Tag Archives: Buddhism

ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK

snow scene

TreeHouse Arts is running a contest through July 10th (Th.). Enter with a poem about snow. Winner’s poem will be published on their site. Good luck!

http://treehousearts.me/2014/07/05/part-iii-summer-reading-giveaway-and-haiku-contest/

Into the Land of Snows

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ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY OF INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS

IntotheLandofSnows_200

OK readers, I’m down to my last ARC (Advance Reading Copy). All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered. There are a couple of rules, though. I’m only going to be able to mail to a location in the US. Comments will close midnight (MT) on Wednesday, Feb. 5th (2014). I will conduct a random drawing at that point and notify the winner. Enter only once. Since this is the year I’m focusing on abundance, tell me something about abundance in your life. Good luck to all!

Feb 6th:  Thanks for all your wonderful comments.  I conducted the drawing and the winner is: jenion.

 

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WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIE TO FIND OUT?

    THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD

Tibetan Book of the Dead

In 1927 American anthropologist, Walter Evans-Wentz published a bestseller he called The Tibetan Book of the Dead taking his lead from the Edwardian fascination with all things Egyptian. Only five years earlier Howard Carter had discovered King Tut’s tomb. Evans- Wentz’s book or subsequent translations can be found in most bookstores and the original has never gone out of print. During the rebellious Hippie days, the book was re-interpreted by Timothy Leary at Harvard to guide and justify the use of LSD. How can an eighth century Buddhist text still capture our imagination? Simple really. It might just hold the key to what happens after death.

Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup & Walter Evans-Wentz, circa 1919

Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup & Walter Evans-Wentz, circa 1919

Not that this book will ever really be mainstream. How could it be in a society perpetually captivated by youth and the denial of death? Americans do not talk about death. It is taboo. People die in hospitals and nursing homes, and we like it that way. As a society, we are all about acquiring stuff and death has its upside. Maybe we’ll inherit something. That’s probably about as deep as it goes. We muddle through funerals and try very hard to get back to normal. It is the odd fellow who contemplates his own death. So if you are a typical American, this is where you go look for something ego-comforting and fluffy elsewhere on the web.

Ah, but what if you’re not typical. Come closer because we are about to examine the origin of a mysterious text and answer some questions about what happens to you when you die.

PADMASAMBHAVA, wall painting in Bhutan, Baldiri, 2007

PADMASAMBHAVA, wall painting in Bhutan, Baldiri, 2007

Sometime in the eighth century the famous Indian saint, Padmasambhava entered Tibet. Today he is known for converting the indigenous demonic spirits of Tibet to Buddhism, doing healings, and producing miracles. He also wrote a funerary text which he called Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State. Some scholars have called it the first how-to book, but today we  know it as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Upon reflection, Padmasambhava felt he couldn’t release the book to a population of newly created Buddhists. He hid the book keeping it safe for future generations. Six hundred years later, treasure revealer (terton), Karma Lingpa had a vision and was able to recover the manuscript.

The book is a guide for what happens to your consciousness as it passes from this life to the next. Reading it before death allows for preparation and familiarization with the process.

For, at this singular opportunity, you could

attain the everlasting bliss (of nirvana).

     So now is (certainly) not the time to sit idly,

     But, starting with (the reflection on) death, you

should bring your practice to completion.

In Tibet, the text is read for the dead by monks during a forty-nine day transition period. After encountering the light (similar to what NDE survivors report), the deceased is faced with three bardo states. Each phase offers the opportunity for liberation (enlightenment). Rare individuals who have been well-prepared avoid subsequent phases having mastered the understanding of consciousness, avoid rebirth, and become enlightened. Others pass through the bardo stages where various peaceful and terrifying beings appear arriving at the third which concerns itself with rebirth. A person’s karma then directs rebirth into one of six realms. The human realm (although not the most comfortable) is considered to be the best because it offers the possibility of eventual enlightenment. The deceased has the ability to choose his parents and the best situation for the next incarnation.

Zhi Khro Bardo Thodol: Mandala associated with The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Zhi Khro Bardo Thodol: Mandala associated with The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The value of The Tibetan Book of the Dead does not lie in its vivid descriptions of the entities the deceased meets along the way because those can be viewed as cultural constructions. Interestingly enough though, it might explain why Christians meet Jesus or Muslims meet Mohammed as reported in near-death accounts. The bardos are constructions of the mind, self-generated, and culturally dependent. You can only create what you are familiar with and what scares you the most. So the value of this profound and lyrical text is an overall familiarization with the process of death as a transition of consciousness. From the Tibetan standpoint, death doesn’t have to be a scary unknown. It is knowable and everyone can prepare for it. What would it be like to live a life not fearing death? How would our world change?

Watch a History Channel Documentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead:

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ermcc6iDqQA

FOR MORE:

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Pilgrims of the Clear Light- Biography of Walter Evans-Wentz by Ken Winkler

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WHO WANTS TO BE NORMAL ANYWAY?

“The trembling in academic journals over how science must be falling apart because of positive evidence for psi is a desperate attempt to maintain a stable worldview where psi can’t exist.” Dean Radin, PhD

Welcome back old and new friends. It’s been a while and I wanted to share something I’m really enjoying. I’m reading Supernormal by Dean Radin. From the mystical side I’ve known that many (if not all) spiritual traditions hold that spiritual progress, especially through meditation practice, directly leads to the emergence of what we commonly call psychic ability (PSI). And these traditions also warn the seeker not to be distracted or side-lined when it happens because the spiritual path’s goal is Truth or union with the Universe (God, divine, Absolute, Reality, etc.). Leave it to scientist Dean Radin to put this to the test.

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About two thousand years ago, Pantanjali (The Yoga Sutras) wrote in rather cookbook terms that if you sit down and quiet the mind and dedicate yourself to this practice, you will eventually gain supernormal powers (siddhis). Elementary siddhis as outlined by the text include telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. And to open your mind further, Pantanjali goes on to discuss the more advanced siddhis of invisibility, levitation, invulnerability, and superstrength (homage to comic book superheroes here). Are you still with me or are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? I sense a few of you are… smiling.

If you’ve read some of my previous work, you already know that science long ago established the existence of precognition with the Rhine experiments and the meta- analysis which followed (Honorton/Ferrari). There is statistically significant evidence for precognition although its effect is small in the general population. The point is that it’s there.

In the 1990s Radin went on to look at presentiment (prefeeling instead of preknowing). Radin used a random number generator and a stock of color photos which contained calming or emotional images that were flashed on a computer screen. He collected the subject’s reaction via skin conductance levels using electrodes attached to the palm. (Radin gives an exhaustive description in the book in case anyone wants to examine all the experimental protocols.) The results indicate that people react physiologically BEFORE they see the image on the screen. The experiment is strong evidence for presentiment even though the subject does not have conscious awareness of the image.

Back to Pantanjali. In a fairly complicated experiment, Radin looked at a group of meditators and non-meditators (sixteen individuals total). Meditators with a lot of experience in non-dual techniques often can achieve a deep state of absorption (Samadhi/Samyama) where time and space evaporate. The yogic perception is that an underlying deeper reality exists beyond time and space. In this reality, past and future influence the present. We are used to thinking about the past influencing the future, but it may also be that the future is at work as well. In this way of looking at things, presentiment/precognition can be viewed as the future influencing present awareness.

In the experiment, 32 channels of EEG were measured before, during, and after exposure to unpredictable light and sound stimuli. If meditation practice developed a way to extend consciousness through time, then we would expect the meditators to exhibit prestimulus differences in EEG responses over the control group (non-meditators). The research revealed that meditators did show brain activity that anticipated an audio signal. Non-meditators did not show any significant prestimulus differences between light v. sound.* The outcome supported the idea that the meditators were accessing the future in a way consistent with Pantanjali’s description.

A reversal of the cause-effect sequence is compatible with classical and quantum physics. Physicists already accept time reversal for the quantum world, but the evidence for precognition suggests it also takes place in the macro-world.

The evidence for precognition/presentiment may excite you or it may make you very nervous but either way, it should make you pause to consider how our worldview must change. Science has to take us to new places and challenge us to think and see in new ways. Scientific laws are not carved in stone and to reject all PSI research because it doesn’t fit a materialistic worldview only slows down the inevitable. We are starting to see the ground shift. Seventy-five years of scientific evidence from all over the world indicates that humans do possess one of the siddhis Pantanjali listed. We can glimpse the future.

More Summer Reading:
Emotional Freedom (Energy Psychology)- Judith Orloff, MD
The Biology of Belief- Bruce Lipton, PhD
The Way of the Explorer- Edgar Mitchell (astronaut)
The Genie in Your Genes- Dawson Church (epigenetics)

*Reasons why the non-mediators didn’t exhibit presentiment (in this small study) may be due to the stimulus not being emotionally charged and/or the choice of measuring physiological changes might not be the best one.

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ENTER TO WIN FREE COPY OF INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS

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In the last couple of months, I’ve been happy to welcome many new blog readers and to celebrate I’m inviting everyone to enter to win a free, ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of Into the Land of Snows. All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered. There are a couple of rules, though. I’m only going to be able to mail to a location in the US. Comments will close midnight (MT) on Wednesday, March 13th (2013). I will conduct a random drawing at that point and notify the winner. Enter only once. Just to have a theme, I’m requesting you comment on something about spring or summer. Here in Colorado, March is usually our snowiest month so spring often feels like it’ll never arrive. To start us off, I’ll post a comment so no one feels awkward to be the first to post.

Mar 14th: Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner is Augusta! Augusta- I’ve posted a notice on your blog but if you happen to see this first, congratulations. Please email me at himalayaspencerellis@yahoo.com. I’ll need your address to ship the book.

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IMAGINE COMPASSION NOW

photo: Kopp, 2006

photo: Kopp, 2006

Back in 2008, Karen Armstrong, a religion scholar gave a TED talk. In it, she proposed a movement by multi-faith, multi-national groups which would promote compassion worldwide by activating the Golden Rule. Her idea led to the development of the Charter for Compassion. The Council of Conscience, consisting of representatives of many faiths and many national groups, together with input from thousands who responded online resulted in the current Charter for Compassion. The goal of the Charter is to highlight common ground amongst all major religions and all religious traditions. Specifically, they all share compassion and the Golden Rule.

Since that time, tens of thousands have signed the Charter online. Public events, discussions, and readings of the Charter have taken place bringing compassion more and more into public awareness. Now it’s our turn. This is a call to action to connect to the heart and manifest a bigger Truth than any one of us. How Karen’s idea takes form (or fails to take form) depends on our actions. I don’t really know what my part in this will be and I don’t know what your role is either. I’ve read and signed the Charter and brought it into my consciousness. Now it’s your turn. Here’s the Charter.

THE CHARTER FOR COMPASSION

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

To sign the Charter for Compassion: www.charterforcompassion.org/the-charter
If you do sign it, let me know in the comments below. Please feel free to reblog, FB, or tweet this.

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THE LINE BETWEEN FACT & FICTION

tantra

Since the release of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, there have been some questions concerning what’s real and not real in the book. From the perspective of this being a book whose main theme concerns defining that very line, it’s a somewhat amusing question. I concern myself with it because I’ve heard some people dismiss the book as fantasy. But that’s not the whole story.

The book is set in the magical Himalayas surrounded by a rich cultural tradition. In such a place, my job as author was relatively easy. I chose concepts and ideas already present there to create a story around an American teenager. I made up very little.

Now as to the facts.

1. Locations- The map at the beginning of the book accurately depicts the placement of real locations Blake would visit along his route, had Blake actually gone there. But the careful reader will notice that about half way through the book, Blake continues his journey, but the map stops. This is because Blake has left the material reality of our world. An alternate reality opens up for him to fully experience the magic and potential for enlightenment.

2. Mallory& Irvine- The story of these climbers disappearing into legend while on the Third Step is true. The camera Mallory carried that day is still missing. We don’t know (for sure) who summited Everest first, although Hillary is officially credited with it.

3. Yetis- These animals/beings remain a mystery. Sherpa culture recognizes different kinds of yetis. I took great liberty with the Tantric yidam concept.

4. Baian-Kara-Ula Mountains- There are legends of star people and an origination story. As late as the 1950s, stories of the Chinese gathering evidence in the region exist.

5. Chakra points- There are many different systems. Tibetans usually depict 5 while Indian schools generally have 7. Research by Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama revealed the heart chakra produced measurable physical light.

6. Singing Bowls- Are used for healing.

7. Lung-gom-pa/Tumo/Yidam- Are Tantric practices.

8. Birds- The sneaky placement of rare birds in the region was my invention and homage to HH. The 16th Karmapa, who loved birds.

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NEW AUTHOR INTERVIEW

ELLIS NELSON, author of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS

All the way from Edinburgh, Katharine Griffiths interviews me on writing young adult novels and the influence of Buddhism on my work. Join us for the fun. Feel free to comment or ask questions. Anything goes. http://wp.me/p2Jcvv-4v

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How This Book Came Into the World

Several years ago I had a particularly bad year. My father died, my son was hospitalized, and I came face to face with my own health crisis. All in one year. My illness effectively took me out of the world and focused my attention inward. I returned to basics and found my interest in Buddhism waiting for me. Silent, I think, since at least my teenage years.

I began taking classes offered in faraway Dharamsala, India.  Thanks to the internet, I was able to study with a master who had fled Chinese-occupied Tibet to follow His Holiness, the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959. Listening to Geshe Sonam Rinchen’s patient lectures aided my understanding of Tibetan Buddhism. That along with my friendship with a young monk in India helped me to process and write, Into the Land of Snows.   The novel explores many of the themes I was exposed to as I learned Eastern concepts.

The process of the inward journey continues for me. Living in the material world is not easy. I know the majority of readers will read the book as an adventure in a foreign land, but I hope the book finds a few fellow spiritual travelers.

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ON BODY-HEAT YOGA (TUMO)

His bare skin was draped in a blanket that had been submerged in a frigid, mountain stream. In order to pass the test, the young monk must completely dry the blanket using only his body heat. Once he accomplishes that, he will be challenged to dry two more saturated blankets. Only then will he be declared proficient in tumo.

In my book, INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, Blake has the opportunity to watch young monks practicing tumo. Mesmerized by what he sees, Blake wants to join in. He soaks his own repa garment and begins to imitate what he sees the adepts do. But Blake hasn’t had the training necessary to accomplish the generation of body heat and he soon is in the throngs of hypothermia.

Tumo requires a lengthy training process of three years, three months, and three days. Those who complete the training and maintain it, sometimes meet in high mountain snow fields to compete against one another. The monk who melts the largest circle of snow beneath his body is declared the winner. Without any preparation, Blake is lucky to survive his attempt to dry his repa.

Like many Tantric practices, tumo requires the passing of an empowerment from master to student. The spiritual bond between these two is characterized by a telepathic link which even survives the death of the master. In this way, the master always remains available to the student. In the esoteric practice of tumo, a monk will learn to generate heat at the base chakra by practicing elaborate visualizations, advanced breath work, and body posturing. In 1982 researchers who studied yogis in India, reported that the tumo practitioners could raise the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 8.3°C.

Additional reading:

Occult Tibet by JH Brennan

The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa by Lama Thubten Yeshe

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