Friday, March 14, 2014

Did the Buddha dance? (video)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, CC Liu, Wisdom QuarterlyOu Lu Yang, Xochitl (ed.)
Don't lecture us, venerable sir, just show us that dance again (Dietmar Temps/
Tibetan Vajrayana lamas engaged in meditative Tai Chi-style movements.
Native American Apache spirit dancers, 1887, traditional ceremony (Native Skeptic)
Dancing Tara (liveauctioneers)
Why do human beings dance? Synchronized movements, particularly to rhythmic music or a unifying beat as our cue, are a natural ritual for nonverbal expression and communication.
We are making use of these incredible bodies, which may seem feeble now in the Kali Yuga but were certainly much more incredible in earlier and future Golden Ages. (It's cyclical, so all ages repeat).

Shakyamuni Buddha was not Shiva Nataraja ("Dancing Shiva," lit. "Shiva Lord of the Dance [of Life]"). According to Hinduism the Buddha was the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu, the great sustaining god. 
The Buddha, however, made it very clear that he is NOT a god/deva, not a messenger angel, not a mythical being, no longer an ordinary human being, and not an anything other than "AWAKENED" (Dona Sutra, AN 4.36). Because of this, he came to be called the Buddha, a title which means the "Awakened One."
Shiva's cosmic dance, not the Buddha's
But if GOD (Brahman, godhead) is an acronym, G.O.D. -- the Generator (Brahma), Operator (Vishnu), and Destroyer (Shiva) of the universe -- then by this logic the historical Buddha was a force for the steady maintenance of this world-system, our universe or, at least, our solar system.
(According to whistleblower and former CIA pilot John Lear, our solar system actually has more than 30 planets, which if true might correspond to Buddhist cosmology's 31 Planes of Existence, assuming a "world-system" is only the size of a solar system rather than a galaxy, constellation/celestial sphere like Orion, or a universe).
So did the Buddha dance? 

Dancing 1,000-armed Kwan Yin Pusa (CTG)
No, the Buddha did not dance. There is no need to for one who has transcended materiality and mentality and reached the stillness of absorption and become the quintessence of enlightenment, no longer a slave to intellect and emotion, to clinging and suffering, to identity and to social constraints. 
Dancing is also outside of the Discipline (Patimokkha and  Vinaya and even excluded in the Training Rules of intensive lay practitioners during the lunar observances).
Dancing Tara Bodhisattva, Nepal (
But that is not to say Buddhists do not. Buddhists do dance! Buddhists (even bodhisattvas) do all sorts of things. Look at Kwan Yin, look at Tara, look at high lamas and other vow takers. 
A better question one might ask is, Did Siddhartha (the Buddha-to-be) dance? There were more than enough musicians and dancing girls in the palaces and at the parties, so he must have.
Should we as American Buddhists be stoic and guilt-ridden like our Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish cultural forbears (as typified in James Joyce's The Dead)? No, let's not do that.
Prince Siddhartha and the palace dancing girls
Let's be alive. Let's have bodies rather than separating from them the way early childhood trauma encourages us to do. Being "present" means being here, in the body. That is what Ram Dass meant when he distilled the message of Zen and Buddhism in general with the simple expression BE HERE NOW.
Flexible yogini in sitting pose (Caroline Klebl)
Let's loosen our hips. Raja (Ashtanga, Integral) Yoga and even gentle Hatha Yoga helps with that. Unclenching sphincters also helps. We are so uptight, pushing ourselves to seem ever-busy, seeming to get so much done to fulfill ourselves by waving bucket lists with lots of check marks.
"Breathe," Pink Floyd advises, "breathe in the air. Don't be afraid to care. Leave. But don't leave me. Look around. Choose your own ground. How you live and how you fly, the smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry, all you touch and you see is all your life will ever be...."
Dancing, remembering, and letting go
Then there's the advice of Deadmau5 featuring Kaskade: "Feeling the past moving in/ Letting a new day begin/ Hold to the time that you know./ You don't have to move on, but let go./ Remember turning on the night/ And moving through the morning light./ Remember how it was with you./ Remember how you pulled me through./ I remember, I remember, I remember.../ Hold to the love that you know./ You don't have to give up to let go." (Extended dance mix)
Dancing shakes off excess cosmic energy (shakti, feminine power, yin) from the body's spinning chakras. Then Shiva resorts to the bliss (piti and sukha) of samadhi.
Tibetan Monks' Trance Dance 
OuLuYang edited by Wisdom Quarterly
You should do like this, not do like that. And don't laugh, I'm serious. You're recluses now, and right and wrong must be very clear to you! Do you hear me? (
The video above is a dance performed by young monastics at Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a Buddhist monastery located north of the city of Zhongdian (Shangri-La) in Yunnan province on the southeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
The dance begins with one lama emerging from the main temple. His routine initially faces the temple then faces all of the directions of the wind then spirals around a central point where there is a dark quilt and wooden square (symbolizing a demon).
The beat of the shaman's drum (Budddhism and Bön), Lamayuru, Ladakh (Dietmar Temps)
The shaman's ancient drum far from Tibet
The dance accelerates and incorporates jumping. In its finale, dozens of monks join in to perform the circular dance around the quilt until, in the end, they all crowd around its center. 
The dance concludes with pairs of monks taking leaps at the temple, praying toward its entrance, praying away from its entrance, then jumping inside. Altogether it takes about three hours. The dance is performed annually, during a ritual in which monks dress in elaborate costumes and masks and dance around a large effigy of the demon rather than a quilt. It is very reminiscent of Native American (Hopi, Anasazi, Apache, Puebloan peoples) ceremonial dances.
The purpose of the dance is to contain the angry spirit of the demon, possibly to recreate the Tibetan myth of the subjugation of an angry Himalayan goddess by an Indian monk, which popularized the monk and allowed for the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet. This video is an amalgamation of clips recorded during the initial monk's rehearsal for the ritual.

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