Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meditation

There was a curious custom in Tibet, before the Chinese surgically excised* Buddhism from that unfortunate land.  When a person was dieing, the local Lama (priest) would sit with him, with his fingers literally on the pulse.  At the moment of death, the Lama would begin to instruct the dead on how to approach the cycle of reincarnation - and hopefully avoid a new cycle entirely.

When I first heard of this, it was explained that to me that a person does not die all at once.  Rather, there is a period where the nerves are still alive, and presumed to be open to such instruction.

I always thought this to be nonsense.  You do not get powerful rituals surviving hundreds or thousands of years for this sort of utilitarian reason.  Rather, the rituals speak to something deep in our souls, the souls of the living.  It is a meditation, but not for the dead.  It's for the living.  What is it to be human?  What does it mean to live?  What is it to die?

Worthy questions.  Here in the West, we've lost much of this, and the further you are in the coastal Progressive bubble, the more you have likely lost.  Offered as a three step progressive (although not Progressive) regime, here is a meditation on these questions.

Proust:



Longfellow:



Country Music:



It is said that the Infinite condescends to the mind of man, speaking in many different voices in the hopes that one of them will be understood.  But the voices all say the same thing, if we listen.  As the ancient mystic Greeks said, it is the same wax that takes many molds.  Another of those infinitude of voices was captured in the non-canonical (and possibly heretical) Gospel of Thomas:  The Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it.

See it.

* Actually, that term is literally correct when you consider some of the horrors  inflicted on the Tibetan Lamas by the conquering Chinese.

3 comments:

BobG said...

Sounds like you are referring to the Bardo Thodol of the Tibetans; I remember reading that when I was around 16 or 17, and was struck by some of the similarities in other manuscripts I had studied, such as parts of the Egyptian Papyrus of Ani.

Borepatch said...

BobG, you totally win teh Internetz!

Jim said...

...I don't mind feeling out of my depth on this. But then I can do nothing but learn, no?

Jim