What Is Meditation?

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What is meditation?

“Meditation is a conscious effort to change how the mind works. The Pali word for meditation is ‘bhavana’ which means ‘to make grow’ or ‘to develop’.”
~ Buddhanet.net

Well that was an easy and painless post… not quite. What really is it? How do you do it? What different types are there? I get so many questions about this subject when it comes up that I am a practicing Zen Buddhist. Let’s hope what follows will make it a little more clear as we briefly cover these questions while discussing five different types of meditation. I practice Zazen, so it is the one I know the most about but I have experimented with the other forms and am pretty familiar with all of them to a degree.

First, how do you meditate? All of them in general have the same basic form:
1. Sit comfortably in one of the following positions (The uppermost being the most ideal, but whatever is comfortable):
a. Full Lotus (legs crossed with each foot resting on the opposite thigh)
b. Half Lotus (legs crossed with one foot resting on the opposite thigh; the other foot on the floor)
c. Burmese (thighs spread so that the knees are resting on the floor and both feet are close to body)
d. Kneeling with a cushion or bench
e. Sitting in a chair (feet flat on floor and the back away from back of the chair)
2. Spine straight.
3. Head up.
4. Hands in proper mudra.
5. Eyes slightly open and unfocused.

Zazen
This is the form of meditation I personally practice and is practiced by Zen Buddhists and means “just-sitting”. The goal is to free the mind of ANY kind of thinking. Beginners are often suggested to follow their breath or count their breaths. This helps in allowing you to clear the mind.

The Soto school of Zen practices what is known as shikantaza, which means “nothing but sitting.” While the Rinzai school practices Zazen and Koan study. “Koans are a paradoxical teaching question or story designed to confound linear, rational thought, and therefore to help condition the mind for enlightenment” (Essential Buddhism by Jack Maguire) The koans serve as a meditation catalyst and not purely the focus of the meditation.
For a more detailed explanation watch the following video by the late great John Daido Loori of Zen Mountain Monastery describe Zazen:

I will briefly discuss the other forms of meditation:

Samatha Meditation
Translated as calm abiding meditation practiced by Theravada school. You focus the mind on something in particular: observe the breath at the tip of your nose, sound of the rain, sound of traffic, etc. Additionally some focus on a virtue such as compassion or loving-kindness.
Vipassana Meditation
This is what is known in this country as insight meditation and is practiced by the Theravada school. Your primary focus is on your own thoughts and feelings.
Mantra MeditationUse of a power laden syllable or series of syllables, such as Om. You use a constant still repetition such as the more complex myoho-renge-kyo (glory to the lotus sutra).
Visualization Meditation
This form of meditation is practiced by the pure land school. You mentally envision an image, often a Buddha or a particular bodhisattva.

In an upcoming post I will cover ways to be mindful besides meditation in your everyday life and your spiritual practice.

 

Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths

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  1. All life is suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is desire.
  3. Suffering can be ended.
  4. The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

Commentary:

All life is suffering.  

The common translation of the Sanskrit word duhka is suffering.  It also has several other translations including: unsatisfactory, imperfection, bothersome, incoherence, and possibly most importantly impermanence.  These words are important to keep in mind while considering the Four Noble Truths.  It basically comes down to we are mortal, hence we age, get sick and die eventually.  You must also consider the fragility of our possessions and the instability of our relationships, fortunes, moods, thoughts and convictions.

The cause of suffering is desire.

Desire.  The cause of suffering is desire.  One can simply rationalize that upon reading those lines.  To fully understand it in a Buddhist context you must consider the word desire comes from the Sanskrit word trishna, which also means thirst and craving.  Additionally the concept in Buddhism of no-self is important here especially how it breaks away from the Hindu concept of a self that is passed on in a soul-like form from one lifetime to the next.  This touches on the break in how Buddhists consider you are reborn from one lifetime to the next with some casual influence depending upon your past life, whereas Hindu believe in reincarnation with the soul being passed on between lifetimes.

Why is this important?

The Three poisons are: greed, anger, and ignorance which all feed into desire and the urge to win, or to overpower.  Buddha’s teaching was the self does not exist as a spiritual entity, but is the name given to a temporary personality made up of five important factors.  Buddhism taught these factors or aggregates are: matter (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind), sensations (raw data of these senses), perception (naming of the sensations), Mental formation (best summarized in the Buddha’s words, “We are what we think.”), and consciousness (awareness of the perceptions).  From which you can conclude, “suffering exists, but not the sufferer” as Buddhaghosa did in the fifth century.

Suffering can be ended.

This is the good news, which moves us on to four with little explanation needed.

The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

  1. right understanding
  2. right thought
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right meditation

This is not a list that can be broken down and followed in a linear path.  Most people will find right speech much easier than right thought for instance.  It may be the most difficult.  I will explain the Eightfold Path in an upcoming post in detail.

“Someone whose faith is not grounded in reason is like a stream of water that can be led anywhere” ~ Tibetan Proverb

Catholic Church vs. Cats

The Catholic Church vs. Cats

~ Pope Gregory IX, who held the papacy from 1227 to 1241 believed that cats embodied Lucifer himself. Gregory based his theory on “evidence” from Conrad of Marburg, a papal inquisitor. Apparently torture produced some pretty convincing confessions from people who worshipped the devil and his black cat. On June 13, 1233, Gregory issued the Vox in Rama, an official papal decree declaring that Satan was half-cat and sometimes took the form of a cat during Satanic masses. Catholics around the the continent began slaughtering any feline that entered their property. History shows that the Black Death, which ravaged Europe in the mid 1300s, was caused by rats and the fleas on them. Which means that killing off the rats’ main predators was probably not the best idea.

~ Pope Innocent VIII came to power in the late 1400s, during the throes of witch crusades in Western Europe. Because the powers that be dictated that the cat composed one of the main identifiers of a witch, the Church officially excommunicated the entire species.

The cat rituals have survived the centuries:

~ In Belgium, an entire festival, Kattenstoet (Festival of the Cats) is a parade in Ypres, Belgium, devoted to the cat. It has been held regularly on the second Sunday of May since 1955. The parade commemorates an Ypres tradition from the Middle Ages in which cats were thrown from the belfry tower of the Cloth Hall to the town square below and burned in the streets.

~ Queen Elizabeth I celebrated her coronation with the burning of a cat-stuffed effigy.

~ “After food, clothing and medicine, the fourth item is cosmetics and the fifth is pets,” Pope Francis said referring to all pets not just cats, referring to a study on where most people’s income goes. “That’s serious. One can love animals, but one should not direct them the affection due only to persons.” So we should probably take a step away from the dog ice cream and cat outfits in the pet aisle.

#Cats #CatholicChurch #Lucifer #Witches

Neo-Paganism: Kemetism

Kemetic Shrine

Neo-Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Modern Paganism, is a collective term for new religious movements influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Adherents rely on pre-Christian, folkloric and ethnographic sources to a variety of degrees; many follow a spirituality which they accept as being entirely modern, while others attempt to reconstruct or revive indigenous, ethnic religions as found in historical and folkloric sources as accurately as possible. Nep-Paganism in the United States is largely a phenomenon of a white college educated demographic with over 90% being whites and 65% having a college degree.

The 2014 Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscapes Survey included a subset of the New Age Spiritual Movement called “Pagan or Wiccan,” reflecting that ¾ of individuals identifying as New Age also identified as Pagan or Wiccan and placing Wiccans and Pagans at 0.3% of the total U.S. population or approximately 956,000 people of just over 1,275,000 individuals in the New Age movement. This is a dramatic increase from the 1990’s when only 200,000 individuals identified themselves as part of a New Age religion. Roughly 10 million Wiccan-related books were sold in 2000, up from 4.5 million in 1990. A division within modern Paganism rests on differing attitudes to the source material surrounding pre-Christian belief systems. “We might say that Reconstructionist Pagans romanticize the past, while Eclectic Pagans idealize the future. In the first case, there is a deeply felt need to connect with the past as a source of spiritual strength and wisdom; in the second case, there is the idealistic hope that a spirituality of nature can be gleaned from ancient sources and shared with all humanity,” according to Religious studies scholar Michael Strmiska.

Some of the more common Neo-Pagan religions are Wicca, the Goddess movement, Heathenism, Neo-Druidism, Eco-Paganism, and Syncretism. Today I am going to focus on the small, but growing religion of Kemetism. Kemetism also sometimes referred to as Neterism or Egyptian Neopaganism, is the contemporary revival of Ancient Egyptian religion and related expressions of religion in classical and late antiquity, emerging during the 1970s. A Kemetic is one who follows Kemetism. There are several main groups, each of which take a different approach to their beliefs, ranging from eclectic to reconstructionistic. Kemetic Orthodoxy is a modern religious sect based on Kemeticism, which is a reconstruction of Egyptian polytheism. It claims to derive a spiritual lineage from the Ancient Egyptian religion. It was founded in 1988 by Tamara Siuda, who remains its current Nisut or Pharaoh. Siuda’s leadership proved to be extremely successful, and in 1994, Kemetic Orthodoxy had attracted a sufficient number of new adherents to be officially recognized as a religious group by the federal government.

At the heart of the religion is a belief in ma’at: the guiding force of the universe and the principle of divine balance. Kemetics also believe in a supreme being, known as Netjer, and his many incarnations. Ancestor veneration, or Akhu veneration, is a very important aspect of Kemetic Orthodoxy. Adherents believe that their Akhu are their ancestors. As Akhu are believed to have already experienced human life, it is thought that they can give valuable advice and support regarding things related to daily human life. Kemetic Orthodoxy grew out of the personal teachings of Siuda. The temple began in 1988, when she claimed to have experienced a series of visions during her initiation as a Wiccan priestess. She started a small study and worship group at that time, which gradually grew in membership. In 1993, the group was federally recognized as a religious entity and changed its name from the House of Bast to the House of Netjer. The temple was granted tax-exempt status in 1999.

Kemetic Orthodoxy has a strong internet presence with rituals performed online via a chat room. They make the important distinction that they are a religion on the internet and not a internet religion. Members of Kemetic Orthodoxy gather at Tawy House (in Joliet, Illinois) in August for the Kemetic New Year, Wep Ronpet. As the largest gathering, it is the best example of an event held by the Kemetic Orthodox off-line. It includes rituals, fellowship, lectures and workshops. Personal worship is also observed in the form of personal deity-centered shrines in their homes as well as Senut ritual. The Senut ritual is composed of various rites, and is a fully functional ritual for individual use yet containing all of the necessary elements of all Kemetic ritual, whether practiced by one or a thousand.

If you’re interested you can find out more here: http://www.kemet.org/about

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses Of The Great Ennead

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses Of The Great Ennead

The Ennead or Great Ennead was a group of nine deities in Egyptian mythology worshiped at Heliopolis: the sun god Atum; his children Shu and Tefnut; their children Geb and Nut; and their children Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

According to the creation story of the Heliopolitan priests, the world originally consisted of the primordial waters of precreation personified as Nun. From it arose a mound on the First Occasion. Upon the mound sat the self-begotten god Atum, who was equated with the sun god Ra. Atum evolved from Nun through self-creation. Atum either spat or masturbated, producing air personified as Shu and moisture personified as Tefnut. The siblings Shu and Tefnut mated to produce the earth personified as Geb and the nighttime sky personified as Nut.

Geb and Nut were the parents of Osiris and Isis and of Set and Nephthys, who became respective couples in turn. Osiris and Isis represent fertility and order, while Set and Nephthys represent chaos to balance out Osiris and Isis. Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, is often included in this creation tradition.

Atum —> Atum was the oldest of the creations gods worshipped by the Egyptians and they thought he existed before anything else. He created Nun, the celestial waters, and everything else through his thoughts. Thoth was Atum’s intelligence and put his creative thoughts into words to bring them to life. In the Book of the Dead, Atum was the setting sun and his images show him as a human wearing the double crown of Egypt.

Shu —> was the husband of Tefnut and the father of Nut and Geb. He and his wife were the first gods created by Atum. Shu was the god of the air and sunlight or, more precisely, dry air and his wife represented moisture. He was normally depicted as a man wearing a headdress in the form of a plume, which is also the hieroglyph for his name. Shu’s function was to hold up the body of the goddess Nun and separate the sky from the earth. He was not a solar deity but his role in providing sunlight connected him to Ra. Indeed, he was one of the few gods who escaped persecution under the heretic king Akhenaten.

Tefnut —> Tefnut was the wife of Shu and mother of Nut and Geb. She and her husband were the first gods created by Atum. She was the goddess of moisture or damp, corrosive air, and was depicted either as a lioness or as a woman with a lioness’s head.

Geb —> was the father of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys, and was a god without a cult. As an Earth god he was associated with fertility and it was believed that earthquakes were the laughter of Geb. He is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts as imprisoning the buried dead within his body.

Nut —> was the mother of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys, Nut is usually shown in human form; her elongated body symbolizing the sky. Each limb represents a cardinal point as her body stretches over the earth. Nut swallowed the setting sun (Ra) each evening and gave birth to him each morning. She is often depicted on the ceilings of tombs, on the inside lid of coffins, and on the ceilings of temples.

Osiris —> Osiris was originally a vegetation god linked with the growth of crops. He was the mythological first king of Egypt and one of the most important of the gods. It was thought that he brought civilization to the race of mankind. He was murdered by his brother Seth, brought back to life by his wife Isis, and went on to become the ruler of the underworld and judge of the dead.

Isis —> A very important figure in the ancient world, Isis was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. She was associated with funeral rites and said to have made the first mummy from the dismembered parts of Osiris. As the enchantress who resurrected Osiris and gave birth to Horus, she was also the giver of life, a healer and protector of kings.

Set —> Also known as Seth, Setekh, Suty and Sutekh. Set was the son of Geb and Nut, and the evil brother of Osiris. He was the god of darkness, chaos, and confusion, and is represented as a man with an unknown animal head, often described as a Typhonian by the Greeks who associated him with the god Typhon. He is sometimes depicted as a hippopotamus, a pig, or a donkey. Seth murdered his brother and usurped the throne of Egypt and most of the other gods despised him.

Nephthys —> Daughter of Geb and Nut, sister of Isis, wife of Seth and mother of Anubis, Nephthys is depicted as a woman with the hieroglyphs for a palace and ‘Neb’ (a basket) on her head. She is thus known as “Lady of the Mansions” or “Palace.” Nephthys was disgusted by Seth’s murder of Osiris and helped her sister, Isis, against her husband, Seth. Together with Isis she was a protector of the dead, and they are often shown together on coffin cases, with winged arms. She seems to have had no temple or cult center of her own.

King Tutankhamun’s Tomb

King Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Various items found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb including his funerary bed and sarcophagus:

Tutankhamun (also known as Tutankhamen ruled c. 1332–1323 BC) is the most famous and instantly recognizable Pharaoh in the modern world. His golden sarcophagus is now a symbol almost synonymous with Egypt. His name means `living image of the god Amun’. He was born in the year 11 of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (better known as Akhenaten) c. 1345 BCE and died, some claim mysteriously, in 1327 BCE at the age of 17 or 18. He became the celebrity pharaoh he is today in 1922 CE when the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his almost-intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings. While it was initially thought that Tutankhamun was a minor ruler, whose reign was of little consequence, opinion has changed as further evidence has come to light. Today Tutankhamun is recognized as an important pharaoh who returned order to a land left in chaos by his father’s political-religious reforms and who would no doubt have made further impressive contributions to Egypt’s history if not for his early death.

#Tutenkhamun #Tutankhamun #KingTut #AncientEgypt

Coffin Chamber

Funerary Bed

Throwing Sticks

Tutankhamun’s Necklace
Tutankhamun’s Chair
Tutankhamun’s Chair
Gold Necklace
Tutankhamun’s Shield

Tutankhamun’s Gold Sandals
Tutankhamun’s Jewelry
Ornamental Box
Tutankhamun’s Jewelry
Engraving Of Tutankhamun and his Child Bride
Tutankhamun’s Rings