Archive for the ‘Buddha’ tag
As I drove towards Canmore on Sunday for my Grassi Lakes hike, I stopped at Dead Man’s Flats in honour of the many other times I had stopped there while taking my children to visit family on Canada’s west coast. It became a tradition of sorts. I stopped because I saw the moon in the morning sky above one of the mountains and thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to capture that photo. Of course, once I was out of the car I began to wander and be present with where I was. I followed my ears as they lead me to Pigeon Creek. Once at the creek I was surprised by beautiful wild flowers. The time out had worked wonders for me and I was ready to head back to the car and complete the drive to Canmore. But, before I reached the car on my way back to the village, I saw this coyote who was calmly making his way into the edge of the hamlet. And in that moment, a bit more of my spirit was healed.
“Almost everyone who undertakes a true spiritual path will discover that a profound personal healing is a necessary part of his or her spiritual process. When this need is acknowledged, spiritual practice can be directed to bring such healing to body, heart, and mind. This is not a new notion. Since ancient times, spiritual practice has been described as a process of healing. The Buddha and Jesus were both known as healers of the body, as well as great physicians of the spirit.” (Kornfield, A Path With Heart, p. 40)
I was looking for a photo for my wall as part of my sacred space and found this image which caught my attention. It isn’t the image I want for the wall but it was waiting for my attention here on the blog site. As I wandered through various countries in Asia over the past six years I am surprised at the number of photos taken of Buddha. The first image of Buddha that I can recall was one that was Chinese in appearance as compared to the Tibetan or Southeast Asian versions of Buddha. Wandering through Southeast Asia I got to see various representations of Buddha and began to realise that Buddha has been culturally personalized. It didn’t take me long to also realise that the practice of Buddhism is as varied as the physical presentations of Buddha.
The images point to something beyond the image. Buddha is not a god. Rather, Buddha images beg us to look beyond the image into something that is impossible to capture in an image, something numinous, something god-like. As I dig carefully into this numinous idea called Buddhism I am beginning to see that same “kingdom within” that is spoken of in Christianity. The digging quietly leads me deeper into my Self, not the small self of ego, but a larger version that tells me that I am more than my ego, that ego is a flawed, conflicted and complexed self that is haunted by shadows and darkness.
As I find light in the darkness I get to banish the shadows and learn that I am more than I know. And so I take heart and continue the work of individuation, the work of enlightenment, the work of becoming more and more aware of Self. I embrace the journey learning to love myself and others simply because there is no more choice. Once begun, the journey can’t be stopped, one cannot go backward while the mind is still alive and functioning.
Today is the day. This afternoon I join into a community of like-minded souls that have adopted a Tibetan Buddhist (mahayana) view of the world. This act of taking refuge is not about becoming Tibetan, or a monk, or a lama or about becoming anything more than myself. Taking refuge is in a way, finding that space within myself that is the bedrock of who I am as a spiritual, ethical and whole human that recognizes that I am not alone but am held within the collective of humanity, a child turned adult of a culture that extends back millenia carrying the heritage of the past into whatever the future holds for myself and all of humankind. Of course, I have had to think long and hard on taking this step. I had to come to understand exactly what taking refuge meant both within the Buddhist frame of reference and within the frame or through the lens of how I see and know the world and myself.
Taking refuge – refuge being a physical place of safety, or a mental state of being in which one can find protection. Why do I need to take refuge, to find this place both internal and external in which I can be safe? I guess I would have to say that it is about creating a space and place for my soul/psyche to nurtured and mature, a place that will act like a protective shell in a world that has little concern for the truly spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals. In psychological work, there is a need for a place of temenos, a sacred space/place/container in which one can risk facing inner demons with the purpose of finding personal healing and mental and spiritual health
Today I will take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Taking refuge in Buddha is a state of mind, not some external God to whom one prays. The Buddha is that state of mind that “enlightened” or in Jungian terms, one in which the psyche has individuated into a state of wholeness (holiness) where self and other are seen as inseparable parts of a whole. Dharma is the path – the teachings and practice. One can’t know everything or how to get there on one’s own. If there was a book with all the questions and answers to guide us through every situation in life, it would be a big help. But information is not enough, we also need help in developing the practices to make our lives better and to heal our souls which enter the world bruised. Tibetan Buddhist teachings come first from the work and the words of Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha). These teachings have one goal in mind, that of waking up to the fullness that is enlightenment or nirvana. C.G. Jung is not in the same league as Buddha, but he did work and put forth his ideas within the context of a modern western world culture for the same purposes. The goal, consciousness a consciousness that is both personal and universal. Sangha is the community that exists within which one finds support for this journey of dharma towards awareness, consciousness, wholeness. Community is important in helping one stay strong as well as helping us get back up off our knees when we fall on our journey. In spite of the fact that the journey is individual, the fact that one can know that in spite of doing this lonely work, one is connected to others and held within a family of spirit, a family of intention. In Jungian psychology, there is a hint of this when one joins within a collective such as a Jungian Society, when one takes part in workshops and seminars where the spirit is uplifted and the hard work of individuation is supported.
So, in a way, taking refuge is like adding another layer, adding another dimension to the work within which safety and support are held sacred.
I took a number of “flower” photos yesterday afternoon to add to the growing collection of such photos which will be part of the “record” of having been in Thailand. Yesterday’s photos were all about Lotus flowers such as this one. In a small area, I found four different colours of lotus flowers from white to dark blue/purple.
And then this morning, I went for a walk in order to visit a working Buddhist temple not too far from the beach and found this image in the back outdoor balcony which has a version of Buddha standing on a lotus flower.
I have to say that Buddhism has a certain appeal that resonates with the spiritual centre of whatever it is that makes us all humans. But of course the same can and must be said for all faces of spirit that have found an expression through religion, art, music, meditation and in sex.
Most religions try to deny, banish, vilify sex as something dark and evil. But nature tells us otherwise. There can be no lotus, no Buddha, no spirit without Eros – love, co-mingling, communion, without the joining of the darkness and the light.
As I make a journey, my individual journey, I can only become whole in acknowledging the darkness as well as the light that is found within. To deny my own darkness, my inner feminine, my very soul in an attempt to embrace only the light, the spirit, the inner masculine, would be to suffer and irreparable psychosis an unholy act of divorcing the soul from the spirit. It is paradoxical that only in embracing my own darkness in order to have it sit on the same throne as the darkness can I attain that true sense of saintliness, of holiness, that comes with being a whole person.
I am writing this post just moments after me daily time out for meditation, rather later in the day than has been my normal pattern. I must say that I feel relaxed as I approach this writing today and as a result, my choice of photos matches my state of well-being. I took this photo at Angkor Wat in Cambodia late last January because of the meditating figure enclosed within the circle which had a background of light as I stood within the temple building. It is only now that I realise that the figure is feminine, a feminine form of Buddha. Some quick research resulted in a number of different female Buddha images found in different locations. Yet I wasn’t quite sure if the image was of a female Buddha (they exist) or of a Buddha which is suggestive of the feminine.
It was only with time spent with the photo that I can to realise that this image spoke to me about the integration of the masculine and the feminine into a state of wholeness. As I said earlier, I took the photo within the building. The site was dark with the only light coming from outside through the small window. There is no doubt that to see the image one has to be contained within the temple and its natural shadows and dark spaces. Yet the image only becomes visible with the light from without, with consciousness.
I realised that I needed to learn that my quest for consciousness is grounded in unconsciousness, my masculinity is grounded in the feminine. Consciousness cannot exist without unconsciousness. Without darkness, one cannot discern light; without light, one cannot discern darkness. The masculine, likewise exists only in contrast because of the feminine. And so I learned that I need to move from an either / or set of understandings to one that is inclusive and holistic.
So, where does that take me from here?
I am rather pleased with how well this low light photo turned out, a photo I took in a cave in Marble Mountain just south of Da Nang, Vietnam. It’s not a perfect photo, but then again, that isn’t the point. The idea is to capture an idea, a feeling, a hint of something beyond the actually image.
I get both a sense of power and of almost acceptance for who I am in relation to the whole, to God, to the Self. I know that I am not the whole though I do feel part of the whole. I know this; it resonates within. Yet . . .
In the face-to-face world, I don’t measure up even a little bit and come up short on too many scales. I am an outsider for the most part. I am distant. I am flawed with a high level of distract-ability which often finds me leave projects in various stages of completion only to have them forgotten and abandoned. I am becoming more and more “selfish” in terms of relation to others. What does this mean? I guess it means taking more time to listen to myself, to honour myself and to accept myself in spite of what others might want, need or demand.
And I get angry with the attitudes that tell me I am getting worse as I get older. I get angry at myself for getting caught up in this anger. And I get angry with others who let me know that I am failing in terms of what is expected of me in relationships. I know that there is no need for anger within me, that I should not take the attitudes of others to heart and let those attitudes wound me. I know that the attitudes are not really about me at all, but about each of those who look at me and evaluate me as “worse.” But, there is this damned “hook” that I carry that catches all of these projections and then suffer the turmoil until the energy has dissipated enough so that I can see what has happened to me, by me.
I have learned a few things along the way during these six decades of living. One of the valuable lessons is to own my own stuff and not take on the stuff of others. Of course, this lesson is always after the fact. At least this allows me some peace when the conflict/complex is deactivated within me. I turn away from the black hole that could consume me, that of being a victim, and turn towards a hint of the numinous that embraces me and tells me that I belong.