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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

sort of perplexing

The following passage seems to go against basic Buddhist thought- at least what i have heard- that there is no “self ” outside of the 5 skandhas, and what we experience as “self”  is nothing other than a coalescence of the stuff’s of the five skandhas, perhaps mixed with a bit of avidya. but here is a passage that seems to be saying otherwise, which seems to imply that there is something “other,” which actually maintains from life to life- another no -no, i thought, in buddhist philosophy. What do you think?

“According to tantric theory, the residence of the mind is not the brain, but the heart. The mind is said to reside in the indestructable drop at the heart chakra. There are two types of indestructable drop, on coarse, and one subtle.  The coarse drop is a coalescence of cells from the semen of father and ovum from mother, and the subtle drop is a coalescence of subtle levels of consciousness and subtle physical energies. The course drop is said to be “indestructible” because it endures throughout one’s life, from the moment of conception untill the final moment  of physical death. The subtle  drop is “indestructible” because it endures throughout all of one’s lives, from beginningless time and into the future, untill the time of enlightenment, at which point one’s body is transformed into the perfect body of a buddha.”

Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, by John Powers. page 295/6

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A Good Day to Die.

The underlying theme of Easter is death and resurrection. And today, “Good Friday” Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus at Calvary . That name, “Good Friday” is a very interesting and philosophical one, quite far in spirit from the current message of Christianity about Jesus’ death. Why is it called “Good Friday” and not “Sad Friday”, or “Sinners Friday”, or “It’s-your-fault Friday”?
Much before Jesus’ time, death and resurrection was the main theme of the Ancient Mysteries, so we can look at their philosophy for a deeper insight. From a symbolic point of view, the cross was always a symbol of matter. The deity who was put to death was a symbol of our spiritual nature. In Christianity, the Christ is this same symbol. When we are born, our spiritual nature is “crucified” in our body and dies, but only to be “resurrected” full of glory—when we work properly.
There is also a very interesting interpretation of this universal archetypal image on the psychological level. In order to be resurrected (in a new glorified being) we have to die first. Nothing new can appear if the old doesn’t die, psychologically speaking. And most of us don’t want to die. We cling to our attachments, to our memories, to our hopes—that is to our (artificial) self-identity. We are not a culture that encourages detachment from the things that identify us. For the most part life is a matter of acquiring more stuff. Not only material but also psychological stuff. This is the case even for those who try to tread the “spiritual path”. Many times we see this as a process of acquisition—acquisition of more knowledge, more experience, more virtues, more understanding, etc… Very little emphasis is usually placed on the idea of dying to the known, externally and internally. But as Jesus said, if you are wealthy and full of possessions you cannot get to the Kingdom of Heaven. We have to become like children, divested of all possessions, even at the psychological level. And that is not enough, according to Jesus we must die and be born again, to be able to reach that Kingdom.
Of course, he is not referring to a physical death and re-birth, but “to be born of water [of life] and of the Spirit.” The act of Jesus dying physically on the cross means for us to “crucify” our material self and be “resurrected” as spiritual beings. The road to Calvary is then our daily life.
So, how are we going to celebrate this Easter weekend?

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Religion has a bad name in alternative circles. It’s associated with the Christian church and all it’s crimes (real and perceived). Religion is associated with dogma, stifling rules that don’t fit our day to day lives and worse of all: authority. A preacher to tell me what to do in my personal life? Never!

In my religion classes at Leiden University very different definitions of religion are taught. I’ll use a famous one by Clifford Geertz to sum up the point:

“Religion is (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”

[Geertz wrote in 1966, just before political correct formulations would have replaced ‘men’ by ‘people’.]

The basic point here is that religion is that which gives direction to our lives, helps us establish priorities (consciously or unconsciously) and helps us understand our lives – in such a way that our worldview and priorities seem uniquely realistic.

That definition actually includes spirituality. We have symbols: Ying & Yang, the Buddha and the Tibetan flag (1). We have ideas about the universe we live in which often include: holism, karma, alternative health, aura’s etc. (3). These ideas about life and the universe seem real to us (4) and therefore the lifestyle that comes with them does too (2, 5).

The obsession with the difference between religion and spirituality comes, I think, from the bad reputation the Christian churches has with many of us. Religion has often been defined as ‘organised religion’.

Spirituality – taking place in yoga classrooms, alternative bookstores and retreats – is not organized in the same clear way. One can be spiritual within any religious system. The main thing is that one hasn’t settled for dogma’s, thinks for oneself and keeps ones own spiritual and ethical growth as a top priority (2).

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