Going Beyond : Buddhist and Cathar

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I have recently written a book based on my experience of Catharism while living in the remote Pyrenees, south-eastern France. The title is ‘Veil’ and it is in fictional format, but actually it is a work of creative non-fiction. In other words, it actually happened to me and to my partner at the time. You can watch the short video explaining a little more about it in a general sense here. But in the wider context of Buddhism I would like to elaborate.

As mentioned in the articles I have made into a portfolio on this site, and am busy making into a non-fiction book to be released in July this year, 2015,  called Buddhists and Cathars and the People of the Earth, I have been chosen to lead a revival of the Medieval mystical sect of Christians known as Les Bonnes or Les Parfaits. Many people may consider that I have jumped ship and am turning my back on my Buddhist training and benefits, but this is not the case as I am not a benefit-seeker.

To qualify that term ‘benefit-seeker’ a little more, I am not looking for personal benefit from my spiritual seeking. I live in Japan where I am surrounded by Buddhists who pay homage to numerous and varied deities and put great energy into practising and donating simply in order to receive benefits for themselves and their loved ones.  This way of seeking is rooted in superstition and goes way back to the original religion of Japan, Shinto. A clapping of hands accompanied with a bow while standing in front of an image, or the throwing of a coin into an offering box placed before the deity, is meant to bring good fortune in a land where fortune-telling is still a valid way of looking into the past and the future. Of course, this kind of activity is wonderful as long as we are not attached to it. The deities and holy energies exist unconditionally to balance and harmonize – we do not need to bribe them by begging and offering. If we are not separate from them, we merge into that balance and harmony.

Of course, this kind of superstition is practised across the world and the world’s religions. Humans in their fearful helpless mode, recognise that there is something greater and so as they navigate samsara, the world of transience and suffering, they offer money or food and drink in return for constant and helping power. I have ceased to do this recently because instead I offer myself and my human life in all its aspects. I no longer need a witness, a public moment of dedication, and I make no distinction between myself and all beings, my life and that of all sentient beings.

Beliefs are a type of thought, and I have ceased that kind of thinking, because I have woken up to the fact that my so-called beliefs make me either separate from others, or bring me closer to those with the same beliefs. In either case, I exclude someone by such a thought. Beliefs serve to separate us from others and from the spiritual/invisible world. As the Cathar Creed for The Church of Love, strongly advises, ‘It’s members shall know each other by their deeds and being, and by their eyes and by no other outward sign save the fraternal embrace.’

The Cathars were Buddhists, just as Moslems are Christians, and Sikhs are Taoists. There is no difference between these subdivisions! Can you remember or imagine a time when the human race started out and had only one faith; it is said that in this Golden Age, the gods were not separate because they walked among us. Diversity and pluralism create too many options to choose from until the point where everything becomes splintered and we feel we are forced to choose. Some choose not to have any beliefs, but surely that also creates a separation. I am the Buddhist and Cathar teachings. I embody them.

I do not choose. Instead I listen. Buddhist and Cathar teachings found me, and they are merely a means whereby. In other words, they have brought me to this very place where I can say I simply ‘am’ like the trees and flowers, the animals and other natural organisms.   I no longer use my thoughts to contrive beliefs according to a particular guru or doctrine. I am cradled in my being. My altar or butsdudan (Japanese home altar) is my life. I live it, breathing and smiling and loving unconditionally.

The Buddha taught me that I must go beyond all form, all thinking. I have no need for benefits to be bestowed. One teacher asked me why I believed in the Buddha and his power, and I answered that I just did. He said, ‘but the Buddha is beyond all form, so please stop blocking your own formlessness by imposing images. Turf all images and thoughts away to take up your proper place standing in the Cosmic Stream.’ He had realised ’emptiness’ at the time, and I had not.

Going beyond! Disposing of all blocks so that the friction which causes us to stop, to get stuck, does not occur. This smooth eternal flowing of being and beings, without beginning or end, is beyond Nirvana, the ceasing of all craving.  It is beyond words, so I must not say more.

My gratitude is eternal to all my teachers whatever they taught me. But now there are no more lessons because my mind and my body are not separate from the Great Truth.

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Touching the Artist

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A young woman flees from war into a foreign country. She has no money and no way of earning any, so she sleeps in the market place on a doorstep, washing in the public fountain and begging for scraps from the tradespeople. Then a wealthy woman and her maid notice her as they buy vegetables and take her home with them. As she devours the food and drink they provide, they tell her that she can earn her keep there by posing as an artist’s model. She is shocked and asks if she must pose naked. The Madame of the household assures her that it is easy work that she herself once did, and that her husband is the artist in question and she can vouch that he is honourable. The girl agrees nervously and is taken on foot to her new accommodation on the mountainside in the artist’s studio.

The artist is a sculptor, his three-dimensional female pieces in all shapes and sizes, covered with dust sheets, decorate the studio. After a night’s restless sleep in this remote location, daybreak comes and the sculptor arrives to start work. He is gruff, businesslike, asking her to sit in the light from the window and remove all of her clothes. She is reluctant at first, but something makes her feel safe with the aged sculptor, his mop of white hair and large moustaches, his steady selfless eye.

They work together everyday in silence, she learning to maintain her position for long hours while he sketches and makes small clay models of her in various poses. Sometimes he is frustrated and destroys what he has drawn or molded, but their relationship develops and he gradually begins to talk to her about his passion for the natural world and his love for human nature. They know nothing of each others’ pasts or future plans, and never gossip or make worldly talk.

Occasionally, they move locations out into the forest or higher up the mountain-side. He paints her in oil on a large canvas by a small mountain pool where she swims when resting, catching a young trout for him by hand. One day, she jubilantly treads his new batch of clay for the life-size piece he will make of her, her coarse laughter contagious.

The work is going well, the beautiful image of her emerging each day from the wire and rag structure covered in brilliant white plaster of Paris, but for the finishing touches he needs to actually touch her.  He must ensure he has all her curves in the right proportion. For the first time, he fingers her young flesh standing behind her, her wide shoulders, the back of her rib cage, the curve of her voluptuous calf, with his eyes closed with no single desire. He wants nothing from her except to touch the shapes Nature has endowed he nubile body with, and she, closing her eyes also, wants nothing from him. There is an intensity and a newness in this act; it is uninterrupted, timeless, two templates intersecting. Now he can finish the piece.

One day, the sculptor comes to work earlier than usual to find the model is stretched out on her bed naked, sleeping. He enters her room, which he has never done before, and sits delicately on the edge of her bed. She opens her eyes and looks up at him, he looking intensely into her eyes. Then, she slowly reaches her hands up towards his face, and closes her eyes to touch it lightly, tenderly. He sheds silent tears to be touched.

The sculptor’s wife’s relative has become sick so she must go to nurse her, and as the war is over, the young model needs to get her papers in order in the nearby city. Both women leave the sculptor alone simultaneously, parting affectionately and due to come back soon. Back at his studio, with the help of workmen, the finished piece is carried out of the dark into the bright air. He watches it intently as it is carefully moved around, as it comes to life.

The bearers position it in front of the studio beside the most magnificent view of the mountain peaks and ancient forests, and he sits, unable to take his eyes off it against such a backcloth. He takes his knife to smooth a little plaster on an elbow, the curve of the pelvis, the nape of the neck, then finally he is satisfied. He backs away and sits at his table, looking down momentarily to cut a slice of bread. He lifts the crust and drizzles olive oil on it, taking a bite, still staring expressionlessly at his creation. He is neither pleased nor displeased with it, because he is not separate from his creation or from the model. In the same way, he is not separate from all of the glories of Nature which envelop him, and make up his seamless reality.

The crust of bread finished, he stands and walks calmly into the studio to bring his rifle. The sound of the shot rings out into the crystal air.

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