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.

 

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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 Origin of Meditation: Making Bonds with the Universe

I’ve just published an article in Meditationmag.com: http://meditationmag.com/buddhism/origin-meditation-making-bonds-universe/

Please visit this wonderful magazine. Kevin Ellerton, the editor, is doing such a great job in spreading the magic of meditation. Meditation is the greatest resource foreach of us in the secular and plural age!

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The Buddha, founder of Buddhism, 2600 years ago made it clear that we should create and maintain bonds with the Universe even though we have been born into human life. This was a common notion in ancient India before his time.

The Universe encompasses everything that exists, according to our current understanding: spacetime, forms of energy and the physical laws that relate them, history, philosophy, mathematics and logic. Buddhists refer to the Universe, both visible and invisible phenomena, as the Dharma.

The Cathars (medieval Christian mystics pronounced heretics by the Church of Rome and exterminated) also were constantly connected to the spiritual or invisible world although they strived to liberate all beings from the physical world of suffering. They regarded 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 appearing in the visible world of form. In both systems of living out the lessons and struggles of human life (Christianity) or samsara (- the world of human suffering-Buddhism), we aspire to make the transition back into the spiritual, formless world, and if possible, to take all living beings with us.

The Cathars, who were vegetarians apart from eating fish occasionally, prescribed the endura, a form of ritual suicide brought about by refraining from taking any food or water as death approached, preceded by the administering of the consolamentum, a special cleansing meditation or blessing. In Buddhism, diet is always key 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 are unable to function at subtle levels if these winds are not balanced.

So, in both schools, 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 so as to be able to be a channel for such universal energy. They provide an opportunity for us to fine-tune ourselves in order to receive the countless messages and signs from invisible sources surrounding us.

 

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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. I was certain there was much more to it 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.

My dream of being touched by the mystical came steadily true through the Buddhist pathway and gnostic traditions such as Catharism and also Sufism (mystical/Esoteric Islam). In Japan, I am presently involved with the Nirvana Teachings of Shinnyo-en, Esoteric (transmitted orally from Master to pupil) Shingon Buddhism. These are the very last teachings the Buddha gave on his deathbed when he revealed a new aspect of the teachings just before he died which took his disciples and followers by storm.

He announced that every single being, regardless of spiritual training, gender, or any other classifications, is endowed with Buddha Nature, the seed for enlightenment (perfection). If we live life in a sincere way putting others before ourselves, the rain of Dharma will water that seed and it will ripen in time.

This changed the direction of Buddhism forever because everyone universally had the potential for enlightenment in their own lifetime, not only those who gave up their everyday lives as householders to become monks. The best place to become enlightened is in everyday life, here-and-now.

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In Esoteric Buddhism, the mandala is the traditional way of mapping out the Dharma lineage which is passed down through the ages from the original Buddha Shākamuni, about 2600 years ago. The mandala represents the whole Universe and if you are correctly connected to that lineage known as the Dharma Stream, there is nothing and no-one outside you, no ‘us’ and ‘them!’ You are actually positioned in the dead centre of the universe.

Buddhists strive to release themselves from attachment to objects and people because attachment means separation – it 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 our worldly desires are extinguished and it is said that we have crossed the great Ocean of Nirvana to the other shore.

In Japan, there is a strong tradition of mountain ascetics – those who deprive themselves of luxuries and comforts in order to quieten their egos, shugendo in Japanese. Yamabushi (Jpn: one who ‘likes mountains’) follow a special doctrine combining Esoteric Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto.

These practitioners are usually solitary and today mostly lay (non-monastic). Emphasis is placed on physical feats of endurance in the open air where the trainees live in the untouched forests of rural Japan. Their goal is to be touched by supernatural powers and the universe through such practices.

 

waterfall training

 

Yamabushi (photograph deliberately blurred for privacy) 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 messages. My own masters did this practice regularly, as did many other key teachers in Shingon Buddhism.

The Cathars also had a strong reverence for and involvement with nature and the Universe. The sacred caves of Sabarthes in Languedoc, south-eastern France, are known as the ‘doors to Catharism.’ Part of initiation as a Parfait (a Cathar Perfect) was to climb a steep path leading up to these caves (a practice common also in shugendo) to the Cave of Bethlehem.

There were four important elements inside the caves:

1. a square niche in the wall which could have conceivably contained a mandala or manual of some kind;

2. a rough granite altar;

3. a pentagram carved into the wall, possibly symbolising the 5 elements of the universe (a common symbol in Esoteric Buddhism);

4. 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 dreams in which Cathars appeared as Buddhist monks. There are so many similarities.

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As mentioned, 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 the wisdom of the Dharma stream orally. At this moment, you become united with the Universe. 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.

Although many different spiritual traditions employ meditation in their training, it could be said that the notion of making ‘bonds with the universe’ began with the young Buddha’s first experience of meditation. Prince Siddhārtha was 7 years of age and already showing promise in his studies to succeed his father and become King of the Sākya 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 (rose apple) tree and soon shifted 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.

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In my own meditations which bring together many coloured threads, 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 and that I can breathe as one with all beings 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, able to act 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, and swing from stars and planets. It is only the mundane mind that hems us into its synthetic reality, imprisoning us away from the natural glory of the great Universe.

 

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images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

 

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Linden Thorp is a teacher/author (both non-fiction/fiction)/editor (academic/general/religious) living and working in Japan. She is an ordained Japanese Esoteric Buddhist priest (Shinnyo-en), Alexander Teacher, Sound/Music Creativity Therapist, Meditation facilitator, Indigenous Peoples’ Advocate and is involved in the Cathar revival. Her mission is world peace and harmony. Her religious pathway has been from Christianity, through Hinduism, Islam, Sufism, Humanism, Catharism, to schools of Hinayana, Vājiriyana, and Mahayāna Buddhism, and so to Oneness and Self-Realization.

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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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

Innocent Voices Conveying Crucial Messages

The story of how I wrote my Australian work Easy-Happy-Sexy: on the Twelfth Day

the writer

As an author, I sometimes find myself between two worlds: that populated by the hard facts with visual proof told in R.T. (Real Time) or man-time as I like to call it; and that of the spirit, invisible, unbidden, in need of no proof.  The former is championed by frightened people of knowledge, out of contact with their fire and their true nature, who argue and disturb people in the name of the so-called truth; the latter champions speak quietly from their experience, not knowledge, and have no argument with anyone but simply wish innocently to share their view of the world, to enrich, to edify others.

What should I do if I have repeated dreams and take on wholesale the strong flavour of something invisible beyond knowledge, something I cannot pin down into facts and justification?  I could stay quiet and for the most part do, but in some cases, I can use the literary or artistic vehicle to convey a crucial message out loud.  People listen to art whereas they often stuff their fingers in their ears when it comes to politics, religion or humanitarian common sense, all of which are often based on the much over-rated ‘knowledge.’

25 years ago I arrived in Alice Springs on my way to visit Ayer’s Rock, the aboriginal belly-button of the earth, and was unexpectedly selected to join a group project in the South Australian Desert. At the time, I had no idea that this experience would completely transform my life, but it did, and I have written about it quite innocently in my novel,Easy-Happy-Sexy (2013).  Some years after the experience, I had several very strange dreams, both waking and sleeping, about the tribal leader I had encountered briefly there called Ninija.  Quite soon after through the ether she initiated me into Desert Wisdom and became my spirit guide, and to this day she appears unbidden in my meditations and dreams, always addressing my higher self. 

Ninija indicated to me that developed peoples are in the process of rapidly destroying the Earth and each other and that it was time she told her story of the damage they had done to her people.  She appointed me as custodian of this story and set about relaying it to me through images, songs, and fables.  It tumbled out of me and I wrote it down in strangely disconnected notes which eventually I consolidated into Easy-Happy-Sexy.   There is no way I can prove this happened to me, so I ask my readers to take my word on it, and to listen avidly to the urgent message Ninija wanted me to convey to ‘my people,’ (people of the developed world).

I have no logical explanation as to why this happened or what my connection with these amazing tribal people is, but I do know for a fact that we who inhabit the visible or mortal world are our ancestors and that we are entrusted to carry forward our line. I strongly feel that my ancestors were once indigenous to Australia and have chosen me to convey this wisdom at this precarious time in human history.

Now you may say that every white English-speaker or speaker of European languages may expect to have ancestors who were involved in the migrations and exclusions from overcrowded Europe to various parts of the New World. But in my case, I feel the reverse happened.  By the same token, if we consider that the presence of aboriginal Australians has been detected as long ago as 40,000 years and that our ancestors may stretch back to that prehistoric epoch, then why is it not possible that I have traces of them in me, modern citizen of the developed world that I am?

The objective of my group experience in the South Australian Desert was to escort Ninija and the surviving elderly and children of her tribe back into Aboriginal territory in the very centre of Australia so that they could once again pick up their traditional life.  I actually experienced some beautiful aspects of that traditional way which was being revived, and I felt so at home with them: they made good sense in terms of the Earth and its inhabitants.  Many of their traditional ways are truly ancient, stretching far back long before they had encountered white-fella’s concepts of ‘time’ and ‘space,’ to an epoch of harmony and the flourishing of the Earth. This Golden Era when humans were young and innocent and lived closely with nature is how things were meant to be before arrogance and power took hold and we allowed negative emotions to rule us. The visible was just a small part of the invisible then so we were energy-sensitive – able to predict the future and tell the past, to know each others minds, to live outside concepts and theories, but most of all able to commune directly with our ancestry and the spiritually-evolved beings who walked among us.   

Recently white settlers in Australia are arguing about who actually is from indigenous stock, bringing discrimination into the most natural and ancient scenario of all.  The native people have lived peacefully and harmonically in Australia for 40,000 years.  Talk about Hubris! Arrogance!  Discrimination!  Going where the limelight is! Etc.  And the so-called white writers can only write about native life as observers if they insist on observing the facts and staying within charted and visible territory.  I have ventured outside these boundaries into the vast invisible world and through my spiritual awareness am certain that I have, as mentioned, native Australian DNA somewhere in my being which laid me open to becoming an advocate for the rights of native peoples in general, and to awakening to my Australian spirit guide Ninija.

About a year ago, I started to conceptualise a non-fiction work which came out of another such spiritual and life-changing experience of the Cathars, medieval mystic Christians exterminated as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church. Once again I found myself transplanted to the Eastern Pyrenees, the chain of peaks which has created a natural border between Spain and France, where I lived for about 6 years.  And once again, through a series of dreams, meditations and being touched by the potent spirit of that place where they were exterminated, I touched another thread in my ancestral line and realised that my relatives had been Cathar martyrs in that place. 

At the time, I was seriously practising the Buddhist teachings but had a vivid revelation that the Cathar beliefs were almost identical and that they, in turn, dovetailed beautifully with the creation spirituality of the Aboriginals.  My spiritual life became ecstatic watched over not only by the Buddha and all his emanations, but the highly-evolved Cathars martyrs and Ninija and her Desert wisdom too.  Tuning into one’s legacy through meditation and awareness of a higher being is available to all of us, but it seems that only spiritual seekers grasp the opportunity to accept the visible and invisible worlds as one. Only fear of the unknown, the unseen, leads us to throw up a wall between them. After all, the human race is innately good, and it is generally agreed that the positive virtues of trust and acceptance are greater than the negative of suspicion and defiance.

My feet of clay as a creator could easily be unearthed by the knowledge-dependent R.T. brigade, but I will not allow it.  If only they really understood the fragile nature of the notions of time and space, and opened to the idea of three thousand dimensions instead of just three.  If only they had for a moment walked outside their concepts and theories, stood back and put their weapons down, and examined their motivation for expressing their ‘mere’ opinions.  For what are opinions and knowledge when compared with experience and insight and the knowledge that we human beings are one with the glorious universe that gives us our lives? 

We cannot embody opinions and knowledge. They are specks of dust, mere material floating in the sunlight, compared with our magical essence of love and light.

creation heores

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: 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: 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