It’s Winter at the Ashram…


Winter Ashram

Come see our newly designed sim:
􀀑http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Dreamworld%20Crystal/105/148/22

So, you wonder, why have we decided to honour this winter season at the ashram?

The simplest answer is many, many reasons. We believe that the winter season is a time to be spent with family and friends – which all of us here in SL are for each other. We at the Ashram provide a space for community to develop beyond the common marginalizations of society. In honouring that, we have decided to hold a space for hot cocoa and cider, snowmen, bonfires, music, and kindness, amongst various other things.

Around the world there are various traditions which are celebrated during the winter season of the northern hemisphere, including Chrismas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and various other things of course. We do recognize that it is only winter in the northern hemisphere, but who doesn’t love snow and cuddling by the fireplace in the company of friends?

All of these traditions have similar heart-qualities, which are traits or aspects recognized universally. I’m sure

we could go on forever making a list, but some that we are focusing on are gratitude, kindness, selflessness, faith, unity, cooperation, and fun!

Come to the ashram to learn more by interacting with the various decorations and activities around the sim, as well as spend some time with friends. There may be some gifts around, too 😉

If you have a tradition that is not represented at the ashram, please contact Chraeloos Resident and we can arrange it to be included! Yes, this means new things will be added regularly so please come by often!

Thank you for your continued support and sharing this space with us!

Yours truly,
♥ The Ashram Team

Read a bit about these traditions below:

Christmas – December 25
This is a celebration held by all Christians and many non-Christians world-wide that commemorates the brith of Jesus Christ. Most often it is celebrated through church services, gift giving, family and other social gatherings, and symbolic decorating. Christmas trees, caroling, David’s star, and hanging

lights are examples of symbols used in decoration for this holiday. It is from this holiday which Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, etc. emerged. This figure is a common figure in many Western cultures who brings gifts to the homes of good children on the night before Christmas day, known as Christmas Eve.

Kwanzaa – Deceember 26-Jan 1
This is a celebration held in the United States and Western African Diaspora which honours African heritage, unity and cultura in African-American culture. It was first celebrated in 1966-7. During this week the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) are celebrated, one for each day. These are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). A common wish recited: “May the love of family and the heritage we share light the way with happiness and pride for generations to come.”

Hanukkah – 25 day of Kislev (dates change yearly as it

is based on the Hebrew calendar rather than the Gegorian calendar).
This tradition is also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication. It is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. A common symbol is the menorah or hanukiah, a candelabrum of nine candles, one lit each night of the holiday. The ninth spot is usually above or below the rest and is used for practical candle-use, as lighting the eight lights for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden.

Winter Solstice – December 21 or 22 (depends on the year)
This is an astronomical event which has been celebrated by many cultures over history, but these days is mostly recognized by Wiccans and Pagans. It is a celebration honouring the Sun reaching its lowest excursion relative to the equator. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year, and for those in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the longest day of the year. It represents

rebirth, and is celebrated world-wide in various cultures involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals and other celebrations including all three listed above. Many figures in mythology can be said to represent this time of year, bringing about new crops. It is also related to light winning over dark and rebirth in all it’s aspects.

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BURN2 main landmarks to visit 2014


What an amazing event Burn is! And Sunshine has a little area with the World Brain Health Fair of SL too. They are doing daily events there this week. I highly recommend checking it out!

Daniel Voyager's Blog

BURN2 2014 is open until 26th October in Second Life and here are some of the most popular landmarks to visit when exploring the six regions. Click the blue links to teleport to the selected destinations below via SLURL and enjoy! 🙂

BURN2 2014 Map BURN2 2014 Map

Greeters Road

Burn2 2014 Welcome to Burn2 2014

The Man

The Man The Man

The Temple 

The Temple The Temple

The Lamplighter Village

The Lamplighter Village The Lamplighter Village

LIVE STAGE / Temple Stage

Live Stage Live Stage

DJ STAGE / Man Stage

DJ Stage DJ Stage

The Casbah Stage

The Casbah Stage The Casbah Stage

Ranger Outpost

Ranger Outpost Ranger Outpost

And there is so much more to explore on the playa this year! 😀

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Citta Bhavana Ashram Opening Speech


Citta Bhavana Opening Poster

 

The Ashram is officially open! Come visit us in world any time. Below you can read the speech that I gave after the guided meditation. Our opening address:

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for coming and showing their interest and support today! None of this would be possible without each and every one of you. A special thank you must be given to Sunshine, Swami, Rhia, and Lyle for all of their amazing work and support in making this beautiful sim come to life.

I’m going to try to make this speech as short as I can. I know how much we all want to get to the food and dancing! But, I’d like to share with you a bit of what we’re about.

I am a yoga teacher in real life, and the community that grew between the people in the training inspired me to pursue deep, raw, and pure relationships in all aspects of my life. Over the years, SL has been a big part of life for me. I’ve been able to meet the most amazing people here and form some of the strongest bonds with people from all over the world. Despite our cultural differences, the distance between us, and our philosophical or religious beliefs, we were still able to connect with each other. This is what I’m looking to provide here; a space to learn from each other in a supportive and caring environment and community.

There is a quote from Osho that I’ve always held true to my heart. It goes like this:
“My whole teaching consists on two words, “meditation” and “love”. Meditate so that you can feel immense silence, and love so that your life can become a song, a dance, a celebration. You will have to move between the two, and if you can move easily, if you can move without an effort, you have learnt the greatest thing in life.”

I built this ashram with the purpose of having a space for these two concepts – meditation and love – to grow. Both of these things take effort to start, which can also be considered action (even non-action is a form of action). All action is composed of four things: intention, awareness, method, and manifestation. We must have the intent to pursue something, an awareness of what exactly that something consists of, a method of how to do it, and finally we will be able to manifest it.

For instance, you want to have tea. Your intention is just that, wanting tea. The awareness will be of what sort of tea and when, these sorts of things. The method is standing out of your chair, going to the kitchen, boiling the water, picking the tea, pouring the water, etc. The manifestation is when you actually follow through with this action.

You may or may not know that the word ‘karma’ literally means ‘action’. Many people think of karma as a factor of fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen, we call it “bad karma.” But this interpretation of karma is misunderstood. Karma is really human action composed of the four things I mentioned before. It does not control us. In fact, we control it with intention, whether consciously or subconsciously. When we utilize action (and remember, even non-action is a form of action), we are influencing karma.

The term ‘ashram’, which comes from the sanskrit root ‘srama’, means “giving the meaning of making an effort towards liberation (moksha).” Liberation, in some schools of thought, is liberation from the cycle of karma and dukkha, otherwise known as the cycle of suffering. At this ashram we ask you to invite into your life what you want to share with others as well as yourself since we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. It is through positive, intentional action which we are able to change our perspectives and lessen our suffering. I strongly feel that as a community, we can provide the support and friendship that we all wish for along our journey. And, because of our amazing diversity, there may be something for everyone.

The name of the ashram is Citta Bhavana, meaning ‘cultivating heart/mind.’ Bhavana on it’s own means ‘spiritual cultivation.’
All the events here are organized to support this inner growth in some way or other, whether it’s through meditation, yoga, discussions, dances, music, ritual etc. Our hosts and guests come from many traditions from around the world, and are not limited to one path or another. Instead, we believe that all paths are useful and that each person will find meaning in different perspectives. All things offered here invite you to examine your self and those around you rather than telling you how things should be.

All of us come from other communities in SL, some of whom have regular events. We are not here to replace them, but rather to supplement them. You may notice on our calendar we list some events from other communities. We do this so that all of our hosts are aware of events they should not overlap with, so all of our communities can exist together in harmony. All of us here believe that each individual follows their own unique path through life, and we hope to provide space for that to flourish even more.

There are a few main areas around the sim for you to explore. Lyle was kind enough to build this beautiful waterfall for us (huge thank you!)! This is the Music and Gallery Area, where we will have regular world-music events and an art gallery. If any of you are artists who would like to take part in the gallery please contact myself or Sunshine for details. There is a forest campsite meeting area, where Rhia and various others will host philosophical dialogues. Swami has a beautiful skybox set up with a library, a video screen, and a stage for performers. And up the hill you may be able to see the big building. That is the main ashram building, with space for meditation and yoga, casual discussions and many other things. Please feel free to have a look around at your own convenience.

The next thing I wanted to share with you is our private skyboxes. We have six skyboxes set up which you can rent free of charge at the main landing point. They are intended for those of us who are homeless and need a place to change or relax or whatever it is you want to do. The very last thing I will take your time with is our events for the next week. We have at least one event planned for every day this coming week. Sunday we have the beautiful and talented Sandia Beaumont playing her piano for us at 3:30pmSLT. Monday, Swami is starting a four day series on “Reflections of South Asian Spirituality” at 10amSLT (same time every day); as well as Rhia’s discussion on the Nature of Faith at 2:30pmSLT. Sunshine will play a dharma talk over the stream on Tuesday at 12pmSLT.

Unfortunately, my RL has demanded my attention this week so I won’t be around for all of these, but any of them will be here to answer any questions and act as hosts. I have complete faith in their abilities to manage this place while I am away.

You can join the group “Creativity; Karma” for notices.

You can find our calendar on the blog which I posted in local chat.
http://cittabhavanaashramsl.blogspot.ca/p/calendar.html
Once again, thank you all so much for your support today and hopefully for many more to come! There is pie by the deck, as well as games and activities scattered around the fire. I will be walking around with tea so please feel free to grab one off the tray if you’d like.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu…May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Namaste _/\_ Thank you.

Taoism, That which cannot be named


Welcome everyone to Sengoku Japan! Thank you for joining us here today. You can get a copy of the notes from the poster behind me, and if you feel so inclined please consider leaving a donation using the flower vase beside that.

Today we are going to discuss that which cannot be discussed – the Tao.

The first verse of the Tao Te Ching, the most comprehensive text on the Tao by Lao Tzu, reads:

“A way that can be walked
is not The way,
A name that can be named
is not The Name

Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things

A mind free of thought,
merged within itself,
beholds the essence of Tao
A mind filled with thought,
identified with its own perceptions,
beholds the mere forms of this world

Tao and this world seem different
but in truth they are one and the same
The only difference is in what we call them

How deep and mysterious is this unity
How profound, how great!
It is the truth beyond the truth,
the hidden within the hidden
It is the path to all wonder,
the gate to the essence of everything!”

What this is saying, among various other interpretations, is that all of our experiences, including language, are merely a sign pointing to a non-conceptual ultimate reality. It is important to not focus on these sign posts but to focus instead on the ultimate reality (Tao) to experience it clearly.

So what is “Tao”? It’s literally translated to “way,” “path,” or “principle.” It is the underlying ultimate reality to all that is.

There’s a quote from “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff that explains it well:

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.

“What’s that?” the Unbeliever asked.
“Wisdom from a Western Taoist,” I said.
“It sounds like something from Winnie-the-Pooh,” he said.
“It is,” I said.
“That’s not about Taoism,” he said.
“Oh, yes it is,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
“What do you think it’s about?” I said.
“It’s about this dumpy little bear that wanders around asking silly questions, making up songs, and going through all kinds of adventures, without ever accumulating any amount of intellectual knowledge or losing his simpleminded sort of happiness. That’s what it’s about,” he said.
“Same thing,” I said.

As this tradition comes from Chinese philosophy which is steeped in the concept of yin and yang, or opposites coming together to form Truth or Reality. They are not necessarily two different things, but rather opposite and complementary qualities of the same basic Reality.

Within this philosophy is the concept of Wu. This is translated as “nothingness,” “emptiness,” or “non-existence.”

Verse 11 of the Tao speaks of this as:

“Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub
yet only the hole at the centre
allows the wheel to spin
Clay is moulded to form a cup
yet only the space within
allows the cup to hold water
Walls are joined to make a room
yet only by cutting out a door and a window
can one enter the room and live there

Thus, when a thing has existence alone
it is mere dead-weight
Only when it has wu, does it have life.”

Juxtaposed to this is the concept of Yu. These represent being and non-being. There are many philosophers who believe that Wu can be directly experienced by humans in certain forms, though I tend to prefer the idea that both are existent in all things, and one can perhaps not exist without the other.

Building from this is the concept of Wu Wei, or “actionless action.” Contrary to popular thought, this does not mean inaction or lack of action, but rather going along with the natural flow of things, acting in spontaneity and not obstructing the natural Tao.

The most common quote in the Tao Te Ching about this is as follows:
“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

The last verse of the Tao, Verse 81, read as follows:

“Words born of the mind are not true
True words are not born of the mind

Those who have virtue do not look for faults
Those who look for faults have no virtue

Those who come to know It
do not rely on learning
Those who rely on learning
do not come to know It
*
The Sage sees the world
as an expansing of his own self
So what need has he to accumulate things?
By giving to others
he gains more and more
By serving others
he receives everything
*
Heaven gives,
and all things turn out for the best
The Sage lives,
and all things go as Tao goes
all things move as the wind blows”

This can be a lot to take in. Some people will follow the Tao for their entire lives and not necessarily understand. But, any comprehension is beyond language, study, and even maybe experience. It’s said to be a kind of dropping away into nothingness, while still being fully here.

This makes it difficult to discuss, but let’s try anyway. What do you think about this? How does it relate to your own experience of the world?

I open the floor.

Yūgen, Profound Grace


Yūgen, Profound Grace

This term was first found in Chinese texts (as much of Japanese philosophy tends to be) and was later evolved into a more solid concept in Japanese aesthetics (the nature of art, beauty and taste; sometimes the study of sensory and/or emotional values). Yūgen originally meant “dim,” “deep,” “dark” or “mysterious.”

A famous poet, Kamo no Chōmei (1212), wrote about yūgen in this way: “It is like an autumn evening under a colourless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.”
Another description is by Hume: “When looking at autumn mountains through mist, the view may be indistinct yet have great depth. Although few autumn leaves may be visible through the mist, the view is alluring. The limitless vista created in imagination far surpasses anything one can see more clearly.”

It can also be described as “an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and powerful for words.”

This concept has been used in various types of poetry over the years including waka poetry and it’s own form known simply as yūgen. It has been used in Noh theatre (traditional Japanese theatre) and dramatic theory (Kadensho). To attain yūgen, or profound grace, in the arts takes many years of dedicated practice. It is a sort of highly refined culture or way of being or relating in and to the world. When acquired, one has a sense of “higher naturalness,” with a sense of something even perhaps supernatural.

However, as abstract as speaking of things beyond semantics may be, yūgen does not refer to another world or plane of existence, but rather it is about experience in this world, namely the mysterious beauty of the universe and the juxtaposed sad beauty of human suffering.
I’d like to break down these two concepts. In art we are exploring yūgen through the abstract methods of music, painting, poetry, drama, etc. We are always hinting at something which cannot be named, expressing feelings and sensations, thoughts, wonder, even awe. But beyond all that is a sense of lack of fulfillment. It is argued that we require art to fulfill some sort of longing or absence which cannot be filled with non-abstract things. We all know there are deeper meaning to things than may first appear. We’ve all heard the saying “do not judge a book by its cover.” The way things appear may not be the way things truly are.
In juxtaposition of this, we have this concept of the sad beauty of human suffering.

This relates to the Buddhist idea of samsara, or cycle of birth, life, and death. In this philosophy, suffering is not a necessary human condition, but one which is meant to be transcended. The Buddhist doctrine of experience as an expression of dharma was an emerging idea in Japan when the concept of yūgen was being developed. This holds to the idea that all phenomenal worldly experiences are fundamentally expressions of Buddhist law, which inherently implies that all experiences can be a means to enlightenment (ceasing of suffering) which ends the cycle of samsara through specific realization or awakening to truth.

There are two schools of Buddhism which emerged in this time. The first was Tendai, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, which claims that each and every sense phenomenon, when realized to be ‘just as it is’ is a means to enlightenment which is intrinsic in all things. The second is the school of Shingon, a school of Vajrayana Buddhism, which believes that through the help of a genuine teacher and through training the Three Mysteries (body, speech, and mind) we can recognize the Buddha-nature, or enlightenment, which is already existent within each one of us, for the benefit of ourselves as well as others.

These both come back to the idea of yūgen as they work with both the inner worlds and outer worlds of deeper meaning or purpose. If you’ve ever experienced a tea ceremony or geisha dance, you have perhaps experienced a bit of yūgen in expression. Yūgen is both the subtle and the profound. It values the power to evoke rather than the ability to state directly, and perhaps expresses that which cannot be stated or experienced directly.

“Cannot the beauty of Grace be compared to the image of a swan holding a flower in its bill, I wonder?”

It is through these poetic experiences, the philosophers argue, which we tap into something perhaps greater than ourselves. It evokes a sense of humility and humbleness. A sense of unity, maybe. It can manifest in grace within us and also the inherent grace of nature. Beauty in itself is controversial and relative, but perhaps yūgen is more closely related to an essence.

Were they on to something? What do you think? I open the floor.

Buddhism on “Do Humans Exist”?


Buddhism on “Do Humans Exist”?

True emptiness is that which transcends all things
and yet is imminent in all.

Thomas Merton

One of the most controversial ideas in Buddhism is the idea of emptiness. This is the idea that everything is empty of inherent essence. Meaning, there is nothing that is part of who I am that is different than the things that are part of you. There is nothing constant that defines us as individuals. This leads to the next idea, that everything is impermanent and forever changing. This is proven by modern science with things like particle decay and our bodies replacing themselves completely every seven years or so (no cell in our body is the same as seven years ago). So, having an essence would apply to something like the Western idea of soul or spirit, the “us” that inhabits our bodies. The Buddhists believe that there is no such thing.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu over on Tricycle Online, summed it up nicely as far as experience goes: “Emptiness is a mode of perception, a way of looking at experience. It adds nothing to, and takes nothing away from, the raw data of physical and mental events. You look at events in the mind and the senses with no thought of whether there’s anything lying behind them.”

The idea of emptiness necessitates the idea of interdependence, meaning nothing can exist on it’s own. That everything and everyone depends upon everyone else for it’s existence.

How is it, then, that we are reborn? If there is no part of us that carries on after we die, what is reincarnating?

This very idea has birthed many schools of Buddhism over the years, none of which have a perfect answer that can be agreed upon by everyone else. BUT, I will try to break this down for you. Karma is a creative force which has been around since the beginning of all things. It is the cause and effect principle, where every effect had a cause, and every cause had an effect. This also relates to he idea of interdependence.

Now, Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha we all know and love, never tried to answer metaphysical questions such as “what was the original cause?” So, we won’t get in to that as we are strictly looking into the present and future. As individuals, we generate karma, and have for many past lives. Every single moment has the potential for everything. We make a decision in every single moment of our lives. Since we know that every cause has an effect, we can understand how many effects have to play out from even just the time we’ve spent reading this! Because it would be impossible for all these effects to play out in one life time they continue to happen for many lifetimes to come. So, the aim of some buddhists is to create as few effects as possible so they don’t have to be reborn. (As being reborn is a continuation of samsara, or cycles of suffering, as all life brings with it suffering…a different topic all together.)

In a perhaps more logical sense, then, it isn’t a soul that is acquiring a new body, but rather a process of causes and effects that are continuing to cycle through all of time on a particular wave length. So, if all we are is a cycle of cause and effect, and there is no essence within us, do we really exist? For that matter, does anything really exist?

I open the floor.

Confucius on What Makes us Human


Confucianism and What Makes us Human

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
-Confucius

Confucianism is attributed to a man named Kong Qiu (K’ung Ch’iu) who was later named Confucius by latin interpreters, who lived 552 BCE – 479 BCE. He believed he held the ideas that would create an ideal world, but considered himself a failure as in his lifetime he was not well known. He travelled between provinces in China with a group of students who would later become important government officials.

The main ideas he put forward were mercy, social order, and fulfillment of responsibilities.

http://confucianism.freehostingguru.com lays out the ethics and morals with their Chinese titles:

“Li: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
Hsiao: love within the family: love of parents for their children and of children for their parents
Yi: righteousness
Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.”

The central principle is voiced by Confucius when he says, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” (sound familiar…?)

The social aspect is considered more important than the personal aspect as each individual has a certain place within the social realm that includes responsibilities that they must uphold. This includes respecting your elders (teachers, parents, older siblings, etc.) as well as upholding your duty within your family dynamic, work dynamic, and political/social dynamic.

However, Confucius also taught that we should learn from the people around us (be attentive), and honor other’s cultural norms.

There is a system laid out called “Li” which reinforces certain rules of interaction. This emphasizes a control of emotions, restraint, obedience to authority, conformity and how you present yourself (“face”). But, the strict guidelines of unquestioning obedience and hierarchy of authority we associate with him today weren’t introduced by Confucius himself, rather they were added later by authoritarian sources.

According to Confucianism, only through engaging with society and playing your role will you excel on a personal level. They consider three conditions of being human: the self, community, and tradition.

“The fundamental concern of the Confucian tradition is learning to be human.” –Tu Wei-ming.

There are considered three aspects of being human:
1. Cheng – inactivity, stillness, authenticity. Could be linked to our true Self.
2. Shen – spirituality (interesting here that in traditional Chinese medicine there are the five Shen which make up the psyche…) This could be linked to our ability to concieve of a larger existence (macro vs. micro)
3. Chi – the energy which allows transformation and desicion making, ultimately driving a person to conduct good or bad acts. The energy which makes up all activities of our bodies and minds.

What determines whether an act is good or bad? According to Confucius, the community. Through politics, collective memory, ritual, and our responses to the world, we cannot escape the necesity for interdependence. Therefore, mainting peace was of utmost importance.

Do you think it is important to have ethics and morals? Do they define us as human beings? Does our ability to interact with others determine our humaneness?

What are your thoughts? I open the floor.