Art, Dharma, DIY, Landscape, Spirituality

My art

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My best early Sunday morning try at making a logo/profile pic for my Facebook art page.
Think it turned out pretty good! I used an app called Logopit Plus to add the fonts and circles, and the picture itself I just took outside on the porch – daylight really brings out the color in my paintings.

This morning I also felt very inspired and creative to make something, and I have always been very fond of Asian art, specifically Chinese and Japanese style paintings. So this one is inspired by that:

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“The Master has mastered Nature; not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming it. In surrendering to the Tao, in giving up all concepts, judgments, and desires, her mind has grown naturally compassionate. She finds deep in her own experience the central truths of the art of living, which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be; the more we let go of what we love, the more present our love becomes; the clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil, the more we can embody the good.” – Lao Tzu

Have a nice week!

Art, Dharma, Photography, Spirituality, Yoga

Clear mind, pure heart

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What buddhism and the dharma means to me

These past couple of days, my mind has been spinning in the direction of motivation and inspiration towards writing and painting. I feel creative again, after many, many months of having a huge creative blockage in my system. I’m painting and writing letters to people I care about. I’m not feeling as critical towards my own ability to create, and therefore I am able to play around more without being too hung up on the result. I even found the courage to go ask an art studio and a gallery in town if they wanted to display my paintings, and they did! What an adrenaline kick.

Anyway. I felt like writing about my buddhist path. Two nights ago, I was at a small get-together, a moving-in-party at a buddhist friend´s place, and the conversation steered towards spirituality and religion. Me and this friend were the only practicing buddhists in the room, and it became evident to me that there are a lot of assuptions about buddhism that I just don’t find true at all, in my personal experience. For example that the (historical) Buddha Shakyamuni is looked upon as a God, above other people/followers, that enlightenment/buddhahood is something mystical only available to certain people and that spirituality is in the culture, not necessarily in people’s heart and mind.

To me, it only makes sense that since we all have a mind, that means we all have the same ability to transform it, to step out of the wheel of suffering and confusion. And since we all have a heart, we all have the potential to open it towards all living beings, and develop a compassionate heart without disrimination. The Buddha Shakyamuni showed us it’s possible, and so did many other dharma practitioners and teachers, like Yeshe Tsogyal, Padmasambhava and Jetsun Milarepa – to mention a few. I believe it is true though, that some people have a stronger connection to dharma (the teachings and the practice) than others, but still the possibility is there.

I think it’s important to remember that when we are practicing dharma, it is not to become a part of Tibetan or Indian culture, or to belong to any other culture with a strong tie to buddhism. It is “simply” to be a kind of scientist who looks closely at our own minds, and to be able to use the samsaric (cyclic) mind as a tool to tranform it into an enlightened one. Training our minds through meditation. In this sense, I feel buddhism has much more of a spiritual approach to it, than a religious one. There is a lot of religious and cultural baggage attached to buddhism that I personally don’t agree with, for example putting young children in monasteries, away from their families, blindly believing something just because a robed person said it without using common sense to check it for yourself, and the still-existing patriarchy that’s going on in some areas of buddhism.

Despite this, I still call myself a buddhist because I feel a strong devotion in my own heart to practice the dharma and a motivation to transform my mind using the buddhist teachings. I feel lucky to not live in a poor country and to have time to practice and to be able to go on retreats 3-4 times a year with a wonderful sangha and a very capable teacher. I also feel like the basic buddhist principles of ethics, honesty and being of help and benefit to others is such a beautiful and transformative thing.

Having been a practicing buddhist for about two years now, I definitely feel like I have a more clear mind and a more pure heart. Still long ways to go, but feeling progress is golden. If you’d like to check out the tradition I am practicing in, go to openheart.fi 🙂

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Dharma, Landscape, Photography

From above

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“When you travel in an airplane, you can see all sorts of landscapes below — lakes, mountains, lush forests, deserts, cold and warm places. Likewise, during meditation, experiences of all kinds pass before your mind’s eye. At that time, the most important thing is to avoid any kind of clinging.

Don’t proudly think that these are “good” experiences and “Now I have realized the Great Perfection!” Neither should you be discouraged by “bad” periods of practice and feel like giving up meditation altogether, telling yourself, “I’ll never succeed.”

Let the mind remain in its completely natural, uncontrived state. Be like a newborn baby in its cradle. Even if surrounded by threatening armies wielding swords, the baby has no fear. In brief, there should be no modification of the natural state.”

~ Dilgo K. Rinpoche

 

Dharma, Landscape, Photography

In particular

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“A merchant crossing a forest infested with thieves would keep a weapon ready to hand. A traveler passing through a country ravaged by plague would take with him an assortment of medicines. In the same way, living as you do under the constant threat of emotions like anger, desire, pride, jealousy and many others, you should always be ready to fight them off with the appropriate antidotes. Constant vigilance is the mark of a sincere practitioner. You may know how to practice when everything is going well, but that is of little use if you succumb to the first emotion that hits you.

Good practitioners can be recognized by their response to difficult situations liable to provoke latent emotions. Those capable of reacting immediately with the correct antidote will have no problem overcoming obstacles.

In particular, if they know how to transcend the concepts of subject and object, all their thoughts will liberate themselves, like a snake wriggling out of the knots tied in its own body, without effort or help. When you trace all thoughts and concepts back to their very source, you will recognize that they all have the same true nature – emptiness inseparable from transcendent wisdom.”

~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Dharma, Spirituality, Yoga

Emptiness

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“A thorough, experiential understanding of emptiness is the only antidote to the belief in an “I,” in a truly existing self. Once you recognize emptiness, all your attachment to such a self will vanish without a trace. Realization will blaze forth like a brilliant sun rising in the sky, transforming darkness into light. At first, until you actually recognize emptiness, you have to gain an understanding of it through deep and careful reflection on the teacher’s pith instructions. Then, when you first recognize it, your experience of emptiness will not be stable. To improve it, blend meditation and postmeditation periods. Try not to fall back into ordinary delusion, but to maintain the view of emptiness in all your daily activities. Meditation and the path of action will mutually enhance each other. Finally, you may reach a point where there is no difference between meditation and postmeditation, a point at which you no longer ever depart from emptiness. This is called the realization of great sameness. Within that great sameness, compassion for all beings will arise spontaneously—for the more you realize emptiness, the less there will be any impediment to the arising of compassion.” – Dilgo K. Rinpoche, excerpt from Heart of Compassion

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Dharma, Landscape, Photography, Yoga

Song of Three’s

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Milarepa’s Song of Threes

Thunder, lightning, and the southern clouds, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the sky itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the sky itself.

Rainbows, mist, and fog, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the earth itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the earth itself.

Forests, flowers, and leaves, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the mountain itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the mountain itself.

Rivers, bubbles, and waves, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the ocean itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the ocean itself.

Habitual tendencies, clinging, and fixation, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the All-Ground itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the All-Ground itself.

Natural awareness, natural lucidity, and natural liberation, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the nature of mind itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the nature of mind itself.

The birthless, the deathless, and the expressionless, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the nature of things itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the nature of things itself.

The appearance as demons, the apprehension as demons, and the conceptualizing as demons, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the Yogi himself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the Yogi himself.

– Milarepa

Art, Dharma, Jewellery, Yoga

Mother of compassion

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Tara 💎 ‘She who liberates’

‘She is considered to be the deity of universal compassion who represents virtuous and enlightened activity; a female bodhisattva.

The word Tara itself is derived from the root ‘tri’ (to cross), hence the implied meaning: ‘the one who enables living beings to cross the Ocean of Existence and Suffering’. Her compassion for living beings, her desire to save them from suffering, is said to be even stronger than a mother’s love for her children.

The story of Tara’s origin, according to the Tara Tantra, recounts that aeons ago she was born as a king’s daughter. A compassionate princess, she regularly gave offerings and prayers to the ordained monks and nuns. She thus developed great merit, and the monks told her that, because of her spiritual attainments, they would pray that she be reborn as a man and spread Buddhist teachings. She responded that there was no male and no female, that nothing existed in reality, and that she wished to remain in female form to serve other beings until everyone reached enlightenment, hence implying the shortfall in the monk’s knowledge in presuming only male preachers for the Buddhist religion. Thus Tara might be considered one of the earliest feminists.’

Books, Culture, Dharma, Spirituality

Books

Some books I 1) have read and loved, 2) plan to read and 3) am currently reading 🙂

1)

* Stones to Shatter the Stainless mirror: The fearless teachings of Tilopa to Naropa:

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Excerpt from the book: “…I suppose that is the secret and the point of this Vision. In every situation, there is the relative view; where there are others and a world to serve with loving-kindness, compassion and generosity. And there is also the Ultimate view; where there are no others and no world. Only the mind of clear light, manifesting in the various illusions.”

This book really hit home for me; it’s easy to read,  is filled with wisdom but also some funny parts that I could recognize from my own path. It’s written in a way that shows Naropa’s own point of view and the hardships he went through to humble himself enough to receive the teachings of Tilopa. Also, there are some direct “pointers to the moon” by Tilopa at the very end of the book.

* The Life of Milarepa

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“It presents a quest for purification and buddhahood in a single lifetime, tracing the path of a great sinner who became a great saint. It is also a powerfully evocative narrative, full of magic, miracles, suspense, and humor, while reflecting the religious and social life of medieval Tibet.

I have heard this book three times on audio, and it actually only gets better each time. The words are collected and written down by Tsangnyön Heruka (“The madman Heruka from Tsang”), and tells the story of Milarepa‘s physical and spiritual journey towards enlightenment. It’s written in quite a humorous way, I think, and has been very inspirational for me. Actually planning on hearing/reading it again very soon!

2)

* White Lotus: An explanation of the Seven Line prayer to Guru Padmasambhava

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“Mipham Rinpoche’s famous explanation of the Seven Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche. In this remarkable text the author explains the Seven Line Prayer in the context and application of the main practices of the Nyingma school, including Trekchö and Tögal in an exceptionally clear and accessible manner. ”

Actually found this book as a free pdf file HERE!

* Lady of the Lotus-born: The life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal

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“This classical text is not only a biography but also an inspiring example of how the Buddha’s teaching can be put into practice. Lady of the Lotus-Born interweaves profound Buddhist teachings with a colorful narrative that includes episodes of adventure, court intrigue, and personal searching.”

I ordered this book from Amazon about a week ago; patiently waiting for it to drop into my mail box! I have been fascinated by, and feel very close to, Yeshe Tsogyal for the last 6 months or so, so am very excited to start reading this book. I normally order books to my Kindle app, but there is something very nice about having the book physically in your hands too 🙂 Especially if you are in a coffee shop reading, which I often do.

* Sky Dancer: The secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyal

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Another book on Yeshe Tsogyal. Not much on this book when I google it, but still seems worth reading and easy to order for my Kindle app. The cover shows a picture of Vajrayogini/Naljorma – one of Yeshe Tsogyal’s aspects.

* The Life of Longchenpa: The Omniscient Dharma King of the Vast Expanse

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“Compiled from numerous Tibetan and Bhutanese sources, including Longchenpa’s autobiography and stories of his previous lives and subsequent rebirths, The Life of Longchenpa weaves an inspiring and captivating tale of wonder and magic, of extraordinary visions and spiritual insight, set in the kingdoms of fourteenth-century Tibet and Bhutan. It also reveals for the first time fascinating details of his ten years of self-exile in Bhutan, stories that were unknown to his Tibetan biographers.”

Since I loved The Life of Milarepa so much, I have been looking for more biographies on spiritual teachers to read, and stumbled upon this one on Longchenpa, a teacher from the Nyingma lineage. These kinds of biographies seems to be very inspiring and motivational for my own path, and I just generally enjoy reading about other people’s path, and the way they deal with hardships and challenges. Still have not ordered this one, but it’s on my list!

3)

* The Heart of Compassion: The thirty seven verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva

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“What would be the practical implications of caring more about others than about yourself? This is the radical theme of this extraordinary set of instructions, a training manual composed in the fourteenth century by the Buddhist hermit Ngulchu Thogme, here explained in detail by one of the great Tibetan Buddhist masters of the twentieth century, Dilgo Khyentse.

Only just started on this one, think I am on page 4. I have been meaning to read Dilgo Khyentse’s autobiography Brilliant Moon for some time, but then I stumbled upon this book instead and will finish this before I start on the other. Dilgo Khyentse is by far one of the most inspirational buddhist teachers I know of, so looking forward to see if I like this text.

* Wild Ivy: The spiritual autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin

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“Hakuin Zenji (1689-1769) is a towering figure in Japanese Zen. A fiery and dynamic teacher and renowned artist, he reformed the Zen Rinzai tradition, which had fallen into stagnation and decline in his time, revitalizing it and ensuring its survival even to our own day. Hakuin emphasized the importance of zazen, or sitting meditation, and is also known for his skillful use of koans as a means to insight.”

I am, unfortunately, a very slow reader and have spent a few months on this book, but I really do like it and plan on finishing it. It’s filled with personal accounts of Hakuin and also some lovely calligraphy paintings.

* More than Two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory

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As the title implies, this is a book about polyamory. As a person who is relatively new to this kind of relationship structure, I thought I could use some pointers. Only read the introduction so far, but it seems promising.

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If you have any books to recommend, please do not hesitate to comment or link it to me 😀