Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Buddha's RELICS on display! (Sept. 5-7)

CC Liu, Teri Mei, Bhante, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly; Master Yong Hua (MahaStupa.org)
The remains of the Buddha's body will be on display Sept. 5-7, 2015. See details below.

They are hard to believe in or understand, but all are invited to see for themselves (MS).
Kids love the energy emanating from Buddhist relics rarer than precious gems (MRT)
Cameras record miraculous viewing of sacred tooth and other relics (MahaStupa.org).
Visitors view relics on Lu Mountain, L.A., Aug 18, 2013 (Christina House/LATimes.com)

Picture
Close up of various relics multiplying under glass in full view of onlookers (MahaStupa.org)

Relics in glass, Lu Mountain, Aug. 2013 (Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal)

Relics on cover of the Los Angeles Times
First of all, what is a "relic" (Sanskrit sharira, "subtle body emanation")? It is a part of the body, or more often the post-cremation remnant, of an enlightened person, literally a "saint" or arhat in Buddhism.
Something about the body transforms at the moment of full enlightenment, arhatship. And the physical proof of this transubstantiation is evident in the ashes of the cremation pyre -- miraculous crystal like "beads" and bone fragments, colorful concretions, formations, inexplicable pieces of glass with the unique property of multiplying and disappearing and reappearing.

Prajna Paramita, the Buddha, and Quan Yin on Lu Mountain altar (Wisdom Quarterly)
 
Buddhist miracles and marvels today?
Special glass containers with various relics (WQ)
It is easy to imagine that when a revered teacher passes away, her or his students, wishing to "prove" their teacher was an enlightened meditation master, might toss in bags of sand or something. Then with great heat brought about by binding in prodigious amounts of wood, linen wrappings, and oil the glass might melt into beads.

That would be one hot fire to congeal sand into glass like an atomic blast. Yet, it would still not explain the marvelous powers of the remains. Everything burns up, but these colorful glassy formations grow, appear, multiply, disappear, teleport, and give coherence to meditation in their vicinity. People more easily enter states of profound concentration (stillness, one-pointedness, serenity, calm, joy, samadhi) when they meditate.

Ven. Abbot Yong Hua holds relics (MS)
The abbot, Master Yong Hua, is very generous and from time to time is drawn to give one or more away. Then those blessed persons experience miracles -- seeing the relics multiply (or disappear if they are not worthy of them for lack of virtue or sufficient respect).

September 7th 2015 Event

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Christian Girl's Guide to Sex (The Kama Sutta)

Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly; Wikipedia News; G.P. Malalasekera (Dictionary of Pali Names); Ven. Thanissaro (accesstoinsight.org)
I think sex work is the only way out of this mess. - You or me? - Either way. Sex sells, and now the Church is less prudish about us selling it to anyone with cash. Jesus would approve. - That's blasphemy! - So stone me. I'm a Buddhist, and we're fine with consensual sex.

The Buddhist Kama Sutta is translated below.

Heather Veitch
Woo, do it for the Lord! (Ms.Veitch)
JC's Girls is an Evangelical Christian women's organization in the United States whose members preach the Christian gospel to female workers in the sex industry.

The group does not focus on conversion but rather on communicating its message, which is that Christians exist who are not judging female sex workers and are willing to accept them.

NOW the way is...I'm blushing.
Now based at The Rock Church in San Diego, the organization was founded in 2005 at Sandals Church in Riverside, California, by Heather Veitch (pictured), a naked stripper for four years before becoming a Christian and leaving the rigorous sex industry in 1999.

Terry Barone, spokesman of the California Southern Baptist Convention, said that JC's Girls members "are doing what Jesus [famous Jewish-Buddhist Issa] did...He ministered to prostitutes and tax collectors."

Criticism of the organization has focused on the way members dress -- too ungodly -- and the fact that they do not explicitly encourage women in the sex industry to quit. [How dare they allow them to remain doing what they were doing; critics feel they should at least be shamed into feeling bad about it and guilty and repentant.] Philip Sherwell of the Calgary Herald called the evangelism of JC's Girls "America's most unusual Christian outreach operation." More

"According to our test results: Joseph...you are NOT the father!" (Jeremy Kyle)
Jesus Christ was married to...
(The Cosmos News) Jesus was married and had two children with Mary Magdalene! An ancient manuscript offers proof that Jesus Christ was married with children. But this lost gospel has a sensational twist: The new book, The Lost Gospel, claims that Mary Magdalene was the original Virgin Mary! This may explain why most of the world venerates a Mother Goddess consistently along with any newfangled male gods set up as official objects of worship.
The Buddhist "Kama Sutra"
G.P. Malalasekera (palikanon.com) edited by Wisdom Quarterly
Before enlightenment, Prince Siddhartha was a hedonist.
The Kāma Sutta (the Pali version of the Sanskrit word "sutra") is the first of the Atthakavagga ("Octet Chapter") of the Sutta Nipāta ("Woven Cadences").
The story of the discourse goes that the Buddha spoke to a Brahmin -- who in the Kāmanīta Jātaka is referred to as Kāmanīta Brāhmana (J.ii.212) -- who was cutting down trees on the banks of the Aciravatī river while preparing a field to grow [a monocrop of] grain.

He spoke again to the Brahmin on several other occasions, when the latter was engaged in various operations in the field.

Is Jesus a 2000-year-old virgin, Mary Mag?
The Brahmin, pleased by the Buddha's courtesy, resolved to invite him to a meal when the harvest was gathered. But the day before reaping the corn in the field, heavy rains fell, the river flooded, and the corn was all washed away.

The Buddha had foreseen that this would happen and he visited the Brahmin to console him. It was on this last occasion that the sutra was preached. At the end of the discourse the Brahmin became a stream enterer (sotāpanna, the first stage of enlightenment).
  • Source: Sn.vv.766-71; SnA.ii.511ff; J.iv.167f; cp. DhA.iii.284f; see also MNid.i.1ff.
  • The Kāma Sutta contains questions asked by a deva (fairy, angel, well-born spirit) and the Buddha's answers there: A person should not become a slave or surrender him or self as prey to others [prostitution?], and speech should always be gentle (S.i.44) 
  • Kāma or Kāmaguna Sutta deals with the five kinds of pleasures of the senses (A.iv.458; S.v.60) 
DISCOURSE:  The Kama Sutta
"Sensual Pleasure Discourse" (Sn 4.1), Wisdom Quarterly translation based on Ven. Thanissaro
Porn actress Jesse Jane likes JC's Gs
If one, longing for sensual pleasure, achieves it, yes, that person is enraptured at heart. The mortal gets what is desired.

But if for that person -- longing, yearning -- the pleasures diminish, that person is shattered, as if shot through with an arrow.

Whoever avoids sensual desires, however -- as one would one's foot the head of a snake -- that person goes beyond, mindfully transcends, this attachment in the world.

A person who is greedy for fields (farmland), territory, gold (money), cattle (marks of prestige and prosperity), horses (vehicles), servants (slaves), employees (subordinates), women (sexual partners), relatives (family relations), many sensual pleasures (of all six of the senses, mind being the sixth), that person is overpowered with weakness and trampled by troubles.
  • See the Sigalovada Sutra to see why
For pain invades that person like water rushes into a cracked boat.

So one, always mindful, is wise to avoid [craving for] sensual desires. Letting them go, one would cross over the flood (samsara, the Wheel of Rebirth, and inundation by the defilements and taints of the heart/mind) like one who, having bailed out the boat, has safely reached the farther shore.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Shaw's "Major Barbara": why WAR? (audio)

    Wisdom Quarterly; Los Angeles Theatre Works (latw.org)

    "Major Barbara" Heir to the Undershaft arms dealing fortune? No, that is only fit for a foundling not a family member. George Bernard Shaw created a classic masterpiece surpassing "Pygmalion" ("My Fair Lady").

    Special Radio Series: L.A. Theatre Works is proud to present the Relativity Series, an ongoing series featuring science-themed plays. The series currently includes 20 plays on topics from astronomy, physics, and cosmology to the mathematics of code-breaking, the ethics of scientific research, and the invention of television. Generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology, the Relativity Series presents science as a thoroughly human endeavor, bringing to life the people and stories behind the research and invention which shapes and changes our world.
    Chris Hedges, Jill Stein... Calling all rebels: It's moral to revolt! (GreenPartyOC/KFPK)
    FREE concerts in the park, Levitt Pavilion (levittla.org/levittla-pas.org)

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    The story of the Buddha's RELICS (sutra/video)

    Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Pat Macpherson, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit; Sister Vajira and Francis Story, trans. (DN 16); National Geographic ("Bones of Buddha" video)
    Famous later stupa, Boudanath in a suburb of Kathmandu, Nepal (~anup dreamynomad).
    There is a stupa in space, in the akasha deva loka, with a portion of the relics. It may look like Shitthuang Pagoda in the ruins of Mrauk U, Arakhine, Burma (Jon Sheer/Jraptor/flickr).
    (National Geographic) "Bones of the Buddha" documentary on the discovery of one of the stupas or burial mounds (Buddhist reliquaries) in 1898 in British colonial India.

    First Buddha image? Bimaran reliquary.
    Do the jewels, relic bones, and ashes found in an Indian casket and tomb in 1898 mark the final resting place of the Buddha himself? Or was it all an elaborate hoax?

    When Colonial estate manager William Peppe set his workers digging at a mysterious "hill" in Northern India in 1898, he had no idea what they would find. Over 20 feet down, they made an amazing discovery: a huge stone coffer containing reliquary urns, over 1000 separate jewels, and some ash and bone. One of the jars had an inscription that seemed to say that these were the remains of the Buddha himself.

    Tour gathered relics for India
    This seems to be a most extraordinary find in Indian archaeology. But doubt and scandal have hung over the amazing discovery for over 100 years.

    For some, the whole thing is an elaborate hoax. For others, it is no less than the final resting place of the Maitreya/Messiah of one of the world's three great religions. For the doubters, suspicion focuses on...

    The Shakyans (Scythians) had a vast territory in Central Asia along the Silk Route.

    The Buddha Sakamuni of the Shakya clan was from Sakastan/Scythia north-west of "India."
     
    The relics in the sutras
    What's inside Buddhist burial domes?
    KUSINARA, ancient India - After the Buddha's passing into final nirvana (parinirvana, complete liberation from rebirth and the end of all suffering), the body was cremated and the ashes/relics divided.

    Originally the ashes were only going to go to the Sakya clan -- the Buddha's extended royal family in Afghanistan (Scythia) and northwestern "India." However, seven royal (kshatriya caste) families demanded the body relics.

    To avoid fighting, a monk divided the relics into ten portions, eight from the body relics, one from the ashes of Buddha's cremation pyre, and one from the bucket used to divide the relics, according to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (Long Discourses, DN 16).

    After the Buddha's distribution the relics were enshrined and honored in royal burial mounds (reliquaries or stupas) by the royals of eight "countries" (janapadas, or "footholds of the clan," extended familial territories, republics and kingdoms before there was any "India") in this way -- one portion each to:
      A royal Scythian burial
    1. King Ajatasattu of Magadha [son of the Buddhist King Bimbisara],
    2. the Licchavis of Vesali,
    3. the Shakyas of Kapilavastu [Bamiyan according to maverick historian Dr. Ranajit Pal, Kabul, and Mes Aynak, modern Afganistan, west of modern India and Pakistan, ancient Gandhara, according to the fact that the sutras describe the Shakyas as having three capitals in their Great Territory or maha-janapada, according to original research at Wisdom Quarterly]
    4. the Bulis of Allakappa
    5. the Koliyas of Ramagrama
    6. the Brahmin of Vethadipa [who made the partition of the relics and asked to keep one portion to honor with the building of a burial mound]
    7. the Mallas of Pava
    8. the Mallas of Kusinara [modern Kushinagar, the territory the Buddha purposely chose as a former great kingdom of the remote past, where he traveled by foot with Ven. Ananda to pass into final nirvana to avoid conflict or even war breaking out between competing kingdoms wishing to keep and honor the Buddha's remains and give them a special place of honor due to his great fame ("Asoka and the Buddha-Relics," ntu.edu.tw).
    9. [the devas in the akasha deva loka, that is, in a world in space, presumably a nearby planet]
    10. [uncertain but we will find out.]
    Relics in Afghanistan
    The world famous Buddhas of Bamiyan from faraway Scythia/Afghanistan (Azaranica).
    .
    The CIA as the Taliban or ISIS destroys.
    [Why would there be Buddhist relics in Islamic Afghanistan? It is because the Buddha was from the area before it was called Afghanistan. And as their beloved prince he renounced and became a wandering ascetic who went to India to become enlightened. But he returned to help and teach his extended family and friends the path to liberation from all suffering. The Shakyans remembered him and honored him and many Shakyans became monastic-practitioners or great supporters of the Sangha and Dharma helping it spread north and west before it moved out of India where it was taking root.

    We suggest that it took hold in Afghanistan and agrarian nomadic Central Asia before it caught on in Brahmin/Vedic-dominated "Indian" states. The story is usually that the Teachings traveled up the Silk Route from India passing through the waddle and daub villages of backward no man's land west of the kingdoms of modern NW India. The fact is that the Buddha returned home seven years after his enlightenment but his grand reputation as a sage (muni) preceded him and his wife, Yasodhara/Bimba Devi, was already practicing as an ascetic as she had been since he left.]

    What remained prior to detonation (Azaranica).
    Sometime in the middle of the 5th century the Chinese pilgrim Daorong traveled to the Buddhist kingdom of Afghanistan visiting pilgrimage sites. In Nagaharahara was a piece of bone from the top of Buddha's skull four inches long. Also in the city was an enshrined staff and a jeweled reliquary containing some teeth and hair. A shadow was said to have been projected onto a rock wall, said to have belonged to the Buddha, as well as a set of foot prints and a site venerated for being where the Buddha washed his robe.

    A temple (vihara) said to have been built by the Buddha is sinking into the ground here, with what is said to be his writing on the wall (John S. Strong, 2007, Relics of the Buddha, p. xiii). A tooth of the Buddha was kept in Baktra (Strong 2007, p. 182).

    Bimaran casket reliquary placed in stone box.
    In Bamiyan -- site of the destruction of the world's largest Buddha statues by the CIA/Taliban -- a tooth of the Buddha was stored along with the tooth of a cakravartin ("world monarch") ruler (), the two kinds of persons the Buddha said stupas were erected in remembrance of. An early masterpiece of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara and one of the earliest representations of the Buddha is the golden Bimaran casket, which was discovered in a burial mound near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

    Although the casket bears an inscription saying it contained some of the relics of the Buddha, no relics were discovered when the box was opened (Senior 2008, pp. 25-27). [Presumably they were taken by tomb robbers who somehow left the more obviously valuable gold and jewel-encrusted urn or devas teleported them elsewhere for safety.] The Buddha's first followers, Trapusa and Bhallika, received eight strands of hair from him, which they brought back to their home town of Balkh and enshrined in a golden stupa by the gate (Strong 2007, pp. 73-74). These relics from the Buddha just weeks after his great enlightenment went on to serve as the basis for the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda of Burma, a massive stupa complex.
    Famous Indian stupa or burial mound reliquary with ornate gate at Sanchi (flickr.com)
    .
    Restoration of one of the great stupas, Sarnath outside of Varanasi (Benares)
    Final Passing Into Nirvana Sutra
    Sister Vajira and Francis Story, trans., Mahaparinibbana Sutta (DN 16)
    Introduction: Of the 34 discourses (suttas or sutras) that make up the "Collection of Long Discourses" (Digha Nikaya), the 16th is the longest. It maintains first place where length is concerned.
    • [It tells the story of "the Last Days of the Buddha" up to and beyond the final nirvana and what became of the monastic community (Sangha) and how the Buddha-Dharma was preserved and was transformed into a religion now called "Buddhism" by some prominent Brahmin monastics (like the enlightened elder Ven. Maha Kassapa), which never happened during the Buddha's life and dispensation, presumably by design as he was against religion, empty ritual, and the trappings of another -ism in the world.]
    This discourse preserves the principal features of the Buddhist sutra insofar as it, like others, is a rehearsal of events that have been witnessed [by Ananda and/or others]. On account of its unique composition, however, it is, more than other sutra, capable not only of winning the affection of the confident Buddhist, as it naturally does, but also of attracting the general reader, because it is indeed a fine specimen of sacred universal literature.

    The rolling the true wheel of the Dharma to a stupa in the foothills of the Himalayas.
     .
    Buddha walking (Nippon_newfie/flickr)
    It gives a good general idea of the Buddha's Teaching, the Dharma, too, even though it hardly offers anything that is not found -- and often more extensively dealt with -- in other sutras that are more oriented toward teaching Dharma.
     
    At the end of his life, after almost half a century's ministry [45 years of teaching and causing the liberating Dharma to be spread far and wide across time and space, much farther and wider than can be fathomed, as a buddha's influence is one of the Four Imponderables], the Teacher had long since taught all that was necessary for attaining the ideal [enlightenment/liberation or bodhi/nirvana].

    During the last period his primary concern, therefore, was to impress on his followers the necessity of unflinchingly putting into practice those teachings: an appeal that could, of course, hardly fail in stirring their hearts [minds] more than ever before.

    The world's largest Buddha statue reclining into final nirvana remains unexcavated in the Buddha's homeland, modern Afghanistan, in a former capital at Bamiyan, ancient Scythia/Sakastan/Bactria (NatGeo).
     
    The Sangha [both the monastic (communities of monks and nuns known as the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sanghas) and the more important "community" of enlightened/noble disciples or Arya Sangha] came, indeed, to witness the greatest event in its history, and was keenly aware of it, especially since the Teacher had announced his Parinibbana three months ahead.

    The impression on the monastics who flocked to him in large numbers as he was pressing northward was tremendous and could not fail to be reflected vividly in the oral account. (The Buddhist canon was originally, as is well known, completely part of an oral rather than written tradition). Because of its particular import and abundance, this material was soon formed into one body, and so this long sutra came to be. More
    A Scythian, royal kshatriya, burial with finery and ornate gold like the Shakyas (NatGeo).

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    What is Buddhist "meditation" really?

    Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Teri Mei, Crystal Quintero, Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly
    Meditation mudra (hand pose or gesture) with mala (bead necklace) (flickr.com)
    .
    Thai Dhammakaya (dimc.net)
    The meditation instructor said, "Let's pay more attention to this" pointing all around. "Instead of spacing out and going away, stay."

    That was the instruction, "Stay"? Does he know how uncomfortable it is here? It seems he does. He's meditated much more than we have and more successfully. "Stay"? He assures us there are many valuable things for us to learn in this dimension, in this illusory reality, in this here-nowness of time and space.

    We are certainly here for one or more reasons. And somehow, by our previous karma, we choose to be here.
    Am I in trance yet? Whiskey & Yoga
    It's hard to know for sure. But does it not sometimes seem that it is a punishment to be on Earth now under this government? Even then, of course, it is certainly a "learning" experience. At times it is even a flower-filled paradise. Many, many living beings wish to come here -- devas from sagga, hungry spirits from the Realm of Ghosts, narakas (hellions in worlds of misery unutterable), titans from space, nagas (reptilians) from their underworld and sea.

    Well, we are here. So let's be here now. To "BE HERE NOW" (Dr. Timothy Leary/Ram Dass) is the best American-English definition of Buddhist mindfulness and basic meditation.
     
    Yesterday when we visited Lu Mountain in preparation for the world's largest Buddhist Relics Exhibition (coming to Los Angeles September 2015) our teacher wanted to tell us that the Chinese word chan is very interesting.

    What is chan as in Chan Buddhism or Chan Meditation? Ch'an can be defined Rosetta Stone style in three other languages: Japanese zen, Sanskrit dhyana, English "meditative absorption" and somewhat misleadingly "trance," Tibetan bsam gtan, Korean seon, Vietnamese thiền.

    Chan by way of the Four Supreme Abodes
    It is one of my favorite words because in Pali (the only exclusively Buddhist language) it is jhana. It is so important that everyone uses it but so important that no one seems to know what it means. Therefore, it is translated as "meditation," more technically as "serenity or tranquility meditation" (samatha bhavana).

    It is the basis of the Buddha's teaching, but the Buddha did not stop there: On top of a solid foundation of serenity (itself based on the Four Divine Abidings or Brahma Viharas -- loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and unbiased equanimity) the Teachings say to set up fourfold mindfulness (on body, feelings, mind [conscious states], and mental phenomena). Then this will be fruitful to produce/reveal enlightenment.

    It doesn't matter who you used to be. What matters is who you become [now].
     
    In any language, it refers to "meditative absorption," varying states of effortless-concentration (in the sense of not trying, not straining, not stressing but just allowing, see jhanasadvice.com) when the mind/heart coheres and is restored to its original purity and luminosity.

    This may be the momentary clarity of consciousness people get glimpses of via entheogens (chemicals like DMT that release or "elicit the divine within") and NDEs (near death experiences). That is to say, that's what it sounds like when people who do not meditate well talk about their trips and visions, which they are not ready for and usually do not benefit much from because they do not have control by virtue of a solid foundation in serenity meditation/samadhi, peace of mind, joy (pīti) and happiness (sukha), which all come from virtue (sila), Tibetan Buddhist "basic goodness," ethical-morality, the Five Precepts.
    .
    But how, HOW?
    So it starts with virtue in life, then one goes to the mat, sits comfortably, then what? This is where an answer gets tricky: There are many ways to say it, to explain it, but none will make sense until one does it. Does what? Starts with virtue, moves to the mat, sits comfortably, and cultivates serenity, that's what. One way is to breathe because by being attentive to (mindful of, nonjudgmentally aware of) the breath that is happening by itself without trying to change it, one is immediately pulled into present time. Then one will be in present space. One will be here now.

    And because of virtue, the mind/heart will settle. And with gentle persistence it will absorb (enter what the Buddha called jhana and dhyana). And to say anything more sets one up for frustration and failure because of expectations. Let go. Let go of expectations. Let go of everything. Just remain attentive to what is without judgment or involvement but just observation). What is? Whatever is. When is? NOW.

    Now is all there is, and all that is could only be now. Just ask Eckhart Tolle or Byron Katie or better yet a literally enlightened being, a noble person (arya), like Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw or Ajahn Jumnien or Ajahn Brahm or Sayalay Susila or Ven. Dipankara Theri...or that person in the mirror waiting to shine.

    Wisdom Quarterly returns from summer vacation with new team spirit and more help.