Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wheel of the Year

Today is 3rd Quarter Uposatha which gets me thinking of the Moon which gets me thinking of the Wheel of the Year. How so? Well, the phases of the moon can coincide with the Wheel of the Year. What's the WotY, you may ask. Our year is based on the (fairly) circular movement of the earth around the sun. Imagine that instead of our calendar being laid out from top to bottom, it's laid out as a never-ending circle. The Pagan year divides this circle into eighths. The dividing days called sabbats fall on the equinoxes, the solstices, and the days in between (cross-quarter days).

In most traditions, the greater sabbats are the cross-quarter days and the lesser sabbats are the equinoxes and solstices. To me this doesn't make sense. The equinoxes / solstices are marked by the specific position of the earth and are calculated astronomically. The cross-quarter days cannot be calculated without them. Therefore, I like to think of the equinoxes / solstices as greater sabbats and the cross-quarter days as lesser sabbats. Really, I'm not sure why any of the sabbats would have a greater or lesser significance. The sabbats are: Yule / Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Autumn Equinox, and Samhain. The Witch's New Year is commonly celebrated at Samhain (Halloween).

Now you know what the WotY is. The moon has 8 main phases: new moon, waxing crescent, 1st quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, 3rd quarter, and waning crescent. If I could superimpose the moon phases over the WotY, Yule would correspond to New Moon. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and new moon is when the moon is hidden in the sky. In Egyptian Paganism, winter solstice is the new year. The equinoxes correspond to the 1st and 3rd quarters. The moon is in perfect balance with the light and dark halves; likewise day and night are equal lengths.

Celebrations of the moon are called esbats. In contrast, the sabbats celebrate the sun.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nichiren Shoshu

I went to a Nichiren Shoshu intro meeting yesterday. They played a little bit of the PBS special on the The Buddha ( - also on Netflix). Afterwards, there was a Q&A session. I like the fact that the intro meeting didn't bash other Nichiren Buddhist paths. However, in talking to individual members, I found that they are quick to bring up the infamous NST / SGI split. Here are a few questions that were asked, the priest's answer, and then my comments.

Q: Is there a God / Divine figure in Buddhism? A creation story?
A: No. Buddhists are concerned with cause and effect. A Divine figure keeps people from taking responsibility for their own actions. As for the creation story, Buddhist aren't concerned with how we got here. The important thing is the here and now.

I agree with this for the most part. However, I believe in Goddess. Humans were created with free will. Whatever happens to us (as in humankind in general) is our own fault. God/dess does not give little kids cancer or cause bad things to happen to good people. One thing that I dislike is when a very young baby or child dies that God took him/her to be an angel. I know parents need comfort in time like this, but can they really think God is so cruel? The law of cause and effect would make better sense of this tragedy. Something happened (cause) that caused the child to die (effect). The Divine had nothing to do with it.

Q: Since Nichiren Shoshu believes that the priesthood is responsible for teaching the laypeople, is there proof of an unbroken High Priest succession from the beginning or is it based on faith? *my question :)*
A: The transfer ceremony is conducted between High Priest and his successor. The ceremony is secret, mystical. Therefore no one can say for sure that the line has been unbroken. It is based on faith.

I loved his answer! Lots of NS sites will point to this unbroken line of High Priests as one of the reasons why NS is true Buddhism. How can anyone know for sure?

Q: Are Buddhists vegetarian?
A: As far as Nichiren Shoshu is concerned, whether to eat meat or not is a personal decision. There is no doctrine for or against eating meat.

Again, great answer. What one eats is a personal choice. I believe that long long long time ago, we didn't eat meat but something happened to change that. I think humans at this point need meat to survive. However, I have nothing against vegetarians as long as they don't try to convert me.

Q: Is the High Priest line of succession similiar to the Tibetan Dali Lama line of succession?
A: The priest admitted that he didn't know much about Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhists believe in reincarnation. The next Dali Lama is chosen based on the new one retaining specific knowledge from his former life. The High Priest is not chosen in this way. The specific method of chosing the next high priest is unknown.

Well, I don't believe in reincarnation, at least, not right now.

All in all, it was a good meeting. I wish more new people had questions. I will continue studying Nichiren Shoshu but I will not be joining. It is too strict and orthodox for me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1st quarter Uposatha

Ah, one of the times that my practices overlap. In some Buddhist practices, the phases of the moon are consider a sabbath of sorts. Today is the 1st quarter or half moon. Theme is balance. I like to do a tarot card spread with an even amount of cards.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Triple Goddess

Since my posts have been about Buddhism, I decided that it was time for a Pagan post. The Triple Goddess – Maiden, Mother, Crone - typically refers to the Moon and Her phases.  I like to think of the Triple Goddess during solar occults* and lunar eclipses as consisting of the Moon Goddess, the Earth Goddess, and the Sun Goddess. The symbol for Triple Goddess in type is )O( or in picture form a waxing crescent moon, a full moon, and a waning crescent moon.
Triple Goddess also refers to different periods during a woman's lifetime. Maiden is from birth to 21, Mother is from 21 to menopause, and Crone is from menopause onward. Now, these are just my arbitrary values. Another Solitary or coven may a totally different setup. Maiden could be from birth to puberty and Mother from puberty to menopause but with puberty starting earlier and earlier, I would have a hard time seeing a 9 yr old as Mother. Usually there is a special ceremony for the beginning of each stage.
Note that in Paganism, Crone does not have a negative connotation. Maybe someone to post a comment about the background for this.

*Technically, solar occult is the proper name for the event that we call solar eclipse. The moon blocks, hides, or occults the sun.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Finding religion is like finding a diet

A reader posted a link to Teller's video talking about proselytizing, Teller said that if you believe with your whole heart that you have the truth then you should tell people. I get that point. That made think of comparing religion to dieting. You have a friend Sue who recently improved her health, lost/gained weight, toned muscles, etc. She's happy and wants to share how she did it. She tells you she followed this plan called Diet A (I know, not very creative!). You listen to her, because it sounds interesting and you can see that it helped Sue immensely. You go to the meetings, get the products, follow the plan to the letter. But guess what, it doesn't work for you. You have another friend who swears by a different plan called Diet B. You go to the meetings, get the products, follow the plan and voila! You feel great!

You and Sue have a mutual friend Bob. Bob sees both you, happy and content, and wants to know what plan to use. You say Diet B but Sue says Diet A. Who is right? Who should Bob believe? Bob is confused so he researches both and finds things he likes about A and B but things he dislikes. He creates Diet AB and lo and behold, he gets results!

So now we have 3 diet plans that all work. So again, which one is the right one? Should Sue tell Bob he's not using the right plan even though he has verifiable results?

Replace "diet" with "religion" and hopefully you can see my point. If something works for you, you want to share it – I get that. But you cannot force it. Let them make the choice. If someone says no thank you, respect that. Don't try to come up with ways to overcome their objections. Spirituality should not be a sales pitch.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I’m having a problem with Shakubuku

Or rather the way that some NB organizations are presenting it. Maybe because I'm a recovering Jehovah's Witness (more on that later). I have a real problem telling someone that his/her religion is wrong or inferior and mine is right or superior. In case you didn't know, as I understand it, Shakubuku is what Nichiren Buddhists call the process of proseltyzing and converting non-believers. Most times it's passive, not active like going from door-to-door.
I mean, it's different if a person comes  to me and says, Hey, I heard you're a Buddagan, can you tell me more about that? Then I'll say, sure, here is a brief rundown of my spiritual beliefs. But to go and seek out people to convert, I just can't and won't do it. I notice that Pagans in general have no conversion process or goal. If you have questions, you can find a Solitary or a teaching coven to assist you. But you have to make the first step. Pagans don't go around forcing folks to join. I don't have experience with other Buddhist paths so I don't know if shakubuku is only a Nichiren Buddhist thing. I'm in no position to tell someone – not even my own children  - what religion or spiritual path they should take.
I guess I should tell you my shakubuku story: a coworker decided to invite me to a Nichiren Buddhist intro meeting. Something I said to her made her feel that it would be a good idea. To this day neither one of us can remember what that was. Anyway, I'm glad she did. I was at a point in my life where I felt something was missing. After a few failed attempts to rejoin the JW flock, I needed a change. So I went to the meeting. I was a bit weird with all the chanting but after I went to the 2nd meeting I was used to it. I was told that I didn't have to change my current belief system although I eventually did on my own.
I started chanting. "Mama Buddha" said that's how I can see for myself whether it works. Yeah I was skeptical but I chanted anyway, just saying nam myoho renge kyo sans gohonzon. I noticed changes in me. So did my husband. This was in March 2010. I guess I owe shakubuku breaking free of my previous brainwashing. But Mama Buddha didn't refute my beliefs or break me down. She invited me to a meeting, answered my questions, and let me decide for myself if I wanted to continue. It was more like this meaning:
Quote from the site says "Shakubuku is not breaking and subduing people, it is stopping suffering and awakening to life's potential."
If Shakubuku is helping people to stop suffering and awaken their Buddha nature, then cool.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Interesting things I've learned about Muslim

  • The Quran is not in chronological order. It's arranged from longest chapter to the shortest.
  • Muslims pray extra on lunar and solar eclipses.

Why I couldn't be Muslim

When I decided to search for a new spiritual path, I did some basic research on religion. When I looked at the rules for Muslim, I said to myself no thank you. The following link was posted on Facebook:

Food for thought, eh? I personally have nothing against Muslims, just that I won't be converting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Using Buddhism to Manage Anger

One of my direct supervisors pulled me up about violating the work dress code that started Monday.  He mentioned that another supervisor had noticed me and some others that were out of compliance. I got the equivalent of a smack on the hand. I'm not upset about that. What grinded my gears was that the other supervisor and I had a friendly relationship out of work. In fact, when I saw "Michael" today, I was on my lunch break and we even chatted briefly. Little did I know, he was snitching on me.
I will admit I was mad to the point of red hot steaming tears. I felt that I deserved a courtesy heads up even if he still had to inform my supervisor.  Where does Buddhism come in? Well, there's this thing called cause and effect. The actions that we do or don't do (causes) have results (effects). We can't blame someone else for the things that happen to us. We must take responsibility for ourselves.
After I calmed down a bit, I realized that had I been paying more attention to the notices about the dress code, I would have been prepared. So yes, I have to take responsibility for my actions. Even though "Michael" could have handled the situation differently especially if our (former) friendship meant anything, I can't control anyone but myself. Being that angry will poison only me.
Instead of being steaming mad, I'm merely very sadden that "Michael" and I will never be friends again.

New Year, New Moon

Merry meet and blessed be!

Today is the first new moon of the new year, the first Uposatha. For those who made new year's resolutions, are you still on track? Why not make smaller goals? Track your progress over a week or month instead of a year. My goal is to start walking again. Now that Yule has passed, the days are starting to get longer. It's not pitch black by the time I go on my lunch break.

The new moon is a time of reflection, of starting new goals. State your goals in a positive manner. Say "I will start taking the stairs" instead of "I will stop using the elevator".


Monday, January 3, 2011


Merry meet and blessed be!
I hope to write about my spiritual practice which includes elements from Buddhism and Paganism. I'll go into specifics later but I wanted to get started with getting my thoughts down in one place. As I'm new to both practices, I will have lots of questions. Maybe you can help answer them.