What is meant by the left hand path?

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Post by Ken O'Neill » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The "left-hand path" in general is a reference to the esoteric practices of Western "occult" groups in recent centuries. More specifically, it is often used to refer to the fact that these practices are considered dark or evil by mainstream society ("black magic" and the like). Some better-known examples of "left-hand path" groups are the Golden Dawn, Thelema, the Temple of Set, and the Church of Satan.
I can't imagine why the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn would be lumped in with groups so vastly dissimilar to it. By that accounting, Papus, the Theosophical Society, and the many neo-Rosicrucians should likewise be lumped in as well.
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Post by Raphael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Left hand path obviously refers to utilizing more of the 'right' brain which sees things as a whole which is in direct conflict with those who ate from the Tree of Knowledge...those who have chosen to be on the right hand path.

And those who have chosen this path are 'the chosen'.
The Trinity of Conflict...the Judeao-Christians.

So coincidently those that are on the left-hand path tend to lean toward the mystical east.

Is this stuff really that complicated?

i.e. Ken Wilbur I would suggest had chosen the right hand path and Joseph Campbell it could be said chose the left.
Both men have made grand attempts to unify both hemispheres of thought.

The razor's edge is the middle path.
Now let's talk about free will and our apparent 3 choices.


namaste

Raphael

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ENERGY = GOD ... Share Him is the Message...
God can be neither created nor destroyed; he can only be transformed into other forms of God. However there is a penalty for committing sin, for transforming God and it is called Entropy.


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Post by Ken O'Neill » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2003-05-23 10:04, David_Kudler wrote:
Actually, the term 'left-hand path' comes from Tantric yoga. It refers to the path to transcendence through ecstacy--the path that takes one outside of the sphere of the social compact, into the realm of transcendence.

I believe that the 'left hand' part is due to the idea in Indian metaphysics (and ancient Western metaphysics, too, by the way) that assigns the left side to the female.
First, "tantric yoga" could stand some qualification. The term "left handed" is foreign to buddhist vajrayana, hence applies to "hindu" systems only.

I'm not convinced the left is always associated with the feminine in India iconography. Here's why. Icons of the standing Amitabha have the right hand raised and the left extended, both with forefinger and thumb forming circles. The raised right had signifies the pole of bodhi or awakening, itself feminine (as is sophia in the west), while the left hand/arm is extended out into the world, the masculine role of activity - in this case as karuna (badly rendered and misunderstood when given away as "compassion" ) - it's roots are in sunyata (emptiness, another feminine noun, an abstract substantive from sunya, meaning among other things "womb"); however, karuna is defined as upaya, skilled means or (as Bob Thurman and I independently came up with in 1990) "liberative arts".

That amitabha figure maintains that expression way through china to korea and japan.

You see it again in full personification as Avalokiteshvara, a male bodhisattva embodying karuna. In China he becomes an androgyne due to being inflected through identification with a local goddess figure in that culture, from whence arises quanyin.

Now the role change somewhat in Tibet. Local mythos there has Avalokiteshvara looking upon the trouble world of illusionar persons, shedding a tear over their wasteful stupidity, and from that tear is born a feminine representation in the form of Tara.

I'm of the opinion that left-handed in tantra use has its origins in taboos or disapproved social acts. Rather than mythic things, on the more practical front the left hand is reserved for more primal hygenic things in most Asian countries. I'm inclined to take the "left handed" metaphor to refer to things pertaining to the genitilia than anything else.

That's a guess. And subject for some research in a good library - not on the internet where anyone can offer autodidactic etymologies for languages they do not understand a singular word of!

Happy New Year
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Post by Raphael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2005-12-31 16:05, Ken O'Neill wrote:

...I'm of the opinion that left-handed in tantra use has its origins in taboos or disapproved social acts. Rather than mythic things, on the more practical front the left hand is reserved for more primal hygenic things in most Asian countries. I'm inclined to take the "left handed" metaphor to refer to things pertaining to the genitilia than anything else.

That's a guess. And subject for some research in a good library - not on the internet where anyone can offer autodidactic etymologies for languages they do not understand a singular word of!

Happy New Year
Is finding your autodidactic path such a bad thing Ken?
Famous autodidacts

Mythologist Joseph Campbell is one of the most famous autodidacts, and is seen by some as a poster-boy for autodidacticism. Following completion of his masters degree, Campbell decided not to go forward with his plans to earn a doctorate, and he went into the woods in upstate New York, reading deeply for five years. According to Campbell, this is, in a sense, where his real education took place, and the time when he began to develop his unique view on the nature of life.

According to poet and author Robert Bly, a friend of Campbell, Campbell developed a systematic program of reading nine hours a day. It is speculated by some that Campbell felt the work he did during this time was far more rigorous than any doctoral program could have been, and more fruitful in developing his unique perspectives.

For a listing of famous autodidacts see Category:Autodidacts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodidact
I have come to the opinion Ken that a culture based primarily on 'knowledge' as the western dominated world is, brings us to a situation where if we don't have a Master's degree we have Masters. It is a world where you join 'clubs' to attain 'degrees'. A world of secret handshakes and ritual. A world that uses knowledge to divide mankind.
I have also come to the opinion that our western culture, is the culture that through free will continue to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and thus try to fulfill the divine script.
Also the ‘west’ in ancient times was seen as where your enemies resided because that is where the sun appeared to die each evening.
Thus the significance of being reborn each morning in the east which is metaphorically and esoterically associated with the Left Hand path which is dominated by right brain behaviours which are tuned to the cycles of the earth which is represented by the metaphorical Tree of Life.
The Tree of Knowledge however represents the Right Hand Path which of course is dominated by the Left Brain.

And like the two trees that are apparently separate, their roots are entwined not unlike the synapses of the mind. Yes Eden exists in the mind. The Exodus from Egypt is another metaphor symbolized by the breaking of the two tablets of stone. This breaking of the two tablets by the patriarchal Moses represents man's departure from cultures that marked the passage of time by inscribing their history in stone.

Moses and his kin were also instrumental in developing the alphabet and writing.
Writing on paper has never had the archival qualities of stone. Namely that of a Truth preserved.
And may I add bits and bytes easily manipulated in “manufacturing modern consent” does not have the archival truth that is revealed on paper which itself is prone to a re-writing of HIStory.
This is why the Judaeo-Christians through HIStory have a habit of destroying the temples or building directly over the temples of their conquered foe.
A wonderful modern day example would be in Iraq…Fallujah the Muslim Holy City destroyed by the U.S.
So the Exodus from Egypt rich in ‘inscribed history contained in stone’ is simply mankind erecting a culture based on a foundation of pursuing knowledge.
Is not knowledge power?

More proof of the mythical Exodus (a huge event according to the Hebrew scholars) is that the Egyptians in their history inscribed and preserved in and on and of stone does not mention the ‘Exodus’.

So this duality, this entering “the field of pairs and opposites” is seen all throughout scripture. The two tablets of stone, pairs of animals on the Ark, two Trees in Eden, Adam and Lilith and then Adam and Eve.

And if we apply the philosophy of Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato “that the universe extends as a pattern extending from the microcosm ( inner universe / quantum realm ) to the macrocosm (outer universe / relative realm ) we see a pattern of apparent pairs or opposites.

Take the most abundant element in the Universe, hydrogen.
It is a God.
It is a hermaphrodite God.
It is the only element that does not have a nucleus.
When it is split a graven image is produced.
You have a proton and a neutron.
You have a + sign and -sign representing this duality.
However prior to the split both yang and yin energies were in balance contained within the Tao. This balance could simply be represented by respectively placing the + over the - sign, both contained within a circle, O.
Some individuals will also immediately recognize that the cross within the circle has manifested itself into the cross-hairs through which we observe the inner and outer universes using respectively the microscope and the macro/telescope.
All scopes are instruments used by man to help him use the domination of Left-Brain thought to dissemble and reassemble the Creation. All scopes even the scopes of weapons helps man in this task. And the fact contained with the cross are all the mathematical computations necessary for a fallen mankind full of pride and ego to alter the Creation.

The profound truth is revealed by this question.
How can the unbalanced mind of man possibly see the big picture through the narrow focus of his ‘scopes’?

So we have arrived at one of the most pre-historic symbols in the cellular consciousness of mankind, the equal-armed cross-contained within the circle. From this template all solar crosses and the crucifix were born.

I'm not convinced the left is always associated with the feminine in India iconography. Here's why. Icons of the standing Amitabha have the right hand raised and the left extended, both with forefinger and thumb forming circles. The raised right had signifies the pole of bodhi or awakening, itself feminine (as is sophia in the west), while the left hand/arm is extended out into the world, the masculine role of activity - in this case as karuna (badly rendered and misunderstood when given away as "compassion" ) - it's roots are in sunyata (emptiness, another feminine noun, an abstract substantive from sunya, meaning among other things "womb"); however, karuna is defined as upaya, skilled means or (as Bob Thurman and I independently came up with in 1990) "liberative arts".

That amitabha figure maintains that expression way through china to korea and japan.
My interpretation here because the Two Trees are so significant in the Western theology and of course they must represent the two earthly axis.
We have one Tree representing the North to South polarities and another
Tree representing the West to East rotation of the earth.
Which represents which do you think?

Now thinking of the Amitabha I believe the arms are representing the axis.
Outstretched arm would be the west and east axis.
The other pointing upward is of course representing the north and south polarities.
But you can also make quantum leaps by opening your mind to the patterns which seem all to be transparencies that we can simply place over one another and by applying a little ‘light’ we have revealed to us above, in the stars an intelligent design, a creation.

Yes that outstretched arm does represent Sophia in the west, she has company however as Gaia symbolically also resides there.
Sophia was the consort of Yahweh she thus opposed Yahweh in the East. Both share and are on the same axis. These two forces help rotate the earth in an apparent west to east rotation. This rotation is the force necessary to propel the earth which is a ‘wave’ along its path. Yahweh in the East is Nuclear Strong opposed by Gravity in the West.
The North to South axis controls the amplitude of that wave. The polarities control the amplitude.
In the North we have Electromagnetism and in the South is where Nuclear Weak resides.
They share the same axis that science has combined into one force called Electro-Weak.
Is it the axis mundi? The axis where the polarities coming together overcoming the natural tendencies of the poles repelling each other, overcoming our inner dragons lying at those gates, the lessons, the trials and tribulations, the pain and suffering.
All life comprises an element of pain and suffering...this is a Noble Truth.

Now if you have truly followed my train of thought, my logic and reason with quantum leaps of understanding and insight, you will slowly see an unfolding of the creation.

And we know the Judeao-Christians have revealed to them in scripture a linear model of time and history, a beginning (Genesis) and an end (Apocalypse).
The passage of time as measured on earth is revealed and calculated primarily by the cycles of the sun, earth and moon. The sun (father) and earth (the son) and the moon (the holy ghost/spirit) are thus revealed to us as a trinity, a dominant pattern contained within the tapestry of God’s masterpiece, his/her version of the Sistine Chapel created and on display every night in the heavens.
But there was another ‘Son’ who is presented to us in the stars. Mankind has used the stars primarily to record time through the millenniums. This ‘star’ and his ‘second coming’ can thus be seen and measured using the stars.
I love this stuff.

Ken would you consider that an autodidactic rant?

Happy New Year
Namaste

Raphael
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ENERGY = GOD ... Share Him is the Message...
God can be neither created nor destroyed; he can only be transformed into other forms of God. However there is a penalty for committing sin, for transforming God and it is called Entropy.



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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The Tree of Knowledge however represents the Right Hand Path which of course is dominated by the Left Brain.

And like the two trees that are apparently separate, their roots are entwined not unlike the synapses of the mind. Yes Eden exists in the mind.


Interesting use of the tree metaphor, Raphael!
Ken would you consider that an autodidactic rant?
I cannot reply for Ken, of course, but it seems to me that we are facing here again a problem that came up several times during the last few weeks in the forums (Nandu's favourite topic):

Talking about symbols, how can we properly distinguish between their historical use and our own imagination? And is it necessary at all to stick to historical facts, if our interest is mythic imagination?
On 2005-12-31 16:05, Ken O'Neill wrote:
And subject for some research in a good library - not on the internet where anyone can offer autodidactic etymologies for languages they do not understand a singular word of!
I agree that we have to take great care to nurture both trees. The tree of knowledge offers access to the experience of hundreds of generations from different cultures that came before us. Etymology is the antithesis of contemplation of a symbol. We need both of them.

I found Ken's statement in another thread helpful, where he was saying that mediation makes only a quarter of a Buddhist.

Being an autodidact or not is not the point. I imagine though that it's difficult for an autodidact to study the Sutras in the original language.

BTW, English-speaking people are privileged, without being aware of it. The German language editions usually are translated from the English translations! So we should be thankful, that some experts found it worthy to translate Sanskrit into their native tongue. (I'm wondering if the German publishers or experts believe, that it's not necessary to have a proper translation, because every civilized being is able to read Sanskrit, whle every halfway civilized is able to read English.)

Happy new year to everybody!





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Post by Raphael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-01-01 11:58, Martin_Weyers wrote:

I agree that we have to take great care to nurture both trees. The tree of knowledge offers access to the experience of hundreds of generations from different cultures that came before us. Etymology is the antithesis of contemplation of a symbol. We need both of them.
Yes I agree Martin somewhat with the accumulation of knowledge being quite evident but this merely represents the cyclical nature to knowledge collection. Myth had encapsulated this cyclical nature in its stories and fables.

What the Tree of Life represents I believe is the Wisdom of Sophia. Thoth the god of Life and Writing after the Exodus became Sophia and Yahweh. This is the combined wisdom necessary to direct a true purpose based on that accumulation of knowledge...in respect to forging a balance with the earth and sky.
The accumulation of knowledge unless fused with the wisdom of life experience is the path of the fool.
Talking about symbols, how can we properly distinguish between their historical use and our own imagination?
I think that is a question you would pose to a marketing guru from Coca Cola. Esoteric symbols are found all throughout the consumHER world.
I found Ken's statement in another thread helpful, where he was saying that mediation makes only a quarter of a Buddhist.
Another gem of eastern mysticism blended with the rants of S. Hawking reveals another esoteric metaphysical connection.

¼ = 25%

Hawking talks about how on the event horizon of a Black Hole the entropy collects from the closed system of which it is a part. Essentially a Black Hole is a recording device and apparently every galaxy has one.
Hawking’s Black Hole Entropy equation, which he discovered in 1974 also leads us to The Holographic Principle.
The realization that the surface area of the horizon surrounding a black hole’s entropy has led people to advocate that the maximum entropy of any closed region of space can never exceed a quarter 1/4 of the area of the circumscribing surface.
Since entropy is nothing more than a measure of the total information within a system, this suggests that the information associated with all phenomena in the 3-D world can be stored on its 2D boundary, like a holographic image. In a certain sense the world would be two-dimensional.
And Hawking further suggests that once this maximum entropy is reached the “information gets played back as the black hole evaporates.”

So essentially maybe Ken is correct. Not unlike a black hole, which attracts the light, the Buddha is also enlightened. To a point however…evidently he can only attain a certain determined percentage of enlightenment and Ken suggests this point is 25%.

So when both the black hole and the Buddha reach the maximum accumulation of entropy allowable…a resetting of the entropy back to a minimum is initiated and both the Black Hole and the Buddha become ‘messengers’ , ‘projectors’ of light.

Just a thought Martin.

Namaste

Raphael

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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2005-12-31 15:46, Ken O'Neill wrote:
The "left-hand path" in general is a reference to the esoteric practices of Western "occult" groups in recent centuries. More specifically, it is often used to refer to the fact that these practices are considered dark or evil by mainstream society ("black magic" and the like). Some better-known examples of "left-hand path" groups are the Golden Dawn, Thelema, the Temple of Set, and the Church of Satan.
I can't imagine why the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn would be lumped in with groups so vastly dissimilar to it. By that accounting, Papus, the Theosophical Society, and the many neo-Rosicrucians should likewise be lumped in as well.
Yes, traditionally everything from theosophy to alchemy and even freemasonry falls under the broad umbrella of "the left-hand path."

The rationale is as was explained above - these claim occult knowledge - occult comes from the same root as the term "occluded," and means "hidden" - which in the domination of the right-hand path of traditional Christianity has been tarred with shadow projections of "evil" - "sinister" being the Latin term for left hand.

In current usage, the left-hand path becomes a term applied to any discipline which explores the wisdom concealed in the dark, hidden recesses of the unconscious psyche, as opposed to the conscious, Apollonian, ego-oriented approaches of our dominant culture. Thus most yogic, tantric, wiccan, hindu, and Buddhist disciplines can fall into this category, as does even depth psychology, if not limited to a literal definition.

In tantric Hinduism, the Left-Hand Path (vamacari - from vama for "reverse, adverse, left, bad, vile" - but also "beautiful" and "pleasing" - and cari - "one who goes, proceeds, or walks a path") is contrasted to the Right-Hand Path (daksina). Campbell points out in Oriental Mythology that this concept is common to Hindu and Buddhist tantric thought.

Campbell alludes to the underlying concept of the Left-Hand path as practiced in medieval Europe - and in India of the same period - in the following brief excerpt from Creative Mythology (p. 166 - 167):
One is put in mind, through all of this, of the audaciously obscene temple arts that were unfolding during these same centuries in India; in the sculptured temples, for instance, of Belur, Khajuraho, Bhuvaneshvara, and Kanarak. And as the Gnostic Christians sought release from the deluding toils of this world by violating ritually the moral codes of their culture, so in India the followers of the "left-hand path" practiced the antinomian rites of the Five Forbidden Things - the "Five Ms," as they are called - consisting of wine (madya), meat (mamsa), fish (matsya), yogic postures involving women (mudra), and sexual union (maithuna) ...
and then Campbell proceeds to describe certain tantric temple rituals involving random choices of sexual partners that parallels the way the same choices were made in twelfth-century Provencal ...

The left-hand path relates to approaching enlightenment through the senses, and is sometimes called the way of nature.

Literally violating social taboos - like Aleister Crowley and certain ancient tantric sects - is a ritual that speaks to the underlying metaphor - but while there are those who physically act out sexual and other rites, others do so symbolically.

It's a useful tool, but we needn't get stuck arguing over how literal the metaphor is ...

namaste
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Post by Ken O'Neill » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

In tantric Hinduism, the Left-Hand Path (vamacari - from vama for "reverse, adverse, left, bad, vile" - but also "beautiful" and "pleasing" - and cari - "one who goes, proceeds, or walks a path") is contrasted to the Right-Hand Path (daksina). Campbell points out in Oriental Mythology that this concept is common to Hindu and Buddhist tantric thought.
Campbell's quite incorrect on this one.

Interestingly, Princeton's Mythos series - I've wondered if that series picked up where Bolligen left off - published Miranda Shaw's A Passionate Enlightenment some years back, in the early 90s. It's a published verion of her Harvard disseration, done under the mentorship of a Shin master & Harvard scholar, the late Mas Nagatomi.

From the outset, she reviews more than a century of work on "tantra" and vajrayana, showing massive pioneering misinterpretation. Both Campbell and Riane Eisler have published material which uncritically relied on that specious material. Her book is very readible and extremely good.

What's more, it is becoming increasingly common to witness other writers - generally specialists - correcting errors of the past, especially those which comingled hindu and buddhist tantras, getting the polarities and symbolisms all mixed up.

The buddhist tantras seem to have had more development in Turkic central asia than India, and later in Bengal during the Pala dynasty. Things such as mandalas are now recognized as having first developed in China, then brought back to India - same with some sutras, such as the heart sutra.

Some of Campbell has to be taken with a grain of salt. His addiction to Spengler's Decline and Fall theories mark not only his work, but the general theme of declines harkens back to German histography of the 18th century - it certainly pollutes the emergent buddhology of the 19th century. Postmodern deconstructions of that century bring about some refreshing insight that separates fact from dogmatic adherence to theories.


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Post by Ken O'Neill » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Now thinking of the Amitabha I believe the arms are representing the axis.
Outstretched arm would be the west and east axis.
The other pointing upward is of course representing the north and south polarities.
But you can also make quantum leaps by opening your mind to the patterns which seem all to be transparencies that we can simply place over one another and by applying a little ‘light’ we have revealed to us above, in the stars an intelligent design, a creation.
You're quite free to make it mean whatever you wish to mean, and hopefully own it as your interpretation rather than holding "that's what it means."

For example, in talking of the amitabha/ayus icon, there's no way in hell you can introduce intelligent design and creationism on those icons within their tradition. At best, doing such constitutes an act of Colonialism! One can scour India and China for intelligent design and creationism, never finding a hint of it - it has nothing to do with their worldview.

With the fundies now wanting to push intelligent design in the public schools, taking down the protection agains church invading state, I'm beginning to feel the only sane strategy is to welcome them and hold them to teaching all creation myths. Wouldn't those prudes just love the Japanese creation myth Campbell recounts in vol III of Masks - the cosmic brother and sister enjoying sex in the heavens, their love juices dripping into the primordial sea below, creating Japan and the Japanese!


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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-01-01 16:33, Ken O'Neill wrote:
In tantric Hinduism, the Left-Hand Path (vamacari - from vama for "reverse, adverse, left, bad, vile" - but also "beautiful" and "pleasing" - and cari - "one who goes, proceeds, or walks a path") is contrasted to the Right-Hand Path (daksina). Campbell points out in Oriental Mythology that this concept is common to Hindu and Buddhist tantric thought.
Campbell's quite incorrect on this one.
Didn't realize you were an expert on these languages too - but the words are defined and translated as Campbell points out, and refer to the rituals described. Linguistically Joe is correct - or do you have some evidence to offer that Indians have been misusing their language for the last thirteen hundred years?

Please be more specific in how Joe is off base here, such as what you feel is a more accurate translation. As far as i can tell, Campbell's "specious source" is the language itself, which he both wrote and spoke.

The original question was about the origin of the term "Left Hand Path" - and we have parallel, possibly overlapping origins in both east and west. There were a number of congruent beliefs among Hindu and Buddhist tantric sects - just because not every group used the term "Left Hand Path" does not mean they don't fall under that umbrella

... which would be like saying various Calvinist sects didn't subscribe to the "Puritan work ethic" just because they never used that term. For our purposes, if belief and behavior conforms to that described by the term, then we would consider them as adhering to the concept of the Puritan work ethic, regardless of the label used.

Also, keep in mind that what i have cited in the previous post is but an excerpt - i believe that if you explore the context complete, Campbell isn't saying what you think he is.

Then there is a body of work in Buddhism itself. Tantric Buddhism was of two main branches, as in Tantric Hinduism. The Right Hand predominated in China and Japan, though little of the original literature in Sanskrit survived. Theodore de Bary notes its devotion to masculine deities (p.113 of de Bary's collection of sutras and other translated Buddhist primary sources, The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan).

The Left Hand disciplines (generally lumped together under the label of Vajrayana - "Vehicle of the Thunderbolt")
postulated feminine counterparts or wives to the Buddhas, boddhisattvas, and other divinities of the mythology of later Buddhism, and devoted their chief attention to these Taras, or "Savioresses." As in Hinduism they were thought of as the personified active aspects of the deities in question. The lore of this form of Buddhism was not generally given to the ordinary believer, but was imparted only to the intitate, who need not be a monk, but might be a layman. Adepts who had learned the secrets of the Vajrayana at the feet of a spiritual preceptor (guru) would meet together, usually at night, in small groups to perform their secret ceremonies.

Among the chief features of the ritual of the Vajrayana was the repetition of mystical syllables and phrases (mantra), such as the famous Om mani padme hum. Yoga postures and meditation were practiced. But the Tantric groups also followed more questionable methods of gaining salvation. It was believed that once the adept had reached a certain degree of spiritual attainment the normal rules of moral behavior were no longer valid for him, and that their deliberate breach, if committed in an odor of sanctity, would actually help him on the upward path. Thus drunkenness, meat-eating, and sexual promiscuity were often indulged in, as well as such repulsive psychopathic practices as eating ordure, and sometimes ritual murder. Such antinomianism was perhaps the logical corallary of one of the doctrines which Tantric Buddhism took over from the Yogachara school of Mahayana, that all things in the universe were on ultimate analysis the illusory products of mind.

We must not believe that the whole of Tantric Buddhism is included in the practice of unpleasant secret rites. Many Tantric circles practiced such rites only symbolically ...

(boldface emphasis mine)
De Bary's tone is clearly more judgmental than Campbell's, who neither attacks nor defends the left-hand path but looks at it from a mythological perspective.

Nevertheless, plenty of primary sources exist. For example, i'll include a few brief excerpts from Disquisition on the Purification of the Intellect, a Vajrayana text from the end of the seventh century:
So, with all one's might, one should do
Whatever fools condemn,
And, since one's mind is pure,
Dwell in union with one's divinity.

The mystics, pure of mind,
Dally with lovely girls,
Infatuated with the poisonous flame of passion,
That they might be set free from desire

By his meditations the sage is his own Garuda,
Who draws out the venom and drinks it.
He makes his deity innocuous,
And is not affected by the poison ...

When he has developed a mind of wisdom
And has set his heart on enlightenment
There is nothing he may not do
To uproot the world.

He is not Buddha, he is not set free,
If he does not see the world
As originally pure, unoriginated,
Impersonal, and immaculate.

The mystic duly dwells
On the manifold merits of his divinity,
He delights in thoughts of passion,
And by the enjoyment of passion is set free ...

Water in the ear is removed by more water,
A thorn by another thorn.
So wise men rid themselves of passion
By yet more passion.

As a washerman uses dirt
To wash a clean garment,
So with impurity,
The wise man makes himself pure.
I am reminded of Paul's declaration in the epistle to the Romans that God's grace increases to cover our sin - but then realizes he may have painted himself in a corner, so asks, in essence, "should we sin more, then, that grace may abound?" He tries to reason his way around endorsing logic corresponding to the above statement of Vajrayana belief, but many gnostics reject his argument as weak, and come to believe that the more man sins, the more grace he accrues - hence, if one sins consciously, not out of ignorance, this sin is a sacred act

which led to the same ritual practices as in some (not all) Tantric sects, and is the beginning of the western version of the Left Hand Path

(which ironically developed the same label -though with distinct, albeit overlapping, antecedents in each tradition).

One can argue that the sentiments of "Disquisition ..." above are symbolic expressions to be viewed as metaphor rather than actual practice - but the sources themselves are by no means specious. Are you suggesting they are somehow forged, or don't say what they do say?

No Buddhist scholar i know takes that position (including Miranda Shaw). And even if they were metaphor alone, and never practiced in the flesh (though evidence suggests otherwise - in fact, Shaw takes them literally and claims they mostly were performed in the flesh), Campbell's analysis of the metaphysics of the Left Hand Path (vamachara) in Indian thought nevertheless holds.

Might not be part of your particular Buddhist tradition, but that doesn't make these schools specious, any more than the fact that the Gospel of Thomas and other gnostic texts uncovered at Nag Hammadi don't represent the official history and dogma of the orthodox Catholic Church or Protestant sects makes them spurious sources. One might reject the theology of the obscene love feasts of the early Phibionites, but we can't then decide they never happened, and that accounts of their practices and beliefs are specious ...

Similarly, Joseph Campbell describes the practice of the south-Indian kanculi (or "bodice") cult, which closely parallels the rites of the "Valentine Clubs" in southern France. Are you saying these practices, which have been documented by participants, did not happen? Or that the explanations Campbell offers, which he draws directly from Vamachari and Vajrayana texts, are mistranslations?

We aren't arguing that one is more right than the other, whether Catholics versus Gnostics, or Chan Buddhists vs. Vajrayana Buddhists ... our purpose here isn't to decide which school of Buddhism or which Christian sect is the true version of "the faith once delivered," but to explore recurring mythological patterns.

I am amazed and in awe that we find similar themes emerging in Gnostic and Tantric thought - that pattern is clear and evident, the resonance between the two uncanny - but i am not a "true believer" of either one.

Sometimes being a true believer gets in the way, because there's a natural tendency to proselytize for our particular belief system, which often unconsciously colors our interpretations. I'm as guilty of that as the next person - comes with being human, i understand. However, Joseph Campbell is not being a partisan here, championing one belief system over another.

The dynamic Campbell identifies, however, does exist, and is clearly documented.

I imagine revisionists in a few centuries will claim that Aleister Crowley did not believe what has been attributed to him, and that his extensive writings on the subject are either specious or misinterpreted, the product of myopic culture-bound thinking on the part of chauvinistic cultural anthropologists

... and, in fact, some think a little along those lines now - that most of Crowley's claims aren't literal, but are intended to shock the mind open.

However, whether he practiced in the flesh everything he preached, or sometimes spoke symbolically, is beside the point - the metaphysics of his thought remains the same either way

... which is a point Campbell makes about practitioners of the Left-Hand Path, whether east or west.

One might disagree with some of Campbell's conclusions and interpretations, but there is no doubt that there was a Left Hand Path embraced by several tantric Hindu and Buddhist sects.

Not specious at all ...

prajna paramita
bodhibliss


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Post by Raphael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

One might disagree with some of Campbell's conclusions and interpretations, but there is no doubt that there was a Left Hand Path embraced by several tantric Hindu and Buddhist sects.
I hate to bring up the swastika again…but here you have a symbol that bridged many of those ancient cultures…a symbol that apparently hints at many things including the two paths…and if there actually is a connection it gets even more interesting, the paths are thus defined by the relationship to ‘light’. After all the swastika is the world’s first solar symbol, the most distinguished and far reaching.
The swastika used in Buddhist art and scripture is known as a manji (whirlwind), and represents Dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites. It is derived from the Hindu religious swastika, but it is not identical in meaning.
The Manji is made up of several elements- a vertical axis representing the joining of heaven and earth, a horizontal axis representing the connection of yin and yang, and the four arms, representing movement- the whirling force created by the interaction of these elements.
When facing left, it is the Omote (front facing) Manji, representing love and mercy. Facing right, it represents strength and intelligence, and is called the Ura (rear facing) Manji.
In Zen Buddhism, the Manji represents the ideal harmony between love and intellect.
Namaste
Raphael


ENERGY = GOD ... Share Him is the Message...<br>God can be neither created nor destroyed; he can only be transformed into other forms of God. However there is a penalty for committing sin, for transforming God and it is called Entropy.
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-01-01 16:33, Ken O'Neill wrote:
In tantric Hinduism, the Left-Hand Path (vamacari - from vama for "reverse, adverse, left, bad, vile" - but also "beautiful" and "pleasing" - and cari - "one who goes, proceeds, or walks a path") is contrasted to the Right-Hand Path (daksina). Campbell points out in Oriental Mythology that this concept is common to Hindu and Buddhist tantric thought.
Campbell's quite incorrect on this one.

Interestingly, Princeton's Mythos series - I've wondered if that series picked up where Bolligen left off - published Miranda Shaw's A Passionate Enlightenment some years back, in the early 90s. It's a published verion of her Harvard disseration, done under the mentorship of a Shin master & Harvard scholar, the late Mas Nagatomi.

From the outset, she reviews more than a century of work on "tantra" and vajrayana, showing massive pioneering misinterpretation. Both Campbell and Riane Eisler have published material which uncritically relied on that specious material. Her book is very readible and extremely good.
Quite to the contrary, Miranda Shaw supports Campbell's primary thesis about Tantra and the Left Hand Path summarized in my two previous posts.

In Shaw's words,
The pioneers of the Tantric movement ... believed that sensual pleasures, cultivated and refined through metaphysical insight, are the mind's portal to the transcendent bliss of supreme enlightenment.
Compare to this Campbell's words on the same subject, from Oriental Mythology:
And as the Gnostic Christians sought release from the deluding toils of this world by violating ritually the moral codes of their culture, so in India the followers of the "left-hand path" practiced the antinomian rites of the Five Forbidden Things - the "Five Ms," as they are called - consisting of wine (madya), meat (mamsa), fish (matsya), yogic postures involving women (mudra), and sexual union (maithuna) ...
Her book, Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, does not take issue with Campbell's discussion of Vajrayana Buddhism, and the Left Hand Path (vamachara) at all - rather, the thrust of her argument is not that Tantric Buddhism is not a Left Hand Path, or that it does not involve physical sexual rites and the violation of other taboos of both Theravada and Mahayan Buddhism

... but that women are intimately, physically involved in these rituals, and were equal practitioners of the tantric path.

Early interpreters and anthropologists often assumed females were just objects for male practitioners - likely prostitutes or the destitute - definitely a narrow perspective that often accompanied a judgmental attitude about the perverse nature and inferiority of these shameful acts.

We don't find that attitude in Joseph Campbell's work - indeed, he finds the Vajrayana practice congruent to parallel Gnostic Christian rites, where women were equal participants - and he often points out that in both Hindu and Buddhist tantric cults, women were elevated and worshipped (the same point Shaw makes). I'm not sure where Riane Eisler differs from Shaw - but Tantric Buddhist sects of the Left Hand Path that Shaw describes are indeed much like the "partnership societies" Eisler assigns to goddess cultures, compared to the "dominator" model of patriarchal cultures.

Miranda Shaw does tend to read these descriptions as literal practices, though admitting that monks who had taken a vow of celibacy were limited to imagining sex with an imaginary partner (which within tantric Buddhism is considered inferior to actual ritual sex in attaining sudden enlightenment).

Campbell, like many scholars (including Geoffrey Samuel, a contemporary of Shaw whose Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies, was released at the same time as Shaw's book, and is a wonderful complementary volume), believes that some groups took the metaphor literally, while others performed Left Hand practices symbolically in ritual (similar to differences between various Gnostic sects).

I'll admit i'm confused as to what "specious material" Campbell relied on, and how Shaw corrects Campbell's misinterpretation when she and Campbell make identical points ...

ah - would love to pursue this further - for example, some thoughts on the consumption of human flesh in Buddhism of the Left Hand Path (today performed only symbolically, with butter sculpted into human forms and colored like flesh, having evolved from ancient shamanic practices in much the same way the ritual cannibalism of tropical planting cultures evolved into symbolic cannibalism in the bread and wine of the Christian mass),

but company has arrived ...

namaste
bodhibliss


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Post by Ken O'Neill » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-01-02 17:37, Bodhi_Bliss wrote:

Quite to the contrary, Miranda Shaw supports Campbell's primary thesis about Tantra and the Left Hand Path summarized in my two previous posts.
Having reread Shaw and Bharati last evening, I have to agree with you. What I could not find was another piece I've read in the past month - much more recent scholarship - calling to task use of left handed across the board. I've been putting off going back through about four inches of articles to take notes and summarize, so when I have that I will post it.

As I recall, the gist of it is this: identification of vajrayana and buddhist tantra is with left hand path isoverdone, and at times erroneous. That's due to vajryana/buddhist tantra not being exclusively Indian in nature and development, a considerable amount of it developing in Central Asia and China BEFORE going back to India, then being syncreticized in development of that version of buddhist tantra/vajyrayana later on, likely in Bengal.

As for Buddhist and Hindu male/female polarities, they are in fact reversed. See Bharati, The Tantric Tradition for more information.

This is a complex realm of various localized inflections. One of the earliest stratas of vajryana and left handed buddhist tantra is found in Japan - including far older icons and sanskrit texts than known among Tibetans. I know from personal experience that despite persecution by the government some centuries ago, left-handed tantra (tachikawa ryu and jodo shin) is alive and well in Japan.

Shaw like others does treat of maithuna. I have to laugh about monastics "doing it in their imagination". It's always fun to inquire of monks about that topic, then ask what's the difference between that and a sexual fantasy?

Christian Wedemeyer's Tropes, Typologies and Turnarounds: A Brief Geneology of the Histography of Tantric Buddhism includes considerable anaylsysis of a view of history superimposed on Buddhism: that view fashionable from the late 18th century through much of the 20th that viewed history as going through cycles of decline. Repeated a thousand times by various luminaries, it took on the force of being true.

From Eriskine's 1813 article on Theravada, Mahayana and Vajryana, a mold was cast viewing Buddhist history as a succession of declines, with the unspeakably vile and evil vajrayana being the low point of development.

While Campbell does not seem to subscribe to that view of Buddhist history, nevertheless the Gibbons model is often cited in other contexts. You may wish to watch for that specious histography when it appears.

As for left-handed being applied to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that's a new one for me. Certainly there were streams of left-handed practices associated with Cagliostro, Swedenborg, Blake - perhaps even Benjamin Franklin during his tenure as Grand Maite of the Nuef Soeure Lode in Paris, with antecedents in earlier underground gnostic movements. Antoine Faivre's works make no mention of this, nor do Christopher MacIntosh's studies. Historic studies of the Golden Dawn suggest that Crowley's appearance heralded such pronouncements, but then he was forced out of the Golden Dawn to his behavioral problems - going on to establish his own renegade groups and indulgence in narcotics. AE Waite took over the organization, running it rather puritanically despite alleged dalliances with his wife's sister.

Western occultism is as much right-handed as it is left-handed. Lumping everything together as left-handed makes little sense in view of historical studies contradicting that. It almost seems that the puritanical suppression of sexuality led to its eruption in strange forms (Peladin's cross dressing in his Salon Rose et Croix, the neo-Martinist groups, etc.).

It seems to me one problem besetting contemporary understanding of tantra is that of lumping it all together at a time when we barely know it's pervasive history throughout Asia. Secondly, it is largely studied by non-initiates, hence portrayals are rather inaccurate and uninformed. When it comes to vajrayana, that term embraces a wide range of teachings and practices in India, Tibet, Mongolia, Central Asia, China, Japan, and Korea - of which we know next to nothing.

Shaw's book was a milestone publication, one male scholars in the field could do little more than object to! Since then Serenity Young has done another volume I've yet to see - her Dreaming in the Lotus indicates she's like Shaw in being a fair witness and a feminist voice.



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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks for clarifying, Ken - your earlier posts make much more sense to me now in this context

... and you make an excellent point about many practices later embraced within Vajrayana Buddhism having originated prior to Buddhism.

In fact Gregory Samuels' study, cited in an earlier post, traces the core of Vajrayana Buddhism's perpective to the pre-Buddhist shamanism in that central Asia area - he makes a strong case, providing demonstrable associations betwixt the two. It's not that he finds no kinship between tantric Hinduism and tantric Buddhism - there is clearly some cross-fertilization, given the compatibility of basic concepts - but tantric Hinduism is not, as scholars once thought, the source of Vajrayana and other tantric Buddhist schools, which evolved independently of the Hindu schools and followed their own paths.
It seems to me one problem besetting contemporary understanding of tantra is that of lumping it all together at a time when we barely know it's pervasive history throughout Asia. Secondly, it is largely studied by non-initiates, hence portrayals are rather inaccurate and uninformed. When it comes to vajrayana, that term embraces a wide range of teachings and practices in India, Tibet, Mongolia, Central Asia, China, Japan, and Korea - of which we know next to nothing.
You do make an excellent point here, with which i both agree and disagree (the Gemini in me, no doubt). It depends on what we are focusing on. Certainly much more study can and will be devoted to distinguishing differences between various groups and belief systems - but at the same time, that does not mean we don't recognize similarities and overlap, especially when looking at where these traditions fit into the broad stream.

Just because scholars "lump together" a broad variety of belief systems under the umbrella of Buddhism doesn't mean they don't recognize that there are distinct differences between various sects and schools within that broad tradition - and because someone like Campbell or Toynbee might look at Buddhism in comparison and contrast to, say, Christianity, doesn't mean they believe there is no difference between the Buddhism practiced by a Theravadin monk in Thailand or that of a member of the Sokko Gakkai version of Nichiren Buddhism in Japan.

Despite differences between Hindu and Buddhist tantricism, or between the Vajrayana and Dzoghch'en schools within Buddhism, Campbell's emphasis is on the antinomian strain underlying each - the same antinomianism informing underground occult disciplines in the west, from Gnosticism to alchemy to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. That's the broad pattern, a basic mythic motif, that he's examining.

(Speaking of non-initiates studying these practices brings up one of the strengths of Miranda Shaw's approach - she apprenticed herself to Lama Jorphel, who demanded she do 100,000 prostrations and 100,000 purification mantras before they could even discuss the subject. However, if we rely only on those fully initiated into a tantric discipline to interpret it, understanding would ultimately be skewed: imagine if we only read histories of the Mormons written by Moromons, or histories of the Catholic Church composed by Catholci historians, or the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses filtered thorugh the eyes of a Jehovah's Witness

... not that these wouldn't have value, but we need both initiates and non-initiates to fully flesh out our understanding. That said, we definitely need more works by participant observers rather than complete outsiders ... )

One of the strengths of Buddhism as a movement to me is how it morphs and adapts to different cultures, engaging, embracing and absorbing pre-existing beliefs (e.g., Bon in Tibet, or the compatibility between Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan, etc.).

We see this dynamic in action in the United States right now, as various schools of Buddhism bump into and even meld with everything from Christianity

(e.g., the distinct form of Jodo Shinsu Buddhism, practiced in centers that resemble Protestant churces with pews and pulpit more than Buddhist temples, underlying the overwhelmingly Japanese-American Buddhist Churches of America - the BCA)

to Native American belief systems and everything in between.

Sometimes this gives rise to vague, hazy, eclectic New Age beliefs - but i also see a distinctly American form of Buddhism emerging here. It may be another few decades or even centuries before we're able to see what forms this evolves into - i see everything from an Americanized Zen to theosophical Buddhism, even neo-shamanic Buddhist forms (similar to the Vajrayana and Dzoghch'en).

These new and evolving forms will bear some relationship to what has come before in other cultures, just as we can see a relationship between Zen Buddhism in Japan, Ch'an Buddhism in China, and dhyana schools in India: despite resonances between these various schools, Zen in Japan is distinct from it's Ch'an precursor in China, which is itself distinct from the dhyana Buddhism in India that it is descended from ...

Naturally these distinctions are more important to those who participate in these practices - a purist devotee of Soto Zen, while able to see and appreciate the relationship between dhyana and Zen, is unlikely to change his/her practice to conform to that of another culture from an earlier time. Of course, many of the devotees of Theravada Buddhism raised on the Tripitika the first three centuries after the death of Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni - the historical Buddha - might be hard-pressed to recognize Zen in Japan as Buddhism at all

... and i'm sure that's an attitude that will sometimes surface in traditionalists today who look unfavorably on further evolution.

Nevertheless, the distinctly American disciplines in formation today should inject new life into the tradition, adding yet another chapter to the vibrant history of Buddhism - i wish i could anticipate where these forms will be placed in the broad tradition of Buddhism by those who chronicle such.

Fortunately, Buddhist metaphysicians tend to excessive verbosity - such a wealth of primary sources in the field has been produced over twenty-five hundred years, from sutras to discourse to commentaries and such - amazing how it can be so simple and yet so elegantly complex all at once. I continue to be fascinated by how much can be drawn together under the broad umbrella of Buddhism

- and, personally, i am drawn to the esoteric texts of the Vijnanavada/Yogachara schools of Buddhist thought (Wei-shih - or "Consciousness-Only" - in China) ... i am completely in awe of the mind-bending formulations of metaphysicians like Asanga and Vasubandhu in fourth-century India ...

As far as the use of the Left-Hand Path as a label in the west, that seems to have evolved as well. Richard Cavendish (author of The Black Arts) pointed out back in 1967 that there had been a move among occultists to think of themselves as "white magicians" rather than followers of the "the Brotherhood of the Left-Hand Path," which had drawn "sinister" (Latin for "left"), evil, and satanic connotations - in part because of the association in the popular mind with Crowley, who continued to use the term, eschewing these public relations efforts.

(No suprise other occultists might want to separate themselves from someone who appears to promote the sacrifice of unbaptized babies ... )

The label, though, continues to be used - and has less the sinister and evil associations today than it once did. Though some still believe "the left hand path" refers to "black magick" while "the right hand path" distinguishes "white magick," generally the Left-Hand Path today relates to individuals and groups who adopt an antinomian position, while the Right-Hand Path characterizes our culture's dominant Judeo-Christian tradition.

Of course, there is no official Committee on Left-and-Right Hand Paths to lay down rigid, unyielding definitions. Language changes over time as words morph and meld and merge, a spontaneous order emerging from how words are used by the general public. Etymology and derivation can help us understand how words change over time - but the key realization is that they do change

(otherwise no one would name their son "Roger," which only a few centuries ago was a term for sexual congress - giving a whole new twist to "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood"

... perhaps a few centuries from now we'll have distinguished clerics, scientists and politicians sporting the moniker "F**ker ... )

As usual, i enjoy your insights and opinions, Ken. Thanks for clarifying your thoughts, which helped flesh out and expand my own understanding.

namaste
bodhibliss

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Post by Ken O'Neill » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I'm not going to try putting up little snippets of Bodhi-Bliss' post, just reply to two items.

The point about Miranda Shaw that is very important to me - as with Anne C. Klein - is she did the work. For the same reason I'm more inclined to read Christopher McIntosh or Antoine Faivre with western esoterica - in all those cases these folks are scholar/initiates of living esoteric traditions. For that reason I would dismiss an analogy to Mormons since there's no esoteric core I know of in that group.

I'm going to add a comment to that. Having been at this for 40 years, and having walked that razor's edge path between initiatory participation and external scholarship, there are dangers and difficulties; however, I believe those are far outweighed by having an experiential understanding of what the tradition is aiming at, one facilitating understanding metaphors rather than fundamentalism.

Antoine says that esoteric experience is born of that breakthrough experience in which a symbol is understood as such, as metaphor.


Jodoshinshu in the United States - in the West - is a big mess. By adopting the language of secondary Orientalism it adapted a literal fundamentalist misunderstanding.

I wish I could be more optimistic about Western Buddhism. The Campbell type people are hard to find anymore - the mavericks and outlaws.

mahayana/vajrayana emerge not just with shamanism in central asia, but also with gnostic christianity, manicheanism, probably pre-canonical kabbala. all merging and refining to give birth to a far more universalistic image of the potential human than any of them came to the table with.

the work i'm writing in buddhism aims at spurring such a growth spurt. the zens we've imported are mostly Protestant Zens (see Scharf's articles on that), and the Tibetan Buddhism comes with Tibet's version of the Catholic Church of the Dark Ages.

Dunhuang has revealed earlier stratas of Tibetan Buddhism, that time when it's patriarch was a guy named Bodhidharma. They had to get rid of him. Too Sinic. Not cynic. He was dzogchen.

There are three jinen honi teachings - natural spontaneity in awakening - dzogchen, ch'an, and sukhavati/pure land. Evidence is slowly mounting they were once all the same thing.

My t-shirts read "Outlaw Buddhism - Have Dharma, Will Travel" in the midst of which is a big piece of Chinese calligraphy for Satori. I did the calligraphy in chinese and english, silk screened them, and sold them on a tour in 2003.

I'd appreciate the name of that book that digs into the shamanic foundations of Central Asian vajrayana. And will recommend Bharati's The Light at the Center if you don't already know it.

Now back to Joe's essay The Empty Symbol.

best
Ken O'Neill
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