The 9 Breaths: Breath 5

How can a tiny gap in the breath lead to enlightenment?

How can we gain freedom from the enslavement of the Mind?

Why did Buddha Gautama take 6 years to know his breath, not just the passage of it? And why did this knowledge lead to enlightenment?

These are some of the questions that may have arisen during the previous 4 breaths. Now for some answers.

If you want to start from the beginning of this series then go to:

Introductionhttps://niume.com/post/264747

Breath 1https://niume.com/post/265632

Breath 2https://niume.com/post/266432

Breath 3https://niume.com/post/267922

Breath 4https://niume.com/post/268886

Important points from Breath 4:

*Breathing stops when danger is near, as does mind!

*The small self (only a daily utility) disappears at such moments so that we can glimpse the True Self.

*We cannot practise the Breath! Each one is a performance.

*Zen Masters have utilized Shiva’s 5th tantric technique of eliciting unexpected reactions from their disciples exactly so that they can glimpse their True Nature.

*When breathing pauses there are no desires, no quests, no cravings, no small fragile self.….because the Mind also stops. The Mind is the personification of all these distractions.

 

 

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Shiva’s 5th breath is the pinnacle of his Tantric techniques because it involves the Third Eye.

But to purify the mind before we start, it is important to understand that there is no effort involved in attaining spirituality! We are tricked into thinking that it needs a huge effort because we are not spiritual beings; that we have lost something so we need to compensate by adding something new.

This is mistaken. You are already there. You are divine already. No long journey is required to find what you are looking for. This ‘attainment’ is not something you will realize in the future! It is here and now.

How can mortal man create the divine from scratch? It is ever-present and infinite. You are the truth and simply need awakening from your deep sleep induced by the tricky Mind. Shiva’s techniques are designed exactly to do that.

 

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Your spirit is hiding from you in small things, for instance, the tiny gap as your breath turns from down to up and up to down. It is a treasure hidden because of long and dominant habits of identifying too much with delusional things like personality, clothes, skin colour, religious convictions, etc.

Only a small effort is needed to uncover what is already there. The future is hidden in the present.

Your longing to be pure and spiritually evolved has created a barrier to your seeing your own True Nature. The clouds that cover the sun are only temporary. A man who is blind can receive simple surgery to enable him to see because the seer has always been there.

 

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The difference between ‘awareness’ and ‘attention’ is important before we contemplate the Third Eye. Awareness is inclusive perhaps involving many things; Attention is exclusive – it only has one focus.

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Now, bring your full attention to your Third Eye between your eyebrows. Focus it strongly on this place which is the seat of the Pineal Gland, a magnetic mechanism of the body. As you still your energy at this point, 2 things will happen:

1. You will begin to witness your thoughts instead of thinking them. In other words, you will cease to identify habitually with them. Instead, it will be as if someone else is generating them. This focus will create a distance between your small self (utility of daily life) and your thoughts (vapour that disappears the moment it is thought).

2. You will feel the essence of your breath vibrating. This is known as prana – vitality. Science says we breathe chemically rich air: spiritual insight says that we breathe pure life.

 

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Then Shiva says:

‘Attention between the eyebrows. Let mind be before thought. Let form fill with breath essence to the top of the head and there shower as light.

 

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The essence of the breath, the prana or vitality of the Cosmos, will shower down as light from the crown of the head, and you will experience a rebirth or recreation.

3 minutes of gazing in complete stillness at a beautiful flower or candle flame will activate your Third Eye and light will shower down.

The Third Eye is the mechanism of hypnosis, the closing of the gap between dream and reality.

 

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Inspiration: Doing is important, not just thinking about it. This meditation is something you deserve to free you from the slavery of your mind. Just do it right now instead of talking about it.

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                                   gorgeous images courtesy of Linden Thorp and Megapixyl.com

                                                             Join me tomorrow for Breath 6.

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positive reflection wellbeing spirituality

TRUE NATURE: YOUR SPARKLING GEM STONE WITHIN

Cover Picture

True nature?

I hope you are curious about this phrase. Does it mean that you are doing something that offends others but you cannot control it? That something etched into your character is unchangeable but others wished you would change it? Is it a kind of get-out clause when the going gets rough….’Ah well, it’s in my nature, etc?’

The word nature has many connotations:

something natural and therefore wholesome?

being at ease in any situation, staying calm and always being in control?

showing your shortcomings in public and feeling overwhelming disapproval?

Good natured? Bad natured?

Mother Nature and the Universe?

And so on……

But here I’m talking about something quite magical. So let me start off by telling you a little story. Stories always help because you become a child when you listen and the story magic works on your unconscious mind in a subtle and often long-lasting way.

Once upon a time there was a poor man with a big family who had to work so hard to earn so little money. It got to the point where he couldn’t feed his children or plan for the future of his two beautiful daughters which as the custom went he would have to provide a dowry for when they married. So, reluctantly, he decided that they had no choice but to leave and go to a distant land where he could find ways of increasing is earnings and send money home. He packed a few possessions and set off for the long walk which would take him across mountains and deserts to reach such a land.

Once he arrived there because he was quite young and willing he quickly found work and began to earn more money. In time, his employers liked his work so much that they increased his wages and gave him more and more responsibility.

Eventually, he became a manager and was able to buy a big house and land, and live like a Lord. At this point, he had been away so long that he forgot about his wife and children in his distant homeland, and met and married another woman. His life was so changed. He could relax and start to enjoy it a little.

His employers gave him more and more responsibility but then he got in with the wrong type and started to drink excessively and to gamble. One day, he realized he had lost everything he had earned and acquired. So, finding he had lost even his fine clothes, he put on his tattered traveller’s outfit and set out wearily on the long journey home.

When finally he arrived his family was very glad to see him to his surprise because he had let them down so badly. So, he settled back into family life with deep gratitude even though he was still poor. In his absence, his mother had died and he was called to her house to attend to her affairs. She had left a letter for him which he opened sadly because he had not been able to say goodbye to her.

The letter read, “My dear son, I am sad when I think about your life of back-breaking work for so little reward. I was sure you would return to us a rich man, but that was not to be.

However, please now look inside the lining of your traveling coat. Before you left, I repaired this coat but in fact I sewed the family jewel inside to keep it safe. All you needed was with you all the time but you thought you could find it outside. Please learn from my final wisdom to you. My son, you have all you need to be completely happy inside your own heart.

He gently felt along the seam of his coat and sure enough he could feel something. He took a knife and gently cut the stitching and a large ruby fell out. He cried large tears which were a mixture of joy and sadness: joy that he and his family had a secure future and sad that he had been so blind and caused such suffering for his loved ones.

So, your true nature is just like the poor man’s ruby sewn into the lining of his traveling coat. We all have a powerful gemstone inside us but because it is hidden and we neglect it, it steadily loses its shine and eventually becomes encrusted with dirt so that we cannot recognize its power.

Like the poor man in the story, he had given up on his own uniqueness, his treasure mind, his divine spark because he was forced to suffer in poverty and frustration. But if he had respected and gazed at the remarkable spirit he came into human life with, he could have polished his talents and changed his destiny.

This unique spirit, this talent to embody all love and light is something we can see so clearly in new creatures and babies. If they are healthy, their spirit is potent and gleaming, their curiosity and energy is joyful and their love unconditional. The world is new to them and the dominance of their culture and conditioning not yet exerting a strong influence.

If we watch children at play, we can see from the way they use their bodies that they are at ease, their spine and joins supple and open. They move around without effort delighting in or perhaps fearing the stimuli they find in their new environment. They are one with everything around them because they have not yet learned how to use thought to separate themselves away, to assert themselves, to develop their ego and personality. But most important of all, they do not wear any social masks.

If they feel anger, they usually show it spontaneously. If they feel joy, then their laughter in infectious. They live for love, crave the constant attention of their closest parent and seem not to have a care in the world. This lack of care shows in their bodies – free moving, balanced, no blocked energy, because they have not yet learned how to worry or compare themselves with others except at a superficial level.

We can also see this freedom especially in movement in animals. One of the most exciting sites I have ever witnessed was watching a cheetah hunting a gazelle on the African savannah. It totally embodies its instincts and its survival needs as it runs at lighting speed, flowing like a rapid stream of muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Remember! You have got a unique and glorious gem in your heart like the poor man. This is your inheritance, your true nature, and we can polish it until it dazzles and creates a bright light in the universe!!

This is the introduction to a new book I am building on my website at – http://www.flourishwrite.org. The title – ‘TRUE NATURE: Our Supreme Inheritance; how to take down your masks and stop repressing your natural urges.’ Please come and join me if you are curious about your gem stone within and how to polish it once you have found it!

Images courtesy of megapixyl.com: Feather on the sandhttps://www.megapixl.com/tomy86-stock-images-videos-portfolio; Colourful Bhutanese art of Tibetan dragon paintinghttps://www.megapixl.com/wanchanta-stock-images-videos-portfolio; Diamond cardhttps://www.megapixl.com/kalsers-stock-images-videos-portfolio; Cheetah runhttps://www.megapixl.com/rgbe-stock-images-videos-portfolio

Innocent Voices Conveying Crucial Messages

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

the writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Temple Chronicle: 5th February

 

higher mind

The objective of all Buddhist training, of any spiritual training, is to first become a better, happier person, and then to look after other sentient beings, developing unwavering respect and compassion in that pursuit. The majority of humans aspire to ascend and so get clarity on themselves and their place in the world. They have deliberately sought a method of getting control of their negative emotions so that they can allow their natural goodness to prevail at every moment.

According to the Buddha, we are each a stupa, a shining tower to house the essence of the Great Truth (Tathata {Skt} Shinnyo {Jpn}), but the divine can only work in us when we are empty of delusions, self-serving desires and attachments. There are numerous ways we can ‘practice’ to realize this emptiness, but there is a danger that we ‘practice’ with ego, becoming attached to the practices themselves, forcing and striving to achieve these states. The word ‘practice’ is unfortunate in many ways because it implies imperfection, apprenticeship, and an impending performance. However, immediate realisations are numerous in the same way that performances can be spontaneous and their performers unknown.

This struggling against the current of the natural, this shouldering and manipulation and grasping by religious means, is perhaps burying our true nature even more deeply. Aspirants in Japan must start from scratch in terms of their faith, so are often initially benefit seekers, believing that they can acquire protection and benefit from the deities. These expectations are ingrained in the popular Shinto practices, and the line between Shintoism and Buddhism is quite blurred. So, they often barge into zealous practice, giving it their best for a probation time, and then, if they are not happier, wealthier and wiser, they may go on to try some other faith path.  These tactics often come from fear and superstition in my experience.

It is interesting and at the same time quite shocking that human beings often long to wipe clean the slate of their beings, to erase everything so that they can be reborn, totally transformed. Many of us view our thinking as flawed so we block it, hide it away; we experience a frisson of guilt at having such thoughts and then bury them, perhaps forever. We have rendered thoughts permanent and visible as everything and everyone else is. But it is possible to just let our thoughts appear, let them surface as detritus or debris in water. We do not need to condemn ourselves for having so-called bad thoughts, in the same way as we do not applaud ourselves for having so-called good thoughts. Thoughts are epehemera.

It is impossible to wipe the slate of our human existence and our spirit entirely clean, unless we synthesize amnesia or undergo brain-washing. Instead, we can adapt and accept – making the effort to free the flow of the water of our life. We humans are essentially beings of light, formless tennants. Water is similarly formless; in its natural state it flows wherever it wants to, wherever it can. Sometimes over-zealous practice can freeze that flow, fixing our nature into a glacier. Emptiness is the free flow of our waters, which are healing and cleansing, refreshing and exuberant.

Once we did not need to make an effort to keep our divine flame alight by spiritual practice. We were truly living out our original nature, flowing freely, merging with the fluid natures of those around us in loving harmony. Then, we learned to utilize the intellectual mind to interfere in this natural process, and our blindness began, leading us to go our own egocentric way towards the secular and personal power.

We may meditate, we may reflect, we may take empowerments and initiations, we may doggedly follow the letter of our teacher’s advice, but we must not lose sight of the truth, the suchness, which is deep inside ourselves, inside our unique stupa. We must not rule out the possibility that our ancestors were divine beings who handed on their divinity through the generations to us, and that in simply being, sitting with ourselves exactly as we are, that spark will burst into joyful flame once again.

The master invites us to appreciate ourselves, our inner beauty, while at the same time making certain we are completely honest with ourselves.  What are we really feeling?  What are we imagining we are feeling?  What are we hoping we will feel?  This is the true basis and function of meditation. Before embarking on a spiritual path, we must come face to face with our deep selves, naked, so that our true nature will be revealed.

Do we truly feel the icy stab of the first pail of water poured over our own warm flesh? Or do we feel it vicariously as our Master pours it? Do we rise before dawn with our entire consciousness, 100% present, in order to watch the reality of the sun rise in the sky, the sun rising inside our sky? Is it really our true nature which takes the prayer beads now, in the centre of the moment, completing it with all our might? Is our stupa dedicated and perfectly purified in order to embody the light of the great truth?

Mindfullness engenders enlightenment.

stupa

Temple Chronicle: February 3rd

interfering

Those who follow.  Those who are followed.  Followers or leaders, there need be no division.  What prevents us from taking the first step to being different from the conformists surrounding us?  Fear?  Prohibitive karma?  Ignorance of the millions of opportunities staring us in the face each moment?

Followers are by their very existence separated from the followed one.  They are the victims of a small act of violence which places them at a disadvantage, rendering them passive to superior instruction.  This is not the Buddha’s way, not the middle way. In adulating even a Buddha, we are being excessive, servile, insincere, because we turn away from our own Buddhahood.   By maintaining an even breath and softening our gaze on what is not real, we become one again, in one heart.  We become one with the master because we are the master.

Such purity is hobbled by a complex system of filters and refineries designed to keep us back, keep us quiet in our sprawling communities, to make way for so-called leaders. This is all enacted in the blind tyranny of the visual world.  Close your eyes and mute your memories and conditioning by embodying your breath, and you will quickly realize that such differences, such separations, are imaginary.

In each tiny interaction with others – a smile, a murmur, a passing fragrance on skin, a positive thought, a word – we leave our traces behind. We cannot see them, count them, or erase them. But our influence endures and we echo it.  Each entity of goodness sparkles and  remains, eternal, but we are blind to them because of our deluded view.

Only when each unique moon of goodness is glowing in its place will the chaos of the sighted be dispelled, and the ocean its original calm.    

Gaia

Scent of the Divine by Linden Thorp

What can we learn from sensory deprivation about accessing other ways of being? How can we avoid the domination of visual processing, the consequent ownership of everything we see, and the blind instinct to pin everything down into permanence in the realities we create in our minds? What we see we want to own and fossilize, and then that becomes our reality and naturally we fear its loss. 

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Article 9: Becoming the Dharmakaya

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So far in this series of articles based on the final teachings of the Buddha, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the focus has been the final instructions the Buddha gives before he dies. For this article however, I would like to write more generally about broader notions of spiritual practice from my experience as a long-term Buddhist practitioner moving systematically through the early, middle and later teachings, and reaching the last teachings in the evening of my life. But also from the point of view of all spiritual practices, their forms, the motivation behind them, and the fundamental reason for their existence.

The sad parting of the historical Buddha Shyakyamuni from the human world – revered teacher and tireless devotee to the happiness and liberation of humanity from all suffering – creates a situation in which his disciples were forced to end their reliance on him. He had appeared in the human world of suffering, or samsara (Skt), and relinquished his privileged life as a Prince expressly to devote himself to this end. His appearance in human form is highly significant. It indicates that human beings needed detailed instructions and constant support in transcending their suffering and arrogance at this time. It is often proclaimed in the Buddhist sutras and scriptures of other religious traditions, that a spiritual leader appears in the human dimension when people have all but lost their spiritual direction. I believe that his presence as a model was desperately needed in an ancient India which was gripped by war and power-mongering. Even in his own lifetime, the entire Shakya clan, his own people, was massacred in a battle for supremacy and wealth, and his father’s kingdom appropriated.

anceint IndiaIt is interesting and inspirational to consider what ordinary people were like going about their daily lives in the early periods of so-called ‘civilisation.’ In what was known as the Golden Era of ancient India, several thousand years before the Buddha’s appearance, the gods, the Holy Beings, lived among the members of communities, making the divine easily accessible and full enlightenment possible by simply being in their presence. This notion is based on the premise that all humans born into the physical dimension are endowed with a divine flame, an indestructible link with the sacred; that, unlike today, in the Latter Era of the Dharma or Law, when our societies are in serious decline and our karmic debts on a colossal scale, we were originally sacred beings, with natural faith born of our closeness to the divine.

The situation in ancient India was similar in Ancient Greece where the gods were constantly present, tangible, as they were in greek godsmany other European civilizations. In other areas of the world, we can see today that surviving indigenous peoples, e.g. native Americans and Australians, unexploited African tribes, et al, also live in the constant presence of their divine creation heoresbeings, their Creation Heroes as they are often known.

So, when the gods lived among us, our divine spark was burning brightly. We were awake, not slumbering and responding blindly to delusions as most of us are today. We had not yet retreated into the self-made cavern of our ego-minds, and did not habitually block and interfere with natural processes. There was no need to assert our ego in the form of opinions or flattery, deceiving or telling lies, etc., because we had not yet become attached to and distracted by gratification: our intents were pure and rooted deep in the sacred. Unlike in modern life, we had no need to practice to wake ourselves up with perpetual meditation and mindfulness, an endless schedule of rituals and goals and empowerments. Our spirits simply were, and so they wore the weight of the human form with ease. As mentioned above, our karma was also pure, virgin and untarnished, so its negative form did not ripen forcing us to behave in a delusional way or to manifest illness or suffering, which is often the case today.

Imagine the world of ancient India then, long before the Buddha’s appearance. This was his legacy, and so witnessing the clairvoyrant Buddhadeterioration around him, his last teachings were intended to prepare us for the deterioration we witness in today’s world, which he predicated with his clairvoyant powers. But what had also happened among his disciples was that they had become dependent on him, literally following him around as he taught substantial congregations of seekers of the truth. This dependency on his physical presence, made them deeply fearful as his death as it rapidly approached.

He earnestly reassured them with the following words:

A Buddha does not die. Likewise, Dharma does not perish. Only tathata (shinnyo-Jpn) is real; everything else is illusory. The substance of the Buddha is shinnyo.’

Dharmakaya 2In his last moments, Buddha revealed to his beloved disciples that the teachings he was leaving for them would become his body, the Dharma body, or Dharmakaya (see previous article Dharmakaya at http://wp.me/p3O6mn-4P), after his physical death. In other words, to the first generations of disciples, the posthumous presence of the Buddha could be found in the form of his teachings, the Dharma. Later in the Mahayana, there are three ‘bodies’ of the Buddha; the Dharmakaya is the ground for the other two – the Enjoyment Body (sambhoga-kaya) and the Emanation Body (nirmanakaya). These 3 are synonymous with perfect enlightenment, transcending all perceptual forms and so not possible to perceive. They have many astounding qualities: freedom from all conceptualization; liberation from defilements; and the intrinsic ability to perform all activities. In later forms of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, influenced by tantric thought, the Dharmakaya is considered to be equivalent to the actual mind of the Buddha.

While transmitting his final teachings to the first disciples, which have flawlessly been transmitted orally up until today in the various Dharma Streams, the Buddha entreats them to become a reminder of Buddhahood, a representation of the Dharma-Body for all sentient beings to return to. In chapter 12 of the Sutra, The Nature of the Tathagata, he says:

‘I (the Buddha and all disciples) shall become a stupa (a repository of holy relics), a reminder of Buddhahood that other sentient beings can respect, and represent the Dharma body for them to return to…….I shall be the eyes for the blind and also a true refuge for Hearers and Solitary Awakened Ones.’

stupaThis is testament to our divine origins, to our inclinations towards the good and moral, to kindness and compassion, which I believe are at our core. We each have the spirit of a Buddha, an awakened one. We each have the choice of waking up from the deluded dreams contaminating our minds, of sensing the formless nature of reality, of resisting indoctrination and repression. The Dharmakaya, the Dharma body of the Buddha, walks among us today as we struggle with our delusions in a secular world of overwhelming diversity. If we connect with our true nature, letting go of our addiction to gratification and living with the courage to be our true selves, then we will find happiness in the realization of our sacred missions.

We are each a stupa, a shining tower housing the essence of the Great Truth (Tathata {Skt} Shinnyo {Jpn}), but the divine can only work in us when we are empty of delusions, self-serving desires and attachments. There are numerous ways we can practice to realize this emptiness, but there is a danger that we practice with ego, becoming attached to the practices themselves, forcing and striving to achieve these states. This struggling against the current of the natural, this shouldering and manipulation and grasping by religious means, is perhaps burying our true nature even more deeply.

transformationIt is interesting and at the same time quite shocking that human beings often long to wipe clean the slate of their beings, to erase everything so that they can be reborn, totally transformed. Many of us view our thinking as flawed so we block it, hide it away; we experience a frisson of guilt at having such thoughts and then bury them, perhaps forever. I have learned to let my thoughts appear, let them surface as detritus or debris in water. I do not condemn myself for having so-called bad thoughts in the same way as I do not condemn myself for having so-called good thoughts.

It is impossible to wipe the slate of our human existence and our spirit entirely clean; instead, we can adapt and accept – making the effort to free the flow of the water of our life. We are essentially formless exactly like water; in its natural state it flows wherever it wants to, wherever it can. Sometimes over-zealous practice can freeze that flow, fixing our nature in a glacier. purityEmptiness is the free flow of our waters. They are healing and cleansing, refreshing and exuberant. They are not made to flow by our human effort alone, but by our spiritual permission.

Once we did not need to make an effort to keep our divine flame alight by spiritual practice. We were truly living out our original nature, flowing freely, merging with the fluid natures of those around us in loving harmony. Then, we are misguided in learning to utilize the intellectual mind to interfere in this natural process, and our blindness began, leading us to go our own egocentric way towards the secular and personal power.

We may meditate, we may reflect, we may take empowerments and initiations, we may doggedly follow the letter of our teacher’s advice, but we must not lose sight of the truth, the suchness, which is inside ourselves, inside our stupa. We must not rule out the possibility that our ancestors were divine beings who handed on their divinity through the generations, and that by simply being, by sitting with ourselves exactly as we are, that spark will burst into joyful flame once again.

religious followersWe may see ourselves merely as followers of a teaching, of a guru, but being a follower may imply that we are separate and different from our spiritual guide, and thus we are separate from the Buddha’s eternal presence, the Dharmakaya. In Chapter 23 of the final teachings, Bodhisattva Lion’s Roar, the Buddha teaches observing the holy precepts, entering into holy meditation, and acquiring holy wisdom by first stating what they are not:

Holy Precepts are not observed:

• for your own happiness

• for the sake of profit or worldly affairs

• out of fear that you may fall into the lower realms of suffering

• to avoid encountering danger or unhappiness

• to avoid being punished

• to avoid damage to your reputation

Holy Meditation should not be practiced:

• for your own enlightenment and benefit

• for your own safety

• to avoid negative things such as greed, being free from impurities, etc

• to avoid disputes and physical violence

Holy wisdom cannot be acquired with the following thoughts: If I become wise I shall

• be able to liberate myself and escape the suffering realms, as no human can liberate all beings from the sufferings of birth and death

• be able to become enlightened quickly, eliminating all delusions now I have encountered the Buddha, which is as rare as the blooming of an udambara flower (blooming once every 3000 years)

• be able to overcome the agonies of birth, aging, sickness, death and shine a light on my spiritual darkness

meditation then wisdomWhen we are truly practicing for the sake of others, we are not conscious of the form of wisdom, or meditation, or even the precepts, for they are our true nature. We do not have to be self-conscious of them. They are housed in our stupa, integral to our ancient unconscious minds. This is the aspiration of a truly divine being:

‘As one with wisdom, I wish to carry the burden of the inexpressible agony of all beings on my shoulders. I wish to remove people’s poverty, crudeness, insidious desire, and to soak up their poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance. I implore people to let go of their greed and lust, and not be bound by their desire to have a good reputation and respect. I wish to free people from the cycle of birth and death, but will stay in that cycle myself to guide every last one to Nirvana. I wish every sentient being to attain ‘perfect universal enlightenment,’ and to recognize and cherish their divine origins and missions.’

breath

With each breath, each blink of the eye, each thought as it arises, we are a Buddha, here in the centre of this blink

moment. We are each flawless, inspirational, universal beings. We should look no further

for we are the divine.

 

universal beings

(My deep gratitude to Karen Armstrong for her masterpiece ‘The Great Transformation’ (2005, Anchor Books) which taught me so much about the ages of man.)

Article 4: The True Self

Gassho

The self. Buddhism in general teaches that we should dissolve the ego so that we can be sincerely altruistic and unconditionally loving of all beings. Accordingly, if we cease to be attached to our ‘self,’ which incidentally exists only in our minds, then we can be liberated from all suffering.

We all have ideals for ourselves, our image, our happiness and love, and most human beings naturally want to be popular and loved by those around them. But such an ideal can create conditions for unhappiness or disappointment if we become attached to it and manipulate those around us to believe we are something or someone that actually in all honesty we are not. We may exaggerate, or tell fascinating stories which are not wholly true, or worse, lie, in order to make people think well of us, respect us, like us. A common way of describing this is ‘to reinvent’ ourselves, building a new identity for ourselves, which we want to take all the credit for.

self

There are common misconceptions about aspiring to spiritual pathways or a spiritual life. The notion of ‘path’ tends to create the impression that we have to go somewhere moving steadily along an unknown path until we reach the end and are transformed. The idea of arriving at an unknown destination fraught with problems along the route, the travel time unknown, the certainty of arriving also unknown, appeals to the ordinary mind, which tends to become fixed and lacking in stimulation from outside. But if we accept that rather we are unique spirits traveling eternally and internally through a timeless space-less continuum until we reach the realms of the Buddhas or Gods, having learned all the lessons we need to, then it is easy to see that being born a human is difficult, and is just one small part of a process.

spirits

Our spirits manifest as flesh so that we can learn particular lessons, especially those concerning unconditional love, and so it is not a spiritual pathway we are seeking, but a human one. We are aspiring to become better, even perfect, humans, or Bodhisattvas (see previous article – https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/bodhisattva/) as Buddhists refer to them. The Nirvana Sutra teaches us that we do not have to search very far to find a perfect training ground to hone our humanity among our nearest and dearest, our professional contacts, the public at large, and in our own minds.

spiritual training

In the final teachings, the Buddha introduced a new goal for our training as humans: to attain ‘permanence, true self, bliss and purity.’  Three of these aspirations – permanence, bliss and purity – are fairly obvious, but ’true self’ might be more difficult to grasp. We become so attached to our likes and dislikes, our desires, even our character traits which other people take delight in pointing out to us, that our ‘self’ becomes concrete, fixed, and perhaps we are proud or ashamed of it. But this self is synthetic, and we and our close ones, families and communities, are responsible for synthesizing it. Our true self is our spiritual self.  It belongs to no-one and is eternal and of the universe. It is the self, which is faultless, permanent, and intrinsically good. The self that is wise and all-knowing. Therefore, part of our lesson to be learned in pursuit of being an excellent human, is to resist proliferating this synthetic self; the self that strays from the truth and has distorted views of reality.

The human mind is a marvelous tool, but in this era of deterioration, when we have become distanced from the divine, needing intermediaries to connect us to them, we tend to use it to create in our own right dictated by our egos, instead of in line with the divine and the universe. Creativity is a gift when it comes to human creations, but it is the sacred dimensions which possess the ultimate power,  superior compared with our tiny flickering minds. This tool of the intellect is adept at making concepts, ideas, formulae, etc., and all manner of mental images and contraptions, which sadly put us always at a distance to reality. The synthesized human self is a similar contraption, which we cling to, making it more and more fixed throughout our adult lives and which becomes a source of suffering.

beauty nad balance

This self we construct, supplying it amply with our chosen cultural, social and linguistic morays, is, as mentioned above, often flawed and distorted, and to make matters worse, it is a vehicle, the most recent model in the linear range, for the negative and positive karma (or actions) of all our ancestors and related spirits. Everything and everyone is connected, so what an ancestor did 300 years ago will affect you today in your life in some way. These laws of karma demand that we atone for our ancestral karma and perhaps national karma, so that all is purified and we are then in the position to help others to purify their negative karma. Some people have less negative karma and less fixed ‘selves’ than others, so this would account for why some of us do enjoy happiness, and our lives seem smooth and blessed, or ‘lucky.’

laws of karma

What if there was a way to know your past and your future, to step outside the human concepts of space and time? What if it was indicated in religious meditation with a spiritually evolved being that your ancestors were certain beings with certain karma: healers, cruel dictators, priests and nuns, beautiful children who died in infancy, explorers and settlers of new lands, missionaries, the devout, etc…spirits who had struggled along the human pathway, made effort to be Bodhisattvas, some of whom had succeeded, some failed. Then you could feel reassured that the human lessons had been learned by predecessors, and that in retrospect, it is easy to see that it was their unique spirit and its determination to survive unimaginable hardships and conditions which made them great. If they had not survived, then we would not be here. I am very fortunate that I can experience such unique meditation developed by my masters, Shinjo and Tomoji Ito, and so can eliminate negative karma relatively rapidly.

shinnyo parents

The Buddha’s  earlier wisdom sutras, or Heart sutra as it is known, taught that we should eliminate this self, getting rid of our ego and all our self-serving desires. But then the Buddha on his deathbed taught that we should build up the self. This confused everyone assembled to say farewell, especially the enlightened disciples who had become complacent. This self is the one that recognizes its shortcomings and inadequacies, and is willing to make the effort to be a better human being. In addition, this self can learn to identify and then accept the shortcomings in others exactly for what they are – a projection of the false or worldly self, and so generate unconditional compassion and universal Bodhicitta  (see previous article: https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/bodhi-mind-and-mindfulness/) for all beings.

shortcomings

These final teachings also proclaim that anyone, regardless of their level of negative karma produced by their ancestors or by their own actions during their lives, can be liberated and purified, and eventually find their true self. At the time approximately 2,600 years ago, the spiritually evolved gathered in the Sala Grove, Buddha’s final resting place, were shocked at hearing this because earlier in his ministry the Buddha had insisted that only the ordained monastics could reach full enlightenment, and that they must live by strict rules and give up their ordinary life to do so. But finally, in the Great Parinirvana sutra, the sutra of all sutras, universal compassion for all living beings surfaced on the lips of the Buddha. He  said,

“Those who study other sutras will never be at the end of their quest. They will keep looking for something that can help them more, something that works more for them. Once they discover the wisdom of Mahaparinirvana, their search will cease, and they will realize they have come to the end of their aim. Mahaparinirvana enables all beings to free themselves of all delusions and illusions.”

Chunda

So, as a result of this final teaching, lay practitioners were able to strive towards enlightenment without giving up their daily life. Today there are many lay orders, their practices designed for busy working people with families. My own sect is such, but we may be ordained and elevate spiritually while taking the fundamental principles of the final teachings of the Buddha out into our communities and families. I believe such a training in daily life is the most difficult with all its temptations and choices. Daily life is the best training of all for developing unconditional love. It is tested at every turn!

The final teachings also decreed that the lessons learned in any faith were compatible with the teachings of Great Parinirvana. All pathways of faith flow into the great Ocean of Nirvana and coalesce to create world harmony and universal peace. This collection of true selves, beings of faith, no matter which faith, must come together in one heart to rebalance the earth and its peoples.

interfaith

Finally, it is interesting that few Buddhist denominations today have the final teachings of the Buddha as their core. In Japan, the Shinnyo teaching is the only one. Now is the time for these final teachings to be activated globally.

Nirvana Buddha by H.H. Master Shinjo ito

Nirvana Buddha
by H.H. Master Shinjo ito

Article 2: Buddha Nature

Buddha Nature

In the great Nirvana teachings of the Buddha, enlightenment is clearly described. What is central to this enlightenment is one’s Buddha Nature, in other words, one’s true self. Another way of expressing it is the aspiration to become enlightened, which is often described by Buddhists as a seed, which with practice and devotion, will eventually ripen. Buddha Nature is in some ways a mystical phenomenon the Buddha had never mentioned in any of his previous teachings. He had clearly reserved it for this final moment as his parting gift. This is highly significant if we consider that among the enormous gathering of well-wishers present were highly trained and revered monks who had already attained enlightenment under the Buddha’s supervision. Naturally, they were perplexed by this revelation and found it difficult to correctly perceive their hidden Buddha Nature. The Buddha recognized that they had become arrogant and complacent.

Tofukuji, Kyoto

Tofukuji, Kyoto

To discover one’s hidden Buddha nature needs spiritual training and a spiritual master, so it is not possible for me to comment on this aspect of it here. In Esoteric Buddhism, the transmission of teachings from Master to Pupil is the central core, so it is not appropriate to try to render it in words in public. But the notion of Buddha Nature is I believe universally inspiring in this age of competition and cut-throat attitudes, when power-mongering is at its zenith across the globe. It can help us to re-connect with the Universe and humanity, to find confidence if we have lost it, and to shed the dry skin of arrogance if we have acquired it. I will try to express my image of it and how it figures in my daily life. But first, there’s a very famous story, which will speak to the unconscious mind as only story can.

hiiden gem‘Once there was a man – father, son and husband – who could no longer support his family due to loss of work. He had no choice but to go elsewhere to work, so he packed his belongings and left home causing his family great sorrow. He arrived in a new land, quite quickly found work and was soon able to send money home. He developed more and more trust with his employers, and eventually they gave him more responsibility, a house to live in, and opportunities to become wealthy. He enjoyed this new status and became wealthy providing for his family amply. But then he became arrogant, and one day made a mistake which caused his employers to lose all trust in him. His status vanished and he frittered his wealth away on drinking and gambling to find comfort. Finally, he was destitute having only the clothes on his back and no prospects, as he had lost all respect. He suffered, starving and sleeping rough, desperately searching for food and work, but not able to find any. In the end, he was forced to return home to his family, sick and weak.

One day, as he was recovering, his mother asked him what had happened, and he told her that he had lost everything through no fault of his own, and so had eventually given up searching. She smiled and went to bring his ragged cloak, which he had no idea of the significance of. Her fingers searched in the lining of the garment until they found some familiar stitches, which she quickly and carefully tore open, and there from the secret pocket, she brought out a tiny perfect diamond. He was so amazed that self-piteous tears welled-up and he sobbed. His mother said, “ My son, what you were searching for so desperately was close to you all along. You looked everywhere except inside your own heart. You need only that to live a contented and satisfied life, so look no further.” His mother has provided for him all along.’

look within

This story has a very happy ending and teaches us that in our human lives, we have a tendency to look outside ourselves for what we need or desire, somehow either trying to be proactive in engineering happiness, or waiting for it to fall into our laps. But, like the jewel sewn into the man’s cloak, happiness is within us all along. It is hidden, submerged, or covered over with our ignorance and misguided way of living. Each spirit or soul made flesh in the universe is endowed with goodness and purity at birth, our jewel of pure love, our true nature, but it becomes contaminated by our ignorance, our false ideas of self, our self-enforced separation.

In my view, there are two aspects or stages to locating or uncovering one’s Buddha Nature: Firstly, it is our human potential, and if polished, like a tarnished gem, it will shine gloriously allowing all our unique talents and dreams to be manifested; and secondly, when it shines it will serve as a beacon for others who are stranded in spiritual darkness, enabling them to see the way to realizing their own potential, to locate their own gem sewn into their clothing. So, if we can accept that each human is different from the next, in appearance and in temperament, in terms of DNA and Karma, and accordingly has a unique mission in human life which no-one else can bring to fruition, then we can understand the importance of locating our own inner jewel and making it shine. This second stage is altruistic in that we shine for others so that the entire human family can find happiness and fulfillment in the bright light of our united future.

In practical terms, as is evident from the popular trends of meditation and going-beyond-your-mind philosophies in the secular world, we become attached to our thoughts, our desires, our self-image, so need techniques to detach from them to find a calm resting place. We need the courage to accept what comes up in everyday life in the full light of the truth unearthed by Shakyamuni during his enlightenment, ie. that life is the suffering of birth, sickness, aging and finally death. Once we accept the reality of this, no longer trying to deny it, then our spiritual challenge lies in how we deal with these eventualities. I believe that polishing our potential born of universal love enables us to accept everything and to live with pure unconditional joy.

acceptanceThere are two other facets of Buddha Nature which I will touch upon briefly here and develop in a later articles in this series. The first is ‘emptiness’ – a fundamental principle of Mahayana Buddhism – briefly cutting attachments with all transitory phenomena so that we can find our true nature. The second is ‘ever-presence’ – the strong belief that if we engage in the process of polishing our Buddha Nature for the sake of other beings, then our spirits or Buddha Natures will never perish, and the Buddha and our gurus will be with us always guiding and cherishing us. We cannot change what happens to us, but we can change the way we react to it. We cannot deny the reality or magically transform it on sight, but if our Buddha Nature is shining and we are on the way to recognizing that nothing in our lives is permanent except for unconditional love and all things invisible, then we can overcome anything! The mind is strong and clear and unattached to negative human emotions. If we enter into the process of polishing our Buddha Nature with purification, meditation and mindfulness, gradually we can change our destiny. I speak from experience, and from a desire that all beings embark on this path no matter what their faith or beliefs.

change your destiny

There is another important point behind the Buddha’s revelation in the final teachings about this hidden Buddha Nature. Throughout his ministry he had trained and nurtured many illustrious monks who had gone beyond all craving to Enlightenment, and in a state of deep grieving, they were assembled to say their farewells to their Master. Until that point, it had only been possible to follow the Buddha’s path and attain enlightenment as a monastic practitioner, renouncing everything in normal life. In addition, following on from Brahmin tradition in India at that time, only male aspirants were admitted into training. It was in the final teachings of the Buddha that he invited all beings, whether male, female, cleric or lay, to set about revealing their Buddha Nature. As imaginable, this was a further shock to his close disciples who had renounced everything to follow him, but it is of cardinal importance to the way Buddhism developed later.

people

In most religious disciplines, monastic and lay practitioners are separate. I believe the Buddha was warning that such discrimination should not be so, and that we can learn our best lessons from ordinary daily life, out in the world of humans, once we have got some control of our minds through constructive practice. Every day is an acid test of how we can maintain the shining condition of our true nature surrounded by diversity, temptations, and other beings consumed by ignorance and negative emotions in the thick of samsara. It is so vital that we are our true selves at all times so we can honestly interact with others and become a model fort hem, a beacon to help light up their spiritual darkness.

So, how exciting is it to realize that all sentient beings can polish their Buddha Nature and attain enlightenment in their own lifetime? The Nirvana teachings are the ultimate in unconditional love, and I believe that they demonstrate how essential such boundless love is at perhaps the most deteriorated time of human existence, ‘The Last Days of the Law.’ The Buddha knew that these teachings would be essential as the nightmare of samsara intensified.  I am so deeply grateful to my gurus, Masters Shinjo and Tomoji Ito, for devoting their lives entirely to the teachings of the Nirvana Sutra on 8th February, 1936, 78 years ago. They also could forsee the future, and insisted that ‘the time is now!’

Nirvana Buddha by H.H. Master Shinjo ito

Nirvana Buddha
by H.H. Master Shinjo ito

Article 3 will be based on Emptiness, a central element to reaching the shores of Nirvana.