Touch your Heart Daily Meditation: 24th December, 2013

Phoenix

Wherever you are, stand or sit comfortably and soften the gaze of your eyes. This is your time, so smile, then put everything else on hold until you have finished this short meditation or reflection.

‘You may think your life is small, that you have little power, that you are nothing or no-one special. Or you may be waiting for your special destiny or mission to appear. In both cases, you tend to feel unsettled, lost, confused.
We individual human beings may be small, seemingly powerless, but even the tiniest of creatures who cannot fly far, even a mosquito, if it sits on the wings of a giant phoenix, can soar into the heavens and survey the whole universe.
Keep watch for your particular phoenix, and then hop on for the glorious journey to the other shore of Nirvana. Know that you are in no way small if you let go of your ‘small’ mentality and consort with phoenixes and other divine beings.’

Now, please partially close your eyes and take these words into your heart.

This evening, before you sleep, please check if you have been able to let go of your ‘small’ mentality so that phoenixes and divine beings will be attracted to you. Your spiritual guide is just waiting for this sign.

sunset over Tokyo Bay-ordination complete

7: Making Bonds with the Universe

 

universe

The Buddha made it clear that we should create and maintain bonds with the universe even though we have been born into human life. The Cathars also were constantly connected to the spiritual or invisible world, regarding death, the ending of human life, as a simple veil that could be easily removed. The halo (a circle of light around the head of a holy being depicted in Christianity) and the aureole (a circle of light around the head and/or body of a deity in Buddhism), were and still are used as reminders of the spiritual origin of all things manifest in the material plane. In both systems of living out the lessons and struggles of human life (Christianity) or samsara (Buddhism), we aspire to make the transition back into the spiritual, formless world, taking all sentient beings with us.

reclining Buddha aureolehaloed beings

 

 

 

 

 

Cathars, who were vegetarians apart from eating fish occasionally, prescribed the endura, a form of ritual suicide, as a practitioner approached death, preceded by the administering of the consolamentum. (see post Consolamentum https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/consolamentum/  in this series on the Cathars)  In Buddhism, the diet is always important as it is important to allow the subtle inner winds (vayu– in Sanskrit) to blow naturally through the channels of the body, the body and mind being unable to function at subtle levels without these winds being balanced. So, in both cases, the awareness of what substances from the earth we put inside our bodies is central to the way we use them. These rules about living allow us to connect with mystical knowledge, to be able to be a channel for such energy, to fine tune in order to receive the countless messages and signs from invisible sources.

teachers

The mystical has always drawn me personally since being a young child. I could never accept that worldly achievements were the pinnacle of all existence, always being certain there was much more than that.  Of course, children are usually not yet conditioned as adults are: they are pure and still close to the universe before their intellectual capacities develop. I always dreamed of touching the mystical and my dream came steadily true through the Buddhist pathway and gnostic traditions such as Catharism and Sufism. Indeed, in my present practice, the Nirvana Teachings of Shinnyo-en, it is possible to become a spiritual medium so that through intense training and empowerment, one can channel messages from the Buddha and other deities, which will touch the hearts of those receiving them. I am almost at the end of such a training now, and so looking forward to devoting myself to being that empty pure channel to help guide people to true and lasting happiness in Nirvana.

mandala 1 Mandala 2

In Esoteric Buddhism, the mandala is the traditional way of mapping out the Dharma Lineage passed down through the ages from Buddha Shyakyamuni. It represents the whole universe, and if you are correctly connected to the Dharma Stream, there is nothing and no-one outside you, no ‘us’ and ‘them,’ you are actually in the centre of that universe.

Buddhists strive to release themselves from attachment to objects and people because attachment means separation: attachment requires the attached and the attacher. Once we are truly one with the universe and all sentient beings, then we have realized emptiness and the native silence and stillness of the heart. All cravings are extinguished, and it is said that we have crossed the great Ocean of Nirvana to the other shore.

waterfall training waterfall training

In Japan, there is a strong tradition of mountain asceticism, shugendo in Japanese.  Yamabushi  in Japanese (one who likes mountains) follow a special doctrine, which combines esoteric Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto. They are usually solitary and today mostly lay practitioners. Emphasis is placed on physical feats of endurance in the open air where the aspirants live in the primeval forests of rural Japan, and their goal is to find supernatural powers through such practices.

Shingon Buddhism, which my own practice is connected to, emphasizes enlightenment through isolation, the study and contemplation of oneself and nature, and of mandalas.  Yamabushi can often be seen engaged in waterfall training – standing under waterfalls in freezing winter, ridding themselves of their ego so that they can receive the esoteric. My own masters did this practice regularly, as did many other key teachers in my lineage of Shinnyo Buddhism.

The Cathars also had a strong reverence for and involvement with nature. The sacred caves of Sabarthes in Languedoc are known as the ‘doors to Catharism.’ Part of initiation as a Parfait was to climb a steep path leading up to these caves (a practice common in shungendo) to the cave of Bethlehem. There were four important elements inside the caves involved in this initiation before receiving the consolamentum, or making the final vow: first, a square niche in the wall which could have conceivably contained a mandala or manual of some kind; second, a rough granite altar; third, a pentagram carved into the wall, possibly symbolizing the 5 elements of the universe (a common symbol in Esoteric Buddhism); and finally, the telluric currents emitted from the rock walls and cave floor. The atmosphere in these caves fills one with awe. I was particularly sensitive while inside, and after visiting had a series of Cathar dreams which have recurred since that time.

The Sacred Caves of Sabarthes.

The Sacred Caves of Sabarthes.

Buddhists work to achieve emptiness and liberation from all attachments. If you step out of the enclosure of your mind, the view of the world you construct with your intellect, then you step into the Buddhafield or mandala where you are protected and qualified to receive by oral transmission the wisdom of the Dharma stream. At this moment, you become unified with the universe, and this is reality. You can take refuge in this powerful mandala whilst struggling in samsara to liberate all sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment with you.

Buddhafield

It could be said that the notion of making ‘bonds with the universe’ began with the young Prince Siddartha’s first experience of meditation. He was 7 years of age and already showing promise in his training to succeed his father and become King of the Shyakya clan. One day, he accompanied his father and entourage to an agricultural festival dedicated to the earth deity. While there, the young prince noticed a small bird pecking at a worm that had been turned up by a plough. He felt such compassion for the worm that he was inspired to sit in a nearby grove under a jambu (roseapple) tree and soon entered into an advanced meditative state. The sun was high in the sky, but the shade provided by the surrounding trees stood still, keeping the young child cool and sheltered from the hot sun. This first meditation inspired by nature demonstrated the highest respect and reverence for the treasures of the universe.

In my own meditations, I often use the image that everything inside me, beneath the thin membrane of my skin, can amalgamate with everything outside. That my heart can beat in unison with all the hearts in the universe, that I can breathe as one with all in the universe. It is easy to transcend the thin membrane of skin and realize deeply that this is all that makes me a physical individual being, acting in the world, fulfilling my own unique mission.

The Universe is the Spiritual Source. The Moon and Sun are our protectors. We climb the mountains, flow into the oceans down wide rivers, swing from stars and planets. It is only the mundane mind that sequesters us in its synthetic reality, away from the glory of the great Universe.

deep meditation

6: metempsychosis and karma: the Church of Love

rebirth

rebirth

If we come into contact with people at large during each day, packed on to commuter trains, or standing in queues because of the delays of seasonal rushes and peak times, it is easy to become irritated or even enraged. We can be indignant and incredulous that people around us are behaving so badly, in such a self-centred way. We wonder why they cannot be like us, civilized, considerate, ‘normal.’ These dramatic differences we perceive distance us from humanity, isolate us inside the world we create in our heads with all its synthetic standards and bars to jump. We make judgments, and in so doing place ourselves above others and outside the field of love.

The medieval Cathars of Languedoc were so focused on their practice of faith out in the community that they could easily accept and have compassion for all the excesses and ‘fascist’ attitudes around them. They helped as many people as they could, and put themselves at risk of being discovered and captured while administering the Consolamentum so that people could be saved from damnation. Corruption and deception were a way of life in medieval Europe, and the friars and cardinals leading the interrogations against the Cathars were merciless, torturing and imprisoning at will, and other atrocities. Betrayal of the trust of the Perfecti was common too.

Some say that medieval European society was as bleak as today’s, but as the Perfecti believed that evil spirits could jump into other bodies – metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls or rebirth)- they could accept that people behaved badly, driven by their occupying spirits.  Metempsychosis is one of the oldest beliefs in the history of humans in all parts of the world, Orient and Occident alike, and it is thought nowadays that it may be almost a natural or innate beliefs native to the human mind. As Christianity spread steadily across Europe, the eternal nature of the soul was a seminal belief retained by the Manichaeans and Cathars, and other gnostic sects, but the mainstream Catholic church rejected it as heretical. They put enormous defensive energy into eradicating such beliefs, and in a way maiming their own roots of Christianity in the process.

Cathars believed that Jesus was the manifestation of a pure spirit unbounded by matter. The God of the old testament was Satan, while the God of St John’s gospel in the new testament was the all-loving compassionate God. The human figure of Jesus was simply a messenger, an emanation of the true God, which could never be made manifest in the Devil’s world. Cathars thus attached no importance to the crucifixion and nativity due to their material nature. In this respect, they were indeed a highly spiritual and mystical sect.

God of Love

God of Love

My own upbringing was fairly strict, mainstream Christian, and although I felt deep reverence for the holy beings and saints, I was always rather scared of the suffering evoked by the crucifix and crown of thorns, the dark corners of musty churches, the negative emphasis on sin and guilt because Jesus died for humanity on the Cross. On the other hand, if I had had access to the faith of the Perfects, I would have aspired to become a Perfect and eventually to join the compassionate God in the celestial realms.  Christian practices were too materialist for me, too dark, to oppressive, so I turned to Buddhism as an older teenager, which surprised my family and seemed to be a betrayal of the faith into which I was baptized.

When I encountered the Cathars of Languedoc, I was so thrilled to find a meaningful Christianity that was so similar in essence to Buddhism. Siddhartha, the privileged Prince who became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, was also perhaps only a messenger manifest as flesh and blood. After his death and Parinirvana at the age of 84 or so, after his final teachings of Nirvana which I devote myself to today, he shifted to the spiritual source, the Dharmakaya (see previous article at https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/dharma-kaya-the-body-of-truth/)  and so in various emanations can eternally guide and protect those who take refuge in him. Engaged Buddhists connect themselves to the faultlessly transmitted Dharma Lineage, which stretches back to Shyakyamuni Buddha who became enlightened. Our commitment is beyond the narrow intellectual concepts of time and space, and we know that as we approach or turn back from Enlightenment, we will transmigrate into other realms, either higher or lower. In fact, most Buddhists practice specifically to break the perpetual cycle of rebirths so that we can return to the spiritual source.

Siddharta

Siddharta

Some scholars refer to the Cathars as ‘Western Buddhists.’  This is ironic as Buddhism is quite widely practiced in the west these days, and has, as in my case, superseded Christianity. This is not to say that the original teachings of the messenger or prophet Jesus are not superb, but with time and cultural distortion, and the tightening of the material grip on societies, they seem to have been outgrown. In contrast to the Christian, the approach Buddhists make to the spiritual world, the invisible world, with the correct protections and aspirations, is positive. There may be dark corners in our spirits, which need to be sluiced with the lights of virtue and merit, with purification, but our appreciation of karma, the injurious actions of our ancestors and of our own, motivates us to cleanse our negative karma.  The Cathars too believed in karma necessarily because of rebirth, and worked to purify themselves during their human sojourn.

karma: dependent conditions

karma

In 1244, after the Albigensian Crusade, which lasted 9 months and claimed the cities of Beziers, Narbonne, Carcassonne and Toulouse, the Cathars surrendered. That year, on March 16th,  over 200 of them were brought down from the hilltop fortress Montsegur and thrown on to a huge pyre to be burned. On March 14th before they surrendered, they held a religious ceremony and made the prophecy that the ‘Church of Love’ as they referred to it would be proclaimed in 1986, 700 years later. Their own words on that occasion best describe their creed:

Cathar Creed at the Fountain 1244

Cathar Creed at the Fountain 1244

The Church of Love

It has no fabric, only understanding.  It has no membership, save those who know that they belong.  It has no rivals, because it is non competitive.  It has no ambition; it seeks only to serve. It has no boundaries for nationalisms are unloving.  It is not of itself because it seeks to enrich all groups and religions.  It acknowledges all great teachers of all ages who have shown the truth of love.  Those who participate, practice the truth of love in all their beings. There is no walk of life or nationality that is a barrier.  Those who are, know.  It seeks not to teach but be and, by being, enrich.  It recognizes that the way we are may be the way of those around us because we are the way. It recognizes the whole planet as a Being of which we are part.  It recognizes that the time has come for the supreme transmutation, the ultimate alchemic act for conscious change of the ego into a voluntary return to the whole.  It does not proclaim itself with a loud voice but in the subtle realms of loving.  It salutes all those in the past who blazed the path but have paid the price.  It admits no hierarchy or structure, for no one is greater than the other.  Its members shall know each other by their deeds and being, and by their eyes and by no other outward sign save the fraternal embrace.  Each one will dedicate their life to the silent loving of their neighbor and environment and the planet, while carrying out their task however exalted or humble.  It recognizes the supremacy of the great idea, which may only be accomplished if the human race practices the supremacy of love. It has no reward to offer here or in the hereafter save that ineffable joy of being and loving. Each shall seek to advance their cause of understanding, doing good by stealth and teaching by example. They shall hear their neighbor, their community and the Planet.  They shall feel no fear, feel no shame, and their witness shall prevail over all odds.  It has no secret, no Arcanum, no initiation save of the true understanding of the power of love and that, if we want it to be so, the world will change, but only if we change ourselves first.

Today, there are many Europeans, born in the 40s and 50s, who feel that they are the martyred Cathars of Languedoc reborn. They believe that they exist now as the result of a powerful commitment made at the end of a previous life to return to make a significant contribution towards the spiritual rehabilitation of this planet and its people. As mentioned in an earlier article, during my time living in Languedoc, I had many mystical dreams and feelings, which I could not ignore. I was born in the 50s and lived in Languedoc in the nineties at the commencement of the new era of Catharism!

The Church of Love

The Church of Love

Three years ago as a result of elevation and spiritual guidance as a Nirvana Buddhist, I received a strict chastisement from my spiritual superiors for neglecting and criticising my Christian origins.  I was so shocked, immediately repenting with remorse. Now, a little more wisdom and research into the community of present-day Cathars, leads me to accept that perhaps I was critical of the Roman Church (the basis of modern Christianity) because it has distorted the original teachings of God. Now, I strongly believe my origins to be Cathar, and my affiliation, the Church of Love. This embracement of all original faiths was a huge realization handed to me by my compassionate Buddhist gurus and guides. My main mission nowadays as a Buddhist is to bring all original and true faiths into the stable light of harmony. The Buddha in his final teaching, the Mahaparinirvana sutra, said,

 All rivers of faith flow into the great Ocean of Nirvana.

Interfaith Harmony and Unity

Interfaith Harmony and Unity

Touch your Heart: daily meditation on Facebook

sunset-over-tokyo-bay-ordination-complete1.jpg

Touch Your Heart: daily meditation

If you would like to have insights into the world beyond your ordinary mind, please visit the ‘Touch Your heart’ page on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/stepbackfromsamsara

Meditation for today 14th December, 2013
Sit comfortably wherever you are and soften the gaze of your eyes. Consciously put aside all your worldly concerns for the day ahead and focus your attention on your navel chakra. Read the following …See More

The Protector of the Earth

The Protector of the Earth

heavens 1

The Protector of the Heavens

5: Staking your life for your faith

Cathar martyrs

The Cathars were persecuted unmercifully for many years, their lack of materialistic concerns and their adaptability leading them to flee easily across central and western Europe. Like the Jews, they seem to have been the scapegoat for mainstream European societies dominated by Catholicism and Christian Orthodoxy. It seems that both groups sought no public support or approval, but instead followed their faith, and did not indulge in chasing power or political interests.

This has also been the case with Buddhist groups throughout history. Buddhists who travelled the Silk Roads to spread the Buddhist teachings eastwards from India were persecuted, their images destroyed by Muslims, their monasteries destroyed forcing them to take up lay lives. As recently as 2001, the giant Buddhist statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan were dynamited by Muslims because they were deemed idols and Islam forbids the worship of any idols. Tibet and Vietnam, formerly Buddhist countries, continue to be persecuted to this day – Buddhist property confiscated, monks thrown into prison and left there for decades. I could write a book about Buddhist persecution, and may well do so soon.

Bamiyan BuddhasDharma crisis

I believe this ferocious discrimination is due to two characteristics, which Cathars and Buddhists have in common. First, both groups are pacifist, believing passionately in the preservation of all living things and the indivisibility of the invisible world of spirits and the visible world. Second, their faith is pure, unadulterated, and they are willing to stake their lives for it; in other words, they are completely unafraid of death and pain.  We know that the intensity of prayer practiced by the Cathars eventually caused them to own up to their faith and be burned at the stake. Buddhists even today (several examples in Tibet and Vietnam) are willing to self-immolate themselves rather than renounce their Buddhist faith. Both religious groups practiced /practise without disturbing those who were/are not interested and were/are undeterred by disappointments or threats.

As an engaged Buddhist myself, I can state here and now that I would stake my life for my faith.  I could not live without it and I see no point in keeping it a secret. Why you may ask? This is a huge question, but briefly I will stake my life because of my vows to lead all sentient beings to liberation, and because I put that commitment at the very centre of my life every moment, placing my own needs and comforts in second place.  It is a scientifically proven fact that our human bodies are 90% water and entirely expendable.  But our spirits, souls, call them what you will, are completely indestructible.  Pain is a sensation that exists only in the intellectual/cognitive mind, so if we work to subdue and empty ourselves of ego, we empty ourselves of all suffering.

The Cathars were hounded until several hundred of them were trapped in Montsegur (nowadays in Ariège, south-western France) one of the hilltop fortresses. They were surrounded by troops and eventually given the choice of renouncing their faith and converting to Roman Catholicism, or burning at the stake. One famous Perfect, Peter Autier, spent 9 months in prison in Toulouse, but was defiant to the every end. Once tied to the stake he asked if he may convert and console all those present to Catharism. His request was denied and he died. William Belibaste, a perfect remembered for his excellent sermons, evaded being caught and led a double life in order to keep the faith alive, in Catalonia. But a newcomer, Arnold Sicre, joined his community, and after a year asked for help in finding his rich aunt and sister to console them.  Belibaste helped him, but it was a trap and Belibaste was quickly arrested. Sicre continued to betray other Cathars for the rest of his life.

Montsegur

Montsegur

In Chapter 19 of the Mahaparinrivana Sutra, the final teachings of the Buddha, Kashyapa, a disciple of the Buddha who is preparing to spread the final teachings after the Buddha’s physical death, says:

O World-honoured One!  I will peel off my skin to use as paper, draw my blood as ink, extract my marrow as water, and splinter my bone for use as a pen.  I will then transcribe the Mahaparinirvana sutra.

This attitude is indicative of the determination of people of faith.  They do threaten shallow and corrupted believers, bringing out the fear of the passionless, the indecisive, the weak, or those whose spiritual background is darkened and intransigent. Sadly, there are people who are spiritually asleep or consumed by evil spirits, which lead them to destruction and condemnation of the intrinsic good in all people.

On a personal note, during my time practicing as a Buddhist in the land of Cathars, I encountered persecution. The local people were devout Catholics and so were not open to my strange practices. And my partner at the time, a rather fearful agnostic, was extremely hostile towards my practice. I too was interrogated and told to snap out of my stupidity, and in extremis, my sutras were destroyed and my shrine damaged.  It was as if we were living in a microcosm of the crusade against the Cathars. Eventually, despite working hard to generate loving kindness and tolerance, I was forced to leave the Pyrenees and the relationship.

Again the final teaching of the Buddha, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, chapter 5 says,

One who neither gains the acquaintance of a king, minister, or wealthy person for their own benefit nor excessively praises those who make offerings, but behaves appropriately and does not tolerate those who break the precepts or act in a way contradictory to the Dharma, can thus be called a master who abides by the precepts and protects the Dharma.

It is simple to stake one’s life for the great good of humanity. In Buddhism, the precepts are all-encompassing, as are the rules of moral discipline of all religious teachings:

I vow to refrain from killing

I vow to refrain from stealing

I vow to refrain from sexual misconduct

I vow to refrain from lying

I vow to refrain from becoming intoxicated

If we abide strictly by these moral codes while filling our lives with loving compassion for all sentient beings, regardless of whether they are friend of foe, then we aim to respect and preserve all life.

The Cathars lived according to the 10 commandments which are very similar to the above. St Bernard of Clarivaux (1090-1153) a famous Catholic leader of the period said of them:

Bernard de Clairvaux

Bernard de Clairvaux

If you question the heretic (the Cathar) about his faith, nothing is more Christian; if about his daily converse, nothing more blameless; and what he says he proves by his actions….. As regards his life and conduct, he cheats no one, pushes ahead of no one, does violence to no one.  Moreover, his cheeks are pale with fasting; he does not eat the bread of idleness; he labours with his hands and thus makes his living.  Women are leaving their husbands, men are putting aside their wives, and they all flock to those heretics!  Clerics and priests, the youthful and the adult among them, are leaving their congregations and churches and are often found in the company of weavers (Cathars often took up this craft) of both sexes.

Indeed, the Perfect detested killing of any kind, were wholly vegetarian apart from eating fish sometimes, and they avoided in principle eating any by-product of sexual reproduction. War and capital punishment were condemned, most unusual in medieval Europe where peacetime was rare, and in a world where few could read, they rejected oath-taking.

If you accept that your spirit is indestructible and that therefore it could be said that you are an angel temporarily residing in a vessel of flesh, it is easy to stake your human life on the glorious nourishment provided by faith.  After all, how can we become obsessively attached to our bodies of flesh when it is certain that they will decline and perish like all things born or seeded. It is only the ignorant ego mind that views the impermanent as permanent. The heart beating inside each of us is wise and knows its fate.

Once we accept the reality, truly putting aside the phantasy of reality we have each created in our minds, then we will be truly and enduringly happy, and can live out our human days with joy, devotion and humility.

Tathagata

Finally, as we are each the culmination of our ancestors and their achievements, we need to remember that we living are the ancestors of those to come. Every moment needs to be spent in deep meditation so that we are sure to hand down our pure nature to our descendants both of the flesh and of the teachings that we follow. The good Buddhist does not worry about mistakes made in the past as much as the potential mistakes of the future. Thus, the way we live, the detail of our morality and sincerity, is vital to our karmic lineage. After all, good is good. It’s that simple.

4: Cathars and Buddhists: Consolation

ancestors

The Cathars had an unusual view of consoling or being consoled which greatly inspired me during my time living and training in Roussillon. The Consolamentum was extremely liberating for those who received it, purifying them entirely so that they could live an angelic life liberating others. They had no doubt whatsoever that the body was a temporary resting place for the spirit which provided refuge and time to learn to love unconditionally, and to allow the ego to lose its dominance over the spirit.

Buddhists likewise train hard to realize that although the body is temporary, it can be used skillfully to work to liberate others. A favorite Burmese Buddhist teacher of mine, Ajahn Chan, taught the following:

Ajahn Chan

Ajahn Chan

 

When the body is born it doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s like our meditation hall. After it’s built spiders come to stay in it. Lizards come to stay in it. All sorts of insects and crawling things come to stay in it. Snakes may come to live in it.  Anything may come to live in it.  It’s not only our hall; it’s everything’s hall.

These bodies are the same.  They aren’t ours.  People come to stay in and depend on them.  Illness, pain and aging come to reside in them and we are merely residing along with them. When these bodies reach the end of pain and illness, and finally break up and die, that is not us dying.  So don’t hold on to any of this.

These direct words somehow give permission for us to become one with the Universe, with god, Buddha, Paul McCartney, or whoever your spiritual source is. We are not separate in any way.  It is pure love, our natural essence, which amalgamates with that of all sentient beings, and  this emptiness or consoled state is the key to total and lasting happiness. We should lavish every moment of our human refuge on purifying our body speech and mind so that we can lead all sentient beings to the other shore of Nirvana.

For the Cathars, death was simply a veil marking the end of the human part of the eternal journey of the spirit. And for me as a Nirvana Buddhist in the Shinnyo line of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, I practise with my ancestors, consoling them constantly, and increasing their comfort and happiness. If they are eternally happy, then so am I. It is moving to realize through special veneration of my ancestors and related spirits that I would be nothing without their wisdom and human lessons learned, and that they are ever-present, watching over me intensely.

ancestors 2

In Japan, it is fairly normal for people to revere and celebrate their ancestors,  though they may not be on any particular spiritual pathway. This has been greatly inspiring coming originally from a Christian background in which the dead are usually kept at arm’s length, and life revolves around the vibrance of youth. In Japan, as in other Asian countries, ancestors are never forgotten. Their passing to the spiritual world is celebrated at regular intervals with formal ceremonies and warm-hearted gatherings of family members. Even the younger generation believe fully in their ancestors and want to show their gratitude in numerous ways. (Please see previous article:

https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/o-bon-the-return-of-the-spirits-to-the-visible-world/)

Westerners are often reluctant to allow their feelings about ancestors free, somehow denying that their human form and spirituality emanates from their lineage. When I first started to pracitse as a Japanese Buddhist, I was roughly awoken when my devotion to the Buddha was directly attributed to the devotion of my Roman Catholic grandmother. It was at this moment that I became moved to care for the spirits and lovingly accept the merit of all my ancestors back to the beginning of time, as we know it. This gave new depth to my faith, and made me able to empty my ego as waves of incredible gratitude for their sacrifices and kindness consumed me.

ancestors 3

On 4th December, I will be ordained as a Shinnyo priest. It has been indicated that without the religious devotion of my Christian, Buddhist and pre-Buddhist ancestors, along with my other lives as spiritual seekers, I would not have been able to encounter this destiny. In the same way, for the Cathars, their virtue handed down through the ages, enabled them to elevate spiritually and to get increasingly closer to god until the veil could be lifted and they would become one.

To express this in a more mundane way, I believe that we not only inherit our DNA from ancestors, but also their merit and negative karma. The merit can easily be polished by embodying a religious teaching or following a spiritual guide, and the negative karma can be systematically purified by working to liberate all sentient beings at the same time as having immense gratitude for our human lineage. Sincere gratitude and renunciation leave little time for pursuing human desires and being contaminated by ignorance, greed and hatred.

Lescaux