My recent thoughts on the Purelands: Where are the Buddhafields (Purelands) actually located in the cosmos?
I am still thinking about this, and not an expert. As a Bodhisattva aspirant, purelands are not something I think about usually. What we know:
1) One interpretation of Buddhas are that they are veridical awareness (universal awareness coinciding with reality as it really is).
2) Each Buddha-field overlaps with a single Great-Trichiliocosm (an Universe).
3) There is no self, no personhood, and no way for phenomena to persist independently. Where a Buddha’s veridical awareness reach (which is everywhere), all beings and objects are that same Buddha.
4) Buddhafields and Sambhogakaya (the enjoyment body— one of the Triyaka or Three Bodies of a Buddha) are the same— they are a modus of the Dharmakaya, and interface between reality as it is, and “our world”. Whereas the Sambhogakaya refer to activities of Buddhas in this world, the Buddhafields refer to that same activity manifested as a world in which beings can be reborn into.
The implication here then, is this. If the veridical awareness of a Buddha is universal, and there is no abiding self, then that means that my efforts in manifesting a Buddhafield is in fact, de facto, the effort of the Buddha of this Trichiliocosm in manifesting a Buddhafield.
Which is to say, the Buddhafield and this world is not separate, and the Buddha manifesting the Buddhafield and all of us are not separate either.
The Buddhafield is an interface between the Dharmakaya of a Buddha and ourselves, the same way that all of theophany, visions, and interaction with Buddhas (their Sambhogakaya) is our interface with the Dharmakaya (“he who sees the dharma sees me, he who sees me sees the dharma”). The Dharmakaya is of course, representational of Dharmdhatu (the expanse of the totality of phenomena as an indivisible, pervading whole).
Which of course, returns us to the teaching that has been exhorted since the beginning; your every effort has profound enlightening effects (merits) upon your mind-stream, which is radically transformed to perceive the world as it truly is: Intrinsically Pure.
The Lankavatara Sutra says, “When the mind arises, all phenomena arise. When the mind ceases, all phenomena cease.”
When the Mind is Purified, the Buddhafield is Purified.
This is based on an ancient Reddit post I made many kalpas ago. May the Syncretic God forgive me for any mistakes I make.
Note that this article presupposed a predominantly Sunni Islamic view, and a Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhist View.
Let us compare some parallels:
On the plurality of Messengers
— Infinite Buddhas. According to the Bhadrakalpika Sūtra, we on Earth are slated for 1002 fully enlightened Buddhas in this Fortunate Kalpa alone. How lucky we are! We are currently 4 Buddhas in.
— 124,000 Prophets in Islam (or 25,000+ Prophets). Alot of Prophets. Sent to all peoples in the world.
On the interstitial periods
— Periods of time with no Buddhas (Dark Kalpa).
— Periods of time with no Prophets (Ahl al-Fatrah).
On non-human intelligent life, their religions, and the Devil
— Devas are mortals, don’t worship them.
— Djiins are mortals, don’t worship them.
— King Mara is a deva who is the Devil.
— Iblis is a Djinn who is the Devil.
— The Maras are devas who follow King Mara.
— The Shaitans are Djinns who follow Iblis.
— Devas are not necessarily Buddhist. Many have to be converted to Buddhism. Vast majority are ignorant of the Dharma or are the purview of other Buddhas in other trichiliocosms.
— Djinns can be Jewish, Christian, Muslim or other (that’s why they need to be converted to Islam).
On the Degeneration of the True Faith
— In Buddhism, the Dharma is taught by a perfectly enlightened Buddha, but then degenerates over time until only Buddhist culture is left, and eventually, even that is forgotten. When this happens, a new Buddha will arise and spin the Wheel of Dharma once more.
— In Islam, eventually, a divinely revealed faith will become corrupted, and a new Messenger is sent by God to teach Islam (both Judaism and Christianity— and potentially more— are considered corrupted versions of Islam).
On the Buddhas/Enlightened-Beings & Messengers/Prophets
— Prophets VS Messengers. Prophets are sent by God to serve as moral paragons and to teach people. But some Prophets are Messengers, which bring with them Divinely Revealed Messages (that usually then become a major scripture; such as the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Qur’an— though in Islam, all versions of these are corrupt save the Qur’an, which is the latest divinely revealed message).
— A Perfectly Enlightened Buddha is the only being capable of preaching the True Dharma, and only in a period of time around which they existed in the world to turn the Wheel of Dharma do the Dharma persists, no matter who propagates it.
In periods of time in which the Dharma is absent, Pretyekabuddhas (self-enlightened Buddhas) do occasionally arise, but they are incapable of teaching the Dharma because they simply lack the compassion/insight/intellectual resources required to do so. A Pratyekabuddha can give moral teachings, but cannot help others attain Enlightenment, and they do not leave behind a Sangha (Monastic Order).
A Buddha doesn’t magically attain knowledge or skill. A pretyekabuddha lacking the right conditions (either in the time period, the culture, or even the language) cannot express the Buddha-Dharma to sentient beings, and thus do not fulfill the role of a perfectly enlightened Buddha, incapable of turning the Wheel of Dharma.
Likewise, Arahants (technically a lesser kind of Pratyekabuddha) also are not capable of transmitting the manifold Dharma.
— Iddhis (supermundane powers that can be developed as a side-effect of practicing the path; though it should not be the goal, as it’s considered not True Dharma).
— Karamat (‘miracles’ performed by Saints. Like Tay al-Arzor or mystical teleportation).
On the Multiverse
— Allah, Lord of Worlds
— Contrasted with Buddhist conception of the Great Trichiliocosm (1 billion worlds), and there are infinite Trichiliocosms, filled with many different kinds of life. Each Trichiliocosm has a single Supremely Enlightened Buddha (though there are infinite Buddhas everywhere, all the time).
— In Buddhism, Buddha-Nature vs Aggregates [cause & effect phenomenon, compounded phenomenon]
— And in Islam, especially Sufism, Rūḥ (Spirit) vs Nafs (Souls).
In Buddhism, the Buddha-Nature or Dharma-Nature is the all-pervading nature, or “reality as it is, the way things are, phenomenon as it is, devoid of delusions”. This Dharma-Nature as present in a sentient being is Buddha-Nature (well, the potential for it, specifically).
In Islam, the Ruh are myriad phenomena. Sometimes identified as Angels, sometimes as the spirit in human beings, and sometimes as that which animates inanimate matter.
In addition, Buddha-Nature is also the nature of phenomenons, and Rūḥ is what allows Nafs to work.
Thus as described in Islam in Perspective, Rūḥ is Nafs in one sense, but yet they are not. The Rūḥ drives the Nafs (the souls, which are our desires and sensory perceptions; in essence our psychic organs), but the Rūḥ is apart of it.
Just as Buddha Nature is both the workings of phenomena and yet it is not (Nirvana is Samsara, Samsara is Nirvana).
In essence, we have the embryonic form of a Buddha within us (tathāgatagarbha— the embryonic Buddha) that must be developed so that we can become Buddhas (Buddha-dhatu— the Buddha Nature/Realm/Substrate). The potential for Enlightenment is there…we just have to perfect it.
In Zen, one must have faith that they have a Bodhi-Mind (a Buddha Nature) in order to realize enlightenment.
In Islam, Rūḥ is what God give us, so that we can come to know him, and to perfect it.
The two terms have that inherent meaning of being transcendental, as according to Buddhist, every Buddha expounded the same Dharma, from innumerable universes ago to now. According to Muslims, every Prophet expounded the same Islam (including Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, etc).
Buddhism denies Reincarnation (Metempsychosis). In Buddhism, the doctrine is Rebirth, which is “re-becoming”, not reincarnating, as it’s best to see all of our infinite lives as a singular life (as a result of phenomenon dictated by cause & effect).
In Buddhism, every moment is a rebirth, because it denotes the Mindstream changing and moving; bodily death is a bigger change (a larger wave made by the coursing river of Mind phenomenon), but not that different than the moment to moment experience we already have. Some call sleep the little death for this reason.
Everyday you live without Enlightenment (realization of Buddha-Nature) is already death anyway; thus Mara (the Devil), and the condition he embodies, is often called the Spiritual Death.
Buddhist Phenomenology denies a conventional soul (that is, a soul conceived of as another body or an object that one could mistakenly fixate their ego upon), but it believes in the Buddha-Nature (which is the foundational mind, absence delusions, and also phenomenon as it is). And this is because things being alive and having a soul, are one and the same (similar to the Jewish conceptions of the soul being indivisible with body, and arisen together with it).
Thus in Buddhism, a sentient being is an aggregate of different causes & effects (form, perception, sensation, wilful intent, consciousness), none of which have independent existence. Similar to the Nafs.
The Five Aggregates in Buddhism are the invariable constituents of a sentient being’s experience in a given moment.
Some things are just more alive than others (animals are more alive than plants, which are more alive than ordinary matter).
In Buddhist theology, the totally deluded (Icchantikas) have lost their Buddha-Nature entirely and can never attain Nirvana (but their Buddha-nature is recoverable if they are able to regain a small measure of a conscience).
Icchantikas is actually the closest equivalent to the Hebrew Gehenna or post-eschatological damnation present in all Abrahamic Religion.
The ultimate fate of Icchantikas is questionable. My own tradition at least, argues that Icchantikas are eventually dissolved into Qi (annihilated).
Thematically at least, the Buddhist Naraka (Hellworlds) are closer in conception to Sheol or the Islamic Barzakh (the Grave), since Naraka is not actually damnation. Narakas are considered proper rebirths. Being born in Naraka is not damnation. The Icchantika is however, a damning fate.
For a true transitory or purgatorial existence, in Buddhism that would be the Bardo (the fluid intermediate state between lives; which can be experienced as a hallucinatory nightmare for the deceased).
On God & Angels
Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One, Allah , the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” — Surah Al-Ikhlas [112:1-4]
“There is, O monks, an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. Were there not, O monks, this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed. Since, O monks, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed. What is dependent, that also moves; what is independent does not move. Where there is no movement, there is rest; where rest is, there is no desire; where there is no desire, there is neither coming nor going, no ceasing-to-be, no further coming to be. Where there is no ceasing-to-be, no further coming-to-be, there is neither this shore [this world] nor the other shore [Nirvana], nor anything between them.” — Shakyamuni Buddha, Udana Nikaya (viii: 3)
More specifically, in Buddhism, you can conceptualize the Adi-Buddha as the primordial Buddha inherent in all things. Specifically, Adi-Buddha is identified as Vairocana, or the Dharmakaya (Truth Body) of Shakyamuni Buddha. Dharmakaya is representational of Dharma-Nature, in a manner very much akin to MALAKH YHWH (Angel that is the Lord in the Bible) sort of entity. Effectively God, but still not God (Dharma-Nature pervades the whole, but is not the whole. The closest you will find to a statement on the Uniqueness of God in Buddhism).
In Islam, none of the Angels have Free Will, being extension of God’s Will. Again, a functional god (in terms of how God interacts with the world. It was not God who directly spoke to the Prophet Muhammad, but instead, he used Gabriel as an intermediary to communicate his message. Why is this intermediary necessary? Because that is how God acts in the world; admittedly, this draws a bit from the Esoteric Kabbalistic conception of what Angels are— as Tasks of God, rather than from Islam).
For a good chunk of time (for at least 800 years, maybe much longer), Theravada Buddhism was almost Messianic; as in, adherents did not believe that they could attain Enlightenment under their own power. Disclaimer:I have a mostly Mahayana background, so correct me on any mistakes.
In the 5th Century, Buddhaghosa wrote the Visuddhimagga, which was the manual on Theravada meditation techniques and exegesis on its theology. It was touted as a step-by-step path to Enlightenment.
But Buddhaghosa in a postscript stated that he did not believe Theravada practices could lead to Nirvana. He hoped that by writing the Visuddhimagga, he would earn enough Merit to be reborn in a Heavenly Realm to await Maitreya’s arrival, so that he could hear Maitreya preach, and thus gain enlightenment. This postscript betrayed Buddhaghosa’s soteriological beliefs.
In addition, by the 10th Century, Theravada Buddhism no longer practice vipassana meditation at all, because they believed that the Buddha-Dharma had degenerated and that enlightenment was no longer possible until the arrival of Maitreya.
In essence, it seemed that for a least eight centuries, Theravada was almost Messianic.
In the 18th century, Vipassana Meditation was re-invented in Myanmar by Medawi, a Burmese Monk who is credited as the first author of the modern vipassana movement.
Reform &Decline of Tantric Theravada
In the intervening period before modernity, most Theravada meditation had been based on the Yogāvacara tradition (also known as borān kammaṭṭhāna, Southern Esoteric, or Tantric Theravada), but it declined, and was suppressed by the Reform movement in the 19th century which took Buddhaghosa’s philosophy as the orthodox interpretation of Theravada, as well as by French Colonial suppression and then by the Khmer Rouge. The Vipassana Meditation movement displaced Tantric Theravada.
The reforms were partly a reaction towards Western Colonialism, but also relied on the proliferation of the Pali Canon by Western interest to realize. The Theosophical Society played a big role in reviving the faith locally, especially amongst the laity. Theravada, however it existed in the past, was reshaped according to modern interpretations of the Pali Canon by modern eyes and modern minds.
There are also the Weizza (vijjādhara), or Buddhist Wizards in Burma, which may be related to Southern Esoteric Buddhism. Weizza practices alchemy and magic in order to attain timeless immortality; their purpose is to live long enough for Maitreya to arrive. This fits into the pre-reform beliefs about being unable to attain liberation without Maitreya.
This was a conversation I had on an online Esoteric Group, with “K” , and some good stuff came up, so I have repeated it here.
K: Someone here asked a question that I’m really reeeaaaally curious about its answers, but he phrased it differently so the answers were on another point entirely, so I’m putting it this way : There were around 3 to 5 million people 10000 years ago, now there are about 9 billion people, so how to account for all these new people in the cycle of rebirth? Are new souls being made everyday or its something else? I’m really interested to see what you guys have to say about this
Me: This is a multi-level answer, but here’s a summary.
1) The Universe is eternal, and there are infinite worlds. There are innumerable Trichiliocosms, and each is roughly 1 billion small world systems (a small world system is already a system composed of everything from our local heavens to our local hells, including the local human realm). Thus whatever the population of humans on Earth was, it doesn’t matter because the cosmos is not just full of human equivalent beings, let alone just homo sapiens.
2) In Buddhist cosmology, a universe expands from a state of no life to a state of life everywhere in a full universe. As beings multiply, die, and are reborn in progressively “lower worlds” the structures of the Universe emerge. From the highest heavenly worlds to the human world and eventually all of the hell worlds. When all hell worlds are full, the growth of the universe has reached its maximum. It then declines. The Hellworlds becomes empty of life first and then the preta, animal and human worlds. And then almost all of the Heavenly worlds are annihilated, eventually there is just the winds of karma blowing in a state of no life.
3) There are no souls, but there are chains of causation we experience as a self. These chains of causation emerge from karma leftover from the causal chains of the previous universe. However, remember, all things are Dharma-Nature (so despite no soul, we have an all pervading spirit).
4) However, the number of sentient beings neither increase nor decrease, no matter how many are delivered into nirvana. To understand why requires some serious contemplation regarding the nature of sentient beings and the nature of nirvana and Buddhahood.
K: But I want to ask you about something you said, what is rebirth if not soul based? This is a really interesting prospective you proposed. This is really interesting.
And as you say it’s all about the nature of sentient beings and the nature of nirvana, that’s what makes this problem interesting.
Me: Well, what is a soul? Is it a copy of a self-identity? It is a substance that contains your memories? In what way is this different from your brain?
When you deconstruct the concept of a soul, it is really like any other phenomena.
All phenomena are codependent; they are made of, and sustained by, other phenomena. And they interact via causality (cause and effect).
If a phenomena seems like it has lots of moving parts, that’s because it does. How does a brain work? Moving parts. How does a self-identity work? Lots of moving parts. How does those moving parts work? More moving parts.
This is what is meant by no soul/self, even though we all have a mindstream (which is not static, but dynamic— because it’s moving parts; hence a stream).
The fundamental mechanisms of who we “are” is no different than any other process in the cosmos. Just as all phenomena undergoes change, so do we. Mind-Body dualism is wrong for this reason also— how can mind be separate from body? They are part of the same ecosystem of phenomena. In Buddhism, the constituents of a living being is called “Namarupa” (psychophysical organism), we are mind and body because neither “mind” nor “body” are real; they are just processes.
Rebirth (better described as reorigination) is not about a transmigrating soul object, rather, it is about codependent origination (because of this, therefore that, without that, this ceases). All phenomena are reoriginated moment to moment. The phenomena of you does the same; the cause of your existence exist, so you do.
K: I think I’m beginning to understand what you mean but there are some points still. I know that in Buddhism the self is more of a phenomena rather than a concrete thing (the chariot analogy and stuff) but still the problem remains, cuz if it’s just a matter of cause and effect so there will easily be no real continuity, because for stuff to have a causal relationship they must be separate independent “things”, and if the nature of rebirth is just a causal phenomena then the “thing” being reborn is a complete and different new thing, therefore it shouldn’t be regeneration instead it should be just “generation”
Me: Good point. Hence, “re-origination” is a translation that makes the most sense to me (as opposed to rebirth). We are re-originating each moment from the factors that sustain our immediate present existence. If the Sun exist right now, it’s because the nuclear reaction that sustains it is still present, but the sun does not last forever because that nuclear reaction does not last forever. However, stars can be reborn through stellar rebirth (the conditions for a star is once more present). So it is with us.
We are inheritors of our past life the same way we are inheritors of our parents’ DNA (and there is no doubt parents are part of our causal chain to an extent— to be reborn as a human, your mindstream needs to have a causal affinity with both parents, who must engage in a reproductive act. It takes three to come into existence as a human).
“‘I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir’. — Shakyamuni Buddha
A common allegory used by Buddhists is that rebirth is like a candle lighting another candle. Although the two flames are not exactly the same, one flame caused the other.
As for things being independent…in Buddhism, the idea is that nothing is independent. Nothing can be.
I honestly can’t really think of an example in the real world we experience that can independently exists because everything is reductive to something else, or caused by something else. It’s better to think of phenomena as PROCESSES rather than things, as dynamic movement rather than static substances that interact. Where does one phenomena end and another begin?
There is a category of things called unconditioned dharmas. Concepts such as Nirvana, True Tathata (suchness) and True Sunyata (emptiness) are unconditioned dharmas, as are Buddhas and Enlightened beings.
Suchness/Emptiness (aka, codependent origination) is something which we can imagine as being like a primordial fluid (true nothingness is impossible). So whatever this fluid is, really exists, but all parts of the fluid cannot independently exist. If there is a big pot of soup that is cooking, gradually over time that soup changes colour, consistency, texture, shape. A potato floats up, and then sinks and then a broccoli bit floats up. It’s hard to say what exactly is in this soup, and where one bit ends and another bit begins. Reality is like a pot of soup cooking, but it will never be finished. It will cook forever. Of course, because we have to conceptualize this instead of truly being it, this too is conditioned. Our “sensation” of what we think Suchness/Emptiness is makes it a conditioned existence.
K: man so many points to discuss ! This is delicious 🤤 if only I could type fast tho😅.
I see what you mean now, I think we agree it’s not a matter rebirth “a transition from life to life” it’s more a matter of movement of change, as you say matter of “re-origination”
H.P. Lovecraft’s Cosmicism is a source of profound spiritual awe.
Lovecraft’s Cosmicism nominally would have us believe that the unknown is terrifying, that deep time, deep space, life beyond, and intelligent life before us, and intelligent life long after us; are sources of terror, and proof of the insignificance of Man.
But those same themes exist in religions today (ie, Buddhism), which instead of dread, generates spiritual awe and insight.
If anything we should feel comforted that long after Man has become ashes or perhaps some cowering mammal crawling in the ruins of the old world, a new race of Man will walk this world: The Beetle-like Coleopteran, building civilization on the ruins of our own (as recorded by the time traveling Great Race of Yith). Just as we ourselves have succeeded innumerable races of Man before us, such as the Flying Polyps which colonized the Earth six hundred million years ago (again, recorded by the Yithians). We are part of a long lineage of life on Earth. Life that existed everywhere in the cosmos, be they composed of matter like us, of something more exotic like Star-Spawn, or even like the Great Old Ones, who are beyond our understanding. All life. All sprawling and spawning without true beginning and without final end.
If anything, we should live life meaningfully precisely because it will not last forever. What will the Yith say of our species when our time has ended? We should make a good impression.
It is true that when Great Cthulhu raises the sunken city of R’lyeh, he will accidentally destroy human civilization and reduce us to squabbling primitives cowering beneath giant Star-Spawn and inhuman cities of Non-Euclidean Geometry. This is because Cthulhu has no conceptions of human morality, of the anthropocentric world, and indeed, does not even perceive humans at all. But this does not make Cthulhu amoral, his existence does not render OUR life meaningless, and his doings are not done against us, nor for us, but for himself, like many beings and many peoples. We are much alike.
If anything, those beings closer to us in nature— such as the Elder Things— who may perceive humans as animals to be used and abused are more terrifying; but can we blame the Elder Things for their lack of insight when we ourselves have a tendency to reduce our animal brethren to mere objects? It is doubly saddening that the Elder Things are not only our predecessor in the lineage of Earthly intelligence, but they are also our direct creators, having genetically experimented with indigenous lifeforms to accelerate human evolution. But like father, like son.
If we do not fear miscegenation (inter-racial sexual relationships) we have no logical reason to fear the Deep Ones intermingling with humans either and creating hybrids (if in fact, there was any actual miscegenation, and the Deep Ones don’t just implant parasites in human hosts, who guide them towards the sea and then burst out of their chest— but this too is found in the animal kingdom, and are we not animals? Peace, peace!).
As always, if we are distressed by our individual lives, or for humanity as a whole, calm down, and remember that before us were other great races, and after us there will be other great races. For after us come the Beetle-men, but after them the Yithians do not say the Deep Ones will reign, for they were already old in this world and will fade in time. Take comfort that nothing lasts forever (not even the Yithians, doomed to die in a time not their own). And that no matter what horrors we face, we will not only see the Rise of Cthulhu, we may even live to the next cycle of His eventual slumber again. What glorious sights humanity shall see. What new and alien forms we will evolve into!
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
The Five Precepts, the Five Constant Virtues, & the Five Elements.
The Five Elements in Chinese thinking are metaphors for phases of transforming energy that interpenetrates all phenomena. The Five Elements (Wuxing— “the five processes”) has its origins in Bronze Age China (possibly earlier). Eventually it was further developed as a concept of process phenomena, contrasted to the static “building block” of Greek Elements. Wuxing is applied to everything in Chinese thought, from medicine to astrology.
The Five Constant Virtues are Confucian doctrines about the intrinsic inter-related qualities that all human beings possesses.
The Five Precepts are Buddhist “training rules” that a serious practitioner upholds— however it is deeper than the simple list of restriction it appears to be.
1. Do Not Kill (Buddhism)
Wood Element [Jupiter]
Love all so you do not wish to kill— this is the true meaning of Ahimsa. It is not do no harm. It is love all so you wish harm on none. It is sustained by faith (Earth), it generates propriety (Fire) and it is overcome by Righteousness (Metal). *Benevolence in Confucianism is Ren, quite literally “two-peopleness” or “Mutuality”. It is the inner quality of a sage, and cognate to the Christian Agape.
2. Do Not Commit Sexual Misconduct (Buddhism)
Fire Element [Mars]
Propriety* means to respect rituals and social boundaries so you do not transgress against others. It is sustained by Benevolence (Wood), it generates Sincerity/Faith/Trust (Earth), and it is overcome by Wisdom (Water). *Propriety is Li (禮), meaning ritual-etiquette.
3. Do Not Lie (Buddhism)
Earth Element [Saturn]
Sincerity/faith/trust* is the ground of spiritual practice and of living. Without it you cannot be genuine in your motivations, and others cannot trust you. It is sustained by Propriety (Fire), it generates Righteousness (Metal), and it is overcome by Benevolence (Wood). *Sincerity, faith, and trust are the same Word in Chinese (信), also meaning Trustworthiness.
4. Do Not Steal (Buddhism)
Metal Element [Venus]
To do good and to do so correctly. It is is sustained by Sincerity/Faith/Trust (Earth), it generates Wisdom (Water), and it is overcome by Propriety (Fire).
5. Do Not Ingest Intoxicants (Buddhism)
Water Element [Mercury]
To be clear minded and to have insight into matters and events. It is sustained by Righteousness (Metal), it generates Benevolence (Wood), and it is overcome by Sincerity/Faith/Trust (Earth).
Sustaining, Generating, and Overcoming. Each element is sustained/generated by another, but if there is “too much” of an element, it becomes too strong (which leads to problems). Each element is also overcomed (“destroyed”) by another Element— the overcoming element helps constrain excesses of an element that is too strong (but the overcoming element might itself end up eroding an element too much). Apply this logic to the virtues implied here, and you can see all of them can be problematic if too strong or too weak, and how it can impact the entire ecosystem. It must be in balance.
But there is a uniformity between that and my thematic interests in general: The medieval, the disturbing, and especially the religious.
This is but the first of many such experiments to come, in many mediums. I have been invested with great spirit these past weeks, as if something holy have poured into me. I itch to create all matters of art, to try all matters of new techniques, and to hopefully develop a voice and settle into a medium of choice.
Tang China was a powerful and culturally rich multicultural Empire with satellite states in Afghanistan and strong centralized control and friendly relations with neighbours (tributaries).
During this time period, countries like Japan and Korea developed their classical culture by almost completely copying Tang Chinese Culture. Multiple Zen masters and prominent Foreign Buddhists of this era were all trained/or successors to schools in China. Kyoto for example, is a smaller replica of Chang’an, Matcha was actually the method of green tea preparation enjoyed by the Tang Chinese (China later developed loose tea leaf instead of powdered tea). Sino-Japanese and Sino-Korean were actual languages influenced by Middle Chinese.
The Capital of Chang’an had a population of almost a million people. Half of those people were foreigners. Many of them multi-generational, growing up in China, taking the Civil Service Exams, becoming Officials and Aristocrats, marrying the locals, etc. Many were slaves as well.
Something like 14% of Tang China’s Prime Ministers were foreigners (yes, actual foreigners).
The surviving Persian Royal Familiy (escaping the Rashidun Caliphate’s Conquest of Iran) married into the Tang Royal Family and were given the royal surname of “Li”. The Last Prince of Persia, Peroz III, was actually the Commander of “Area Command of Persia” in Tang Afghanistan.
However, a series of disasters happened during the height of the Empire and caused a dramatic downfall.
The Sequence of Decline
1) The half-Sogdian (Persian) General An Lushan lead a rebellion against the Empire and occupied the secondary Capital of Luoyang.
2) Military betrayal by the Uighurs (another Turkic Persian group, at this time mostly Zoroastrians, not Muslims), who helped retook Luoyang from the rebels, but refused to leave until they were paid huge monetary rewards. AND the Tibetan Empire took this opportunity to invade and steal Chinese Territory.
3) The perceived betrayal by foreigners lead to a rise of xenophobic sentiments in the normally very multicultural Tang Culture.
4) The xenophobia culminated in the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution of 845 AD, where Emperor Wuzhong, acting under both financial interest and religious favouritism towards Taoism, destroyed 4,600 Buddhist temples, 40,000 shrines, and removed 260,500 monks and nuns from the monasteries. He forced monks and nuns to return to lay life, and expelled foreign monks and nuns back to their home countries. Because he classified Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism as “Foreign forms of Buddhism” (despite the fact Buddhism was already foreign), those religions were persecuted as well, and eventually became extinct in China. Because they were also the last bastions of those religion in the world, Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism was practically finished globally. Surviving Manichaeans did manage to hide themselves as Buddhists and Taoist until well into the present day.
5) Emperor Wuzhong’s successor immediately repealed the persecution and tried to rebuild the religious institutions, but the damage was already done. Most of the persecuted religions would never recover. Islam survived, mostly because it was new, and because the Arab traders of the time were focused on trade, not religious propagation.
6) Xenophobia remained rampant, and several Peasant Rebellions were launched on a partially racist platform (mostly anti-government, tbh, I am not sure where I heard the xenophobic platform of the rebel armies from, but it was probably widespread at this time). These peasant armies eventually sacked both Chang’an and Luoyang. The Arab historian Abu Zayd Hasan of Siraf wrote that when Huang Chao (the rebel leader) captured Guang Prefecture, his army killed120,000 to 200,000 foreigners.
7) Surviving ancient Chinese noble families (some who can trace their lineage to the ancient Zhou, Shang, and Xia Dynasties) were almost rendered extinct, forcing survivors to flee southwards.
8) The Succeeding Song Dynasty, after they reunited all of China from the pretender dynasties, was SINOCENTRIC. Confucianism (a native Chinese religion) became the state religion; women, who enjoyed liberties close to or greater than our modern world today during the Tang Dynasties were shackled under tighter conservative expectations, and foreigners were never again as welcome in China.
Just reminding you all of possibly the best ad campaign I’ve seen in eons. Squarespace’s Tim & Katie storyline is just brilliant. Everytime they come up, I watch it; and the story actually progresses! As of right now, the videos on Squarespace’s YT channel hasn’t caught up to the latest episodes of this couple’s planning for their wedding-headed-towards-disaster.
They even have their own website (made using Squarespace of course).
0. Be literally delusional. Or an immediest guru of dubious virtues (or have your phobias and illness be mistaken for virtues).
1. Rip off a bunch of symbols, motifs, and mythology from the closet exotic cultures relative to your own.
2. Create a fake history about how your secret society has already existed for thousands of years.
3. Miraculously, you were the modern founder of this society who had recently been reconstituted from the ground up after some unspecified catastrophe. Or you received mystical revelation from your local alien/spirit/spirit-alien.
4. Write a shitty thesis on the core philosophy of the society. Maybe philosophically unsound reasons for doing whatever the hell you wanted, or your delusions wanted. Like drug fueled orgies.
5. Recruit people.
6. People get scared and want to leave. Call them deluded and lost, and reassure your cult that everything is okay.
7. You died.
8. A new leader emerges, whose way more charismatic, and smarter than you. He had you deified and used as an immortal rallying point for the cult.
9. Get incorporated. Become a profitable Business. OR do something stupid and in public, and lose membership fast until the cult becomes defunct in the next decade. If the cult want to tangle with the government or the taxmen, they get destroyed by the wrath of authority in an eyeblink.
10. You become a cautionary tale in biographies, documentaries, comic books, and sensational hollywood movies, where you get played by an A-list actor whose way better looking than you ever hoped to be.
What if we could get an officially licensed copy of the Orange Catholic Bible (the premier religious text in Frank Herbert’s Dune Universe), constructed together by Earth’s leading theologians hired by whatever Publisher is crazy enough to produce such an expensive and niche merchandise?
It would logically span thousands of pages, include lengthy material on fictional, near future religions (usually syncretic faiths of today’s religions), such as Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions. To realistically make such a merchandise, would require talents beyond the ability of any ordinary fiction writer (though, Frank Herbert gave it a good go with his in-universe quotes at the beginning of each chapter).
In DUNE, the Orange Catholic Bible is physically described as:
“It has its own magnifier and electrostatic charge system … The book is held closed by the charge, which forces against spring-locked covers. You press the edge — thus, and the pages you’ve selected repel each other and the book opens … the charge moves ahead one page at a time as you read. Never touch the actual pages with your fingers. The filament tissue is too delicate.”
Though of course, a simple E-book will do for our purposes.
But, there is also the AZHAR BOOK. In the Dune Universe, this is a bibliography of every religious material in all of human history, and is the direct precursor of the Catholic Orange Bible. The Azhar Book, as a database, would be immense. We already kind of have this, as the material of every religion today is available online. But nobody has organized that expanse of data into a single book of scripture.