kamitsumiya no Miko or Jogu Taishi) because his father, Emperor Yōmei, loved and respected his talented son so much that he created a special part of the palace for him to live in.

The civic contributions made by Jogu Taishi (the title most people in Japan give him) were impressive and are still in place. He created the ‘cap system’ for government officials which rooted out nepotism with the recognition of merit. He imported Chinese culture along with the lunar calendar, art and scholarship and he resumed the existing practice of dispatching of envoys to import all manner of cultural and religious knowledge to Japan which had been terminated. He initiated irrigation projects to improve agriculture and implemented extensive welfare measures. He created highway systems and he wrote the first chronicle of Japanese history.

How he came to be devoted to this new faith which suddenly appeared in the islands of Japan is something of a mystery as mentioned above. However, though a Buddhist scholar and the first patriarch of Japanese Buddhism, he remained a lay practitioner throughout his life.

It is thought that Buddhism first became known in Japan when the ruler of a province of Korea called Baekje visited Japan and presented a beautiful gold-plated image of Buddha Shakyamuni and sutra scrolls to Emperor Kimmei (531-571), Shotoku’s grandfather, who was impressed. However, his enthusiasm to adopt Buddhism into Japan threw the noble families into confusion.

 

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Japan had been culturally isolated and conservative until then and showed no sign that the indigenous religion, Shinto, the ‘Way of the Gods,’ was inadequate. Shinto develops a deep appreciation of natural beauty and spirituality but there is no ethical element, unlike in Buddhism. Also, at the time there was no formal written language in Japan so the enthusiastic adoption of Chinese pictographs happened simultaneously with the influx of Buddhist sutras in Chinese translation.

However, Shotoku, now Prince Regent to his Aunt Suiko who succeeded her husband in 593, was to convince the country that Buddhism was exactly what was needed. In fact, at the age of 14, he fought in a brief civil war between the progressive Soga family who favoured Buddhism and the conservative Monobes family. It was a Holy War fought over the enshrinement of Holy relics in a pagoda (Skt.stupa) which Shotoku insisted was essential as the origin of Buddhism was so far away from Japan in India.

 

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Surprisingly, Buddhism replaced Shinto as the national religion of Japan within 50 years exactly due to its values of tolerance, rationality and philosophical depth, none of which featured in the Shinto faith. The only remnant of Shinto which was retained was the link between members of the Imperial family and the Japanese goddess of the Sun and the Universe, Amaterasu, who are still considered to be her direct descendants.

Perhaps the story which best exemplifies Shotoku’s devout Buddhist faith as an adult is when his father became seriously ill. The Prince sat by his father’s bedside day and night meditating on his recovery and as a result, he did recover and became a devoted Buddhist himself.

The Prince initiated the building of the first two Buddhist in Japan. Shitenno-ji (530 AD), the temple of the Four Heavenly Kings, of the North, South, East and West, was erected because whilst defending his family in battle, he prayed intently to the 4 Buddhist Kings and victory was achieved. Later Horyu-ji was built in Nara to contain many treasured artworks and artifacts, and he went on to build 5 more.

 

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But these temples were not merely places of worship. Shitenno-ji, built at the seaport, was a religious sanctuary providing training in music and the arts, a dispensary for medical herbs, an asylum for the abandoned and a hospital and sanatorium. Monks took many roles in society, as educators, physicians, and even engineers. Temples in Japan today are often cultural and welfare centres.

Prince Shotoku also gave public lectures on various aspects of Buddhism. He authored 8 volumes of commentaries on sutras. The Sangyo-gisho (3 Sutras) was popular among lay Buddhists. It focused on the Lotus Sutra which conveyed Buddha Nature and universal enlightenment, the Vimalakirti Sutra which expounded lay Buddhism and national rulers as Bodhisattvas, and the Srimaladevi Sutra which extolled the virtues of a Buddhist Queen to honour his devout aunt, Queen Suiko.

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According to the Nihon Shoki, a definitive history of ancient Japan written in circa 720, Prince Shotoku created a seventeen-article ‘constitution’ (Jpn. Jushichojo Kenpo) which was implemented as a political tool to unite the warring clans. This was not a modern constitution designed for the governing of state and subjects, but a set of spiritual aspirations inspired equally by Buddhism and Confucianism. It focused on the morals and virtues that should be the aspiration of every subject in the realm and led to him receiving the title ‘Dharma Monarch’ (Skt; Dharmaraja)

The 5 bonds of Confucius figure in each article: ruler to ruled, father to son, elder to younger siblings, elder friend to younger friend, and husband to wife. Shotoko declared,

“Harmony is the most precious asset. We all alternate between wisdom and madness. It is a closed circle.”

The following articles are evidence that this is truly a Buddhist constitution: Article 2: Reverence to the 3 Treasures of Buddhism – Shotoku firmly believed that all beings could benefit from their truth. Article 6: the difference between merit and demerit, reward and punishment – this demonstrates the laws of karma so central to Buddhism. Article 10: self-control and mind-control – the harmony between nature and society, also a strong goal of the Buddhist way of life.

They are as follows:

1. Harmony should be valued and quarrels should be avoided.

2. The three treasures, which are Buddha, the Dharma – the Law and the Sangha – Priesthood; should be given sincere reverence, for they are the final refuge of all living things.

3. Do not fail to obey the commands of your Sovereign. He is like Heaven, which is above the Earth, and the vassal is like the Earth, which bears up Heaven.

4. The Ministers and officials of the state should make proper behavior their first principle, for if the superiors do not behave properly, the inferiors are disorderly.

5. Deal impartially with the legal complaints which are submitted to you.

6. Punish the evil and reward the good.

7. Every man has his own work. Do not let the spheres of duty be confused.

8. Ministers and officials should attend the Court early in the morning and retire late, for the whole day is hardly enough for the accomplishment of state business.

9. Good faith is the foundation of right.

10. Let us control ourselves and not be resentful when others disagree with us, for all men have hearts and each heart has its own leanings.

11. Know the difference between merit and demerit.

12. Do not let the local nobility levy taxes on the people.

13. All people entrusted with office should attend equally to their duties.

14. Do not be envious! For if we envy others, then they, in turn, will envy us.

15. To subordinate private interests to the public good — that is the path of a vassal.

16. Employ the people in forced labor only at seasonable times.

17. Decisions on important matters should not be made by one person alone.

These tenets provide the basis of stable and peaceful Japan today 1500 years later and could be said to be part of the essence of its distinctive culture.

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In 621, Shotoku became gravely ill and as an indication of his popularity, a statue was commissioned in the form of the Buddha. It can now be viewed in the Golden Hall of Horyuji Temple. After his death in 622, he became known as ‘Japan’s Shakyamuni’ and his relics were enshrined in the various temples he established. His figure has appeared on Japanese bank notes 8 times, more than any other leader.

The surviving features of the Mahayana Buddhism he founded are as follows: the notion that all beings have Buddha Nature and can be enlightened regardless of spiritual training, class or gender (Jpn. Ekayana); the spiritual aspects of Buddhism are the most important – this remains true today; gender discrimination in monasteries should not exist; Buddhism should be synonymous with the welfare of the Japanese nation and symbolic of prosperity and peace.

 

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In the Middle Ages, Shinran (1173-1262), the founder of Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land), the largest school of Japanese Buddhism today, worshipped Prince Shotoku as the savior of Japan. Shinran is famous as the first ordained monk to reject his clerical vow of celibacy which set a trend for Japanese clerics. He openly married and had children with Eshinni and the reason for this departure was that Prince Shotoku appeared to him in a dream as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kannon, who assured him that he would be incarnated in Eshinni. So, in a way, Shinran married his greatest hero, the father of Japanese Buddhism!

Shotoku is also said to have reincarnated as Bodhisattva Eshi of the Tendai faith and later as Amida Buddha, the principal Buddha of the Pure Land School.

 

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In conclusion, as Prince Shotoku firmly believed, it is certain that our sincere relationships with each other are the most important factor of all in society and that individual power and success must only be viewed through that lens. But this 17-article constitution could and can only be successful if humans put aside all their self-seeking ideas and temper their dominant egos and temporal desires. This can best be achieved by cultivating Buddha Nature and embodying our divine mission of unconditional love and light. Altruism – sincerely looking after others before ourselves – is an ancient universal tenet of the human species which Prince Shotoku spent his life embodying.

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This article will be published on Ancient History Encyclopedia at http://www.ancient.eu this month. Please visit. It’s a Non-profit making site.

Images courtesy of megapixyl.com and Prince Shotoku images.com

The 9 Breaths: Breath 8

3 questions?

1. Why is Breath 7 only for sleep time?

2. What is Prāna?

3. Can we really wake up from the long sleep of death?

Answers:

1. This is a special practice which is most effective if done while you are waiting for sleep to come. This is perhaps the most powerful moment of the day – as you prepare to die. Each sleep is a small death from which we are reborn. As you prepare to fall into sleep, your eyes automatically gravitate towards your Third Eye, the power centre between your eyebrows. If you follow these instructions, you can become not only Master of your Dreams but also Master of Death!

2. We breathe in Air which is, as Science tells us, composed of the vital gases we need to survive on Planet Earth. But it also contains an element of magic which allows us to be vital and to breathe without effort or even consciousness. Prāna is energy from the Cosmos which created you. It is invisible and unmeasurable by the crude mechanisms of Science, but it is your Divine link with the Universe. Shiva’s special way of breathing and thinking about breath connects you with the Universe!

3. Human Beings are energy manifested in flesh and blood. Your origin is spirit, energy, and energy can never be destroyed. It exists eternally. Remember that ‘time’ and ‘space’ are intellectual concepts not reality! Be assured you will always exist and so Shiva teaches you how to live in that special way!! You are in the world of form in order to contribute to the balance of the whole cosmos before you return to the invisible world.

Please visit the series to catch up with today! If you seriously want to make bonds with the Universe, this is a progression, not something you can just dip into! The 9 breaths are published consecutively so they are easy to find here in Nirvana Linden. You can also find them at Niume.com – urls below.

Introductionhttps://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2https://niume.com/post/266432

Breath 3https://niume.com/post/267922

Breath 4https://niume.com/post/268886

Breath 5https://niume.com/post/269810

Breath 6https://niume.com/post/271614

Breath 7https://niume.com/post/272641

Important points from Breath 7:

* We are going to deeper and deeper levels with each breath. Think of an onion: the peripheral skins and the tender core!

*There are many ways to use your breath in any situation you may find yourself in. You don’t have to go on retreat to a monastery. Daily life is the best spiritual training place of all!

*Prāna is magical. It is contained in each breath if you are devoted sufficiently to it. Attention is exclusive! Awareness is inclusive!

*If you become Master of your Dreams with Breath 7, there will be no more dreams because reality and dreaming will become one!

*We can choose to be either a victim of life or a Master!

*Death is a vital part of life. So embrace it each night as you sleep. It leads to the next stage of spiritual evolution!

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Shiva’s 8th breath requires your utmost devotion.

So far, you have developed a scientific approach to Shiva’s 9 breaths. But now it’s time for you to know the knower!

 

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You may be able to be devoted to a Christ or Krishna, an Einstein or Pythagoras, a Descartes or Renoir. But Shiva demands now that you are devoted to yourself.

Your body is a Divine temple which you have been invited to inhabit during your human stay. It is sacred and holy. And you are not alone in it – the Divine is there too.

Therefore, treat your body form as the abode of the Divine.

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Each intake of breath – the down (in) breath – is received, not only by ‘your’ body but by the Divine.

Each output of breath – the up (out) breath – is witnessed, not only by ‘your’ body but by the Divine.

Each turn of the breath – at the bottom and top of the circle – is experienced, not only by ‘your’ body but also by the Divine.

Do everything in your ‘man-moments’ and in ‘man-space’ with the Divine and as the Divine.

There is no separation!

You are the Divine!

 

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Shiva says:

“With UTMOST devotion, centre on the two junctions of breath and KNOW the KNOWER”

 

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You may consider ‘yourself’ to have a scientific mind, but be certain that science is nothing, is incomplete, without the Knower! And who is ‘you?’ It is only a mundane creation of ephemeral Mind!

This is another opportunity to glimpse the tricky interfering Mind and turn away from it.

It limits you!

It generates fear!

Your TRUE NATURE is unlimited and utterly fearless.

 

Inspiration: Dwell on the notion of the Divine during the day! It is a glorious truth that we are each Divine and each unique, but we are in the process of becoming Divine once more during our training in human form. Interfering Mind will throw a spanner in that naturally turning wheel if you are not mindful.

Surely you want to live in a divine way in your divine body?

 

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Wonderful images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

See you tomorrow for Breath 9, the final Breath!

 

But don’t worry, I’m going to publish each breath again in the following days so that you get a second chance at uncovering your True Nature and becoming Divine once more!

The 9 Breaths: Breath 7

3 Questions?

1. How can the breath make us able to effectively play our role in daily life ?

2. How can the breath break our tendency to become attached to what we think is ‘reality?’

3. How can maintaining your attention on your breath while involved in activities help you to be born anew?

Answers:

1. Activity out in life distracts the mind from its domineering tendencies anyway. But if we know the secret power of our breath, and therefore our True Nature, then we play our roles with ease and there is no sense of futility or tedium.

2. Breath is our indissoluble link with the Universe and so our Divine origins as spirit. Breath brings air into the body but it also brings life force or vitality – Prāna – inside. This cosmic vitality shifts us away from the mundane and limited view of reality the Mind synthesizes.

3. You will not get drawn out of your vital centre into the mundane role and all its absurd antics! Attending to your breath will keep your native spirit alive and awake. In other words, you will not be playing your part on auto-pilot while deeply sleeping!

Introductionhttps://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2https://niume.com/post/266432

Breath 3https://niume.com/post/267922

Breath 4https://niume.com/post/268886

Breath 5https://niume.com/post/269810

Breath 6https://niume.com/post/271614

Important points from Breath 6:

* If we stay attentive between the down (in) breath and the up (out) breath, lingering at the turning of the breath, we will be renewed.

* Entering into the activity you are doing, remember that you can be at the same time. Breathing at the periphery and at the centre: letting the breath touch your centre.

*You are required to play a role in society, in the dream of daily life, which is the Drama of your Life’s body. To do this successfully, we must choose from an extensive wardrobe of masks and not identify with the role! We are merely actors going through our paces. But we carry our reality, our core, with us at all times and the breath is the perfect way to access it.

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Shiva’s 7th breath is meant only for sleep time.

Throughout the preceding breaths we have gradually been going deeper and deeper through the levels of consciousness, across the bridge of the mind into the vast field of awareness.

 

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While waiting to fall into sleep, give your attention to your Third Eye between your eyebrows, and be aware of the rhythmic circle of your breath, the turns from down (in) to up (out).

The air you take in from the universe contains all the nutrient gases you require to live fully, but in addition, an intangible energy from the Cosmos called Prāna. Be aware of Prāna flowing in to you and up to your crown, then showering down and moving closer to your heart, to the centre of your body, until sleep comes.

Remember:  attention is exclusive, awareness is inclusive.

 

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As you begin to fall into sleep behind your eyelids your eyes gravitate towards your Third Eye naturally, so rest there easily, and breathe in the background. If, when, you allow this to happen, you will become Master of your Dreams. And actually, there will be no more dreams because dreams are the very fabric of life. In other words, there will be no separation between your dreams and reality.

 

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Now you are Master of your Dreams, you are also Master of your Death.

Sleep is a small death from which you are reborn, and death is simply a long sleep. You will awaken from both because your spirit is composed entirely of energy which is indestructible.

We can choose to spend our whole life as a bewildered victim of it. Or we can become Master of it through Shiva’s techniques.

In fact, you can become a creator of your dreams and turn away those dreams that are unwanted.

Remember, we are beings of 2 parts: the periphery and the core. We can become Master of both of them and so realize exactly our mission in the world of form.

 

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Shiva says:

‘With intangible breath in the centre of the forehead, as this reaches the heart at the moment of sleep, have direction over dreams and over death itself.’

 

 

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Buddha, along with many other Spiritual leaders, became Master of both during his Enlightenment using Shiva’s tantric breaths. He knew his birth and his death exactly. He precisely predicted the moment of his birth and the moment of his death.

He was attached to nothing on the visual plane so lived a sublime life of freedom and passed into a glorious sleep of death, the PariNirvana, both of which brought the whole of existence to a standstill. This is highly symbolic!

Inspiration: To sharpen your faculty of attention, gaze at a candle flame or a beautiful flower, a wonderful image or creature, for 3 minutes without moving or blinking. This will activate your Third Eye between your eyebrows. This is the power centre of the Divine. Put aside some moments to do this in your favourite place now! Don’t think or talk about it. Just do it!

 

 

 

Wonderful images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

 

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                                                      See you tomorrow for Breath 8!

 

A devotional sculpture expressing Enlightenment for all Beings.

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This life-size sculpture ‘Chunda’ (Junda in Japanese) pictured below was created in 2005 to portray lay Buddhism by Shinnya Nakamura. He is still producing dynamic works despite his age of 90. It is owned by a Buddhist Denomination Shinnyo-en, Tachikawa, Japan and I have special permission to display this photograph even though it is a sacred Buddhist object.

This is highly significant in the Buddhist world because Buddhism was dominated by monasteries and monks throughout the Buddha’s lifetime. However, when Buddha was on his deathbed many illustrious followers, Kings and enlightened monks, visited him to bring him lavish offerings. To everyone’s amazement, he refused everything.

Then, a local blacksmith, Chunda, arrived with his 15 rough friends offering a modest pot of homemade food which the Buddha accepted to the disgust of the assembly. Chunda was uneducated and had received no spiritual training whatsoever, but became enlightened on the spot!

This signifies that all beings can become enlightened only through their sincerity and that spiritual training is perhaps not necessary. Chunda represented a new direction for Buddhism away from the domination of the pious monastics. He has given all beings hope of being enlightened in their lifetime.

I am deeply grateful to be able to bring this work to those outside Japan.

I have just published an article about Chunda, the first lay Buddhist, at Ancient History Encyclopedia, a wonderful non-profit platform where experts share their knowledge at no cost – http://www.ancient.eu.

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cover image: Buddha’s Head + Buddha’s Parinirvana https://www.megapixl.com/juliengrondin-stock-images-videos-portfolio, Chunda and 15 friends – Linden Thorp

 

The 9 Breaths: Breath 6

Questions?

1. How can we access our spirit which seems so elusive, so intangible?

2. What does the breath consist of actually?

3. Why does the notion of freedom create fear?

Answers:

1. The treasure of the human spirit is hidden is very small things. In other words, it is subtle energy not gross. Therefore, it must be accessed with subtle techniques such as Tantra and hypnosis.

2. Science says the breath consists of Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, etc. But it not only contains these gases but also the mysterious substance ‘prāna’ or ‘élan vital’ – this is the essence of vitality, of life itself.

3. Humans have become so distanced from our cores, so busy at the periphery out in life occupied with all its futility and tedium, that the vastness of freedom with its lack of limitations, is terrifying. Change in general is frightening because we have etched a deep groove of habit with our Minds which it is difficult to get out of.

Introduction – https://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1 – https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2 – https://niume.com/post/266432

Breath 3 – https://niume.com/post/267922

Breath 4 – https://niume.com/post/268886

Breath 5 – https://niume.com/post/269810

Important points from Breath 5:

*Spiritual attainment is not difficult, nor is it ‘attainable,’ because every human is already spiritual. Spirit is our origin so we are already perfect and the perfect conditions exist if we open our spiritual eyes.

*Divinity cannot be re-created by man no matter how hard we try and how much technology we develop.

*Our habit is to identify totally with materials and delusional barriers and classifications, e.g. culture, gender, class, nationality, religiosity, etc.

*Only small efforts are needed to uncover what is already there with skillful use of awareness and attention. Tantric techniques are atomic formulae to make subtle changes.

*Focusing on the Third Eye between the eyebrows will close the gap between reality and dreams.

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Shiva’s 6th breath is a complete shift. Instead of working in isolation and stillness as for the 5th breath, the 6th breath is to be done while you are active in the world. In other words, this is perfect for when you are busy and should be performed continuously.

Activity is good for this breath because it distracts the mind.

 

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Your breathing circle should be fairly natural to you now, so continue briefly to watch your breath in the pauses or quiet times of your activity, lingering at the turn from down to up and the turn from up to down. But now for the 6th breath, move your attention away from following the circle of the breath to resting on the turns only at the top and bottom of the circle (the blue/turquoise sections in the following diagram)

 

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Try to keep your attention lightly on these two points while remembering to keep the centre of breath low in your navel not in your chest. This signifies that there are two layers of existence:

1. Doing at the periphery or circumference of your being.

2. Being at your centre.

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It may help to think of a singer performing to an audience. The face and body, the mouth and vocal apparatus are acting to channel the sound – that is doing – while the voice itself is coming from the still centre of the singer – that is being.

This is exactly like life. We act out in life playing the role our situation has assigned to us: but in our core, we simply are our unique energy. Because we have chosen to be members of large urban societies and communities, we have certain roles to fulfill. But our role is not who we are. It merely oils the wheels of harmony and progress.

In fact, it is useful for this sixth breath to think of yourself as an actor playing a major part in the Drama of your life. All the time you are acting, you can breathe at your still centre which is your true identity, the site of your True Nature. It’s like having a marvelous secret!

 

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Shiva says:

When in worldly activity, keep attentive between the two breaths, and so practising, in a few days be born anew.

 

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This 6th breath completely breaks the habit of identifying with what is your role in human life.

 

Inspiration: So far we have experienced two layers of existence: the periphery at the edge of your life, your social aspect, and the core, in your heart where your True Nature is located. Tomorrow, we will go even deeper into other layers by using the Third Eye and the energy shower raining down from the Crown chakra. Mull this over before Shiva’s 7th Breath.

 

 

                      Wonderful images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

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                                                                   See you tomorrow!

 

The 9 Breaths: Breath 5

How can a tiny gap in the breath lead to enlightenment?

How can we gain freedom from the enslavement of the Mind?

Why did Buddha Gautama take 6 years to know his breath, not just the passage of it? And why did this knowledge lead to enlightenment?

These are some of the questions that may have arisen during the previous 4 breaths. Now for some answers.

If you want to start from the beginning of this series then go to:

Introductionhttps://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2https://niume.com/post/266432

Breath 3https://niume.com/post/267922

Breath 4https://niume.com/post/268886

Important points from Breath 4:

*Breathing stops when danger is near, as does mind!

*The small self (only a daily utility) disappears at such moments so that we can glimpse the True Self.

*We cannot practise the Breath! Each one is a performance.

*Zen Masters have utilized Shiva’s 5th tantric technique of eliciting unexpected reactions from their disciples exactly so that they can glimpse their True Nature.

*When breathing pauses there are no desires, no quests, no cravings, no small fragile self.….because the Mind also stops. The Mind is the personification of all these distractions.

 

 

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Shiva’s 5th breath is the pinnacle of his Tantric techniques because it involves the Third Eye.

But to purify the mind before we start, it is important to understand that there is no effort involved in attaining spirituality! We are tricked into thinking that it needs a huge effort because we are not spiritual beings; that we have lost something so we need to compensate by adding something new.

This is mistaken. You are already there. You are divine already. No long journey is required to find what you are looking for. This ‘attainment’ is not something you will realize in the future! It is here and now.

How can mortal man create the divine from scratch? It is ever-present and infinite. You are the truth and simply need awakening from your deep sleep induced by the tricky Mind. Shiva’s techniques are designed exactly to do that.

 

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Your spirit is hiding from you in small things, for instance, the tiny gap as your breath turns from down to up and up to down. It is a treasure hidden because of long and dominant habits of identifying too much with delusional things like personality, clothes, skin colour, religious convictions, etc.

Only a small effort is needed to uncover what is already there. The future is hidden in the present.

Your longing to be pure and spiritually evolved has created a barrier to your seeing your own True Nature. The clouds that cover the sun are only temporary. A man who is blind can receive simple surgery to enable him to see because the seer has always been there.

 

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The difference between ‘awareness’ and ‘attention’ is important before we contemplate the Third Eye. Awareness is inclusive perhaps involving many things; Attention is exclusive – it only has one focus.

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Now, bring your full attention to your Third Eye between your eyebrows. Focus it strongly on this place which is the seat of the Pineal Gland, a magnetic mechanism of the body. As you still your energy at this point, 2 things will happen:

1. You will begin to witness your thoughts instead of thinking them. In other words, you will cease to identify habitually with them. Instead, it will be as if someone else is generating them. This focus will create a distance between your small self (utility of daily life) and your thoughts (vapour that disappears the moment it is thought).

2. You will feel the essence of your breath vibrating. This is known as prana – vitality. Science says we breathe chemically rich air: spiritual insight says that we breathe pure life.

 

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Then Shiva says:

‘Attention between the eyebrows. Let mind be before thought. Let form fill with breath essence to the top of the head and there shower as light.

 

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The essence of the breath, the prana or vitality of the Cosmos, will shower down as light from the crown of the head, and you will experience a rebirth or recreation.

3 minutes of gazing in complete stillness at a beautiful flower or candle flame will activate your Third Eye and light will shower down.

The Third Eye is the mechanism of hypnosis, the closing of the gap between dream and reality.

 

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Inspiration: Doing is important, not just thinking about it. This meditation is something you deserve to free you from the slavery of your mind. Just do it right now instead of talking about it.

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                                   gorgeous images courtesy of Linden Thorp and Megapixyl.com

                                                             Join me tomorrow for Breath 6.

1
positive reflection wellbeing spirituality

Cosmos Zen

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I strive to keep in touch with the Universe through various means because I deem the sense of awe humans are capable of to be a fundamental of our unique spirit.

Living in extended urban sprawls with the resulting and increasing dependence on material commodities for our survival and happiness, means that it is likely that we will separate ourselves away from the great cosmos of which we are each an essential component. I find myself always returning to this separation in all my channels of expression because it is our divine right to be one with the whole cosmos. In other words, it is our sacred mission of love and light.

My favourite Japanese artist Mariko Kinoshita (website under construction – watch this space) shares my passion for preserving our sense of awe and embracing all that we cannot see with our limited intellectual view. She paints naturally and exactly the ‘integration’ I am referring to.

Her Shintoist (the state religion of Japan until 1946) ancestry with its reverence for the 80 million Kami-Sama (god spirits) has created an indestructible platform for her way of seeing human life. I also live in such a way, acknowledging that everything, as well as everyone, has a spirit!

 

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Origami the art of paper-folding, so familiar to us in modern life, is a superb example of this. Folding paper requires no cutting with metal instruments exactly out of respect for the ‘tree spirit’ which enabled us to make this precious material.

I want to always walk in the enchantment of the Cosmos in my daily life. In fact, I refuse to ever be separated from it by mundane and finite thoughts and beliefs.

Kinoshita’s painting evokes exactly my determination. I am so grateful for this gifted artist’s existence and I have pledged myself to make her work as visible as possible.

 

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All images courtesy of Mariko Kinoshita, Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

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The Peacock: embodying human aspirations to connect with the Universe

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Ancient Indians, like the Aborigines of Australia and Japanese Shintoists, believed wholly in the supernatural and the natural world. They especially envied the characteristics of some animals. The peacock was one such creature they revered and desired to emulate.

At first, they were afraid of the peacock with its mournful cry, its fantastic plumage and feral ways, and especially shocked when they realized on observing that it was capable of eating poisonous spiders and snakes in order to nourish its large physical structure, and could survive. Quite naturally, they also wished to transcend such poisoning and human fragility, and so came to worship the peacock out of a mixture of envy and fear.

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At this time in India there were 2 powerful religions: Hinduism for the masses, and Brahmanism for the elite and all beings aspired to spiritual liberation through these pathways. Therefore many mantras, or recited invocations, were used as a matter of course in everyday life. It is clear from research that the ancient Indians possessed an authentic insight into the use of the spiritual voice to communicate with the invisible world.

So, such mantras were developed to emulate the peacock and bring this animal god closer to the human world—mantras, which even incorporated the doleful cry of the peacock, for example, the Great Peacock King mantra from Tibetan Buddhism: “Om Mayura Krante Svaha.” They really believed that by calling upon this magical and terrifying bird, they may themselves would gain some of its divine qualities and so enable them to transcend their human weaknesses and limitations.

 

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So, Mantrayana, the next stage of Buddhism after the Golden Buddha’s initial teachings and death (circa 2600) was created. This movement was inspired by the idea that all poisons are the same so that in time, the negative aspects of the human mind such as ignorance, greed, and hatred became known as ‘poison’ which required an ‘antidote.’ Mantras or invocations were viewed as just such a kind of antidote and eventually became recognized as a part of nature and not created by man at all.

They represented an esoteric or secret language which nature or the universe would respond to. In other words, a way for humans to fuse with the microcosm.

 

 

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These faith pioneers had enormous imagination not having yet learned the passiveness of modern, intensively technological societies. As today, poisonous snakes such as the cobra were common, so protection and awareness was essential to prevent fatal bites or stings. One method was to mesmerize the snake with the sound of a flute so that it would obey, but another way was to worship creatures that could dispose of them.

When a peacock comes face to face with a snake, it purposely pretends to be scared and allows the snake to wrap itself around its body. Then just as the snake is about to attack, it spreads out its wings and feathers with great force and sends the snake flying.

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The image of the elegant peacock driving away a poisonous snake, like a beautiful woman driving off an evil beast, impressed people. They thought this bird had god-like powers, and so gradually this image metamorphosed into a Buddhist deity or Holy Being. Much later in Japanese Buddhism (7th Century), this image below became known as Peacock Myoo or Guardian of the Law.

The Guardian of the Law is riding on the back of the peacock and holding sacred instruments in each of her four arms: a lotus, a peacock feather, a fruit resembling a lemon, and a pomegranate. The lotus represents benevolence and kindness. The lemon cures the diseases of anyone that eats it. The pomegranate drives off evil spirits. But the mighty peacock feather has the power to actually prevent disasters such as earthquakes and floods. This painting was made using luxurious materials like silver and gold leaf to make it sparkle and shine with the Peacock’s mystical power. However, the metals have tarnished over time so it is difficult to see clearly.

 

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In general, the peacock is a symbol of openness and acceptance. In Christianity, it is a symbol of immortality, and in Hinduism, the patterns of its feathers, resembling eyes, symbolize the star constellations. And in Buddhism as we can see above, wisdom is its attribute.
The five feathers on the peacock’s head are said to symbolize the five spiritual paths and the five Buddha families. Their beautiful colours give pleasure to all beings in the same way that setting eyes upon a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being) or Buddha (an awakened being) can bring comfort and provoke bliss.

 

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Sacred human intelligence is awe-inspiring. The unique human spirit naturally will find many ingenious ways to communicate with its divine origin, the invisible world. I believe that this communication beyond what we can see or prove visually is the way to true balance and unending happiness.

 

 

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Images courtesy of Megapixl.com and Linden Thorp: Vietnam Chua Bai Dinha Temple main Buddha – https://www.megapixl.com/klodien-stock-images-videos-portfolio by jessealbanese; Three Peacocks-kvkirllov; Indian Architecture exterior-Jaipur City Palace-twinandphotography; Indian divinity with peacock – https://www.megapixl.com/magicinfoto-stock-images-videos-portfolio; Myoo-Japan Temple exhibition-clthorp; Beautiful Peacock Roof design-Japan-Lucyinsisu; Head of Peacock – https://www.megapixl.com/adeliepenguin-stock-images-videos-portfolio; Peacock – Krookedeye

 

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The 9 Breaths: Breath 4

When does your breath stop automatically?

When there is danger or great fear, whether in your dreams or in so-called reality.

It is important to remember that breathing and mind work together. Your mind stops in synchrony with your breath in such situations, therefore this is a golden opportunity to look behind the screen of so-called reality.

If you want to start at the beginning, please go to:

Introductionhttps://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2https://niume.com/post/266432

Breath 3https://niume.com/post/267922

Important Points from Breath 3:

* Children breathe deeply exclusively in their abdomen – this is the secret of their totality, their joy and energy. They are existing in or close to their true centre.

*When the breath is static or turns from down (in) to up (out), we are here-and-now in our totality.

*Breath is the bridge to our real centre, to reality, to full awareness.

*The more your breath touches your centre, the more your life force will fuse with the energy of the cosmos, your divine origins.

*When we are in the shadows of negativity, we are divided. We can only live partially if we breathe shallowly, and the upper body is divided from the lower, the angel from the animal.

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Breath stops when there is danger. In tandem with the breath, in such situations the mind also ceases to move in its monkey fashion. Danger galvanizes us and forces us to realize that the small self is simply a daily utility and it can vanish easily.

This is a tremendous resource to get a glimpse of our True Nature.

 

 

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This is why it is important to take risks in your life.

We tend to over-cherish ourselves, over-protect ourselves with our ego shield. This is a function of living in large urban populations unfortunately.

 

 

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Breathing is not something we can practice. Each one is a live performance. But by approaching breathing in different ways, we can feel something different with each performance.

 

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Shiva’s 4th breath has become the basis of Zen teachings in Japan. Ferocious Masters behave in unexpected ways with their pupils to shock them into feeling the breath stop, and so to grasp the power the small self can hold over us. Shiva, the utterly unpredictable, was an expert at living in this way.

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Shiva says: For the pure, the pause when the breath and the mind stop is commonplace, is ever-present.

 

NO desiring. NO seeking. NO looking elsewhere. NO divisions.

 

This is when the mind stops and the bridge of the breath opens up to us. We can easily walk smoothly across it to bask in the vast field of human awareness. We are free to take up our rightful place in the Universe.

Inspiration: Impurity is completely within your control by using the sharp sword of mindfulness. Watch, witness, each of your thoughts as they arise – if they are negative or critical, envious or fearful, just turn away from them. They emanate from the small scared self not your True Self; from the victim of life not the victor. All speech and actions originate in thoughts, but thoughts are never in the present – they are always in the past or the future, both of them man-made concepts not to be confused with reality!!

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      Wonderful images courtesy of Linden Thorp, Mariko Kinoshita and megapixyl.com

                                 Join me tomorrow for Breath 5 of the 9 breath series.

The 9 Breaths: Breath 3

Do you know where the centre of your body is? If you send energy via the breath to your centre, then you will live fully, you will realize 100% of your potential, you will arrive in a state of total happiness and love.

Read on to find the answer and some simple techniques.

To fill you in on previous posts of the series see:

Introductionhttps://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2https://niume.com/post/266432

Main points from Breath 1 + 2

* Breath moves in a perfect circle. 1 breath = 2 halves of the circle. The down (in) breath and the up (out) breath, and there is a gap between each half.

* The gap is a turn in the direction of the breath and at this point you are neither body, nor mind, nor mechanism. You pass through neutral gear to reach other gears-neutral is your True Nature, the pure energy of the Universe.

*Breath and Mind work together. If your breath stops then your mind stops.

*You can allow complete freedom of your awareness and so realize 100% of your potential as a human. Only the minimum of control is needed to live in the social world.

* Your body is divided into 2 parts: the periphery (we know quite well because we are always looking out into the world); and the core or centre (we do not know at all perhaps).

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If you observe children breathing, and we were all once children, you will see that they breathe almost exclusively deeply in their abdomens. Then gradually, through conditioning and control, as they get older, the breath rises into the chest and become increasingly shallower. This is one of the reasons there are so many respiratory dis-eases in today’s modern world.

 

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The down (in) breath and the up (out) breath are fundamentally dynamic, and the intellectual mind works with them, but between the breaths, when the breath is static, we are here-and-now in our totality. This is the exuberance and bliss of children which we steadily lose as we mature and move up into our heads.

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The down (in) breath naturally moves towards our centre, to our navel, and then moves away. This is the bridge. But if the breath is too shallow it will not reach the centre, so many of us feel ‘off=centre’ in busy modern life. We breathe only partially in the city and that means we live only partially.

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If we go out into the mountains or to the beach, suddenly we feel alive, pulsing with life. In such an environment, the breath will deepen and touch the centre, and so we feel briefly wonderful. In time, the worries and fears return and we move back into partial mode.

If your breath touches your centre, then your life force will fuse with the energy of the cosmos.

 

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Shiva says: ‘Whenever the down (in) breath and the up (out) breath fuse, at this instant touch the energy-less and the energy-filled centre.’

By ‘energy-less,’ he means only the energy we get from food and liquid, which we utilize with shallow breathing; and by ‘energy-filled’ he means the energy of the cosmos we are connected to access by abdominal breathing.

If we can bring cosmic energy to our centre, to our navel, and fuse it with worldly energy, then we find our totality, our truth, our complete happiness.

Inspiration: If we live fearfully in the shadows of negativity, then we are divided. We have chosen to live partially and so we breathe shallowly to keep in control. We keep the breath at a minimum, in the head. As a result, our upper body is divided from our lower and we become the victims not the victors of civilization’s move.

 

 

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images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

 

 

     Join me tomorrow for breath 4 of this 9 breath series.

The 9 Breaths: Breath 2

Main points from Introduction: https://niume.com/post/264747; and Breath 1: https://niume.com/post/265632

* Shiva is the Indian God of ‘transformation.’ His techniques were inspiration for the Buddha’s enlightenment, and they can be for you too.

*Tantra = unconscious transformation. No so not need to do any changing. be exactly as you are.

* Your breath is the bridge between your body and the universe. ‘You’ are not required to breathe – it happens in spite of you – so simply watch it as if you are watching the breath of someone else.

*Noticing the gap between the down (in) breath and the up (out) breath will open the doors to the ‘Kingdom of the Spirit.’

 

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In Breath 1, you noticed by watching that your breath moves in a perfect circle and the down (in) and up (out) breaths are two halves of one complete breath.

You also noticed by watching and staying exactly with the movement of the breath, neither ahead or behind it, that within that circular movement there is a ‘gap’ or ‘turn’ from down to up at the bottom of the breath, and from up to down at the top of the breath.

In Breath 2, we will watch this ‘turn’ more closely.

 

 

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The Earth’s breath becomes part of the body when it is entering you and leaving you, but when it turns from down to up and up to down then it is no-body, no-mind.

A good analogy for this turning is a car, motorbike or electric bicycle. A motor-driven vehicle has gears, low and high, hill-climbing-hill-descending, etc. The turning point of your breath is like neutral on your gear stick. Neutral has to be passed through to reach all the gears.

 

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The human mechanism is extraordinary, cutting edge, miraculous, at its peak. It is composed of many gears: sleep gear, anger gear, smiling gear, laughing gear, etc.

As you change into a new gear, your transmission must pass through neutral. Perhaps the best example is sleeping. As you prepare to sleep, there is a gap between waking and falling into sleep. There is a turning point which you can never catch – you are awake and then suddenly you are asleep and watching your dreams!

In this gap, you are neither body, nor mind, nor mechanism. You are pure energy or existence – the energy of the Universe.

 

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As you experiment with this type of awareness of your breathing, you will notice that moving breath is connected to mind, and if your breath stops for some reason, then your mind stops.

Our breathing is conditioned to be plugged into the electric current of mind, so breathing and thinking have become connected. But if you unplug from that habitual connection, then the thinking ‘monkey’ mind stops.

 

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Shiva says:

As breath turns from down to up, and again as breath curves from up to down – through both these turns, realize!

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You can take complete control of your car with these moments of awareness! You can take control of your 70 million cells, your 70 million connectors to the universe. You can realize 100% of your potential in this way!

You have opened the door to the Kingdom of Spirit if only a crack, for a split second!

 

Inspiration: Please let this notion swim around you during the day ahead to prepare you for Breath 3 tomorrow.

Your body is divided into two: the periphery which we know well because we are always looking outside through our physical eyes; and the centre or core which we do not know well. To touch our core we need to close our physical eyes and open our spiritual eyes inside.

 

 

Images courtesy of megapixyl.com and Linden Thorp

The 9 Breaths: Breath 1

 

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Important points to understand from the introduction to this series:

* The 3 layers of the being are: the body, the breath and the soul/spirit/heart.

* Focusing on the breath, sensing it in the abdomen, allows us to both look ahead at worldly/daily life and back towards the heart, our origin, our True Nature.

*Breathing is not taught. It is therefore ultimate and mysterious knowledge. It is every unique being’s secret bond with the universe.

*Due to the infinite kindness of Planet Earth and our masterful biological adaptation, we have unlimited supplies of oxygen to sustain our human life. Only Planet Earth provides the conditions in which we can thrive, ‘here’ and ‘now.’

If you would like to read the Introduction, please go to https://lindenthorp.com/2017/02/23/shivas-mind-turning-techniques/


Background:

These precious techniques are inspired by Shiva, ancient Indian God of ‘Transformation.’ He predates Buddha, providing him with the breathing techniques to become enlightened sitting under the Bodhi Tree 2600 years ago.

Shiva is non-intellectual in his approach, unlike Buddha, so he uses Tantra to help us attain the truth. Tantra is internal in that no conscious changes are needed, unlike Yoga which conscious and systematized using prescribed poses and systems.

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Your breath is a bridge between the body and the universe. If that bridge is weak or broken then we are not really alive. In other words, your breath touches the core of your body and, beyond you, the universe.

Mostly, we take our breathing mostly for granted, assuming that it will continue on without us. Therefore, you are not breathing, because you are not required! Breathing goes on in spite of you!

So, do not consciously change the way you breathe. Breathe exactly as you do usually, but for this purpose you are going to simply watch your breathing as if someone else is breathing and you are observing.

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Feel air or breath touching your nostrils as it enters you. Let it in. Welcome it. Relax your eyes, looking down at the end of your nose, but do not close your eyes completely so you can stay alert.

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Know that your breath follows a circle not parallel lines (which never meet) and you are going to follow that circle keeping exactly simultaneous with it, neither ahead of it nor before it, as you watch.

Go down from the top of the circle with it, staying exactly with it, and then notice the bottom of the circle as you start to go up towards the top again. Both down and up are 1 breath.

Make the circle as large or small as you like. There are no rules and it is impossible to compare your breathing circle with anyone else’s because it is unique.

 

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After watching your breath as the circles come and go, as many times as you like until you are comfortable with this sensation, stopping whenever you like, pause. Shiva says:

 

 

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O Radiant One: the experience of your true self, your True Nature, may dawn between the breath coming down and the breath coming up: in other words, at the top and bottom of your circle as your breath turns.

 

This is the truth! The breath going down is death: the breath coming up is rebirth. Noticing the gap in between allows you to touch the centre of your being and so the universe.

Spending time watching your breath, doing nothing because remember you can breathe without you, allows you to cross the bridge of your body to your soul. You are ‘now’ and ‘here’ each time the breath turns! There is no past! There is no future! There is only your uniqueness in the universe. This is reality!!

You have opened the door to the Kingdom of the Spirit.

 

 

Inspiration: Using breathing we can turn the mind away from compulsive seeking outside, from desperately trying to acquire the knowledge of others, to find our own unique treasure within. We can turn the mind from its habitual desiring to non-desiring.

This now-and-here is our true happiness and contentment.

 

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                                  Images courtesy of megapixyl.com and Linden Thorp

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Join me tomorrow for Breath 2. Please contact me via the comment space below if you have any questions, problems or comments and want to share them with other readers. Or, if you prefer, contact me by email at: lindenthorp@gmail.com

Temple Chronicle (Winter Training in Japan): Facing Adversity Full On!

We modern people have become dis-integrated. This is not surprising as we live under the tyranny of time and space, success or failure, approval or disapproval, love or lovelessness. 

These extremes roll us between them like a ball on a board.

By choice, we spend our daily moments sailing on a stormy ocean lifted and dropped by massive waves. There is no respite from this manipulation, or what we judge as manipulation. ‘Someone else’ creates the waves and the wind, and forces us to be on board! 

There is seldom calm on this kind of sea, but we may induce it though with a soothing substance, with anesthetic, or instead, bury our dreams and self-honesty and let a trespasser deal with the danger.

If we do not have a stable core to contrast with the absurdity of human behavior lived out under tyrants, then we are literally moving from one wave crest to the next, relentlessly. We are not in control because we are outside our spirit, trying to hold everything still in the midst of great flux, trying to make meaning of the nightmare with the conditioned mind. 

One thing finishes and we rush on to the next, galvanized one minute, recuperating the next, always reacting to some prodding from an external source.

The conditioned mind combined with the regulations of society and our communities have snuffed out our inner light, the connection with our True Nature. We are mechanically inhabiting our physical form, but our spiritual essence is lying stagnant. When we look more closely, we find another automaton being has been created by the conditioned mind to fill the fleshy shell, and to take over ownership.

Our stable core has not disappeared entirely but the strata of meaningless life have been laid over the top of it. If we want to integrate once more, we need to find a way to activate and unearth it. Moist moments of meditation, of stepping briefly into the great still silence, will start the process of loosening and removing these strata. 

But it will happen more quickly and effectively if we can take more control of the ship: loosening the sails, off-loading unnecessary ballast, or smiling for no reason because we know that no terrible situation can last forever. It is certain that eventually the waves will subside and the sun will emerge.

Adversity is inevitable in our human lives and as the French origin of this word points out, we should turn into the strong winds of negativity and challenges that we encounter, not away from them. Only fear makes us resist, but fear is a tactic of the conditioned mind to entice us to turn away. Turning towards? Turning away? This is entirely our choice.

If we turn towards our suffering, going with the massive swell of the waves, then we can embody it and better deal with it. Fear and other delusions are random flashing lights which distract us from our native stability. Looking full in the face of our suffering will shift away the strata so that our True Nature will overcome anything.

The Master assures us that confronting a difficult relationship we shy away from is exactly how will find our way back to our stable core. This is because we ‘are’ that situation; it is not something the we ‘have’ or that is imposed on us. 

If we say the words, ‘I am suffering,’ and not ‘I have so much suffering,’ we step into control, no longer a pitiable victim of life’s cruelty. 

In reality, we are neither separate nor exempt

Images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

Winter training is an annual event in Japan when Buddhists practise austerities and change their daily routines dramatically in order to awaken to new spiritual insights. This is a daily chronicle consisting of reflections on such insights.

Prince Shotoku: Peace and Salvation for all beings of the realm

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According to the Nihon Shoki, the definitive history of ancient Japan, written in Japan in 720, Prince Shotoku created a seventeen-article ‘constitution,’ which was adopted  during the reign of Empress Suiko, his aunt.  This was not a modern constitution designed for the governing of state and subjects, but a set of regulations inspired equally by Buddhism and Confucianism which focused on the morals and virtues that should be the aspiration of every subject in the realm. It is one of the earliest constitutions in history which is as it should be perhaps, ie. more spiritual than legal or civic. 

Prince Shotoku had several titles which provide a neat outline to his biography, as follows:

  1. Prince of the Stable Door (Umayodo no Miko).  This is due to the legend that his mother gave birth to him unexpectedly and without any pain whilst inspecting the imperial stables.
  2. Prince of Eight Ears (Yatsumimi no Miko). This came about because of his special intelligence and his ability to listen to 8 people at one time and understand each of them.
  3. Prince of the Upper Palace (Kamitsumiya no Miko or Jogu Taishi). His father, Emperor Yomei, loved and respected his talented son so much that he created a special part of the palace for him to live in.

 

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His character was naturally strong and devoted to creating a new Japan, and his influence is unquestionable although his absolute authorship of the first constitution Japan is now in question. Jogu Taishi’s civic contributions are impressive, among them: creating a ranking system for government officials which abolished the existing nepotism with a system which recognized merit; importing Chinese culture along with the calendar, art and scholarship, resuming the dispatching of envoys to import all manner of cultural and religious; irrigation projects and welfare measures; highway systems; and writing the first chronicle of Japanese history.

But perhaps he is best known for the remarkable constitution which he accomplished from a brilliant combining of Buddhist and Confucian principals based on Chinese models. In addition, he introduced Buddhist practice which unified a collection of Shinto or animistic cults. His personal faith was quickly awakened which he continued to act on in daily life throughout his life.

Perhaps the story which best exemplifies this is when his father became seriously ill.  The prince sat by his father’s bedside day and night meditating on his recovery and as a result he did recover and became a devoted Buddhist himself.

 

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He initiated the first two Buddhist temples to be built in Japan.  Shitenno-ji  (530 AD), the temple of the Four Heavenly Kings  – North, South, East and West – was erected because at the age of 15 whilst defending his family in battle, he prayed intently to the 4 Buddhist Kings and victory was achieved. Shitenno-ji in Osaka is dedicated to the Kings. (below left) Later Horyu-ji was built in Nara to contain many treasured art works and artifacts. (below right)

 

 

Shotoku’s reign marked the beginning of the era of the unification of many independent states in Japan in which the emperor was to be regarded as the highest authority. The Prince, choosing to remain a lay practitioner throughout his life, also introduced the Three Treasures or JewelsBuddha (the awakened One), Dharma (the Law) and Sangha (the community) as the national object of worship.  He invited outstanding Korean Buddhist priests to tutor him while Confucian scholars became his advisors.

The 17-article constitution speaks for itself of balance and ethics.  He achieved an ideal combination of ethical and spiritual values and an openness to other more sophisticated cultures and systems of government unknown until then.  Japan had been in turmoil until his succession, moral values thwarted and gross unfairness dominating. But in each article the 5 important relationships or ‘bonds’ of Confucius – ruler to ruled, father to son, elder t0 younger siblings, and husband to wife – are apparent and harmonized with the Buddhist aspirations to altruism and the Great Truth. 

Read them for yourself to decide.

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1. Harmony should be valued and quarrels should be avoided. Everyone has his biases, and few men are far‐sighted. Therefore some disobey their lords and fathers and keep up feuds with their neighbors. But when the superiors are in harmony with each other and the inferiors are friendly, then affairs are discussed quietly and the right view of matters prevails.

2. The three treasures, which are Buddha, the (Buddhist) Law and the (Buddhist) Priesthood; should be given sincere reverence, for they are the final refuge of all living things. Few men are so bad that they cannot be taught their truth.

3. Do not fail to obey the commands of your Sovereign. He is like Heaven, which is above the Earth, and the vassal is like the Earth, which bears up Heaven. When Heaven and Earth are properly in place, the four seasons follow their course and all is well in Nature. But if the Earth attempts to take the place of Heaven, Heaven would simply fall in ruin. That is why the vassal listens when the lord speaks, and the inferior obeys when the superior acts. Consequently when you receive the commands of your Sovereign, do not fail to carry them out or ruin will be the natural result.

4. The Ministers and officials of the state should make proper behavior their first principle, for if the superiors do not behave properly, the inferiors are disorderly; if inferiors behave improperly, offenses will naturally result. Therefore when lord and vassal behave with propriety, the distinctions of rank are not confused: when the people behave properly the Government will be in good order.

5. Deal impartially with the legal complaints which are submitted to you. If the man who is to decide suits at law makes gain his motive, and hears cases with a view to receiving bribes, then the suits of the rich man will be like a stone flung into water, meeting no resistance, while the complaints of the poor will be like water thrown upon a stone. In these circumstances the poor man will not know where to go, nor will he behave as he should.

 

6. Punish the evil and reward the good. This was the excellent rule of antiquity. Therefore do not hide the good qualities of others or fail to correct what is wrong when you see it. Flatterers and deceivers are a sharp weapon for the overthrow of the state, and a sharp sword for the destruction of the people. Men of this kind are never loyal to their lord, or to the people. All this is a source of serious civil disturbances.

7. Every man has his own work. Do not let the spheres of duty be confused. When wise men are entrusted with office, the sound of praise arises. If corrupt men hold office, disasters and tumult multiply. In all things, whether great or small, find the right man and they will be well managed. Therefore the wise sovereigns of antiquity sought the man to fill the office, and not the office to suit the man. If this is done the state will be lasting and the realm will be free from danger.

8. Ministers and officials should attend the Court early in the morning and retire late, for the whole day is hardly enough for the accomplishment of state business. If one is late in attending Court, emergencies cannot be met; if officials retire early, the work cannot be completed.

9. Good faith is the foundation of right. In everything let there be good faith, for if the lord and the vassal keep faith with one another, what cannot be accomplished? If the lord and the vassal do not keep faith with each other, everything will end in failure.

10. Let us control ourselves and not be resentful when others disagree with us, for all men have hearts and each heart has its own leanings. The right of others is our wrong, and our right is their wrong. We are not unquestionably sages, nor are they unquestionably fools. Both of us are simply ordinary men. How can anyone lay down a rule by which to distinguish right from wrong? For we are all wise sometimes and foolish at others. Therefore, though others give way to anger, let us on the contrary dread our own faults, and though we may think we alone are in the right, let us follow the majority and act like them.

11. Know the difference between merit and demerit, and deal out to each its reward and punishment. In these days, reward does not always follow merit, or punishment follow crime. You high officials who have charge of public affairs, make it your business to give clear rewards and punishments.

12. Do not let the local nobility levy taxes on the people. There cannot be two lords in a country; the people cannot have two masters. The sovereign is the sole master of the people of the whole realm, and the officials that he appoints are all his subjects. How can they presume to levy taxes on the people?

 

13. All people entrusted with office should attend equally to their duties. Their work may sometimes be interrupted due to illness or their being sent on missions. But whenever they are able to attend to business they should do so as if they knew what it was about and not obstruct public affairs on the grounds they are not personally familiar with them.

14. Do not be envious! For if we envy others, then they in turn will envy us. The evils of envy know no limit. If others surpass us in intelligence, we are not pleased; if they are more able, we are envious. But if we do not find wise men and sages, how shall the realm be governed?

15. To subordinate private interests to the public good — that is the path of a vassal. Now if a man is influenced by private motives, he will be resentful, and if he is influenced by resentment he will fail to act harmoniously with others. If he fails to act harmoniously with others, the public interest will suffer. Resentment interferes with order and is subversive of law.

16. Employ the people in forced labor at seasonable times. This is an ancient and excellent rule. Employ them in the winter months when they are at leisure, but not from Spring to Autumn, when they are busy with agriculture or with the mulberry trees (the leaves of which are fed to silkworms). For if they do not attend to agriculture, what will there be to eat? If they do not attend to the mulberry trees, what will there be for clothing?

17. Decisions on important matters should not be made by one person alone. They should be discussed with many people. Small matters are of less consequence and it is unnecessary to consult a number of people. It is only in the case of important affairs, when there is a suspicion that they may miscarry, that one should consult with others, so as to arrive at the right conclusion.

As a permanent resident of Japan and a practicing Buddhist, I find my life in Japan stable and harmonious. In the globalization process of my adopted country, it is to be hoped that this spiritual and civil symmetry first established by Shotoku Taishi almost 1500 years ago, will survive.  

 

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It is certain that our sincere relationships with each other are by far and away the most important of all, and that individual power and success must only being viewed through that lens.  If the teachings of the Buddhas are utilized as a raft to travel to Nirvana, the other side of human suffering, and we can then let go of them and encourage our True or Buddha Nature to flow, we can cohabit with tolerance and respect for each other.

But this constitution can only be successful if we put aside all our self-seeking ideas, and temper our dominant egos and temporal desires.  This can best be achieved by cultivating our Buddha Nature and embodying our divine mission of unconditional love and light. Altruism – sincerely looking after others before ourselves – is an ancient universal tenet of the human species which Prince Shotoku spent his life embodying.

 

 

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images courtesy of megapixyl.com, Linden Thorp and Mariko Kinoshita.

References:

Masaharu Anesaki, Prince Shotoku, the Sage Statesman(1948); nine entries in Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, translated by William G. Aston (1896; repr. 1956); many entries on the prince in the Nihongi are quoted in Ryusaku Tsunoda and others, Sources of Japanese Tradition (1958); George Sansom, A History of Japan to 1334 (3 vols., 1958).

 

 

Temple Chronicle: Winter Training in Japan – Fear!

It is fear that makes us inflexible and forces us to suffer. We are first taught it as helpless children by our ‘kind’ parents who are passionate for our success and survival in the visible world. And so, our reflexes are honed and our target sights are set. The regime of training by other adults with experience and knowledge, who themselves are highly trained, is usually strict.

It is then that masks and social apparatus are issued so that we can receive approval from our community, quickly fit in and gain respect, wealth and fame being paramount. But fear easily lodges in these intricacies like dust on an elaborately carved choir screen. We gradually become insensible to it so it mounts up until the gaps for air and light are covered over.

The heavily conditioned mind thrives on this substance ‘fear.’ It efficiently suppresses originality and the courage to be truly ourselves, first with others, but then eventually with ourselves, so that we are no longer familiar with our True Nature and become self-dishonest

Dishonesty frets the perpetual dialogue in our heads until eventually we cannot glean the difference between it and honesty. Then our strings of words create a new being, a permanent resident in the house of our flesh and blood.

So, our spirit energy has been trapped, caught up in a million meshes! It is incarcerated so that we will follow the rules and fulfill the expectations of our communities. We are anxious about the rapidly approaching age of robots and our possible obsolescence, but those who live in massive urban communities have been ‘system slaves’ for several centuries. We tend to abdicate everything to mediocre leaders, even the kindling of our divine spark which becomes a mere pipe dream.

Fear has been heavily utilized by governments, religions and educators to maintain control of individuals, and as a result, the innate goodness at the core of each individual has gone underground. Endemic fear has become focused only on the negative, the evil, the destructive, the anarchic so that goodness has become a cliché,a pleasant myth, a triviality, something in the background. It is seen as a by-product of the domination of the visual sense, detected in everything we see, and in the commentary we produce to accompany it.

But if we close our eyes and stop the babble, it recedes with each grateful breath.

Above all, in our human journey, we must find the truth according to our individual divinity, and in it our mission will be patent, our exact contribution in the visible world outlined. Our specific talents and strengths are in great need at this time of disintegration to reunite us in one bright light.

The Master promises us that the visible and the invisible are one, and fear will vanish if we remain supple and bring goodness into the forefront of human life. We are each a piece of the unfinished puzzle.

Winter Training – every year in Japan spiritual seekers do intensive training designed to break their habitual way of living and responding, to wake them so they can get insights into reality. Everywhere they perform austerities of body and mind; the practice of cold-water ablutions is common – breaking the ice formed on barrels of water left out in the freezing night air, and then scooping it over the head and shoulders, is very effective.
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Watch out for more reflections and insights during this winter period.
Images courtesy of megapixyl.com and Linden Thorp

Temple Chronicle: Winter Training

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Our human lives are a process, a means whereby, but what is the result, the end-product? Our story began with the moment of birth and it will end with the moment of death. Or will it? Between these two points our physical form develops and matures, and then as its season draws to a close, it starts to shrink and slow.

We, our spirits, are temporarily housed in a flesh form to participate in the visual material world which is subject to varied and numerous conditions. It is logical then that the conditioned mind expects results from the progress through the years of our lifespan.

Religions use certain terms for this end-product, this resolution of the years and the effort – Heaven or Hell, Nirvana, Enlightenment, Paradise, Zion, Avalon, Swarga, Valhalla, and so on. But words and images die the moment they appear or are uttered or thought. ‘Birth’ and ‘Death’ are also only words, but we identify ourselves with them – ‘my birth,’ ‘his death,’ and so on, and once again they are dead, in the past, dropped like a heavy stone into a deep pool.

 

 

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Without using any special labels or grand proper nouns, we have always flowed in the vast wide river of all energy, and we always will. Energy is vibration and light which is subject to no conditions, not even human’s facile notions of ‘time’ or ‘space.’ It goes where it will dependent on nothing, consuming the darkness, flowing and flowing. There are no rewards or results in any dimension except the joy of being and loving with company in our human boats, and breathing in concert.

The conditions throw up obstacles in the way of our flow which create detours, sluggish pools, and rapids. The build up of the heat of negative emotions and violence acted out in the form world, the jarring of separations and limitations, the tattering and fraying of the fabric of the universe at our human hands, causes drought and the flow dwindles to a trickle, or floods which extinguish the divine flame of the flow.

 

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Can you desist from throwing obstacles into the flow now and here? Can you give up your addiction to collecting, to hoarding, to getting and spending, to violent acts of separation from your fellows? Can you say you will no longer depend on creating parallel worlds in your mind with words and images so that you can just flow and flow, laughing and loving?

Slap bang in the centre of this moment and in no place in particular, can you accept that there is nothing you have to do except be, and in your full being the flow flows without end?

 

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In Japan, this is the most intense season of spiritual training – Winter Training. Over the next few days I would like to share with you some insights as we consider our previous year of practice and awareness.

 

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images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

Atisha and the 7 mind trainings: try it for yourself.

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Atisha, Indian in origin, spent his whole life spiritually liberating Tibet.  It could be said that he founded Tibetan Buddhism which it is estimated has about 350 million adherents today – about 6% of the world population.  He is highly unusual in that he had not one but three highly realized masters – Dharmakirti, Dharmarakshita, and Yogin Maitreya.

One of his most precious teachings is the ‘Seven Points of Mind Training.’  These are merely fingers pointing to the moon – the fingers are not the moon –  so once you have opened yourself to these very practical ways of liberating your spirit from the prison of your mind, please forget about them.  They will work their way into your unconscious mind and assist you in singing your own song and dancing your own dance. In other words, once absorbed they will polish your true nature, your Buddha Nature until it shines out into the universe. The mind creates all of our miseries in human life, so by following this formula you can become free of it.

It is important to say at the outset that this article represents my response to Atisha’s wisdom.  I am simply a valley echoing it into your heart.  I am simply an objective messenger passing the wisdom on.

1 : Learn the Preliminaries:

a) Truth is being – we are already immersed in it.  Humans are truth.

b) Mind is a Barrier – the perpetual film playing out in the world distracts us from what we actually are.

c) No-mind is the door.  Atisha called this Bodhicitta (to be explained later) – by putting aside the mechanism of your mind, you will attain the unattainable. 

2 : Think that all Phenomena are like Dreams

The seer is never seen, the experiencer never experienced, the witness never witnessed because we are always looking outwards.  What truth can there be in a dream?

3 : Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness

We were not born and we will not die. We are pure energy. We are pure awareness. We can use this awareness as a crystal mirror.

4 : Let the Remedy Itself Go Free on Its Own

It is our habit to cling to what cures us, but for what reason.  Once your are cured be in full health. You can forget the remedy and be grateful in every moment of your perfect existence.

5 : Settle in the Nature of Basic Cognition, the Essence

Do nothing. Relax into your True Nature, your Buddha moments. There is nothing to do.

6 : Between Sessions consider Phenomena as Phantoms

If you have to move away from your meditation, your True Nature, remember that you are walking into a dream and participating in it with phantoms.

7 : Train in Joining, Sending and Taking Together; Do this by Riding the Breath: Three Poisons = Three Bases of Virtue

Breathing is being so breathe each borrowed breath carefully.  First, breathe in the suffering, ignorance and darkness of all humanity. Hold them in your heart to transform them with compassion.  Then breathe out the pure joy contributing it to the whole of existence.

We can convert the 3 poisons – greed, hatred and ignorance – into the 3 virtues by overcoming Aversion, Attachment and Indifference. The 3 poisons will be converted into 3 nectars with this simple technique. This is No-Mind – Bodhicitta – the Mahayana ideal of liberating all beings.

 

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The above is not philosophy or religion, but sheer science.  So, experiment. Try it for yourself.  In this way, you can experience your True Nature. At first, you may only get a passing glimpse, a faint scent of something.  This is the energy of your true beauty and fragrance. The fragrance of your unique Truth

I will focus on each of the 7 stages in the Soul Management daily meditation over the next 7 days if you would like to join me.

 

images courtesy of megapixyl.com

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Envy: the Middle Way

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         ‘Listen to these teachings with the ears of your heart.’

In his pursuit of enlightenment Buddha practised many austerities bringing himself almost to the point of death.  After his enlightenment, the first teaching he gave was called the ‘path of wisdom’ – moderation between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He gave this first teaching to the 5 ascetics with whom he had practised such severe austerities. 

He said, ” Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life (those actively seeking enlightenment). There is addiction to indulgence and self-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.’

The Middle Way allows vision and knowledge and leads to calm and insight, to Enlightenment and to Nirvana, the cessation of all cravings.’  

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In response to this realization, envy comes from an extreme selfishness and an ignorance of ones own inner beauty and bliss.  If we have not allowed our own being to bloom due to pressure to compete with others so common in the world today, then we lack trust, trust in our uniqueness, in our goodness. And trust in others to recognize our uniqueness and our goodness.

If jealousy and envy of others exists, then love has been driven away.  If we cannot find joy in the success of others, then we have turned away from our true nature. And if there is no self-love then we will never leave the cycle of rebirth and are destined to suffer in the lower realms. In other words, we will never escape from samsara, the world of human suffering.

The Buddhist way is often misunderstood as extreme and complete passiveness and selflessness. But it is clear that by resisting dying from practising austerities, Buddha acknowledged that first he needed to love himself and to preserve his precious life without over-cherishing it so that he was in a condition to love others unconditionally. If our own Buddha Nature is not shining then we cannot recognize it in others. 

 

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Mindfulness – the watching of thoughts arising in the mind without being attached to them – will show us the envious mind. It will show us that these kinds of thoughts separate us away like a dry husk from the rich universal consciousness. We watch the thought or feeling arise and then let it pass without identifying with it, without stamping it  with our name, without earmarking it.  It is simply a negative thought which arises and then passes like all thoughts do. They are the product of the mind – the dusty mechanical repository of  the collective conditioning of the human race. They are dead things which float around tempting us to become attached.

 

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Meta – loving kindness – will reveal our natural essence of unconditional love for all beings. It will show us that love is not an adornment or an accessory, something we ‘have’ or ‘show,’ but is our essence. We are love and being born into a human body provides the perfect and unique opportunity to embody that love.  Buddha Gautama went on to embody unconditional love all his life in the human world. 

 

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‘May this teaching touch you fleetingly and then flow to others touching them similarly.’

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Embracing death and therefore life

 

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Buddhists keep themselves very close to death as part of their practice. It epitomizes the notion of impermanence (Skt.; Pali – anitya), the first of the three marks (trilaksan) which characterize all conditioned phenomena.

One of the fundamentals of Buddha’s teachings say that all formations – things that come into being dependent on causes and conditions – are impermanent.  Things, matter or form, rise and pass. They change constantly, from moment to moment, eventually decaying (Skt. dukha) and disappearing entirely. Due to this constant changing dependent on causes and conditions which is called samsara, we can never find permanent happiness. So, Buddhist practice is focused on escaping from samsara by following a strict moral code and working to purify negative karma (Pali Kamma).

 

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Keeping death and impermanence close at all times banishes all doubts and fears.  There is no use in struggling against visual loss and oblivion. It is the only reality. But this awareness forces us to realise that we are manifested in the world of form to learn these fundamentals, and wakes us to the knowing that we are essentially spirit, and spirit is empty of ego. They move us in the direction of the unknown, the invisible and the mystical which are our true dimension.

If we know death at each moment we also know life.  If we accept death then we can truly accept life.  If we practice desirelessness to avoid falling into the deep grooves made by millennia of conditioning and systematically eliminate negative karma, in addition to generating Bodhicitta (our aspiration for enlightenment, quitting samsara and taking all living beings with us) we will create new grooves in the universal consciousness, our true and divine nature. Then the world will change.

The world will only change if we humans change, for we are the world. 

 

 

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Images courtesy of magapixyl.com

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Not the same for even a moment

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Maulinputta, a devout disciple  came to Buddha and humbly apologized for having offended the Buddha the previous day. This disciple had been enlightened for a long time and was a great scholar of the scriptures, one of the most famous pundits of the realm.  The Buddha was taken aback and claimed that he had done nothing to offend. 

But Maulinputta insisted that he must apologise and vowed never to make the same mistake again. And again the Buddha denied that one of his most respected disciples had done nothing wrong.  

A third time he came to apologise, but Buddha turned to him and told him that he promised to convey his apology to the person he had offended if he came across him. Once again he reassured the disturbed Maulinputta that he had not offended the Buddha. 

Then seeing the distress of his beloved disciple, he sat down with him and explained tenderly.

Maulinputta, the man you think you offended no longer exists.

The disciple was perplexed by this, asking urgently for more clarification for fear of losing his indispensable guru.

I am not the same as I was even 1 second ago.  So I am completely different to the man you think you offended yesterday.

Maulinputta’s eyes lit up realizing that Buddha was teaching him.

Maulinputta, you are still attached to these visual tricks of the mind. Remember, all life is sheer energy constantly moving, like a fast-running mountain stream.  You cannot hold on to anything except the fast-running spirit enveloping us. Step in the stream and feel the flow. This is your liberation Maulinputta.

 

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Making Images: the greatest test of all for humans

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Humans are actually taught to make images to symbolize or represent almost everything – for remembering, for recognizing, to navigate, and so on – and we excel at it. This aptitude to bring to bear rich imaginations and wide vision in our daily lives is one of the things that differentiates us from animals and plants.

But actually, this often becomes an abstract route to creating our exclusive way of seeing the world. It literally forces us to identify, to stamp ‘me’ and ‘mine’ on that mind moment, and if we are not mindful we may become attached to such images, mistaking them for reality.

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This temptation to ‘identify’ with the images we constantly create is our major test as humans – our conditioning and DNA (countless ancestors who have lived distant to the sacred) lead us to etch a clear line between reality and the imaginary, to make a distinction between the visible and the invisible. Also, we unknowingly consign ourselves to experiencing life always from the sidelines, via concepts and archives.

But many of us have never even heard of this ‘test’ which means that we have fully and unconsciously turned our backs on our divine mission. Instead, we favour and over-cherish a synthetic ‘self’ invented by the dictatorial intellectual mind. This is pure ego and arrogance: some would say it is the dark side of human beings, our personal ‘Satan,’ our samsara. It is as if we are constantly resisting the gravitational field of love and goodness. These resistant consumers are the norm in modern life, whereas those who live lives of surrender and desirelessness are increasingly rare. Most of us are attracted to those who are similar to us because we somnambulate through a spiritual wilderness.


Science informs us that human beings have evolved physically as much as they can; in other words, that we are at our peak as a species. But evidently, our spiritual evolution is badly retarded. As a result, most of us are not truly happy and neither is the world at large. We are restless, insatiable, destructive and primitive, unable to create harmony in our social groups for the most part and constantly craving artificial stimulation or oblivion.

In our short-sightedness in life, most of us convincingly conceal our terror of death and disappearance. But this endemic fear has caused us to lose the use of so many subtle tools available to the higher mind: the mind of ‘grace’ (Christian) or emptiness (Buddhist) or moksha (Hindu). Instead, we invest all our energy in the visible, the intellectual and in acquiring. We give over our precious human existence to shopping, possessing and questing for attention, and as a result, we have become major stakeholders in the worlds of materialism and sensual satisfaction.

Given our huge stake, it is logical that we sit back in our high comfortable chairs, flicking switches and frittering away our time viewing visual collections. Logic?  Another resistance to what is natural.


We may even make images to represent our own minds: for example, the iceberg with its small tip showing above the water surface and its mass below, symbolizing the conscious mind and the unconscious mind respectively. Or the onion with its tender centre and its layer upon layer of ever-hardening skins. Although these may be useful to try to appreciate or recognise the difference between these two contrasting aspects of our mind, they do in fact separate them from one another in an Aristotelian way.

By attaching ourselves to such images, we are unwittingly identifying with them and so coaxing our contrived ‘self’ to acquire and possess compulsively. In actuality, there is no ‘self’ to identify with anything material because we are beings of energy made flesh for the express purpose of evolving spiritually.

It is preferable then to avoid making or encouraging these images even though they may seem to ease understanding. Ironically, understanding in its original sense is connected to listening not looking. Perhaps, rather than finite blocks of black and white as captured on screens and pages and in bold framed linear scenarios, there is only a boundless greyness which floats and fleets in whatever shape is needed to embody the essence of love and full awareness. Our existence in human form is only an unconditional listening, a subtle flickering of our essence of light.


If we give up trying to pin down our feelings, cementing them into our foreground, crying out for witnesses to come forward and acknowledge us, asserting our view to others, we might realize that the field of awareness is infinite and has no boundaries, no images or archives. Then we can quietly coalesce in the field needing no images or intermediaries at all.

By closing the busy outer eyes so addicted to colour, shape and orientation we can close the image albums and lock the archives, walking away to our real home beyond all concepts created by the human mind. Then we will be able to clearly hear the sound of reality moving and merging, the concrete sound of infinity and eternity, of goodness and the divine.

True understanding consists of universal unconditional listening during which nothing is pinned down, nothing is owned and everything becomes one. We embody love with our true nature enabled only by the privilege of breathing air granted from the universe. Everything else is simply arranged only to stimulate the intellectual mind.

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‘We shall know each other by our deeds and being,

and by our eyes and no other outward sign save

the fraternal embrace.’

Above is a verse from the Cathar Creed (1244), The Church of Love. The spirit of life is played out whilst silently respecting everything on the material plane though not identifying with it; accepting everything but quietly supporting those who need support. It is clear from our human history that ‘identifying’ and ‘possessing’ destroy and engender greed and ignorance. Using images is, in a way, an attempt to possess aspects of the visible, to keep them for reference as a source of knowledge.

The medieval mystic Cathars possessed nothing material, not even the Bibles showy Roman Catholics had become slaves to. Indeed, all the great spiritual adepts dispensed with material supports. Instead, they did what was natural and wholeheartedly embodied their spirit of compassion and humility.


I have deliberately positioned myself in my life in a different culture (Japan) in which I cannot easily read or write or even understand the society around me. This is the most precious opportunity to stop making images and concepts. I notice that I am not using my mind in the same way as I did living in my native culture because it is often impossible to make interpretations of my environment here.

As I wander down crowded streets decked out with loud kanji, katakana and hiragana neon signs so characteristic of Japanese cities whisked aside by bicycles mounted on the pavement and bustling people pushing through the crowds, I can often only listen deeply and breathe. It is no use bringing out my image albums and brandishing metaphors and idioms because they are meaningless in a culture which reads the air instead of dissecting and deeply analysing ideas.


Here, it is often impossible to imagine what is going on in other minds around me because there is no pattern I can predict, no pictograph I can possibly imagine, and no inherited template. I can only embody my love.  Mostly I float around having sealed away the intellect allowing visions to temporarily occupy me. I rely only on my ancient senses to help me to navigate.

In my life here, there is only the field of awareness. I am the terraced shaking paddy. I stand in sluiced rice rows, paddled by ducks and frogs. I am activated by tremors from the inflamed warts of the Earth’s crust below me. I am harvested and bundled, eventually finding my way into famished stomachs.

Here, I have dramatically learned how not to be separate from anyone or anything in a Land created from the hair and kimono of the million gods. 

To interfere with this seamlessness for even a second to create an image, to snap a shot, would make me gasp for air!

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Images: courtesy of megapyxl.com

Bird and web – Alisen.com; Sensing Energy between palms – Nikkizalewski.com; Man hunting. bushman’s prehistoric cave art – Wilad.com; Three geisha – Razvanjp.com; Cosmic Transformation – thefinalmiracle.com; Iceberg – Luislouro.com; South and North pole and all things related – Stuidoclover.com

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Cunda: the Beginnings of Lay Buddhism

Article published in Ancient History Encyclopedia  – http://www.ancient.eu

by
published on 01 December 2016

The frail Buddha Shakyamuni, known as Gautama Buddha and the Historical Buddha, had reached the end of his physical life and long teaching career. He and his close disciples decided on his final resting place under the twin sala trees in Kushinagar, the republic of Malla in North Eastern Ancient India. There he lay on his side surrounded by many dignitaries and enlightened monks who had gathered to say farewell to him, (c. 563 or 480 BCE). Among them, there was a deeply devoted lay follower named Cunda (Chunda). He was the son of a blacksmith from the nearby area of Kushinagara castle who had come of his own accord to pay his respects to the great Buddha, bringing with him 15 of his friends.

To show his devotion, Chunda had discarded his daily work clothes and put on a simple robe, bearing his right shoulder in the traditional way of monastics. He knelt on his right knee and bowed at the feet of the Buddha. He then made a speech confidently and sincerely which was to change the future course of Buddhism.

 

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As all those attending had done, Chunda implored the Buddha to accept the simple customary offerings of homemade food he and his friends had brought. All the distinguished members of the congregation had already offered luxurious gifts of precious commodities like livestock and gold, but the Buddha had refused to accept everything until this point. Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, Chunda’s modest offerings were accepted and he proceeded to eloquently express his deep sadness of himself and his 15 friends at the prospect of losing the Buddha. He hoped that the simple food would prepare him for entering Parinirvana, the highest state of the ceasing of all craving, and that all sentient beings would not suffer from spiritual poverty after his decease.

In ancient India, and to a certain extent there today, the rigid caste system rejected people such as Chunda because he did not fit into any of the four main castes: He was not a clergyman or scholar, not of the nobility or a warrior, not a merchant or farmer, or a general labourer or servant. But he had confidence that all humans, despite their caste imposed at birth, were equal, and that when the Buddha left them, they would all be equally spiritually destitute. He said:

O World Honoured One! My situation is like that of anyone among the four castes who, because of poverty, has to leave his country to find work and then buy domesticated cattle and fertile fields. After removing the stones and weeds and tilling his land, he has only to wait for the rain to fall from the sky.  (Chapter 2, Mahaparinirvana Sutra)

His words displayed great wisdom despite his lack of formal education or spiritual training. He knew that all living beings needed simply the rain of the Dharma to make them spiritually fertile, and that the Buddha, the truly awakened one, the Tathagata, could bring such rain into the human world of suffering (samsara). The Buddha was delighted and immediately conferred eternal life and connected him to the ever-presence ( Skt.; dharmakaya).  In other words, he was enlightened on the spot.

 

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Cunda Preparing the Last Meal for the Buddha

During his ministry the Buddha had insisted that his disciples should leave their ordinary life and become monastic practitioners, learning strict moral discipline (Vinaya) and upholding monastic rules. The assembled disciples who had reached the pinnacle of all spiritual training were looking on as Chunda, a lay person and an ‘untouchable’ – a person outside the caste system – became immediately enlightened with no training and therefore supposedly little virtue. Chunda became the exception that was to be a crucial part of the Buddha’s last will and testament as he moved back to the spiritual source.

THE UNPRECEDENTED ENLIGHTENING OF CHUNDA, A LAY PERSON AND HOUSEHOLDER, WAS TO OPEN THE PATH FOR ALL BEINGS, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR CASTE.

There were two ways in which this moment in the history of Buddhism brought fundamental changes to the aspirations of Buddhists. Firstly, this unprecedented enlightening of Chunda, a lay person and householder was to open the path for all beings, no matter what their caste, whether lay or clerical, to aspire to reach Nirvana (or enlightenment). It is easy to imagine just how radically this changed the course of Mahayana Buddhism because now anyone could become enlightened and many lay Buddhist orders emerged later.

Secondly, Chunda became enlightened within his own lifetime as a relatively young man. He did not have to work hard to accrue merit and virtue in order to become enlightened in a future lifetime, which was the prevailing Brahmin belief at the time. The Buddha’s acceptance of humble Chunda’s offerings was symbolic of the fact that all sentient beings are endowed with Buddha Nature, and that when the rain of Dharma waters the seeds of Buddha Nature, they will ripen, cutting away all negative karma and human suffering.  By bringing so many of his friends in a sincere gesture of reverence to the Buddha and by having the confidence to make his offering in front of all the dignitaries and esteemed disciples, he had exhibited the spirit of a Buddha, without training or privilege.

In appreciation of the Buddha’s acceptance of his humble offerings, Chunda said,

It is hard to be born a human being, and harder still to encounter a Buddha. It would be like a blind sea turtle encountering a floating log with a hole in it and poking its head through. (The Great Parinirvana Sutra)

This comment prompted the Buddha to leave his final instructions before shifting into Parinirvana. His final teachings known as the Dharmakaya focused on impermanence and detachment followed.  He left them in place of his physical body, assuring the grieving congregation that he would always be with them embodied in the last teachings and that these final teachings would exist for all eternity because they were indestructible.

 

Siddhartha Gautama, the Historical Buddha

Chunda is also reputed to have described the rareness of meeting a Buddha in the Sala grove as follows:

An udambara (a flower said to bloom once every 3000 years) can rarely be seen, and so is it to encounter a Buddha…who can nurture the faith of all sentient beings and…extinguish the suffering of death and rebirth. (The Heart, Diamond and the Lotus Sutra)

A recent sculpture of Chunda in the Sala Grove with his 15 friends executed by a modern Japanese sculptor is an inspiration for Japanese Buddhists of Shinnyo Buddhism whose principal belief is that all beings are capable of polishing their Buddha Nature and reaching Nirvana.

Chunda’s deep humility and sincere heart radiated out beyond that of the advanced practitioners and enlightened who had perhaps become arrogant or complacent. This indicates that practising as a true Buddhist of the heart is not about worldly success and reputation, but about humility, sincerity, and simple but total belief in the power of loving goodness and pure faith in the world. The character of Chunda marks the beginning not only of lay Buddhism but also a prevailing feature of the Mahayanas of Buddhism (2nd century CE onwards), the Bodhisattva who achieves enlightenment for the sake of all other beings and vows to postpone his own enlightenment until universal enlightenment is reached.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Nirvanasutra.net
  • Anonymous, Mahapariniravan Sutra
  • Anonymous, The Heart, Diamond and the Lotus Sutra (Lepine Publishing, 2009)
  • Asvaghosatr – Suzuki T., The Awakening of Faith (Dover, 1900)
  • Kato, Tamura, Miyasaka (trans.), The Threefold Lotus Sutra. (Kosei Publishing, Tokyo, 1975)
  • Page, T., Buddha-Self: The Secret Teachings of the Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. (Nirvana Publications, London, 2003)
  • Patton, C., The Great Parinirvana Sutra (Abuddhistlibrary.com)
  • Williams, P., Mahãyãna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations (Routledge, 1989)
  • Yamamoto K. (trans.), Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (3 volumes) (Nirvana Publications, London, 1973)
  • Yamamoto, K., Mahayanaism: A Critical Exposition of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. (Karinbunko, 1975)

Words and ideas dropping away

A young fair-headed child looks softly into a mirror. She wonders at her pale skin and iceberg eyes, becoming involved in intimately experiencing herself directly, the eye seeing exclusively. She is certain that there is no imaginingat all.

Each slow blink of her long lashes reveals a different person there in the large mirror surface: male, female, young, elderly, of many different complexions – a compendium of karmic identities. And someone photographs this procession of reflections obsessively from behind her, flash bulbs sizzling, the shutter rasping.

Then, as the rapid flick of images stops, from the side, dark elegant hands offer white robes of fine cotton to decorate the smooth skin of this mirror child. The child accepts them, slowly raising them towards her nose to absorb the scents of “jasmine” and “Japanese cedar,” names which she repeats to ensure that sensing is exclusive, then letting the sounds of the words drop away with their idea.

The dark hands then offer a large stem of pink lotus complete with several woody seed-cases. The lotus is the only plant in existence which produces seeds whilst still in flower, and which can thrive in the poorest patch of mud.

The child smiles and walks out of the reflection, cool bare feet spreading on marble.

art by Mariko Kinoshita

Buddha Mind and sound

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When Bodhi mind, treasure mind, is activated, and you are immersed in the well-being of all sentient beings while casting your own aside, even a broken bell can be made to ring. It is said that even birds in flight will stop and rest their wings on hearing the resonance of such a bell. 

The Bodhi mind is a state of mind in which the spirit is fully awake, fully aware of the impermanence of all things. It is a state of mind in which we can unlock ourselves from the prison of delusive passions, compulsions and cravings. It is our true nature.

The sound of the ancient syllables of a mantra or prayer can fill our being to the top. We need nothing else, no thoughts or worries or self-generated sounds. This sensation is comparable to letting the power of a piece of music, which resonates with you uniquely, take you over. We all know that feeling I think. 

We take refuge inside the sounds without a care in the world. The sounds resonate with our spirit to bring about total repose or quiescence. We reach a sublime state which perhaps it is difficult to come back to the ‘real’ world from. But what we fail to realize is that this emptiness, this perfect contentment, is reality! And you can have that constantly in your life if you let go of your deluded mind!

All beings are potential Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The words on the lips of everyone we encounter in our lives are teachings, messages from the invisible world. We should let them flow into us like the most mellifluous of music. The same applies to all natural phenomena in the world. 

Look fully at a beautiful sky, an eclipse, a storm or an autumn leaf on the ground, a tear in the eye of your loved one, and you are connected to the Dharma and the greatest of teachings. Simply accept the messages and your higher self will store them as a constant resource in your wisdom bank. 

The Dharma is all around us constantly, eternally, but we choose instead our own mind’s views. We will never become wise and truly happy if we choose the world made by our own mind. We need to open the window or the door and go outside this limited human view.

Sound is energy, and energy can never be destroyed. It is eternal. This is why the ancient mantras and prayers from the world’s religions have survived for thousands of years. The syllables are imbued with the original utterances of their respective teachers. We intone them with sincerity and they reach back through our lineages to the eternal source to connect us.

When the Buddha was on his deathbed in the sala grove, surrounded by the multitudes who had come to pay their last respects and make precious offerings, Mara, the Prince of Demons who had plagued him with every possible distraction and temptation during his enlightenment, was also present. 

He humbly prostrated himself at the feet of the Buddha to make a final offering of a mantra as well as food and drink. The Buddha refused the food and drink, but he willingly accepted the mantra. Humbled by the Buddha’s enlightenment, Mara offered amantra that could be used to eliminate all the dangers and perils faced by those who practice the Mahayanas or caring for the enlightenment and happiness of others.

Music has brought numerous realizations into my own life. As a professional musician, I reached a state of such deep immersion in the music of the Great Romantics – Rachmaninov, Wagner, Scriabin, Tchaikovsky – as a performer, that I was temporarily unable to return to so-called ‘real’ life. Like Rachmaninov himself, I had what the medics called a ‘nervous breakdown,’ what Buddhists would call a ‘realization,’ while at work on his second piano concerto. 

                                                                                                                                                                   

The vibrations of this sublime music consumed me to a point at which I had to cease working on it. Even today, when I hear certain music from that period, I can feel myself slipping away. I so needed to climb on to the Buddhist pathway to keep my balance in the difficulties of human life. The bell and the ancient chants keep me anchored nowadays.

The significance of sound must not be underestimated. The bell of awakening is rung often in our various religious traditions. It signifies the true form of all existence and has the capability of purifying bodes and minds. 

Let their vibrations mingle with your own. This is reality, now and here forever.

Images courtesy of megapyxl.com

The Peacock: connecting humans to the Universe

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Ancient Indians, like the Aborigines of Australia and Japanese Shintoists, believed wholly in the supernatural and the natural world and especially envied the characteristics of some animals. The peacock was one such creature they revered and desired to emulate. At first, they were afraid of the peacock with its mournful cry, its fantastic plumage and feral ways, and especially shocked when they realized on observing that it was capable of eating poisonous spiders and snakes in order to nourish its large physical structure, and could survive. Quite naturally, they also wished to transcend such poisoning and human fragility, and so came to worship the peacock out of a mixture of envy and fear.

At this time in India there were 2 powerful religions: Hinduism for the masses and Brahmanism for the elite, and all beings aspired to spiritual liberation through these pathways. Therefore many mantras, or invocations, were used as a matter of course in everyday life, the Indians possessing an authentic insight into the use of the spiritual voice to communicate with the invisible world. So, such mantras were developed to emulate the peacock and bring this animal god closer to the human world—mantras, which even incorporated the doleful cry of the peacock, for example, the Great Peacock King mantra from Tibetan Buddhism: “Om Mayura Krante Svaha.” They really believed that by calling upon this magical and terrifying bird, they may themselves gain some of its divine qualities, and so transcend their weaknesses and limitations.

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So, Mantrayana, the next stage of Buddhism after the Golden Buddha’s initial teachings and death (circa 2600), was created, and the idea that all poisons are the same, pondered upon, so that in time, the negative aspects of the human mind such as ignorance, greed, and hatred, became known as ‘poison’ which required an ‘antidote.’ Mantras or invocations were viewed as just such a kind of antidote, and so eventually were recognized as a part of nature and not created by man at all. They represented an esoteric or secret language, which nature or the universe would respond to, and a way of fusing with the microcosm.

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The people had enormous imagination not having yet learned the passiveness of modern, intensively technological societies. As today, poisonous snakes such as the cobra were common, so protection and awareness was essential to prevent fatal bites or stings. One method was to mesmerize the snake with the sound of a flute so that it would obey, but another way was to worship creatures that could dispose of them. When a peacock comes face to face with a snake, it purposely pretends to be scared and allows the snake to wrap itself around its body. Then just as the snake is about to attack, it spreads out its wings and feathers with great force and sends the snake flying.

The image of the elegant peacock driving away a poisonous snake, like a beautiful woman driving off an evil beast, impressed people. They thought this bird had god-like powers, and so gradually this image metamorphosed into a Buddhist deity or holy being. Much later in Japanese Buddhism (7th Century), this image below became known as Peacock Myoo or Guardian of the Law.

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The guardian is riding on the back of the peacock and holding sacred instruments in each of her four arms: a lotus, a peacock feather, a fruit resembling a lemon, and pomegranate. The lotus represents benevolence and kindness. The lemon cures the diseases of anyone that eats it. The pomegranate drives off evil spirits. But the mighty peacock feather has the power to actually prevent disasters such as earthquakes and floods. This painting was made using luxurious materials like silver and gold leaf to make it sparkle and shine with the Peacock’s mystical power. However, the metals have tarnished over time.

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In general, the peacock is a symbol of openness and acceptance. In Christianity, it is a symbol of immortality, and in Hinduism, the patterns of its feathers, resembling eyes, symbolize the star constellations. And in Buddhism as we can see above, wisdom is its attribute. The five feathers on the peacock’s head are said to symbolize the five spiritual paths and the five Buddha families. Their beautiful colours give pleasure to all beings in the same way that setting eyes upon a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being) or Buddha (an awakened being) can bring comfort and provoke bliss.

Human intelligence, the unique human spirit naturally will find many ingenious ways to communicate with its origin, the invisible world, and this is the way to true balance and happiness.

japanese-peacock

Images courtesy of Megapixl.com: Peacock by jessealbanese; Three Peacocks-kvkirllov; Indian Architecture exterior-Jaipur City Palace-twinandphotography; Peacock Myoo-Japan Temple exhibition-clthorp; Beautiful Peacock Roof design-Japan-Lucyinsisu; Japanese Peacock – Krookedeye

The world of words

 

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The world of words demands that we churn out concepts and assertions mindlessly. Each word creates an image in our visual libraries and memory banks. The bridge of the mind leading out to the vast field of consciousness is so cluttered with verbiage and images that we are stranded there. We are blocked in.

But unblocking is not just a matter of clearing out, discarding our highly documented lives out onto the scrap heap. No matter how badly they make us suffer by living always indirectly, marooning us in our own minds, we must accept that we have actually created them in our unique way. They are what we amount to so far: they are our materials. But even cutting-edge science tells us that materials are not permanent.

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So, first, we must acknowledge them, accept them as our way up to this point. Then we can tenderly build a fire and set them alight, watching them burn with gratitude.  We need to accept that they are a means whereby and that without them we would be deprived of their richness, but that they are not who we are. We have to go beyond the material to find true happiness and wisdom.

part-of-a-native-aboriginal-wall-painting-australia

In the desert, in the Dreaming Lands, aboriginals set light to large tracts of land to promote new growth in the universe and to send cleansing smoke up to the sky travelers. Japanese Buddhists write prayers and mantras then burn them in a special Homa fire to convey them into the invisible world and to burn away human delusions. Fire cleanses and promotes new growth, so let go of the archives and new growth is guaranteed to appear. The bridge will instantly be unblocked.

We must keep creating because that is our modern way, teeming with diversity, but we can discard, empty the trash on a regular basis, and spend a little more time each day in the great still silence where words and images have no purpose. Then listening can slowly and steadily be interspersed with looking because sound is concrete whereas images are abstract.

And words? Concentrate your attention on the sound of the words instead of the meaning. Listen to the heart behind the words that reach you and linger lovingly there without reacting or categorizing, or trying to make them permanent. Listen to a foreign language without translating. These are the utterances of a fellow true spirit after all.

With a sincere heart and full awareness, you can cease to assert and window-dress your ego when you interact with other true natures in your vicinity. Asserting is merely a desperate attempt to make yourself and your world permanent in someone else’s eyes, and probably in your own. But It excludes others and separates us away.

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When you speak remember that you are essentially spirit so you must express yourself in an artfully vague and convivial way like a breeze, the rapid flapping of the wings of the hummingbird, or the constant fluttering of a candle flame.

We actually have no single ‘claim’ to make via our soft lips or balanced on plump tongues, because we are pure love energy, not thoughts or arguments.

The human throat is actually best-suited to singing. Instead of words, fingers and eyes and warm breath mixed with our unique fragrance will register our sincere heart with perfection. Therefore, it is wise to refrain from talk until you have checked your free flow of universal love.

human potentail 1

 

Temple Chronicle: 29th February

look no further 1

The light of day comes and it goes from my personal theatre. Objects and people come and they go, they wax and wane, as I watch from the gallery. This appearance and evanescence can affect me in two ways, but I am free to choose only one of them.

Either I can swallow the beauty I see as it glimmers and gurgles, calmly enjoying, marveling, weeping, smiling in the centre of the moment, and moving smoothly without flinching on to the next to supersede. I look and listen in absolute trust at these arisings and descendings because I know and accept that they are finite, that they will run only for a limited number of seasons. My indestructible essence of love is the lubricant which brought me to the theatre and will convey me back to the ether high above the lit streets.

Alternatively, I can hold the beauty in my mouth, refusing to let it go, to swallow it, wanting to immortalize it and make it permanent, to possess it so that no-one else can have it. The emotions that arise as a result of the stimulus are negative, inverted, flinching so that they separate me away form everyone else in the world, from my race and from the natural world. They are rooted in my fear that the supply of beauty will end, and so I must create my own stores because I have no shred of trust. My love essence has brought me this far smoothly, but I sabotage it deliberately so that I do not have to leave, and put it aside as spent fuel.

In the same way, I can accept that my form is imperfect as it ages, becoming worn and weathered. I can humbly embrace its decay in concert with all things in the universe, accepting this physical withdrawal of flesh and bone, but constantly delighting at the sights and sounds that flow around me now and here. There is no astringent peak of the taste of fear, just a subdued broad flavor to savour. Everything is exactly as it is. There is no friction of ownership or cloying. I gently polish myself, restrained, quiet – disturbing no-one, content to cherish my steady but gradual evanescence along with that of everything in the universe.

As a saboteur, the taste of fear though momentarily thrilling and rousing will never allow me to feel contentment, will always block the free flow of the essence of love, my spiritual essence. It will always isolate me, remove me from now and here so that I am likely to miss the show entirely. I will become marooned in my archives, dependent on my storehouse, and unable to embody the love that I was endowed with. I will never trust and will live outside the theatre of all life on the wet streets, unable to believe even in the blue ether.

Which will you choose?

uchu-A
This is the final post of this series ‘Temple Chronicle’ for the whole month of February 2016. Each daily entry will be combined into a single continuous document entitled ‘Temple Chronicle: February 2016’ to be stored in the main menu of the site should you want to look back at them.
It is snowing intermittently here in western Japan as the winter austerities come to an end. Spring will be welcomed on 20th March and the year ahead looks bright when viewed from the very centre of the moment in this very spot on the Earth’s crust.

May you have determined exactly what kind of light will you become for the year ahead.

Temple Chronicle: 28th February

knowledge 6

We are living in the age of space travel so there are many images and films appearing. This is no coincidence. We are getting further and further away from ourselves, from putting our own Earth in order. We are moving into a gravitation-less state, in pressurised capsules full of flashing alerts and less and less direct contact with other humans, unable to put our feet firmly on the Earth. Such space exploration demands courage and vision, but they are visible emotions, displayed on large screens. It is probable that we are running away from our invisible Earthly responsibilities. We cannot afford yet another clean slate: indeed, there is no such thing except for those who are deluded.

It is salutary that indigenous peoples have no desire to physically conquer space and the universe. They are custodians, not conquerors, content in their spiritual territories. ‘Developed’-humans are marooned in a spiritual wilderness, in a neon-lit world, and so they restlessly search for new thrills, playing with their special toys, and feeling so proud of their advancement, their sophistication.

As they zoom through inner and outer space, they look back at the beautiful planet with sentimentality. It is ‘home’ with all mod-cons, and they created it from scratch. They turn a blind eye to all the destruction and conflict, all the failed states and ecological deterioration – sweep it under the carpet so they can see only a broad expanse of gleaming living space.

But more significant than this ignorance created by extreme filtering is that the gravitational field of Earth is brought about by the special consciousness of divine love, and we are choosing to look elsewhere for it as aliens might. Love is the special energy we and only we are endowed with. No other creation can utilise it. But we squander it, converting it into a possession, a commodity, a currency because we have become so arrogant and gone so far away from our true nature. We prefer instead to float around in our heads synthesising to embodying our divine energy here on Earth. Our blindness and defiant pursuit of pleasure and kudos help us to justify our lack of responsibility, to turn away from the mess we have created as a race.

Fear and delusion drive us into the stratosphere and beyond, breathing artificial air instead of pure oxygen and ozone reserved for our beings of love in the field, encapsulated away behind ever thicker artificial, space-resistant materials, and lost perhaps forever to the Lands of Pure Love.

link between father and son image

Temple Chronicle: 27th February

reality

Our human lives may bounce around on an unpredictable ocean – our emotional responses to the incidents and occurrences in daily life combined with our karma, both bad and good, and the emotions of others around us also creating incidents and occurrences, and their karma. We never know how the weather will change and we are rarely prepared for its storms or for the becalming or sea fog. We are not in control because we allow external circumstances to control us. This is the conditioned mind, reacting and forcing responses, compulsive, not content, and it seems that there is nothing behind that unrelenting action and respite, action-respite. So we become afraid to look. In the end, we blame and protest and perhaps even try to resign from life. Our happiness seems as short-lived as a warm sunny day when there is no trace of a cloud in the sky.

This drama of our life is a like a fast-moving dream which we think we can only stop by waking up. But we never wake up from it because we have allowed it to become our reality, our view, our way of seeing and being. The only way we can wake up is by taking control and changing the way we see everything: in other words, by investing in our neglected ship and its equipment, especially the sails, instead of the ocean and the weather.

The first step in that process is quelling the continual dialogue perpetuated by the media and perhaps by people around you. You need your own vacuum of silence and stillness so that you can truly look inside. You need to appreciate yourself, and examine your sincerity with yourself because the revealing of your original core, which has been temporarily submerged, depends on that entirely.

Honesty expresses honour and virtue. If we are dishonest with ourselves our core becomes unstable. Honesty wakes us and others with its strong scent. It will allow your divine flame to burn more brightly, and then you can go forward and enjoy restoring your ship, repairing or replacing its sails, making new ropes, scrubbing the deck, and pumping out the bilges.

When you set sail on life again you can deal with any kind of extreme because you are equipped. Your core is stable and glowing, the weather is always tolerable and you accept its changeability without flinching; your ship is somehow part of the ocean now.

And then you wake up from the terrible dream forever and move on to the next phase of the restoration of your core.

human potential 2

 

 

Thank you dear followers. This series of posts will have lasted for the entire month of February. It represents Buddhist Winter Austerities and spiritual training in Japan, a time to cultivate wisdom, and I have learned so much from the discipline of writing everyday for you. I apologize if I have swamped you with posts, but I hope that you can allow at least some of the notions to work for you in everyday life. Future posts will be intermittent.
May you be truly and enduringly happy for all of your days immersed in the vast ever-changing ocean of energy.

 

Temple Chronicle: 26th February

let go 4

Materials, possessions, appropriations. Membership. Rivals. Ambition. Boundaries, nationalisms, differences. Ulterior motives, agendas. These are the bywords of life in the world of form. They are either repeated internally consciously or allowed to drone away in the unconscious. They are built into our conditioning and our education, but they are a fabrication, a conspiratorial dream which we are forced to participate in if we want to find human success and respect, and approval from our social witnesses.

700 years ago a small group of Christian mystics moved around Europe defying the dominant Church of Rome and living out the opposites of these bywords in their lives. I was one of them. We had no church, no fabric to ostentatiously display our faith or our liturgies and dogma in; instead, we found secluded meeting places in the mountain passes and forests to listen to those who were ready to receive their final blessings. We had few possessions, needing little to live simply, and our only fabric was understanding. We appropriated nothing for ourselves.

There was no congregation to be a member of and to parade our great virtue in attending regularly, no opportunities to be ‘holy’ before witnesses and then crooked behind the screen. Those who received blessings and joined our numbers themselves did so from their private and total commitment. They did not need encouragement from a group or to feel a sense of belonging in a human way. They had touched their own true nature and realized that spirit is indestructible. They had experienced the full truth of the vast invisible world outside their skin.

We had no personal ambition because we understood that we were only short-stay tenants in our human form. We understood that there was no ‘person’ to have earthly desires, to accumulate and hoard, and so there could be no rivalry with others, no comparisons, no competitions. We understood that our unique spirit wanted nothing except to edify, to build a sacred bridge for each human angel trapped in their body of flesh to escape back into their source.

We served others tirelessly and silently with our unconditional love and compassion. Pure love emanated from each of our precious breaths as we worked behind the scenes of the greatest religious inquisition of all times.

The supreme Church of Love was branded heretical by the materialist Roman Church, by the vendors of expensive pardons and blessings which guaranteed humans entry to heaven. But for us, known as the ‘Good’ Christians, there were no rewards either in the world of form or no-form except for the ineffable joy of being and loving. There was no ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ because hell was this life on earth, and by touching our true nature heaven was possible in this hell. There were no other fictitious realms created by fanatical power-mongers as inducements.

Goodness in human form feels no shame or fear. It is the eternal witness in the oneness of the visible and the invisible. We knew then and we know now that as humans are the world and the way, they will change themselves.

lotus seed pod

Daily Meditation: we are mantra

There is no need to interfere with our true nature. It is perfect.

Soul Management

knowledge 1

I create a deity of mud, moulding it with calm

un-grasping hands.

making it momentarily worthy with all my attention,

then throw it back into the river to be dispersed.

I craft a beautiful feast only motivated by love

making it momentarily worthy with all my attention,

then throw it into the forest to be dispersed. 

I cook a banquet with all my love

making it momentarily worthy with all my attention,

then feed it to loved ones to be dispersed.

Our energy housed in flesh is constant prayer,

meditation, mantra in and of itself,

but we interfere and try to give it meaning. 

There is no meaning in or of energy.

It is. So be.

seed

View original post

Temple Chronicle: 25th February

torii

Buddha taught that if we become enlightened we will have full clairvoyance (seeing) and audiovoyance (hearing) in the past, present and future. When our conditioned mind is quiet, idling so that it can deal with the demands of daily life, and all our cravings have been extinguished, the clarity of our perceptions will intensify. We will no longer simply react in the ups and downs of subjectivity or duality, being swept along trying desperately to get our feet down on the ground for a few seconds. I have witnessed and experienced past lives and future lives, and I have lived with indigenous people who naturally have these extra-sensory tools at their disposal.

Karma is an absolute proof of our past and our future to come (DNA is the scientific equivalent) which we hand on through the birthing process and the closeness of related spirits to our families. It is a marvel how we inherit our parents’ physical appearance and structure. We also inherit their predispositions and proclivities, their cellular conditions, and very often their diseases, sorrows and losses, come to the surface in our lives. It is also, therefore, logical that we will pass forward our karma and our wisdom to future generations, and that is our responsibility.

How do we create good and bad karma? – respectively the karma to live happily, safely and to fulfill our life’s course; and the karma to have tragic and restless lives, crippling disease and deformity, to be criminals and make others suffer. It is useful to see karma as a seed which we sow with our thoughts, words, and deeds: eventually, the seed germinates and ripens at an indeterminate moment we ordinarily have no control over. But with spiritual practice and elevation, we gradually take some control.

We must accumulate as much merit and virtue as possible while crossing the river of life so that our negative karma will be neutralized and our positive karma will increase. These are the challenges of the world of form which we are deliberately manifest in to overcome. Having good karma will ensure our happiness in temporality, and if we cut the negative karma and console our ancestors their spirits will reside comfortably in the spiritual world. If our ancestors are suffering in the hell realms, then that will reflect in our lives. All things that appear to us are simply reflections of the invisible world.

Look back at photos of yourself as a child, a young adult, and older adult, and you may be so surprised at how different your appearance is. The camera catches glimpses as your karma and DNA flows and transforms, and at any moment, you may resemble your ancestors right back to the beginning of human history, the seeds being planted and germinating as you travel through life encountering suffering and joy. Pure gratitude and appreciation for your parents and theirs, and so on, is the best way to console their continuing journey in the spiritual world. ‘You’ would not exist to have these incredible opportunities if they had not given birth to you.

Floating lanterns inscribed with prayers on the ocean or rivers is one moving way we remember and console our ancestors in Japan. The torrii, large orange gateways to be found all over the country, were expressly constructed to allow the spirits of ancestors to return to the physical plane at certain periods of the year. They visit briefly to gather our prayers and wishes and then return, representing a golden chance to feel their closeness to us.

I am my parents and my grandparents. I can never walk in any other footprints than theirs along the beach, although the conditioned mind may convince me I have taken a new direction.

I smile and shed tears and love and feel and breathe as them. It is my true nature to eternally tend their garden of karma as our seeds ripen and stock dies while they recline on a shady verandah, always watchful. 

lanterns

Temple Chronicle: 24th February

incongruence 9

I have no need to consciously meditate or pray or recite mantras, to sit carefully before exquisite images and light and incense, arranging time to sit and the particular mind to do it with. Buddha, Jesus, Mahavir, Mohammed never self-consciously sat to offer themselves to the deities, because they knew they had nothing to offer as there is actually nothing in the world. Once I make conscious gestures I must examine the motivation behind them. It is dangerous to make myself separate in such an act.

Of course, I may seek to quell the tormented mind in a beautiful sanctuary, to take refuge, but images can distract me if I gaze on them with emotion, surveying their materials, adoring their form, and ultimately becoming dependent.

I create something which can be dispersed in an act of total generosity, empty of attachment. I create a deity of mud, moulding it with calm un-grasping hands and momentarily worship it – make it worthy or divine – then I throw it back into the river or ocean so it can be dispersed. In this way, I connect directly with the energy river. I make a worthy momentary image and then give it back to the Earth, to the invisible realm. I make a beautiful feast with empty motivation to momentarily make it worthy before I throw it into the forest. I cook a banquet with no agenda except love, and then feed my loved ones making the produce of the Earth worthy before they consume it. Everything is energy and vibrations made sound and light. There is no need to interfere with it: I just leave it alone. This is my true nature.

Our individual good energy temporarily housed in the flesh in the world of form is a prayer, a meditation, a mantra in itself. But with our arrogance we interfere and rearrange trying to make meaning from it. There is no meaning in or of energy.

It is. So be.

energy

Temple Chronicle: 23rd February

 

rindou
We have the ability to make everything in our life divine. It is merely a question of the humility and clarity and our view.

A beautiful flower may appear before your physical eyes: it is perfect in every respect, at the peak of its energy, vivid, vibrant. There are many ways you may view it: a decoration for your living room, in memory of someone, an evocation of someone because it was there favourite, the emblem of a certain country or group, its species, and so on. There is so much visual information and background to this flower that we can become consumed by it and cannot see the flower for its own sake, in its own right, at all. This is how we mostly live – indirectly, always librarians and archivists, tucking multiplicities of images and information into our incredible memories.

If we close down the clicking conditioned mind and just gaze at this flower with no agenda, for its own sake, and merely for the sake of being with it, then it becomes divine flowing energy embodied for our viewing. We turn our gaze away and the flower disappears. We turn back and it is there once more. The images we hoard will never replace that momentary divine embodying, but because we have lost contact with our own divine energy and have made our own images permanent, we are fearful that the whole world will one day disappear so we immortalize. Once we accept that we are flowing energy embodied just like the flower, a light for others to see momentarily, then there is no fear, just love-flow.

Once we see and accept that flow then we can live in the field of awareness in peace. We can clear out all our archives and records, making space to use other tools like deep listening, compassion, telepathy, bodhicitta (the power to gather up all the suffering energy in samsara and neutralize it), and illumination – using our bright light to bring light to others with just a smile. Once we clear away our collections we can breathe in full concert each glorious breath having gratitude for the one that has been breathed, and awe for the one to come.

When we truly listen to a beautiful melody, we cannot make an image of it and secrete it away, but because sound is concrete, a constellation of vibrations that resonates with our own, we can recall it, imitate it, whenever we care to. If only we could use our eyes as ears, listening and imitating the divine frequencies, then there would be nothing to lose or immortalize.

wheel-31 

Temple Chronicle: 22nd February

drinking

We need to work so hard to get approval from our societies at large. If we are different and honest about our differences, then we are shunned. There is silence when we walk into a room, averted eyes, deliberate disinterest displayed. We are a threat to the masked committees and there will be no compassion, no concessions of any kind until we decide to put aside our honesty and our difference, put our masks back on, and behave in the interests of uniformity and social rank. How can we expect to be accepted if we are living our true nature?

Social groups are often empty and congealed with their dishonesty, so the members busy themselves auditing credentials. Is their behavior exemplary according to the rules? But most important of all, what are their sexual proclivities and urges? They form a group but they are separate liars behind their masks.

To live according to your true urges and nature takes enormous courage and the dropping away of all fear. But you are no longer separate when you refuse to lie and go along with other fabrications and bullying. You are integrated into the flow of goodness and love, back swimming in the river instead of sitting on the banks. We may not get approval but we have been honest with ourselves and that matters more than anything.

Entering the world of form, our spirits need a clear purpose. They need to bring light, but also be a model of self-truth for others, bringing the light and holding it high so others can ignite their own lights.

Buddha clearly instructed that we should not associate with those who gossiped and bad-mouthed others. We should avoid negative influences; we should stay silent rather than talk carelessly, but we can use eyes and hands to gently display our purity and inspire courage with our own courage while we do so. We should not be scared of losing our reputation and not say anything detrimental about others because it only makes us look better in people’s eyes. We have above all to be true to ourselves. How else can we be honest with others if not?

The tiny hummingbird moves around so quickly and quietly that it is almost impossible to detect. It takes the pollen it needs from the bells of tropical flowers and then moves on its way unnoticed. It does not disturb anyone or anything. This is how we should live, quietly, stealthily, without making any disturbance. But many of us put so much energy into interfering in other people’s lives and business when we should be just playing with light and love. We take life so seriously, trying to teach others and instruct, to over-protect them, when they could instead just notice our playful lightness and imitate us. All we need to be careful of is obstacles which break the flow of energy.

We allow others to tear us away from integration, to distract us from our breathing and our awareness. They deter us with their needless words and gestures from our gratitude and awe for our existence and all things natural. Our core should be solid and not so easily distracted from its joy and contentment. After all, we are so lucky to have become flesh and been given so many opportunities and messages to elevate ourselves spiritually.

sensory deprivation

Temple Chronicle: 21st February

architects of our world

Our human lives are a process, a means whereby, but what is the result, the end-product? Our story began with the moment of birth and it will end with the moment of death. Between these two points our physical form develops and matures, and then as its season draws to a close, it starts to shrink and slow. We, our spirits, are temporarily housed in a flesh form to participate in the visual material world which is subject to varied and numerous conditions. It is logical then that the conditioned mind expects results from the progress through the years of our lifespan.

Religions use certain terms for this end-product, this resolution of the years and the effort – Heaven or Hell, Nirvana, Enlightenment, Paradise, Zion, Avalon, Swarga, Valhalla, and so on. But words and images die the moment they appear or are uttered or thought. ‘Birth’ and ‘Death’ are also only words, but we identify ourselves with them – ‘my birth,’ ‘his death,’ and so on, and once again they are dead, in the past, dropped like a heavy stone into a deep pool.

Without using any special labels or grand proper nouns, we have always flowed in the vast wide river of all energy, and we always will. Energy is vibration and light which is subject to no conditions, not even human’s facile ‘time’ or ‘space.’ It goes where it will dependent on nothing, consuming the darkness, flowing and flowing. There are no rewards or results in any dimension except the joy of being and loving with company in our human boats, and breathing in concert.

The conditions throw up obstacles in the way of our flow which create detours, sluggish pools, and rapids. The build up of the heat of negative emotions and violence acted out in the form world, the jarring of separations and limitations, the tattering and fraying of the fabric of the universe at our human hands, causes drought and the flow dwindles to a trickle, or floods which extinguish the divine flame of the flow.

Can you desist from throwing obstacles into the flow now and here? Can you give up your addiction to collecting, to hoarding, to getting and spending, to violent acts of separation from your fellows? Can you say you will no longer depend on creating parallel worlds in your mind with words and images so that you can just flow and flow, laughing and loving? Slap bang in the centre of this moment and in no place in particular, can you accept that there is nothing you have to do except be, and in your full being the flow flows without end?

self-knowledge

Temple Chronicle: 20th February

Homa

The world of words demands that we churn out concepts and assertions mindlessly. Each word creates an image in our visual libraries and memory banks. The bridge of the mind leading out to the vast field of consciousness is so cluttered with verbiage and images that we cannot move. We are blocked in.

But unblocking is not just a matter of clearing out, discarding our highly documented lives out on to the scrap heap. No matter how badly they make us suffer by living always indirectly, marooned in our own minds, we have created them in our unique way. They are what we amount to so far, our materials. But we can be sure that materials are not permanent.

So we can first acknowledge them, accept them as our way up to this point, and then we can tenderly build a fire and set them alight, watching them burn with gratitude.  They are a means whereby and without them we would be deprived of their richness.

In the desert, in the Dreaming Lands, aboriginals set light to large tracts of land to promote new growth in the universe, and to send cleansing smoke up to the sky travelers. Japanese Buddhists write prayers and mantras then burn them in a special Homa fire to convey them into the invisible world, and to burn away human delusions. Fire cleanses and promotes new growth, so let go of the archives and new growth is guaranteed to appear. The bridge will instantly be unblocked.

We must keep creating because that is our modern way, teeming with diversity, but we can discard, empty the trash on a regular basis, and spend a little more time each day in the great still silence where words and images have no purpose. Then we can slowly and steadily intersperse listening with looking because sound is concrete whereas images are abstract.

And words? Concentrate your attention on the sound of the words instead of the meaning. Listen to the heart behind the words that reach you and linger lovingly there without reacting or categorizing, or trying to make them permanent. They are the utterances of a fellow true spirit after all.

With a sincere heart and awareness, you can cease to assert and window-dress your ego when you interact with other true natures in your vicinity. Asserting is merely a desperate attempt to make yourself and your world permanent in someone else’s eyes, and in your own. It excludes and separates.

When you speak remember that you are essentially spirit so you must express yourself in an artfully vague way like a breeze, the rapid flapping of the wings of the hummingbird, or the constant fluttering of a candle flame.

We actually have no single ‘claim’ to make via our soft lips or balanced on plump tongues because we are pure love energy, and the human throat is best-suited to singing. Instead of words, fingers and eyes and warm breath and our unique fragrance will register our sincere heart with perfection. Therefore, it is wise to refrain from talk until you have checked your free flow of love.

humming bird

 

Temple Chronicle: 19th February

wave

Embodying love, being the universal energy of love, cannot be limited to your thoughts, or added to your tomorrow to-do list.

Once we have put our visual accessories ‘time’ and ‘space aside,’ then reality consists only of ‘now’ – this moment not the next or the one before, and ‘here’ – without borders or differences, regardless of weather or religion. Our conditioned mind may think this notion ’embodying love’ is interesting, intriguing even, but it will immediately disappear as thoughts always do the moment you have thought them. By thinking about it, you immediately make it indirect, a mere interpretation. So, create a mindful gap around this seed that has been dropped into your being, and stay in that gap. In other words, resist thinking about it or even giving it a name. Mark it as that ‘thingy,’ or your favourite song – music is concrete so cannot be erased as abstracts can.

Then in this gap, this opening, use your borrowed muscles and limbs to flow or swim into your day ahead. Staying in this fluid state you enter a crowded space, a train carriage, a shopping centre, a classroom. With every square inch of your body and your energy aura you can live that divine love that you have eternally embodied if the conditioned mind is quiet, held back outside the gap, prevented from its usual destructive, interfering activities. Then the love can flow freely, indiscriminately, for all of the people around you: A mountain stream cascading across everything in its path.

You make eye contact only to love. You spread your lips in a smile only to love. You extend your arms and stride forward with your legs only to love. It is absolutely the only ‘agenda’ your spirit has. Then, staying for as long as you can in that identity-less gap, radiate into ‘now’ and ‘here,’ and others will radiate in answer.

This human form your spirit is using has absolute power to touch the other spirits around you. The exterminator ‘thought’ with its negative entourage, is utterly powerless.

In this ‘gap’ is where we truly belong, our true nature. There are no labels or identity. It is the flow and flux of our energy origins, of our love and light.

changes 2

Temple Chronicle: 18th February

attached

When someone you thought was so close to you dies, you will see it as a desertion because you are attached, in some way reliant, leaning on them. They have seemingly aborted their journey by your side, breaking their contract. Naturally, there are moments of aching loneliness and the glaring need to make changes, to adapt to a new style of life in their absence. There is also the profound shock that the object of your love, and perhaps your entire life, has vanished forever, perhaps suddenly.

We can easily project our feelings of need or possession on to others, contaminating them, forcing them to feel guilt if we do not get our own way, or if they do not feel or act the way we expect them to. And so, in the name of ‘love,’ we pressurize the people around us exactly so that we can get our own way, and use fixative from the mind to make love permanent. This manipulation is not ‘love.’ It leaves others with no choice but to wear masks, to be dishonest, to spare our feelings, and ultimately under the duress of these acts of violence and separation, they cannot bring out their true nature. This creates something unnatural, a museum piece, a stagnant pool, a plastic flower.

Divine love, the energy or force of our essence as humans, flows like light going wherever it can, indiscriminately. Its focus is as wide as the horizon, and it is not bound by likes or dislikes, by fads or fashions. When we embody love we know there is no choice and that the energy of our loved one is required to be combined with ours for a universal invisible purpose. The love embodiment of others will find us if we remain open, unprotected, standing always in the full flow.

Love is like the weather or the perpetual blue sky behind clouds. The conditioned mind has no power to change it because it is limitless, way beyond the visual aids of ‘time’ and ‘space.’

A beloved husband drowns while swimming in the ocean with his wife. She eventually finds his body along the beach. There are sparkling grains of sand on his lips, and that is what she remembers most of the last sight of him. She grieves, haunted by their significant moments together during a lifetime, but gradually she picks up her life and continues on with a strong sense that her love for him will never end. Then one day after she has healed, she visits his favourite local art gallery and there, walking towards her, she sees him. She wants to look more closely, but he is wearing a hat obscuring his face, and he quickly leaves, so she follows him, and presents herself in his art class.

Looking directly into his eyes, ravaged by his voice, she collapses with the shock of this appearance, and he is predictably bewildered by her reaction. She is certain he has come back to her exactly so that she can love him without fixing him in stone, without turning him into an object, and by letting his true nature run free.

Soon he dies, for a second time, and she receives a memorial card inviting her to his final exhibition consisting of all the paintings he did once they were together though briefly. And there, he has captured her swimming fearlessly full in the flow, and the painting sets her true nature free at once.

At last, they are both embodied in their love and breathe together as one eternally.

teachers