Monday, February 25, 2008

Question of the Week - Mini Questions

This week, we have two mini-questions:

1. What does “S/F” mean?

2. What is a shaman?

1. “S/F” is short for Semper Fidelis. Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi is the motto of the United States Marine Corps. It means Always Faithful. Its an esprit-de-corps term, meant to foster camaraderie and unity. Most branches of the U.S. Military have their own motto as well: U.S. Coast Guard – Semper Paratus (Always Ready), U.S. Air Force – Uno Ab Alto (One over All), U.S. Army – This we’ll Defend, and the U.S. Navy – Pass the Cheeseburgers! Just Kidding. The Navy motto is Non sibi sed Patriae (Not self but country).

2. A shaman is an indigenous healer, who uses a combination of herbs and plants, physical and non-physical means to heal.

Shamanism is characterized by Altered States of Consciousness and journeys into Non-Ordinary or Non-Linear Reality. Once we’ve established the basic framework, similarities between cultures and peoples fall away.

Most of what you read or hear about shamanism is probably not accurate. Shamanic practitioners are usually indigenous, have traditions that have been passed down hundreds of years, and many have gone through near-death experiences as children that have given them advanced psychic abilities. In other words, you can't just sign up for a course, take a weekend class, and Presto! you’re a shaman. That’s not quite how it works. These are healing traditions that have been passed down generation after generation, from grandmother to first born, in Native societies. There is no such thing as an International Maya Elder born in Illinois, just like there’s no such thing as Bigfoot. The creature just doesn’t exist.

I consider most of my work to be anthropological research, with some archaeology thrown in for good measure. I may have vivid dreams, and I ask questions, but I don’t consider myself a shaman.

Semper Fidelis,
(Amma Spirit Photo I took in 2006, note her Aura)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Question of the Week

So that they May Live!

The first lesson of Buddhism is reverence for every living being. Every animal, every leaf, every blade of grass is to be respected, for they all contain the sacred lifeforce.

On Saturday, in continued celebration of Losar, we performed an unusual ceremony. Instead of catching fish and eating them, we bought fish and then released them back into the water. Yes!!!!, we purchased fish at the market and then released them to the sea.

The ceremony was led by Lama Tsultrum and Lama Phuntsok of the Burnaby Buddhist Center. Lama Tsulturm provided us the following message from the Jamgon Kontrul Lodro Thaye to explain the significance and value of participating in a fish release ceremony :

"The most beneficial of all...roots of virtue is the protection

and ransoming of the lives of sentient beings.

Through the blessing of their being offered to the three jewels,
and of their hearing names and dharanis, they will be ultimately
freed from inferior births...

The practitioners themselves will undoubtedly receive benefits,
such as an increased lifespan."

Remember that one of the possible rebirths is in the Animal Realm. By our actions and the way we treat others, we can either achieve positive rebirths in the Upper Realms or negative rebirths in the Lower Realms. One of the Lower Realms is the Animal Realm. In the Animal Realm, we are reborn as animals, and have the ability to understand what is happening, but can never communicate with human beings. Thereby, we live at the mercy of human beings.

The ceremony was pretty cool, when we picked up the fish at the Chinatown fish market, some of the flounder actually looked dead. I tried to poke a couple of them, but they still didn’t move. We went to the park and placed the fish in the water. After a few moments, the flounder sprang to life and then swam away. It was really neat. Its like the fish knew they were back in the Ocean and happily escaped. The last one to wake, came to the surface once, and then slipped back underwater giving us a “fish wave”.

So instead of having a fish catch, we had a fish release. And it felt great!


Monday, February 11, 2008

2008 - Year of the Rat

Happy New Year

Took some time off from the blog. Last week, we celebrated the Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year. I found myself on a small adventure. After trekking for several hours, I captured a golden dragon, a white dragon, two red dragons, and a small orange one.

So, was I amongst the mists of an ancient Japanese castle? Did I travel to an uncharted island, north of Hokkaido in the Sea of Okhotsk via submarine? Were we on the trail of Emperor Ying Zheng’s tomb, searching for the First Sovereign Emperor of China's treasure of gold, gems, and silver? Not quite.

I was actually at the Lunar New Year Parade in Vancouver. It was really cool. Its great to see such diverse peoples come together to celebrate cultural events. When we recognize cultures, we begin to appreciate our differences, and develop understanding. This is the basis of archaeology and anthropological studies – wanting to learn more about past cultures, so we can understand and appreciate the contributions that we can all make towards advanced civilizations.

Of all the dragons, the little orange one is my favorite. The kids were really having a blast!