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Muhammad Ali, the Navaho and the Tibetans

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a knockout triple DoubleQuote from Maidu country ]
.

This:

Ali mandala of victory

reminds me of this:

Sand Painting Jeff King

but also of this:

mandala-sand-painting-tibetan-monks-asia-society-texas-696x407

**

In fact, we have three potential DoubleQuotes here:

  • the stytlized figures in Neil Leifer‘s celebrated photo of Muhammad Ali evokes the stylized figures of Jeff King‘s sandpainting for the Navaho war ceremonial Where the Two Came to Their Father.
  • Jeff King‘s Navaho sandpaintings in turn easily summon memories of their Tibetan Buddhist equivalents, shown here in a photo of the Drepung Loseling monks.
  • And the symmetries of the overhead shot of Ali and that of the Drepung monks forms yet a third pair.
  • **

    Muhammad Ali at one point wanted “his people” to return to Africa, away from the deadly white man, and no doubt it has occurred to some Navajo from time to time to wish the white man would return to Europe — while Puebloans may on occasions have wished the Navajo had remained with their Athabaskan kin in Canada..

    But then, I’m Scots by heritage, British by subsequent conquest, and have invaded the United States myself in person, with a view to finding what American poet Gary Snyder calls “a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at” here in California.

    In what I understand to have been Nisenan Maidu country.

    Profoundly human: body, speech and mind

    Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — observing a certain universality across traditions ]
    .

    Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche BSM
    Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a teacher in the Bon tradition,
    the native religion of Tibet

    Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, a high lama of the Tibetan Buddhist Karma Kagyu lineage, has this to say:

    The nature of all ritual is that symbolic devices are used to create a certain mental attitude. When we offer our body, speech, and mind, we do this though a system of gestures that create that particular meaning. But if the ritual is not based on an understanding of emptiness, then it lacks meaning, and the symbolic gestures could cause confusion.

    In Tibetan Buddhism, body, speech, and mind are known as the three vajras — variously translated as diamonds or lightning bolts. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, another Karma Kagyu teacher, explained:

    Buddha-Nature is present just as the shining sun is present in the sky. It is indivisible from the Three Vajras [i.e. the Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind] of the awakened state, which do not perish or change.

    **

    In Arab circles, there’s a formal greeting known as the Salaam, in which to quote Desmond Morris, Bodytalks: A World Guide to Gestures:

    Salaam

    The hand touches the chest, then the lips, then the centre of the forehead. The action ends with a forward flourish of the hand and is often accompanied by a bow of the head. [ .. ] This is the full version of the salaam, including all three elements. Its message is ‘I give you my heart, my soul and my head.

    **

    In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, we are told to make a triple sign of the cross at Mass:

    At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of the Cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds, and hearts—these symbolize three kinds of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative. These modes of prayer include formal and informal paths, personal and communal expressions, popular piety, and the liturgical prayer of the Church.

    **

    Oh, and Gandhi taught:

    Gandhi thought word deed4

    **

    There’s something profoundly human going on here.

    Monastic drums

    Monday, August 8th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — sounds resounding, Romania and Korea ]
    .

    Romanian Orthodox:

    Korean Buddhist:

    Contemplative Fire

    Thursday, August 4th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two poems, one from Thomas Merton, one from today ]
    .

    About an hour ago I posted Economics as if spirit matters most, with a DoubleQuote drawing a parallel between Zen Buddhist monastic tradition and that of the Desert Fathers of the Church.

    Here’s another Buddhist / Christian juxtaposition, this time in the form of excerpts from two longer poems about fires — one of which, the Soberanes wildfire between Carmel and Big Sur, is still raging as we speak:

    SPEC DQ contemplative fire

    **

    Anam Thubten is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and it is his Sweetwater Sanctuary retreat that was destroyed in the Soberanes fire. Thomas Merton was a Catholic Trappist monk, and the barn that burned was at his home monastery, the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsamani in Kentucky.

    Both poems are worth readong in full.

    Sources:

  • Anam Thubten, Dancing With Nature’s Wrath
  • Thomas Merton, Elegy for the Monastery Barn
  • Economics as if spirit matters most

    Thursday, August 4th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Zen Buddhist monasticism and the Desert Fathers concur ]
    .

    SPEC DQ no work no food

    **

    I’m grateful to Grurray for pointing me to the Desert Fathers quote, which reminded me to chase down the Suzuki.

    Sources:

  • DT Suzuki, Selected Works, Vol III, Comparative Religion
  • Dylan Pahman, The Monk as Merchant: Economic Wisdom from a Desert Hermit

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