Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lao Tse; Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river.

Zen buddhism is based on a single, esoteric idea: all humans have a Buddha nature inside them and to realize this nature all a human being has to do is search his or her inner self. The key to Buddhahood in Zen is simply self-knowledge.
Zen in Japan
Zen Buddhism arrived in Japan as early as the 7th century, but did not develop significantly there until the 12th century. Zen has since been an important force in Japan. It has had considerable influence on Japanese culture, "reaching far beyond the temple and entering into cultural and social areas of all kinds, including gardening, ink painting, calligraphy, the tea ceremony, and even military strategies. " {2} Zen priests played an important role in the political unrest of 16th century Japan, both serving as diplomats and administrators and preserving Japanese cultural life.
The way to gain self-knowledge is through meditation (which is what the word "zen" means). Now, "meditation" is one of the cornerstones of Buddhism, where, under the name dhyana , it forms the final and most important aspect of gaining enlightenment. But Zen (in Chinese, Ch'an ) or Meditation Buddhism granted meditation an exclusive importance not ascribed to it in other Buddhist schools. This is indicated by its very name: all other Buddhist schools either take their names from important Scriptures (such as the Lotus sect, which takes its name from the Lotus sutra) or from a philosophical position (such as the Consciousness-only sect) or an individual philosopher (such as Nichiren), whereas Zen takes its name from the practice of meditation. Meditation, which was a means to an end in other Buddhist schools, became the end in itself in Zen: meditation was Truth realized in action. As a result, Zen readily dispenses with the Buddhist scriptures and philosophical discussion in favor of a more intuitive and individual approach to enlightenment. Meditation, however, is a strict religious discipline: the mind must be made sharp and attentive in order to intuit from itself the Truth of Buddhahood. Part of this discipline involves waking up the mind of the disciple, making it aware of the things around it. There are several ways of doing this: motorcycle maintenance, hard labor, travel, and, in Japan, the koan, which is a question and answer session between disciple and master which involves sudden beatings and illogical answers all in an attempt to wake or stimulate the disciple's mind to make it ready for the discovery of the Truth inside.

Buddhist colour symbols
Eternity, truth, devotion, faith, purity, chastity, peace, spiritual and intellectual life - these are some of the associations that appear in many different cultures. All express a general feeling that blue is the coolest, most detached and least material of all hues.

The Virgin Mary and Christ are often shown wearing blue in Christian art, and it is the attribute of many sky gods including Amun in Egypt, the Sumerian Great Mother, the Greek Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans), the Hindu Indra, Vishnu and his blue-skinned incarnation, Krishna.

In Buddhism both light and dark aspects of this mysterious color are important.

signifies the primordial darkness in Buddhism. In the realm where it is dark, because there is no light reflected, there is also a sound which we cannot hear as it is so high on the scale of harmonics that it is inaccessible to the hearing capacity of any physical being. The wonders of creation may be manifested through the gradual slowing down of vibrations. The darkness becomes light, the shadows colors, the colors sound, and sound creates form.

One of the most interesting examples is represented by the so-called black paintings. The special genre of the black thangkas, the potent, highly mystical paintings portraying shimmering, brilliant forms appearing out of a translucent darkness, came to full fruition in the second half of the 17th century.

Their aesthetic power derives from the contrast of powerful lines against a black background, making them one of the most effective means to appreciate the Tibetan mastery of line work. There is a range of variations in the technique, beyond the boldness of gold lines over a black background, to large figures and settings and a variety of colors, and orange, flamed halos.

Black paintings, a relatively late appearance in Buddhist art, have added yet another means by which artists can conjure up visions of mysterious transcendent worlds. Like the fierce deities who are often the subject matter of these thangkas, the blackness signifies the darkness of hate and ignorance as well as the role these qualities have to play in the awakening of clarity and truth.

Thangkas with black background form a special category of contemplative paintings. They are a highly mystical and esoteric type, usually reserved for advanced practice.

Black is the color of hate, transmuted by the alchemy of wisdom into compassion. Darkness represents the imminence of the absolute, the threshold of the experience. It is used for terrific ritual actions, the radical conquest of evil in all its forms - conquest not by annihilating, but by turning even evil into good. Thus, in the black paintings (Tibetan nagtang) the black ground casts forth deities in luminous visions of translucent colors.

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