Tag Archives: buddhism

Going Home

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh, the 1999 hardcover from Riverhead Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Thich Nhat Hahn Going Home from Riverhead Books

“Having lived in the West for more than thirty years, exiled from his native Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh has become known as a healer of the heart, identifying our cultural wounds and trying to find a way to repair them. Going Home deals with the wounds he sees most often: our alienation from our own spiritual traditions.

This book continues the dialogue with Christianity that began in Living Buddha, Living Christ. In that book, the door was opened to the idea that Buddha and Jesus speak to each other. In Going Home, they sit down and talk about each other’s prayers and rituals. They ask how they can help renew each other’s traditions. They look at the convergence of concept such as resurrection and the practice of mindfulness. They see where the Buddhist understanding of the nature of reality and the concept of God come together. Their conversation shows the deep connection between Jesus and Buddha. It shows the brotherhood they share. And most important, it shows a way to return to ourselves and our spirituality as our only true home.” — flap copy


Living Buddha, Living Christ

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, introduced by Elaine Pagels, the 1995 hardcover from Riverhead Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Thich Nhat Hahn Elaine Pagels Living Buddha, Living Christ from Riverhead Books

“Buddha and Christ, perhaps the two most pivotal figures in the history of humankind, each left behind a legacy of teachings and practices that have shaped the lives of billions of people over the course of two millennia. If they were to meet on the road today, what would each think of the other’s spiritual views and practices?

Thich Nhat Hanh has been part of a decades-long dialogue between the two greatest living contemplative traditions, and brings to Christianity an appreciation of its beauty that could be conveyed only by an outsider. In lucid, meditative prose, he explores the crossroads of compassion and holiness at which the two traditions meet, and reawakens our understanding of both. ‘On the altar in my hermitage,’ he says, ‘are images of Buddha and Jesus, and I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors.'” — flap copy


Imagining Karma

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Imagining Karma: Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth by Gananath Obeyesekere.

Ganath Obeyesekere Imagining Karma

Obeyesekere works through a project of “comparative structural interpretation” (354), using simplified and idealized models of the processes described by rebirth doctrines within and among various cultures. One of his goals is to demonstrate that reincarnation “eschatologies” are not unique to Indic religions, as is sometimes supposed. The societies that furnish Obeyesekere with ethnological data are Vedanta and Upanishadic Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism, West Africa, Trobriand, Northwest Coast Amerindians, Inuit, Tlingit, Kwakiutl, Classical Hellenism (as Pythagoreanism and Platonism), “Heterodox Islam” (as Druzes and Ismailism), and Bali. He omits the kabbalistic metempsychosis of mystical Judaism, as well as some Australian and Asian cultures of reincarnation, noting that he is especially interested in those who hold beliefs permitting cross-species rebirth of humans. This latter idea he ties to the notion of “species sentience” (his term) and relates structurally to vegetarianism, by means of an endoanthropophagy (cannibalism) taboo.

Obeyesekere distinguishes a “karmic eschatology” from the basic “rebirth eschatology” according to the presence of two features, which he groups under the process of “ethicization” of the reincarnation process. The first feature is a differentiation of post-mortem otherworld experiences based on the ethical status of the deceased. The second is the ethicization of rebirth per se, so that the ethical value of one life has the determinative effect on the identity and quality of the next life. (He notes that this latter feature correlates to a devaluation of animals, when compared to rebirth schemas that lack it.) Tied to this ethicization is the establishment of a salvation that lies outside the cycle of rebirth altogether. Obeyesekere also asserts a parallel process of “axiologization,” by which preexisting local values are conceptualized and universalized. While outlining his model of the “karmic eschatology,” he counters Western descriptions (or “inventions”) of Buddhism as essentially and originally “rational” (151 ff.).

Having constructed the model of Buddhist rebirth ideas, with reference to those of “small-scale societies,” Obeyesekere compares it to other cultures under his consideration. He also discusses instances of deviance from the model within Buddhism (e.g. 132), and variability within the other cultures. None are presented as static or uniform, but the structure(s) described by Obeyesekere serve(s) as a strange attractor around which the instances group themselves, according to “expectability” and its circumstantial thwarting. He emphasizes (e.g. 139) that “popular” features durably contradicting “pure” doctrines are as likely to be survivals from the religion’s first codification as they are to be “contaminations” from a subsequent, alien source.

He explains that his methodological goal is to demonstrate that while cultures as wholes may be “incommensurable,” comparison of important aspects or dimensions of culture can be undertaken productively. Although I found plenty of his more specific arguments questionable (often provocatively so), I think he succeeds on this most general plane of his ambition. [via]


The Legacy of the Beast

The Legacy of the Beast: The Life, Work, and Influence of Aleister Crowley by Gerald Suster, with foreword by Francis X King, the 1989 paperback from Samuel Weiser, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Gerald Suster The Legacy of the Beast from Samuel Weiser

“Tracing the roots of Crowley’s ideas and demonstrating their enduring relevance, Gerald Suster has produced a much-needed reappraisal of the ‘Great Beast’ and his continuing influence, as well as fascinating exposition of a supremely practical spiritual discipline.

Casting a critical but sympathetic eye over Crowley’s writings, the author reveals a man of enormous and original intellectual gifts, whose contributions to the understanding of the occult sciences are matched only by his daring experiments in the development of human consciousness. Crowley’s own magical system encompassed Buddhism, ritual magic, the Qabalah, Yoga, the Tarot and Taoism, though its most original element derived from the personal revelations Crowley received in Cairo in 1904 and which formed the basis of his most important work—and perhaps the most important occult work of the century—The Book of the Law.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Comedy of Agony

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Comedy of Agony: A Book of Poisonous Contemplations by Christopher Spranger from Leaping Dog Press:

Christopher Spranger's The Comedy of Agony from Little Dog Press

 

This slender volume of aphoristic meditations can be read in a variety of ways. One possibility is to consider it to be instructional scripture by Tyler Durden. Another would be a rich mine of sigfile quotes guaranteed to offend the pious and conventionally-minded. I think this one may need to go in my Christmas cards: “Had she only miscarried, the Virgin Mary could have saved the world.”

Spranger’s religious reflections presume a Biblical-Miltonian narrative, although his atheology has a wide scope, including admiration for the metaphysically sadistic aesthetics of Asian Buddhism. There’s no indication of familiarity with Aleister Crowley’s work, but Spranger’s strong affinity for and constant allusion to Nietzsche (who, unnamed throughout, is referenced once as “a certain leg-puller”) makes him a close cousin to Thelemites, at any rate. In particular, his piece on “The Attractions of Rage” makes a fine complement to Crowley’s chapter on love in Little Essays Toward Truth, and he makes some insightful remarks on the Thelemically-vexed term “compassion”: “Men to whom agony is unknown have grabbed a hold of this concept and perverted it completely, reducing it to something low and effortless, when in fact compassion requires risk and presupposes rank.”

Spranger is evidently resigned to embodiment, attachment, strife and sorrow, but he writes that like it’s a bad thing. One wonders what the return of Saturn has in store for the 28-year-old author. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Reinvention of Pagan Dharma

Pagan Dharma was a blog started last year by Al Billings, founder emeritus of Hermetic Library. The blog ran for a few months and then was taken down, but Al has brought the content back (Recovered from Wayback Machine, even! So very old school! Who needs backups?) and started to post again. You may be interested in following along or participating.

Al Billings' Pagan Dharma

“As you can see, pagandharma.org seems to be alive again.

While the domain never lapsed, the website was taken down during 2011. This was because I was finding myself (Al) uninspired to write much and Catherine, the other main contributor, got busy doing some kind of doctoral work and teaching martial arts (obviously, she’s a slacker).

Once again, I find myself thinking about the interrelationship, at least for me, between my cultural paganism (along with associated pagan ideas, praxis, etc.) and the Dharma, that is, Buddhism. Is there a relationship, even if only in theme and direction for me, personally? It is a good question.” [via]

“Why paganism and why the Dharma? After all, this is the “Pagan Dharma” site, right? I’m going to do a few posts here, probably between two and four. You’ll have to bear with me (or just skip ahead) as I work out what I want to say right now.

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent 16 or so years as a pagan (aka “Neopagan” or “those people doing rituals and worshipping strange gods”). I got involved with it around age 18, when I become a young Wiccan. I proceeded from there (with various turns taking from one to five years) to being a Germanic pagan (or heathen) as well as being various shades of a Hermetic magician with a heavy salting of Neoplatonism. I even joined the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) somewhere along the way, meeting my wife while involved in it, though, truth be told, I was never a fervent enough fan of Aleister Crowley to make the cut in the longer term.

When I think back in these not-so-elder years of what it was like being a pagan or what it is exactly that I was or am drawn to there or miss, there are a few things that come to mind. These are, in no particular order:

  1. Community rituals and celebrations
  2. Celebration of the seasons and cycles of the Sun and Moon
  3. Inspirational creation of rites or rituals
  4. Exploration and creation of one’s own personal spirituality

Clearly these listed items are fuzzy and interpenetrate with one another. Let’s look at each of these in turn.” [via]

Aleister Crowley, The Golden Dawn and Buddhism: Reminiscences and Writings of Gerald Yorke

You may be interested in a new book, being published by Teitan Press (though for some reason it does not appear on their website): Aleister Crowley, The Golden Dawn and Buddhism: Reminiscences and Writings of Gerald Yorke. Edited by Keith Richmond, with contributions by David Tibet, Timothy d’Arch Smith and Clive Harper.

“Aleister Crowley, The Golden Dawn and Buddhism comprises a series of 20 essays by Gerald Joseph Yorke, set down over a thirty-year time-span.”

“Gerald Yorke’s interests are reflected in the essays and lectures which are published together here for the first time. Most of these pieces were groundbreaking: his short memoir of Crowley was the first sympathetic biographical piece of any length to be published after The Beast’s death, and his essay on Crowley’s O.T.O. and sexual occultism is the first clear account of the subject in the English language. His essays on ritual magic are unique in their matter-of-factness and sanity, and his writings on the Golden Dawn arguably mark the beginnings of historical research into that group. He also wrote knowledgeably on subjects such as Yoga, Tantra, Mantra and Zen at a time long before they had become common terms in the West.”

“Above all, Yorke’s essays offer a rare blend of straightforward scholarship and genuine first-hand experience.” [via]

Currently on offer through Weiser Antiquarian in trade edition and deluxe edition.

“this is in Buddhism accounted the true beginning of all righteousness,-unselfishness that gives all, whilst knowing yet that it shall never reap the gain”

The Law of Righteousness. By Ananda Maitriya. (Allan Bennett)

“this is in Buddhism accounted the true beginning of all righteousness,—unselfishness that gives all, whilst knowing yet that it shall never reap the gain” [via]

“He knows, indeed, his Monk has nothing more to give, for there is in Buddhism no priestly office, no intercession between earth and heaven that the Monk can make. But the merit of his charities depends, in this Religion, on the holiness of the recipient; and so the Burman expects from his ‘Great Glory’ only that he shall live according to the Law.”

The Thāthanābaing By Ananda Maitriya. (Allan Bennett)

“He knows, indeed, his Monk has nothing more to give, for there is in Buddhism no priestly office, no intercession between earth and heaven that the Monk can make. But the merit of his charities depends, in this Religion, on the holiness of the recipient; and so the Burman expects from his ‘Great Glory’ only that he shall live according to the Law.” [via]