The Human Papers: an extract

 

greater awareness

Monk of the World

“They have always told me that the first time is the worst, so I should cultivate fear before I jump or enter the freezing torrent inch by inch.  That makes me smile.  They also firmly assure me that to talk to myself indicates madness! Ha!

I was told take this orange and eat it ‘only when you are alone,’ but I protested, saying, ‘I am never alone because I am part of the universe.  I am not separate or different.’

I tried to explain that the shiny peel of the fruit I turned slowly in my hand as I spoke was my skin, its microscopic pores allowing the inside of the fruit out and the outside in.  I said, ‘this fruit can breathe just like me. This concentration of the pungent and dazzling essence of “orange” was made visible exactly to make our human lives possible.  Its heart of sparkle and freshness is my heart too.’

But the subject was quickly changed to something banal and I was condemned as a mad eccentric!  

‘Alone’ is a human excuse, a weakness, an inability to accept that one is not an island. Thinking that we are ‘alone,’ ‘solitary,’ ‘unique’ is the sheer fantasy of a deluded arrogant mind. Indeed, thought itself is a dead thing which disconnects us from the universe. 

At this moment my critics seeing me standing waist-deep in this deluge would ask indignantly, ‘How can you stand the racket of the water in torrents, let alone stand under them. You seem to welcome the pelting of its icy dollops on your head?’

They are afraid because they have made themselves separate, aloof from nature’s tears of joy. I raise my open hands eagerly towards the cascade to connect with other universal evidence which is identical to me.  Ah!  There I go!  There is no ‘me.’” 

The monk of the world splashes the surface aggressively, sometimes momentarily angry that he has become flesh with all its conditions, its catapults and trip wires. But it is only a lightning flash of what completely consumes and disables most humans.  At these minute incidences of human anger, he knows overwhelmingly that overcoming this is his mission, his very mission.  He must not get tricked, must not fall into the trance that most flesh-dwellers fall into with alacrity, but that also he must never deny his blessed flesh.  It is always a source of sunshine and joy to him with its ever-changing texture, it’s hot and cold spots, its expanding and contracting, dilating and retracting, its inner winds and tides. Planetary. Wandering. This shocks other celibate clerics whose flesh is extinct.

The moment in his childhood when he sat on the deserted beach of his homeland and the sea and sky became one, floats peacefully by before his eyes in the watery chaos.  He knew then that the horizon was just a device of the mind and that the blue and the green were not separate, not water and air distinct from each other.  Their blue and green actually flowed in his own eyes and arteries. And he felt sad for all the people around him who misunderstood their existence and in so doing created a perpetual drama, swinging helplessly between heaven and hell, manufacturing fear and pride from their factories.  Without these fabrications, life was timeless, limitless, positive and exuberant.  

‘The water fall is stingingly silent now and yet deafening at the same time. But I am no longer the listener.  What the trapped would perceive, do perceive, as slapping icy pain, assault, arctic torture, is in truth the universe dancing on my skull and shoulders.  It in itself will never break me, but the thought of it, the fear and anticipation of it might, I realize.

The taste of blood comes from the searing cold pellets scratching and chafing my skin, but how do I know it is blood, or that it is my blood.  No, I cannot know that. It is not my mission to identify with this form I am lodging in to complete my mission, to rise to my next evolution. The manifestation of my vibrations only exists for others, their eyes and ears recurring the birth and death of my flesh.

Audience

The two trapped peers watch from above.  They must always observe this exotic creature asking how he came to exist, jealous of his determination and worst of all of his power. Everything he has touched has benefited and all he has encountered have loved and attended to him. They shout loudly to each other above the din below.

‘How many thousands of years has he been here? And why does he make us feel so insecure?’

‘Perhaps he’s a gongen or god of the mountain forests? He never seems to eat or sleep, only to go in search of beautiful women to woo and flirt with, and to conquer. A shaven-headed being has never been seen in these parts before.’

‘Con, have you ever cut your hair since you became a man?’

‘No, never. Because I know it’s the source of my manhood. That I will get many children with this strength that I cultivate each day with rare herbs and wild garlic oil.’ He caresses it as he speaks sliding his fingers along its length hanging down his back.

‘Why doesn’t he realize that do you think? He just shaves his off with his sword the moment it starts to sprout while staring into a still pool. Or does he know a secret we don’t? Do you think we have been tricked, Doi?’

They both simultaneously lift off their conical straw hats, pulling down the chin strap and letting them float in the steaming bubbling pool they sit dangling their feet into to warm them. Meanwhile, still keeping a watchful eye on their bald charge, they adjust their top knots, gathering the fallen hairs and tightening the leather tie.  Their special lacquered combs are always kept at hand to scrape back fine hairs that fly away when it is so freezing. Hair, after all, is their future happiness.  They must look after it well. 

After checking their top knots and replacing their warmed bamboo hats which bring a smile to their icy cheeks, they simultaneously undo the ties of their top robes, their several under robes, and finally unwrap the silk binding shielding their withered penises from the cold. They are also their future happiness and the source of their descendants so they must tend them carefully.  And at this point, they turn away from each other for privacy and to do what they must individually. 

They each have different beliefs about their body fluids: Con that he should never let sperm escape from his body in order to preserve his essence for forthcoming generations; and Doi that he should let out his sperm every day so that the amount he produces will increase like a bottomless well. So, there they sit, back to back, peeking down into the deep watery valley below, one breathing deeply to make his penis wither even more and to enhance his supply of sperm deep inside him, thanking the ancestors for the cold weather which makes it so much easier, but secretly dreading the hot summer; and Con, caressing and pulling to make himself larger and larger, battling against the freezing cold which touches his pinkening scrotum, occasionally stopping to warm his hands in the steaming water, then continuing on, willing the moment of ejaculation to come. 

Neither of them has a thought or erotic image in their heads, no flashing picture show of slow unveiling or forbidden scenes because humans have not fallen from godhood so nothing has been hidden or become unknown. The evil and distraction of the secular have still not developed so their minds are truly pure and if an impure sensation is detected, they tell each other immediately and help each other to realize that they must not interfere, must not try to go upriver even if unconsciously. It is simply their duty to tend their hair and their manhood because they are told that this is their mission in life, to preserve the generations of their line making them strong and wise. 

Unlike the smiling apparition below in white blood-stained robes standing directly beneath the waterfall waist-deep in the shallow pool, they have been instructed what to do and how to do it to preserve their generations, to hand down the wisdom, to be a respected member of their community. They are all practical, loyal and devoted, while he is ethereal, unidentified with anything or any idea, flowing downwards with the torrent and going where he must.

For both Con and Doi, pleasure and duty are indiscernible. Their clear mission is to follow the wise. They must not be different or stand out in any way.  Con is calm, reduced, his inner storehouse full and potent, his heart somehow warmed and reassured by the concentration of energy down into his feet: he is relieved in one way.  Doi is also calm now, breathing quite quickly and feeling the warmth of his sexual energy rising and then falling. His tide comes well in, crashes hard on the beach with a slapping noise audible to Con despite the waterfall din, and then ebbs away and he sighs and shudders.  He is relieved in another way.  They turn to each other now and check and admire the wilt of their respective vegetables, Doi wiping and commenting on the thickness and quantity of his produce.

‘There! Duty done. And all the warmer for it too!’

They wrap themselves away, binding their testicles separately to their scrotums in a matter of fact way, lifting a leg or a buttock to make sure the silk is straight and does not later irritate or chafe them as they climb and descend the forest slopes in pursuit of the ice-bather. Then they pull down their various layers, straighten their dresses and check themselves once more, settling down to observe in silence, turning their satisfied gaze to the waterfall. But in simultaneous tension, they guffaw that the creature has gone.  Vanished!  Not a trace!

They cautiously inch down the steep path to look for traces of him.  The ice is thick in places but they lower themselves down with bendable bamboo holding onto each other.  Once standing at the edge of the pool shivering, holding their ears, they comb the surface for a trace of his blood, a shred of his white robe, a scatter of stones as he staggered out stiffly to run for cover.

They look at each other dumbfounded.  Perhaps they also had dreamed they saw him, as others reported they had done. 

cold water ablution

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forward to my new book: Glorious Death: Glorious Life

Buddhists and Cathars jacket

author’s forward

Glorious Death? Human beings are curious of and frightened by their own death and the death of others they love. Death is taboo to most of us, and it is understandable that the complete unknown is terrifying so we evade it, clinging to what we know even more tightly.  But I will show you in this book that there is a way to understand and to embrace death, and that when we do our lives are transformed. 

Glorious Life?  Life is both predictable and unpredictable; both happy and sad; both satisfying and dissatisfying, but what is certain is that we do not have control of it.  Like setting sail on a stormy sea, we are at once battered by waves and wind, and the next becalmed or shrouded in dense fog. However, acceptance of our impermanence is the master key to dealing with such fluctuations; we need to have complete mastery of our sails and rudder and to learn to sail with the weather, into the weather, instead of against it. Realizing that all the challenges that the wild ocean throws up are spiritual tests and messages provided for us to overcome and interpret, allows us to strap in and actualize our human potential. 

Buddhists? Cathars? People of the Earth? There are so many spiritual pathways available to us in these days of diversity, but I have discovered that although they may have different appearances and structures, they are all reaching for the same lasting happiness and joy. They are all about mastering our restless fearful minds. The serenity and wisdom of the Buddhist way are well known.

The way of the Cathars (the Good), a medieval group of Christian mystics in Europe branded as heretics by the Church of Rome because of their spiritual beliefs, may not be so well-known because they were exterminated by the close of the 14th century. 

But now is the time of the revival they predicted 700 years later at a time when the Earth and its people are rapidly deteriorating.  The Cathar Creed is the perfect blueprint for us to fully realize that we special humans with our essence of pure love are not aliens here on Earth, but we are the good way for the Earth and its community to heal. 

People of the Earth? The surviving indigenous tribes of our world possess the wisdom to save the planet and to live in harmony. In fact, they are the only people who dedicate themselves entirely as custodians of the Earth, protecting species and living in awe and respect for what the Great Mother Nature has supplied to allow humans to evolve spiritually. The natural world which we moderns have made ourselves separate from provides the perfect conditions for us to excel in love and light, and to bring our intrinsic goodness to bear.

All three of these traditions have brought me personally to a breath-taking watershed.  I look down into the great oceans and I have no fear of death or life, and I have come to surrender to the truth that the world we think we know is just a tiny part of the vast invisible world, the ocean of spirits of love. This is our origin.  In other words, I have fully awoken to the reality of the supremacy of universal love, and that everything else is simply weather. 

I write this work, not from a place of dazzling qualifications or impeccable experience, exhaustive scholarly research or struggles for recognition or advancement. In fact, I have deliberately put aside such accolades and indicators of success, and instead offer a different kind of intelligence and a world of perceptions unique to their expresser. They are testimony above all to being a human spirit. My motivation is to share my view of the world as honestly as I can, striving to write from my true nature which I have consciously worked to uncover during my enchanted life.

I find my true nature to be akin not to heroes or celebrities, state leaders or explorers, but more to mystics and castaways, contemplatives and psychics. In my short human life, I have found the great truth in my own mind as I create it for myself, for it does not exist without my creation. By virtue of our dazzling consciousness, human beings are extraordinary creators.

Living and working in Japan, I have been given a unique opportunity not only to experience an ancient and bizarre culture first-hand but also to question or reappraise many aspects of life that ‘westerners’ take for granted. As a person of faith, one of those aspects is exactly that, faith.  It is well-known that most Japanese reject notions of religious affiliation and look both uncomfortable and incredulous when asked in public what they truly believe in or at any mention of spirituality.

It has been said that Japanese have little imagination which on the surface may be attributable to their passivity and conformity to the greater social conscience.  It is the social system and customs which expect them to be self-contained, restrained, and so they are often reluctant to exchange true feelings or experiences. They are however skilled readers of the air once they have trust.

Therefore, when a westerner, usually born, brought-up and educated in a Christian, Moslem or Hindu atmosphere, talks freely about faith feelings, it seems that it is almost impossible for them to grasp another life course outside superficially secular Japan.  In fact, many Japanese are rarely if ever exposed to foreigners: there are still strong traces of xenophobia from the 250-year period of the country’s closure.

Surely faith has to be recognized by those who realize its personal importance?  Faith?  Conviction?  Trust? These are not qualities that come easily to many Japanese because there are so many types of fear running through their veins. There is also a formidable sense of national pride and duty under the skin, a sense that everything Japanese is best, superior. Here religion and spirituality are very much a social pursuit.  This is part of the necessity of belonging so that the countless temples (Buddhist) and shrines (Shintoist) double as community, culture, and mental health centres.

It is from my stance as a person with a commitment to the intrinsic power of the human race and with indestructible confidence in my own true nature, that I write this book.  My life is unimaginable to most mono-cultural and mono-linguistic Japanese – packing up two suitcases and leaving my ‘homeland’ to live in this land of endemic shyness and nationalism, sampling many spiritual teachings and alternative disciplines along my route, and so on.

You Japan, though we are now one, cannot imagine my life.  So, I dedicate this work to you.  It is a bringing out of the roots of my faith, my origins, and the process of my life as a spiritual seeker.  I want you to experience my invisible Christian upbringing and education, the purity of my lineage; in fact, the whole purpose of my being; to experience my brushes with Islam and Taoism, Sufism and Hinduism, Judaism and Jesuits in the multicultural environment of my birth.

This is my mission: to share my blessed life with a nation which Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism created a form of Chinese Buddhism especially for. He is recognized as, one of the very few Japanese who have attained a universality far beyond the limitations of nation or race.

In 1950, after the Pacific War was resolved and Japan was occupied by the United States, there was a purging of religion and education.  In Buddhist terms, it was called the Dharma Crisis, and through my involvement for 11 years with a Shingon Buddhist teaching, I have encountered this first-hand, although it has mostly been buried under recorded Japanese history of the period so it is difficult to research. Indeed, as a result of the government inquisition, all religious organizations, no matter what denomination, were scrutinized and subjected to a vicious authenticity check. 

The founder of the teaching was in fact thrown into prison for his deep convictions and faith with murderers and other capital criminals, his Buddhist instruments confiscated, and his qualifications and motivations examined microscopically.  This truly tested the faith of his small sangha (community), most of whom disassociated themselves, but those remaining deepened their conviction leading to worldwide strength of the teaching today. This Dharma Crisis was an enormous test of faith for the whole nation, and it has clearly engendered the moral and religious cowardice or seeming indifference that exists today as a result.

It seems that people, in general, are divided into two groups: those who need to know, and those who just-know. Those driven by fear and doubt, and those who are fearless and accepting. Those who think and those who do not. Those who consider the physical sun to be the only source of light in the world shining down on them, and those who are their own sun shining on themselves and others. Those who have taken up permanent residence in their minds, and those who have stepped on to the bridge of their mind and walked out into the limitless field of their consciousness.

As I write, I find myself conflicted and separated by trying to cater for both of these groups, not wanting to leave anyone out. For example, when writing about sincerity and secrecy in relation to the Cathar creed, The Church of Love, I have to describe the Cathar-Catholic history and struggle in great detail so that permanent residents can understand the background; meanwhile, I am longing to get to the spiritual centre of things, and do not want to be pinned down by the time-space continuum.

It feels as if there is a dense web of doubt and proof-seeking, a kind of contagion emanating from the thinkers, the limited, which threatens to draw me in.  So, I want to kick free of it and unconditionally dart around the infinite field which has no horizons or divisions, or tenant agreements, without any appointments or duration. I, therefore, have inserted small articles into the text so that the received knowledge concerning Buddhism, Catharism and Creation Spiritualism is available to those who need it.

Thinkers habitually make questions and construct opinions, which can potentially tyrannize a writer, blocking him or her from writing anything at all. They are natural fighters with an obsession with analysis and understanding on their terms, but they have the power to sway others in this modern life dominated by the intellect. Surely it must be an affliction to always need to justify and debate in order to be accepted, or to gain approval from the intelligentsia fashion leaders, but that is the norm in developed nations.

As Buddha is reputed to have said, People with opinions just go around bothering people all the time. What I write in this book is not opinion but insight gleaned from my spiritual training and awakening mind. And yet, I am unable to exclude this majority group because my message concerns them most of all. I have no dispute with anyone. (Buddha)

In the end, readers will make up their own minds about my Glorious Death: Glorious Life based on so many conditional factors. Therefore, writing anything using abstract symbols capable of such beauty, such harm, such hypnosis, such confusion, is a leap of faith into an abyss. I leap willingly.

And as for my own Glorious Death, the title of this book? I die every night in my dreams. It is no stranger to me.

Evenings had always been our special time back in the city, each one a life in its own right. It was usually initiated with flames and candles, and the opening of corks. Each a make or break, visible or invisible, irresistible attraction or cold polarization. Now, in the mountains, evenings ended in small deaths in the full darkness and silence. We two isolated souls, which might sting or flee at any moment, were entirely invisible here. (Veil, a novel of Cathars and Troubadours by Linden Thorp)

To wake each morning is a blessing, a new start, a stand against the fear that the human mind throws up like the jackknife of a bully.  During all my moments, the Veil of my physical death flutters above me, giving me glimpses of the invisible world beyond the bridge.

My motivation in writing this book then is to share my journey and to drop seeds into fertile earth.  As a Buddhist practitioner, I have already written a great deal, but it was my discovery of the universal Cathar Creed combined with the realization that I was a member of the 20th-century Cathar revival behind the scenes, that made me sit down and determine to create it.  I believe this perfect Creed entitled The Church of Love, will suit all beings regardless of their supposed level, caste, status, thinking or no-thinking in the visible world. All beings are perfectly equal in the invisible world.

In order to familiarize the territory before revealing the Creed, I share my blueprints and the spiritual schemes which have brought me to this Glorious point, this watershed.  Some would say perhaps that Buddhists, Cathars, and Indigenous Australians have no fear or doubt because they are at liberty to embody their beliefs. But I would go a step further and suggest that beliefs are dead thoughts, museum pieces, plastic flowers compared with the energy stream that these three breeds of spiritual giants stand knee deep in.

The energy flow of all humans without exception consists of light and love and humanity is itself the Church of Love.

The Church of Love recognizes that the way we (humans) are may be the way of those around us because we (humans) are the way.

Embodying love, being the universal energy of love, cannot be limited to inert thoughts or beliefs, or added to a tomorrow to-do list. It happens right now and here inside us.

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

The thingy must be gently held back outside the gap, prevented from its usual destructive, interfering activities. Then the love can flow freely, indiscriminately, for all of the people around you: like a fresh mountain stream cascading across everything in its path.

In this gap, this opening, you can use your borrowed human muscles and limbs to flow or swim into your day ahead. Staying in this fluid state you enter a crowded space, a train carriage, a shopping centre, or a classroom. With every square inch of your body and your energy field, you can live the divine love that you have eternally embodied once the conditioned mind is quiet.

Then you make eye contact only to love. You spread your lips in a smile only to love. You extend your arms and stride forward with your legs only to love. It is absolutely the only agenda your spirit has. Next, staying for as long as you can in that identity-less gap, just radiate into now and here, and others around you will radiate in response. They will use their eyes only to acknowledge your light and being.  They will spread their lips in a smile only to radiate.  They will extend their physical form in a sincere gesture of appreciation only for the light you bring. And they will expect nothing in return.

Inside this gap is where we belong. It is our true nature. There are no labels or identities, no hierarchies or structure. It is the flow and flux of our energy origins, the wide river of our indestructible human love and light.

Those who are, know.

(Church of Love, Cathar Creed, circa 1244)

 

March 2016, Osaka.     

 

Gratitude to Mariko Kinoshita for her gorgeous artwork

Article 7: The Land Immovable

immovable immovable 1

The assembly of distinguished monks and dignitaries under the twin Sala trees implored the Buddha for his final instructions and blessings about how bodhisattvas in the Land Immovable (in Nirvana) attain wisdom and become masters of great virtue. He states them from the clarity of his pure treasure mind, stipulating exactly those who may be reborn in the Land Immovable (Nirvana).

The important requirements are:

  • not to harm any living being
  • to abide by the precepts
  • to accept the Buddha’s teachings without question
  • to not steal from others but instead to give to others indiscriminately

He then gives instructions for living in human life and not monastic, which as we saw from the last article, was a departure from all previous teachings aimed at monastics. But now, by accepting lay Chunda’s offering and praising his sincerity above his knowledge or religious practice, he broadens the field so that all beings may become enlightened to Nirvana.

Chunda

He cites the building of living quarters and lodges for monastic practitioners, and the creation of Buddha images. If great joy is taken in these undertakings it is a sure way to be reborn. And those who do not seek worldly profit, or harbour fears or tell lies about themselves or others, are good candidates. Those who do not hurt or harm teachers of the Dharma, stay away from unwholesome circles, and try to harmonise with everyone they come into contact with in their interactions, will become enlightened. The Buddha stresses the importance of choosing and saying proper words to the appropriate people at all times.

reciting sutrasHe wishes his disciples to be able to stand whole-heartedly in the shoes of others, to share their pain and their joy, and for them to avoid making others worry or suffer through their behaviour. Also, to speak always in a kind way to their parents, and to avoid having wrong views of life in general. Reciting sutras every day for the welfare of others, and observing the precepts (8 precepts- the usual 5 and the 3 monastic precepts on certain days of the month) are essential.

legacyThen he implores his disciples not to violate the precepts in daily life, or to mingle with those who violate them, and he strongly requests that they should speak sternly to anyone who slanders the sutras. All Buddhist paraphernalia should be protected and cherished, and the ground around monasteries should be cleaned regularly. Those who give their wealth to Dharma teachers, and copy and recite the profound teachings of all Buddhas will, without doubt, be born again in the Land Immovable.

This is the legacy that the fading Buddha leaves, entrusting it to his disciples, and instructing them to go forwards into the future, scrupulously handing down the wisdom and compassion to their own disciples so that the Dharma can be preserved forever. This is also the legacy that we have been handed from our gurus and masters today. It has been flawlessly transmitted through the lineages and adapted to new cultures and epochs. Today, in the 21st century, Buddhists follow his last instructions still, though various schools emphasize earlier teachings.

turtleIt is a truly marvelous and auspicious privilege to be connected to the Buddhadharma, and especially so today when the beings in the world are mostly intent upon satisfying their own self-centred needs. To repeat a sentiment from an earlier article, encountering the Buddha’s teachings is tantamount to a sea turtle poking it’s head through a hole in a piece of drift-wood on the surface of a vast ocean (see Hearing the Dharma article). I personally could have no physical connection with Buddhism in working class northern Britain, and yet I heard a radio feature in my childhood introducing the rareness of encountering the Buddha’s teachings, and so developed an aspiration to find the Buddha and his Dharma. You can read more about my spiritual journey into Buddhism in ‘My Path So Far.” (see may article, http://wp.me/P3O6mn-i)

In respect of Holy Precepts, Holy meditation, and Holy wisdom, the Buddha a little later goes on to advise against straying from the correct path. He benefit seekerswarns that the precepts are to be followed for the happiness of others, not primarily our own, so that the Dharma may be protected for eternity. Neither must we vow to keep the precepts out of fear of falling into the lower realms of existence. They should not be practiced in order to gain benefits and to access the superb power to be liberated from all happiness. He warns too about not mindlessly heeding the precepts in order to avoid damage to your reputation.

True practice of the precepts then is to generate Bodhicitta, the force which will liberate all beings from suffering and protect and uphold the Dharma and the Dharma still to come, to enlighten the unenlightened, and coax people back to the sacred, their natural state. In one respect, as chronological time moves in a linear way always forward, we humans are getting further and further away from our original state of Grace. Once, before the Buddha’s time, Indian having already started to decline when he started to teach in this way, the divine was near at hand. It is said that in the Golden Era, the gods walked among men so there was no distance between the secular and the sacred, no dualism. All beings were sacred and quickly attained enlightenment. Nowadays, many of us are far from the sacred, and the divine spark which we are all blessed with, is virtually extinguished. We need to approach the sacred once again and polish our true nature. (see my article, http://wp.me/p3O6mn-cF)

Gaia

He also tells his disciples that those who truly abide by the precepts are not aware consciously of doing so. When they are sincerely practicing for the liberation of all sentient beings at every possible moment, their practice is not self-conscious. In other words, they are not aware they are doing anything special or unusual. They have naturally connected with their divine nature and are able to accept everything that occurs in their lives with natural practiceequanimity, and to live with sincere joy.

In terms of Holy Meditation, his instructions are also very clear. Again, if the motivation to meditate is to achieve one’s own enlightenment and to gain benefits, then this is not the correct way. If, on the other hand, the aspirant is practicing for the sake of other beings or the protection of the Dharma, and to stay away from the impurities of the body, greed, disputes, and physical violence, then this is the correct way. Focused meditation in these last teachings is defined as ‘altruistic action that benefits others.’

Another way of expressing this is through mindfulness. If we practice mindfulness at every moment of our daily lives as householders, we can: preventfor the sake of others regression into lower states of mind; have pure faith; work for the sake of others; protect the precious Dharma; encourage all beings to aspire to become enlightened; be free from delusions; achieve an unwavering state of mind; acquire merit by reciting dharanis (mantras); be able to expound the Dharma freely; and finally, to perceive our Buddha Nature or True Nature.

It is clear that the motivation or intent to meditate must be pure. It should be conducted at an unconscious level, without attention to form or even to be aware of meditating, and certainly to have no outcomes in mind. If our conscious state shifts when we meditate, approaching a state of emptiness, then we can truly connect with the flawless Dharma stream directly to the Buddha, the Dharmakaya or body of the unconscious mindteachings.

Holy Wisdom follows a similar vein. It should not be conscious or self-serving. If the aspirant is seeking an aim to or level of wisdom, then they will never acquire ultimate wisdom. True wisdom is closely dovetailed with compassion. We can vow to take on the agony and suffering of others, to release them from their negative wrong views and from the cycle of perpetual rebirth in the lower realms. The wise are able to put aside their own needs and wishes entirely and be willing to stay in samsara expressly to help to liberate others who are trapped in their delusions. In conclusion, the wise wish all beings to attain perfect universal enlightenment – in Sanskrit – anuttara-samyak-sambodai-shin.

If we are truly wise, we do not recognize the acquisition or form of that wisdom. There should be no conditions placed on attaining wisdom. We train wholly for the sake of others, and eventually the mundane ego-mind entirely disappears. To put this more succinctly, someone who observes the precepts, meditates in the fashion described, and acquires wisdom unknowingly, is called a Bodhisattva. (see my article -http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6r)    Kannon

As an aspirant myself, I try to abide by this advice. I have found it useful to keep the following in mind when aspiring. To help us to aspire in the right way, we might remember that our origin, before our appearance in the physical dimension as a human of flesh and blood, was spirit. And when our human body decays, as the Buddha’s did, we will return to the spirit world. We take on the form of a human being to learn how to become a Bodhisattva, how to become consistently compassionate and unconditionally loving. We can easily connect with our spiritual pathway if we open our hearts and empty our minds, then devote ourselves to the Bodhisattva’s Way for the sake of all sentient beings.

spirit origins

 

Article 8: The Importance of Meditation.

The Ultimate Teachings: the Buddha’s Last Will and Testament

Nirvana Buddha by H.H. Master Shinjo ito

Nirvana Buddha
by H.H. Master Shinjo ito

In Japan, the death day of Shakyamuni Buddha falls on 15th February. Everyone has heard of the Buddha, but in case this is your first meaningful acquaintance with him, here is a brief biography. It is important to know a little about his life for several reasons: first, his life is inspirational for those who wish to fill their lives with all that is sacred as opposed to secular; secondly, he had profound insights into how to live fully as a human being instead of existing in a twilight zone, pressurized by sufferings and loss; thirdly, his spiritual evolution throughout his 84 human years of life helps to make sense of the lessons left to all generations of humans to follow, known as the great Nirvana Teachings, given on his deathbed.

He was born a Prince of the Shaka Kingdom, hence the name Shakyamuni Buddha, about 2600 years ago. His birth was acclaimed as highly auspicious, the result of the descending into the lower human kingdom of previous Buddhas, Manavaka and Dipamkara. At his birth he proclaimed himself ‘the holy one of heaven and earth’ and vowed to end all sufferings in the human world. When he was 7 years old, the young Prince started training in civil and military arts so that he would be able to take his father’s place as King. But while attending a festival with his father, he was disturbed by the sight of a small bird pecking at a worm turned up by a plough. He hid in a nearby grove and naturally entered into a deeply meditative state highly praised by his father.

baby buddhas

As the Prince’s privileged life progressed, his distress deepened and became apparent to the whole Palace Court. His father became worried about him and so arranged for him to marry the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. But even his love for his new wife could not distract him from his ingrained sadness about the suffering in the world and his birth vow to end it all. Eventually, on learning more about the suffering and death which came to all beings of flesh, he decided to leave his life at the Palace to seek a way to relieve them. His determination to become a monk caused great distress to his family, but he cut off all his hair, put on a simple robe and set out with his begging bowl. After 6 years of terrible austerities, which almost caused his death, he decided to take a Middle Way and to sit in deep meditation until he became enlightened. He then spent the rest of his life sharing what he had experienced with as many people as possible.austerities

The Nirvana teachings reveal the true nature of Nirvana, which roughly translated means ‘release from or the extinguishing of all fear, suffering and craving.’ Another more positive way of viewing it is as freedom or liberation, a state in which we can awaken to the truth of the Universe. In Nirvana, we can become one with the Buddha Shakyamuni and with all beings. There is no longer any separation. At the end of his long ministry, the Buddha had amassed incredible wisdom and insight into samsara (Sanskrit), the sufferings of human life. As he was about to leave the human world and shift back to the celestial realms he had descended from, naturally he wished to leave his fearful mourning disciples a storehouse of teachings and practices, which would motivate them to keep their faith.

final teachings

He announced to them that when his physical body had disappeared, his storehouse of teachings would embody his eternal spirit, and he would be with them always. This body of teachings was known as the Dharmakaya (I wrote an article on this last year – ref:https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/dharma-kaya-the-body-of-truth/) So, as energy is indestructible, and as all the Buddha’s disciples have flawlessly protected the teachings for the last 2,600 years, today, in the 21st century, we can become one with the Buddha’s incredible energy. In this way, if we train using the Nirvana teachings, we are intent on realizing and acquiring the true mind of a tathagata, a fully enlightened Buddha. (see:https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/dharmata-or-tathata-the-essence-of-enlightenment/)

Tathagata

The Buddha bequeathed these final teachings to all beings, saying that all the teachings that had gone before paled in significance compared with them, and that their mystical quality was beyond judgment or intellectual analysis. A Bodhisattva, as mentioned in a previous series on Bodhi (ref:https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/bodhisattva/), is a being driven by compassion supported by wisdom, who pursues the path to Enlightenment through practicing the 6 Paramitas or perfections (which are: giving, moral discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and wisdom). The Buddha on his deathbed declared that Bodhisattvas dwelling in Great Nirvana are superior to all others who seek enlightenment for their own sake. He said, “Even if they suffer numerous agonies in hell for the sake of all beings, it will not bother them. For them, it will be as if they are in the midst of the serene pleasure of meditation. Therefore, it is wondrous.”

Kannon

Kannon

Pure actions are the key to attaining Nirvana. We are taught that we must accept everything showing our respect for all beings, who are after all Buddhas, and that we must recognize what they are attached to and help them to acquire it while introducing them to the Nirvana teachings. There may be those who speak badly of the final teachings, but we must be tolerant while expounding this wisdom to them. Universal compassion is paramount in our daily lives and thoughts, and towards this end, the analogy is made with doctors curing illnesses. The tathagata administers sweet medicine, which prevents death and rebirth. We can see that in these final teachings the Buddha makes the vow, made at his birth to liberate all people from suffering and loss, complete.

medicine Buddha

I am so fortunate to have encountered these wondrous final teachings in the evening of my life here in Japan. For me, they are the culmination of all the previous teachings, most of which I have studied and practiced as I mention in ‘My path so far’ (ref: https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/my-path-so-far/) My guru, the founder of Shinnyo Buddhism, had also experienced many teachings before he came upon this Mahaparinirvana Sutra, but he felt that his mission was to find a teaching that the world most needed at that time 78 years ago. In Japan there was war and deprivation, as well as a Dharma crisis in which all religious leaders fell under suspicion. He realized the absolute suitability of the last teachings and boldly stepped forward to make them the core of a new stream of Buddhism in Japan.

Kinkakuji

Most schools here revere the Lotus Sutra, the penultimate teaching, so Shinnyo Buddhism is unique to date in Japan. In addition, Master Shinjo in his determination to bring all sentient beings to Nirvana, decided to sculpt a Nirvana image as the principal image. He had never sculpted anything previously, though he showed considerable artistic talent as a young person. But his prayers, one for each strike of the hammer on his chisel, drove him on and soon he had completed a 4 metre long image to guide us all. He worked tirelessly to finish it as a true Bodhisattva, with no thought for his physical condition.

Shinjo Ito sculpting

We can all find Nirvana in this life if we make the necessary efforts for the sake of others. It is that sincere altruism which brings us closer to the heart of the Buddha. The Nirvana teachings are truly magical and mystical, teachings of the pure heart. There is nothing to analyze or question. The pathway is clear and perfect for this troubled epoch of materialism and cynicism.

mystical

The topics of the following 9 articles in this series ‘The Ultimate Teachings’ are:

Article 2: Buddha Nature; Article 3: Emptiness; Article 4: Tathgata; Article 5: Hearing the Dharma; Article 6: Stupas; Article 7: Junda; Article 8: Lifespan; Article 9: Everpresence; Article 10: Supreme Enlightenment

7: Making Bonds with the Universe

 

universe

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

reclining Buddha aureolehaloed beings

 

 

 

 

 

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

teachers

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

mandala 1 Mandala 2

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

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

waterfall training waterfall training

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

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

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

The Sacred Caves of Sabarthes.

The Sacred Caves of Sabarthes.

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

Buddhafield

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

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

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

deep meditation

Dharmata or Tathata: the essence of enlightenment

Tathagata

Dharmata or Tatatha: the nature or essence of fully enlightened Buddhas.  

So, what is a fully enlightened Buddha? It sounds scary and unreachable for most of us. It also may seem outmoded and unlikely in today’s modern world. How can there be Buddhas around sitting at computers, strap-hanging on commuter trains, shopping in super-markets? Yes, material life seems remote from Buddhas and enlightenment, much like it would be strange to have a vision of Christ or Allah at the laundrette.

But this is the amazing thing about Buddhism – it doesn’t date, and it is not constrained by culture or language. It is totally adaptable to any time and any place exactly because it is formless and ceaseless. It transcends our comparatively puny human conceptualization of time and space, and it embraces the mystic at the same time as being highly practical. Something for everyone we might say.

For Nirvana Buddhists, a Tatagata, a being fully enlightened to all of the Dharma, has certain qualities.  He or she trains consistently in order to attain Nirvana. The last words of the Buddha as he lay on his deathbed in the sala grove 2,600 years ago,  later captured in the Mahaparinirvana sutra, clearly describe the following 4 inspiring qualities of a being who has reached Nirvana:

First, Permanence, jo in Japanese. This is exactly as it sounds. Eternal. Infinite. In other words, we become like the Dharmakaya ourselves. The field of energy that makes us each unique is in fact indestructible, because energy is. It is recyclable, but cannot be erased according to nuclear physics. Therefore, as sincere Buddhist practitioners, we should have no fear of the death of the physical body. Of course, it is very difficult to be born human – think of the development of a baby in the womb – claustrophobic, dark, the sounds are muffled; and then the exit through a narrow birth-channel; and finally the onslaught of stimulation – bright light, huge temperature changes, clarity of sound, the cutting away of the nourishing tube which has connected the baby to its mother for 9 months, and so on.  Then after birth, there are the numerous lessons we must learn to prevent us descending into the lower realms of existence. Of course, as humans we usually suffer, and if we remain trapped in our own view of reality,  we may spend our entire life in great fear of the annihilation that death brings. We become so easily attached to our human form and life, that we cannot bear the thought of losing it.

The second is Bliss, raku in Japanese. This can be interpreted as joy, extreme joy, but is more akin to rejoicing than merely being happy. And this joy emanates from the realization that our love and compassion for others is much more important than for ourselves. In other words, if we work in our hearts and thoughts for the true happiness and comfort of others, then the great powers of the Dharma will look after us personally. This is connected to dedicating oneself to being a Bodhisattva, with a pure heart. (Bodhi  will be the topic of the next series of articles.)

The third is True-self, ga in Japanese. This means that we have to be entirely sincere, to be ourselves at all times. Of course, honesty is an important aspect of practicing any religious pathway, but it sometimes takes courage and needs grace to execute so that others are not hurt in the process. This also refers to working to polish our intrinsic Buddha Nature, the natural pure loving core that every human being is endowed with, which in turn will allow us to realize all our potential. We are capable of anything if we become balanced and uncover our basic goodness and gifts. And add to this a deepened focus on our mission.

Finally, the fourth is Purity, jo in Japanese. This perhaps speaks for itself. We are actually pure, but that quality may become covered over with negative karma, which we fail to purify. This quality is difficult in the present conditions of samsara where the power-crazy run riot with the result that bullying and cheating often drive purity underground. Remaining pure is a challenge today, but we have to find the courage to let our True-self shine through. The Buddhas are pure, the Dharma Protectors work hard to keep that so, and as we each have the potential to become a Buddha this purity is also our True nature. These four qualities make up Nirvana, which literally translated means ‘the extinction of delusions.’ It is the goal of all schools of Buddhism.

Permanence, Bliss, True-self and Purity. It may sound easy, but the only way to attain these states is by consistent and focused training with a qualified guru; in other words, by hearing the Dharma. If one tries to reach such a state only in the mind, then there is a serious risk of careering seriously off the path altogether on to a path made by your human ego. On this web site, I have no choice but to use words and images to describe ideas and my experience, etc. But it is absolutely certain that any Buddhist practice is experiential, and as you can imagine, it takes time like anything worthwhile.

You also need the continual support of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (spiritual community). It is the most marvelous steady process of transformation. If you want to read in more detail about this steady process, you may be interested to read my novel, Temple of the Phoenix (see ‘works’ on the main menu at the top of the Home Page) which is about exactly that.

Next article, On Hearing the Dharma.