Friday, August 31, 2007

Baby Monks Novices In Buddhism

Baby Monks Novices In Buddhism Image
Wisdom Quarterly (Wikipedia/Encyclopedia edit)

Little Monastics in BuddhismA male "samanera" or female samaneri -- literally a "little recluse" (samana", shramana, shaman, "a renunciate or wandering ascetic) -- is a Buddhist novice monk or nun in training and on probation.

Tibetan Buddhist boys


The recluse ascetics ("shramanas") are distinct from the brahmin priests ("brahmanas"), who were the dominant spiritual caste in India. The history of recluses goes as far back in time as humanity does. But the Buddha revolutionized their significance by organizing one group of them.

There have always been spiritual recluses, hermits, wanderers, shamans, and independent practitioners by nature (guided by the impulse of past lives to continue their spiritual quest free of institutional constraints).

Korean novice having his head shaved ceremonially to enter Mahayana Sangha.

At the time of the Buddha, recluses already existed. In fact, Siddhartha was inspired by the sight of one to again take up this kind of life. Why was he so moved?

The "Jatakas" (Buddhist Birth Stories) explain: They recount many previous lives of the Bodhisatta striving as a recluse and even as a brahmin well versed in the Vedas. The Jains were another organized contemporary "shramanic" school, the only other one to survive alongside Buddhism.

Tibetan novice dozing during sermon along with Vajrayana monks.

But the success of these two schools inspired Hindu yogis and "sannyasis" (followers of Shiva, Shavites, and Vishnu, Vaishnavites and even Mystic Muslim Sufi fakirs) to wander as well. It led to a Sannyasi Rebellion. Wandering was in fact a key component of early Buddhism, which led to detachment, contentment, and open mindedness.

Although fully ordained monastics were encouraged to meditate, wander freely, reside in the forest, fashion robes from discarded cloth, and live on alms gathered in one of only five possessions permitted by the rules of monastic discipline (VINAYA) in the Sangha, trainees were closely affiliated with a preceptor for their training first.

Ten precept nuns ("dasa-matas") in Burma, Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon

Generally, one must be at least seven years old to become a novice or be over 60, in which case one entering will remain a novice. Otherwise, once one reaches the age of 20, it is customary to take the higher ordination (upasampada) and become a fully ordained bhikkhu (monk) or "bhikkhuni" (nun). One goes from ten precepts to reciting the patimokkha (Sanskrit, prati-moksha, the way to personal liberation) or list of 227 plus disciplinary rules.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Book Of Ceremonial Magic

The Book Of Ceremonial Magic Cover

Book: The Book Of Ceremonial Magic by Arthur Edward Waite

As this book represents, under a new title and with many additions, a work which was issued originally in 1898, I have accepted the opportunity to indicate its position in respect of far more important works embodying my construction of the Secret Tradition in Christian Times. I have secured this object--which after all is clear and simple--not by a regrettable comparison of what I have written there with That Which appears in the present place, but by shewing in a Brief Introduction the proper sense in which phenomenal occultism and all its arts indifferently connect with the tradition of the mystics: they are the path of illusion by which the psychic nature of man enters that other path which goes down into the abyss. The book in its present revision remains of necessity a presentation of old texts by the way of digest; I
have added some new sections that in this department it may be rendered more representative, and if a touch of fantasy, which is not wholly apart from seriousness, will
be pardoned here at the inception, the work itself is now an appendix to the Introductory thesis--the textual, historical and other evidence by which it is supported.

For convenience of treatment the present work is divided into two parts. The first contains an analytical and critical account of the chief magical rituals known to the
writer; the second forms a complete Grimoire of Black Magic. It must be remembered that these are the operations which gave arms to the Inquisitors of the past, and justified Civil Tribunals in the opinion of their century for the sanguinary edicts pronounced against witch, warlock and magician. It is, in truth, a very strange and not reassuring page in the history of human aberration; nor has it been a pleasing exercise which has thus sought to make it plain, once and for all.

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Charging An Enochian Tablet

Charging An Enochian Tablet Cover

Book: Charging An Enochian Tablet by Josh Norton

Any generic advice on how one might properly charge a Tablet? I suppose I could look to your book Enochian Temples on how you charged the Temple for an example of what is involved?

As you know, I tend to take a minimalist approach to things Enochian - elaborate ceremony seems to be gilding the lily, to me. You can pretty this up with any sort of ceremony you deem appropriate.

It doesn't take a great deal to charge one of the Tablets - simply vibrating the names in its presence, or meditating on it, is often enough for it to pick up some charge. Here's the steps I'd use for a serious charging.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Origins Of Taoism

The Origins Of Taoism Cover
Much of the thrust of Taoism, as we have seen, naturally motivates a reaction against the moralistic and elitist inclinations of Confucianism. Confucianism stood for a rigid, detailed, traditional pattern of hierarchical social behavior. Duties were assigned to all of one's social roles — and a person typically had many such roles, e.g., husband, father, minister, younger brother, teacher, student, etc. One could escape this heavy scheme of obligations mainly in retirement or, paradoxically, the traditional duty to spend three years “in mourning” for the death of one's father. The withdrawal from society, the antipathy toward ritual roles, traditional “morality,” and any social structures or traditional culture suggests a kind of Daoist “ethos” as an antithesis to Confucianism in China. We can trace the origin of Taoism, accordingly, in two ways. One is attitudinal, the other theoretical. The theoretical mark of Taoism is an interest in the meaning or nature of dao which may inform or encourage Daoist attitudes. In view of the religious strain, however, we have to recognize two attitudes as marks of proto-Taoism in China. The first is the vague reaction against the demanding scheme of traditional Confucian rules. The second is interest in techniques for cultivating the adept to achieve an elevated epistemic status resulting in with some special or transcendent access to a dao that is impenetrable to those who have not had this “cultivation.”

After introducing the idealized ancient dao, it implies a “fall,” then lists a series of groups of thinkers, each striving for impartial objectivity, leading eventually to a Laozi group and then to Zhuangzi.

The list takes key thinkers to be motivated by goals of neutrality, universality, freedom from bias and natural “spontaneity” in action. The list starts with a group that includes Mozi (universal, impartial utilitarians), then discusses anti-conventionalists headed by Song Xing, third came Shen Dao's group (metaphysical anti-knowledge stoics), then Laozi and Zhuangzi. Its last topic however is not Zhuangzi but his friend and frequent philosophical debating companion, Hui Shi, who along with other members of the school of names, is introduced mainly for condemnation as if (contrary to all other evidence) he were irrelevant to the motivation and understanding of Zhuangzi's thought. Clearly, we can use this history only with some caution. It does serve as a “manifest history of thought” that helps us appreciate the philosophical agenda of the writer. We, however, must blend this internal Daoist history with external information about these groups and their thought to get a plausible explanatory justification for the classic Zhuangzi position.

Initially, it is a surprise to see Mozi listed as a “forerunner” of Taoism since in many respects, passages in the Zhuangzi take the Mohist dispute with Confucianism as a critical target (examples of question-begging rival first-order theories of dao). However, in both our theoretical senses, Taoism could be said to have roots in the anti-Confucian Mozi (5th Century BC). First, his early challenge to Confucianism initiated higher level philosophical reflections on dao, its role and the kind of thinking it involved. Mozi, for example, theorized that a dao should be constant, not a matter of a special history or arbitrary social convention. He supported his use of a utilitarian standard to evaluate social daos on grounds of the impartiality and constancy of the benefit-harm distinction. He taught this “constant” feature of utilitarianism was evidence that it was tiannature's standard. He thought of this as an objective fastandard for making shi-feithis-not this distinctions.

Mozi's challenge to Confucianism focused on his crucial insight that the fact that traditional norms are our own, do not warrant taking them as correct. Mozi thus launched the meta-search for a way impartially to select a first-order dao. He formulates the initital version of the goal of unbiased, constant universality in morality. Both of these results, further, involved important theoretical insights into the concept of dao. The Mohists developed much of the terminology of analysis that other Chinese thinkers, including Mencius and Zhuangzi, adopted. (See Concepts.) Zhuangzi deployed this language with considerable skill in his skeptical undermining of all claims to special moral authority.

However, Mohism did advocate a first order normative dao and followed Confucianism in the assumption that an orderly society needs to follow a single constant dao. Though they developed an account of how to justify a dao and first formulated the standard of dao adequacy (constancy). What they did not notice was that those standards constituted a meta-dao— a dao for selecting and interpreting a first-order dao. This reflects their failure to reflect on the nature of dao, and then to address whether and how such a dao was knowable. They disagreed with Confucianism mainly on the content of the daoguide to be imposed on society by authority while addressing only from their own perspective how that disagreement should be resolved. Theoretical Taoism focused on the insolubility of this ru-moConfucian-Mohist debate.

We know far less of the doctrine of the next figure cited in the development — Song Xing. Our main sources are the Zhuangzi description here and a lengthy attack on Song Xing in the Xunzi . He is said to have specialized in a theory of the xinheart-mind and to have argued that socialization in conventional attitudes injected destructive values into the heart. The qingpre-social yudesires are relatively few and easy to satisfy. Socialization creates a plethora of desires for “social goods” such as status, reputation, and pride. Song Xin suggested that the conventional values, because of their social, comparative nature incite competition and then violence. The way to social order is for people to eliminate these socialize ambitions, which create attitudes of resentment and anger. Hence his slogan that being insulted (conventional value) is no (qing real) disgrace. The slogan aims to eliminate the violence occasioned by “honor and moral rectitude.” In effect, names do not harm me.

Mozi had also seen different daos as a source of conflict, but advocated unifying the social dao rather than abandoning it. The abandonment theme is developed with some skill in Laozi's Daode Jing. It has roots in the search for impartiality and universality that also motivated Mozi since it contrasts changeable social values with pre-social or natural ones. The theme, however can have both elitist, dogmatic and supernatural elaborations. We might treat the ability to forget social conditioning (returning to nature) as something only some are capable of, ignore the self-rebutting threat of the attempt, and romanticize the abilities or moral purity that would result from removing socialization.

Zhuangzi built on a related view — that people develop different moral attitudes from different natural upbringings and each feels his own views are obvious and natural. But his version treats all as equally natural, not regarding some as more able than others to avoid being “blinded by socialization.” Zhuangzi also adopts a closely related view of how xinheart-mind is shaped by socialization. So there is a role for Song Xing, along with Mozi in the motivations for Daoist theorizing. However, again we find little hint that Song Xing reflected on the concept of dao itself and how it is involved in this analysis of how society injects attitudes into xinheart-mind.

The first plausible candidate for a theoretical Daoist comes next in the Zhuangzi historical survey. We will pick Shen Dao as the best-known representative of this group of scholars. He is sometimes included in the list of Huang-Lao thinkers and cited as a source of Legalist thinking. We will not attempt here to reconcile this latter with the essentially Daoist view presented in the Zhuangzi history. Shen Dao's theory (perhaps unwittingly) lays the foundation for Taoism's rejecting the authority of tiannature:sky in favor of daoguide:way. (In religious language, we can describe this as worshipping daoguide rather than tiannature:sky.) The key insight here is that (like God and Nature) appeal to tiannature:sky is normatively empty. All authority presupposes some daoguide. (God's moral authority presupposes we accept a dao of “obey God.”) The Later Mohists dialecticians also noticed this problem. They even more clearly argue that the appeal to tiannature:sky could justify the thief as well as the sage.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cults Of Cthulhu

Cults Of Cthulhu Cover

Book: Cults Of Cthulhu by Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Cthulhu represents the Abyss of the subconscious or dreaming mind, and astrologically by the sign of Scorpio. Ceremonially, he is referred to the West (Amenta, or the Place of the Dead in ancient Egyptian religion), and geographically, to the site of R’lyeh in the South Pacific (the exact coordinates for which are to be found in ‘The Call of Cthulhu’.)

Cthulhu is an underlying pattern in Lovecraft’s works. In the central theme of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, written in 1926, this design is clearly revealed. The subject of the story is the suggestion that, at certain times when the conjunctions of the stars assume the correct aspect, certain dark forces can influence sensitive individuals, giving them visions of ‘the Great Old Ones’, godlike aliens of extraterrestrial origin. These entities exist in another dimension, or on a different vibrational level, and can only enter this universe though specific ‘window areas’ or psychic gateways - a concept fundamental to many occult traditions. Cthulhu is the High Priest of the Old Ones, entombed in the sunken city of R’lyeh, where he awaits the time of their return. He is described as a winged, tentacled anthropoid of immense size, formed from a semi-viscous substance which recombines after his apparent destruction at the conclusion of the tale. The narrative also gives evidence, drawn from various archaeological and mythological sources, of the continuing existence of a cult dedicated to the return of the Old Ones, its exponents ranging from inhabitants of the South Seas Islands to the angakoks of Greenland, and practitioners of voodoo in the Southern United States.

There is a marked similarity between this passage and the teachings of many actual secret societies of the past, including the Assassins, the Gnostics, and the Templars, but in particular to the ‘Law of Thelema’, as expounded by Lovecraft’s contemporary, Aleister Crowley. The main distinction is one of moral interpretation — whereas Lovecraft regarded his ancient gods as essentially evil, Crowley saw the return of such atavistic deities as being in full accord with ‘the progression of the Aeons”.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Zoroastrian Faith Tradition And Modern Research

The Zoroastrian Faith Tradition And Modern Research Cover

Book: The Zoroastrian Faith Tradition And Modern Research by Sa Nigosian

This book makes a worthy contribution to the study of world religions by offering a primer on a little known religion whose thought has influenced every major faith." Herbert Basser, Department of Religious Studies, Queen's University. "The originality of the author's contribution lies in the combination of history, scripture, and ritual. The description of the ritual practices is particularly informative and useful ... His careful sifting of the historical evidence is useful because he is dealing with issues concerning which the historical record is obscure.

This is an excellent description of the Zoroastrian faith. It begins with Zoroaster himself, dating his lifetime most probably and providing a compelling history of the man who ultimately had a tremendous influence on Western culture far greater than he could ever imagine. I believe it safe to say that he had more influence than Jesus himself, given the fact that the Zoroastrian world-view was subsequently adopted by a large contingent of ancient Jews, including Jesus, and ultimately spread around the world by Christianity and Islam.

The history of the faith itself is then presented, along with key scriptures, teachings, and rituals. This book is excellent and truly fascinating reading. The Zoroastrian faith was far ahead of its time and represented an incredible philosophical advance in the ancient world that would have been completely foreign to most of the world's inhabitants but very familiar to you and I. The attractiveness of its beliefs could not be opposed even by the strictness of the Judaic world-view. In a remarkable way, Christianity and Islam represent the triumph of Zoroastrian ideas, and I found myself strangely saddened that this religion is near extinction. There is an inspiring grandeur to this faith as presented here.

There are no photographs or visual information in this book that could help reveal certain clothing or life styles of the Zoroastrian faith. In fact I did meet a Parsi (a modern Zoroastrian from Bombay India) at a Jews for Jesus table at Cal State Fullerton California around the mid 1980's & saw his shirt that contain the chords to store his good & evil deeds, but I still would like to see a photograph of a fire temple & the rites performed.

The book is well written, absolutely fascinating, balanced, and a quick read. I recommend it highly.

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The Zoroastrian Faith Tradition And Modern Research

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Taoism And Buddhism

Taoism And Buddhism Cover
The relation between Taoism and Buddhism has been fertile, with reciprocal borrowings of doctrinal formulations, theological elements, technical terminology, and forms of practice. Even though Buddhist polemical authors have often accused Taoists of appropriating Buddhist notions and topoi and even of plagiarizing their scriptures, these disputes have mostly occurred in the surroundings of the imperial court. In that milieu, providing evidence of doctrinal preeminence in order to obtain official patronage was more important than highlighting any shared ground. Taoism provided Chinese Buddhism with some of that ground in the early stages of its development, and, in turn, drew from it in later times. For the average faithful, anyway, subtle doctrinal distinctions surely were not the main concern, and Taoist or Buddhist deities could equally be addressed as needed and practicable.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Zoroastrianism Defined

Zoroastrianism Defined Cover
Two principles form the basis of Zoroastrian ethics: the maintenance of life and the struggle against evil. In order to maintain life, one must till the soil, raise cattle, marry and have children. Asceticism and celibacy are condemned; purity and avoidance of defilement (from death, demons, etc.) are valued. In order to combat evil, one must at all times oppose the forces of evil and those who side with them. Zoroastrianism stresses monotheism, while recognizing the universal sway of two opposite forces (dualism). The powers of good are led by Ahura Mazda, or Ormazd (the Wise Lord), and the forces of evil by Angra Mainyu or Ahriman (the Evil Spirit). Each side has an array of warriors; bands of angels and archangels on one side and hosts of demons and archfiends on the other. Good will eventually triumph on Judgment Day, when a Messiah and Savior named Saoshyant will appear to punish the wicked and establish the righteous in a paradise on Earth. A central feature of the faith is the sacred fire that is constantly kept burning in every home, fueled by fragrant sandalwood. Fire is considered the only worshipful symbol, the great purifier and sustainer, of the nature of the sun itself.

FOUNDED: Zoroastrianism began 2,600 years ago in ancient Iran.
FOUNDER: Spenta Zarathustra (Zoroaster).
MAJOR SCRIPTURE: Portions of the Zend Avesta (Persian).
ADHERENTS: 125,000, mostly near Mumbai, where they are called Parsis.
SECTS: The present-day sects are three: Shahenshai, Kadmi and Fassali.


When did Zarathushtra live?

According to Bruce Lincoln,

"At present, the majority opinion among scholars probably inclines toward the end of the second millennium or the beginning of the first, although there are still those who hold for a date in the seventh century." (Death, War, and Sacrifice, 1991, pg 150)

Humbach and Ichaporia seem to favor the Xanthos date of 1080 BC but mention the 630 date also. (Heritage, 1994, pg 11).

A commonly given date is the seventh century B.C.E. I think Boyce has convincingly shown the seventh century date to be an error. Humbach also discounts the basis of this calculation in his Gathas 1991 (pg 30). Boyce has wavered on an actual date: between 1400 and 1000 BC (1975), between 1700 and 1500 (1979), around 1400 BC (1988), between 1500 BC & 1200 BC "with the latter more likely" (1992).

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Occult Chemistry

Occult Chemistry Cover

Book: Occult Chemistry by Charles Webster Leadbeater

Occult Chemistry: Investigations by Clairvoyant Magnification into the Structure of the Atoms of the Periodic Table and Some Compounds is a book written by Annie Besant, C.W. Leadbeater and Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa, who were all members of the Theosophical Society (based at Adyar, India). Annie was at the time the President of the Society having succeeded Henry Olcott after his death in 1907. The first edition was published in 1908, the second edition in 1919, and a third in 1951. Since the first edition was published in 1908, the book is in the public domain, and available in whole or in excerpts, on many sites on the internet. Occult Chemistry proposes that the structure of chemical elements can be assessed through clairvoyant observation with the microscopic vision of the third eye . Observations were carried out between 1895 and 1933. "The book consists both of coordinated and illustrated descriptions of presumed etheric counterparts of the atoms of the then known chemical elements, and of other expositions of occult physics." Academic criticism is available in Chapter 2 of Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory, and in an online article from the Chemistry department at Yale University

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Thousand Buddha Cliffs Discovered In China

Thousand Buddha Cliffs Discovered In China Image
Three cliffs each containing about a thousand Buddha carvings appeared beside a reservoir in San Su County, in Sichuan province. (Image: newssc.net).

In early August, three cliffs each containing hundreds of Buddha carvings appeared beside a reservoir in San Su County, in Sichuan province, China. The Buddhas, which have different expressions, are well preserved.

Most villagers said they never knew these "Buddha cliffs" existed. However, an old man said he had seen them about 49 years ago. In fact, this place used to be a temple. In 1963, construction of the Chen Gou Reservoir was completed, and the three Buddha cliffs were submerged. In 1983, it was declared a heritage conservation unit at the county level.

According to one expert, the decision to submerge the Buddha cliffs in water was opposed by cultural sectors. However, compared to exposing the Buddhas to the elements, submerging is a much a much better preservation method even though they would also be eroded by water to some extent. Source

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Buddhism Fastest Growing Religion In Australia

Buddhism Fastest Growing Religion In Australia Image
The fastest growing religion in Australia is Buddhism, and its roots have been traced back to Sri Lanka. But the question is, Will it continue?

Growing interest


Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in Australia, and the biggest reliquary-burial mound ("stupa") outside countries with significant Buddhist populations is being built in Bendigo, not far from Melbourne.

It was while doing 18 months of research on Buddhism in Australia for two articles on the subject that now appear in the Cambridge University Press' massive tome "The Encyclopedia of Religions in Australia" that [D.S. Abeygunawardena] not only came across these two nuggets but also discovered that Australia had 570 listed Buddhist organizations, including monasteries, temples, retreat [center]s, meditation centers, and meeting places for Buddhist societies. A 3-D model of The Great "Stupa", the biggest reliquary-burial mound outside countries with a significant Buddhist presence.

Today these are patronized by a Buddhist population of a little over 400,000 (two percent of the total population), almost double the 1996 census count ten years earlier. Islam has only about three-fourths that number and Hinduism a third. With nearly 13 million listing themselves as Christian, this tale of Buddhism in Australia is just one of Abey's typical, but solidly fact-based, footnotes.

It's a story that begins with a boatload of Chinese arriving in Adelaide in 1851 to walk to the Victorian goldfields. Many of them were Buddhists. But there is no record what happened to them or their faith. Better recorded is the 500 Sinhalese [Sri Lankan] Buddhists from the Galle area in southern Sri Lanka. They came to work as contract labor in the Queensland sugar plantations. Given their urban background, they soon moved out of the plantations and found work in Broome, Darwin, and Thursday Island in the pearl industry. (Some of their descendants are still in the jewellery business). On tiny Thursday island, the 100 or so Sinhalese families that settled there built the first Buddhist shrine in Australia. But when their descendants moved out, the shrine vanished.

by AJAHN BRAHM



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