Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Song From the Edge of the Forest

When the ascetic Gotama
was in the jungle for six years
why did he grow so thin?

What did his body look like?

What did he do in the summer?

What did he do in the winter?

What are the ways he used
to torture his body?

And finally why did he give it up?
Why did his five friends
leave him?

And who gave him milk when he fainted?

The Buddha ate nothing for 49 days,
then he practiced Anapanasati,
vowed he would not move
from that place, even if he
died in the process, until
Prince Sidhartha was enlightened and became
the Lord Buddha, at the 
foot of the Great Bodhi tree
in the shade.

The heart gradually emerged
from the boiling swamp
[of kilesas]
like the sun rising from the ground
to spread its light over the world:

Life exists for only a single
moment of consciousness.

What is impermanent is suffering.

All things are pervaded with
their non-existence.

His disciples wander far away
to practice meditation.
Bare poverty and deprivation,
plain rice to eat
with salt or chili pepper.

They rested and slept
on grasses and leaves
or under a bamboo shelter
to ward off sun and wind,
with a  rough platform
on which to lie.

And a pathway for walking meditation.

But they had to wander on 
for living in one place is not good;
moving on is a way to remain alert.
Moving on without fixed destination
to define time or  place - 
both of which tie one up -
is freedom.

Always moving on
responsible for only one's self
and the practice of the Way
which is the goal they aim for
with every breath.

They lived in the forest
under the shade of a tree
or in a charnal ground,
accepting whatever was available;
lived out in the open without any shelter
or they lived in a cave,
under a cliff
or in an abandoned shack
where no one was staying.

They used discarded rags
from the charnal ground
for their robes
and went on alms round every day,
ate only one meal a day
from their bowl,
and they practiced meditation:
Mindfulness with Breathing.

The Buddha taught this way
in kindness and compassion
for the world.

Therefore we are confident
to follow his empty footsteps
into the forest.

Peaceful and joyful in the forest
we enjoy the sounds of animals
which serenade forests with their music,
soothing lullaby, the animals
and birds gather around and call
to their friends. Their sounds
resound about the forest 
in due, regular hours of the day
and night,
for many kinds of animals roam
the forest in search for food
and their calls never cease.

Even though it is difficult
they must risk suffering and
danger in various ways.

Dhamma is to be found where
death is close by, if one has not
been faced with death one has
not seen dhamma.

They strive continually
with cause and result taking place
consistently and steadily.

They could see their heart's development.
Engrossed in this practice
they forget whether it is 
night or day.

They speak little and have no
liking for association with others
preferring to live by themselves, alone.
They like to go about on their own
and dislike giving dhamma talks.

They practice really determined,
unconcerned with mundane projects,
like one who dies without making arrangement
for his corpse. Anywhere will do
when his time has come.
While he is alive, he stays in
places like forests or caves
conducive to practice.

Sitting in samadhi for many hours
pain comes upon him
like a sea of flame
as if the body and mind is going to
break up and fall right there.

While separating out the bones and
feelings (of pain) with mindfulness
and wisdom, fully attentive
and committed,
investigating until he understands.

Then he separates out the feelings
from the mind (citta) until
he understands, all feeling 
disappears, and the mind
is absorbed in concentration.

Nor does fear arise anymore.

[Because one sees how feeling has
deceived him, made him fear
life and death.]

He sees the fresh and new footprints
of the master and the Arahants.

Anicca vata sankhara
When sankharas which compose
the body die, the body is no longer
of any use.

But the citta does not die
and can go on working endlessly.

If f the heart is used to going evil ways
it becomes dangerous and harmful to one's self.

The body is not steadfast
having been born it is bound
to die.

But the citta, the heart,
is steadfast.
It has no birth,
or death when the body dies.
It only whirls around in accord
with causes and conditions
that make it go around like this.

You should not become an Acariya
teaching others,
but become Acariya-teacher to teach
Looking at one's self not others,
teaching one's self caution
of things which harm one's mind
such as projects, reform movements,
worldly ways -
but look only on bhavana
overcoming kilesa.

Greed terrifies decent people
for when the time comes for
the fire to start burning
and destroying, it will not discriminate.

For the word seems to be boiling
and getting hotter, smoldering
in every place, more disturbed 
every day.

Greed is an engine of destruction.

They help the world in various ways
without expecting material reward
and they make people glad at heart.

They are full of loving-kindness
and they never get tired of the people.

Wherever they go they do no harm
in the world, but instead go
about helping others.

They give help to the world like a 
doctor and nurse who
dispense medicine and tend
diseases of fellow humans.

They are good people full
of generous kindness, and
big hearted.

So there are still some good people
in the world.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Gautama Buddha was a forest monk

Sakyamuni Buddha was a forest monk the the "forest tradition", following the sramana way of life, which involved abandoning conventional society and its religion. 

Buddhist literature sometimes seem to present the Buddha as a domesticated monastery-dwelling monk, and the forest dwelling was his pre-Enlightenment struggles, but Reginald Ray in his book Buddhist Saints in India, says there the portrayal of Buddha in the earliest scriptures show the Buddha as a forest monk.

In the earliest Buddhism, the Buddha is clearly depicted as a forest renunciate who has attained enlightenment in the jungle. Others join him there as his disciples, and he teaches them the forest way of life.

Thus we read that Guatama initially determined to become a wanderer, living in the open air, begging his food, and practicing meditation. Meditating in the forest he encountered Mara, defeated him, and attained enlightenment. After his enlightenment, he continued to live a forest-lifestyle: the Suttanipatta says he wandered about, lived in  the forest and dwelt alone, teaching the virtues of seclusion and solitude (viveka) to his disciples and being questioned by others on these virtues, Ray says.

"In fulfillment of his forest character, he dwells with no roof over his head and lives sometimes in specific forest locales, or upon particular mountains. In one verse, he is compared to a lion in a mountain cave. In his remote habitation, he does not abandon meditation, takes little food, and is restrained in speech."

"Moreover, abiding in the forest, he is available to teach the dharma to others. His supplicants, in order to see him and engage in his cult, know that he dwells in the forest and that they must go there to find him. On one occasion, King Bimbisara must climb Mount Pandava to see the Buddha."

"The dharma that the Buddha preaches to his renunciate disciples is, not surprisingly, one of forest renunciation, in which solitude and meditation are the essence and are not to be abandoned; and sleep is seen as an impediment [to meditation]."

Ray refers to the earliest strata of pali literature as contained in the Suttanipata, Dhammapada, Udana, Itivvttaka, Theragata, and Therigata. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Loving Our Enemies

How can we love our enemies? Because we recognize that loving-kindness is alive in every heart.

We love the evil-minded because they need it most! “In many of them, the seeds of goodness may have died because warmth was lacking for its growth. It perished form coldness in a world without compassion,” Maha Ghosananda said.

This is how we can love our enemies, because we understand.

We do not take sides in partisan conflicts, but advocate non-partisan reconciliation without limit, because no one is excluded form the need of love.

Loving-kindness saw the whole world as one family, the Human Family. Human rights begin when each man becomes a brother and each woman becomes a sister” when we truly care for each other.

Loving-kindness is a very powerful energy. It radiates to all without distinction. It radiates to our loved ones, to those towards whom we are neutral, and to our enemies. There are no boundaries to loving-kindness. The Dharma is founded on loving kindness. The Buddha looked on the whole world with eyes of compassion, so our personal prayer for happiness is a pryare for the whole world: May the whole world be happy.

Compassion compels us to reach out to all living beings, including our so-called enemies, those people who upset or hurt us. Irrespective of what they do to you, if you remember that all beings like you are only trying to be happy, you will find it much easier to develop compassion towards them.

Usually our sense of compassion is limited and biased to “me” and “mine”. We extend such feelings only towards our family and friends or those who are helpful to us.

But true compassion is universal in scope. There are no boundaries to loving kindness. The Buddha looked on the whole world with eyes of compassion.

One of the emotions most disturbing our mental tranquility is hatred. The antidote is compassion.

Wisdom sees the oneness of all things. Compassion sees the multiplicity, the individuality, of all things.

We are here to help as much as we can, as many as we can, for as long as we can.

Compassion is an understanding heart.

Loving-kindness is like water flowing everywhere. It is a gift that we can give.

Loving-kindness is the only way to peace.

If we can change ourselves, we can change the world. This is the essence of Compassionate Listening: seeing the person next to you as a part of yourself.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Impenetrable Moral Darkness

Has technology threatened human survival? Thomas Merton, sitting on the front porch of his hermitage in Trappist, Kentucky, fretted over such questions:

"We do not know if we are building a fabulously wonderful world or destroying all that we have ever had, all that we have achieved! All the inner force of man is boiling and bursting out, the good together with the evil, the good poisoned by evil and fighting it, the evil pretending to be good and revealing itself in the most dreadful crimes, justified and rationalized by the purest and most innocent intentions. Man is all ready to become a god, and instead he appears at times to be a zombie." (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p.55)

"There is a danger of technology becoming an end in itself and arrogating to itself all that is best and most vital in human effort: thus humans come to serve their machines instead of being served by them....The more corrupt a social system is, the more it tends to be controlled by technology instead of controlling it. The intimate connection between technology and alienation is and will remain one of the crucial problems we will need to study and master in our lifetime. Technology means wealth and power but it bestows the greatest amount of wealth and power upon those who serve it most slavishly a the expense of authentic human interests and values, including their own human and personal integrity. Life in the United States shows this beyond question. But unfortunately, the rest of the world secretly or overtly wishes to become like the United States."

"What a tragedy that would be." (Punto Final)

Technology allows us diversion and escape into endless frenzy, and escape from inner journey of awakening.

"The tragedy of a life centered on 'things,' on the grasping and manipulation of objects, is that such a life closes the ego upon itself as though it were an end in itself, and throws it into a hopeless struggle with other perverse and hostile selves competing together for the possessions which will give them power and satisfaction. Instead  of being 'open to the world' such minds are in fact closed to it and their titanic efforts to build the world according tot their own desires are doomed in the end by the ambiguity and destructiveness that are in them. They seem to be a light, but they battle together in impenetrable moral darkness." (Zen and the Birds of Appetite, p.82)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On the Calling of a Cynic

I came across this passage in Epictetus that reminded me of wise man's way of life. The Cynics were philosophers who were like monks. They were early Beats. They sought happiness through freedom from desires; freedom from passions of fear, grief, anger. Freedom from religious or public authority  or public opinion  They wanted to live free, following the way of Nature:

“And how is it possible that a man who has nothing, who is naked, homeless, without a hearth, squalid, without a servant, without a city, can pass a life that flows easily? See, God has sent you  a man to show you that it is possible. 

"Look at me, who am without a city, without a home, without possessions, without a servant; I sleep on the ground; I have no wife, no children, no profession, but only the earth and heavens, and one rag-robe. And what do I lack? Am I not without sorrow? Am I not free from fear? Am I not free

"When did any of you see me failing in the object of my desire? Or ever falling into that which I would avoid? Did I ever blame God or man? Did I ever accuse any man? Did any of you ever see me with sorrowful countenance? And how do I meet with those whom you are afraid of and admire? Do not I treat them like equals? Who, when he sees me, does to think that he sees a king and master?”

Epictetus, On the Calling of a Cynic, Discourse 3.22

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reading Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul says that technology has “destroyed everything which people have ever considered sacred. This is the horror of our civilization. What is so awful.”

Technology has replaced, taken the place, of the sacred. People have accepted technology as something sacred.

That is why, if during a demonstration a car is set on fire, people are shocked. Because a sacred object is destroyed.

Human happiness has its price. We must always ask ourselves what price  will we have to pay for something. Traditional societies always asked themselves this question: How will our decisions affect the 7th generation from now.

If we disturb the order of things, what will we have to pay?

Wisdom does not come from intellectual reflection. It is achieved in a long process of transfer from generation to generation, from our elders. Received wisdom is an accumulation of experience in direct relations with the natural social climate.

Nature served as an example for us. We must now divest ourselves from all that. For in a technological society, traditional human wisdom is irrelevant. It is nonsense.

Technology requires us to live faster and faster, ever more quickly.

Inner reflection is replaced by reflex. In the natural society reflection means that after having undergone an experience, we thought about that experience. In the case of reflex there is no time for thought, we know immediately from conditioning what must be done in a given situation.

Technology will not permit us to think about things. We must react quickly to the flow of changes.

People must adapt to change.

Technology will not tolerate any judgment being passed on it.

City dwellers live in a completely dead environment, consisting of concrete, brick, cement, glass, steel, and so on. People cannot be happy in such an environment. So they suffer psychological problems. Mainly as a result of their social climate, but also as a result of the speed at which they are forced to live.

Human beings evolved to live in nature. And they suffer from this loss of nature.

They then turn to technology to relieve their suffering, medication, diversion, amusement, relief, hatred, as compensation – instead of confronting the root of their suffering.

The technological era is an era of media and loneliness. That is a very important fact. We can see this so clearly in the young. Students shoot up their schools and commit mass murder, and we are perplexed and ask ourselves how this could be. They have everything, and yet they rebel, go berserk. They consume technology and spectacular media, and yet they rebel.

But, if people lose their motive for living two things can happen. It only seldom happens that they accept that fact. In that case, they develop suicidal  or murderous tendencies.

Usually, they just try to find refuge in diversion, or they become depressed and begin taking medicines.

If some people become aware of their situation they react to it as usually happens in western societies. They become depressed and discouraged. So they just don’t think about their situation and carry on. They drive faster and faster, never mid where, as long as it is fast.

Because of our technology, we now have a world in which the situation of mankind has totally changed. Mankind is now prepared to give up their human independence in exchange for a certain security. The human being is becoming “post human” as  one is changed internally, manipulated by media.

We who resist technology are accused of being pessimistic luddites because we want to awaken people. It is better to let them sleep peacefully, and dream of Disneyland.

But freedom begins when we become conscious.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tantric Theravada in Cambodia -

Tantric Buddhism became ascendant  in Angkor during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. His great temples in Angkor Thom, especially the  Bayon, are tantric centers.

The Hevaajra-Tantra seems to have been an important tantric practice in Cambodia at this time.

Boisselier says the brahmavihara meditations are featured in the Hevaajra-Tantra [“we shall expound the chapter on  the divinities. First one should product thought of love, secondly that of compassion, thirdly that of joy, and last of all that of equanimity. Hevajra Tantra I.iii.1] and the tara-sadhana of the sadhanamala.

Why did tantric Buddhism appear so strongly in Angkor (Cambodia) at this time? The Muslim invasion of India destroyed the Tantric centers of Nalanda, Vikramasila and Odantapuri in 1200…Some of the refugee masters went to Angkor, while others went to Nepal and Tibet.
A tantric pantheon led by Hevajra, Vajrasattva, Vajradhara and Vajrapani moved center stage in Cambodia at this time, and Jayavarman had all the resources needed for this in the Phimai tradition from which his Mahidhara dynasty hailed.

The Bayon temple (Ancestor Yantra Temple) with the four-faced Buddhas looking in every direction is a manifestation of this tradition. 

The presence of the Buddhist Tantric masters in Angkor may be attested from evidence in Katmandu, Nepal, where the similar tradition of the Tantric Adi-Buddha eyes look out over the city in all directions from the city from each side of the square harmika of the Katmandu’s Svayambhu Mahacaitya, and similar temples.

BP Groslier, following Jean Filliozat, speculates that the painting of the eyes on the towers in Katmandu and Patan was inspired by the refugee masters from Bengal, at exactly the same time that the giant four-faced Buddhas were carved at the Bayon in Angkor.

“It has been shown recently that it [the new form of Buddhism of Jayavarman VII] very probably consisted of the doctrine elaborated in Nalanda, then taught in Angkor – finally in Japan – by the doctors of the [Buddhist] law who had to flee before the Moslem invaders in the closing years of the 12th century. It is therefore to this school and its texts that we should turn to JayavarmanVII’s conceptions of Buddhism, and therefore for the sources of the Bayon. This is just as much as the case for the Bengali zealots who took refuge at the same time in Nepal and Kashmir, who were very probably the initiators of the stupas marked with four stylized faces, oriented to the four directions, which are the only exact parallels that can be found with the Khmer face towers.” [Groslier, BP]

Ulrich von Schroeder  said of the refugee Buddhist masters of 1200:

“The annihilation of Indian Buddhism caused a great influx of refugees to Nepal who swarmed to the Buddhist monasteries of Kathmandu Valley, mostly in Patan and Kathmandu…the arrival of these Buddhist refugees was beneficial to Nepal and in many ways one of them being that among the immigrants were many eminent Indian Buddhist scholars who had salvaged valuable manuscripts and probably many cast images. There is every reason to believe that among these displaced Buddhists were also many skilled artists and craftsmen. At the same time the importance of the viharas as centers of Buddhist studies increased and the Tibetan Buddhists shifted their focus from north-eastern India to Nepal. [Ulright von Schroedder Indo-Tibetan bronzes. Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong.]

In the years 1197-1207, when all the Ganges valley monasteries were being destroyed, the Khmer were carving face-towers in Buddhist Bayon Banteay Chmar and other temples, and producing stone and bronze icons of Tantric deities such as Hevajra, Vajradhara and Vajrapani – all progeny of Nalanda, Vikramasila and another Indian monasteries.

“In tantric thinking, a king’s personal meditation in discovering the Buddha inside himself generates a mandala of deities, not only for himself but for the whole state. [Jayavarman was a skillful meditator and a learned Buddhist. His second wife and two sons were skilled Sanskritists who composed his three major extant inscriptions, and he is described in his inscriptions as ‘learned in the sutras’ and “a veritable Panini in his youth’ and is shown pronouncing the mantras at a public ritual.”

The apsaras (female goddess dancers) carved into the temples of Angkor are tantric-yoginis. Images of the Yogini-Hevajra cult.

History records that King Jayavarman VII entered the pinnacle of his temple at Angkor Thom every night in order to have intercourse with a “female dragon” – that is, engage in tantric meditation rites with a female partner.

Hevajra Tantra was the first of a new class of Mother Tantras that gave a strong female orientation to its mandalas. …Jayavarman’s temples were known for the special focus they gave to female officiants. The 1225 chronicle of Chau Ju-Kua, the Chinese Superintendent of Maritime Trade in Canton, contains an account of temple life:

“[in Chen-la, ie. Cambodia] the people are devout Buddhists. In the temples there are 300 foreign women; they dance and offer food to the Buddha. They are called a-nan [Skt. Ananda (bliss)]…the incantations of the Buddhist and Taoist [Shiva yogin] priests have magical powers.’”

When Cambodia later adopted Theravada Buddhism, this older strata of tantric Buddhism was subsumed and assimilated into the Buddhist traditions.