The Spiritual Traditions permeating the Eastern World

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The Unobstructed Secret of the Golden Flower

Super translator and scholar Thomas Cleary points out that Wilhelm studied The Secret of the Golden Flower with one Chinese teacher only, and had no access to the numerous excellent commentaries on The Secret of the Golden Flower in the Chinese tradition. While he was able to convey many of the important ideas in the work, and though he wished to keep his Christianity out of his translation, the spiritual viewpoint he had lived with all his life inevitably caused confusion that obscured some of the more important aspects of The Secret of the Golden Flower. Because Jung was influenced by this Chinese alchemical classic his own theories suffered from the loss of the more sophisticated perspective Cleary reveals.

Two examples. Wilhelm’s translation gives the impression that the practice requires quiet, stillness and solitude. While that is part of the practice, Cleary’s translation emphasizes that the practice was to be firmly grounded in activities. Not only must one be able to turn the light around while engaged in living, but also one’s life should include useful work, not mere contemplation. The uninterrupted meditation of the higher soul is to be achieved while being a productive member of the community. To disappear into isolated exploration of consciousness is as dangerous as forgetting oneself completely in the heat of irrational desires.

Wilhelm also suffered from the common misunderstanding of emptiness. The consciousness of emptiness is not without contents, just as the clear mind is not without thoughts. While in higher meditation the world can blissfully melt away into light, that light is full, not empty. A better translation might be sky-like. The consciousness of the higher soul is like sky. Non-attachment flows from this. Without a bruisable ego to get in the way a mind like sky can avoid a lot of trouble. This mind like sky is the goal of martial arts masters who say that when a fighter achieves this you do not fight against him, but against the flow of the entire world.


You must learn to endure fleeting things: They come and go!"
-Bhagavad-gita 2:14

"An ignorant man is lost, faithless, and filled with self-doubt; A soul that harbors doubt has no joy, not in this world or the next."
-Bhagavad-gita 4:40

"We do not know which weight is worse to bear: Our conquering them or their conquering us."
-Bhagavad-gita 2:6


From Valente's Grass Cutting Sword, describing the banishment of Susanoo by his sister Amaterasu:

"I forgave her, even as she burned against my fog-limbs, even as her ribcage irradiated me with its feathered fire, even as the salt-sea was dried from my mouth by her banishing blow.

After all, we are family, she and I.

Of course I thought of none of this then. Then, there was only the air and the light, and the fall through tiers of stars and ether, the light of her golden heels receding above me, and the earth below, green and checkered with watery rice-fields, their squares made radiant by the reflection of my descent."


"Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness."
-Buddhist Heart Sutra


Once upon a time, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting about happily enjoying himself. He did not know that he was Zhou. Suddenly he awoke, and was palpably Zhou. He did not know whether he was Zhou, who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhou. Now, there must be a difference between Zhou and the butterfly. This is called the transformation of things.


“Do you want to know my secret? I don’t mind what happens”.


"The fully evolved soul will be one with all beings in the status and dynamic effects of experience of a bliss-consciousness intense and illimitable. And since love is the effective power and soul-symbol of bliss-oneness he will approach and enter into this oneness by the gate of universal love, a sublimation of human love at first, a divine love afterwards, at its summits a thing of beauty, sweetness and splendour now to us inconceivable."
-Sri Aurobindo


A quantity divided by zero becomes a fraction the denominator of which is zero. This fraction is termed an infinite quantity. In this quantity consisting of that which has zero for its divisor, there is no alteration, though many may be inserted or extracted; as no change takes place in the infinite and immutable God when worlds are created or destroyed, though numerous orders of beings are absorbed or put forth.’


"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders"
-Lao Tzu


“Consciousness wrongly and foolishly imagines that it has no substantiality inside – that substantiality is only in the object outside...It wants to import the being of the object into itself .. which is a mix-up of perceptional experience...and the...character of the object upon consciousness. We are left hanging in the middle– with a part of objectivity and a part of subjectivity in us..."
-Swami Krishnananda


'In itself [the tree] is nothing, it only becomes something through the shaping, selecting, presenting consciousness. And since the kinds of possibilities of consciousness are infinite, we can go a step further and say the [tree] is the sum of all possible ways of perceiving it.'
-Lama Govinda, Buddhist Reflections


O ye of true strength, make this thing manifest by your greatness -
Strike the demon with your thunderbolt.
Conceal the horrid darkness, drive far from us each devouring fiend.
Create the light for which we long.
-The Rig Veda


“If the Vedic people had been asked why they did not build cities, they could have replied: we did not seek power, but rapture.”

-Calasso, Ardor


'This perhaps was the mystery of Kaliyuga, the obscure age much favored by women and those without caste, who, in the general confusion, might seize a chance for liberation otherwise denied to them.

In the flagrancy of contradiction, there was no longer any cult that could act as axis and lodestone, only bhakti, the heart's devotion, that addresses itself to anything, is ready for anything, a perennial emotion whose first messengers were Krsna's gopis, wandering around alone with their herds.'
-Roberto Calasso, Ka


On this Earth do I stand,
Unvanquished, unslain, unhurt.
Set me, O Earth, amidst the nourishing strength
That emanates from thy body.
The Earth is my mother,
her child am I!
-the Atharva Veda


“Truth can not be suppressed and always is the ultimate victor."
-the Yajur Veda


"Now you will see me as I am become Death, Destroyer of worlds.
I am vengeful time!
All around you in battle are your enemies
But their deaths are not yours but mine!
So arise my champion, without remorse..
Bravely, even joyously defeat your foes,
for you are the most amazing archer,
but truly 'tis I who guide your arrows!"
Bhagavad-gita 11:32 and 33


Interesting animation in the works, based on a Hindu hymn:


Hanuman bell sculpture:



--Yajnavalkaya said:

"I know that for many of you the real torment is that you must abandon your dear bodies. You imagine, not unreasonably, that the happiness of a disembodied spirit has something dreary about it. But that is not the case. After death, you will find yourself wandering through a haze, shouting without being heard, but all at once it will be you who hear. You will become aware that someone is following you, like an animal in the forest, only now in the darkness of the heavens. The person following you is your oblation, the being composed of the offering you made in your life. In a whisper, he will say to you: 'Come here, come here, it is I, your Self.' And in the end you will follow him."
--quoted by R. Calasso, in Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India
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The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings of the Noble Nagarjuna – Review

Reality is not what you think
Everything that appears to exist arises due to various causes and conditions, but these causes also depend upon other causes, and so on. For example, consider a seed and a plant – which came first? To grow the plant you need the seed, but the seed comes from the plant. Also the seed won’t grow without soil, water, and favourable conditions. Does the seed cause the plant? Does the plant cause the seed? A seed can’t pop into existence on its own without cause, and neither can a plant.

To inherently exist a form would have to arise spontaneously from nothing without cause. You can see from this that a cause can’t exist before its result. And the result can’t exist before its cause. Cause and result can’t exist simultaneously. Therefore any form that arises due to causes and conditions, does not inherently exist. Its appearance is empty. This applies to everything that arises, including your feelings, thoughts, and consciousness. It’s instructive to look at opposites too, such as light and dark, clean and dirty, happiness and suffering. Which comes first? Can light exist without dark? What does up mean without down?

If something actually existed it would have to exist on its own, objectively and without depending on anything else. It would have its own inherent nature. Since everything does depend on something else in order to exist, or appear, things don’t have any inherent nature or existence. They are empty of true existence. So no thing can be said to truly exist.

Sometimes people get confused at this point, and think that reality is nothingness, but this isn’t what emptiness means. Reality appears to exist, but things only appear in relationship to everything else. Emptiness is no-thingness. Those who can see the true nature of reality don’t think that things are real, but they don’t think that there is nothing either. They understand the union of appearance and emptiness. Everything is free to arise due to the coming together of causes and conditions. If things did exist and had their own inherent existence, nothing would be possible because things wouldn’t be able to arise.
Interesting to compare this notion of "no-thingness" with the structural realism espoused by Ladyman & Ross in Every Thing Must Go. (The explanation is by Massimo, who isn't an structural realist anymore though that explanation was IMO a clear one)


Friend of mine pointed to this article:

Digging into the archaeology of the mind

When Plato was setting the foundations for mind-body dualism in the West, ancient Chinese thinkers such as Confucius, Lao-Tzu[1] and Chuang-tzu were offering very different viewpoints on the nature of the cosmos. These masters were the mouthpieces for ancient traditions that had grown up over thousands of years, completely cut off from the other thought traditions of Western Eurasia. Chinese scholar Chad Hansen describes how “early Chinese and Greco-Indian philosophical traditions materialized on opposite divides of a great physical barrier – the Himalaya mountains and Xinjiang barrens.”[2] This physical barrier led to a philosophical chasm: “early Chinese philosophers show startlingly little interest in the familiar staples of early Western thought” such as dualism of body and soul.
Until the last few hundred years, China’s culture and civilization were more advanced than anything the West had achieved. But something even more remarkable in Chinese culture is that it represents an unbroken tradition from our prehistoric indigenous roots. We see in classical Chinese culture a sophisticated and complex cosmology, but one which evolved along a continuum from early shamanistic conceptions of the world. In the West, by contrast, the confluence of ideas generated in Proto-Indo-European, Mesopotamian and Egyptian thought traditions led to the revolution in thinking that occurred in classic Greek culture: the ascendancy to power by the pfc in the form of dualism.

Classical Chinese and Western thought are built on different foundations. The Chinese foundation connects all the way down to pre-agricultural shamanistic roots. The Western foundation was reset in a new Platonic concrete over 2,000 years ago, providing a solid base for monotheistic and scientific thought, but creating a separation between our conceptual and animate consciousness, and between humans and the natural world.
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Studies in Buddhadharma: On Hylic Pluralism

"This verily, is the person consisting of the essence of food. Verily, other than and within the one consisting of the essence of food, is the Self consisting of breath. Verily, other than & within the one consisting of breath, is the Self consisting of mind. Verily, other than & within the one consisting of breath, is the Self consisting of understanding. Verily, other than & within the one consisting of breath, is the Self consisting of bliss."
Taittirîya Upaniśad, 2.2,3,4 & 5.

"By the Dharmakâya and all the visible kâyas, the Sun of omniscience rises in the sky, which is the very heart of enlightenment, to shed light beams of wisdom on beings."
Arye Maitreya : Uttaratantra Śastra, chapter 4.
Hylic Pluralism in Hindu thought

The term "hylic pluralism" was coined by J.J.Poortman in his Vehicles of Consciousness (1978). In these magisterial five volumes, he traced its presence in Ancient Egypt, Hermetism, the Greek Mysteries, Ancient Assyria & Babylonia, Ancient Persia, Vedic India, China, etc. In the Western Tradition, based on the theoretical framework of the Qabalah, hylic pluralism engenders correspondences between the various elements functioning on these planes, as elucidated elsewhere.

Hylic pluralism can be understood from the side of the object or from the side of the subject.

As a cosmological thesis, various levels, planes or strata of the world-system are considered. Each plane features a particular kind of rarefied matter. In general, the world-system is divided up in seven planes. The physical plane contains nominal, ordinary matter and a more subtle physical stuff, called "etherical" and related to "prâna" (vital energy, "winds" or "ch'i").
The Two Truths point to the distinction between mundane & supramundane. The latter is "entered" as soon as all afflictive emotions and mental obscurations (the two kinds of obstructions) have been completely eliminated from the continuum of the mind. Stopping afflictions leads to liberation, while ending self-grasping results in awakening or Buddhahood. In Shentong, or other-emptiness, the natural state of the mind is already enlightened. So according to this view,Buddha-nature ("tathâgatagarbha") needs not to be retrieved or gained. It is not lost. Ripping off dirty coverings is all what is to be done. In Dzogchen, this Buddha-nature is the natural state of the mind, and this from the very beginning inseparable from the ultimate truth, the emptiness or non-substantial, process-like nature of all things samsaric & nirvanic. These views, born out of valid meditative experiences, have been thoroughly criticized by Critical Mâdhyamikaslike Tsongkhapa.

One should not conceive of the supramundane (emptiness) as another "realm" or "world". It is beyond all possible positive designation. This is the emptiness of emptiness, the fact every emptiness (namely the emptiness or ultimate nature of every object) is also without "self" or substantial features of its own. It transcends affirmation and denial and cannot be grasped at or posited by the consciousness of a sentient being. Trapped in cyclic existence, beings may consider "nirvâna" as another reality "out there" or "in here" or "yesterday" or "tomorrow". But this is erroneous. Ultimate truth is not "beyond" the physical world, like a Platonic world of archetypal perfections or numerous Peripathetic "forms" hidden away in matter.
The Sûtras describe 31 distinct "planes" or "realms" of cyclic existence into which sentient beings can be reborn during their long wanderings through "samsâra". These range from hell all the way up to the blissful heaven worlds. In all these realms, existence is impermanent and unsatisfactory. There is no eternal hell or eternal heaven. Beings are born in these worlds as the result of the law of "karma" or "action", and they cease to exist there when their "karma" is exhausted, i.e. when the conditions causing their presence are gone. Then, as long as they do not realize all these phenomena do not exist from their own side, they continue to migrate "up and down" and do not irreversibly escape suffering.

These 31 planes are divided in the 11 planes of the Desire Realm ("kâma-loka"), the 16 planes of the Form Realm ("rûpa-loka") and the 4 planes of the Formless Realm ("arûpa-loka").

It is unmistaken these planes refer to the hylic pluralist notion of various levels of cyclic existence. In Buddhism, the ultimate nature of all these is the same, namely emptiness or absence of substantiality, process-like. The difference between a celestial deity of the highest heaven and a hell being of the lowest hell is therefore not ontological, but cognitive, i.e. related to the state of mind of the sentient being in question.
The element of "speech", clearly distinguished from "mind", cannot be properly understood without hylic pluralism, for Tantra explains how out of speech/wind springs the "illusionary body", the Body of Enjoyment of a Buddha. Moreover, there are obvious correspondences between cosmological (macrocosmic) & psychological (microcosmic) levels.

Tantra seeks to transform the body, speech & mind of an ordinary human being into the enlightened mind ("Dharmakâya"), the enlightened speech ("Sambhogakâya") and the enlightened body ("Nirmânakâya") of a Buddha, performing enlightened actions. The very subtle wind (acting as the mount for the very subtle mind) residing in the central channel in the "indestructible drop" at the centre of the sixfold knot at the heart-wheel, is the effective cause of the Enjoyment Body. This wind is called the "continuously residing body" and the very subtle mind the "continuously residing mind". Both are continuous life after life. Both are impermanent (for not inherently existent), but immortal (for a continuous, unending well-ordered dynamism or kinetography). They have never separated and will never separate. Their power to communicate is the very subtle speech.

Without the Enjoyment Body, the Form Body cannot be constituted. Without the Form Body there would be no manifestations of the Enlightened Ones in the world-systems. To free ourselves from suffering permanently, Tantra changes the basis of imputation from contaminated heaps to uncontaminated Buddha-bodies.


The Twilight Language of Yoga

"Kit Krash is a multilingual poet who grew up learning English, Tamil and Sanskrit and studied the stories of his ancestors and gurus. He is currently working on "The Book of the Forest; the Twilight language of the Yogis."

The Ancient Tamil Siddhars of India are uncannily similar to the Jedi of Star Wars. They are more practitioners of a process rather than followers of a codified religion, as they can be Hindus, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Taoist or Sufi on the outside. A Siddhar is one who is accomplished through awareness, a designation to those who have reached higher states of psychic and yogic capabilities, as well as worldly wisdom. Many of them, rather than being ascetics, secretly roam among us, developing their capabilities for the good of humanity. Whatever can be said about them generally, you will also find the opposite to be true as well. They practice finding truth by proclaiming “Neti Neti”: not this, not that
Trying to explain something in words changes the actual phenomenon because the mental models that create our language are limited to our empirical experience. For example, any explanation of an LSD experience is already not what it was. In the same way, a mystical experience can never be described via the limitations of language. It can only be described by what we already know and perceive by our senses and memory of our current reality. To the Siddhars, goals of Moksha, Samskara, Nirvana, etc. actually hinder our understanding, as what is described is no longer what it is. To take things literally would be to mistake the map for the territory. This is what makes the poetry and fables especially interesting. The use of personified animals, numbers, nonsensical combinations, shapes, characters, vehicles and trails have alternative meanings, or are used as mnemonics for a mostly oral tradition of knowledge. The library is the forest itself.
The forest is a metaphor for the library of thoughts and ideas that inhabit conscious beings. It is holding the Akashik record of all possibilities in mind-stuff that inhabit the nervous system of living beings. In this record are theVasanas, or the patterns of behavior based on the vibrations of mind-stuff that set those behaviors in motion. We take on these behaviours out of habit and repetition. Many of these patterns come from our animal selves that are governed by the first three chakras of survival and reproduction. Animals in the ancient stories are used to make us aware of these patterns in ourselves and the people around us.
The writer of these verses can be considered the Obi Wan Kenobi of the Tamil Siddhars. His name is Thirumoolar and the episode of his origin is interesting twilight story in itself. We will look into in the next installment.


Thanks to the guy who mentioned this quote + site to me:

Far Away In The Heavenly Abode Of The Great God Indra, There Is A Wonderful Net Which Has Been Hung By Some Cunning Artificer In Such A Manner That It Stretches Out Indefinitely In All Directions. In Accordance With The Extravagant Tastes Of Deities, The Artificer Has Hung A Single Glittering Jewel At The Net's Every Node, And Since The Net Itself Is Infinite In Dimension, The Jewels Are Infinite In Number. There Hang The Jewels, Glittering Like Stars Of The First Magnitude, A Wonderful Sight To Behold. If We Now Arbitrarily Select One Of These Jewels For Inspection And Look Closely At It, We Will Discover That In Its Polished Surface There Are Reflected All The Other Jewels In The Net, Infinite In Number. Not Only That, But Each Of The Jewels Reflected In This One Jewel Is Also Reflecting All The Other Jewels, So That The Process Of Reflection Is Infinite

The Avatamsaka Sutra
Francis H. Cook: Hua-yen Buddhism : The Jewel Net Of Indra 1977
Also site connecting this idea to some stuff in science here.
Seeing everything around us as mantra (and hearing all sounds as mantra) is an ancient tantric tradition - both in india and tibet. my understanding is that the symbols posted here, however inspiring they appear in themselves, are ultimately meant to lead us to that direct perception.


Vietnam: Encounters with the Spirit World

In Vietnam, mediumship has been turned into an art form. Far from the table tipping and communication with deceased loved ones in the West, Vietnamese mediumship more resembles divinely inspired performance art. These spirit possession rituals are known asLên đồng.With an array of beautiful glittering costumes, heavenly music, and dancing, watching a mediumship ritual in Vietnam is akin to visiting Broadway. However, mediumship in Vietnam is not completely uniform.

There are two basic camps of mediums – those affiliated with St Tran Hung Dao and those associated with the goddesses, princesses, princes, and mandarins of the Four Palaces. The latter mediums are associated with elaborate performance rituals. The former don’t often give elaborate performances, but play a key role in protecting people via the power of St Tran.

Four Palace mediums accept the existence of four realms: Heaven, Mountains and Forest, Waters, and Earth. Each realm is presided over by a goddess, the highest being Liễu Hạnh, who is the goddess of Heaven. Under each of these goddesses there lies a pantheon of warrior heroes (called Great Mandarins), Holy Ladies who are the royal representatives of the mother goddesses, and stately Princes and Princesses. A mythology associated with each of the spirits grants them their defining characteristics. Mediums of the Four Palaces may actively incarnate each spirit in the pantheon except for the mother goddesses at the top of the hierarchy. They are said to make only brief appearances with no accompanying performance or speech.

Mediums believe the more they spend, the more the spirits will appreciate and help them further to succeed in life. As one medium told Phuong, “Many people who calculate carefully are quite willing to spend money to serve spirits because after they perform the rituals their business becomes more successful and they gain more money than they spend.” Phuong says he is struck by the wealth of some master mediums and their disciples. He is awed by the opulent shrines some master mediums own, with dozens of gold-inlaid statues. He describes leaving one Lên đồng ceremony with his bag of blessed gifts containing “not only a ‘green rice’ cake and some apples, but also a note worth one-fifth of my monthly salary as a researcher.”20

Not only do the spirits of the Four Palaces provide material success, they also help mediums feel more at ease and confident in their daily lives. One medium explains: “Firstly, when I serve the spirits, I am very happy, I like it. Secondly, when I return home after a Lên đồng, living is easier and more prosperous, and the children study well.”21 Many mediums speak this way and say their mind is at ease after performing a spirit ritual. They “have something to trust in” and “don’t have to worry anymore.” They feel confident in their activities, knowing the spirits will look out for them.

nterpreting personality via a spirit affinity can give license to all sorts of behaviours. One medium, Rose, traces not only her hot-temperedness back to the influence of the Prince spirits, but also her love of gambling, smoking cigarettes, and having love affairs. Furthermore, she traces her unforgiving nature to the spirit root of the Third Princess who, legend has it, never forgives. Finally, she says she has a very sharp tongue and will not concede an argument because of her affinity with the Little Princess.24 We see here that mediums can claim karmic ties to multiple spirits of the pantheon, and by doing so almost any behaviour can be justified. Even drug addiction could be said to be due to the influence of the Seventh Prince, who was addicted to opium in his earthly incarnation.
The other main form of mediumship in Vietnam is the mediumship of Tran Hung Dao and his family. Tran Hung Dao is a national hero in Vietnam who is best known for defeating the Mongol-Chinese army in the thirteenth century.26 As commander-in-chief of the Vietnamese military at the time, his multiple victories over the much larger Mongol-Chinese army are seen as being due to his “sound and creative military tactics.”27 Held by many as an exalted warrior, his spirit is now called upon for protection. He protected the Vietnamese territory physically during his earthly incarnation, and now from the afterlife he provides spiritual protection against ghosts and demons.28

The mediumship of St Tran is said to be a polar opposite of the Four Palaces’ mediumship. While Four Palace mediumship is theatrical, beautifully performative, and meant to confer prosperity and good fortune upon its participants, St Tran mediumship is violent and intended to protect one from worldly and spiritual dangers.
You would think these two completely different forms of mediumship will always exist in total separation, but in recent times there has been an integration of sorts. Four Palace mediums have started to adopt St Tran as part of their pantheon of spirits. Mediums of the Four Palaces will embody St Tran just like they embody other spirits of the pantheon, performing a beautiful dance and delivering messages to the participants. This is, however, extremely controversial. One medium explains: “A ‘great hero’ like Saint Tran ‘never appeared to dance like others’ or ‘deliver nonsense messages’.”31 Even so, it is often the case that mediums serve both the spirits of St Tran and his family, and the spirits of the Four Palaces. This is because each has its own set of benefits. By serving St Tran, one affords oneself good health and protection from ghosts. On the other hand, by serving the spirits of the Four Palaces, one gains material success and prosperity. As was told to Phuong: “A pagoda [temple] that has no mother goddess altar has no wealth,” and “Saint Tran’s altar is essential for every shrine to protect the shrine from harassment by evil spirits.”32



The story is set in ancient Japan, where a young boy named Kubo cares for his mother in a village. A spirit from the past turns Kubo's life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.


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