Post Reply
6 years ago  ::  Sep 25, 2008 - 11:17PM #1
Truth27
Posts: 523
Hello,

This might be a bit controversial to the rare practitioner of traditional African religion who might read this (specifically Yoruba--the most widespread indigenous African practice--originally derived from the Nigeria-Benin area).  But here it goes:

I am studying Mahayana Buddhism (SGI branch).  Hence, I have been acquainted with the teaching that, throughout and beyond human existence, entities have arisen all over the globe who, within the specific cultural context in which they lived, reached sustained enlightened states.  Thus they were infinitely wise and compassionate in their administration of teachings that informed and enriched the quality of life of the members of their societies.  I see this process as the ultimate source of all sustained, fruitful religious practices and principles; including indigenous African ones. 

Thus, see established spiritual wisdom as linked through the workings of the Ultimate Law of the Universe/Nibbana/Cause and Effect/Karma.  In this sense, as I am most familiar with Yoruba, I would like to demonstrate one way to understand the various deities within the context of the states of consciousness encountered by all human beings as a natural basal condition of their lives (even Buddhas to some extent).

-Ten Realms of Existence (Nichiren Buddhism/SGI subsect) econciled within a traditional African spiritual context:

**(Key: Realm = Deity - Explanation/Connection)**

1) Hell = Ellegua - A place of suffering and confusion.  A key inspiration/motivation for the Buddhist Quest.  This ties into the Deity Ellegua NOT because he is the 'devil' (as some claim), but because he is the trickster who stirs confusion that can lead to a suffering for those fooled that leads to spiritual growth.

2) Hunger = Oya - A keen, almost desperate thirst.  Ignites the desire to fight for what you want.  Oya is a fierce warrior Deity.  She is willing to do what needs doing to reach her objectives.

3) Animality = Yemoya - Complete adherence to the sometimes harsh rules of instinct and nature.  Protectiveness of self and/or others.  Yemoya is a mothering Deity.  In this sense, she is instinctively protective of her 'children'.

4) Anger = Ogun - Conflict and aggression.  Can be directed towards preventing injustice.  Ogun is the Deity of war.  His realm is intimately linked to this concept.
 
5) Humanity = Oshun - Top of the food chain, inactivity, laziness.  Calm, serenity, balance.  Oshun is associated with beauty.  She is thus often most appreciated during times pleasure, leisure, and repast.   

6) Heaven = Shango - Short term gratification.  Momentary or fleeting bliss.  Shango is associated with drum and dance; an often ecstatic West African tradition that can lead to or enhance temporarily altered states of consciousness.

7) Learning = Obatala - Arrogance, and objectification of the world.  A love of the process of gaining insight from available evidence.  Obatala is the Deity of wisdom.  In this sense, he is associated with a love of knowledge and learning.

8) Realization = Ochoosi - Overconfidence in the intellect and logic in solving all problems.  The bliss of the 'ah-ha' moment; when we figure something out via our own observations.  Ochoosi is associated with skillful hunting.  A hunter is only as good as his accomplished kills; the accumulated ah-ha moments when he or she has realized their objective.

9) Bodhisattva = Osanyin - Holier than thou attitude.  Compassionate service and generosity.  Osanyin is the Deity of healing.  Skill in enacting this process necessitates a degree of compassion for one's patients.

10) Buddha = Olokun - An ordinary person awakened to the true nature of life.  Experiencing absolute happiness and freedom within the realities of daily life.  Olokun is the deity of unfathomable wisdom and depth.  This speaks to a central aspect of Buddhahood.

(cont.)
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 12:15AM #2
Truth27
Posts: 523
(cont.)

...so as I understand it, African traditional spirituality (in all of it's myriad forms--but in this particular instance, as manifested by the Yoruba traiditon) is a variant on the theme of promotion of the technique of working WITH human nature and inclination to promote an ultimate release from suffering/dissatisfaction with life (ie it is a variant of Buddhism).

Here's why:

1) In Yoruba tradition, each individual is born to fulfill a specific purpose (ie to realize a specific aspect of the multiple dimensions of Olokun).  This purpose is chosen by the individual before birth.  Yet they must somehow awaken to it in earthly life.  Not knowing one's purpose in life is often a source of profound dissatisfaction and suffering.  Furthermore, the lower nine Deities mentioned in the previous post (among others) are aspects of nature/earthly existence.  Thus it is inevitable that they irritate this suffering by distracting the individual from remembering their destiny.

This aligns with the first noble truth; life is suffering.  Escape from the cycle of suffering is the whole motivation behind the Buddhist quest.  This point also reflects the Buddhist conviction that all of humanity has the capacity to realize release from suffering.

2)   This problem of disconnection with purpose in earthly life results from a disconnect between the ego (earthly consciousness) and the Ultimate Purpose/Reality (the agreement before birth about the individual's destiny).

This aligns with the second noble truth which is that the root of suffering/dissatisfaction is egocentric desire.  For, it is the egocentric desires of earthly consciousness that presumably block the individual from remembering their purpose or destiny. 

3) The Yoruba optimistically claim that, through the techniques established in their spiritual system, dissatisfaction with life (or suffering derived from not knowing one's purpose) can be eliminated, and the ego can be eliminated/the self reminded of its destiny.

This aligns with the third noble truth: that suffering/desire can end.

4) The Yoruba have various methods and techniques for reminding the self who it really is and/or what its specific destiny is.

These approaches are analogous to the eightfold path:

(cont.)
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 12:32AM #3
Truth27
Posts: 523
Eightfold Path:

a) Morality
-Right Action - positive productive contribution to one's community.  Making oneself useful in pursuit of one's ultimate destiny.
-Right Speech - precise, positive, and productive articulation of needs for guidance from the divination process such that appropriate insight is gained.  Promotes an impetus to speak this way all of the time.   
-Right Livelihood - engaging in practices that benefit society and that are in alignment with one's destiny

b) Discipline
-Right Meditation - Divination and other techniques for aligning consciousness with higher reality
-Right Concentration - reflection upon the Egungun, individuals from the past who have embodied successful realization of their destiny (ie wisdom/enlightenment)
-Right Effort - diligence in practicing the techniques that lead to realization of one's destiny

c) Wisdom
-Right View - that one benefits one's society when they fulfill their destiny and help others do so too.
-Right Aim - that the goal of life should be to benefit one's society by fulfilling one's destiny, and helping others do the same.


...any comments?  Insights?  Criticisms? 

Thanks.
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 9:11AM #4
Upendoanafora
Posts: 4
I'm not sure if folks will take too kindly to you claiming that their faiths are nothing more than a repeat on Buddhism...Instead, I could see people wanting to be unique.  But maybe some might react positively.  I'm not a practitioner, so I don't know.  There are very few on here anyway if you haven't noticed...But I have recently heard of Olokun (the one you say represents Buddhahood and Enlightenment).  It isn't really a major Deity as far as I know.  And you would think that it would be if that Deity really represents the state of mind that is the goal of human life for Yoruba....

Plus, I do know that a big part of many African traditions is to take one Deity as your patron.  That's definitely the case in Yoruba.  So practitioners spend a lot of time contemplating their adopted Deities.  Why would that be if the goal was to somehow transcend all of the lower state Deities and achieve the highest?  Wouldn't they all focus on Olokun if that were the case?  Plus there are like many hundreds more Deities in Yoruba besides the ones you mention.  How do you explain them?
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 9:50AM #5
Truth27
Posts: 523
Hi,

[QUOTE=Upendoanafora;785959]I'm not sure if folks will take too kindly to you claiming that their faiths are nothing more than a repeat on Buddhism...[/QUOTE]

Yes.  I realize that.  But I thought I would put the possibility on that table.  A new way of looking at things --ya know? 


[QUOTE=Upendoanafora;785959]
I'm not a practitioner, so I don't know.  There are very few on here anyway if you haven't noticed...[/QUOTE]

Yeah.  I wish there were more around here.  It seems like most people have so little knowledge of traditional Africa they don't feel up for a discussion of it.  There used to be folks.  But not anymore. :-(


[QUOTE=Upendoanafora;785959]
I have recently heard of Olokun (the one you say represents Buddhahood and Enlightenment).  It isn't really a major Deity as far as I know.  And you would think that it would be if that Deity really represents the state of mind that is the goal of human life for Yoruba....[/QUOTE]

Olokun is interesting.  I'll post a wikipedia quote on it soon.  The Yoruba were non-literate for much of their existence.  So we have no idea of this Deity's original importance.  It's like the game telephone.  The message can get garbled. 


[QUOTE=Upendoanafora;785959]
Plus, I do know that a big part of many African traditions is to take one Deity as your patron.  That's definitely the case in Yoruba.  So practitioners spend a lot of time contemplating their adopted Deities.  Why would that be if the goal was to somehow transcend all of the lower state Deities and achieve the highest?  Wouldn't they all focus on Olokun if that were the case? [/QUOTE]

That's an interesting point. 


[QUOTE=Upendoanafora;785959]
Plus there are like many hundreds more Deities in Yoruba besides the ones you mention.  How do you explain them?[/QUOTE]

Well, there r actually 3,000 different states of mind in the Nichiren (SGI) Buddhism.  I just mentioned the central base 10 on which the others are variants. 


Peace.
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 9:59AM #6
Truth27
Posts: 523
- About Olokun (from Wikipedia):

"Olokun is considered the patron orisa of the descendants of Africans that were carried away during the Maafa, or what is sometimes referred to as the Transatlantic Slave Trade or Middle Passage. Olokun works closely with Oya (Deity of Sudden Change) and Egungun (Collective Ancestral Spirits) to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship, as it plays a critical role in Death (Iku), Life and the transition of human beings and spirits between these two existences.

Olokun is experienced in male and female personifications, depending on what region and of West Africa He/She is worshipped. Olokun is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. Its name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun).

Olokun also signifies unfathomable wisdom. That is, the instinct that there is something worth knowing, perhaps more than can ever be learned, especially the spiritual sciences that most people spend a lifetime pondering. Olokun also governs material wealth, psychic abilities, dreaming, meditation, mental health and water-based healing. Olokun is one of many Orisa known to help women that desire children. Olokun also is worshipped by those that seek political and social ascension, which is why heads of state, royalty, entrepreneurs and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers."
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 10:17AM #7
Truth27
Posts: 523
I guess in communal, non-literate contexts, when folks want to be aware of and contemplate the significance of various concepts, there is a division of labor of sorts.  Basically, some people take on one chunk of the info.  Others take on another.  In the case of Yoruba, I can see that going on with the adoption of different lower Deities.  Even though the states that they represent are lower than that of Olokun (theoretically), they are STILL important to recognize and acknowledge.  That goes along with the Buddha's practice of mindfulness.  He recommended that people be mindful of the different mindstates that they were experiencing regardless of whether they are good or bad, comfortable or uncomfortable.  Most importantly, he suggested they focus on the finite, transient quality of these feelings.  In such a context, it would make sense that:

a) The Deities are finite, distinct entities, and 9 out of 10 of them symbolize finite transient fleeting mind states/emotions.

b) Different people are drawn to different mind states/emotions than others.  This is clearly stated in Nichiren Buddhism (ex. some dwell in anger a lot, others in hunger, etc).  Thus it kinda makes sense that some people would be drawn to say, Yemoya consciousness (see above) and others to Ogun.

Hence it follows that:

At spiritual gatherings, at various points in time, people evoke (or are evoked by) the different states of consciousness that need airing/contemplation for a given community.  Many become "possessed" by their Deity and actually articulate to the community why their state of being needs to be aired, and what techniques need to be applied to satiate that state such that it passes by.   This is again analogous to Buddhist mindfulness, except it is practiced at a communal rather than individual level. 


Peace.
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 10:42AM #8
Truth27
Posts: 523
With regards to what I posted about Olokun, while he/she (it) represents a lot of concepts, the ones that stood out for me involve the fact that it represents profound wisdom AND it represents the plight of those involved with the bloody business of the slave trade (which paved the way for the colonization of Africa and beyond).  Such suffering/cruelty and simultaneously such wisdom.  There's something deep there that is very relevant to the post-colonial world; especially with regards to members of the African diaspora (including Africans)....The mystery and paradox of suffering (a concept central to inspiring the Buddha's quest)....

Perhaps even if at one time Olokunian consciousness wasn't a goal, it should be now IMHO.  That might help us to achieve authentic release from and insight into what's happened within the past 500 years of European expansion.  Perhaps it will give us the strength and inspiration to move us to the next chapter of human development.  Because right now we are stagnating and spinning our wheels a lot more than we need to be...I know that healing is a process, but it seems like we're always taking one step forward and three steps backward.... 

The links between traditional African spiritual systems and the middle way of Gotama Buddha are worthy of understanding and investigating IMHO.  While the yogic techniques are different (ie the ceremonies/rituals used to get one's mind prepared and disciplined for mindfulness and compassion), the objective of manifesting one's highest potential is fundamentally the same in both traditions as I've articulated above.


Peace.
Quick Reply
Cancel
6 years ago  ::  Sep 26, 2008 - 10:47AM #9
Upendoanafora
Posts: 4
I still think that many will see your idea as trying to force a square peg into a round hole....People don't want to think like that.  I like the whole idea about Olokun being the mystery of pain and wisdom though.  Interesting.
Quick Reply
Cancel
 
    Viewing this thread :: 0 registered and 1 guest
    No registered users viewing
    Advertisement

    Beliefnet On Facebook