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.

Embracing death and therefore life

 

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Buddhists keep themselves very close to death as part of their practice. It epitomizes the notion of impermanence (Skt.; Pali – anitya), the first of the three marks (trilaksan) which characterize all conditioned phenomena.

One of the fundamentals of Buddha’s teachings say that all formations – things that come into being dependent on causes and conditions – are impermanent.  Things, matter or form, rise and pass. They change constantly, from moment to moment, eventually decaying (Skt. dukha) and disappearing entirely. Due to this constant changing dependent on causes and conditions which is called samsara, we can never find permanent happiness. So, Buddhist practice is focused on escaping from samsara by following a strict moral code and working to purify negative karma (Pali Kamma).

 

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Keeping death and impermanence close at all times banishes all doubts and fears.  There is no use in struggling against visual loss and oblivion. It is the only reality. But this awareness forces us to realise that we are manifested in the world of form to learn these fundamentals, and wakes us to the knowing that we are essentially spirit, and spirit is empty of ego. They move us in the direction of the unknown, the invisible and the mystical which are our true dimension.

If we know death at each moment we also know life.  If we accept death then we can truly accept life.  If we practice desirelessness to avoid falling into the deep grooves made by millennia of conditioning and systematically eliminate negative karma, in addition to generating Bodhicitta (our aspiration for enlightenment, quitting samsara and taking all living beings with us) we will create new grooves in the universal consciousness, our true and divine nature. Then the world will change.

The world will only change if we humans change, for we are the world. 

 

 

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Images courtesy of magapixyl.com

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Making Images: the greatest test of all for humans

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Humans are actually taught to make images to symbolize or represent almost everything – for remembering, for recognizing, to navigate, and so on – and we excel at it. This aptitude to bring to bear rich imaginations and wide vision in our daily lives is one of the things that differentiates us from animals and plants.

But actually, this often becomes an abstract route to creating our exclusive way of seeing the world. It literally forces us to identify, to stamp ‘me’ and ‘mine’ on that mind moment, and if we are not mindful we may become attached to such images, mistaking them for reality.

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This temptation to ‘identify’ with the images we constantly create is our major test as humans – our conditioning and DNA (countless ancestors who have lived distant to the sacred) lead us to etch a clear line between reality and the imaginary, to make a distinction between the visible and the invisible. Also, we unknowingly consign ourselves to experiencing life always from the sidelines, via concepts and archives.

But many of us have never even heard of this ‘test’ which means that we have fully and unconsciously turned our backs on our divine mission. Instead, we favour and over-cherish a synthetic ‘self’ invented by the dictatorial intellectual mind. This is pure ego and arrogance: some would say it is the dark side of human beings, our personal ‘Satan,’ our samsara. It is as if we are constantly resisting the gravitational field of love and goodness. These resistant consumers are the norm in modern life, whereas those who live lives of surrender and desirelessness are increasingly rare. Most of us are attracted to those who are similar to us because we somnambulate through a spiritual wilderness.


Science informs us that human beings have evolved physically as much as they can; in other words, that we are at our peak as a species. But evidently, our spiritual evolution is badly retarded. As a result, most of us are not truly happy and neither is the world at large. We are restless, insatiable, destructive and primitive, unable to create harmony in our social groups for the most part and constantly craving artificial stimulation or oblivion.

In our short-sightedness in life, most of us convincingly conceal our terror of death and disappearance. But this endemic fear has caused us to lose the use of so many subtle tools available to the higher mind: the mind of ‘grace’ (Christian) or emptiness (Buddhist) or moksha (Hindu). Instead, we invest all our energy in the visible, the intellectual and in acquiring. We give over our precious human existence to shopping, possessing and questing for attention, and as a result, we have become major stakeholders in the worlds of materialism and sensual satisfaction.

Given our huge stake, it is logical that we sit back in our high comfortable chairs, flicking switches and frittering away our time viewing visual collections. Logic?  Another resistance to what is natural.


We may even make images to represent our own minds: for example, the iceberg with its small tip showing above the water surface and its mass below, symbolizing the conscious mind and the unconscious mind respectively. Or the onion with its tender centre and its layer upon layer of ever-hardening skins. Although these may be useful to try to appreciate or recognise the difference between these two contrasting aspects of our mind, they do in fact separate them from one another in an Aristotelian way.

By attaching ourselves to such images, we are unwittingly identifying with them and so coaxing our contrived ‘self’ to acquire and possess compulsively. In actuality, there is no ‘self’ to identify with anything material because we are beings of energy made flesh for the express purpose of evolving spiritually.

It is preferable then to avoid making or encouraging these images even though they may seem to ease understanding. Ironically, understanding in its original sense is connected to listening not looking. Perhaps, rather than finite blocks of black and white as captured on screens and pages and in bold framed linear scenarios, there is only a boundless greyness which floats and fleets in whatever shape is needed to embody the essence of love and full awareness. Our existence in human form is only an unconditional listening, a subtle flickering of our essence of light.


If we give up trying to pin down our feelings, cementing them into our foreground, crying out for witnesses to come forward and acknowledge us, asserting our view to others, we might realize that the field of awareness is infinite and has no boundaries, no images or archives. Then we can quietly coalesce in the field needing no images or intermediaries at all.

By closing the busy outer eyes so addicted to colour, shape and orientation we can close the image albums and lock the archives, walking away to our real home beyond all concepts created by the human mind. Then we will be able to clearly hear the sound of reality moving and merging, the concrete sound of infinity and eternity, of goodness and the divine.

True understanding consists of universal unconditional listening during which nothing is pinned down, nothing is owned and everything becomes one. We embody love with our true nature enabled only by the privilege of breathing air granted from the universe. Everything else is simply arranged only to stimulate the intellectual mind.

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‘We shall know each other by our deeds and being,

and by our eyes and no other outward sign save

the fraternal embrace.’

Above is a verse from the Cathar Creed (1244), The Church of Love. The spirit of life is played out whilst silently respecting everything on the material plane though not identifying with it; accepting everything but quietly supporting those who need support. It is clear from our human history that ‘identifying’ and ‘possessing’ destroy and engender greed and ignorance. Using images is, in a way, an attempt to possess aspects of the visible, to keep them for reference as a source of knowledge.

The medieval mystic Cathars possessed nothing material, not even the Bibles showy Roman Catholics had become slaves to. Indeed, all the great spiritual adepts dispensed with material supports. Instead, they did what was natural and wholeheartedly embodied their spirit of compassion and humility.


I have deliberately positioned myself in my life in a different culture (Japan) in which I cannot easily read or write or even understand the society around me. This is the most precious opportunity to stop making images and concepts. I notice that I am not using my mind in the same way as I did living in my native culture because it is often impossible to make interpretations of my environment here.

As I wander down crowded streets decked out with loud kanji, katakana and hiragana neon signs so characteristic of Japanese cities whisked aside by bicycles mounted on the pavement and bustling people pushing through the crowds, I can often only listen deeply and breathe. It is no use bringing out my image albums and brandishing metaphors and idioms because they are meaningless in a culture which reads the air instead of dissecting and deeply analysing ideas.


Here, it is often impossible to imagine what is going on in other minds around me because there is no pattern I can predict, no pictograph I can possibly imagine, and no inherited template. I can only embody my love.  Mostly I float around having sealed away the intellect allowing visions to temporarily occupy me. I rely only on my ancient senses to help me to navigate.

In my life here, there is only the field of awareness. I am the terraced shaking paddy. I stand in sluiced rice rows, paddled by ducks and frogs. I am activated by tremors from the inflamed warts of the Earth’s crust below me. I am harvested and bundled, eventually finding my way into famished stomachs.

Here, I have dramatically learned how not to be separate from anyone or anything in a Land created from the hair and kimono of the million gods. 

To interfere with this seamlessness for even a second to create an image, to snap a shot, would make me gasp for air!

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Images: courtesy of megapyxl.com

Bird and web – Alisen.com; Sensing Energy between palms – Nikkizalewski.com; Man hunting. bushman’s prehistoric cave art – Wilad.com; Three geisha – Razvanjp.com; Cosmic Transformation – thefinalmiracle.com; Iceberg – Luislouro.com; South and North pole and all things related – Stuidoclover.com

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Forward to my new book: Glorious Death: Glorious Life

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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

Temple Chronicle: 28th February

knowledge 6

We are living in the age of space travel so there are many images and films appearing. This is no coincidence. We are getting further and further away from ourselves, from putting our own Earth in order. We are moving into a gravitation-less state, in pressurised capsules full of flashing alerts and less and less direct contact with other humans, unable to put our feet firmly on the Earth. Such space exploration demands courage and vision, but they are visible emotions, displayed on large screens. It is probable that we are running away from our invisible Earthly responsibilities. We cannot afford yet another clean slate: indeed, there is no such thing except for those who are deluded.

It is salutary that indigenous peoples have no desire to physically conquer space and the universe. They are custodians, not conquerors, content in their spiritual territories. ‘Developed’-humans are marooned in a spiritual wilderness, in a neon-lit world, and so they restlessly search for new thrills, playing with their special toys, and feeling so proud of their advancement, their sophistication.

As they zoom through inner and outer space, they look back at the beautiful planet with sentimentality. It is ‘home’ with all mod-cons, and they created it from scratch. They turn a blind eye to all the destruction and conflict, all the failed states and ecological deterioration – sweep it under the carpet so they can see only a broad expanse of gleaming living space.

But more significant than this ignorance created by extreme filtering is that the gravitational field of Earth is brought about by the special consciousness of divine love, and we are choosing to look elsewhere for it as aliens might. Love is the special energy we and only we are endowed with. No other creation can utilise it. But we squander it, converting it into a possession, a commodity, a currency because we have become so arrogant and gone so far away from our true nature. We prefer instead to float around in our heads synthesising to embodying our divine energy here on Earth. Our blindness and defiant pursuit of pleasure and kudos help us to justify our lack of responsibility, to turn away from the mess we have created as a race.

Fear and delusion drive us into the stratosphere and beyond, breathing artificial air instead of pure oxygen and ozone reserved for our beings of love in the field, encapsulated away behind ever thicker artificial, space-resistant materials, and lost perhaps forever to the Lands of Pure Love.

link between father and son image

Temple Chronicle: 7th February, 2016

healing 4

She dreamed that she was talking to a group of people, looking into the eyes of all her spiritual children, when slowly, outside her control, her own eyelids closed and she could not open them ever again.

There was panic all around, urgent movements, many different fingers touching her arms and shoulders, voices of such tenderness and tears rising in the air.  But she continued to talk from her sincere heart, and gradually the sobs and cries died down. She invited everyone to close their physical eyes as she spoke.

‘We need to close our physical eyes so that our inner spiritual eyes will open. For the physical eye, though a remarkable anatomical evolution and a powerful tool, sees only through the graded lenses of the ego. The material world becomes the only reality that it can perceive.  It is blind to the vast invisible world which is our real home.’

It takes practice to be able to look into the physical world with spiritual eyes.  To gaze without taking possession, without categorising or judging, without accumulating worldly status and merit.  To perceive directly instead of interpreting, making copies. The desperate craving of the worldly human incarcerated in constant suffering while careering towards oblivion in their death is acute.  They cannot let go, always hedging their bets, having reserves, in case they are left with nothing and fall into an abyss created by their terrible fear.

This way of looking can dominate in the presence of sacred images.  The serene Buddha images and altar adornments are rendered permanent by the physical eyes; continual shots are taken by the acquisitive camera and then archived.  The master carved sublime images of all emanations of the Buddha so that disciples could overcome this kind of obsessive greed and self-centred cherishing.   The spirit does not need to rely on memories and labels, or stored images.

We have the choice to gaze on these images without greed so that they connect us firmly to the spiritual world. In this way, the spiritual eyes are wide open. Holy sculptures are manifest as permanent in their gold and bronze inside man-made temples exactly so we do not possess them. This is for our spiritual growth.  The Buddha is mere energy just as we are.  We give this powerful energy the name ‘Buddha’ but that label can be abused. To find enlightenment we need to let go of it and allow the power to merge with our own power. To allow all divisions disintegrate.

When will she have paid all her debts?  Debt is such a negative state which worries and disturbs the natural equilibrium.  Debts to parents, to masters, to husbands and wives, to employers; an endless queue of beneficiaries. They make an elaborate maze in the mind which we get trapped in.  This cannot possibly lead to spiritual liberation. If we are in touch with our divine origins, if the flame is lit, then we naturally give to others, we trust unconditionally, we breathe with a genuine smile, and we truly love people because we are not separate from them.  Debt makes us separate and exacerbates the suffering of samsara.  It suspends us in murky water above the mud so that our lotus cannot bloom freely.

If we are motivated to practice spiritually from our thoughts, then this is flawed.  Thoughts are dead things which obscure the truth: They are worthless in spiritual terms.  Spirituality is living organically, is only being in the great stillness and silence.  If we manufacture thoughts of a religious kind and then use them as our propeller, we are creating everything from our side.  This is not the truth, the suchness, the shinnyo, but we can habitually mistake it as such.

And if we merely imitate the masters, cloning ourselves in their likeness, then we are ignorant of our individual mission, our unique spirit. The master engraves Buddha images not only in physical form, one bow for each tap of his chisel but in each disciple’s heart.  We can embody that heart in each moment of our daily lives, living as Buddhas, undistracted by the trivialities of the worldly mind.  This is the only way we can change the suffering world because our environment in the world of flesh is exactly a reflection of our minds. And if our minds expand into the field of consciousness, then the world will truly be a Buddha world.

She is restless in the temple precinct because she is attached to it. It has become her temple and everything is invested in it. Her living space, though full of light and the warmth of loving kindness, has become oppressive because of the outside view.  Beige concrete buildings with identical balconies, impede the view so that she cannot see beyond them to the mountains.  This way of viewing the environment is bedded in her DNA, has been the way of looking of her ancestors for aeons. The view reflects the mind, so she is keen to change it and live in a penthouse. Never content, and she will never be so until she lets go of physical dimensions.

May she put aside her physical eyes, open her spiritual eyes and so live with panoramic vision now and here, plum in the centre of the moment.

May she climb the temple steps of her own divine heart where ownership and mementos are unheard of.

spiritual practice

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

Dharma-kaya: the body of Truth

Dharmakaya Dharmakaya 1 Dharmakaya 2

The world is filled with beauty – beautiful skyscapes, landscapes, people-scapes, both microscopic (not visible to the human eye) and macroscopic (visible to the human eye). We are all momentarily moved and excited by such a thought I’m certain. However, because of our intellectual ability to store everything away in the computerized store-cupboard of our mind, we then make ourselves separate from that beautiful scene or sight. We sit in our armchairs and bring out an album we have made and browse and dream. We forget that such a beauty may be just outside our room if we put the album down and walk outside. It is as if the beauty is in fact nothing to do with us, but nice to have a copy of. We greatly prize mental photographs (or even camera versions) custom-designed to suit our interior.

The tool of the human intellect is remarkably developed as our species evolves, but it is important to realize that it is only one of the many tools at our disposal. If we use only that one tool, we will become more and more disconnected from true reality, and instead come to view our own brand of reality as the truth. Another way to put this is that most of us live our lives in a meta (indirect) way, because we are so adept at creating concepts in our unique style. Imagine a world full of people each with their own brand of reality, custom-made to suit their needs, trying to interact with each other! It is truly amazing that there is any harmony or peace in the world at all.

All this is easily said, you may be thinking as you read, but so difficult to change. Most of us have become so conditioned to living in this indirect way that we think it’s perfectly normal. I used to be inured in this mode of being also, but I recognized something was not right, that life seemed empty and finite once a challenge had been met, an obstacle overcome. Like Prince Siddhartha, (Gautama Buddha) of the Shyakya clan who wanted for nothing in his privileged life, I was restless and felt powerless when I considered the great suffering in the world. So, I packed up the material things I really needed into a rucksack, sold my house, car and business, and went traveling to try to get to the bottom of this troubled feeling in my heart.

I spent the next 2 years living in different cultures all around the world, and of course, as many people do while traveling there, I confirmed my Buddhist pathway in India. However, in order to illustrate the notion of this article – Dharma-kaya (the Body of truth; the nature of all reality; the Buddha’s mind) – I will briefly describe an incredible adventure I had which jolted me out of living at a distance to reality. You can find a full version of this story in my novel, Easy-Happy-Sexy (see above ‘works’).

I had the good fortune while traveling in Australia to join a project. The objective of this venture was to help a group of indigenous Australians (known as aboriginals, or original people of Australia) to move into the very centre of Australia to resume their traditional life-style. The tribe consisted mainly of elderly sick people and young children, the young adults having been integrated into white Australian life. Their leader, Ninija, was determined that it was time that her people walked away from western style values which had been forced upon them by immigrants (see also my short story, Caretaker: the Departure, which is featured in the side bar).

Our task as white Europeans was to assist them in moving from their settlement deep into the outback, by building shade shelters where they could rest during the incredible heat of the day. The centre of Australia is the hottest place in the world, so, we used modern means – transport, equipment, materials – to quickly build shelters ahead of them as they slowly walked. We had plenty of time to get to know these people and to get close to their vision of the world, because we could only work at night due to the heat. I can certainly testify first-hand to the fact that they seldom use the tool of the intellect, and as a result are gifted in terms of their psychic ability, magic and survival powers, but that’s another story.

One night, in order to celebrate the good progress we had made along our route, they used boomerangs to hunt an elderly emu, which we cooked on a big bonfire. As we sat around the fire, I was pre-occupied looking up at the huge number of stars and gigantic moon in the sky, when one of the tribal women nudged me hard with her elbow. She asked me what I was looking at, and I told her quite naively that I had never seen so many stars in my life! She growled and laughed and poked me at such a response, which surprised me. She then gave me my first lesson in living directly. She said,

Those are not stars (there is no translation for the English word ‘stars’ in her language)! Those are the campfires of the dead as they travel on in the sky. It’s cold up there so they light small fires to warm themselves and to let us know they are journeying on.

Of course, indigenous peoples who live in close contact with nature without modern conveniences, are not separate from their universe. They do not make concepts at all, but believe that they play a key role along with all the phenomena around them created by The Great Mother, as they call Mother Nature. That the Great Mother will provide everything they need if they protect those phenomena and live in harmony with the Creation stories. There in the silent desert with only the crackling of Emu cooking, away from pollution of any kind, I suddenly realized that I needed to stop obsessively making concepts in my head. They would certainly block my way to real freedom. But most importantly, they would block my entrance to reality and the Dharma-kaya.

Meditation is one of the other tools Buddhists use to bring their minds under control and to live fully in the Dharma stream (see article 4: the Dharma Stream). Then, once the mind is reasonably stable, another tool we use is the Dharma-kaya, or the ever-presence. Briefly let me explain what this is, although perhaps my personal experience will transmit this meaning in a way which you can relate to more easily.

For the record then, after the Buddha’s Parinirvana, (his physical death) he bequeathed the body of his teachings to guide us onwards. As we saw in the last article -6, The Dharma Crisis – the sutras became his visible legacy to us, and they continue to be highly revered until this day. However, in terms of the invisible, the Buddha remains with each of us eternally in all of the Dharma that surrounds us. His presence is formless, perhaps better understood as an energy field, which has always existed and will always exist, and which transcends all perception. In other words, the Buddha is ever-present, around us every moment.

This energy field can manifest the Buddha emanations we need to keep us focused on our pathway, and that is why there are so many Buddhas depending on which tradition you come from: in Japan the fierce Buddha Achala, the compassionate Buddha Kanon, the all-seeing wise Buddha, Shyakyamuni, to name but a few. These emanations of the Dharma-kaya guide us in our practice in co-operation with the Dharma Protectors (see article 5). All of these guides are watching over us constantly, hoping we will notice the signs and signals they leave in our daily lives, much like the Creation figures of Ninija’s reality in the south Australian desert. As her people do, we need to just immerse ourselves in them so that we can nurture our higher selves and live a truly enchanted life right here and now on earth.

The most important thing for me in my daily life is the feeling that I am so loved by all these enlightened beings, not exclusively Buddhist deities but universal deities of Christianity and Islam and The Great Mother. And that I have a crucial part to play in the universe, in the tapestry of all life. Such unconditional love, such protection, allows me to fully recognize my potential as a human being. Unlike Saul from the film Take (see article 6), I do not have a choice in this. Through my meditation training, my human will has mostly dissolved as I become aware of its redundancy day by day in my short embodiment as a human being. I am loved unconditionally, so I must love unconditionally in return. I receive so much love, which fuels me to give out love unconditionally to every being in existence. It’s so simple really, and glorious, which always brings the tears of gratitude and bliss on like my devout Catholic grandmother.

Finally, the guru, the Master, is an emanation of the Dharma-kaya. The guru we devote ourselves to is the distillation of the Buddha’s teachings and life. He or she, living or deceased, is the key link with the Buddha, is directly connected to the Dharma Current. They are qualified to take this role because of the uninterrupted succession to the Dharma Stream right back to the original Buddha 2,600 years ago. The guru is ever-present every moment of our existence, witness to every breath we take, and is single-pointedly committed to showing us unconditional love forever.

The ever-presence of the guru is something wondrous to me. At certain important moments in the calendar of Buddhist events, which are at the centre of my life, my guru appears in the universe, manifest smack in centre of the Dharma. In Japan it is common for gurus to appear in extraordinary phenomena in the sky, in cloud formations, or as halos around the sun or moon. My guru often appears in cloud formations in the form of a phoenix rising from the raging fires of samsara, an important image in the teaching since his decease.

Who says we don’t have Creation Stories any longer in the developed world?