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Sunday, January 9, 2011, 6:28 PM
I am posting this in case anyone wants to see how I observed Shinto's biggest holiday.
Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu! (Happy New Year) Welcome to the (Japanese) Year of the Rabbit! May your life in 2011 be like a cruise ship buffet - everything you could ever hope to want and then some.
It was an event a week in the making. It was the most epic Oshogatsu preparation ever. Let's hope next year's is a tad more tame. This Oshogatsu, I mailed out 30 nengajo to 15 states and 3 countries. I also mailed gifts, which was a new thing this time around. It was an effort to spread a little joy and start the new year with a happy surprise. Oshogatsu is all about new beinnings, and in that vein is also about redemption. The gifts I sent put were things that I wanted to be given a new life in the hands of people that could really use them.
The Week Before - Osoji
It began with my a good friend lending me his truck to haul wooden pallets and firewood. That should give you an idea of just how big this little Oshogatsu project of mine was going to be. I started the Sunday before New Year's Day with cleaning to such a degree that the cats were convinced I was moving again, and as a result became very upset. They hate moving. At one point they colonized my lap while I was sorting stuff in an effort to root me in place. I tried repeatedly to comfort them, but they were inconsolable. For the next two days my entire house looked like this:
Keep in mind these stacks of boxes were in most cases as tall as I am. I cleaned out every closet, the loft space, and the corner of the house that was formerly known as The Black Hole. I wish I had thought to take a picture of The Black Hole before I destroyed it, because it was left in an utter state of devastation. So was the loft space. It took 5 trash bags to clean out all the trash left up there. Empty bottles, wrappers, discarded papers, opened and forgotten mail... that was actually the hardest space to clean.
But before I could begin the process of putting my home back together, I had to deal with the basement. The space that I had originally claimed to put down the pallets ended up getting filled in with junk at some point by other tenants in the building, so then I had to clean the basement - well, at least enough of it to make room for my three pallets. That took quite a bit of doing, and was nasty work, but in the end I had the room I needed. It was then time to start transporting boxes down my three flights of terrifying stairs and into the basement. I attempted doing this with my hand truck, but it failed catastrophically, so I carried them all down in stacks of twos and threes. It took me two days. I fell in the process, tearing a muscle in my back and adding to the discomfort of a cracked rib from falling on an icy sidewalk the week before. But in the end, this is what I accomplished:
Believe me when I say that picture does not do justice to the sheer volume of stuff on those three pallets. But I am very proud of all that I accomplished and very, very pleased with the results. I swear my little Treehouse feels like it just randomly grew by about 200 square feet. So after all the boxes were gone, I cleaned. And then I cleaned again. And then I cleaned some more - all part of osoji, which is ritual cleaning in preparation for Oshogatsu.
And here is the ultimate result of a week's worth of osoji:
This little nook at the end of my kitchen is known as The Round, because, well, it's round. I cleaned it out in an effort to get going on my Oshogatsu resolution of turning The Round into my office. I've been wanting to do that since I've lived here. It's high time I got on that.
As part of the osoji tradition, I cleaned out the fireplace of all its ashes, which included the ashes of my regrets, which I had burned in the fireplace previously. It was the last act of cleaning that I performed, done on Omisoka (see below).
The above is the result of me reclaiming The Black Hole. It went from a blue dwarf to a red giant, all with a little interior design magic. And I spent nothing to transform this space. It was all done from repurposed items. After putting the house all together, I did a banishing and blessing ritual to cleanse everything of its previous attachments and purify them. As a part of this, I washed everything fabric that I own - blankets, sheets, comforters, clothes - everything. What's sad is that everything I own fit comfortably in two 50lb washers.
I was going to turn the red giant into my new kamidana space, but it wouldn't fit where I wanted it to go. So for now it's just a pretty room until I can rework the layout in a way that makes sense and will accommodate everything.
On the Thursday before Oshogatsu, I went to Choi's Asian Market with my two best friends
to do a little grocery shopping. I bought daikon, renkon, gobo, nappa cabbage, mochi, and a variety of other things for making osechi ryori. If you want to see the food, see this
Omisoka (New Year's Eve) was spent cooking for the most part. Traditionally, soba is served as the Omisoka meal, so I made Triple Threat (see this
). It. Was. Awesome. I also started the prep work for osechi ryori. When all of that was said and done, I closed the day with the traditional burning of regrets in the fireplace. Before I went to bed, I opened all of the windows in the house to let the New Year in and to let the heat out. It was 70 degrees outside at night on the last day of December. I was incredulous.
Me setting my regrets alight, and...
watching them burn away. Afterward, the fireplace was cleaned out and the wood for hatsuki was laid.
It was all hands on deck with osechi cooking in the back and toshikoshi soba cooking in the front and on its way to becoming Triple Threat.
Oshogatsu is all about firsts, and we celebrate every first... well... everything. I distinctly remembered my dream as my alarm woke me up. Hatsuyume (first dream) went like this: I was on a quest for… something. I think it was some type of food related item. Everyone I asked said they didn’t have it, but instead offered me some alternative, all of which I politely declined. I don’t recall if I ever found the item or not, but I do know that I never gave up looking. So the take home message of hatsuyume: don’t trade down for something you don’t really want. The wait for what you really want is worth it.
I got up before sunrise, received my first phone call and first texts (12 of them), then took the first shower. I then went outside and awaited the dawn. It was grey and rainy, so there was no clear first sunrise, but I toasted the sun where I thought it would be:
Hatsuhinode - First Sunrise
I then came inside and lit the first fire, which I made small and did not tend long, because the day started out so warm:
Hatsuki - First Fire
After that came the first meal of the day. Again, see the this
Since I made a mess of myself with that epic breakfast, I decided to do the first shave afterward.
And if you are wondering what happened to my wall, several months ago I randomly passed out in my bathroom, knocking the mirror and the light fixture down when I did so. I have yet to fix this issue, but it is on my Oshogatsu resolutions list.
Again this year, hatsusuzume (first sparrow) eluded me. You would think it wouldn't be too terribly hard to snap a picture of the birds that are nesting in the eaves of your very house, but try as I might I could not. With my windows open and very near where they are nesting, their chipper chirping sounded like it was in my living room. That was good enough for me. I'm glad to have them living here.
Waraizome (first laughter) was brought about by the boyfriend, which made me happy on numerous levels. Anyone and anything that makes me happy on my biggest holiday is someone/something I will always treasure. Holidays are not for your issues and drama. Whatever business you have, it can wait. Just enjoy the day, you know?
Unlike last year, my kakizome (first calligraphy) was not so wretchedly embarrassing as to need to be destroyed in the fire. In fact, I even decided to post it this year:
Kakizome - First Calligraphy
I photoshopped in the letters to spell out what each of the hiragana characters say. It spells Kibo(u), which means "hope."
The first gift was brought to me by one of my best friends
Hatsushinmotsu - First Gift
A detail of hatsushinmotsu, because it's not just a daruma doll bracelet, it's a HAND PAINTED WITH AMAZING DETAIL DARUMA BRACELET! The skill in creating this thing is incredible. I love it so much, but I'm afraid to wear it because I don't want to damage it! It's a one of a kind! And sorry I went all Billy Mays on you there. I got kind of excited.
First letter was this year plural. Much to my surprise, the mail ran on New Year's Day (I didn't think it did), so I got mail on Oshogatsu. In it was a card from a friend in Arizona
(right). I was also hand delivered a card from my other best friend
Hatsudayori - First Letters
This year was a first first - I received my first textbook in the mail on Oshoatsu. Auspicious? Methinks so!
Yes, I'm taking inorganic next semester. Yes, that sucks, but I'm still excited about it and looking forward to it.
The first sunset and the first moon (hatsutsuki) were both hidden behind a wall of grey, but I took a picture of it anyway, because tradition is tradition:
Hatsubanshyoo - First Sunset
My kigo haiku I actually posted to facebook
as a status:
The guests gone
The dishes washed
Another holiday ended
I closed out Oshogatsu with my first shrine visit, which once again involved the great and arduous trek to my bedroom. I had much to be thankful for, as this past year was bountiful in its blessings (you can read all about that here
Hatsumode - First Shrine Visit
My predictions for last year
were completely wrong. I interpreted the signs to be a kind of bell curve year. In fact, it took a total nosedive, hit rock bottom toward the middle of the year, then skyrocketed to the moon after that. It was a wild roller coaster of a year that went in with a whimper and out with a roar of victory. So this year I am not going to interpret the signs, because I really don't think this year will be grey and sluggish with a bright spot in the middle. I think this year will be another one for the record books, perhaps one that will change the face of my personal history. A lot rides on what happens this year, and I am ready to meet those challenges.
Saturday, August 29, 2009, 11:10 AM
I accidentally came upon a concise model for how I see the universe: a Newton's Cradle. Why? Because the universe does not operate unidirectionally and because even in the vastness of space, conservation of energy and recycling of materials still takes place.
I suppose the pervasiveness of Eastern thought becomes self evident when my philosophy of How It All Began(tm) is laid out. There was a creative force. It was The Domino (or in this case, the end ball of the Newton's Cradle). It fell, and the chain reaction began. It is not all knowing and all powerful, and probably is not even aware of our existence. It is a pervasive force in that everything that is stems from it, but it is not interventionist or even present. The Overarching Force(tm) in Japanese religion gets just a passing mention, acknowledging that it is there. Other than that, not much is made of it.
I actually think of the universe itself as the human body. We're aware, we're sentient, but we don't have the ability to know everything that happens within every single cell in our body. They're still part of the system, but not a conscious part. We are cells in the body of the universe, functioning, diversifying, going about our business, but the greater whole is not aware of our day to day activities. Only when we do something on a large enough scale that it affects the whole system are we noticed.
And if we keep in the vein we are in (no pun intended), we'll be identified as a disease and obliterated as such. But that's another story, I suppose.
That's not to say that I don't believe the gods I worship are real. In fact I believe they are just as real as I am, Buddhist philosophies dealing with reality aside. Energy is. It is constantly moving, and I believe we are able to direct that energy. Direct enough energy into something and it becomes. If enough people elect to worship The Facade (a historic landmark in my city) and pour their directed energy into it, it can then emit energy and have an effect on its surroundings. In addition, objects have energy of their own. Any interaction with anything else results in an exchange, an intermingling of said energy. It is a measurable phenomenon, demonstrated by chemistry and physics. Oxidation, electron transfer, chemical change from one substance contacting another. All of these occur with simple touch. All take in and/or release energy.
Something my genetics professor has been investigating is the ability of certain viruses to seem to be able to communicate with each other over distances. She began this process after being diagnosed with shingles and noticing that anyone who has chicken pox or shingles nearby activates her shingles. She believes they communicate through some kind of chemical signal, perhaps released through sweat. Since we know that what happens in our minds affects our body chemistry, perhaps we have the ability to communicate in a similar way. Sure that's a huge leap of conjecture, but I am only espousing possibility and that which seems impossible really isn't once we have a fundamental understanding.
Those of us that have an investigative mind instinctually want to take things apart to see how they work. It isn't necessarily a search for proof or validation, but a curiosity and a drive for understanding. However, everything that is demonstrable is not always testable. Technology is limited, and can only go so far. Likewise, if you go about studying something with the goal of finding a certain answer, you will most likely find it whether it is the best answer or not.
If you want to find god in science, you will. If you want god to disprove science, it will happen. Likewise of you want science to disprove god, it will. Any data can be bent and stretched enough to still resemble its original form but made to fit a certain goal or criteria. There are volumes of books out there that are doing just that. I've been looking at titles like Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality, Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness, and other applications of science in the realm of faith, each having their own data to support their own point. Science cannot test what we don't understand in the first place. You cannot seek the answers when you don't even know the questions.
Saturday, June 20, 2009, 3:47 PM
I really don't understand Western views of things like sex and sexuality. From what I understand, considering the sheer number of organizations out there trying to regulate sex, in the Christian world sex is immoral. I have yet to figure out how this makes sense, and I wager it never will - especially since I come from a religion that has Kanamara Matsuri - the Festival of the Steel Phallus. Once a fertility festival, now it is a celebration of sexuality and a fund raiser to raise money for HIV/AIDS research. Oh, and it's still a fertility festival too, where people go to pray for increased intimacy in their relationships or to be freed from sexual dysfunction. This is a festival where the props and party favors are penises. That could never happen in this country, where Christian censors try to have Michelangelo's David's genitals covered over because they are indecent.
This festival is a place where all sexuality is celebrated. Queers of every stripe of the rainbow flag attend, as well as just regular people that aren't in a relationship of any kind. The locals of Kawasaka don't just support this debauched display, they are fiercely proud of it. They don't look at their festival as an outlandish pink penis parade like we would. If we had such a thing, it would be to shock people, embarrass people and elicit attention and immature giggles.
Here in a country where some people base their entire identity on sexual shock value, we could never have a festival where sex and genitals are just another thing to enjoy and be happy about. I wish we in this country just grow up.
Thursday, May 28, 2009, 1:42 PM
So I'm driving home from school, and I get this urge to deviate from my standard migration patterns. I get off I-65 two exits early, because my gut tells me to, and I follow that weird side road/service road that runs parallel. Not even a mile down, I find a family walking along the side of the road. There's a man, woman, and a little girl that I would guesstimate to be about 6.
I pulled up behind them, honked and asked if they wanted a ride. They accepted. I apologized for my back seat being full of college crap, and they just laughed and said that it sure beat walking. I had seen a car broken down several exits back, and I asked if it was theirs. They said it was, and they were walking to a relation's house to get help. I offered to take them there. They were grateful.
I dropped them off at their location, and they thanked me profusely. The little girl was so cute. She got out if the car and gave me a big wave and said, "Thank you mister!" She was still waving goodbye as I drove away.
As I left, I got this funny notion of their god talking to my kami and saying, "hey, guys, your follower actually listens to you. You think you could get him to help me answer this prayer? These folks could use a hand."
It's a nice thought, anyway. ;-)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 4:16 PM
Nowhere near where I live is there a Shinto shrine. The closest thing to one are various Japanese cultural centers, but even those are Buddhist based. The one here in Louisville is a Soka Gakkai based center. The closest actual shrine is the Grand Tsubaki Shrine of America a continent away in Granite Falls, WA.
Ever since I learned of it, I have longed to go.
I still have not been to the shrine in Granite Falls, but a twist of fate allowed me the opportunity to visit the Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha/Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu while on a field biology excursion in Hawaii. It was a highlight of my trip and had the entire trip been a disaster, this one event would have made the whole thing worthwhile.
I have no community here. Most people here have never even heard of Shinto, and are suspicious of it. I practice alone, pray alone, celebrate festivals alone. I long for a sense of community and people that understand. I think deep down I want that more than anything else.
It was truly an experience to go to a plae where the primary langauge heard spoken other than English was not Spanish, but Japanese... where I bowed to people out of instinct and they simply smiled and bowed in return. I was not regarded as a curiosity or a freak. I did not make people uncomfortable with my actions, nor was I treated like I was a cultural tourist. They understood. And it made them happy that I understood them.
In that moment, I saw a glimpse of home. I, for the first time ever in the history of my life, honestly believed that there is a place on this earth where I belong, where I can feel at home. Hope surged through me that I can have a community, a family, a place in this world. It is an experience that everyone should be able to have, even just once. It is a life-changing and world-changing event to know you are truly not alone. It is liberating to know at last that you are not the last of your kind.
My visit was very short, and most of the shrine was closed, but it was nonetheless thrilling. I couldn't believe how tense and nervous and excited I was about going. It has been a long time goal of mine to visit a shrine, and now I finally have. I didn't have long, because there was a van of biology students waiting on me.
I went in, prayed briefly, picked up a bunch of omamori, and while I was about to leave, I saw something unexpected. I turned to bow to the alter as I was leaving, and as I did, I saw a kamidana in the corner with a price tag. I asked the priest if it was really for sale, and he told me he keeps a supply for his members, and that occasionally tourists buy them. I bought it without a second thought. And it was only $25.
I now have a real, consecrated kamidana of my very own. I have wanted one for a very long time. You should have seen me with it on the trip home. I never let it leave my hands. I refused to even pack it because I was afraid something would happen to it. One of my professors has a picture of me in one of the very few moments I slept on the plane, with my arms wrapped around the box and my chin resting on the top, the box clutched to my chest.
It is now the single most valuable thing I own.
Outside the Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha/Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu in Honolulu, HI, just off the H-1 on Olomea St. It is a shrine with two names because it has two root shrines in Japan. The suffixes -jinsha and -gu can tell you what kind of shrine they are. You can find the root Kotohira Shrine here and the root Dazaifu Tenmangu here.
The inside of the shrine at the haiden, or hall of worship. The hall had chairs, and seiza was not necessary. The sanctuary containing the honden (structure where the kami is enshrined) was closed, and I don't think this particular shrine had a heiden (hall of offerings).
My cherished, treasured kamidana. I have pine candles burning to either side and three sticks of traditional aloeswood incense burning in front. The feather is a redtail hawk feather, used to represent the Tengu. The traditional white porcelain dishes and vases will all come in the not to distant future. I will be creating a shintai token for Inari to be placed inside. My complete altar will have three kamidana: a large, centra one for Inari and two smaller ones on each side for Benkei to Yoshitsune and Kannon.
Thursday, April 23, 2009, 11:03 AM
There are several venerated kami that were once mortals. One of the most famous of those is Hachiman, who was the beloved Emperor Ojin. But as is the case with the tight blending of Shinto and Buddhism, Hachiman is also one of the manifestations of the Daibutsu.
I will be visiting the shrine of Tenjin O-kami in about two weeks during my field biology trip in Hawaii. There is a shrine dedicated to Tenjin O-kami in Honolulu, and I am very excited about the experience. Tenjin O-kami was also a mortal man deified as a kami of scholars, writers and of intellectual pursuit. He also has a bodhisattva counterpart (a wisdom aspect of Kannon), as just about every kami does.
I find it interesting that more often than not, being a ghost or a spirit is an intermediate step in becoming something else. Gaki, or hungry ghosts, can, if not healed, become maleficient kami depending on how mortals interact with that spirit. And this is, in turn interesting to me because Shinto does not view bad as bad. Harmful forces are venerated just the same as positive forces, because Shinto understands that both are necessary. They are opposites that balance each other out. You must have death to have life. You must have loss to have gain.
Likewise, a ghost or spirit that is beneficial or even neutral can be celebrated as essence of place or as a protector of a place, and thus become a local kami or a clan kami. It all depends on how mortals perceive and interact with the force. They could just as easily have the ghost or spirit banished and it would return to the cycle of birth and death to be reborn.
Shinto is not overly concerned with the afterlife, and much of what you will find about it is really Buddhist synthesis. The idea of Paradise or Tendo is really the Buddhist Nirvana where you are freed from the rebirth cycle, and Jigoku or Hell has two different takes. There are some that believe that the realm of suffering is the mortal existence (as in a state of mind), and there is the view that Hell is a place where you must answer for wrongs done during life. Regardless of the view you hold, they are both relative.
Whether you end up as a spirit or kami (or the Buddhist counterparts, which are essentially the same) depends almost completely on how others regard your death. If those mourning you do not withold their grief for the appropriate amount of time and undertake Shinsosai (Shinto funerary rite), they could accidentally bind your soul to this plane, making you a ghost. Once you became a ghost, you could either be sent beyond, or you could be venerated and become a kami.
Whether you take this literally or figuratively, the point is the same. Your actions and your interactions directly affect the forces and influences around you. How you choose to view the world will affect how you are in the world, but more importantly is how you view the world will affect how others are in the world. Everyone has the ability to shape the world and the lives of those around them, and they do it every day. It is unavoidable. You create change in the world simply by existing. And the change you create on that daily level radiates far from you in ways you will probably never be able to perceive.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 9:10 AM
I am a fairly traditional person and try to adhere to traditional ways whenever I can. For me, using the ceremonial customs of my faith is not simply going through the motions, or doing them because I am supposed to. They act as a way of focusing my mind and putting me fully in the frame of mind of a dedicant. As with any tool used by a religious practice, they are there to enhance the experience, not to be doled out as rote.
For example, it is traditional when making a formal prayer to clap twice beforehand. At each meal, I clap twice and say, "itadakimasu," a traditional blessing said before eating. When approaching the kamidana in a formal fashion, I clap twice, bow once, then kneel. I don't do these things just because that's how they are done, I do them because they are meaningful to me.
Still, there are those that get caught up in the trappings of their faith. Shinto has quite a bit of ceremony and regalia to it, and it can be easy for these things to become the focal point. There are those that believe you should be able to speak Japanese and intone your chants in the native language of the faith, that any address to a kami should be in full seiza, that shimenawa must be made of rice straw, that sake must be the only libation. Purists maintain this stance because they believe it preserves the integrity of the faith. However, not all of these are possible with all Shinto-ka, but more to the point, these ritual trappings do not the faith make.
If you do the ceremonial aspects as wrote, they lose all meaning. If you are just doing as you are supposed to, without thinking, then you are also not feeling. You have no real connection to the kami and your efforts are wasted. The point of the faith is that connection, not the ritualized formalities. The ritualized formalities were created to generate an air of reverence, and ceremonial practices tend to put the participants into the spirit of the proceedings. However, if the traditional rites do not work for you, then all they do is detract instead of enhance.
The kami speak a language that has no words, so how you address them is moot. They speak the language of intent, and if your actions in their sacred places are sincere, they will know it for what it is. You can honor and respect them in your way. The kami are pleased by genuine effort, not by empty routine. Act out of love, and they will respond.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 2:19 PM
Ikkaku was a devout Buddhist monk, dedicated to living in the austere ascetic of sennin, or voluntary hermitage. As many monks of his day, he was also an accomplished warrior who used his physical prowess to end suffering wherever he could.
However, he had the fatal flaw of being proud.
He went on a great crusade to capture all of the dragons of the land to end their terrorizing of the people. He succeeded, and as a result, the land was blighted by severe drought, as dragons control the rains. The people begged Ikkaku to release the dragons, but he refused, believing so strongly in the rightness of his actions. Meanwhile, the people suffered even more than from the torment of the dragons from their own hunger. Still the people pleaded, and still the self-righteous monk refused, thinking himself a great hero.
The people decided to take actions into their own hands. They sought across the land and found the most beautiful woman they could and sent her with a flask of the finest sake to the monk's cave where he kept the dragons imprisoned. The woman was so beautiful that he fell in love with her instantly. He also drank of the sake and gave in to her overwhelming temptations. As a result of breaking his holy vows, Ikkaku lost all of his powers gained through his ascetic virtue, and the dragons were able to escape, bringing rains to the land once more.
I will be no hoarder of dragons.
Though I still seek to end suffering wherever I can, I realize that such a quest can actually increase suffering instead of defeating it. There are so many fine lines that, once crossed, the purpose of such an endeavor ceases to be. You must, first, determine if what you battle is truly suffering, or simply something you do not like. Many hold that battling homosexuality is a pure and holy and just cause, but it is really out of fear and hatred that they fight it. It has nothing to do with helping or saving anyone.
You must then determine if the suffering that you fight is in fact suffering. Some pain must be endured in order to become. The Buddha Himself had to experience suffering in order to understand it. It is unfair and unwise to shield people from all suffering. To do so might be to cause true suffering, defeating the point of your endeavors in the first place.
The ultimate challenge, though, is to steer clear of that slippery slope that leads to tyranny. You alone cannot determine what suffering is, what anyone should do about it, or, the worst possible destination at the bottom of that slope, feeling you have the authority to determine who should and should not suffer. Feeling as though you have any authority in the matter of another's suffering is dangerous, disastrous, and potentially even deadly. The best you can do is listen to your heart and let it guide you. If you meet with resistance or find you have been led astray, do more than accept it. Let the experience teach you. From it you will learn the filters through which you hear your heart, changing the message you receive.
Okay, dragons, you can go. The world needs you.
Thursday, March 12, 2009, 11:41 AM
Buddhists not only believe in reincarnation, but that a single soul can split and be reborn in multiple new incarnations- essentially one soul remanifests itself within more than one being. This is basis of what I call Divergent Soul Theory.
The question is, why would a soul break apart if the purpose of reincarnation is to perfect that soul so that it can achieve higher states? I posit three possible causes for this phenomenon:
1. Will of the Soul.
Bodhisattvas are souls that elect to remain in the cycle of birth and death in order to guide all sentient beings to their ultimate purpose. They are both ascended and manifest. They do this by being whatever they need to be to properly guide beings that need help. Therefore, a Bodhisattva can at once be a god-like figure that is venerated, a strange animal that when sighted causes a moment of awakening, or a person you randomly meet that gives you that one thing you needed to survive the ordeals of your life.
Essentially, the Bodhisattva (or some other advanced soul), chooses upon death to return in numerous forms. By placing a part of the soul into these many forms, the soul can be of greater assistance to the world as well as gain further development by experiencing the world through the lives of other beings.
A soul can experience such a blow by life's experiences that it can actually schism. There are some that believe this occurrence is what causes such things as Multiple Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, and demon possession. It seems more likely, though, that a soul can slowly be torn apart by living two separate lives. If, say, your work life and your home live cause you to behave as two different people, then eventually you will become two different people.
The goal of reincarnation is to allow the soul to develop into its ultimate form and achieve enlightenment. In order to do this, a soul may need to lose something it gained in an incarnation. Like a flower that blooms more beautifully with pruning, a soul may break apart to lose a part that it does not need, but that another might. The parts of one soul manifest itself into different incarnations, allowing each to be reborn as a soul in its own right.
Buddhism holds that the soul is the whole essence of a being, and the body that soul has is simply its container and a tool used to help that soul grow and change and achieve ultimate enlightenment. Anything can have a soul reincarnated into it, therefore all things are sentient. A soul is aware of the interconnectedness of all things, even if the body housing it is not. Our inner buddha nature seeks to become one with all things, and as such goes from life to life to gain greater understanding. And someday, in some life, the soul within us will learn all it can and achieve ultimate enlightenment and reach its ultimate goal.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 8:13 PM
I am a theist and a science geek, currently in school studying the three pillars: chemistry, biology and geology. My studies have in no way eroded my faith, nor do I worship at the altar of evolution. I understand the problems evolution has (one of particular interest to me is the problem of spontaneous phospholipid membrane generation), but instead of the problems somehow illuminating how the whole system is wrong, I actually am inspired by them.
I know so very little about Christianity, and as such I continue to be confused as to why Christianity takes such issue with evolution. To me it is the creative force actively at work in us, continuing to change and shape us. We humans are changing in ways that are readily obvious, the most notable of which is the human male is steadily going extinct as the Y chromosome constantly loses genetic material (and thus size) generation after generation. There are other things too, like the gradual shrinking of the 5th toe and an increase in the occurrence of people with a 6th lumbar vertebra. To me these are the things that tell me the divine force is still alive and well and active in our world.
I hope I'm not wrong when I say this, but my understanding is that Christianity believes life has inorganic origins (created from clay? Is that right?) Yet somehow the proposition that life has inorganic origins but forth by evolution is offensive to Christians. To me that simply emphasizes the compatibility of the two. Also, if I remember correctly,according to Christianity all of the natural world was created before humans. Again, I fail to see a conflict there, as evolution agrees.
I get the impression that Creationists get the idea that those of us in science are in science to for whatever reason disprove the existence of a divine force. I, for one, am in science because I am completely fascinated by the systems within creation, as are all of my colleagues. There is not a single biologist that I work with, either student or faculty, that is not a theist of some kind. The vast majority are Christian. We're not a part of some kind of atheist conspiracy. In fact, we study what we do because we are in awe of creation and we want to understand it. Most of us are like the kids that you could never leave alone with some piece of technology because we just have to open it up and see how it works.
To me, evolution is like that dismantled VCR that we took apart to study and tinker with. The fact that we haven't figured out how to put it back together isn't proof that it never worked in the first place. In fact, the fact that it isn't fixed yet is the exciting part. It's another puzzle to put together, another unsolved mystery to unravel. The thrill of science is not in the known, it's in the unknown.