This year (2017) Vesak Day falls on May 10th, what is Vesak Day you might ask?
Vesākha (Pali; Sanskrit: Vaiśākha), also known as Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day, is a holiday observed traditionally by Buddhists on different days in India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar and in other places all over the world. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (Buddhahood), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.
The decision to agree to celebrate Vesākha as the Buddha’s birthday was formalized at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka in 1950, although festivals at this time in the Buddhist world are a centuries-old tradition. The resolution that was adopted at the World Conference reads as follows:
That this Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, while recording its appreciation of the gracious act of His Majesty, the Maharaja of Nepal in making the full-moon day of Vesak a Public Holiday in Nepal, earnestly requests the Heads of Governments of all countries in which large or small number of Buddhists are to be found, to take steps to make the full-moon day in the month of May a Public Holiday in honour of the Buddha, who is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest benefactors of Humanity.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhists all over the world commemorate events of significance to Buddhists of all traditions: The birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently Vesākha is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. In India, Vaishakh Purnima day is also known as Buddha Jayanti day and has been traditionally accepted as Buddha’s birth day.
In 1999, the United Nations resolved to internationally observe the day of Vesak at its headquarters and offices.
The name of the observance is derived from the Pali term vesākha or Sanskrit vaiśākha, which is the name of the lunar month in the Hindu calendar falling in April–May (see Vaisakha). In Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the holiday is known by its Sanskrit name (Vaiśākha) and derived variants of it. Local renditions of the name vary by language, including:
Assamese: বুদ্ধ পূর্ণিমা Buddho PurnimaBengali: বুদ্ধ পূর্ণিমা Buddho Purnima, বুদ্ধ জয়ন্তী Buddho Joyonti, ভেসাক BhesakDzongkha: སྟོན་པའི་དུས་ཆེན་༥ འཛོམས་ Dhüchen Nga ZomBurmese: ကဆုန်လပြည့် ဗုဒ္ဓနေ့ “Full Moon Day”Chinese: 佛陀誕辰紀念日; pinyin: Fótuó dànchén jìniàn rì, 佛誕 (Fódàn, Birthday of the Buddha), 浴佛節 (Yùfójié, Occasion of Bathing the Buddha), 衛塞節 (Wèisāi jié)Hindi: बुद्ध पूर्णिमा Buddha Pūrṇimā, बुद्ध जयन्ती Buddha Jayantī, वैशाख पूर्णिमा Vaisākh PūrṇimāIndonesian: Hari Raya WaisakJapanese: 花祭 Hanamatsuri (Day of Flowers)Khmer: វិសាខបូជា Visak BocheaKannada: ಬುದ್ಧ ಪೌರ್ಣಮಿ Buddha PournamiHangul: 석가 탄신일; Hanja: 釋迦誕辰日; RR: Seokka Tanshin-il (Birthday of the Shakyamuni Buddha)Lao: ວິສາຂະບູຊາ Vixakha BouxaMalay: Hari Wesak (هاري ويسق)Mongolian: Бурхан Багшийн Их Дүйцэн Өдөр (Lord Buddha’s Great Festival Day)Newar: स्वांया पुन्हि Swānyā PunhiNepali: बुद्ध पुर्णिमा Buddha Purnima, बुद्ध जयन्ति Buddha JayantiSinhalese: වෙසක් VesakTamil: விசாக தினம் Vicāka TiṉamTelugu: బుద్ధ పౌర్ణమి Buddha Pournami or alternatively Telugu: వైశాఖ పౌర్ణమి Vaisakha PournamiThai: วิสาขบูชา Wisakha BuchaTibetan: ས་ག་ཟླ་བ།, THL: Sa Ga DawaVietnamese: Phật Đản (Birthday of the Buddha)
On Vesākha day, devout Buddhists and followers alike are expected and requested to assemble in their various temples before dawn for the ceremonial, and honorable, hoisting of the Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples). Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their teacher. These symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just as the beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while and the candles and joss-sticks would soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction. Devotees are enjoined to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind. They are encouraged to partake of vegetarian food for the day. In some countries, notably Sri Lanka, two days are set aside for the celebration of Vesākha and all liquor shops and slaughter houses are closed by government decree during the two days.
Also birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in what is known as a ‘symbolic act of liberation’; of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will. (This practice, however, is banned in some countries such as Singapore, as it is believed that the released animals are unable to survive long-term, and may adversely impact the local ecosystem if they do.)
Some devout Buddhists will wear a simple white dress and spend the whole day in temples with renewed determination to observe the eight Precepts.
Devout Buddhists undertake to lead a noble life according to the teaching by making daily affirmations to observe the Five Precepts. However, on special days, notably new moon and full moon days, they observe the eight Precepts to train themselves to practice morality, simplicity and humility.
Some temples also display a small statue of the Buddha in front of the altar in a small basin filled with water and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to pour water over the statue; it is symbolic of the cleansing of a practitioner’s bad karma, and to reenact the events following the Buddha’s birth, when devas and spirits made heavenly offerings to him.
Devotees are expected to listen to talks given by monks. On this day monks will recite verses uttered by the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, to invoke peace and happiness for the government and the people. Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony with people of other faiths and to respect the beliefs of other people as the Buddha taught.
Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how Buddhists are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity.
We vs Me is an illusion there is no separation. When you work on the greater “we” you are helping your “me” identity. When you work on the “me” it in turn will benefit the greater “we”. It only takes a willingness of effort.
In the Tibetan language the word I or Me is una and we or us is unatsau, the root of we is in fact me, there is an intimate connection. In Tibetan unatsau would directly translate to many or a collection of “I’s”.
When you join a group or community it is an extention of the individual not a replacement. The idea that the me can only exist in opposition of the we is in itself an illusion and a root of suffering. Believing that the individual self is separate diminishes the spirit of altruism that fosters the compassionate soul leading to true and lasting happiness.
Recently I came across a political thread in which there were many of one group of political activists putting down another group of political activists by claiming that their views are dogmatic and only based on the faith. I wont go into which groups but I pointed out something that seemed to quiet the discussion further. Views are only dogmatic when they belong to the other person. I was surprised when that worked because honestly its a variation on the Yogic Yama of Satya or truthfulness that I have stated here several times. Truth is always subjective. However wording it in this manner seemed to get the point across in a language they were accustomed to. But what is Dogma?
Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system’s paradigm, or the ideology itself. The term can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, religion, or issued decisions of political authorities.
The term derives from Greek δόγμα “that which seems to one; opinion or belief” and that from δοκέω (dokeo), “to think, to suppose, to imagine”. In the first century CE, dogma came to signify laws or ordinances adjudged and imposed upon others.The plural is either dogmas or dogmata, from Greek δόγματα. The term “dogmatics” is used as a synonym for systematic theology, as in Karl Barth’s defining textbook of neo-orthodoxy, the 14-volume Church Dogmatics.
“Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”
― Joseph Campbell
Remember, seek not what divides us this year, instead find what it is that unites us. We are all individuals who are interdependent on one another and we need each other. From an American political point of view; We need Conservatives to remind us not to give away the store, and we need Liberals to remind us not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Compassion is key!
A final note: Science is not a religion. Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. There is always data from the experiments to back it up, however when you cherry pick your data you can interpet things to be however you want and people often find it easy to manipulate with this pseudo-science. Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt.
This year has turned out to be the year that everything changes, for everyone I suppose. Elections and what not here in the United States. For me however there have been plenty of personal life changes. For those of you who don’t know I am a disabled Veteran of the United States Army. That’s right this peace loving hippie was once a soldier *chuckles*.
This year is the year my claim with the VA was finally approved. Financial situations changed and now I am looking at buying my first house. As things are pending I find that its a perfect time to let go of material possessions that no longer serve me. Let go of earthy attachments. The important lesson I have learned is, as my grandfather would put it, “the sun shines on a dog’s ass once in awhile!”.
According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It is a progressive moment, a successive series of different moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, where as in reality it is not. The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment.
Even from a scientific point of view this is true. We know cell divisions take place in each living being continuously. Old cells in our bodies die and yield place continuously to the new ones that are forming. Like the waves in a sea, every moment, many thoughts arise and die in each individual . Psychologically and physically he is never the same all the time. Technically speaking, no individual is ever composed of the same amount of energy. Mental stuff and cellular material all the time. He is subject to change and the change is a continuous movement.
So when you find yourself dealing with issues that arise, take comfort in knowing that in this existence, the only thing that is constant is that everything changes at its own pace and in its own time.
I originally had meant to post this weeks ago when I first recieved it from my Yogini, but life events came up and pushed posting this quite a bit. It was when I was watching, or re watching(again), the show Chuck on Netflix when I came across an episode where Morgan defeated a laser grid using his Yogi skills and Ujjayi breath that I remembered to post!
So to you my readers I give you from my personal Yogini, Ujjayi Pranyama for beginner’s!
Simply put, Ud, when attached to verbs and nouns means upward or superiority in rank, it also means expanding, conveying the sense of pre-emenence and power. Jaya means conquest, victory, triumph or success. Ujjayi is the process in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest puffed out like a proud conqueror.
Prana means life-force or personal energy. Yama means distribution of that force or energy.
Prana is the basis of everything. It can be consciously directed to heal and strengthen the body. The breath becomes the Yogi’s key to health, strength, and vitality. Without breath there is no life. This is why, in English, we translate this Sanskrit Ujjayi Pranayama to “Victorious breath”.
We also sometimes hear this victorious breath referred to as “Ocean breath”. As the waves form the beach, so too does the breath form the Yoga practice. Your inner waves set the rhythm. The murmuring of your breath becomes the murmuring of your inner ocean while waves of inhalation flood your inner coast. The rhythmic sound of Ujjayi Pranayama might sound like waves rolling into the shore, which can be wonderful imagery during your practice!
While I joke around about Ujjayi being Darth Vader breath, in fact, it is not at all. Darth Vader wore a life support system that had a respirator and a microphone. We certainly aren’t trying to achieve that! However, the muscles we use in our throat during Ujjayi Pranayama are the same ones we use when practicing our best “Luke, I am your father”. So go ahead and practice that for a moment, and let’s get to it.
- 1. Sitting in a comfortable position, preferably Padmasana (lotus pose) or Siddhasana (easy seated pose), keep the back erect and rigid, spine tall and strong. Stretch the arms out in front of you, then relax the back of the wrists onto your knees. Here you can perform Jnana Mudra (seal of knowledge) by gently resting the thumb to the index finger. However, this is not necessary to practice Ujjayi.
- 2. Close your eyes and look inward.
- 3. Exhale completely.
- 4. Take the palm of one hand up to your mouth. Imagine your hand is a mirror and that you are going to “fog” up with your breath with your mouth open. When you do this it produces a clean “hollow” sound kind of like “haaaaaaaaaaa” (think Darth Vader). It feels warm against your skin.
The tricky part is making the same sound on the inhale. You can hold up a hand in front of your mouth and another at the back of your neck—two mirrors. Try to fog them both up—the exhale fogs up the front mirror, the inhale the back.
Once you are adept at fogging up the “mirrors”, create the same sound and sensation—by breathing through your nose only.
Breathe in a balanced manner in through the nose and out through the nose. The inhale and exhale are equal and the quality of sound is even.
Breathing in this way causes a slight constriction of the throat. The glottis partially closes just like when you whisper speech. As the air goes in and out it causes a slight “rubbing” sensation of the throat.
Now that you have the feel for the Ujjayi sound, it’s important to add diaphragmatic breathing.
Exhale completely by drawing your abdomen towards your spine. Inhale by gently releasing the abdomen. As it goes out it will automatically draw air in. Start the breath (inhale) as low as you can—the pelvic floor, and fill your entire torso full. The exhale empties the breath from the top down.
Now add chest breathing.
As you inhale, try to fill your chest. Notice how all four sides of your torso expand in opposite directions. You can feel this if you place your hands on the sides of your ribs. As you exhale the air from the chest, all four sides draw in.
Put the two together.
Exhale by drawing in your abdomen towards your spine. Inhale by releasing your abdomen. Air comes in. Begin the Ujjayi at this time. Direct the air towards your sternum, as this will expand your chest. As you continue to inhale fill the air all the way to the top of the chest and notice how it widens.
Exhale by relaxing and drawing the abdomen in. Breathe the air out slowly and rhythmically finishing the Ujjayi breath.
It is important the abdominals are relaxed and soft above your bellybutton, yet firm (not hard) below it. This allows your diaphragm to move freely.
The breath is never forced or done using strain. Both are a sign that you are “pushing” too hard and are moving from a place of ego instead of taking care of yourself.
Work to reduce the amount of effort the Ujjayi takes. It is a strong, deep breath done in a relaxed, even delicate manner.
Begin with practicing 10 victorious breaths in the morning and night. Increase as you become more comfortable with this style of breathing.
The Upanishads (sacred ancient teachings Yoga derives from) specify that the inhalation should be like drinking water through the stem of a blue water lily—unbroken as though you were drinking through a straw—as if your breath were liquid. The exhalation is compared to the flow of oil—smooth and uniform as when you poor oil from a ladle.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says the breath is felt “from the throat to the heart.”
Ujjayi can be a specific practice but it happens spontaneously when concentration deepens. This is the only pranyama technique that is appropriate to use throughout all area of you yoga practice.
As you become very well rehearsed, to an advanced practitioner of Ujjayi Pranyama, you can begin adding other pranayma techniques as well. Until then, may the force be with you!
Once again it is Bodhi day! What is Bodhi Day you might ask? Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautauma (Shakyamuni), experienced enlightenment, also known as bodhi in Sanskrit and Pali. According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a peepal tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.
I know it has been a while since I have posted but I wanted to wish all my friends, brothers, sisters and all sentient beings alike a compassionate Bodhi day!
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness. May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering. May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering. May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.
So I have decided to remove all tech for 7 days (minus having a land line and transportation what with the kids and all). As to create my own 7 day retreat at home. My focus will be embracing my true self once more, meditation, study and reflection. I am tracking my progress on a legal pad which I will upload later.
Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69174.8
First let me say how difficult it is to count the Stardate when Star Trek has been off the air for such a long time and no computer or calculator at one’s disposal! After dropping the kids off at school and taking a few moments to meditate and gather my thoughts for the day, I quickly realized I had no new books to read that might spur on my reflective moments. After a quick jaunt over to the local book store, I managed to get a copy of Tesla’s Notes and Inventions in hard back and a paper back of the Essence of the Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama.
Started reading the Sutra, best quote so far: “The Buddha recognized among his followers a diversity of mental dispositions, spiritual inclinations and interest, and saw that in order to suit this diversity he had to teach differently in different contexts. No matter how powerful a particular teaching may be or how “correct” a philosophical view may be, if it is not suitable to the individual hearing it, it has no value. A skillful Spiritual teacher will this judge the appropriateness of a given teaching for a given individual and teach accordingly. Buddha recognized the diversity of mental dispositions, interests, and mental capabilities of his followers and thus gave diverse teachings. Looking at all the world’s religions in this light, I feel a deep conviction that all of the traditions are beneficial, each of them uniquely service the needs of their followers.”
Decided to write things out on this legal pad after the kids went to bed to serve as a sounding board for my thoughts, much like I do when online. I find it therapeutic when my brain is scrambled with thoughts to give them linear form, thus making them easier to let go of.
After the kids got home and had finished their homework they had played outside till dinner then I decided it was best to give them the freedom of choice to watch Netflix or not. Just because this is something I am doing does not mean I should force them to go through it too. I retreated to a quite corner to read and meditate further.
One thought that I have felt a strong urge it to let a friend know that I have had a crush on her for quite some time, but I feel it is better to not mention it now that I have time to reflect instead of the instant form of communication brought via instant messaging. I don’t want to bring her into this troubled world I live, she deserves far better than myself.
End Entry Day 1
Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69177.7
Still quite the feat calculating Stardates but at least its easier with the initial Stardate calculated. Went fishing today, you may think “how cruel” when I say went fishing, I mean I went to the river and cast an empty hook and line out repeatedly knowing full well I would not catch anything but twigs and leaves lol. I had been difficult, I have subconsciously reached for the phone a few times, only to have been stymied by the fact that wifi has been shut off lol. Have managed to maintain a vegetarian diet the past few days as well as to not disrupt the flow of energy.
Today’s quote also from Heart Sutra about theologies with a creator deity.
How might we determine whether someone loves God sincerely? Surely, we would examine that person’s behavior and attitude toward fellow human beings, toward the rest of God’s creation. If someone has genuine love and compassion towards fellow human brothers and sisters, and towards the Earth itself, then I think we can be sure that that person truly demonstrates love for God. It is clear that when someone respects God’s message they emulate God’s love for humanity.
End Entry Day 2
Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69191.5
So the experiment comes to a close. What can I conclude? Although technology has it’s pros and its cons it is neither inherently good or bad. Good and bad are simple illusions, symptoms of an underlining problem, a colossal time suck for certain. The root of the problem, however, lies not in the tech but in the heart, the mind, and the soul. Although my self imposed isolation can hurt at times, it is neither fulled or caused by the technology, it is a crutch, and until I can learn to be ok with being alone, I will never be able to end my self inflicted suffering.
End Experimental Log….
Even as a child I found social interactions confusing, often I would find myself unsure of how to act or react so I would sit quietly watching the interactions of others, often feeling like an outsider to the species (figuratively), if you will.
I have come to the long standing conclusion that often what we fear, what we hate in ourselves is what we hate in others. I know not a very profound statement considering this has been a belief long held by psychologists. But even my untrained eye can see what is right in front of it. I will give an example.
I was following an interaction on a politically fueled discussion in regards to an argument of Liberals vs Conservatives. It was a short lived argument because the Liberal decided not to engage (something I wish I had the strength of foresight to do often). The Liberal minded person made a statement (something I wont mention because I feel it will distract from the topic at hand), and the conservative persons response was as follows:
“You stupid ‘Libtard’ you are so uneducated are you a high school droup oute, or go to some libtard college?”
And that was where the altercation ended. I did find it fascinating that the conservative minded person was angry, because they believed that the Liberally minded person was uneducated, yet themselves could not properly use punctuation marks, real words, or correctly spell the most basic of words. I don’t mention this to insult, I know my own punctuation can be lacking due to thoughts streaming out into posts with little regard to editing, merely to point out the very thing he hated in the liberally minded person was what was true in his own heart.
I often find myself wondering if those who hate others for other various reasons also do so out of such fears. Hating those who are homosexual out of fear that they might be homosexual in their own hearts comes to mind.
1. When you catch yourself having a defining thought about someone, step back and ask, “What do I really know about this person?”
Often, the answer is a version of “not very much.” This behavior acts as a pattern interrupt, and forces you to stop and consider where the judgment is coming from.
2. When you hear yourself criticizing someone to others, stop and take a moment to come up with one thing you like about that person. Then praise them, out loud, for that quality.
This is another version of a pattern interrupt, and is also a reminder that they too are human, and like us all, have both attractive and not-so-attractive qualities.
3. When you find yourself in one of those incessant loop thought patterns of judgment about someone else’s behaviors, ask the hard question: Do I myself exhibit this same behavior or attitude that I judge in this person?
Almost always, the answer is yes (not that one always comes to that yes easily). You probably already know that the stuff that irritates us the most about others tends to be attributes we don’t necessarily realize we ourselves have. This was the single most difficult tool I used. It was also probably the most effective.
“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.” -Buddha
“By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.” -Buddhaghosa Visuddhimagga IX, 23.
I recently had to let go of a friend today because she refused to step down off her soap box built on belittlement and agree to disagree. In our modern society of likes and followers, it is easy for us to become over inflated with a sense of self worth, but we must always find ways to embrace a personal humility; to realize we are not the expert at everything, to slay our inner Sheldon Coopers as it were.
It is like the old quote “Apologizing doesn’t always mean you are wrong, it just means that you value your relationships more than your ego.” the same can be said for disagreements, sometimes it is best to find value over the friendship rather than defending our own egos.
Your fortune cannot be mapped by the stars. Our universe is based on an interdependence existence, the path we travel is very much the path we choose. Are we subject to the karma of others? Yes, but we still are the masters of our fate and in the end of our individual suffering.
Your destiny is shaped by your confidence of will, it is an extrinsic existence subject to the causality of actions. -JF