• Tag Archives Buddhism
  • The Value of Increasing Darkness

    Samhain                                         Waxing Thanksgiving Moon

    The daylight is gone, twilight has fallen and night is on its way.  Now that we have entered the season of Samhain, the leaves have vanished from the trees and the clouds, like tonight, often hang gray in the sky.  Samhain means the end of summer and in the old Celtic calendar was the half of the year when the fields went fallow while the temperature turned cool, then cold, hope returning around the first of February, Imbolc, when the ewes would freshen and milk would once again be part of the diet as new life promised spring.

    In between Imbolc and Samhain lies the Winter Solstice.  The early darkness presages the long twilight; it lasts from now until late December as we move into the increasing night until daylight becomes only a third of the day.  This has been, for many years, my favorite time of year.  I like the brave festivals when lights show up on homes and music whirs up, making us all hope we can dance away our fear.

    The Yamatanka mandala at the Minnesota Institute of Art gives a meditator in the Tantric disciplines of Tibetan Buddhism a cosmic map, brightly displaying the way to Yamatanka’s palace grounds.  In the middle of the palace grounds, represented here by a blue field with a vajra (sacred thunderbolt) Yamantaka awaits our presence.

    In the Great Wheel as I have come to know it, we visit Yamantaka on the night of the Winter Solstice, that extended darkness that gives us a foretaste of death.  Our death.  On that night we can sit with ourselves, calm and quiet, imagining our body laid out on a bed, eyes closed, mouth quiet, a peaceful expression on our lifeless face.

    We can do that, not in suicidal fantasy, but in recognition of our mortality, our finite time upon the wheel of life, awaiting our turn as the wheel turns under the heavens carrying us away from this veil of samsara.  If we can do that, we can then open ourselves to the thin sliver of light that becomes more and more, as the solstice marks the turning back of the darkness and brings us once again to life.

    When we can visit Yamantaka’s palace, sup with him in this throne room and see death as he, the conqueror of death sees it, we are finally free.

  • Kids, Chinese Heritage and Sheepshead + Buddhism

    Lughnasa                          Waxing Artemis Moon

    Whew.  Into the MIA for tours with kiddies from the Peace Games at the park across from the Museum.  I had two groups, one a group of girls mostly who were sensitive, responsive and imaginative.  A pleasure.  The second group was all tween boys who wandered, posed, paused and were harder to engage, though the sword did get their attention.

    When finished, I knew I had to return at 5:45 and I had the option of staying, but I chose to drive back home and take a nap.  After an illness, I like to get as much rest as possible.

    So, turn around at 5:00 pm and go back to the museum for a tour of the Matteo Ricci map with the Chinese Heritage Foundation.  They were a lively, bright group who could read the map!  That gave more insight into it.  Lots of good questions, conversation.

    I left the museum at 6:45 and headed over to St. Paul to sheepshead.  The card gods smiled on me tonight.  After a slow start, I got some better cards.

    Then, back home.  A long day.  On the drive I’ve been listening to more of the Religions of the Axial Age lectures.  The ones right now focus on Buddhism.  I’ve never found Buddhism appealing though certain elements seem helpful.  Since I’m a not a big believer in reincarnation or kharma, the Buddha seems to be solving a problem I don’t have.  After listening to the notion of no-self, I began to have a distinct puzzlement.  I don’t get how the notion of no-self and continuing rebirth co-exist.  I must be misunderstanding something.

  • After this life

    Summer                            Waning Summer Moon

    Life keeps coming at us until this one stops.  Gyatsho has been on my mind since his death.  As I indicated the day I discussed his death here, the Tibetan belief is that he is now in a possibly 49 day process of finding a home for his reincarnation.  As I’ve worked outside, I’ve looked up from time to time, imagined Gyatsho’s consciousness, his very subtle mind, making a transit through the invisible world, hunting for a new home, working toward enlightenment.

    As I’ve considered this, it comforts me.  The notion of a next life, especially a next life focused on learning left over lessons from this one, makes sense to me in a way.

    What has not made sense to me since early high school is the binary logic of Christianity:  heaven or hell.  One lifetime, then out to eternal punishment or eternal bliss.  Even when I worked as a minister, my theological system did not include such a cramped afterlife.   God is love.   If so, then love will rule a soul’s disposition in the afterlife and love forgives all things.  No need for hell.  This seems to collapse the present into amorality, but only so for persons devoid of gratitude or unaware of grace.

    My belief now runs more toward composting, but I’m open to the notion of survival.  If we do survive in some way, I like the Buddhist idea.  Even though I like it, I find it hard to believe because the evidence we have from returnees is nil.

    The metaphor that works best for me is the chrysalis.  This body I have now is a chrysalis, death triggers the next transformation, mutation.  Perhaps we pass into one of the multiverses and never even know it happened.  The next great mystery.

  • A Burning Tree

     65  bar falls 29.94 0mph S dewpoint 30 Beltane

                  New Moon (Hare Moon) 

    The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings. (Buddhist  Sutra)

    Though this comes from a Buddhist sutra (thread) it resonates with Taoist thought.  These two ancient traditions crossed paths over and over again in China.  At least one of those occasions created Chan Buddhism, which, in Japan became Zen Buddhism.  

    The Buddhist element I see here is the notion of unlimited kindness and benevolence, an attribution to the forest that I do not believe my brother Taoists would make.  They would agree that the forest is a peculiar organism (among many) and would further concur that it makes no demands for sustenance (on humans) and does extend its product of life and activity (generously–well, maybe to a Buddha, but probably not to a tree) and would also acknowledge its protection to all beings (except those plants killed by competitive toxins and the small prey animals killed by predators).   

    Taoism is a fascinating (to me) blend of reason and organismic thinking which produces a vibrant metaphysic understandable at the tinest particle of matter and at stages of complex organization from thence upwards to the Heavens themselves, the 10,000 things.

    Mostly clean up outside today.  Getting ready for the more ambitious projects that will soon occupy my time.

    From the deck last evening I looked at our Magnolia.  It stood against the seven oaks like the flame atop a Thai Buddha.  Its white glinted, mirrored back by white daffodils.  This evening, for this moment, the Magnolia had a nimbus, a sacred aura, as if it had transcended its treeness and become another living entity all together a vegetative, blooming fire.  A burning tree.