Reading the Air: Achala

Achala

Achala, one of the main images of Buddhism in Japan, is often a small rough stone image, hewn out of rock, and usually covered in moss. Achala is the strict side of the usually benefic Buddha, so he wears a grimace, wields a lasso to rescue people from their delusions, and stands on the earth unlike other images which float on celestial lotus pads.

This image represents the rigorous determination the Buddha developed during his six days of sitting working for his enlightenment. During this intense time, he drove away many temptations and demons sent to test his meditation focus, in order to reveal the truth of the Universe, the Dharma.

Nohmen bowed low and renewed his vow to continue on with his mission no matter what achala 1happened to him.  It was the Achala figure , the focus of the Homa rite or Fire rite, which stands consumed in flames whist being determined to continue to help all people. Nohmen smiles because the flames, instead of being red or orange as they were in the internal image, are covered in green moss and lichen.

But this image is what drove the founder of their school of Buddhism on to undergo strict austerities, cold water ablutionsuch as ice-water ablutions – sitting in the snow, then breaking the ice on the top of barrels of water to pour over his head to rid himself of self-centred or egotistic thoughts and desires, wearing only a thin cotton robe.

Tears rise in Nohmen’s eyes as he thinks of all the great spiritual leaders who were so willing to put their own needs and desires aside so that they could lead all people to happiness and truth. The fierce Achala with his huge sword of wisdom works tirelessly to cut away people’s delusions in the human world. Achala 2

 

Advertisements

Reading the Air: chanting

chanting monk

Chanting is what many Buddhists call ‘practice.’ It is a concrete way of interpenetration with the Buddha, becoming one with all the Buddhas, and connecting with the world of spirits. The use of the human voice is a sacred pursuit, which Nohmen has come to realize so clearly.  Its beauty is not only to be admired as an artistic expression, singing heady Bach or backstreet Blues.

We often take our own voices for granted, speaking without thinking, and maybe hurting others in the process, or adding fuel to the fire of gossip and negative comments about others, or conveying anger, irritation or intolerance tovocal anger those around us.

Equally as with the body, the human voice is capable of a massive range of human and inhuman acts.  One voice has the capacity of rallying troops to war or massacre, and then it can appease and plead for world peace and harmony. It can abuse and destroy the confidence of others, or it can gently encourage and praise them. It can sing a lullaby to a babe, or send off the dead with wailing and lullabysobbing.  It can dialogue in isolation eliciting praise and favour from admirers, or it can slice through all the other worlds and dimensions with its absolute sincerity.  The voice is an essential and eternal part of the fabric of the universe.

Nohmen remembered and was regretful often about how reluctant he was to chant when he first started to practise. How much of a chore it was, and how he doubted its efficacy.  Like many people, he found the daily repetition occasionally tedious, tending to lose interest because there was no immediate, tangible response or reward.birdsong

It seemed to be a human trait to do things for a reward of some kind, as if our actions always need some kind of acknowledgement from a visible, or perhaps, invisible witness.  But when we chant with an open heart, and from beyond the grasping ego, we can truly connect with the Universe.  Indeed, we can ‘make bonds with the universe,’ as the Buddha put it!

Nowadays, always, Nohmen felt transformed and refreshed by contributing his voice to the frequencies of the sound Universe. His master incisively compared this sincere vocal act with the full moon, with an unblemished state, with a perfect entity, which lacks nothing.  In fact, through chanting with his deep resonant voice, Nohmen was able to run with the wind and flow with the rivers, and to build up merit steadily and unfailingly.

It is so simple to him to know that when he chants he becomes a body of energy filling the air, merging with other energies, and a part of the huge magnetic field of the universe.

Reading the Air: ancestral spirits – letter to Meredith

Dear Meredith,O Bon

Waiting for ancestral spirits to come in twenty-first century Japan! This is indeed a primitive act as you say. On closer examination, and by talking to many people, it is apparently not questioned or thought about in detail here. People just accept it. It is impressive  that even young people, with their growing materialism and desire to emulate bland western culture, seem to simply accept that their ancestors and their grandparents are worthy of respect, and they have a wish to demonstrate that unconditional acceptance. 

It could be said that perhaps they are merely going through the motions, but even so, they are participating in a clear act of consecration by traveling long distances to spend time with others of their lineage each year at butsudan 2O Bon time.  This constitutes some kind of gesture of gratitude to those who made their lives possible through the altruistic act of birthing.

At O Bon time, often all the generations of a family sleep together, breathing the same air laden with the aromas of burning wax and incense made of resins from mountain forests.  Fire, a symbol of purification which promotes new life, figures importantly in guiding the spirits back to the invisible world, so they can harvest all the prayers and sincere wishes of gratitude collected together for their visit.  

In Kokoro’s coastal hometown, squeezed between the forest slopes which lead down to the beach and low maroon cliffs, there is no space to make the bonfires that will be raging out on the mountaintops and in the funagatavalleys all over Japan this night.  Tonight also, lanterns will be lit and carried down to the waters, the prayers inscribed on them having been carefully considered, a sincere moment of gassho offered, and probably a small tear or two shed, as they are launched.

Meredith, perhaps due to our human condition, which has temporarily lost a sense of deep gratitude, some of us are unable to see our parents’ faces until the moment of their death.  But then it is too late, and deep regret is liable to set in.  But there are gestures and nonverbal phenomenon, which link us permanently with our parents, and their parents, link us invisibly.

stones of deathImagine a father and his young son exchanging the stones they found on a small pebble beach near a wide river.  They keep them secreted away in their separate lives as the child becomes adult and the father ages.  Then, on the father’s solitary death, the son is summoned and he prepares to deliver his father to the invisible world, cleaning and dressing him in his death robes.   

He struggles to unclench his father’s fingers, stiffened by the ceasing of the flow of blood and air in the body’s channels. He must place them in the traditional position of repose at the heart.  And once they are finally released, something falls out of the sealed cup of the left hand.  It is a small oval white pebble, which his link between father and son imagethen-small son had given to him on the smiling beach of his youth.

Also, as an unrecognized sign from the invisible world, just before the father’s unexpected death, the son had recently rediscovered his father’s gift of a larger rough dark stone wrapped in newspaper of that time which was stored inside the case of his childhood cello. His wife had suddenly urged him to play something for her. This was just such an invisible link between the estranged father and son. We are often not able to understand this connection until the time of death.

prep for deathThe son will deliver his own father into the invisible world, washing his grey body and cutting away the bristles on his face.  Then, suddenly, the face beneath the son’s tears becomes un-blurred in his heart.  He has tried for so many years to see that face that gave him life, but it was always unclear, somehow obscured.  

Now, through his tears and the tragedy of life and death, the father’s spirit leaves the body, and once this clarification has been accomplished, the face of his father surfaces in his son’s mind.  In this way, the handing over of the lineage is completed.

The son turns to offer the small white stone to the swollen body of his omniscient wife sitting behind him.  And so the spirit moves on to the next generation, and the next stage of training has begun.ancestors

 

 

Reading the Air: brave daughter

young girl in kimono

Running through the snow; your gait uneven due to ill-fitting knee-boots made of rushes. You have no hat, no protections for young flesh, no coat, only a kimono of dark blue covered with a design to keep you in contact with the Kami-sama, the gods of all things. The fierce blizzard has driven even the Hokkaido elk and arctic rabbits to shelter, but not you. What is it that forces you to run your tiny body against horizontal winds, your small legs to take you forward despite foot-ware which only contains your feet and lower legs and snow bootswas never meant for running. Neither should you run as a girl.

What are you running from or running to? What slot in your tender early years attracts or repels you with such vehemence. Are you hunted or are you hunter? The snow is knee-deep but you drive on, burned cheeks, perspiration and tears indistinguishable.

You run from the hard labour and harsh treatment of your grandmother, slapped and scolded relentlessly as you learn the trade of housewife, of slave to men and children. You are a child, but you must look after other children. Hauling water for the well which you stand on tip-toe to reach, the bucket knocking you down and spilling as you lift it. You drag the wooden barrels up the snowy path to the kitchen, but by the time you arrive they are half empty, and you are scolded for wasting precious water.

You sleep on the kitchen floor nursing a new girl baby; there are no covers for either of you because of your sex. You scrub acres of wooden floors with a cloth too big for you to hold, and are forced to do the laundry in the river as it cracks through ice and thick snow, until your hands are blue and bleeding. snow bank

HokkaidoYou run to your mother, ka-chan, your bond with her of silent slaves. You were ripped from her by your grandmother who needed your help, rowed away down the river by stern men, their eyes covered by wide straw hats.

As you left, your mother negotiated the white bank shrieking at the separation, collapsing from the waist in the shallows, defeated. But your father ran on, strong but not strong enough to prevent this harsh breaking of his family for the matriarch. He soon collapsed too, sobbing, ashamed because he cannot afford to feed you because you are a girl, and he must put scant resources into growing his sons to inherit the family line. You stand unsettling the bamboo raft, your few belongings tied on to your back with a cloth, the oarsmen shouting and pushing you down. But you continue to shout ‘Ka-chan’ from a body as still as an icicle, refusing to be defeated.

JApanese daughter 1Exhaustion and desperation in the snow-field bring you down, a forgotten creature dotting the barren luminosity. Hunted? Hunter? Then a hunter finds you. He was not stalking a daughter, but he cherishes you and educates you in reading magical kanji and the power of story.

Then at the peak of your fondness for each other, he is pressganged by the army as fodder for the war, and disappears just as he appeared. He leaves you only one piece of evidence of his existence, a harmonica. You cannot play a man’s instrument, so you wrap it in your cloth like a relic.

You are alone and torn away from love again. You leave the hunter’s rustic hut, climbing through the drifts, and the running begins again. But you are stronger now, not abused, never scolded, sustained by the hunter’s love and your skills.

You know now that you must run towards the town to beg for work and that oka-chan and the hunter cannot help you now. It is the beginning of your girl’s life alone as servant, as child-bearer and carer, perhaps as prostitute, your body to always be the property of others. Duty will be your oxygen for life.

snow

Scent of the Divine: other ways of being

sensory deprivation

What can we learn from sensory deprivation about accessing other ways of being? How can we avoid the domination of visual processing, the consequent desire to own everything we see, and the ‘blind instinct’ to pin everything down into permanence in the realities we create in our minds? What we see, we want to possess and fossilize, and then that becomes our reality. Quite naturally we fear its loss.

For urban dwellers in the developed world, the allure and provocation of visual signals pulls us out of our true nature. In modern life, Tokyothe monopolizing visual sense can generate synthetic conditions in which we ‘see,’ but more importantly ‘are seen,’ and interpret everything to suit us. Whereas the non-visual senses – listening/hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling – receive concrete data that needs no interpretation as it is invisible. In a series of articles soon to be made into a book, I will explore the ancient senses that I believe link us with our innate divinity.

Our true nature is both visible and invisible, never limitable to man-made concepts like space and time, or to merely seeing and being seen. I believe our responsibility in the visible world is to live with unconditional love and compassion so we can convey the lessons of humanity to others, and to revive our divine energy in these days of shocking social deterioration and urban isolation. In simple terms, our senses are out of balance. By closing down the visual sense and ‘going inside,’ we can make contact with our higher self and the vast magical land of the invisible.

The ‘I’ and the physical eye operate in a similar way. As mentioned, the visual sense is the most dominant in our consumerist closing downacquisitive societies. Diversity and pluralism overwhelm us with choices, alternatives, get-out clauses, and so on. If we cannot see something, there is a possibility that we consider it not to exist, or at the very least to have no validity. We need proof either with the naked eye, or in writing, to make things valid because our trust in others and in our perceptions of reality is so weak.

It is no wonder then that we cling desperately to the ‘self’ as proof that our flesh and blood actually exist. But in that clinging, there is a possibility that we may have lost all contact with our true self; that our divine flame is either guttering or extinguished altogether.

visual deprivationIn respect of the above, the visually impaired are fascinating. If we take away visual data from human existence altogether, then how do we make sense of the world? I have had the privilege of working with visually impaired children and adults as a Music Therapist. They have taught me so much about concrete communication, which contributes to my own spiritual insights, and helps me to step beyond the straitjacket of duality which most of us wear.

Before writing in detail about my professional experience, I would like to bring attention to a film, which movingly depicts how a person deprived of sight as an adult, makes sense of his new world. The title is ‘Scent of a Woman’ 1992, based on an Italian film released in 1974 Profumo di donna, (director Dino Risi, leading role Vittorio Gassman, based on the story Il Buio e il Miele by Giovanni Arpino). A colonel is injured in an accident, losing his sight entirely. He adapts badly to his disability drinking heavily and lashing out at everyone around him in an obnoxious way. He sees no reason to go on living, so he employs a scent of a womanyoung student, paying his way at a local university, to accompany him to New York to take his final pleasures before shooting himself.

Booking into the best hotel, he lavishes them both during their stay. In the hotel there is a dance floor, a small band playing Latin American music in the afternoon, and guests dancing formally. The colonel senses the fragrance of a woman sitting nearby them and somehow knows that she is alone. He goes to ask her to join them for a drink, and then to his helper’s incredulity, invites her to dance the tango with him. He knows the steps intimately and the floor clears to watch the spectacle. His partner is nervous at first, but soon relaxes and they stride out together confidently.

This scene has incredible nobility for me because of my experience of visual impairment. Apparently, all the blind colonel needs to music therapymake the impossible happen is the fragrance of a woman, his healthy body receptive to vibrations, and his kinesthetic memories of dancing the Tango, all of them concrete data.

Is it possible to reconstruct a visually accessed environment in terms of sound and movement? I know first-hand that this is what the visually impaired do to make sense of their world. A young female client blind from birth had never seen anything or anyone; she did not experience even feint patterns of light or shadow. She used sound as her environment, making mountains out of pianoblind child jumping chords and snowy summits with her agile voice. She could create a journey in a ship by jumping high to make wave patterns and the rocking of the vessel, using her fingers and voice as the people on board.

She was happiest without words, entirely nourished by the vibrations of sound and sensing them in her body. No intellectual assessment or interpretation, only spontaneous integration with the stimuli.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, spiritual teacher and visionary, said, “The description is not the described; I can describe the mountain, but the description is not the mountain, and if you get caught up in the description as most people are, then you will never see the mountain.’ Of course, my young client had never seen a mountain and never would be taking off maskable to do so, so instead she could sense it made of sound and smells, and her own bodily movements in space. This can teach us just how attached we become to words and their meaning. Being receptive to only the sound of the word can liberate us so we are able to revert to our true spirit nature beyond mere symbols.

Colonel Slade on the other hand, had seen many mountains and had lived their descriptions, but was now dependent on memories of mountains. Would he be content with this vagueness when he had made mountains so permanent in his life? Would his awareness of mountains gradually dissolve if it could not be refreshed? Would his sense of loss, of the living reality that everything is impermanent, finally hit home and bring him to an awakening, or would it be utterly unbearable. Or, would he now be consumed by the description of himself as a blind helpless and pitiable being, and fail to see that he was not the described, he was not those words. It would seem that his decision to kill himself in some way represented the final irreversible permanence: in other words, he would no longer be there to be seen.

Although occasionally troubled by the language and words of her carers and therapists, which she was often unable to interpret, my young client was completely happy, and reasonably well-adjusted in normal life. But she became aggressive if she was not allowed to move her body through the air, or blocked from feeling the vibrations of sound because this was the only way she could be certain that using visualsshe existed. So, in terms of her inner spiritual life, she was not beleaguered by dialogue from either her demons or her false angels, not attached to concepts and theories, and not hampered by the acquisitive ‘I’ or ‘eye.’ Whatever she needed to affirm her identity came from sounds and smells, touches and tastes. Words were not symbols, which developed an intellectual reality of their own to her and caused her to live in an abstract world of the mind.

The visible. The invisible. A famous blind and deaf phenomenon Helen Keller, who eventually learned to live in the visible and audible world said, ‘ the best and the most beautiful things in the world cannot Helen Kellerbe seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart.’ This spiritual view of life comes from a grueling heart-breaking training to learn to live in the world of the sighted and the hearing from early childhood. Her adaptation is testimony to our ability to overcome anything if the divine flame in the heart is strong and we do not allow our senses to be out of balance.

As the world is designed for the sighted, it is impossible for the majority of the non-sighted to make sense of it. They experience existence more directly, more concretely, often from the higher self. This is an inspiration. Many of us have learned to access the higher self through meditation or prayer, which invariably entails closing the eyes and focusing our listening. But how we struggle with distractions in the form of words – notions, speculations, justifications, judgments, criticisms, ad infinitum.

We naturally want to escape from this relentless barrage of concepts, so look for a path leading away, taking us out of ourselves. It is masteryironic that all we need is already located inside us if only we can quell the noise of our minds and just be in silence and stillness. The blind cannot escape and have no desire to usually. They are content to finger the complex textures of an item on and on, or jump continuously to experiment with their balance or to mingle with concrete energies.

In spiritual practice we aspire to go beyond words and other habitual interpretations of reality. We can learn to sink down into the firm yielding of now and here, of the great still silence where we too, like the mantras 2visually impaired, can detect vibrations and use other tools accessible to humans such as clairvoyance, perfect pitch, telepathy, that we once utilized. Colonel Slade’s tango with a beautiful fragrant woman almost pushed him over the edge, sending him to lock himself into his room and prepare his gun. Then he felt the love of his young accomplice in angry invective about his cowardliness and self-pity, and knew he could play a useful role in his young life. He could settle for concrete stimuli in time, and found wisdom behind his irascible intolerance. He could still believe in questions and their answers, somnambulating around the visual world learned from memory, at least for a while longer.

The questions the congenitally blind may pose are mere sound-play empty of meaning: hearing their own voices, imitating other voices, projecting the sounds their being can create to chart their environment. They are not desperate jabs at understanding existence, of ‘seeing’ through or behind impressions, of ‘understanding’ and interpreting everything as those of the sighted, because they knowthinking there are no questions, so there are no answers.

They are not separated away from existence because they cannot see to measure and compare, to judge and sort, to speculate or criticize. We sighted need to accept everything and step beyond duality to reconnect with our divine origins. Whereas the blind are embedded in existence; they cannot easily move around in their concrete environment as we do in the virtual worlds we invent.

It is difficult for those who have always been able to see the world to imagine the world of the congenital blind. They are like ghosts using their body form as an instrument to detect their environment. They become concrete in the same way that what they perceive best is concrete. They do not take what is visible and transient deep inside them and make it invisible in order to invisiblelearn lessons and connect with the invisible world. They are invisible already.

They are usually calm and steady because everything is already lost in their world; they can hold on to little and describe nothing. Voices come and go, textures and temperatures are continually changing beyond their control. There is no light or shade. There are no models to imitate except vocally; and they are often excellent mimics because of their exclusive audio focus. We usually pity them, their deprivation of the treasures of the visual, such is our pride in being visual ourselves, but their insight into life is extraordinary and their link with the divine I believe functions strongly.healing 1

My blind client knew my inner thoughts. She had clairvoyance without doubt, and she could predict my future. As a music therapist I was one of the few people she wanted to be with all the time because I could make soundscapes for her, and she could use instruments and her voice and body to converse with them.

Our environment can provide concrete data such as resonance, smell, texture and temperature, taste and kinaesthetic awareness, none of which are open to the same kind of interpretation as visual data perceived only by the physical shamanic tranceeyes. This data is invisible, the dimension and substance of our spiritual origin. The shaman in primitive tribes enters into a trance to connect with the world of spirits to access wisdom of the elder ancestors. He or she can no longer ’see’ in the physical sense. Soothsayers and seers have traditionally been visually impaired. We are told by Buddhist Masters that during our time in human life we are living in a dream world in which everything is impermanent and created by our minds, so we are perhaps selectively blind ourselves because we cannot see reality, only an abstraction.

The blind colonel on the dance floor moving his own body and his unknown partner’s through space to thethe writer majestic rhythms of the Tango inspired by the fragrance she is wearing, is a moving feat to the sighted. There is no hesitation, no speculation, just beautiful bodies moving trustingly through space, responding to resonances and scents. This is surely an unconditional act. At first, he intends this performance to be his swan song – resonance, rhythms, fragrance, bodily accompaniment all that he needs to shift to the invisible world. But soon he realizes that he can adapt, and at the same time can make peace with his true self.

scent

Reading the Air: moving on in the temple courtyard

Jizo 2

Next after the Earthly and Heavenly deities, stands in front of the large then life form of black Jizo, the Bodhisattva of children and of ancestors, which stands as tall as the two towers of the guardians. This ancient Japanese deity can be seen throughout Japan and is well respected for having tireless compassion in rescuing people from their sufferings and giving them protection, and especially children, in his domain in the spiritual world.

At the feet of the Jizo figure. standing close, is a small child, and in the open palm of the adult form is another tiny baby, which Jizo's feetrepresents the souls of all unborn children. This is testimony to the invisible world in which spirit energies wait for the appropriate moment to be manifested as flesh, and to begin the lessons of life.

There are many lower realms in Buddhism, which represent many forms of suffering, so when one reaches the stage of spiritual development when we are ready to be born a human, this is a considerable release from much worse sufferings, even though some would say that being a human is agonizingHell Realms enough at times.

Standing in front of Jizo, Nohmen always thinks about his own incredible fortune at being born a Buddhist amidst many other religions, and in a western country, the probability being as unlikely as a sea turtle swimming in a mighty ocean pushing its head through a tiny hole in a piece of driftwood floating on its surface.

When standing before the Jizo deity, which towers above the rock garden, with its Japanese waterwheel bring water down through different levels to make a beautiful pool filled with ornamental carp and tiny freshwater turtles, he also remembers the Australian nativeJundal Giangaaborigines he lived with in the desert. they believe totally that the unborn spirits of their children swim round in a large waterhole, and that when the right moment comes for them to be born, a creation midwife figure scoops out their spirit, and places it in exactly the right place and situation for it to thrive.

Nohmen walks forward across the small granite bridge over the pool and bows looking up into Jizo’s eyes. Then picks up the wooden scoop and takes water in it to trickle over the small child’s head and the feet of the Bodhisattva.  It is the duty of Buddhists to console not only the spirits of the dead, but also those of yet to be born, or those who do not survive birth or are aborted.  The act of pouring pure cool water over Jizo is meant to quench the terrible thirst of those suffering from the fires of hell.

Jizo was originally an Indian god called Kshitigarbha which traveled with the missionaries across the Silk Roads. He was installed in Japan, and even to this day, images of Jizo are to be seen occupying most of the 30,000 shrines and temples of Kyoto, and throughout Japan. The compassion of this spirit will never cease working for all sentient beings to be brought into human form in order to learn the teachings and become enlightened.

Kyoto temples

Reading the Air: the gods of Earth and Heaven

Bezaitengods of the earth

In the courtyard, the guardian deities of the Earth and the Sky, and related images, are designed to wake us up. Those of Earth in the north, just beyond the main gate, are the first to give thanks to.  They are enshrined in a tall windowless tower, with steps leading up to Japanese shrineornate glass double-doors at the front, in which at certain times, a priest sat facing inside making offerings to the gods of the Earth. Slippers are left outside the shrine, as shoes are prohibited inside. We each have constituents of Earth and Heaven in our characters, as we do make and female, so the Earth is important to pay homage to.

The Earth and the forces in and above it are our cardinal foundation, which we so easily forget as we pander to our egos. But in Japan, and other ‘earthquake’ countries, the threat of earthquakes leads people to be more aware of the preciousness of the stability of the Earth, on a daily basis.  The magnetic and radioactive qualities of the Earth are the Earthessential to life and to growth, and we people are made of exactly the same materials. We return to the Earth when our physical bodies disintegrate.

The mantras for the Earth are recited twice in every day by most Japanese Buddhists, and its produce used in ceremonies as offerings to the Buddhas and deities of the Universe. Indeed, we could not make fire without the Earth and her products, and fire is staple to survive in the freezing winters of Kyoto. People in a constant stream place their hands in gassho and bow deeply from the waist to the gassho 1Earth standing before the gods.

Nohmen’s turn came to stand before them, and he added his awe and gratitude at being able to worship the Earth on the archipelago of Japan to his devotions, and a prayer of gratitude to indigenous peoples, their closeness to the Universe, and the wisdom they have cleaned and imparted to those who are beginning to listen willingly.

In the east is the shrine of the gods of the Heavens and Sky. Man inhabits the space between the two, and without the sky and the air, sentient creatures would not be able to borrow breath in order to survive.  The heavenly gods are traditionally enshrined in another windowless tower, which is constructed over a shallow pond full of large golden carp swimming so close to the surface that their lips appear from time to time as they gulp in the air. A small bridge has been constructed to the doorway to the shrine, where similarly, a priest can offer the heavenly rites.

SeiryoAir and sunshine are the basic medium of life and growth, and without them we probably could not exist as humans with higher consciousness.  The gods of the Sky also represent the mind and vision, the clarity of mind like a jewel.  Attaining a mind like a clear blue sky without clouds is a reflection of the Universe, and the main goal of meditation.  In Japan, the birds of the Sky are so important, and in Buddhism-and before that Brahminism and Hinduism-their flight confirming the divination of the future.

Around the time of important ceremonies or events, people look at the Sky for signs that mark them. Nohmen has seen blinding halos around the Sun on occasions when his master comes to teach at the temple. People also watch for special shapes of clouds. It is not uncommon to see clouds in the perfect shape of a phoenix, the great mythical bird that in indestructible even by fire, rising from the flames. It is said that the founders of the teaching are ever-present after their physcial deaths like these fantastical birds.

sky phoenixPhoenix