Sunday, August 31, 2008

Witchcraft And Satanism

Witchcraft And Satanism Cover Witchcraft & Satanism: Linking Witches & Satan out of Ignorance, to Encourage Fear and Hatred

Christians in medieval and pre-modern Europe believed that Satan was a real being and that Satan was actively involved in the affairs of humans. Satan's goal was the corruption of humanity, the destruction of everything good, and the damnation of as many people as possible in hell. One means by which it was believed he accomplished this was through human agents to whom he gave Supernatural powers.

Witches were easily categorized as servants of Satan. No longer merely adherents to a more ancient religious tradition, witches were targeted for prosecution as slaves of the cosmic enemy of God, Jesus, and Christianity. Instead of a healer or a teacher, the witch was made into an instrument of evil. The witch was portrayed -- and treated -- as worse than a heretic. This tactic was not limited to the medieval church's pursuit of witches.

Religious and political authorities of various eras and different cultures have always found it convenient to associate their enemies with the worst possible evil they could imagine. In the Christian west, this generally meant associating enemies with Satan. These sort of extreme demonization allows a person to stop seeing their enemy as entirely human and the conflict as something which does not require mercy, traditionally just procedures, or anything of the kind. The only just outcome is not merely the defeat the one's enemy, but their complete extermination. In a battle where one's very existence is at stake, survival becomes the only moral value worth upholding.

The above image depicts the "Witch's Kiss." It was believe that part of the rite of becoming a witch in Satan's service involved kissing Satan's rear. It should be remembered that insofar as there existed anyone who practiced the healing and divination Techniques of older pagan traditions, they wouldn't have had anything to do with Satan. After all, Satan is a creation of Christianity and monotheistic traditions. Any "witches" who existed were pantheists or polytheists and wouldn't have believed in a Satan.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Various Essays On Lucid Dreaming

Various Essays On Lucid Dreaming Cover

Book: Various Essays On Lucid Dreaming by Stephen La Berge

A number of techniques facilitate lucid dreaming. One of the simplest is asking yourself many times during the day whether you are dreaming. Each time you ask the question, you should look for evidence proving you are not dreaming. The most reliable test: Read something, look away for a moment, and then read it again. If it reads the same way twice, it is unlikely that you are dreaming. After you have proved to yourself that you are not presently dreaming, visualize yourself doing what it is you'd like. Also, tell yourself that you want to recognize a nighttime dream the next time it occurs. The mechanism at work here is simple; it's much the same as picking up milk at the grocery store after reminding yourself to do so an hour before.

At night people usually realize they are dreaming when they experience unusual or bizarre occurrences. For instance, if you find yourself flying without visible means of support, you should realize that this happens only in dreams and that you must therefore be dreaming. If you awaken from a dream in the middle of the night, it is very helpful to return to the dream immediately, in your imagination. Now envision yourself recognizing the dream as such. Tell yoursel, "The next time I am dreaming, I want to remember to recognize that I am dreaming." If your intention is strong and clear enough, you may find yourself in a lucid dream when you return to sleep.

Even if you're a frequent lucid dreamer, you may not be able to stop yourself from waking up in mid-dream. And even if your dreams do reach a satisfying end, you may not be able to focus them exactly as you please. During our years of research, however, we have found that spinning your dream body can sustain the period of sleep and give you greater dream control. In fact, many subjects at Stanford University have used the spinning technique as an effective means of staying in a lucid dream. The task outlined below will help you use spinning as a means of staying asleep and, more exciting, as a means of traveling to whatever dream world you desire. When spinning, try to notice whether you're moving in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. - Stephen LaBerge and Jayne Gackenbach

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Human To God

From Human To God Image
Last night i had this interesting conversation with one of my friend, Kaveh. We went to a religious program organized by local Singaporeans on the occasion of Imam Hussein's Birthday (Imam Hussein is the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and a great spiritual leader. May peace and blessings be on him). Among many things discussed, Kaveh told me something interesting worth mentioning:

He said, if you look at great religious personalities, they all first from Human Nature try to discover God. Once they discover God, they seek nearness of God, after this state they are absorbed in God. At this stage of evolution they separate themselves from the general people.

After they are absorbed in God, they realize the Truth and the Reality. And then that they comeback to Human Nature. They go back into general people to serve them.

It is the connection of God and people that is necessary. You can not love only God without loving His creation, people. Serving people is equivalent to serving God.

The above situation can be illustrated by the examples of Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. All of them at one point of time became wanderer. One went into forest for meditation and to undestand the Reality. Another went to desert seeking and meditating on God; another went into mountain for long retreat and meditation. But interestingly all of them after discovering Divine and attaining Spiritual Enlightenment; came back to the people to give guidance. To make people conscious, to awake them from sleeping state and state of denial of Reality.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Everyday Tao Living With Balance And Harmony

Everyday Tao Living With Balance And Harmony Cover

Book: Everyday Tao Living With Balance And Harmony by Ming Dao Deng

In this companion volume to 365 Tao, Deng Ming-Dao explores the central features of Taoism and their application to everyday life. Divided into sections with names like "Nature," "Silence," "Devotion" and "Self," Deng's individual meditations focus on virtues like charity, kindness, patience and diligence. Each meditation is preceded by a drawing of an ancient Chinese ideogram of which Deng offers a translation and an extended reflection on the drawing's meaning, or instruction, for following the Tao. For example, in his reflection on travel, he illustrates the various ways in which the act of traveling is synonymous with following the Tao. In his words, "to travel means to trust the Tao." Deng's poetic conversations on the harmony and balance of living the Tao in everyday life should have broad appeal.

The quality of the lessons in this should not be overshadowed by technical arguments that have no bearing on the actual discussion. The entymology was a framework that is (or should be anyway...) easily discarded if one is not interested in it. I'm active in martial arts and one constant theme I encounter is people "thinking too hard". Many times someone will be doing fine until they start getting overly-analytical and then they flop. I do this myself. The point here is that if you get stuck on petty details you will miss *so* much.

So in summary, this is a great book if you allow it to be. If you are going to nitpick and argue technicalities then you have missed the whole point of this book, and likely missed the beauty of Taoism in general.

Ming-Dao's 365 Tao has sold 125,000 copies over the last four years, paving the way for this accessible and illuminating guide. In his introduction, Ming-Dao explains that Tao is "literally the movement of all life . . . the total ongoing of the universe," and that to live according to Taoist principles is to go along with this movement, this flow. Ming-Dao notes eight "special qualities" of people who internalize Taoism: simplicity, sensitivity, flexibility, independence and being focused, cultivated, disciplined, and joyous. The body of the book consists of texts based on Chinese characters emblematic of certain aspects of the Taoist way, including specific aspects of nature, silence, conduct, moderation, devotion, teaching, self, and union. In his clear and concise definitions of each concept, Ming-Dao provides a running history of Tao, a summary of Tao practice, and suggestions for how the study of Taoism can enrich everyday life in the Western world.

Buy Ming Dao Deng's book: Everyday Tao Living With Balance And Harmony

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Buddhism And Shamanism Today

Buddhism And Shamanism Today Image
Traditional Indian "shramana" (ascetic, yogi, "saddhu") in search of enlightenment

IS SHAMANISM A PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT? "The shamanic path is not a path traditionally intended to achieve enlightenment," explains Dr. Michael Harner of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

BUDDHIST SHAMANS?

But it is certainly compatible with the quest. The word "shaman" is thought to derive from the Buddhist-Sanskrit term shramana", "a recluse, ascetic, or wandering monk. This path of anti-establishment practices continues to be prevalent in modern India. There as elsewhere they are healers and communicators between worlds. The idea applies to mystics in search of truth and enlightenment often on their own terms -- utilizing yogic asceticism, entheogens, and a stringent moral code that promotes a free, independent, reclusive lifestyle.

These practices were around long before Buddhism as part of India's longstanding sannyasin tradition. Buddhists and Jains (and other lesser known movements that did not survive like the followers of Makkhali Gosala) prominently rejected the infallible authority of the Vedas.

Modern shamans, while less formal than Buddhist "shramanas" or Hindu "sannyasins", are not a reaction to brahmin temple priests as Buddhism was. Nevertheless, even urban shamans are trying to directly connect with the Earth, nature spirits, and a direct experience of oneness. Shamans have existed in every traditional society from the Pagans of Europe (such as the Sami of Sweden) to the pygmies of Papua New Guinea.

by Seven Jaini



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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ce New Designation Of Era

Ce New Designation Of Era Image
Time - the strange matter. It seems to be running but it actually stays still. When people became aware of the time, they tried to find a way to measure it. The seconds came into minutes, days turned into years. At this moment we live in the year of 2008. At least we think we do. No-one knows for sure. As we have got accustomed to this conception so be it!

Still there is a sometimes painful question about naming the era we live in. The English speaking part of the world have been forced to use A.D. to designate the time in this common era and B.C. to mark the events of the ancient era.

As we know A.D. stands for Anno Domini - "the year of God" and B.C. stands for "Before Christ". However may be, these two designations are a part of the strong Christian policy of presence held for many centuries. Not saying anything against Christians it's just not ethical to force other people using alien designations. There are about one billion Christians on the Earth and more than 6 billion people altogether. Why does majority use the terms of minority?

Is there an alternative definition of era for Buddhists, Wiccans and followers of other spiritual paths? Yes, now there is one! New terms have been proposed recently - CE and BCE. These two stand for Common Era and Before Common Era respectively. Where we used A.D. we would now use CE and in the place of B.C. we would write BCE.

Wicca.IN Portal officially supports the change of designations and encourages everyone to use CE and BCE in both spoken and written word. CE and BCE designation has been widely adopted in many non-Christian communitites and also in several scientific and academic fields. If we wouldn't stand for our rights who would then? Let's keep the ethics alive!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Liber 71 The Voice Of The Silence

Liber 71 The Voice Of The Silence Cover

Book: Liber 71 The Voice Of The Silence by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

IT IS NOT VERY DIFFICULT to write a book, if one chance to possess the necessary degree of Initiation, and the power of expression. It is infernally difficult to comment on such a Book. The principal reason for this is that every statement is true and untrue, alternately, as one advances upon the Path of the Wise. The question always arises: For what grade is this Book meant? To give one simple concrete example, it is stated in the third part of this treatise that Change is the great enemy. This is all very well as meaning that one ought to stick to one’s job. But in another sense Change is the Great Friend. As it is marvelous well shewed forth by The Beast Himself in Liber Aleph, Love is the law, and Love is Change, by definition. Short of writing a separate interpretation suited for every grade, therefore, the commentator is in a bog of quandary which makes Flanders Mud seem like polished granite.

He can only do his poor best, leaving it very much to the intelligence of each reader to get just what he needs. These remarks are peculiarly applicable to the present treatise; for the issues are presented in so confused a manner that one almost wonders whether Madame Blavatsky was not a reincarnation of the Woman with the Issue of Blood familiar to readers of the Gospels. It is astonishing and distressing to notice how the Lanoo, no matter what happens to him, soaring aloft like the phang, and sailing gloriously through innumerable Gates of High Initiation, nevertheless keeps his original Point of View, like a Bourbon. He is always getting rid of Illusions, but, like the entourage of the Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Rheims after he cursed the thief, nobody seems one penny the worse—or the better.

Download Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's eBook: Liber 71 The Voice Of The Silence

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Asatru As A Modern Religion

Asatru As A Modern Religion Cover
Despite its historical origins, Asatru is a modern religion. Its modern practice is a product of resurgence through the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. As a modern religion, it seeks to inform and guide us in our modern, daily lives. It provides a vision of spirituality, community and identity that is relevant to today. It seeks connection to our ancestors, gods and goddesses. It embraces the concept of culture as people embodied wisdom and seeks to improve our lives today by giving us ideals to strive for. Whether it is described as a reconstruction or a reinvention or a rediscovery of our ancestors’ religious and folk views, it is modern and adapted to the world today. Its ethics provides lessons that a just as relevant today and tomorrow as they were through the millennia. It is embodied in a rapidly growing community wherever Northern Europeans are found.

As a modern religion we are adapting our practices to face the realities of life in a more crowded world. If Asatru is said to have a mission in Midgard, it is to help the Folk live in peace with the Holy Spirits, and to help us thrive and grow, to have the greatest degree of self-identity, self-respect, strength and self-determination in the world today. Its mission is to keep alive the beliefs and ideals which have kept our Folk alive through the ages. Asatru, as a modern religion, is about life.

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Death And The Afterlife In Japanese Buddhism

Death And The Afterlife In Japanese Buddhism Cover

Book: Death And The Afterlife In Japanese Buddhism by Jacqueline Stone

We, the editors of this volume, have no interest in pursuing the modernist critique (except as an object of study), and while we find the roots of the contemporary Buddhist near-monopoly on death rites to be a fascinating subject, we do not necessarily read their history as a trajectory of Buddhist decline. Bracketing Tamamuro’s modernist assumptions, we find the story outlined in his Soshiki bukkyo to be a remarkable one, worthy of further inquiry and historical interpretation. For more than a millennium, despite moments of fierce competition from Shinto, Confucianism, Nativism, and, more recently, the secular funeral industry, Buddhism has dominated Japanese rites for the dead.

No comprehensive understanding of Japanese religion or culture for any period following Buddhism’s introduction would be possible without some knowledge of its death rituals and views of the afterlife and their impact on social practice. Nonetheless, no book-length English-language study presenting an overall history of death in Japanese Buddhism has yet appeared.4 Cognizant of this lack, Mariko Walter organized a paper session on this topic for the 2000 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, which became the impetus for the present volume. The nine essays gathered here include studies by both established scholars and younger voices in the field and display a range of approaches, including not only Buddhist Studies but also art history, literary criticism, ritual studies, gender studies, sociology of religion, and ethnographic fieldwork. They are presented in chronological order of their subject matter, beginning with the Heian period (794–1185), and collectively cover a period of roughly a thousand years—coincidentally, the very length of time deemed appropriate by historian Philippe Arie`s for a proper study of death. As Arie`s suggests in the epigraph above, the perspective of the longue duree does indeed make possible an overview of persistent patterns as well as significant shifts in approaches to death.

Our hope is that this volume will not only benefit scholars and students of Buddhism and Japanese religion but also interest those focusing on other areas of Japan studies or religion and culture more broadly. As coeditors, we asked our contributors to make clear the connections among their individual essays by highlighting one or more of three themes: continuity and change over time in Japanese Buddhist death-related practices and views of the afterlife; the dual role of Buddhist death rites in both addressing individual concerns about the afterlife and at the same time working to construct, maintain, and legitimize social relations and the authority of religious institutions; and Buddhist death rites as a locus of contradictory logics, to borrow a felicitous phrase from Duncan Williams’s chapter, bringing together unrelated, even opposing ideas about the dead, their postmortem fate, what the living should do for them, and what constitutes normative Buddhist practice.

Download Jacqueline Stone's eBook: Death And The Afterlife In Japanese Buddhism

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The Entered Apprentice Handbook

The Entered Apprentice Handbook Cover

Book: The Entered Apprentice Handbook by John Sebastian Marlowe Ward

W. Bro. Ward is one of the most able and earnest of Masonic students. He brings to bear on the task of research the mind of a scholar, enriched by extensive reading, much travel and a wide Experience of men and affairs. In addition to being a well known author of Masonic Works, he was the Founder of the Masonic Study Society, whose first President was the late Sir Richard Vassar Vassar-Smith, 33 degree, and in whose ranks are to be found many eminent Masonic writers. Brother Ward has by precept and example led others to become eager explorers in the realms of Masonic truth. The present volume is No. 1 in a series of studies as to the meaning of our Ritual. It deals with the degree of an
Entered Apprentice and is calculated to inspire the younger brethren with the resolve not to content themselves with the outward form of our Ceremonies, beautiful though it be, but to gain a knowledge of the indwelling soul of Masonry and to comprehend the deep meaning of the ritual with which they are step by step becoming familiar.

The issue of Bro. Ward's series of handbooks cannot fail to accomplish its main object, which is to lead not only juniors, but also those well versed in the ritual, to mark, learn and inwardly digest the significance of the ceremonies, which when properly understood, causes our jewels and emblems to glow with an inner light which infinitely enhances their beauty. The ready reception which Bro. Ward's books have already received at the hands of the Craft, prove that they meet a recognised requirement as expositions of the character of a ritual with whose external features we are familiar, and in which we take our daily delight.

Download John Sebastian Marlowe Ward's eBook: The Entered Apprentice Handbook

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Nature Of Folk Religion

The Nature Of Folk Religion Cover
In the modern Western countries, religion is largely an individual matter. People meditate or pray, seek self-improvement, search for personal spiritual enlightenment, or find individual salvation. Religion is only a set of beliefs and practices, which can be chosen by the seeker as easily as we buy a new car - and changed for a new one even more easily.

This is a very new notion, one that has risen in direct proportion to our separation from nature and from our ancestors. To people in traditional cultures, this self-centered interpretation of religion is strange indeed.

Certainly all spiritual or religious paths have an individual component that is valid and worthy of pursuit. In America and the rest of the West, however, we often focus on the individual to the exclusion of the group aspect. This doesn't mean that we don't yearn after community; many neighborhood churches provide this for their members, and this role as a provider of community has become even more vital as our families disintegrate under the pressures of modern living.

What Westerners do not understand is that folk religions - native religions, indigenous religions, whatever you want to call them - are linked to a particular cultural and biological group...a people. Religion is not something apart from the life of the group; indeed, it is one more manifestation of the group's existence. Religion springs from the very nature of the people and is an expression of the totality of their experience from the beginning of time.

Folk religions are deeply ancestral. Those who have gone before, those forefathers and foremothers of times past, are still connected to the tribe or nation. The bonds of kinship transcend space and time. Indeed, many of us who follow Asatru believe that the ancestors are continually reborn into the family or clan. There is an interweaving of ancestry throughout lifetimes and across generations. We have been here, together in this world, before. Blood is not only thicker than water, it is stronger than death and distance!

From this perspective, it is unthinkable that religion should be seen as just an accessory, something to be shucked off like a coat or a hat. Rather, religion becomes a manifestation of our very essence, a part of us like our legs or our head. Asatru is not what we believe, it is what we are.

It is only natural that we seek out the spiritual path that our ancestors walked. On the most mundane level, we are more like those forebears than we are like anyone else. We carry their essence. One can try to rationalize this by pointing out that so many things about humans are influenced by heredity, and perhaps that is part of it, but ultimately the connection is spiritual. We are linked to those ancestors and to our descendants by special bonds that we do not share with others. When we find the ways of our own people, we discover things we cannot find anywhere else.
It is these two factors - the focus on the group nature of religion as a counterbalance to the individual aspect, and the importance of the ancestors, that set folk religions apart from modern, rootless, artificial constructs.

Asatru is not just a belief or a set of practices, it is an expression of who we are as men and women of European heritage.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

What The Buddha Never Taught

What The Buddha Never Taught Image


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Divination Spreads

Divination Spreads Cover

Book: Divination Spreads by Anonymous

Here are a few Tarot or Rune spreads. I will keep is simple and brief. Make up your own spreads. Those are the ones which will work best for you. These are a few of my favorites. Remember, when spreading the cards, shuffle thinking of the question. use your energy to focus the cards on what you want answered.

Download Anonymous's eBook: Divination Spreads

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Super Sensual Life

The Super Sensual Life Cover

Book: The Super Sensual Life by Jacob Behmen

These Writings from out of the Past are in the Public Domain and may be freely shared, photocopied, reproduced, faxed or transmitted in any way by any means. The transcription of this document was done as a labor of love - one keystroke at a time by a modern seeker on the WAY to Truth...the HTML rendering offers a glimpse of the emphases used in the typesetting of the early English printing.

Brought forth in the 1600's by a humble shoemaker; translated into English over 100 years later; suppressed and hidden away until recently in Theological archives around the world... a worthy personal study not just for academics but for all those who are spiritually grounded in the WORD, who are Learning to hear the Lord, and who hunger for more.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Goals Of The Four Major Hindu Sects

Goals Of The Four Major Hindu Sects Cover SAIVISM: The primary goal of Saivism is realizing one's identity with God Siva, in perfect union and nondifferentiation. This is termed nirvikalpa samadhi, Self Realization, and may be attained in this life, granting moksha, permanent liberation from the cycles of birth and death. A secondary goal is savikalpa samadhi, the realization of Satchidananda, a unitive experience within superconsciousness in which perfect Truth, knowledge and bliss are known. The soul's final destiny is vishvagrasa, total merger in God Siva.

SHAKTISM: The primary goal of Shaktism is moksha, defined as complete identification with God Siva. A secondary goal for the Shaktas is to perform good works selflessly so that one may go, on death, to the heaven worlds and thereafter enjoy a good birth on Earth, for heaven, too, is a transitory state. For Shaktas, God is both the formless Absolute (Siva) and the manifest divine (Shakti), worshiped as Parvati, Durga, Kali, Amman, Rajarajeshvari, etc. Emphasis is given to the feminine manifest by which the masculine Unmanifest is ultimately reached.

VAISHNAVISM: The primary goal of Vaishnavites is videha mukti, liberation -- attainable only after death -- when the small self realizes union with God Vishnu's body as a part of Him, yet maintains its pure individual personality. Lord Vishnu -- all-pervasive consciousness -- is the soul of the universe, distinct from the world and from the jivas, "embodied souls," which constitute His body. His transcendent Being is a celestial form residing in the city of Vaikuntha, the home of all eternal values and perfection, where the soul joins Him upon mukti, liberation. A secondary goal -- the experience of God's Grace -- can be reached while yet embodied through taking refuge in Vishnu's unbounded love. By loving and serving Vishnu and meditating upon Him and His incarnations, our spiritual hunger grows and we experience His Grace flooding our whole being.

SMARTISM: The ultimate goal of Smartas is moksha, to realize oneself as Brahman -- the Absolute and only Reality -- and become free from samsara, the cycles of birth and death. For this, one must conquer the state of avidya, or ignorance, which causes the world to appear as real. All illusion has vanished for the realized being, Jivanmukta, even as he lives out life in the physical body. At death, his inner and outer bodies are extinguished. Brahman alone exists.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature

The Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature Image
...Buddhism strictly limits itself to the delineation of a way of life designed to eradicate human suffering ("dukkha" or disappointment, dissatisfaction). The Buddha refused to answer questions that did not directly or indirectly bear on the central problem of human suffering and its ending.

Furthermore, environmental pollution is a problem of the modern age, unheard of and unsuspected during the time of the Buddha. It is therefore difficult to find any specific discourse that deals with the topic. Nevertheless, because Buddhism is a full-fledged philosophy of life reflecting all aspects of experience, it is possible.BUDDHIST LANGUAGE

The word "nature" means everything in the world that is not organized and constructed by humans. The Pali (an exclusively Buddhist language) equivalents that come closest to "nature" are "loka" ("world") and "yathabhuta" ("things as they really are") and "dhammata" ("natural law") and "niyama" ("natural way") -- or the "order of things."

NATURE AS DYNAMIC


According to Buddhism, [cyclical] changeability ("anicca", impermanence) is a principle of nature. Everything formed or composed is in a constant process of alteration, vibrating. The world is defined as that which disintegrates ("lujjati ti loko"); it is dynamic and kinetic; it is constantly in a process undergoing change. In nature there are no static and stable "things"; there are only ever-changing, ever-moving processes. Rain is a good example illustrating this: Although we use the noun "rain," which appears to denote a "thing," rain is only a "process" of water drops falling. Apart from the process -- the "activity" of raining -- there is no rain.

The building material of nature -- the elements of solidity ("pathavi"), liquidity ("apo"), heat ("tejo"), and mobility ("vayo") -- are ever-changing phenomena. Solid looking mountains wear away, Earth shifts. One sutra explains how the massive king of mountains -- MOUNT SINERU, rooted into the sea and sky -- also gets destroyed by heat, without leaving even ashes, with the eventual appearance of multiple suns in the distant future (A. IV, 100).

Nature and Morality?

The world passes through alternating cycles of evolution and dissolution. [Things are created in between, hastening the evolution.] Buddhism believes that "natural" (impersonal and orderly) processes are affected by the morals and ethics of humans.

According to the Agga~n~na Sutra (DN 27, "BUDDHIST GENESIS" on the beginnings of life on Earth), the appearance of greed in the primordial beings -- who at that time [devolved from higher order beings from space who] were self-luminous, subsisting on joy, and traversing in the skies -- caused the gradual loss of their radiance and their ability to subsist on joy and to move about in the sky.

The moral and ethical degradation had effects on the external environment too. At that time the entire Earth was covered over by a very flavorful and fragrant substance similar to butter [or mushrooms]. When beings started partaking of this substance with more and more greed, on the one hand, their subtle bodies became coarser and, on the other hand, the flavorful substance started diminishing.

With the solidification of gross form, bodily differences appeared; some were beautiful, while others were unattractive. So conceit arose in those beings, with the beautiful ones looking down on the others. As a result of these moral blemishes, the delicious edible Earth-substance completely disappeared. SEXUAL DIFFERENCESIn its place appeared less easily obtainable edible mushrooms and later another kind of edible creeper. The beings who subsisted on them underwent sexual differentiation, and spontaneous birth was replaced by pregnancy and childbirth or common sexual reproduction.

Self-growing rice appeared. But through laziness to collect each meal, humans grew accustomed to hoarding food. As a result of this hoarding habit, the growth rate of food could not keep pace with the rate of demand. The land had to be divided among families (clans, extended family groups). When private ownership became the order of the day, those who were of a more greedy disposition started robbing from others' land. When they were detected, they denied it.

Through greed, vices like stealing and lying to cover it up arose. To curb wrongdoers and punish them, a ruler was elected by the people. Thus the original simple society became complex and with many complications.

The Buddha explained that these adverse natural effects resulted from unnatural (man made) moral degeneration. The richness of the Earth diminished and self-growing rice disappeared. Humans had to till the land and cultivate rice for food, which became coarser and more difficult, enveloped in chaff, and needing to be cleaned.

This evolutionary legend while impersonal was affected by humans and other living beings in the environment, seen and unseen. The dominant beings, which first came from space then became terrestrial, deteriorated morally. This affects our well being and happiness.

The "Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutra" (DN 26, "The Wheel-Turning Emperor") predicts the future course of events when humans become more degenerate: Gradually human health will deteriorate so much that life expectancy will diminish until the average human lifespan is reduced to 10 years and the marriageable age is 5 years. [While this may sound incredible, more incredible is the fact that at times the average lifespan is 90,000 years or more].

At that time all delicacies such as honey will have disappeared from the Earth. And what is considered the coarsest food today will be considered a delicacy. The Buddha was pointing out the close link between our moral and ethical choices and the natural resources available to us.

When wanton lust, greed, and debased values grip the human heart and become widespread in society, timely rain does not fall. When timely rain does not fall, crops get various pests and plant diseases. The lack of nourishing food increases human mortality rates.

The forest in India after respect was lost for maintaining nature (Goutamendu/Flickr)

Early Buddhism recognized the close relationship between human behavior and the natural environment. This idea was systematized in the theory of the Five Natural Orders ("pa~nca niyama dhamma") in later commentaries ("Atthasalini", 854). According to the theory, there are five natural forces at work in the cosmos:

* order of seasons ("utu-niyama")
* order of seeds ("bija-niyama")
* order of mind ("citta-niyama")
* order of deeds (karma-"niyama")
* order of things ("dhamma-niyama").

These may be translated as physical laws, biological laws, psychological laws, moral laws, and causal laws, respectively. While the first four orderly processes operate within their respective spheres, the law of causality operates within each of them as well as among them.

This means that the physical environment of any given area conditions the growth and development of its biological component, its flora and fauna. These in turn influence the thought pattern of the people interacting with them. Modes of thinking determine moral and ethical standards.

The opposite process of interaction is also possible. Our morals influence not only the psychological makeup of people in an area but the biological and physical environment of the area as well.

The commentary on the The Wheel-Turning Emperor discourse goes on to explain the pattern of mutual interaction further (Dh.A III, 854):

* When humankind is demoralized through greed, famine is the natural outcome;
* when moral degeneration is due to ignorance, epidemic is the inevitable result;
* when hatred is the demoralizing force, widespread violence is the ultimate outcome.

PARADISE IS COMINGIf and when we realize that large scale devastation has taken place as a result of our moral degeneration, a change of heart takes place among the few surviving human beings. With gradual moral and ethical "regeneration," conditions improve through a long period of cause and effect. And humans again start to enjoy gradually increasing prosperity and longer life.

The world, including nature and humans within it, stands or falls with the type of moral/ethical force at work. If irresponsibility grips society, humans and nature deteriorate. If responsibility reigns, the quality of human life and nature improves.

So greed, hatred (including fear), and delusion produce pollution within and without. Generosity, compassion (including fearlessness), and wisdom produce purity within and without.

This is one reason the Buddha said the world is led by mind (intention precedes action, determining the moral quality of it, which in turn builds our outer world or circumstances): "Cittena niyati loko "(S. I, 39). Life is interdependent.

Human Use of Natural Resources


For survival, humankind has to depend on nature for food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and other requisites.

For optimum benefits humans have to understand nature so that we can utilize natural resources and live harmoniously with nature. By understanding the workings of nature -- seasonal rainfall patterns, methods of conservation, soil types, physical conditions required for growth of food crops, etc. -- humans can learn to get better returns.

But this learning has to be accompanied by ethical restraint if we are to enjoy the benefits of natural resources for a long time. We must learn to satisfy our need and not feed our greed.

The resources of the world are not unlimited, whereas our greed knows neither limit nor satisfaction.

Conspicuous consumerism is acceptable today. One writer says that within 40 years Americans alone have consumed natural resources to the quantity of what all humankind has consumed for the last 4000 years [quoted in Vance Packard, "The Waste Makers" (London 1961), p. 195]. We waste non-recyclable fuels.

Buddhism advocates such virtues of non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion in all human pursuits. Greed breeds sorrow and unhealthy consequences, whereas "contentment" ("santutthi") with what is sufficient is praised (DHP. 204). The person leading a simple life with few wants that are easily satisfied is upheld and appreciated as an exemplary character (A. IV, 2, 220, 229).

Miserliness (Dh.A. I, 20 ff.) and wastefulness (Dh.A. III, 129 ff.) are criticized as two degenerate extremes. Wealth has instrumental value when utilized for satisfying needs. Hoarding is a senseless anti-social habit. The vast hoarding of wealth and the methodical destruction of large quantities of agricultural produce to drive market prices higher while the world is malnourished is a sad paradox of our affluent age.

Frugality is a virtue in its own right according to Buddhism. Once Ananda explained to King Udena the economic use of robes by monastics: When new robes are received, the old robes are used as coverlets, the old coverlets as mattress covers, the old mattress covers as rugs, the old rugs as dusters, and the old tattered dusters are kneaded with clay and used to repair cracked floors and walls ("Vinaya" II, 291). Nothing is wasted.

Those who waste are derided as "wood-apple eaters" (A. IV, 283). If one shakes the branch of a woodapple tree, all the fruit falls, ripe as well as unripe. One collects only the ripe leaving the rest to rot. Such a wasteful attitude is anti-social and criminal.

But agribusiness and energy industries do the same thing in the name of "business" and are praised and rewarded, excessively exploiting natural resources that belong to us all.

Buddhism is about a gentle, non-aggressive attitude towards nature. According to the famous ADVICE TO HOUSEHOLDERS SUTRA, someone living a good lay life should accumulate wealth the way a bee collects nectar from a flower:

The bee neither harms the fragrance nor the beauty of the flower, but gathers nectar to turn it into sweet honey. Similarly, humans (whether as moral individual farmers or ethical corporate boards) are expected to make legitimate use of nature.

Attitude Towards Animal and Plant Life


The well-known FIVE BUDDHIST PRECEPTS form the minimum code of ethics that every lay Buddhist strives to adhere to. The first precept is abstaining from injuring life. It is explained as the casting aside of all forms of weapons and being conscientious about not depriving any living being of life. In its positive sense it means the cultivation of compassion and sympathy for all living things (DN 4, "The Qualities of a True Brahmin" discourse). This means abstaining from trading in meat too (A. III, 208).

The Buddhist monastic has to abide by an even stricter code of ethics than the Buddhist layperson: abstaining even from practices that could involve "unintentional" injury of living beings.

Buddhism prescribes the practice of "loving-kindness" ("metta") towards all creatures. The "Karaniya "Metta Sutra" cultivates loving-kindness towards all in every direction. They are suffused with a loving attitude. Just as one's own life is precious to one, so the life of others is precious to them.

Humans and beasts can live and let live without fear of one another if only we cultivate sympathy that regards all life with compassion.

The understanding of karma and rebirth, too, helps us adopt a sympathetic attitude towards animals. Human beings can be reborn in subhuman states among animals, ghosts, in tormented states just as they can be reborn in the skies, with great power, glory, beauty, and long life.

It is said that if one throws dish water into a pool where there are living creatures with the intention that they feed on the tiny particles of food washed away, one accumulates merit even by this seemingly trivial act of generosity (A. I, 161).

According to the "Macchuddana" Rebirth Story ("Jataka"), the future Buddha threw his leftover food into a river in order to feed the fish. By the power of that merit, he was saved from an impending disaster (Jat. II, 423). Kindness to big and small animals [and the unseen beings associated with plants and trees] is a source of merit -- merit needed for human beings to improve their circumstances in the cycle of rebirths and to approach the ultimate goal of nirvana.

But Buddhism expresses a gentle and nonviolent attitude towards the vegetable kingdom as well. It is said that one should not even break the branch of a tree that has given one shelter ("Ghost Stories," PETAVATTHU II, 9, 3). Plants are so helpful in providing us with all the necessities of life that we are expected to adopt a sensitive attitude towards them rather than being callous. The rules prevent Buddhist monastics from injuring plant life ("Vinaya" IV, 34).

Before Buddhism, people regarded natural phenomena such as mountains, forests, groves, and trees with a sense of awe and reverence (Dh. v. 188). They considered them the abodes of powerful non-human beings (such as EARTHBOUND-DEVAS) who can assist human beings in times of need.

Although Buddhism gave us a far superior Triple Guidance ("tisarana") in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, these places continued to enjoy public patronage at a popular level. The acceptance of terrestrial non-human beings such as "devas "(S. I, 1-45) and "yakkhas "("yetis" or guardians of the forest, S. I, 206-215) does not violate the belief system of Buddhism. Therefore, even today among many Buddhists there is a reverential attitude towards nature, particularly long-standing gigantic trees. They are "vanaspati", "lords of the forests" (S. IV, 302; Dh.A. I, 3).

Huge trees, such as the ironwood (Sal) and fig (Bodhi), are also recognized as the enlightenment trees of former "buddhas." So a particularly deferential attitude towards trees is further strengthened.(D. II, 4). It is well known that the Bodhi tree ("Ficus religiosa") is still held as an object of great veneration reminding us of our potential for enlightenment.

Not only is the forest preserved and protected, the construction of parks and "pleasure groves" for public use is considered a great meritorious act (S. I, 33).

Sakka, ruler of many "devas", is said to have reached his status partly as a result of social services such as the construction of parks, pleasure groves, ponds, reservoirs, and roads (Jat. I, 199 f).

The open air, natural habitats, and forest trees have a special fascination for the Eastern mind as symbols of spiritual freedom. The homebound life is regarded as a fetter that keeps one in bondage and subject to all kinds of misery. Renunciation or letting go (not necessarily of things and obligations but at least of the strong attachment and identification with them) is like the open air, nature unhampered by human activity (D. I, 63).

THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA AND NATUREThe important events in the life of the Buddha took place in nature: He was born in a garden park at the foot of a Sal tree in Lumbini, [possibly modern Afghanistan or ancient Gandhara, northwest India, though some still argue for southern Nepal]. He attained enlightenment at the foot of the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India. He began his missionary activity in the open air in a Sal tree grove belonging to the Malas in Pava. As a wandering ascetic with a large company of monastics, he frequently chose to stay in mango groves on the outskirts of villages and large cities. He lived on the peak of a hill in the Royal City (Rajagaha) and often spent the day in the Bamboo Grove in the Squirrel's Feeding Ground. He alternated residences, always wandering as he taught throughout northern India, often also residing in a great park called Jeta's Grove in SAVATTHI, a city on the banks of a river. And finally he chose to pass away between two magnificent Sal trees in Kushinagar, India.

The Buddha's constant advice to his disciples was to resort to natural habitats such as forest groves and glades where they would find quiet and peace of mind undisturbed by human activity (M. I, 118; S. IV, 373). It was such a good place for zealous meditation that he also periodically went alone into retreat.

ATTITUDE TOWARDS POLLUTION


Environmental pollution has assumed such vast proportions today that humans are forced to recognize the ecological crisis. We can no longer ignore the situation because we are already threatened with new pollution-related diseases. Pollution to this extent was unheard of during the time of the Buddha.

But there is sufficient evidence in the canon to give us insight into the Buddhist attitude towards our pollution problem. Several "Vinaya" rules prohibit monastics from polluting green grass and water with saliva, urine, and feces (Vin. IV, 205-206). These were the common agents of disease known in the Buddha's day, and rules were set up against such polluting.

Cleanliness was highly commended by the Buddha both in terms of one's person and one's environment. Buddhists were very concerned about keeping river, pond, and well water clean. These sources were for public use and were to be used with proper public-spirited caution for everyone's good.

Green grass rules were prompted by ethical and aesthetic considerations. But grass is also food for animals, and it is one's duty to refrain from polluting it even unintentionally.

But "environment" is bigger than that. We must be mindful of the noise we inject into the environment. [There is a famous Zen saying that runs, "It is best to remain quiet unless one can improve on silence."]

Indeed, today noise is recognized as a serious personal and environmental contaminant. It causes stress, irritation, deafness, breeds resentment, saps energy, and inevitably lowers efficiency {Robert Arvill, Man and Environment (Penguin Books, 1978), p. 118]. The Buddha's attitude towards noise is very clear from the canon.

by Prof. Lily de Silva



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