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.

 

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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 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 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.

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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 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 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).