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

Applying Divine Systems of the Sacred Universe to our Human Lives

 

human potential 2The energy of sound and its perception is an ancient force which has mostly been overwhelmed and replaced by visual energy in modern times. Today, people cannot often surrender themselves entirely to listening, to soaking up pure sound for its own sake, without meaning or pictures or associations, or to listening to each other wholeheartedly without judging. It is intellectually accepted that the energy of sound is composed of vibrations, but how many people regard sound in this way? Opening oneself so that the vibrational patterns of incoming sound can merge with one’s personal vibrational receptors, and then allowing the physiology to react without blocking, is rare.

This allowing oneself to be touched and moved by vibrational patterns is an important dimension of healing, or apprehending the invisible world, of being fully alive. In this way, we can maintain contact with the universe and the magical forces of Nature. Receiving sound and merging with it is our true energic nature. It balances, it moves with our energies, never remaining still. This is the expression of pure life. Buddhists call it the Dharma, Chinese chi, Christians spirit, the ancients, Harmonices Mundi – the Music of the Spheres.

The ancients, our ancestors, were closely in touch with sound. They knew that if they could produce it in certain skilful ways, they would be able to balance not only the immediate environment and the sensing beings in it, but also contribute to the massive banks of sound of indestructible energy stored in the universe. Today, sound tends to be a fashion statement, mass-produced, elitist, wallpaper, an accompaniment to images, an escape from reality and natural life.

greater awarenessgreater awareness

Urban environments are populated by people pursuing status and wealth who spend their leisure time plugged in to devices which receive sound, but are they truly listening and not just using ‘their’ sound to shield them from reality and assert their individuality and separateness? Some might say that plugging in and becoming impervious to others or the natural universe is a violent act of arrogance or deliberate isolation from others, a refusal to be aware.

Sound has nowadays become a commodity listed in a ‘purchases’ category, or downloaded to ‘my playlist,’ or even stolen from its producer without rightful payment. We are the consumer, pinning down what we have paid for, appropriating it and turning it into our knowledge and materials to build our profile with. This is a travesty of sound. It is not a commodity.

divine link 1

Ancient Chinese philosophy and medical systems viewed all life in terms of Yin and Yang, the opposites of energy or matter, which are never static but in a constantly changing relationship of balance. The four seasons are a notable example of this. Others are darkness and light, sun and moon, feminine and masculine. The five elements of the universe, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, are essential to balance also. Fully cognisant of this, ancient people strived to make musical instruments, which would fulfil this need.

Korean zitherIn Korea, the zither was created according to these principles. There were two types: one which is known as the female and the other the male. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese text used for divination, refers to them as instruments reflecting the ‘resilience of woman’ and ‘the braveness of man.’ Modern discontented people may object to this seeming gender discrimination or segregation, but it is a fact that the universe operates on such contrasts. It is only in the mundane visible world that we make such differences, such separations. In the ‘invisible’ world of sound and spirit, there is no real separation into genders, no attachment to differences: so, we can and must transcend such separations.

gayageumThe female Gayageum has silk strings, plucked and struck with the bare hands to give a range of sensitive sounds. The male Geomungo also has silk strings, thicker to produce a lower tone, 16 frets, and is struck with a bamboo stick to produce a percussive sound. Two different qualities can harmonise together to create a whole.

The shapes of both instruments are strongly influenced by Yin and Yang. Both the Gayageum and Geomungo have a prominent rounded front representing the vault of the heavens, while the back is flat, representing the Earth; the front is constructed from softwood of the Paulownia tree, while the back from hardwood of the chestnut tree. The hollow interior of the Gayageum represents the 6 directions, 4 cardinal compass points and up and down, and its 12 strings the calendar. Flat versus rounded, soft versus hard, plucked versus strummed: all of these are aspects of Yin and Yang, and all necessary for balance.

The Geomungo has only 6 strings each with a name: the two outer strings are bungen, the civilian, and bugen, the soldier, characters or types which appear in the I Ching. If their conflicts can be harmonised, then the glories of music have triumphed over the lower minds of humans. The Geomungo gradually was withdrawn from use as a concert instrument to entertain an audience to be employed solely as an aid to spiritual elevation.

GaiaSound is sacred. If we live our daily lives with this awareness, it will help us to live naturally, without friction in our interactions with others, or in our general performance in the visible world. Kind words, sincerity and unconditional love need to be the main constituent of our vocal utterances in everyday transactions. This combined with the gift of truly listening to each other, to genuinely receiving the sound utterances of others, will once again create balance in the wider perspective.

natural practice

Integration in Human Performance

Part 1

spiritual and physical integration in standing

reality 1

Reality is the result of various invisible energies coming together in time and space, in the physical dimension. We inhabit the physical dimension in human form, and unfortunately the overdeveloped intellect becomes rigidly attached to it, and insistent that it is the only dimension that truly exists. The visible has become the be-all-and-end-all of modern life for a large majority of us, and that majority has the loudest voice steeped in reason and logic, and often heavily laced with fear and guilt.

Permanence has become mandatory in human life: we crave it desperately and fear its disintegration. This craving and fear often deprives us of the unadulterated pleasure of vibration and resonance and pitch, and the divine way they are combined to create unforgettable music.

It is this realization that sound, like food, is concrete, which can liberate us. We cannot truly interpret it in our physical form even though the tendencies of the intellect are to assume we can. Neither can hold on to it, pin it down, possess it. But on the other hand, it may pin us down and posses us, because the combination of resonance and pitch and rhythm match our own physiology and energy constellation. The energy expressed by a sound or pattern of sounds is simply a mirror reflection of us, because we are energy in the same way. When this moment occurs, tears stream or pulse rates increase because we recognize ourselves, our energy body, in the sounds.

When we perform musical pieces, or when we utter any intentional sounds from the body, it is important to remain aware that we are contributing to the vast bank of the sounds of the universe, which are eternal and utterly indestructible. This has been referred to as the ‘Music of the Spheres’ by various civilisations in different eras.

music of the speres

Sound is infinite and indestructible, so we have a responsibility to make beautiful positive sounds, which will help to balance our troubled planet. As a crude example, if we complain endlessly with a discontented even bitter intonation, then that negative energy will remain somewhere in the universe. But often the mind elbows past this truth and instead distracts us with egocentric thoughts, with concerns about either how others will critisize or envy us, how we will be classified, or at the other extreme, leads us to be ignorant of the importance of what we are doing. In each case, these distracting ‘thoughts’ are blocking the open channel which connects us with our divine or spiritual origins, with the invisible world.

Redirecting the use of one’s mind away from these distractions is so important to open up the channel again, and keep it open. It is our true nature at the centre of the onion, which we need to connect with – peeling back the layers of tough tasteless conditioning and expectations until we find our real centre. So, first, accept that your true nature needs locating and tuning up, polishing until it sparkles, and then that you possess all you need in your physiology and anatomy, and the unique arrangement of your energies, to be the perfect conduit for sound.

standing

Redirect your attention in readiness to perform in the following way:

While standing, visualize your spine as the central core of your physical being. It is your axis to keep you upright and grounded in the gravitational field. You/you and your instrument must negotiate this field efficiently in order to have optimal dexterity and resonance.

emotional anatomy 1 There are two ways to view yourself as you prepare to perform;

first, as a masterpiece of physiology and anatomy – muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, operated by fluids and pumps;

and secondly, as a constellation of different kinds of energies and DNA, a spiritual being, a concrete gathering of energies. These concentrations of energy are well illustrated by the ancient Indian system of chakra, or 6 wheels of energy situated along the axis of the body. They are at the base of the spine, slightly above and behind the navel, at the heart, the throat, between the eyes, and at the very top of the head or crown.

emotional anatomy 2

The spinal bones, arranged one on top of the other, form a protective covering for the precious spinal chord which is the centre of the nervous system; the energy wheels correspond to intense foci of energy at the 6 chakra points connected to the spine. As you stand visualizing, affirm strongly that you are a being in two different ways: first, physically and second, energically. Now you need to integrate these two models in your mind so that both systems are enhanced by the attention of your mind.

3-step physical directions: uniqueness 1

Ask your body and mind politely to comply with your directions, as follows. You can either close your eyes lightly or keep them open, whichever is most comfortable.

Step 1

  1. “Mind, please shift up to the top joint of my spine at a point just above the ears, and then proceed in a straight line vertically from that place to the crown of my head, which is a site of intense and special energy. In my mind, send this energy up into the blue sky, beyond any clouds that are passing by, up towards the sun. Remember that humans get energy in the form of light and heat from the sun and moon just like plants and animals do. So, without doing anything, without consciously stretching or moving in any way, I can visualise or see with my inner eyes. The crown of my head is attracted irresistibly towards the sun or moon.’

And breathe a little more deeply than usual, enjoying this sensation and being grateful for the life-giving energy of the sun. We sentient beings could not survive without it. hakuchoza

Pause to truly experience this positive feeling and to say thank you. Take as long as you need.

Step 2

  1. ‘Mind, please shift down the length of the tower of my spine, passing all the chakras or energy pools, to the bottom of the spine. Its smallest bones are located here; they are the only remains of our tails in the evolutionary stage when we were animals, but they are mostly redundant now. However, they are a good focal point to give my directions to. So, I must encourage my tail bones to point downwards towards the earth. The base chakra is located in this area, so I connect this energy into the earth. It is like plugging myself into the earth’s current, and appreciating that I am part of the earth, without which I could not exist. also. Plants put down their tap roots deep into the earth, and I can do the same. I can see my tap root as the continuation of my spine, down into the earth where my being is nurtured by soil and moisture. As I give and follow these instructions, I feel my feet making closer and wider contact with the earth or floor I am standing on. To avoid locking my knees when I stand, I must bounce slightly and feel a softness behind my knees. This will help my feet to increase their contact surface area with the earth.’

And breathe a little more deeply than usual, enjoying this sensation and being grateful for the life-giving energy of the earth. We sentient beings could not survive without it.

self-knowledge 3

Pause to truly experience this positive feeling and to say thank you. Take as long as you need.

 Step 3

  1. ‘Mind, please now travel up and down the length of my spinal column: up to the crown and the warmth and light provided by the sun, and down to the tail bones, and the nutrients and moisture provided by the earth. As I move, I notice the chakras at the crown, between the eyes, at the throat, the heart, the navel and the tail bones. Notice that with this kind of inner attention, the awareness of my spine, its location, small changes that are occurring, increases, and I feel more grounded, stable, and at the same time taller, lengthened. If my eyes have been closed, now I will gently open them, and if not, I will close my inner eyes and open my physical eyes now. I look around, freely moving my neck, and I notice that my visual sense is keener and my view clearer.’ reflections of each other

And breathe a little more deeply than usual, enjoying this sensation and being grateful for the life-giving energy of the sun, the earth, and your mind and spirit, which allow you to experience these pleasant and illuminating sensations.

Something to ponder on as you go back into your daily life:

All that composes this beautiful unique universe we inhabit, exists only because we can perceive it with the laser of our mind. It has no independent existence. It is our unique view which no-one else can access, so we can use it as the source of our being.

Please practise these 3 steps as often as you can until they become second nature to you.

Part 2: spiritual and physical integration in sitting

breath and love