Guest Post: Confessions of a Buddhist Witch, part two

Welcome to the second installment of Willow Moon’s comparison of his two traditions, Tibetan Buddhism and Faerie Witchcraft. You can read the first part here and Willow’s bio. Enjoy!

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Both Buddhists and Faerie Witches gain knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world through inner knowledge combined with an acquired knowledge passed to us by our teachers and spiritual friends.  Inner knowledge is the development of what we have learned from others by mulling it over, practicing the teachings enough to gain experience and applying the understanding thus gained to our life.  The long path to inner knowledge can be started only if the individual is open to learning from someone else.  This is why lineage is so important in both religions.  The teachings can only be imparted by another embodied individual; the traditional knowledge can only be passed directly by a living, skilled practitioner because the teachings are composed of more than just words.  There are many more subtle nuances to communication than mere speech or writing.  Human contact is absolutely necessary for transmission of both traditions.  That is why neither religion can be fully learned over the internet or merely from reading books.  Both are initiatory mystery religions and only through connecting directly to the living lineage can one authentically learn the mysteries of the tradition.

By Hoi-Man Hau (Harmony Bells), via Wikimedia Commons

The respect offered to others by both religions does not just extend to living beings that we can see but also to the unseen ones who inhabit our world.  As with animals, Buddhists consider all the spirits and Gods who live in the world to have the same innate Buddha nature as themselves.  They are all capable of accomplishing enlightenment, although it may be more difficult than for humans.  The Buddhist term “enlightenment” can be misunderstood as an unattainable goal, but there are many stories of people from every walk of life having discovered it.  “Enlightenment” can be an obtuse term in English but the Tibetan word used for enlightenment gives a clearer definition.   In Tibetan the word for enlightenment is “Sang gye” which means fully purified and fully blossomed.  This refers to the process of uncovering our enlightened mind which is to practice purification methods to clear out harmful psychological complexes and to completely develop our psychic potential.  The goal of Buddhism is not to destroy the ego, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama said in a lecture in Bloomington, Indiana; but to change our attitude of “I can’t” into “I can!”
Magical powers are perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Witchcraft to the public.  The modern western Witch usually has a very different view of magic than what is depicted in movies and TV shows.  The popular image of magic is to wave your wand or twitch your nose and whatever you want appears!  Most Witches of today think of magic as a lot of sustained hard work mixed with the joy of success.  Magical powers are not usually just given or born in a Witch but she has to do appropriate spiritual exercises for years to develop them.  The spiritual exercises entail visualization, breath control, ritual, body movements, meditation, concentration and engagement with helping the people of the earth.  When magical power manifests after working the exercises then it is usually as the ability to shape the world within the parameters of the normal processes of nature.  That is, a spell usually manifests as something that seems normal.  Most modern Witches don’t go flying around on brooms or conjure objects out of thin air!

The traditional Tibetan view of magical phenomena is quite different.  Venerable Lama Tarchin Rinpoche once said to me that when he lived in Kham (Eastern Tibet) before escaping from the Chinese occupation to America, he thought the stories about westerners looking into boxes to see things far away or talking into horns for long distant communication or flying through the air in metal birds were fantasy!  He, however, was convinced of the reality of people running across wild mountainous terrain at train-like speeds or people flying through the air and upon landing leaving their foot prints in rock; or changing their shape and size at will!  Ironically, the magic that we see in the west in the movies is more accurate to the ancient Tibetan worldview.  Tibetans consider magical phenomena to be a natural part of how the world operates, and one way we can communicate with the world our hopes and needs.  Tibetan Buddhists will do magic rites intended to harness harmful spiritual energy and transform it into a beneficial effect or to control the weather.  They develop their psychic potential for clairvoyance, telepathy, psychometry, levitation etc. primarily through meditation and visualization/breath/body exercises.  In meditation, it is through paying attention to the natural space between thoughts that allows one to be aware of psychic knowledge that arises in the gap.

Since spirits and Gods can become enlightened and because they have the same basic nature as us they deserve just as much respect as humans.  That is why Buddhists of the Vajrayana (Diamond vehicle) tradition, of which Tibetan Buddhism is a part, make offerings to spirits of nature and the Gods – so that they too can have the fortunate circumstances necessary for discovering their true nature.  The Gods and spirits are not seen as psychological constructs but as real individual beings with whom we can interact.  A God may be cosmic in form and function but they are also each personally interactive.  This individualized, personal yet cosmic arena of activity is also how Faerie Witches relate to the Gods.

Both Faerie Witches and Buddhists practice spiritual exercises over long periods of time.  The goal of these exercises is the transformation of our mundane experience of the world into the experience of our world as a magical display of the divine or enlightened state of being.  The skilled Faerie initiate Loki once told me that Faerie practitioners are “technicians of the sacred.”  Both religions employ techniques that change one’s state of complex, unsatisfying clinging to a “reality” learned from others into a fulfilling open-ended dance with the powers of life.  The methods, of course are different between the two religions, but they both have the goal of obtaining freedom from the tyranny of those who desire to control and manipulate us.

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Stay tuned for the conclusion next Friday!

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  • Guest

    So you addressed the Tantric practices what about your Sutra Practices? Who do you blend them with the Craft?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

      I assume the above comment is the edited version of this one.

    • willow

      Good question! The way I was taught emphasized the Vajrayana (Thunderbolt Vehicle) which is based upon the Maha-Ati teaching cycles. This path of meditation uses the method of generating oneself as a Buddha-Deity with imagination, mantra and mudra in a ritual service combined with realizing the nature of being. Since I know this Buddhist system better than the Sutra practices, I emphasized it.
      However, to answer your question, the first teaching I received from the Venerable Lama Sonam Tenzin was the Heart Sutra. This teaching and meditation is the heart of the Mahayana (Great Vehicle) and is the path of a Bodhisattva. It is the Buddha Shakyamuni”s teaching on our nature/nature of our world and our relationship to the root of our experience as openness.
      Since, according to this teaching (in the way I understand it) the root of everything we experience, judge, contemplate, enjoy or hate is undetermined. The openness that is the underlying undetermined cause of our experience affords us the ability to change. The ever changing, shifting nature of our experience is the proof of this undetermined basis of the world.
      For me, this understanding of the shape-shifting open nature of reality fits perfectly with my understanding of the nature of the Mother of the Universe, whom in Faerie we call the Star Goddess. She is the universe before light was born, She is our self before thought arises. She is the darkness full of desire who trembles with the birth of dawn. The Heart Sutra calls Her Prajnaparamita.
      The Heart Sutra teaches love, compassion, honesty, courage based upon the open nature of our self and our world. It is only love and wisdom that endures the realization of the utter emptiness of everything. Victor and Cora both exemplified this with their every word.

      • Dubium

        My stura practice is LamRim, which Je Tsongkhapa said was the other wing of my practice. Any practice that supports Compassion I think supports my Sutra practices. Bliss and Emptiness help with bringing the Results into the Path. Thanks for your posts.

        • willow

          Yes, it makes sense! I learned that Compassion/Bliss together with an understanding of Emptiness are two wings that allows our practice to take flight. Compassion helps others and understanding Emptiness helps our self. Practicing them together allows us to fulfill our vows to help others and our self at the same time. If we practice these two together for long enough the path becomes the result and the result becomes the path. That is ultimate Compassion.

          You are welcome. I’m glad you got something from them.

  • Dubium

    So you address the Tantric Practices. What about the Suta Practices?

  • mike

    Sorry, but this is so NOT the teaching of Buddha

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

      Thanks for chiming in, Mike. Would you care to elaborate?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

        As my understanding of Buddhism is very rudimentary, I will let Willow respond. I do think that using the word ‘superstitious’ betrays an idea of orthodoxy that perhaps Willow’s lineage of Buddhism doesn’t concern itself with.

        I know that many people like to suggest that I’m off base with my Hindu practice, but they are coming from a right-hand, more Orthodox approach, and I am unconcerned with Vedic orthodoxy. There are legitimate Hindu traditions that are divergent from orthodoxy (and some from orthopraxy, as well), just as I believe there are Buddhist practices that do the same.

        Willow?

        • willow

          Hello again, I had to post even though I wasn’t finished because the cursor stopped working. This way of posting comments is glitchy on my computer. Anyway, to continue …

          You wrote: “what the Buddha taught was a practice based upon what we can know directly from our own experience: our thoughts and feelings, which then become the basis of Buddhist spiritual practice by training the mind to become aware of how our own thoughts form the basis for our emotional experience in the form of attachment the self narrative.”

          Exactly! I completely agree with you.

          Prior to that statement you seem to indicate that there are some people who do have a direct knowledge of a supernatural paradigm. I assume you believe this about Lord Shakyamuni Buddha. If that is possible, then is it not also possible that by following his instructions others may have attained the same ability? Perhaps, this a main difference between Mahayana and Hinayana: the belief in other Buddhas other than Lord Shakyamuni.

          All the teachers I have listened to also reject the reality of a “soul.” However, this is not to say that people do not experience a soul, in the same way it would seem inaccurate to assert people do not experience a “life.” These things are certainly experienced just as are various “supernatural” events. But are they “real?” Is birth and death and all in between “real” or “imagination?”

          The view I was taught is: everything is just as real and just as unreal as everything else. Where can we point to the ego? We experience it sometimes, but where does it stay? Where does it go? What is the reality of this computer or these words? What is the worth of histories or cannons? All is a dream. And yet we dream it and experience it, so it isn’t nothing. There is value in the dream. There is presence in the dream, if we step out of the way of our judgment. Our experience arises like a magical display of wisdom. if only we could remember it
          .
          Anyway, I hope this helps you understand us better. I appreciate your comments and please let me know if there is any other topics you wish to discuss or if this is not clear.

    • willow

      Perhaps you are not familiar with the northern Buddhist culture of Nepal (where Lord Buddha Shakyamuni was born) and the Himalayas. Buddhists of the region believe there are 84,000 different methods/teachings of the Buddha. I was fortunate enough to see all those teachings in the form of pechas (sacred texts) of the Kanjur (Buddha’s oral teachings) which made a cube 4’X5’X5′ in size! In addition to the Buddha’s original teachings there is also the Tanjur which is the collected works of 2,600 years worth of many Buddhist master’s inspirations from their personal practice. I do not presume to know all the teachings of the Buddha. I can only rely on the warm breath of my teachers who taught me.
      Without more specifics, I can not answer your question specifically.