Saturday, July 11, 2009

FEATURE 27 _ Bonnie Tyler Parody

I wont even try and describe this, its just hilariously funny - Watch and enjoy.

FEATURE - Florence & the Machine

From the moment I heard 'Kiss with a Fist' you knew this woman had something interesting to say. On that early release a trifle punky in image, she sounded like a ballsy reincarnation of Chrissy Hinde. Though I'm sure Chrissy would never be seen in striped leggings and such a short short skirt. She appears to be developing a style now, more akin to Kate Bush as an elfin hippy,garbed in gosamer thin dresses wafting around like an Alice in woodland, doing erotic pagan rituals. All the same 'Dog Days' is a wacky and wonderful track that builds up a crazy whirlwind. Unfortunately the embed for the video on U Tube has been removed, so you'll have to imagine the visuals from the audio. For once here is someone who appears to live up to their hype.

Friday, July 10, 2009

PRACTICE 3 - Delving Into Devotion

Buddhist devotional practices are diverse in form, though the intention always remains the same - to cultivate receptivity and openness to the sublime in reality. Whether we call it Nirvana - Buddha Nature or Enlightenment matters not, these are really just different 'brand names' for the same thing - a state of liberation from conditioned existence. For Westerners, to fully surrender to devotional impulses is not easy, it often has uncomfortable associations, because it too closely reminds us of Christian image worship, of a supreme Godhead. There are many representational forms of the Buddha, and extravagant portrayals of archetypal Bodhisattva's. To the outside uninformed observer a Buddhist lighting incense and prostrating themselves before such images, can look like we are worshipping them as Gods. But there is no Godhead in Buddhism, and what gods there are, are prefaced by a lower case, rather than a capital G. Mostly the gods and goddesses come to worship and bow down before the Buddhas and Bodhisattva's to honour and praise their achievement's, not demand it for themselves.

Buddhist worship is a mixture of reverence - for the Buddha's achievement - and aspiration - for ourselves to do likewise. I was reflecting on this whilst I was on the retreat 'Entering The Mythic Realm.' It struck me that most of the time we were operating in either of two modes - a mode of evocation - or a mode of invocation. We were either attempting to evoke higher meditative states, a fuller sense of Going for Refuge, or we were trying to invoke the Buddha's & Bodhisattva's to be present and witness our Going for Refuge. By the end of the retreat I'd come to the conclusion these two modes were coterminous, almost to the point of indivisibility. When we do anything that brings our own Going for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha more vividly to life, it simultaneously brings the Buddhas & Bodhisattva's more vividly present too. They appear like moths around the flame of our sraddha, to witness, bless and encourage our endeavours. We don't need to do anything more than practice effectively and wholeheartedly.

Sraddha is an indivisible response of body, speech and mind, integrated and focused on awakening. Sangharakshita describes sraddha as a response of ' what is ultimate in us to what is ultimate in the Universe'. Sraddha (faith is a poor comparison) is the driving energy, the fuel on the motorcade of devotion. This is neither a neat, logical or completely graspable thing, if it were, it would be a still born experience. Which is why its not always easy to just tap into our sraddha at will, though devotional practice can be a help, sometimes. However, there are times when it just will not be evoked, when our internal or external conditions just get in the damned way. I am quite a passionate emotional person, and even though I see myself as a 'faith type,' for some reason my devotional practice has previously been bedeviled by personal reservation's and petty resistances. I've tended to hold myself back from responding to the sudden inspirational impulse, the instinct for what I need to do is thus inhibited. On this retreat I began to stop stifling these impulses. I think my reservation's were disguised forms of doubt about whether the practices work, or perhaps fear that if I gave myself fully to them, they would. Puja and prostrations only work if you do give yourself to them, surrender fully and don't hold back.

There was a brief moment during the worship section of a Sevenfold Puja, when we were circumambulating the stupa. Instead of mindfully kneeling, bowing and offering incense, I began falling instantly to my knees. At one point I dropped so rapidly to my knees, that as they touched the ground, for a moment I was in a state of devotional confusion, I wasn't sure exactly what it was I was supposed to do once I got down there. Regaining my composure, I fumbled my anjali mudra together, bowed and got up. For that one moment I'd given up trying to control my every action and inspiration, I just surrendered into the feeling of that moment.

What I learnt, and it seems an obvious thing to state, is that for a sense of devotion to be evoked, I need to find a way to express this physically. Not just physically, but also using my imagination - my mind needs to be engaged visualising the content of the words of a puja and prostrations. Those words themselves need to be meaningful, poetic and evocative in order to lure my emotions into engagement. If all of these three things combine, devotional practice becomes something much greater than its individual constituent parts. If devotion is an indivisible action of body, speech and mind, to stir the desire for awakening, then one of these three on their own will not be enough.

DIARY 109 - Becoming attuned to mysterious things

I returned recently from the retreat at Padmaloka called 'Entering the Mythic Realm', and now feel well engaged with the less logical, and therefore intangible aspects of my self in devotional mode. After some years of feeling not quite as open hearted in my connections Puja and Prostration Practice as I would have liked, I think I finally discovered some ways around my resistences and reservations. It's not easy to fully convey the effect of this retreat upon me by just literally describing what we did in words. I'll probable attempt to write more specifically about changes in my devotional practice later. I took along a note book and wrote in it most days. The deeper my engagement with the retreat went, the more my desire to put it all down on paper diminished. I found that I could only get a clearer sense of how my unconscious depths were responding by writing in a semi-automatic fashion, sometimes it came out as poetry, sometimes as prose. So here are a few selected highlights.

In the fertile valley, I feel impoverished.
At the foot of a mountain, I lack height.
I look at the barreness of reality,
I look, and I look, and in that looking,
I gaze empty headed, and empty eyed,
seeing only the prickliness in a peach.
Given time, a hand is useful.
Locked digits, aged and worn,
loosen with the lubrication of action.
Given time, a heart also races.
Wise men at the door,
begging - as usual,
not for gold, silver or rubies
but just to come in.
The months fly on like geese from a field,
noisily, then out of hearing.
Where nothing is,
is my reflection.
That is where the problem is,
is in my reflection,
and in this response is the is,
is that it?
or am I making is
a more complicated thing than it is?
Given time and space
nothing happens
more frequently
than one would imagine.