Look to What You DON’T Know.

Will Rogers, one of yesteryear’s revered comedic and philosophical figures, once said this:

Renaissance of African Spirituality in North America (Black Millennials Return to Their Ancestral Roots)

For the last 25 years I have been on my own spiritual journey, but along the way and continuing today, I delight in learning more and more about Earthlings’ belief systems, and non-belief systems.  Although I consider myself a neo-Buddhist (a term I coined), I have no issues with looking into the panorama of beliefs around the world.

One such spiritual system – call it a religion if you wish – is that which is of the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria.  The Yoruba have been around for centuries B.C., and have their own creation story.  Readers may know that when Africans from many tribes were brought to the Americas against their will and enslaved, those same Africans who survived the Middle Passage brought with them their beliefs.  What white masters found is that you can take an African out of Africa, but you can’t take the Africa out of Africans.

Africans were soon shown the white man’s religion in North America, Protestant and Catholic Christianity – and the White Jesus.  By exposing Africans to this religion, there were two goals, one to “pacify” slaves, and the other to control them.  Remember Africans were not even regarded as fully human, so the masters really did not care what happened to the souls of their chattel after they were hung or beat to death.

However, Africans accepted the Christian system and the white Jesus, but in a variety of ways, many of which either adapted Christianity to serve their own spiritual and emotional needs, with lots of singing and dancing, and for many, Christianity – particularly Catholicism – was secretly combined with their African practices, hence today’s Santeria, for example.  Such practices were much more common in South America, Cuba, and Haiti.

Here in North America grew a strong, yet diverse, African American-centered Christianity, but reflecting many innate aspects of African culture.

But today the attraction and magnetic hold on many Christians at large is waning.  Christians are leaving their churches in large numbers, and young people especially are leaving.  Many of these “leavers” are now in the “noner” category, having a religious affiliation of “none.”  However, among young Black Americans, more and more they are seeing themselves as Africans in America, and finding what their hearts are yearning for, in various forms of Yoruban Ifa and other practices.

I personally am acquainted with many such young people of color, and the attraction is not limited to only Blacks, for many Whites are also studying and being initiated into these spiritual systems.

The main elements of Ifa, sometimes referred to as ancestral worship, is the belief in venerating ancestors, divination and identification/initiation as followers of various Orishas (“gods”).  Moreover, the practices, ceremonies, initiation rituals and dancing, and identification with nature, is a powerful call to many looking for a touchstone in their troubled lives.

My best friend is a fully-initiated Osun priestess.  Osun is one of the Ifa orishas, the Goddess of love and sensuality,  fertility, rivers and caring for children.  Our home has her altars and mine, so it is a happy mix of loving understanding on the highest plane.

The point of this post is just to inform the readers about aspects of available spiritual practices they may be missing.

osun goddess

Painting of Goddess Osun

Here are some links related to this post:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/11/black-millennials-african-witchcraft-christianity/574393/

https://www.businessinsider.com/christians-are-leaving-the-faith-in-droves-2015-4

Our Disingenuous American Congress

This week the US House passed a resolution condemning the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire…….intended to be a thumb in the eye of the Turks for their incursion into the Kurdish area of northern Syria after BMT abandoned the Kurds, our allies who lost 10,000 men and women fighting with the USA to quell the ISIL

One Representative voted “Present”…. Ilhan Omar, and now she is catching hell for not voting Yes.  I stand with her.

This resolution will do nothing to help the Kurds and only has pissed off the Turks.  But there is a much larger reason for my standing with Rep. Omar:

Where are the similar resolutions against China, for the genocide in Tibet?  And right now, the “re-eduation” camps of over a million Uyghers, indigenous Muslims of China?

BUT, what really galls me is the failure of the United States to formally and officially apologize to African Americans for the over 400 years of slavery and the continuing oppression of Blacks in this Country!

Then there is our penal system, which has the greatest number of incarcerated humans in the world, with a very disproportionate number people of color.

Come on Speaker Pelosi, let’s get real ok!

Politrix is NOT Humanity!!!

A Most Wonderful “Thing”: IMPERMANENCE

As a child of the country, I had the opportunity to roam, explore and interact with nature.  One favorite, yet fleeting, past time was finding dandelion blooms, open and ready for the next breeze.  To pluck a stem and then gently blow on the bloom and see the seeds carry away in the breeze so carefree was perfectly synchronous with my feeling at that time, as a boy…..carefree and changing daily, letting my next idea move me to the next idea and activity, my mind open and being filled with learning.  I only lived in the moment, this moment, and the last and the next were just flickers of the film of my living.

Fortunately dandelions grow just about every where, rural and urban, but I wonder how many children today experience that almost mystical moment of blowing on such ethereal blooms to become one with nature and observe this signal of impermanence? Seeds to be carried by the breeze, perhaps close, perhaps very far, finding a tiny place on the Earth to await just the right amount of rain and sun to sprout to begin the cycle once again.   The cycle of life, the cycle that permeates every bit of space within our bodies, within our consciousness, in every organism and throughout the entire physical universe.

All things change.  This is one of the core axioms of all Eastern spirituality, a point totally missed (sadyly) by Western religions (at least as practiced today).

If we just pause a bit, and consider, the relationships we have with Everyone and Everything at this moment is not what it was yesterday, and really even a moment ago.  It is easier for us to perceive over time, facilitated as memory – that construct that our brain facilitates with its divine algorithms – and we see changes in how we interact with our children, with our lovers, with everyone we know, and then meeting knew people, even our spectrum of relationships itself changes.  To be opposed to such social change is to stagnate and begin to die within…..but count on impermanence to move even the worst person to another “place.”  Nothing can defy impermanence.  To live and move through this life we must embrace impermanence.

While impermanence is the nature of the universe itself, and is the only constant in the universe, we have within the ability to nurture and create an attitude of LOVE that also can be a “constant.”  Learning to LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY penetrates all states of compounded change in our relationships.  It is not an easy thing to do at times, but if cultivated, increases the light on our own paths, and will brighten the light of those we love and illuminate our worlds.

Buddha’s last words –  more or less (there are various translations and interpretations of those last words, of course) –  were:  everything changes; and strive to free yourselves.

So he was just reminding his monks of the impermanence of all, and that they needed each to free themselves from the cycle of existence (in accordance with Buddhist view).

While I as a Buddhist continue to explore the teachings,  the simplest thing to accept is the fact of impermanence.  I have found in my life that to be open to impermanence, to welcome and embrace it is to become one with Living.

What I have found in doing so is…. less suffering, greater vitality in relationships, dampening of ego, a knowing that I can create my world and change things for the better, all by realizing there is this wonderful aspect “thing” of impermanence that creates the space to make things better in the next moment.

So have an increasingly wonderful impermanent day!

 

 

 

The Unique Burden Humans Bear

Maybe one day we humans will be able to actually communicate with some other species, perhaps primates, or whales; or what about ravens, or octopuses, highly intelligent creatures themselves?  If I had the chance, one question I would want to ask any of these is “Do you feel complete?”

One unique thing that we humans universally carry, regardless of who or where we are, is a sense that there is something missing in our lives.  Our very existence needs more – and that more is not to be found materially, or in our relationships or environs.  Of course such a thought or inner voice may not arise until one is mature, or should I say, one’s consciousness is mature…..it’s not an age thing necessarily.  But eventually, I would think we each, who ever we are on the Earth, have at least a fleeting question, “Isn’t there more?”

Likely each person of sufficient intelligence will have their personal speculative answer to that question.  When one considers how many belief systems there are in the world, and then considers the diversity of interpretations of even recognized religions and paths, why the number of different beliefs must approach the same number of people alive at any one time. Is is assured that if we ask anyone of we humans about her or his  beliefs about matters pertaining to spirituality and religion, inclusive of those who are agnostic or atheist, each will have a unique answer to the question “Why do you believe that?” although the question may need repeating a few times to reach the essence of their sense of awareness of more.

Our consciousness ask, “Is this all I am?” Deep within us all is the awareness, embedded within our self-awareness, this wondering, a pondering of how did we and all this come to be.  Since this question has been with us since early humankind began to develop consciousness, we can assume it is innate, not phenomenal.  Was the “apple” Eve offered Adam as told in the Bible possibly a metaphor for consciousness?  With a bite from the apple Adam became aware, and with that awareness surely came the question that we humans have borne through the ages, “Is there more?”  Of course in the Bible then God was pretty straight forward with the answer, which makes for a great story for believers of the Judeo-Christian faiths.

Within each of us is this question, in many it is perhaps latent, but it is there.  It may be the one thing that makes us unique here on Earth.

What do you believe, and why?  If you believe within some major religion, why? Do you just accept that answer as a given? Why? What is your basis of such acceptance, blind allegiance called “faith,” or historical/scientific proof?  If you opt for a humanist perspective, how do you explain this position to yourself?  I mean, don’t we owe it to ourselves to understand what we say we believe?

Personally, my belief is in continuing to search for the ground of being where my consciousness is one with the perceived and hidden universe.  To accept a finite answer to the question I have posed today would be an attempt to circumscribe the infinite.  Therefore, I choose to continue my Tao, where ever it may lead.

Long before the “Ten Commandments”….

Perhaps some 2000 years before the mythological “Moses” (I use “mythological” as there is no historical evidence whatsoever for a real Exodus) was given – by the Lord – the stone tablets with “Ten Commandments” burned into them,  ancient KMT, Kemit, or Egypt as the civilization is commonly called, had evolved its religion, which included instructions to the recently departed on how to cross over into a new afterlife.

The Book of the Dead (one name for the instructions) included the 42 Negative Confessions, to be recited while the soul was balanced against the white feather of priestess Maat (Mayet).  The Confessions are historical “documents,” not mythology.  One can readily see the similarities of the Confessions and the Ten Commandments:

1. Hail, Usekh-nemmt, who comest forth from Anu, I have not committed sin.

2. Hail, Hept-khet, who comest forth from Kher-aha, I have not committed robbery with violence.

3. Hail, Fenti, who comest forth from Khemenu, I have not stolen.

4. Hail, Am-khaibit, who comest forth from Qernet, I have not slain men and women.

5. Hail, Neha-her, who comest forth from Rasta, I have not stolen grain.

6. Hail, Ruruti, who comest forth from Heaven, I have not purloined offerings.

7. Hail, Arfi-em-khet, who comest forth from Suat, I have not stolen the property of God.

8. Hail, Neba, who comest and goest, I have not uttered lies.

9. Hail, Set-qesu, who comest forth from Hensu, I have not carried away food.

10. Hail, Utu-nesert, who comest forth from Het-ka-Ptah, I have not uttered curses.

11. Hail, Qerrti, who comest forth from Amentet, I have not committed adultery.

12. Hail, Hraf-haf, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have made none to weep.

13. Hail, Basti, who comest forth from Bast, I have not eaten the heart.

14. Hail, Ta-retiu, who comest forth from the night, I have not attacked any man.

15. Hail, Unem-snef, who comest forth from the execution chamber, I am not a man of deceit.

16. Hail, Unem-besek, who comest forth from Mabit, I have not stolen cultivated land.

17. Hail, Neb-Maat, who comest forth from Maati, I have not been an eavesdropper.

18. Hail, Tenemiu, who comest forth from Bast, I have not slandered anyone.

19. Hail, Sertiu, who comest forth from Anu, I have not been angry without just cause.

20. Hail, Tutu, who comest forth from Ati, I have not debauched the wife of any man.

21. Hail, Uamenti, who comest forth from the Khebt chamber, I have not debauched the wives of other men.

22. Hail, Maa-antuf, who comest forth from Per-Menu, I have not polluted myself.

23. Hail, Her-uru, who comest forth from Nehatu, I have terrorized none.

24. Hail, Khemiu, who comest forth from Kaui, I have not transgressed the law.

25. Hail, Shet-kheru, who comest forth from Urit, I have not been angry.

26. Hail, Nekhenu, who comest forth from Heqat, I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.

27. Hail, Kenemti, who comest forth from Kenmet, I have not blasphemed.

28. Hail, An-hetep-f, who comest forth from Sau, I am not a man of violence.

29. Hail, Sera-kheru, who comest forth from Unaset, I have not been a stirrer up of strife.

30. Hail, Neb-heru, who comest forth from Netchfet, I have not acted with undue haste.

31. Hail, Sekhriu, who comest forth from Uten, I have not pried into other’s matters.

32. Hail, Neb-abui, who comest forth from Sauti, I have not multiplied my words in speaking.

33. Hail, Nefer-Tem, who comest forth from Het-ka-Ptah, I have wronged none, I have done no evil.

34. Hail, Tem-Sepu, who comest forth from Tetu, I have not worked witchcraft against the king.

35. Hail, Ari-em-ab-f, who comest forth from Tebu, I have never stopped the flow of water of a neighbor.

36. Hail, Ahi, who comest forth from Nu, I have never raised my voice.

37. Hail, Uatch-rekhit, who comest forth from Sau, I have not cursed God.

38. Hail, Neheb-ka, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have not acted with arrogance.

39. Hail, Neheb-nefert, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have not stolen the bread of the gods.

40. Hail, Tcheser-tep, who comest forth from the shrine, I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the spirits of the dead.

41. Hail, An-af, who comest forth from Maati, I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.

42. Hail, Hetch-abhu, who comest forth from Ta-she, I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

“Life” after “Death”: What do you believe?

My mind often has wandered back to that night years ago when my wife transcended, slipping “over.”  She passed with me on her bedside holding her hands, as we held eye contact.  We were alone, as she was terminal and there was nothing any doctor or nurse could do, except turn up her oxygen feed, which had max’d out.  I won’t bother you with the poignant hours leading up to this moment, but I want to share her very last words with you:  “I see God.  I am God.”  A few minutes later her heart stopped, and she left me, eyes wide, with a beautiful relaxed smile on her face, and with Venus shining into our room.

That moment set me off on what was a year long journey of mourning, and searching for what I could believe in.  The night she passed we were visited by a chaplain, who was Christian.  He asked us a few basic questions, and to the one regarding if we had an affiliation with a religion, we both replied “No,” after looking at one another, answering’ “We are spiritual but not religious.”  She had grown up in an African American CME church, and I had some exposure within a Southern Baptist church as a child, but neither of us had been to church except for funerals since.  Yet she was a studious seeker of guidance from many sources.  She practiced fasting with a Muslim friend during Ramadan, read from her Bible, read many books on African-centered spiritual paths, and Theosophy; however, her real path was her love, “Jazz.”  Her music was everything to her, the voice of the Muses singing the Alpha Omega.

For the year after she passed I was a devout student of world religions and spirituality, reading everything I could get my hands on, studying from the beginning, the Bibles, their history, religious archaeology, Judaism, the beliefs of KMT (Kemit….Egypt), Mayans, Christianity with all its twists and turns, Islam with its own twist and turns, Eastern religions, and finally I found a growing affinity for Buddhism.  One day I saw that a Buddhist monk was giving a talk, and the location was three blocks from where my wife’s grandmother’s home had been where we had spent many fun hours visiting.  I saw it as a sign, and went.  I accepted Buddhism that very day, and through Buddhism arrived at my beliefs of today.  My journey and quest is far from over, but I know I have a path to walk on.

When my wife died, a close lady friend, younger, became pregnant.  I had never known the lady well, just at a distance, but some months after becoming a widower, I found myself interested in this lady, even though she was pregnant.  A few weeks before she was to give birth, one morning at the crack of dawn, I was sound asleep, when BAM, there was an electric shock that went through my body, following the route of kundalini, and i suddenly was just sitting straight up in bed, seeing in my mind a marquee across my third eye, that read: “_______’s baby is Shirley(my late wife’s name).”  I kid you not! This happened exactly as I state.

So I became very friendly and helpful to this lady, and while I wasn’t there for the moment of birth, I was there just a few hours later, the two of us in her recovery room, when the baby was brought to her for her first nursing.  That baby and I just connected, I mean to tell you!  I became her Godfather (along with her siblings and even another wonderful girl), and today that baby is a beautiful 24 year old pursuing her music career.  Oddly it may seem, but the girl is so very much like my wife was, even physically, her own mother has remarked so many times about all the similarities.  Of course we believe in reincarnation, but the mother and I do have differing views to a large extent.  That is the joy of spirituality in my way of thinking, that it truly is personal.  I truly believe that which my wife saw clearly at her transcending, that we each are the manifestation of our own God.  Every religion that seeks to bind people to one belief system to me is nothing more than slavery of the Mind.

For myself, God is unknowable, but definitely not an old white guy with a beard.  God to me is the Void from which all emanates, the great Mind of which each of our minds is a part in the grand scheme.  We must remember the enormity of life as we know it, in all its varieties on Earth, and at the same time know that we are infinitely small in the overall scheme of the Universe, its space, gravity, constituency, energy and dynamics.  God to me is a vast information store, and our own minds are part of the processor.  What we think is brought into “reality” (samsara).  Buddha is said to have said, “All is Mind.”  As our telescopes and probes go further into space itself, perhaps that space  manifest only in our Mind, because we observe it, just like quantum experiments are affected by the observation of the physicists conducting the experiment (this is true if you don’t know).

So I ask you what you believe?  Do you believe you go to “Heaven,” and if so what will it be like?  What body will you have, the body you die with, or one 16 years old? and what mind will you have?  Will you not have any sexuality?  Or will you enjoy 16 virgins if you are a man, or hopefully 16 young men if a woman?  Or do you believe the bodies will be resurrected from the soil?  What about those that are cremated or otherwise vaporized over millennia?

I think it is important to use the mind that your God gave you, and not merely be a religious pawn, blindly following stuff written by monks or holy men who were as lost and confused as most of us. Know the real history of any religion you follow, do not just blindly accept it.  Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Set You Free.  Someone said, I think the musical artist George Clinton, “free your mind, and your ass will follow.”  I take those words literally.

It is very important that we live in the moment, savoring each moment, and doing our best to practice what sages have taught going back to early Judaism, Confucius, the Greek philosophers, the Kemetian principles of Ma’at (which cover everything in the Ten Commandments, and all other “good books.”), and the spiritual realizations of all tribal and “pagan” religions.  The only one I ascribe to is the One that is the Totality of All.

My wife’s mother and I became great friends after she lost her only child.  She was a Christian woman, and I never attempted to argue religion with her, but made it clear to her I was a Buddhist.  But she was not interested in that, and one day said to me, “Well Joe, you are a good man, you do good things…….so, you are a Christian.”  To her that was what Christianity was, simply living life as the Jew who was crucified lived it.  I miss her.