Monday, July 28, 2008

Meeting His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Every once in awhile, fortune shines upon us and we receive a remarkable opportunity. This last week was extraordinary as we spent time with His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. In Madison, WI for a Tenshug, or Long Life Ceremony, His Holiness provided us with an amazing glimpse into Tibetan Buddhism.

The week was filled with Tibetan food (momos and beef), language, dances, songs, ceremonies, customs, crafts, artwork – almost all the aspects of culture. The AP later reported that it was the largest gathering of Tibetans in the United States and Canada, ever.

As part of the ceremony we received the

Bodhisattva vows, teachings on Kamalashila, lectures on Santideva (pronounced Shawn-tee-de-va), long-life blessings, and questions and answers with His Holiness. We learned about the connection between Karma and Connectedness. That if you believe in Karma, then you must also acknowledge the dependent phenomena aspect, as well. Since one person’s actions bring about good or bad Karma, that resultant/ return Karma usually comes from another person. Thereby, Karma is connectedness since others’ return actions arise from our own Karma. (Get it?)

At the very end of the ceremony, we set up our crew close to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. His Holiness has very good skin tone, he looks very tan and fit. Most of the time, on TV, he looks extremely pale. But, he looked good. We spent the next several hours filming the Tibetan-only lectures and program. We heard from the Karshag or Tibetan Parliament, we heard from the Prime Minister on the state of Ministerial Departments, and we heard about the future of this great culture and people. It was a nascent democracy-in-action, it was a stepping stone for freedom as a small group of leaders met and planned the future for their struggling country. I thought about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1789, the Magna Carta in 1215, and Ancient Greece - all places where democracy was formed and basic human rights flourished.

Religion, democracy, spirituality, culture, reincarnation, transcendence of the Soul – all these were discussed at the Tenshug. At the very end, His Holiness rose, he greeted us personally, and we greeted him. I had very interesting dreams that night. And that was the day we met the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet . . .

Tashi Delek!


- Omar W. Rosales

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fake Skulls, Real Lies

Today, there was a news story about the Smithsonian Institution and the British Museum discovering that the Crystal Skulls in their collection were not Pre-Columbian, but probably made in the 19th Century. Duh!

Its been known for sometime in Archaeological circles, that the Crystal Skulls are not authentic.
They are cut from quartz crystal, and are magnificent works-of-art, but they are not Mixtec, Mexica (Aztec), or Maya, Zapotec, or Olmec in origin. The skulls’ origin can be found in the shop of an Austrian glass cutter, c.1840, who was employed to produce a skull in crystal. The cutter found the job so profitable, that a few more skulls were made and sold to the highest biddesr. At the time, there was a resurgence in the interest of artifacts from MesoAmerica and Central America, as well as the Mexica and Maya civilizations.

A few crystal skulls have been found, that actually date from the Post-Classic Maya Civilization and Mexica Civilizations, but these artifacts are quite small and typically no larger than a golf ball.
More importantly, religious elites at the time would never have allowed the veneration of such ritual artifacts, as a large crystal skull, because it would take away importance from Maya or Aztec ruling elite.

In MesoAmerica, we see the absorption of important religious symbology and iconography (including the sun god, and Quetzalcoatl) into the religious iconography utilized by the elites.
The elites wanted to be associated with these deities, and even held ceremonies to closely associate themselves with these symbols. But, they did not allow the worship of these symbols outright. It was simply too powerful, too unstable, and too dangerous for the elite power structure to allow this type of worship as more emphasis would eventually be placed on the artifacts, than on the kings themselves. The only civilization that actively worshiped artifacts and/or worshiped the dead was the Inca. The Inca mummies had lands, voted in council meetings, and were given tribute. But this was the only culture to do this, even the Egyptians would subsequently break into prior Pharaoh’s tombs . . .

So of course, the Crystal Skulls were fakes.
The religious elites of the Maya and Aztec Civilizations would never have allowed them to exist. Power, or the mythos of power, has to lie in the hands of the God-King, not the artifact. Because the artifact could be stolen, and the God-King replaced. Even if an artifact had power, the elites would never admit it. It would be too dangerous and threatening to the social structure – taking away power from the King.

The most powerful religious symbols were always hidden. Its interesting . . . fifteen hundred years later, has anything really changed?