meditation and spiritual growth

Some spiritual teachers claim that the path to enlightenment is long, arduous, and challenging. It requires great personal sacrifice.

Others claim that no path is necessary at all. That’s because you are already there. They reiterate that only a slight shift in awareness to the “ever present now” is all that is needed.

So which viewpoint is correct? Does enlightenment require years of meditation practice and tapas (penance, physical austerities), or none at all?

Let’s explore this a bit further …

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Minutes after I was born my father gave me the name Nizhoni, which means beautiful. It is an appropriate name for a young Navajo girl like me.

Although outsiders know us as the Navajo, we refer to ourselves as the Dine, or Children of the Holy People. Other Indian tribes consider our home in this rocky desert to be too demanding, but we have flourished here for hundreds of years. When I look at the surrounding majestic rock canyons, the mountains and buttes, I’m in awe at the grandeur of this landscape and give thanks to the Great Spirit.

At a young age I worked with my Mother on daily chores to help keep the family feed and clothed. Our major staple is corn (naadaa) but we supplement that with wild plants and game. When the Spanish explores arrived here 100 summers ago they introduced us to sheep; so mutton is now also a part of our diet.

I grew up like most girls in our village, except for the fact that my grandfather was the tribe Shaman. He often wanted to teach me such things but I was never interested. Instead, I prefer the wind in my hair and the warm sun on my face in this real world.

At age 18 I was married to Toh Yah. He is a strong man with a good hunting eye for game. He learned tracking skills at an early age and often accompanied the elders on extended period hunts. When I was near him he smelled masculine. He always made me feel safe. Later when we had children he took keen interest in our three sons and always gave due notice to our daughter.

I love a gentle caress from my husband, and seeing my children at play.

In this harsh desert climate it’s hard to keep your hair looking good, but I try my best. I often spend time making nice clothes and gathering eucalyptus to use as a perfume. Although my ancestors wore deerskin, hip-leggings and moccasins, today we also wear woven cloth and colorful small blankets laced together – but leaving room for our hands (i.e., like a poncho).

As the years passed I watched my children grow and have families of their own. We didn’t stray very far from the canyon lands where I lived. We traded with other tribes and the Mexicans from the South. After Toh Yah passed I am ready to follow.

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In 1850 my family moved from Ireland to Chicago to escape the great famine. For some unknown reason one of our main food staples, the potato, was savaged by the blight. People were starving to death by the hundreds of thousands.

I was born in the Windy City in 1870, and joined my clan of four other brothers and three sisters. My name is Jason. My parents raised us as Protestant, and following that strict work ethic I found my first job at the mill when I was but 14 years old.

When I was eighteen I placed our King James Version of the bible on the kitchen table, along with two other versions. I read the same verse in all three. The words conveyed somewhat different meanings.

Is this why people point to the Bible in support of their own personal opinion? Do we interpret verses to suit our own needs and justifications?

After comparing many other verses I started to question the authenticity of the Protestant text. Was this truly the word of God, or a human manuscripted interpretation?

Is there such a thing as “the word of God?”

I did some research at the library and learned that the Bible as we know it today was largely put together at the Council of Nicea, in 325 AD. Books such as the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene were left out. Many other stories about Jesus were omitted. Some say that during his missing years (age 12 – 30) Jesus traveled in the East. I guess that today’s Christianity was sculptured more by the apostle Paul, than anyone else.

In 553 AD the Roman Emperor Justinian convened the Second Synod to remove the many references to reincarnation espoused in the Bible. That’s because his wife was an ex-prostitute and concerned that if reincarnation were true, she would have to atone for her actions in many future lifetimes.

So I was a Protestant by birth, but left the religion when I reached the age of reason.

In September of 1893, when I was 23 years old, my true spiritual education and quest began. That month spiritual luminaries from around the world gathered in Chicago for the World’s Parliament of Religions.

Worlds Parliament of Religions – Chicago 1893

I heard many speakers but the words of Swami Vivekananda struck a resounding chord in my soul (http://meditationandspiritualgrowth.com/?p=1529). By some stroke of luck (or was it my karma) I heard that the Swami was staying with a family near the outskirts of town. I went to the house and was invited in. The Swami was in the living room speaking to other people. I sat down to listen and asked some questions. His eyes were alive and a heightened sense of serenity pervaded the room. That evening he initiated me into meditation. I have been practicing meditation ever since.

The following year I visited the Swami in New York City, around the time that he established the Vedanta Society. In June of 1895 I sat at his feet as a disciple for two months, at the Thousand Island Park in New York. When he traveled back to Sri Lanka in 1897 I was but one of many followers who accompanied him. When I learned of his passing in July 1902, my heart was broken, but I vowed to continue on in my quest.

In all, I was able to practice meditation for over 40-years before lying on my death bed. I was disappointed that I had not reached the exalted state of enlightenment, but looking back I marveled at the progress I had made. My mind was now blissfully silent and no longer mired in random thoughts. Peace and serenity was upon my face.

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My name is Isabella and I remember taking lovely summer vacation trips with my family to Playa de Las Canteras, and the other Spanish beaches. As a young girl I also enjoyed the sun, sand, and my friends.

I am the first child of four, and therefore my parents had high expectations for me. At the very young age of five I was enrolled in Suzuki violin school. I studied hard and gave several performances, but I was not going to be a virtuoso. That was not part of my DNA.

When I was eight years old my elementary school teacher called my parents for a conference. Mrs. Pérez told them that I was an extremely bright student, kind, and loved by my fellow classmates, but that I seemed to be engaged excessively in day dreaming during class. Mrs. Pérez said this was a problem that needed to be addressed. So she gave my father the name of a psychiatrist for me to visit.

I told them all that I would get lost, while spontaneously experiencing inner silence. It was as if my senses had shut down and there was no input from the outer world. My mind was awake inside and I felt that time was suspended. Then I would snap out of it and hear Mrs. Pérez talking at the front of the class.

The doctors didn’t know what to do. They told my parents not to worry because I would outgrow it.

At the age of twelve I started playing soccer with our middle school team. My father was an avid player himself when he was younger, so he accompanied me to all my games. He liked to also serve as an assistant coach, always eager to give me pointers to help my game. Since all four of us kids turned out to be daughters, I guess that I was the son he never had. Although I didn’t like the idea that there had to be a winner and a looser, rough and tumble sports were OK with me.

During the summer of 1961 we traveled overseas for the very first time to the Big Apple, New York City. We visited Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Radio City Music Hall. When we took a walk at the Thousand Island Park, I suddenly felt very strange. While strolling down Garden Avenue I realized that I had been here before. A left turn on Rainbow Street, all the way down to the end where it intersects the junction between Prospect Avenue, Sunset and Coast; and then forward to Grenell. Later on Eden Street I found the house of silence and peace.

My parents were not avid Church goers, but we made our rounds during the Christmas holiday anyway. They did not believe in that kind of stuff, but they showed up more as an insurance policy. Just in case there was some truth to it, they wanted to be certain that they had good credentials to get thru the pearly gates. As for me, I don’t know if the Good Book and its stories are true or not, but in any event I believe in helping everyone out and sharing love whenever possible. We are all connected to each other. The words “conflict” and “hate” were never in my vocabulary.

At night during sleep I seemed to dream a lot more that my sisters. They could hardly remember anything. But for me, I seemed to remember dreaming most every night.

I often dreamt about flying like a bird over the majestic countryside. Below me were rolling hills covered in lush verdure and tall trees. Small cities and large cities would past under my sight. And occasionally I would fly up high and see the Moon under my wings.

Once I was a soldier fighting the Moors who invaded my country. Once I lived in England and was an attendant to a Duke and Dutchess. I was a farmer, and a mountain man. I was a blacksmith’s daughters, and a gypsy girl. I was an Indian girl named Nizhoni living with my family in the American Southwest. I often dreamt of different people and different places. It was all soothing and peaceful.

I quickly learned that life often gives you the exam before the training lesson. We may call that learning by trial and error, or just gaining experience and becoming wiser over time. But either way, it seemed to me that a better way was needed. We do need to stand up after we fall down. But is this the school of hard knocks, or is there a better way?

I graduated from college and started my newfound career in marketing. It was exciting to work in the big city and I made many new friends at the office.

For lunch I often went outside to site on the bench in the sun. But something startling happened one day. I was lost again in that inner silence, but when I came out of it the world was unlike anything I had experienced before. Although my eyes were open and I saw people walking and I heard the sounds of car traffic, that inner silence did not go away. Now I was that silence, looking out at the world, at my own body and mind, as a spectator.

The experience is oh so blissful. I’m wide awake and witnessing activity along with silence. What is this? How did this happen? What does this all mean?

I spent the next few months enjoying my newfound freedom and trying to understand what had happened. I went to the library and found some interesting books by someone call Swami Vivekananda. I liked his books so I read everything that I could. So this is what enlightenment is, I thought.

Well here I am now sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Pretoria, South Africa. I left my marketing job and I’m working for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Once in Pretoria I’ll meet up with the Foundation’s HIV team and spend my days working to prevent the spread of aids.

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Conclusion …

Although everyone is searching for happiness and the meaning of life, virtually no one recognizes that the pursuit of enlightenment is germane to that end. Clouded by the enslavement of the five senses, deluded by cravings and wants, we live life after life is search of riches; as cattle remaining in their stalls.

The story of Nizhoni is one of spiritual awakening, taking place in the year 1620, in the American Southwest.

The story of Jason is one of purpose driven spiritual development; meditation, sacrifice, and a life of virtuous progress toward enlightenment.

The story of Isabella is one of innocents and goodness, spontaneously wakening into the timeless reality of enlightenment.

For Jason the path to enlightenment is long, arduous, and challenging. For Isabella it is a pathless path. Both prescriptions for attaining enlightenment (path or pathless) are correct. What you are faced with depends upon your viewpoint of life, and your current state of consciousness.

There is nothing to be acquired or gained. Referring to enlightenment as “self realization” highlights that only the fog of ignorance (not knowing) needs to be dispelled.

It’s not the divine that must be found, but rather that which deludes you that must be released.

I am neither created nor uncreated, for I have always been here. I am neither deluded nor undeluded, for I have always been here. I am neither of light nor of darkness, for I have always been here. I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky.

(Avadhuta Gita)

The eternal absolute bliss consciousness is not in the realm of what can be acquired, or not acquired. IT is not in the jurisdiction of time, space, or causation. IT is beyond the arena of mind, concept and thought.

We are all connected to the universe which celebrates life. Today was given to you as a gift. Happiness is inherent to man. Retrace your steps and return to yourself. Slay the false notion of I and mine (ego) and awaken.

meditation and spiritual growth

Every newborn welcomed into the human family holds the promise of a full and joyful life.

As we make our way from childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and retirement, every culture celebrates personal and community milestones.

What does it take to become a man in Papua New Guinea? How is coming of age marked in the Australian Outback, or in the Christian Church? Why pierce the skin in ceremony, have a Sweet Sixteen Party, or stand before your elders and read from the Jewish Torah?

Rite of passage is celebration of life events that mark a turning point. They are each based around three central themes:

Separation – an individual is no longer identified by their prior life status.

Transition – during this period an individual undergoes tests and challenges to prove that they are indeed worthy of the newer upcoming status.

Re-incorporation – having passed the necessary trials and proved their worth in the eyes of the community, the individual is reintroduced to the society with new honors and status.

As we recognize stages of human growth and development, we should also recognize attainment of spiritual milestones.

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Celebration of birth

Mother and child

Every culture since time immemorial welcomes the newborn into society …

For Native Americans, the celebration of a child’s birth starts while the mother-to-be is pregnant. At the time of first moon, the clan’s grandmother prays for the successful entry of the new member. The Mother goes into the woods and collects special herbs for their spiritual leader to use in ceremony. Female relatives and the clan Grandmother assist in the birth. Only rarely are fathers allowed to attend. Thirteen days after birth the Spiritual leader introduces the new child to the tribe.

In India, Hindu ceremonies are performed during pregnancy, to facilitate and promote good health for mother and child. Among the religious orthodoxy, at the time of birth and before the umbilical cord is severed, the father will place a golden spoon or ring dipped in honey, on the babies lips. The word vak (speech) is whispered three times into the child’s right ear, and special mantras for long life are recited.

The Okuyi transit of childhood is celebrated by many Bantu ethnic groups living in Western Africa. When an infant reaches four months of age, or when a child becomes an adolescent. Mother and child are placed in the center of a group surrounded by singing and dancing Okuyi performers. Dressed in costumes resembling the spirit of past clan ancestors, the performers recount the tale of a panther taking the baby. Pointing a spear toward the child, blessings are bestowed. The Okuyi then continues the dance around mother and child.

Most Christian denominations practice Baptism. Parents present their newborn child to the community and priest. This usually takes place during the main Sunday morning service. Parents publically proclaim on behalf of their child that they believe in God and that they will bring the child up to follow Jesus.

The ceremony culminates with the child being sprinkled (poured or immersed) in water. This signifies purity, cleansing from sin, and devotion to God.

The priest will recite, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (according to Matthew 28:19).

From a spiritual standpoint, the anointing with oil on the child’s forehead – is meant to open the brow chakra to religious visions, clairvoyance, observation of auras, and precognition.

In Judaism, a newborn baby boy is presented to the community during the circumcision ceremony, called a “bris.” The Bris Milah usually completes this in about 30-seconds. The event also signifies the child’s entry into the covenant with Abraham.

Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some, or all, of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis. This practice is not restricted to any particular religion or culture. About 1/6 to 1/3 of all males worldwide are circumcised. Depictions of circumcision have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs.

According to the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota, USA), circumcision may have positive health benefits, which include:

• Easier hygiene • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections • Prevention of penile problems • Decreased risk of penile cancer

• Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections

In Islam, young women often undergo female circumcision.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes this as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

The Islamic Hadith text indicates that circumcision is better for a woman’s health and it enhances her conjugal relation with her husband, the Prophet’s saying “do not exceed the limit” means do not totally remove the clitoris.”

According to Wikipedia …

“The procedures known as Female genital mutilation (FGM) were referred to as female circumcision until the early 1980s, when the term “female genital mutilation” came into use. The term was adopted at the third conference of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in 1991 the WHO recommended its use to the United Nations. It has since become the dominant term within the international community and in medical literature.

FGM is typically carried out on girls from a few days old to puberty. It may take place in a hospital, but is usually performed, without anesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor, or scissors. According to the WHO, it is practiced in 28 countries in western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, in parts of the Middle East, and within some immigrant communities in Europe, North America, and Australasia. The WHO estimates that 100–140 million women and girls around the world have experienced the procedure, including 92 million in Africa”

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation)

Depending on the degree of mutilation, FGM can have a number of short-term health implications:

• severe pain and shock • infection • urine retention • injury to adjacent tissues

• immediate fatal hemorrhaging

Long-term implications can entail:

• extensive damage of the external reproductive system • uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections • cysts and neuromas • increased risk of Vesico Vaginal Fistula • complications in pregnancy and child birth • psychological damage • sexual dysfunction

• difficulties in menstruation

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Entry in to Manhood

The Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania prepare their young men by having them participate in the ritual Maasai Lion Hunt. Participants deliberately seek out the more robust, mature, aggressive, and active lions for pursuit. Armed only with the tribes traditional spear, the young men come face to face with this “king of beasts” to prove their fearlessness. Some never make it back home, but the overwhelming majority do.

The young men are eager to become recognized warriors. Once the Hunt is completed they can take their place in society as men, and actively participate in the security and protection of their tribe’s territory.

The Thread Ceremony (Upanayana) is widely practiced in India by members of orthodox Hindu religious groups. For young boys between the ages of six and twelve this observance is used to highlight the transition to awareness and adult religious responsibilities.

Upanayana

When young Burmese boys approach the age of ten, some participate in the Poy Sang Long Buddhist ceremony. Dressed up like the Buddha, they spend three days ridding around on the shoulder of grown men, imitating the Buddha’s walk toward enlightenment. Those that wish to become monks are then ordained, while the other boys return home.

In Judaism coming of age for a 13-year old boy means having your Bar Mitzvah. After reading from the Torah at a Saturday morning service and completing various requirements, they are now considered to be an adult.

Going forward the Bar Mitzvah candidate now bears their own responsibility for Jewish ritual, law, tradition, and ethics, and is able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life.

The evening is usually followed up with celebration and festivities.

From the mid 16th century all the way to the twentieth, young boys in the Western World wore gowns or dresses until the age of eight. A gown was more convenient for potty training and for covering up a fast growing child, especially when clothes were expensive. Then, in celebration, they are given their first pair of pants (breeches). After “breeching” a young boy’s father becomes more actively involved in their upbringing.

The tribe elders pierce the young man’s chest, shoulders, and back muscles with wooden splints. He is then hoisted up into the air. Additional splints are then inserted into his arms and legs. The skulls of his dead grandfather and other ancestors are then placed on the ends of the splints. Because of the skin stabbings, there is some bleeding. All the while the boy is in agony, almost delirious, but yet he is determined to bear the pain in silence. After all, this is his test of manhood as a member of the Mandan Tribe.

Teenage boys often participate in the First Holy Communion ceremony. The word “communion” is derived from the Latin “communion,” and is often interpret to mean fellowship. By taking part in this, their first Holy Eucharist Sacrament (symbolic of Christ’s last supper), they are recognized as adults, and full members of the Christian community.

Young boys of the Native American Cherokee Tribe are blind folded and led into the forest by their fathers. After finding a suitable spot, the boys sit and are left to endure the night without ever removing the blind fold. They are to remain quiet and composed. When the morning sun rises and its first rays strike the boys, they can remove the blind fold and return home as men.

Other Native American rites of passage include confronting various wild animals, hunting and fishing, cultivating combat skills to become a warrior, honoring the Earth and the Great Spirit, and a host of other ceremonies.

Participation in a Vision Quest often serves as a stepping stone toward manhood. It’s a time for wilderness solitude and personal reflection. Contact with animal spirits raises the young man’s awareness to the interconnectedness of all life.

In Australia the Aboriginal tribes send their adolescent boys out on a Walkabout. This is a test to see if they have the survival skills necessary to live on their own in the outback (desert, marsh, mountains, etc.), for a period of up to 6-months.

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Entry into Womanhood

Shanghai International Debutante Ball

The Débutante Ball has long been the celebration of a young ladies entry into formal society. Although started as a French tradition by aristocratic and upper class families, this gala event is now celebrated all over the world.

Debutante (from the French débutante, “female beginner”).

On December 28, 2012, the International Débutante Ball will be held at the New York City , Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Sweet Sixteen is a coming of age party celebrating a girl’s sixteenth birthday, primarily in the United States and Canada.

In the Jewish Tradition a 12 year old girl will have a Bat Mitzvah. It is similar to the Bar Mitzvah as practiced by young men. It denotes that the young girl is now a woman, and as such gladly takes on the responsibilities of her Jewish Heritage.

Bat Mitzvah

It’s interesting to note that the Bat Mitzvah is a relatively new phenomenon. Traditional and Orthodox Judaism still does not recognize the participation of women in religious services. But the more liberal Reformed and Conservative branches do. Those communities started to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is growing steadily as more and more communities have accepted the practice.

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Adolescence

Members of the Unitarian Universalism congregations celebrate Coming of Age (COA). This is for both boys and girls.

Coming of Age

Starting around 12 years old, the congregation’s youth pair up with a mentor, and attend special COA program classes.

They prepare a “faith statement,” which signifies what they believe in and the type of civic and spiritual life they would like to lead. They learn about other world religions, and what their Church’s covenant of faith affirms:

• The inherent worth and dignity of every person • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

• Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

When the class is complete the COA participants are presented at a Sunday morning service. They each read their “faith statement,” and the Unitarian Universalism congregation members pledge to stand with them, side by side, in loving support, for their journey into Adulthood.

Many Christian denominations offer the sacrament of Confirmation to their 13-14 year old, boys and girls. Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments that commemorate the life of Christians. At this service the Gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed.

In the American Amish heartland of Pennsylvania the young folk at about age 16 enter into Rumspringa. They then have a choice before themselves; to either choose baptism within the Amish church, or instead leave the community. They have a period of time with which to make that decision.

Come what may, the vast majority choose baptism and remain in the church.

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Adulthood

In Ancient Greece the term “dokimasia” referred to the process whereby young citizens gain the skills necessary to partake in public rights and duties.

Other milestones that signify entry into adulthood are:

• High School Graduation • The first drivers license • First legal drinking age • Gaining the right to vote

• College Fraternity Pledging

In Burma members of the Theravada Buddhism tradition may send their son’s onto the Shinbyu celebration. This gives them a chance to more closely study the teachings of the Buddha, and to follow their Dharma path. If it is right for them they can choose upasampada ordination into the rank of monk.

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Other milestones that all cultures celebrate are:

Marriage Motherhood

Fatherhood

At our 40th birthday we can say, “I am a free and willing, independent, self responsible human being.”

At our 80th birthday we can say “I have achieved my goals and aspirations. The present is rich, and life is beautiful.”

… and

Death, a transition to another path.

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Your Spiritual Life

Meditation

The first time that you ask the question, “Who am I, what is world all about, how did I get here, and what is my purpose in life,” you have taken the first steps on the Spiritual path.

When you recognize and take note of the beauty, delicacy, strength, and wonder of life, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you stand in awe under the starry night sky and feel amazement, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you hold your newborn child and feel your heart overflowing with joy and love, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you help your neighbor bring in their groceries, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you strive to do your best on the upcoming school exam, and in whatever you do, you are on the Spiritual path

When you read a book and your mind entertains new ideas and possibilities, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you wash your clothes but it’s done with purpose and joy, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you say a prayer before eating, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you treat every day of your life as if the last, and enjoy that day as a bonus, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you care for all men, women and children, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you sit in silence, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you close your eyes to meditate, you are on the Spiritual path.

… and a million and one other ways, you are on the Spiritual path.

Our spiritual journey consists of all that we do, as movement away from identification with our individual body, mind and ego – toward expansion of universal absolute awareness and bliss.

The realization that “I am not body,” “I am not mind,” “I am eternal unbounded Being,” completes the circle of life.

When you start meditation some traditions offer an “initiation” ceremony, while others do not. Your first meditation is a rite of passage.

When you sit in Sat sang with other like minded spiritual people, that is a milestone.

When you take Shaktipat with a spiritual teacher, that is a milestone.

When you rise above the binding influence of culture and religion, that is a milestone.

When your mind transcends in meditation to finer levels of thought, that is a milestone.

When your mind is silent and bliss consciousness dawns, that is the milestone of milestones, your grand rite of passage.

meditation and spiritual growth

Our world of variety presents us with opportunities and choices every moment.

Do we continue straight ahead and travel down that road, or turn to the left? Should I enroll at Kent State, or go to Bowling Green University? Do we get married this year, or next? Should I buy that purse, or save the money for a coat?

Do I buy these vegetables for dinner, or save what little I have for rent?

… and so on, and so forth.

The choices that we make, and how we evaluate and weigh our options, depend upon many factors.  Chief among then is our level of consciousness.  That determines how we appreciate the world.

An optimist looks at half a glass of water and emphatically says that it’s half-full.  A pessimist looks at that same half filled glass of water and says that it’s half-empty.  But a Buddhist meditating on the same glass says it’s empty.

Consider this Zen parable about the difference a half makes:

A famous soldier came to the master Hakuin and asked: “Master, tell me: is there really a heaven and a hell?”

“Who are you?” asked Hakuin.

“I am a soldier of the great Emperor’s personal guard.”

“Nonsense!” said Hakuin. “What kind of emperor would have you around him? To me you look like a beggar!”

At this, the soldier started to rattle his big sword in anger. “Oho!” said Hakuin.  “So you have a sword! I’ll wager it’s much too dull to cut my head off!”

At this the soldier could not hold himself back. He drew his sword and threatened the master, who said: “Now you know half the answer! You are opening the gates of hell!”

The soldier drew back, sheathed his sword, and bowed. “Now you know the other half,” said the master. “You have opened the gates of heaven.”

Decisions that we make every day affect our present and future.

Our well being sometimes hinges on a dime.  What seems to be a good choice for one person may subsequently not be a good choice for another person.

How many times have you wished that you could redo something that happened in the past?  Since we learn from experience, and hindsight is usually 20/20, faced with the very same situation again would you choose differently?

And the same person may take a different tack when faced with a similar problem, at a later time in life.

Since we are at different places in our evolutionary journey, we need different things in the various seasons of life.

Choice is a bed rock of our relative space-time world.  As the saying goes, one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure.  What bridge do we cross, and which do we burn?  Not making a choice is a choice in itself.

There are gradations of every object and natural force in the phenomenal universe.

Take for example temperature.  We can appropriately say that ice (frozen water at 0o C) is colder than steam (water vapor at 100o C).   Other liquids freeze at lower temperatures.   Depending upon what different hydrocarbons are blended into a grade of gasoline, it freezes somewhere between -40o C and -50o C.  Hydrogen gas freezes at -259.14 °C. Freezing is just a phase transition that occurs in a material.  Their molecules take on a more orderly crystalline structure.

From smaller than the smallest, to larger than the largest, each pair of opposites is related and dependent upon each other.  Once the groundwork exists to create the phenomena of time, there is then past, present and future.  With temperature come solid, liquid, gas and plasma.  With spatiality come the centimeter, meter and kilometer.

Can there be a beginning without an end?  Would we recognize light if we had not experienced darkness?  In this field of duality, apparent opposites are intimately connected.

– there are small quarks (10-18 meters) and our large universe (13.7 billion light years in diameter) – there are small galaxies and large galaxies (IC 1101, 6 million light years in girth) – there are small hills and large mountains (Mons Olympus on Mars, 22 Km, 3 times the height of Mt. Everest) – there are small lakes and large seas (Pacific Ocean)

– there are small cities and large cities by population (Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan, 33 million)

– there are sad people and happy people – there is failure and success – there is anger and calmness – there is friendship and enmity

– there is hate and love

Each set of opposites owes its existence to the other.

Although the largest values of creation are yet to come, there is a smallest value of creation.  We verify this from our practice of meditation:

– there is a last stress in the human nervous system, and when dissolved Enlightenment dawns – there is a last random wandering thought in the mind, and then bliss consciousness prevails

– there is a finest value of the relative world to be perceived, at which Glorified Consciousness (GC) the one after Enlightenment, is achieved.

There is a smallest value of creation that can be practically dealt with.

In the field of quantum physics the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that the position and velocity of an object cannot both be measured, exactly, at the same time.  This derives from a measurement problem, due to the intimate connection between the wave and particle nature of quantum objects.

The process of observing a particle or an event has an effect, and influences where and in what form we see the particle/wave.

Temperature is a measurement of the kinetic energy (energy due to motion) of particles.  The Kelvin scale is based on zero representing when there is no kinetic motion of any kind. 0° Kelvin is equivalent to -273.15° Celsius, or -459.67° Fahrenheit.

The average temperature of our Universe is 2.73° Kelvin, due to the cosmic microwave background radiation left over after the Big Bang.

When cooled to a temperature of 4° Kelvin, liquid Helium becomes a superconductor.  At 2° Kelvin Helium atoms no longer move.  They still have some kinetic energy, but since they no longer have the ability to move and interact they are considered to be static. So …

– there is a finest value of the relative at which all movement, for practical purposes, stops

Do you see your glass of life as half-empty, or half-full?

According to stand-up comedian George Carlin, “Some see the glass as half-full, others see the glass as half-empty. Me, I see the glass as too big.”

A Zen Koan proclaims, “The glass is too large for the amount of water contained therein. Thus, it is neither half-full nor half-empty.

Whatever your opinion, we would like to get to a point where the glass is seen as overflowing.

Our view of the world (level of consciousness) determines what choices we find in front of us.  As we continue through life our ego gains experience and grows in stature.  As we become more comfortable with situations and undertake new adventures, the ego softens as it grows.

Here is how the ego sees itself at various stages in human life …

In ignorance: ego – is fully isolated and distinct mind – absorbed and consumed in thought (except during deep sleep) function – looks inward and identifies itself as this mind, and these thoughts

function – looks outward and identifies itself as this body

In Enlightenment: Ego – is dissolved, you are now the eternal unbounded Self mind – prevailing silence accept when activity is required function – looks inward, the mind having adopted its unbounded nature function – looks outward and witnesses this body – as bound and separate

100% of inner life

In Glorified Enlightenment:
Eternal unbounded Self mind – prevailing silence accept when activity is required function – looks inward, the mind having adopted its unbounded nature function – looks outward and witnesses this body – as bound and separate, but I now perceive the finest relative value of creation

100% of inner life

In Unity Consciousness: Eternal unbounded Self mind – prevailing silence accept when activity is required function – looks and is mind – as an expression of my infinite eternal Self function – looks and is universe – as an expression of my infinite eternal Self “Sarvam khalvidam brahma,”  all this is verily Brahman.  “I am That.”

100% of inner life and 100% of outer life

§§

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  Do you see the glass as half-full, half-empty, or neither?

We are confronted with choice because the mind has ushered us into a field of multiplicity.  Your life can be considered to be the sum of all the choices you have ever made.  Perception is unique to every individual and is simply one’s interpretation of reality.

Transcend the path of sorrow and death, to the safe island of bliss consciousness.  In the garden of the heart, see the world without your mask.  We are an aperture from which the universe sees itself.

Does the universe expand simply because we are chasing after it?  The substance of the universe is consciousness (matter is an aspect of consciousness).

Meditate every day for greater happiness, optimism, and to regain your rightful (divine) place in this beautiful cosmic ballet.

meditation and spiritual growth

The experience of inner silence has a story to tell with reference to the creation process.

We all experience inner silence even if we do not meditate. It can be found in the gap between successive thoughts, or when the mind is still. For some people that silence is more pronounced, while for others it may go unnoticed.

Transcendental Consciousness (TC), or inner silence, is a fourth state of consciousness. As we become more self-actualized the experience of TC in daily life becomes more noticeable.

Each day we go through a cycle of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. We also experience inner silence at the junction point between waking and deep sleep, deep sleep and dreaming, and dreaming and waking. That is to say, as we drift from waking to deep sleep, we pass through the experience of inner silence. We also pass through inner silence while going from deep sleep to dreaming, and from dreaming and waking. But this occurs mostly unnoticed.

Thought originates from pure silence. It sprouts as an impulse (energy) with direction (intelligence). It travels up through the different layers of consciousness until it bursts forth as a concrete thought onto our awareness. Just like that, creation starts with a “thrill” in the absolute and manifests in ever increasing complex structures, from the most refined relative to the dense physical level.

Let’s explore a few of the creation stories.

**

The Four Creations, from the Hopi (People of Peace) of northern Arizona, written prior to 1150 AD.

“The world at first was endless space in which existed only the Creator, Taiowa. This world had no time, no shape, and no life, except in the mind of the Creator. Eventually the infinite creator created the finite in Sotuknang, whom he called his nephew and whom he created as his agent to establish nine universes. Sotuknang gathered together matter from the endless space to make the nine solid worlds. Then the Creator instructed him to gather together the waters from the endless space and place them on these worlds to make land and sea. When Sotuknang had done that, the Creator instructed him to gather together air to make winds and breezes on these worlds.”

“The fourth act of creation with which the Creator charged Sotuknang was the creation of life. Sotuknang went to the world that was to first host life and there he created Spider Woman, and he gave her the power to create life. First Spider Woman took some earth and mixed it with saliva to make two beings. Over them she sang the Creation Song, and they came to life. She instructed one of them, Poqanghoya, to go across the earth and solidify it. She instructed the other, Palongawhoya, to send out sound to resonate through the earth, so that the earth vibrated with the energy of the Creator. Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya were dispatched to the poles of the earth to keep it rotating.”

“Then Spider Woman made all the plants, the flowers, the bushes, and the trees. Likewise she made the birds and animals, again using earth and singing the Creation Song. When all this was done, she made human beings, using yellow, red, white, and black earth mixed with her saliva. Singing the Creation Song, she made four men, and then in her own form she made four women. At first they had a soft spot in their foreheads, and although it solidified, it left a space through which they could hear the voice of Sotuknang and their Creator. Because these people could not speak, Spider Woman called on Sotuknang, who gave them four languages. His only instructions were for them to respect their Creator and to live in harmony with him.”

“These people spread across the earth and multiplied …”

**

Creation By and From the Self, from the Brhad-Arayaka Upanishad of India, written between 700 – 500 BC.

“In the beginning there was absolutely nothing, and what existed was covered by death and hunger. He thought, “Let me have a self”, and he created the mind. As he moved about in worship, water was generated. Froth formed on the water, and the froth eventually solidified to become earth. He rested on the earth, and from his luminance came fire. After resting, he divided himself in three parts, and one is fire, one is the sun, and one is the air.”

“Thus in the beginning the world was only his self, his being or essence, which then took the shape of a person. At first he was afraid, but realizing that he was alone and had nothing of which to be afraid, his fear ceased. However, he had no happiness because he was alone, and he longed for another. He grew as large as two persons embracing, and he caused his self to split into two matching parts, like two halves of a split pea, and from them arose husband and wife.”

“They mated, and from their union arose the human beings of the earth. The female reflected on having mated with someone of whom she was once a part, and she resolved that she should hide so that it would not happen again. She changed to a cow to disguise herself, but he changed to a bull and mated with her, and from their union cows arose. She changed to the form of a mare, but he changed to that of a stallion and mated with her, and from that union came horses. She changed to the form of a donkey, but he did likewise, and from them arose the single-hoofed animals. She became a ewe, but he became a ram, and from their union came the sheep and goats. It continued thus, with her changing form to elude him but he finding her and mating with her, until they had created all the animals that live in pairs, from humans and horses to ants.”

“After all this work, he reflected that he was indeed Creation personified, for he had created all this. Rubbing back and forth, he made Fire, the god of fire, from his hands, and from his semen he made Soma, the god of the moon. This was his highest creation because, although mortal himself, he had created immortal gods.”

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Story of Genesis (1:1 to 2:3), from the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Genesis, written around the sixth century B.C.. That was after Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and at a time when the Hebrews were faced with exile in Babylon.

In the beginning God made the sky and the earth, but the earth was shapeless and everything was dark.

And God said “Let there be light,” and there was the light that made day different from night. And that was the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome to separate the heavens from the waters below,” and there were the heavens. And that was the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters of the earth gather so that there are seas and there is dry land,” and so it was. God said “Let there be vegetation on the land, with plants to yield seeds and fruits,” and so it was. And that was the third day.

And God said, “Let there be light in the heavens, and let them change with the seasons,” and so there were stars. Then God made a sun and a moon to rule over the day and to rule over the night. And that was the fourth day.

And God said, “Let there be creatures in the waters, and let there be birds in the skies,” and so there were sea monsters and sea creatures and birds. The God blessed them, saying “Be fruitful and multiply.” And that was the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth have animals of various kinds,” and so it was. Then God said, “Let us make humans after our own likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle and creeping things of the land, and over all the earth.” And God said to these humans, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, ruling over the fish and the birds and the animals of the land. We have given you every plant and tree yielding seed. To every beast and bird of the Earth we have given every green plant for food.” And that was the sixth day.

And on the seventh day the making of the heavens and earth was finished, and God rested.

**

One purpose in presenting these different stories is to point out that just about every culture has their own version of how the universe came into being, and each is cherished and revered.

How did the version of the “the seven days of creation” come about?

The seven day week is probably the result of using the moon as a clock and calendar. Crops needed to be planted and harvested at regular intervals. The cycle of the moon’s orbit around the earth provided such a yard stick. The ancient Babylonians marked time based on a lunar month.

The first – the first visible lunar crescent The seventh — the waxing half moon The fourteenth — the full moon The twenty-first — the waning half moon

The twenty eighth — the last visible crescent

(Note: synodic month is actually 29.5 days, the time from full-moon to the next full-moon.)

The ancient Romans also adopted the notion of a seven day week. Following the Babylonians but also promoting the five naked eye planets, along with the Moon and Sun to equal seven.

Latin is an Italic language, based on the older Italic alphabet which was derived from Greek and Phoenician scripts.

Sunday:
Latin dies solis “day of the sun,” the Sun’s day, Middle English sone(n)day or sun(nen)day.

Monday:
Latin dies lunae “day of the moon,” the Moon’s day, Middle English monday or mone(n)day.

Tuesday:
Latin dies Martis “day of Mars,” Tiu’s day, Middle English tiwesday or tewesday.

Wednesday:
Latin dies Mercurii “day of Mercury,” Woden’s day, Middle English wodnesday, wednesday, or wednesdai.

Thursday:
Latin dies Jovis “day of Jupiter,” Thor’s day, Middle English thur(e)sday

Friday:
Latin dies Veneris “Venus’s day,” Freya’s day, Middle English fridai.

Saturday:
Latin dies Saturni “day of Saturn,” Saturn’s day, Middle English saterday.

**

Are these stories mythology or fact? Is the story of Genesis (7-days) a mythology tailored specifically to align with our earth/moon rotational period and culture?

What do you think? You decide.

Inner silence expresses its self through the infinite variety of inanimate, and animate, life forms found in creation. Close the eyes, allow the mind to transcend, locate the seat of creation, and bask in waves of bliss.

meditation and spiritual growth

If you are a rock basking in the sunlight and gazing out at the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean, you wouldn’t really notice the presence of Prana. And chances are, you wouldn’t care about it either. But if you are a plant, an animal, or a human being – your very survival and existence here depends upon it.

So what is Prana, and what roll does it play in life?

The Buddha taught his disciples that the body of all that is, and is not, consists of three sheaths (trikaya); Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya.

Dharmakaya is the absolute, the essential constituent of all constituents, the unity of all things and beings. It is beyond space and time, concept and thought, and the field of all that is. Buddhist meditation masters refer to Dharmakaya as, “the basis of the original unbornness.”

The absolute is not the relative world taken to an extreme. It is not the farthest distance that one could travel. It is not the longest time that our universe could exist. It is not forever, because that to has a beginning and an ultimate end. It is not infinitesimal, or infinite. Instead, it is completely outside, separate, and distinct from all causal and relative realms.

Sambhogakaya is known as the body of bliss. It’s there you experience the result of good Earthly deeds, and enjoy the benefit of all the time you spent practicing Buddhism. In this body your relative-individuality experiences the bliss associated with the realization of the absolute.

Nirmanakaya is the Earthly sheath where your physical body is present today. In this body you experience birth, pain, happiness, sickness, health, old age and death. But you are manifested here to have the opportunity to practice your dharma, and reach for enlightenment.

When you see terms like “absolute,” and “beyond time and space,” Prana does not reside there. Instead, Prana exists and functions within mind, in the relative field of shape, time, space and causation.

Prana plays a pivotal role in all mind/time/space environments; the Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya sheaths.

Energy is needed to move around and function in our world. Whether we travel up or down, or straight along the highway, force is expended to keep us moving. If we are walking, we burn calories to power our leg muscles that make the journey. If we are driving or traveling by train, a fuel source is needed to move the vehicle’s wheels and keep us rolling on our journey. The Earth rotates around the sun, and Galaxies spin in the farthest reaches of the universe.

There is One main source of energy for all that is. But in our world of multiplicity we call it by different names, depending upon how and where it brings to bear its influence. We have labeled one force “gravity,” to describe that aspect of the One that works thru the presence of matter. We have labeled another force “electricity,” to describe that aspect of the One that works by shifting atomic electrons around to create a potential for work.

… and so there are cosmic and solar energies, Prana, Kundalini, and a plethora of other aspects yet to be identified.

We commonly refer to the term “Prana” as that aspect which enters the etheric human body through cosmic and solar currents, and enters the physical human body thought the breath.

Prana is the basic life force that animates living beings in our time/space world.

The Sparrowhawk

Prana is present in all that moves and does not move, but is especially powerful in living things – from microbes, plants, fish, birds, mammals to man.

All living Earthly creatures, whether large or small, need three essential functions to sustain life:

• breathing, for Pranic energy • eating, for food (input)

• excretion (output)

An Elephant Family

In human beings Prana is responsible for the breath, sensory perception, thinking, digestion of food, and body waste elimination.

Here is how Prana provides the energy that is the basis of our metabolic processes:

Inhalation entails the reaction of the Hemoglobin (Hb) in our red blood cells with Oxygen gas (O2) from the air, to form Oxyhemoglobin (Hb-O2).

Hb +  O2 = HbO2

The red blood cells then travel the body to deliver its oxygen. Glucose and other sugars react with the oxygen to produce energy:

Glucose + Oxygen = Carbon dioxide + Water + Energy

C6H12O6 + 6O2 =  6CO2 + H2O + Energy

The practice of Meditation releases stress from the human nervous system, thereby enhancing our more efficient use of Prana. The breathing discipline that seeks to culture and enhance the breath (Pranayama) is a science onto itself, and worthy or your further inquiry.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has said, “Breathe less and live longer.”

Mind is the stage or platform from which Prana and any other form of energy has existence. In our physical world, that energy takes on various forms:

Types of Physical energy:
• Chemical • Elastic • Electrical • Electrochemical • Electromagnetic Radiant Energy (light) • Gravitational • Kinetic – by virtue of the fact that it’s in motion relative to the ground • Magnetic

• Mass (E=MC2)

• Mechanical • Nuclear • Potential – based upon it state or relationship • Solar energy • Sound

• Thermal, or heat

Energy is the latent potential that has the ability to perform work.

Work = Force * Distance

Dolphins at play

Now let’s be more specific about what Prana does for us …

Prana acts within every human body to sustain and promote healthy living conditions. The five major currents of Prana acting and circulating through the body follow nature’s path, to address different functions of the cosmic life force.

The five fold natures of Prana are …

Prana: upward energy Apana: downward energy Samana: inward energy Udana: outward energy

Vyana: expansion in all directions, all-encompassing.

Although these five Pranas are different from each other, they are more commonly known as Mahaprana (great prana).

“Just as an emperor posts his officials in different parts of his realm, similarly the chief Prana allots functions to the lower Pranas.” Prashanopanishad

“Pranam Brahmethivya jaanath” – says the ‘Taithriya Upanishad.’
“Know that Prana (vital energy) is one of the representations of Brahman (Almighty)”

Let’s look a bit closer at the five subdivisions of Pranas …

1. Prana
This Prana is centered in the region between the larynx and the upper diaphragm.

Although closely associated with our respiratory organs, it also plays a vital role in enabling speech via the mouth and nose. It powers our body’s use of water, and the production of sweat and urine. Prana enlivens our sensory organs (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing) and couples with the mind to interpret and make “apparently real” what we are experiencing.

When Prana gets out of balance harmful desires and insatiable craving may develop.

2. Apana is centered below the navel.

It provides the energy for the large intestines, kidneys, anus, and reproductive organs to function properly. From a physical standpoint, Apana rids the body of what cannot be digested and what has accumulated as toxins.

From a psychological standpoint, Apana helps to eliminate poisonous ideas and harmful emotions. When Apana gets out of balance mental depression may set in and the body is weakened.

3. Samana is centered in the region between the heart and the navel.

Samana is involved in the functioning of the pancreas, liver, and digestive system. Residing in the stomach, food is converted into refined nutrients and energy so the body has strength and can function.

If the natural flow of Samana is hindered in the body, excessive mental attachment and greed may develop.

4. Udana is centered in the body above the larynx. Responsible for building and maintaining body muscle, this prana also plays a key role in the functioning of our sensory organs; namely the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin receptors.

The uninhibited flow of Udana promotes a positive mental and physical enthusiasm. It enlivens your creative and spiritual potential. When out of balance, personal pride and arrogance may develop.

5. Vyana is the prana that encompasses the whole body. It helps with governance of the other fundamental energies, regulates the balance between the upward (Prana) and downward (Apana) forces. As a master controller, Vyana coordinates overall body health and activity.

When functioning properly this prana supports our free movement in the environment and enhances self confidence and independent thinking. When the flow of Vyana is restricted individuals feel isolation, hatred and alienation for others.

Upon entering our bodies (etheric and physical) Prana flows through conduits or channels more commonly known as “Nadis”. Ancient literature states that the total number of nadis in the human body is 72,000. Of these 72,000 there are 12 primary flows which Traditional Chinese Medicine has termed “meridians.”

The 12 major meridians in the body:
• Lung • Large intestine • Spleen • Stomach • Heart • Small intestine • Bladder • Kidney • Pericardium (Circulation/Sex) • Warmer • Liver

• Gallbladder

There are 3 other primary flows that run the entire length of the body, up and down, and these have been termed Ida, the Pingala and the Sushumna by adherents of Yoga and Hindu philosophy.

… now this is where the science of Kundalini comes into play.

Our life experience is made possible by the presence of Prana. Through these channels, the glorious life force Prana flows in all men, women and children.

§§

Jumping for Joy

According to the Tao Te Ching,
“Because the eye gazes and catches no glimpse of it, it is called elusive; Because the ear cannot hear it, it’s called rarified; because the hand cannot feel it, it is called infinitesimal; it’s rising brings no heat, it’s sinking no darkness. It is called CHI.”

As we practice meditation the 5-fold Pranas become more enlivened and begin to function more efficiently. They work better together as a group and instill health and a positive mental outlook. As such, Prana is a catalyst for promoting spiritual development and our conscious well being.

Prana vitalizes the entire human system, while Apana grounds us and enhances personal stability. Samana bring joy and a peaceful outlook, while Udana adds lightless to all of our activities.

Continued spiritual development for human beings depends upon integrating absolute bliss consciousness within our relative world. By animating our etheric and physical existence, Prana thereby maintains the platform for continued human evolution.

By meditating every day, you move several steps closer toward realization of your full potential. The world needs your gentle fearless spirit, harmony and wisdom.

meditation and spiritual growth

They say that man is mighty, He governs land and sea; He wields a mighty scepter

On lower powers than he,

But mightier power & stronger Man from his throne has hurled, For the hand that rocks the cradle

Is the hand that rules the world

From time immemorial human civilization seems to have been led by men. The predominant religions of the world were established by men, and men are the authors of religious scripture.

Hinduism: Established by – the Hindus people of India

Major Scriptures – Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva), Upavedas, Upanishads, Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Buddhism: Established by – Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha

Major Scriptures –Pali Canon, Sarvastivada and Dharmaguptaka texts, Taisho Tripitaka, Kangyur, Pratimoksha, Dhammapada, Udana, Sutta Nipata and others.

Christianity: Established by – Jesus Christ

Major Scriptures – the Jewish scriptures in addition to the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

Judaism: Established by – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Aaron

Major Scriptures – the books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) which consists of the Torah, Nevi’im (the Prophets, eight books), Talmud, and Ketuvim (eleven books).

Islam: Established by – Muhammad

Major Scriptures – Qur’an, Hadith, and Sufi Texts.

Spiritual growth and Enlightenment is everyone’s birthright; regardless of age, race, social status, gender, or sexual orientation.

As human beings we have a nervous system which is capable of experiencing the unbounded eternal reality of life. We can all ask and comprehend the lofty questions concerning who we are, and what is our purpose in life.

. The human race will not achieve its rightful stature until women are honored in society, given equal rights, full opportunity, and adored as the mother of all created beings.

.

§§

When the Catholic College of Cardinals contains an equal number of women and men, and a woman is elected Pope, humanity will know abundant life.

When Islam amends Sharia Law to give women true equal rights; abolish child, temporary and polygamous marriage; and end honor killings, humanity will know abundant life.

When many more Jewish women rabbis are ordained, humanity will know abundant life.

When many more Hindu women priests are ordained, humanity will know abundant life.

When many more Buddhist women lamas are ordained, humanity will know abundant life.

When all governments honor and enforce equal protection for women, humanity will know abundant life.

When Mother Earth is honored, cherished and protected, humanity will know abundant life.

§§

We all come into this world through our Mothers. She exemplifies undying love, untiring sacrifice, and an unfailing faith in us. She nurtures, teaches, and inspires by example.

There are far too many enlightened and saintly women to list in one post, but here are some stirring examples of human divinity.

Akkha Mahadevi:
Living in the 12 century in the south of India, she was a major personality in the Veerashaiva Bhakti movement and contributed 430 Vachanas (Kannada poetry).

She says …

“The arrow that is shot should penetrate so deeply that even the feathers do not show. Hug the body of the Lord so tightly that the bones must be crushed to crumble.

Weld to the divine until the very welding disappears.”

Mother Teresa:
Born (1910) in Skopje, Macedonia, Mother Teresa is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and attained admiration and recognition for her life dedicated to serving the poor and destitute.

Mother Teresa

She says …

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

The Mother:
Born in Paris, France, as Mirra Alfassa on the 21st of February, 1878. By the age of twenty she had attained enlightenment.

Sri Aurobindo considered Alfassa to be an Avatar (incarnation) of the Supreme Shakti.

He wrote;
The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence.

Meerabai:
Born in 1498 and known as Meera, she composed a multitude of songs devoted to Lord Krishna.

She sings …

That dark dweller in Braj Is my only refuge. O my companion, worldly comfort is an illusion, As soon you get it, it goes. I have chosen the indestructible for my refuge, Him whom the snake of death will not devour. My beloved dwells in my heart all day, I have actually seen that abode of joy. Meera’s lord is Hari, the indestructible.

My lord, I have taken refuge with you, your maidservant

Sarada Devi:
Born in Jayrambati she was the wife of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Later in life she attained nirvikalpa samadhi and began her role as guru.

Sri Sarada Devi

Sri Anandamayi Ma:
Born in Kheora (Bangladesh) Nirmala Sundari Devi was enlightened at a very early age.

She says …

“People have various visions of gods and goddesses (in me) according to their own predilections. What I was before, I am now, and shall be hereafter. I am also whatever you or anybody may think I am……… why don’t you look at it this way: the yearnings (of seekers after Truth) have brought about this body. All of you have wanted it and so you have found it. That is all you need to know.”

“Always bear this in mind: Everything is in God’s hands, and you are His tool to be used by Him as He pleases. Try to grasp the significance of ‘all is His’. and you will immediately feel free from all burdens. What will be the result of your surrender to Him? None will seem alien, all will be your very own Self.”

“All creation is that. There is beauty in the birds and in the animals. They too eat and drink like us, mate and multiply; but there is this difference: we can realize our true nature, the Atman. Having been born as human beings, we must not waste this opportunity. At least for a few seconds every day, we must enquire as to who we are. It is no use taking a return ticket over and over again. From birth to death, and death to birth is samsara. But really we have no birth and death. We must realize that.”

“God is within everyone, but man goes out in search of Him. This is what constitutes God’s Play and God’s Creation.”

St Teresa of Avila:
Born as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada on March 28, 1515, in Avila, Spain, she was a Spanish sage and Carmelite nun in the Roman Catholic order.

She says …

“All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.”

“It is here, my daughters that love is to be found – not hidden away in corners but in the midst of occasions of sin. And believe me, although we may more often fail and commit small lapses, our gain will be incomparably the greater.”

“Pain is never permanent.”

“Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.”

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things”

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

“To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.”

Bernadette Soubirous:
Born in 1844, Bernadette is known for her visions (starting at age 14) of the Blessed Lady (Virgin Mary) in a grotto in the outskirts of Lourdes.

Bernadette Soubirous

When asked, “Was she beautiful?”

Bernadette replied, “Oh! Oh! Yes indeed! And even more than that! So lovely that, when you have seen her once, you would willingly die to see her again!”

When asked, “How do you know if it’s really the Blessed Virgin who appeared to you, that it’s not an illusion, a trick of the devil?”

Bernadette replied, “Oh, no! I threw some holy water at her and the apparition made the sign of the cross. She told me. “I am the Immaculate Conception.” and said the rosary with me.”

Noor Inayat Khan:
Raised in mystical Sufi tradition, Noor led a life of self sacrifice and worked for the cause of freedom. Born in Russia in 1914, during World War II she served as British special agent and was executed at the Dachau Concentration Camp in 1944.

Jeanne D’Arc:
Saint Joan of Arc (born 1412) had visions of God that charged to recover France from the English occupation.

She says …

“I place trust in God, my creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

§§

To promote women’s rights the United Nations drafted the CEDAW document, which has been ratified by almost every nation in the World.

Summary: The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Preamble: Notes that the U.N. Charter “reaffirms faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women” and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “affirms the principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, including distinction based on sex.”
Also takes note of the many resolutions, declarations, and recommendations adopted by UN bodies that promote equal rights for men and women, yet expresses concern that “extensive discrimination against women continues to exist.”

Article 1: Defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

Article 2: Instructs States Parties to condemn discrimination against women in all forms and pursue its elimination by all appropriate means, including changing national constitutions and enacting legislation.

Article 3: Mandates that States Parties take all appropriate measures in all fields to “ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them [equal rights].”

Article 4: Allows States Parties to adopt “temporary special measures” to promote equality for women.

Article 5: Requires that States Parties take all appropriate measures to modify social and cultural patterns of behavior to eliminate prejudices, practices and customs based on the inequality of, or prejudices against, either of the sexes and to ensure that family education provides a proper description of the social function of motherhood and the “common responsibility” of both men and women in child rearing and development.

Article 6: Mandates States Parties to prevent trafficking in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.

Article 7: Instructs States Parties to end discrimination against women in political and public life, including providing women the right to vote in all elections, to run for public office and to participate in nongovernmental organizations and associations.

Article 8: Obligates States Parties to provide women, on equal status with men, the opportunity to represent their country at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations.

Article 9: Declares that States Parties must provide women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality and that of their children.

Article 10: Mandates States Parties grant women equal rights with men in all aspects of the field of education.

Article 11: Requires States Parties to prevent discrimination against women in all aspects of employment, including employment opportunities, hiring criteria, promotion, job security, benefits, remuneration, working conditions, and to protect these rights in the event of marriage or maternity.

Article 12: Instructs States Parties to provide women equal rights with men in all aspects of health care.

Article 13: Declares that States Parties shall eliminate discrimination against women in all aspects of economic and social life, including family benefits, financial transactions such as loans and mortgages, and recreational and sporting activities.

Article 14: Highlights the particular problems and contributions of rural women and instructs States Parties to ensure the provisions of the present Convention are applied to them.

Article 15: Mandates that States Parties provide women equal status with men before the law, including with respect to contracts, the administration of property, the movement of persons, and choice of residence.

Article 16: Instructs States Parties to eliminate discrimination against women in all aspects of marriage and family relations, including providing equal rights with men to enter into marriage, to choose a spouse, to dissolve a marriage, in matters of child rearing, in the number and spacing of children, in personal matters such as choosing a family name and profession, and for property ownership and management.

Article 17: Establishes the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to evaluate, and make recommendations to further States Parties’ progress in implementing the provisions of this treaty.

Article 18: Instructs States Parties to report to the Committee on their progress within one year of becoming a party to the Convention and at least every four years thereafter, including when the Committee so requests.

Article 19: States the Committee shall adopt its own rules of procedure and elect officers for two-year terms.

Article 20: Declares the Committee shall meet at U.N. Headquarters each year for no more than two weeks.

Article 21: Mandates that the Committee report annually on its activities to the General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, and may make “suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of reports and information received from the States Parties.”

Article 22: Allows for relevant U.N. specialized agencies to be represented at meetings of the Committee and authorizes the Committee to invite them to “submit reports on the implementation of the Convention.”

Article 23: States that nothing in the present Convention will “affect any provisions that are more conducive to the achievement of equality between men and women” that may be contained in a State Party’s legislation or in any other international treaty.

Article 24: Requires States Parties to “adopt all necessary measures at the national level aimed at achieving the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Convention.”

Article 25: Declares that CEDAW will be open for signature, ratification and accession by all states.

Article 26: Allows for any State Party to request a revision of the Convention at any time and states that the General Assembly “shall decide upon the steps, if any, to be taken in respect of such a request.”

Article 27: Declares that the Convention will enter into force thirty days after the twentieth ratification has been deposited and for countries ratifying thereafter, it will be thirty days before the treaty enters into force.

Article 28: Establishes procedures for reservations made by countries at the time of ratification or accession.

Article 29: Allows for disputes between States Parties to be submitted to arbitration.

Article 30: Instructs the Convention to be deposited with the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Womens rights around the world

§§

Enlightenment is the birthright of every man, women, and child. It is equally attainable by all.

The human spirit is neither male nor female. As consciousness develops and matures men take on more feminine attributes, and women take on more masculine attributes. The human heart and disposition become more balanced.

When maya (illusion of our true nature) predominates in the awareness of people, societies are fashioned after ‘survival of the fittest” and “might makes right.” That is where we are today, and that is why societies are male dominated.

As human consciousness grows the heart is softened and everyone becomes held in the highest esteem. The fasted way to expand human awareness is through the practice of meditation. It is a royal path.

Close your eyes, begin your meditation practice, and bask in the light of eternal bliss – to promote equal rights for all.

meditation and spiritual growth

The universe changes second by second, whether we like it or not.  The forward march of time touches everyone and everything.  Galaxies are created, exist for a period of time, and then die.  Stars and planets come and go.  Some systems last only for a short time while others last for long stretches.     

Geologists tell us that our world, the Earth, has gone though many changes.  The Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago.  Although molten at first, the outer layers cooled to form a solid crust as water began accumulating in the atmosphere. Outgassing and volcanic activity originally produced a lethal (to life) toxic atmosphere.  Comets and other solar objects readily bombarded the earth. 

Primordial Earth

Some of the oldest rocks on the Earth are meteorites found in the Greenstone Belt, in the southern coast of Hudson Bay Canada, dating back 4.28 billion years (Sm-Nd dating method).  The Allende carbonaceous chondrite meteorite may be the oldest rock yet discovered in the solar system, dating back 4.567 billion years (Rb-Sr dating method).

History of the Earth: 4.5 billion years ago » formation of the Earth 3.8 billion years ago » first evidence of life 3.0 billion years ago » first land masses 2.0 billion years ago » first multicelled organisms 0. 5 billion years ago » first land plants; life diversified on land, fresh water and the air 0.4 billion years ago » most continents were clustered in the southern hemisphere 0.25 billion years ago » age of reptiles (dinosaurs)

0.0 » present day

Continental drift has been taking place for almost a billion years.  That’s because land masses sit on tectonic plates (80 – 400 km thick) that move around over the Earth’s lower mantle.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is where the Americas and Europe/Africa are currently moving apart.  Although it is at the slow rate of only 3 centimeters per year, and it takes about 34,000 years to push the continents apart by another kilometer, compounding that movement over millions of years causes continents to move around quite nicely.

Volcano

There have already been several rounds of super continents breaking apart, only to recombining again. That seems to be the current state of affairs.  The first super continent (Rodinia) formed about 750 million years ago.  After its brake up the continents drifted until they recombined again to form (Pannotia) about 580 million years ago.  Next was Pangaea, which broke apart about 180 million years ago; the continents are now halfway through the current cycle.  

Right now there are seven continents:   » Asia » Europe » Africa » North America » South America » Australia

» Antarctica

The Siberian basalt plateaus were formed by volcanic activity during the Permian Period, about 250 million years ago. They originally covered over 5 million square kilometers.  Due to erosion about half of that exists today.   

These eruptions were a contributing cause of the Great Permian Extinction Event.  More than 90% of all life forms were wiped out; organisms like trilobites, brachiopods, bryozoans, and many more.  The “survivors” evolved into the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era.      

The Caribbean Plate sea floor is a huge; 2 million square kilometer undersea plateau formed when a portion of the Pacific Plate passed over the actual Galapagos hot spot, some 100 Million years ago, thus separating North and South America from its former positions.  

The Cretaceous Tertiary extinction event, 65 million years ago, wiped out about 50% of all known species.  This may have been due to the impact of a large meteorite in the Caribbean Sea.

About 10 million years ago the Antarctic ice sheet began to develop.  Repeated cycles of glaciation occur every 40 – 100 thousand years.  The last ice age period ended about 10,000 years ago.  Recently preserved Columbian Mastodons were found in Colorado, dating back about 15,000 years to the last ice age.  The Great Lakes in North America were formed during this last event.                     

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Nation Park (USA) is termed a geological volcanic caldera; a cauldron-like volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption.  The last eruption occurred about 640,000 years ago.  An eruption before that occurred about 1.3 million years ago.  The largest eruption in that area occurred about 2.2 million years ago.  Ash coming from those eruptions has been found in sediments as far away as Nebraska, in meter thick strata full of mammal fossils which died of suffocation.

Iceland is the largest volcanic island in the world. Its volcanic activity comes from the conjunction of being on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and a “hot spot” about 200 km in diameter located just below its lithosphere (upper ridged mantle and Oceanic/Continental crust).  The Asthenosphere is part of the upper mantle and exhibits plastic properties.   

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Navigating the sea of change in human life can be a challenge.  The following verse from the Isha Upanishad relays advice on how best to do it:

Isha Upanishad 11, “Avidyaya mityu tirtva vidyaya amitam ashnute.”

Through Avidya (ignorance) you cross beyond mortality, beyond death, beyond change; through Vidya (knowledge) you taste immortality.

We are hereby reminded that while living in ignorance of our true eternal nature (Avidya), we can employ the same technique that cloaks us (action) to now make us free.  Skill in action involves turning the tables in our favor.         

If we don’t meditate action has a binding influence on us.  The objects of perception dominate the mind.  Our true nature is overshadowed and replaced by the object.  The Self is lost and only the material (object) remains. 

But through the practice of meditation our experience of inner silence grows, and action stabilizes that experience in the world and makes it more real.  From day to day, consciousness grows and inner silence integrates into our life.     

There are many forms of meditation, and the choice off which one to practice is often dependent upon many personal factors.  What led you to your particular practice?    

I categorize meditation practices based upon their technique, purpose and benefit:      

Concentration: » Body, breath, or heartbeat awareness » Chanting » Kundalini » Mind control » Purposeful focus » Kriya Yoga » Silent listening » Visualization

» others

Brain waves recorded during these practices (concentration and/or active cognitive thinking) are typically in the gamma frequency (20-50 Hz). 

Research indicates that concentration techniques may sharpen mental focusing.

Contemplation: » Centering » Contemplation on a particular topic » Loving kindness » Mindfulness, Vipassana and ZaZen » Nature’s connection to the earth » Prayer » Qi Gong » Stimulation of imagination » Tai Chi » Walking meditation

» others

Brain waves recorded during these “mindfulness” type practices give rise to frontal theta (4-8 Hz) frequencies.  These EEG patterns are commonly seen during memory tasks or reflection on mental concepts.

Mindfulness and non-judgmental practices develop greater personal stability, and even-mindedness in daily life.  Some studies point to a reduction in negative thoughts, and better pain management.     

Advanced Buddhist monks practicing “loving kindness and compassion” spontaneously exhibit those attributes and greater synchronous gamma activity in the left prefrontal cortex, signifying more powerful focus.

Transcendence: » Transcendental Meditation (TM)

» others

Brain waves recorded for this category’s practice is frontal alpha coherence associated with a distinct state of relaxed, inner wakefulness.

Studies show that the deep rest settles the sympathetic nervous system and restores physiological balance.  Lower high blood pressure, less chronic anxiety, and reducing stress hormones such as cortisol have been observed.

Always seek a qualified meditation teacher and practice under his/her guidance.  There is no substitute for personal instruction.   

Our subjective nature (level of consciousness) passes beyond the reach of change when Enlightenment dawns.  Our objective nature (body) remains under the influence of change (we age) so long as our current human condition exits.   

Antimatter

Scientists continue to unravel the mystery of space/time/change.

Recently, an international group of scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) were able to “trap” or hold anti particles for the very first time.   This breakthrough is very significant.  The physicists “held” thirty eight anti-hydrogen atoms for a short period of time.   The current creation theory, starting with a “Big Bang” 13.7 billion years ago, also postulates that an equal amount of matter (has mass and takes up space) and anti-mater was created at that time.  However, anti-mater is now nowhere to be found.  If it did exist, a first encounter with a matter particle would cause it to be annihilated in a burst of energy.  This discovery will allow scientists to hold and study ant-particles for periods of time.  This will lead to our better understanding of anti-particles and the structure/history of the universe.  

Anti-hydrogen » is composed of a negatively charged anti-proton and a positively charged positron.

§§

Positive thinking can serve as a wonderful adjunct to our meditation practice.  This often helps to culture and sensitize the human heart.   

The Zen Loving Kindness affirmation is best repeated softly, out-loud to yourself, in a quiet and settled environment.  Take your time during the practice.     

Recite the following lines softly … 

May I be free from suffering May I be happy May I be healthy

May I be at peace

For the second round, substitute “I” for the name of a Loved One.  For example, if you love Peter, you would say … 

May Peter be free from suffering May Peter be happy May Peter be healthy

May Peter be at peace

There are three more rounds.  Substitute “I” for the name of an Acquaintance, then for the name of a Difficult Person in your life, and then with “All Sentient Beings.”

So there are five rounds, preceding from self “I” to “All Sentient Beings.”

1 – Self 2 – Loved One 3 – Acquaintance 4 – Difficult Person

5 – All Sentient Beings

§§

Part of keeping the winds of change (the environments wearing down effect) at bay involves eating proper and healthy foods.  Developing an appreciation for this gift is life supporting. 

Zen Reflections before eating:

This food is a gift of the whole universe; the earth, the sky and much mindful work. May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy of it. May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat in moderation May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.

May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

§§

Meditate every day to rise above the influence of change, though the establishment of bliss eternal cosmic consciousness.  Enjoy all that life has to offer.    

Namaste

meditation and spiritual growth

The beautify country of Nepal is nestled in the Himalaya Mountains. Geographically, it is located in South Asia between the People’s Republic of China and India. Within its borders one can find eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mt. Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) the highest point on the earth. Accentuating the fabulous sky line are more than 240 mountains that are each in excess of 20,000 feet in height.

Nepal is considered to be the birthplace of Buddha.

The population respects and practices both Hinduism and Buddhism. Himalayan Buddhism, Buddhism of the Kathmandu Valley (mostly Mahayana and Vajrayana), and also Theravada Buddhism are practiced there.

This past summer (2010) while in India for a physics conference, Seamus Riley took advantage of the opportunity to backpack in Nepal. Through his generosity we have the privilege of posting these wonderful pictures that were taken on that trip. We hope that you enjoy these spectacular sights.

Bhaktapur 1

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Bhaktapur 3

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Bhaktapur 6

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Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu_01

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Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu_02

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Chorten located on hill above Kianjun Gompa

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Gosainkund, lake at 4600m and holy Hindi pilgrimage site_01

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Gosainkund, lake at 4600m and holy Hindi pilgrimage site_02

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Langtang Region 1

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Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu 1

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Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu 2

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Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu 3

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Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu 4

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Summit of Tserko Ri (5000m)

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu 2

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu 3

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu 4

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu 5

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Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu 6

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View from the Summit of Tserko Ri (5000m)_01

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View from the Summit of Tserko Ri (5000m)_02

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View from window of Kianjun Gompa (the monastery itself)

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Water powered prayer wheels in Langtang Region

These beautiful vistas are manifestations of the absolute timeless value of life (Brahman). Locate and develop that silent presence through meditation. Share it with the world.

meditation and spiritual growth

Every newborn welcomed into the human family holds the promise of a full and joyful life.

As we make our way from childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and retirement, every culture celebrates personal and community milestones.

What does it take to become a man in Papua New Guinea? How is coming of age marked in the Australian Outback, or in the Christian Church? Why pierce the skin in ceremony, have a Sweet Sixteen Party, or stand before your elders and read from the Jewish Torah?

Rite of passage is celebration of life events that mark a turning point. They are each based around three central themes:

Separation – an individual is no longer identified by their prior life status.

Transition – during this period an individual undergoes tests and challenges to prove that they are indeed worthy of the newer upcoming status.

Re-incorporation – having passed the necessary trials and proved their worth in the eyes of the community, the individual is reintroduced to the society with new honors and status.

As we recognize stages of human growth and development, we should also recognize attainment of spiritual milestones.

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Celebration of birth

Mother and child

Every culture since time immemorial welcomes the newborn into society …

For Native Americans, the celebration of a child’s birth starts while the mother-to-be is pregnant. At the time of first moon, the clan’s grandmother prays for the successful entry of the new member. The Mother goes into the woods and collects special herbs for their spiritual leader to use in ceremony. Female relatives and the clan Grandmother assist in the birth. Only rarely are fathers allowed to attend. Thirteen days after birth the Spiritual leader introduces the new child to the tribe.

In India, Hindu ceremonies are performed during pregnancy, to facilitate and promote good health for mother and child. Among the religious orthodoxy, at the time of birth and before the umbilical cord is severed, the father will place a golden spoon or ring dipped in honey, on the babies lips. The word vak (speech) is whispered three times into the child’s right ear, and special mantras for long life are recited.

The Okuyi transit of childhood is celebrated by many Bantu ethnic groups living in Western Africa. When an infant reaches four months of age, or when a child becomes an adolescent. Mother and child are placed in the center of a group surrounded by singing and dancing Okuyi performers. Dressed in costumes resembling the spirit of past clan ancestors, the performers recount the tale of a panther taking the baby. Pointing a spear toward the child, blessings are bestowed. The Okuyi then continues the dance around mother and child.

Most Christian denominations practice Baptism. Parents present their newborn child to the community and priest. This usually takes place during the main Sunday morning service. Parents publically proclaim on behalf of their child that they believe in God and that they will bring the child up to follow Jesus.

The ceremony culminates with the child being sprinkled (poured or immersed) in water. This signifies purity, cleansing from sin, and devotion to God.

The priest will recite, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (according to Matthew 28:19).

From a spiritual standpoint, the anointing with oil on the child’s forehead – is meant to open the brow chakra to religious visions, clairvoyance, observation of auras, and precognition.

In Judaism, a newborn baby boy is presented to the community during the circumcision ceremony, called a “bris.” The Bris Milah usually completes this in about 30-seconds. The event also signifies the child’s entry into the covenant with Abraham.

Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some, or all, of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis. This practice is not restricted to any particular religion or culture. About 1/6 to 1/3 of all males worldwide are circumcised. Depictions of circumcision have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs.

According to the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota, USA), circumcision may have positive health benefits, which include:

• Easier hygiene • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections • Prevention of penile problems • Decreased risk of penile cancer

• Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections

In Islam, young women often undergo female circumcision.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes this as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

The Islamic Hadith text indicates that circumcision is better for a woman’s health and it enhances her conjugal relation with her husband, the Prophet’s saying “do not exceed the limit” means do not totally remove the clitoris.”

According to Wikipedia …

“The procedures known as Female genital mutilation (FGM) were referred to as female circumcision until the early 1980s, when the term “female genital mutilation” came into use. The term was adopted at the third conference of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in 1991 the WHO recommended its use to the United Nations. It has since become the dominant term within the international community and in medical literature.

FGM is typically carried out on girls from a few days old to puberty. It may take place in a hospital, but is usually performed, without anesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor, or scissors. According to the WHO, it is practiced in 28 countries in western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, in parts of the Middle East, and within some immigrant communities in Europe, North America, and Australasia. The WHO estimates that 100–140 million women and girls around the world have experienced the procedure, including 92 million in Africa”

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation)

Depending on the degree of mutilation, FGM can have a number of short-term health implications:

• severe pain and shock • infection • urine retention • injury to adjacent tissues

• immediate fatal hemorrhaging

Long-term implications can entail:

• extensive damage of the external reproductive system • uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections • cysts and neuromas • increased risk of Vesico Vaginal Fistula • complications in pregnancy and child birth • psychological damage • sexual dysfunction

• difficulties in menstruation

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Entry in to Manhood

The Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania prepare their young men by having them participate in the ritual Maasai Lion Hunt. Participants deliberately seek out the more robust, mature, aggressive, and active lions for pursuit. Armed only with the tribes traditional spear, the young men come face to face with this “king of beasts” to prove their fearlessness. Some never make it back home, but the overwhelming majority do.

The young men are eager to become recognized warriors. Once the Hunt is completed they can take their place in society as men, and actively participate in the security and protection of their tribe’s territory.

The Thread Ceremony (Upanayana) is widely practiced in India by members of orthodox Hindu religious groups. For young boys between the ages of six and twelve this observance is used to highlight the transition to awareness and adult religious responsibilities.

Upanayana

When young Burmese boys approach the age of ten, some participate in the Poy Sang Long Buddhist ceremony. Dressed up like the Buddha, they spend three days ridding around on the shoulder of grown men, imitating the Buddha’s walk toward enlightenment. Those that wish to become monks are then ordained, while the other boys return home.

In Judaism coming of age for a 13-year old boy means having your Bar Mitzvah. After reading from the Torah at a Saturday morning service and completing various requirements, they are now considered to be an adult.

Going forward the Bar Mitzvah candidate now bears their own responsibility for Jewish ritual, law, tradition, and ethics, and is able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life.

The evening is usually followed up with celebration and festivities.

From the mid 16th century all the way to the twentieth, young boys in the Western World wore gowns or dresses until the age of eight. A gown was more convenient for potty training and for covering up a fast growing child, especially when clothes were expensive. Then, in celebration, they are given their first pair of pants (breeches). After “breeching” a young boy’s father becomes more actively involved in their upbringing.

The tribe elders pierce the young man’s chest, shoulders, and back muscles with wooden splints. He is then hoisted up into the air. Additional splints are then inserted into his arms and legs. The skulls of his dead grandfather and other ancestors are then placed on the ends of the splints. Because of the skin stabbings, there is some bleeding. All the while the boy is in agony, almost delirious, but yet he is determined to bear the pain in silence. After all, this is his test of manhood as a member of the Mandan Tribe.

Teenage boys often participate in the First Holy Communion ceremony. The word “communion” is derived from the Latin “communion,” and is often interpret to mean fellowship. By taking part in this, their first Holy Eucharist Sacrament (symbolic of Christ’s last supper), they are recognized as adults, and full members of the Christian community.

Young boys of the Native American Cherokee Tribe are blind folded and led into the forest by their fathers. After finding a suitable spot, the boys sit and are left to endure the night without ever removing the blind fold. They are to remain quiet and composed. When the morning sun rises and its first rays strike the boys, they can remove the blind fold and return home as men.

Other Native American rites of passage include confronting various wild animals, hunting and fishing, cultivating combat skills to become a warrior, honoring the Earth and the Great Spirit, and a host of other ceremonies.

Participation in a Vision Quest often serves as a stepping stone toward manhood. It’s a time for wilderness solitude and personal reflection. Contact with animal spirits raises the young man’s awareness to the interconnectedness of all life.

In Australia the Aboriginal tribes send their adolescent boys out on a Walkabout. This is a test to see if they have the survival skills necessary to live on their own in the outback (desert, marsh, mountains, etc.), for a period of up to 6-months.

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Entry into Womanhood

Shanghai International Debutante Ball

The Débutante Ball has long been the celebration of a young ladies entry into formal society. Although started as a French tradition by aristocratic and upper class families, this gala event is now celebrated all over the world.

Debutante (from the French débutante, “female beginner”).

On December 28, 2012, the International Débutante Ball will be held at the New York City , Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Sweet Sixteen is a coming of age party celebrating a girl’s sixteenth birthday, primarily in the United States and Canada.

In the Jewish Tradition a 12 year old girl will have a Bat Mitzvah. It is similar to the Bar Mitzvah as practiced by young men. It denotes that the young girl is now a woman, and as such gladly takes on the responsibilities of her Jewish Heritage.

Bat Mitzvah

It’s interesting to note that the Bat Mitzvah is a relatively new phenomenon. Traditional and Orthodox Judaism still does not recognize the participation of women in religious services. But the more liberal Reformed and Conservative branches do. Those communities started to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is growing steadily as more and more communities have accepted the practice.

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Adolescence

Members of the Unitarian Universalism congregations celebrate Coming of Age (COA). This is for both boys and girls.

Coming of Age

Starting around 12 years old, the congregation’s youth pair up with a mentor, and attend special COA program classes.

They prepare a “faith statement,” which signifies what they believe in and the type of civic and spiritual life they would like to lead. They learn about other world religions, and what their Church’s covenant of faith affirms:

• The inherent worth and dignity of every person • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

• Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

When the class is complete the COA participants are presented at a Sunday morning service. They each read their “faith statement,” and the Unitarian Universalism congregation members pledge to stand with them, side by side, in loving support, for their journey into Adulthood.

Many Christian denominations offer the sacrament of Confirmation to their 13-14 year old, boys and girls. Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments that commemorate the life of Christians. At this service the Gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed.

In the American Amish heartland of Pennsylvania the young folk at about age 16 enter into Rumspringa. They then have a choice before themselves; to either choose baptism within the Amish church, or instead leave the community. They have a period of time with which to make that decision.

Come what may, the vast majority choose baptism and remain in the church.

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Adulthood

In Ancient Greece the term “dokimasia” referred to the process whereby young citizens gain the skills necessary to partake in public rights and duties.

Other milestones that signify entry into adulthood are:

• High School Graduation • The first drivers license • First legal drinking age • Gaining the right to vote

• College Fraternity Pledging

In Burma members of the Theravada Buddhism tradition may send their son’s onto the Shinbyu celebration. This gives them a chance to more closely study the teachings of the Buddha, and to follow their Dharma path. If it is right for them they can choose upasampada ordination into the rank of monk.

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Other milestones that all cultures celebrate are:

Marriage Motherhood

Fatherhood

At our 40th birthday we can say, “I am a free and willing, independent, self responsible human being.”

At our 80th birthday we can say “I have achieved my goals and aspirations. The present is rich, and life is beautiful.”

… and

Death, a transition to another path.

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Your Spiritual Life

Meditation

The first time that you ask the question, “Who am I, what is world all about, how did I get here, and what is my purpose in life,” you have taken the first steps on the Spiritual path.

When you recognize and take note of the beauty, delicacy, strength, and wonder of life, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you stand in awe under the starry night sky and feel amazement, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you hold your newborn child and feel your heart overflowing with joy and love, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you help your neighbor bring in their groceries, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you strive to do your best on the upcoming school exam, and in whatever you do, you are on the Spiritual path

When you read a book and your mind entertains new ideas and possibilities, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you wash your clothes but it’s done with purpose and joy, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you say a prayer before eating, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you treat every day of your life as if the last, and enjoy that day as a bonus, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you care for all men, women and children, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you sit in silence, you are on the Spiritual path.

When you close your eyes to meditate, you are on the Spiritual path.

… and a million and one other ways, you are on the Spiritual path.

Our spiritual journey consists of all that we do, as movement away from identification with our individual body, mind and ego – toward expansion of universal absolute awareness and bliss.

The realization that “I am not body,” “I am not mind,” “I am eternal unbounded Being,” completes the circle of life.

When you start meditation some traditions offer an “initiation” ceremony, while others do not. Your first meditation is a rite of passage.

When you sit in Sat sang with other like minded spiritual people, that is a milestone.

When you take Shaktipat with a spiritual teacher, that is a milestone.

When you rise above the binding influence of culture and religion, that is a milestone.

When your mind transcends in meditation to finer levels of thought, that is a milestone.

When your mind is silent and bliss consciousness dawns, that is the milestone of milestones, your grand rite of passage.