Tag Archive: mahayana buddhism


Goddess Srinmo

“Srinmo’s themes karma, Universal Law, excellence, sports and cycles. Her symbols are the wheel and boomerang. In Tibet, this Goddess holds the Great Round, a cosmic wheel upon which the movement of human life is recorded with each thought, word, and deed. Srinmo’s demonic visage represents the human fear of death and reminds that one should strive for good in this life for the beauty it brings now and n our next incarnation.

In Virginia, the Boomerang Festival is a festival of skill centering on the ancient boomerangs believed to have been used originally by the Egyptians.

Metaphysically speaking, the boomerang’s movement represents the threefold law and Srinmo’s karmic balance (i.e., everything you send out returns to you thrice).
To give yourself a greater understanding of this principle, or to recognize the cycles in your life that may need changing, carry any round object today, such as a coin. Put it in your pocket, saying

‘What goes around comes around.’

Pay particular attention to your routine and the way you interact with people all day, and see what Srinmo reveals to you.

For aiding the quest for enlightenment, and generally improving karma through light-filled living, try this little incantation in the car each time you make a right-hand turn today:

‘As I turn to the right,
I move closer to the Light!'”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Today’s research comes from a fantastic piece written by  Victor & Victoria Trimondi; and the following excerpt is the story of the bondage of the earth Goddess Srinmo and the history of the origin of Tibet.  “According to Tibetan tradition, the whole Tibetan territory can be represented as a vast wild female demon lying on her back facing East and stretching her limbs all over the country. The accounts of this conception are found in several Tibetan texts that originated between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, including the famous terma-revealed chronicle Maṇi Kabum (ma ni bka’ ‘bum, 12th century) and above cited chronicle The Clear Mirror (rgyal rabs gsal ba’i me long) written by the great scholar Södnam Gyaltsen (bsod nams rgyal mtshan, 1312-1375).” [1]

“The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is considered the progenitor of the Tibetans, he thus determines events from the very beginning. In the period before there were humans on earth, the Buddha being was embodied in a monkey and passed the time in deep meditation on the ‘Roof of the World‘. There, as if from nowhere, a rock demoness by the name of Srinmo appeared. The hideous figure was a descendent of the Srin clan, a bloodthirsty community of nature Goddesses. ‘Spurred on by horniness’ — as one text puts it — She too assumed the form of a (female) monkey and tried over seven days to seduce Avalokiteshvara. But the divine Bodhisattva monkey withstood all temptations and remained untouched and chaste. As he continued to refuse on the eighth day, Srinmo threatened him with the following words: ‘King of the monkeys, listen to me and what I am thinking. Through the power of love, I very much love you. Through this power of love I woo you, and confess: If you will not be my spouse, I shall become the rock demon’s companion. If countless young rock demons then arise, every morning they will take thousands upon thousands of lives. The region of the Land of Snows itself will take on the nature of the rock demons. All other forms of life will then be consumed by the rock demons. If I myself then die as a consequence of my deed, these living beings will be plunged into hell. Think of me then, and have pity’ (Hermanns, 1956, p. 32). With this she hit the bullseye. ‘Sexual intercourse out of compassion and for the benefit of all suffering beings’ was — as we already know — a widespread ‘ethical’ practice in Mahayana Buddhism. Despite this precept, the monkey first turned to his emanation father, Amitabha, and asked him for advice. The ‘god of light from the West’ answered him with wise foresight: ‘Take the rock demoness as your consort. Your children and grandchildren will multiply. When they have finally become humans, they will be a support to the teaching’ (Hermanns, 1956, p. 32).

Nevertheless, this Buddhist evolutionary account, reminiscent of Charles Darwin, did not just arise from the compassionate gesture of a divine monkey; rather, it also contains a widely spread, elitist value judgement by the clergy, which lets the Tibetans and their country be depicted as uncivilized, underdeveloped and animal-like, at least as far as the negative influence of their primordial mother is concerned. ‘From their father they are hardworking, kind, and attracted to religious activity; from their mother they are quick-tempered, passionate, prone to jealousy and fond of play and meat’, an old text says of the inhabitants of the Land of Snows (Samuel, 1993, p. 222).

Two forces thus stand opposed to one another, right from the Tibetan genesis: the disciplined, restrained, culturally creative, spiritual world of the monks in the form of Avalokiteshvaraand the wild, destructive energy of the feminine in the figure of Srinmo.

In a further myth, non-Buddhist Tibet itself appears as the embodiment of Srinmo (Janet Gyatso, 1989, p. 44). The local demoness is said to have resisted the introduction of the true teaching by the Buddhist missionaries from India with all means at Her disposal, with weaponry and with magic, until She was ultimately defeated by the great king of law, Songtsen Gampo (617-650), an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara (and thus of the current Dalai Lama). ‘The lake in the Milk plane,’ writes the Tibet researcher Rolf A. Stein, ‘where the first Buddhist king built his temple (the Jokhang), represented the heart of the demoness, who lay upon Her back. The demoness is Tibet itself, which must first be tamed before She can be inhabited and civilized. Her body still covers the full extent of Tibet in the period of its greatest military expansion (eighth to ninth century C.E.). Her spread-eagled limbs reached to the limits of Tibetan settlement … In order to keep the limbs of the defeated demoness under control, twelve nails of immobility were hammered into Her’ (Stein, 1993, p.34). A Buddhist temple was raised at the location of each of these twelve nailings.

Mysterious stories circulate among the Tibetans which tell of a lake of blood under the Jokhang, which is supposed to consist of Srinmo’s heart blood. Anyone who lays his ear to the ground in the cathedral, the sacred center of the Land of Snows, can still — many claim — hear Her faint heartbeat. A comparison of this unfortunate female fate with the subjugation of the Greek dragon, Pythonat Delphi immediately suggests itself. Apollothe god of light (Avalokiteshvara), let the earth-monster, Python (Srinmo), live once he had defeated it so that it would prophesy for him, and built over the mistreated body at Delphi the most famous oracle temple in Greece.

The earth demoness is nailed down with phurbas. These are ritual daggers with a three-sided blade and a vajra handle. We know these already from the Kalachakra ritual, where they are likewise employed to fixate the earth spirits and the earth mother. The authors who have examined the symbolic significance of the magic weapon are unanimous in their assessment of the aggressive phallic symbolism of the phurba.

In their view, Srinmo represents an archetypal variant of the Mother Earth figure known from all cultures, whom the Greeks called Gaia (Gaea). As nature and as woman She stands in stark contrast to the purely spiritual world of Tantric Buddhism. The forces of wilderness, which rebel against androcentric civilization, are bundled within Her. She forms the feminine shadow world in opposition to the masculine paradise of light of the shining Amitabha and his radiant emanation son, AvalokiteshvaraSrinmo symbolizes the (historical) prima materia, the matrix, the primordial earthly substance which is needed in order to construct a tantric monastic empire, then She provides the gynergy, the feminine élan vitale, with which the Land of Snows pulsates. As the vanquisher of the earth Goddess, Avalokiteshvara triumphs in the form of King Songtsen Gampo, that is, the same Bodhisattva who, as a monkey, earlier engendered with Srinmo the Tibetans in myth, and who shall later exercise absolute dominion from the ‘Roof of the World’ as Dalai Lama.

Tibet’s sacred center, the Jokhang (the cathedral of Lhasa), the royal chronicles inform us, thus stands over the pierced heart of a woman, the earth mother Srinmo. This act of nailing down is repeated at the construction of every Lamaist shrine, whether temple or monastery and regardless of where the establishment takes place — in Tibet, India, or the West. Then before the first foundation stone for the new building is laid, the tantric priests occupy the chosen location and execute the ritual piercing of the earth mother with their phurbas. Tibet’s holy geography is thus erected upon the maltreated bodies of mythic women, just as the tantric shrines of India (the shakta pithas) are found on the places where the dismembered body of the Goddess Sati fell to earth.

Srinmo with different Tibetan temples upon her body

In contrast to Her Babylonian sister, Tiamat, who was cut to pieces by Her great-grandchild, Marduk, so that outer space was formed by Her limbs, Srinmo remains alive following Her subjugation and nailing down. According to the tantric scheme, Her gynergy flows as a constant source of life for the Buddhocratic system. She thus vegetates — half dead, half alive — over centuries in the service of the patriarchal clergy. An interpretation of this process according to the criteria of the gaia thesis often discussed in recent years would certainly be most revealing. (We return to this point in our analysis of the ecological program of the Tibetans in exile.) According to this thesis, the mistreated ‘Mother Earth’ (Gaia is the popular name for the Greek earth mother) has been exploited by humanity (and the gods?) for millennia and is bleeding to death. But Srinmo is not just a reservoir of inexhaustible energy. She is also the absolute Other, the foreign, and the great danger which threatens the Buddhocratic state. Srinmo is — as we still have to prove — the mythic ‘inner enemy’ of Tibetan Lamaism, while the external mythic enemy is likewise represented by a woman, the Chinese Goddess Guanyin.

Srinmo survived — even if it was under the most horrible circumstances, yet the Tibetans also have a myth of dismemberment which repeats the Babylonian tragedy of Tiamat. Like many peoples they worship the tortoise as a symbol of Mother Earth. A Tibetan myth tells of how in the mists of time the Bodhisattva Manjushri sacrificed such a creature ‘or the benefit of all beings’. In order to form a solid foundation for the world he fired an arrow off at the tortoise which struck it in the right-hand side. The wounded animal spat fire, its blood poured out, and it passed excrement. It thus multiplied the elements of the new world. Albert Grünwedel presents this myth as evidence for the “tantric female sacrifice” in the Kalachakra ritual: ‘The tortoise which Manjushri shot through with a long arrow … [is] just another form of the world woman whose inner organs are depicted by the dasakaro vasi figure [the Power of Ten]’ (Grünwedel, 1924, vol. II, p. 92).

The relation of Tibetan Buddhism to the Goddess of the earth or of the country (Tibet) is also one of brutal subjugation, an imprisonment, an enslavement, a murder or a dismemberment. Euphemistically, and in ignorance of the tantric scheme of things it could also be interpreted as a civilizing of the wilderness through culture. Yet however the relation is perceived — no meeting, no exchange, no mutual recognition of the two forces takes place. In the depths of Tibet’s history — as we shall show — a brutal battle of the sexes is played out.” [2]

Well damn…who knew??  I really had no idea how misogynistic Buddhism was until it was brought to my attention back in mid June of this year.  A person had shared several links with me and to be honest, it was very unsettling.  One relevant link that was shared I will share here in this entry is entitled Thai Buddhism and Patriarchy by Ouyporn Khuankaew.

“Although many people believe Buddhism is an ‘egalitarian’ religion, the fact will remain that sexism/gender bias has been a very integral part of the faith for many centuries. Overall, there is less virulent anti-woman bigotry within Buddhism than many other religions, especially the Abrahamic cultus of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but misogyny and chauvinism have been apparent enough in the Eastern faiths as well, including the Buddhist.” [3]

Man, way to pop my happy little Zen bubble, huh?

 

 

 

Sources: 

Murdock, D.M. Examiner.com, “Women in Buddhism“.

Sehnalova, Anna. 4shared.com, “The Myth of the ‘Supine Demoness’“.

Trimondi, Victor & Victoria. Trimondi.de, “2. The Dalai Lama (Avalokiteshvara) and the Demoness (Srinmo)“.

Suggested Links:

Cabezón, José Ignacio. Thlib.org, “Pabongkha Hermitage“.

O’Neill, Brendan. Reason.com, “The Truth About Tibetan Buddhism“.

Trimondi, Victor & Victoria. Trimondi.de, “Part I – 1. Buddhism and misogyny – an historical overview“.  (Here is a link to the Contents page)

Visitourchina.com, “History of Jokhang Temple“.

Wikipedia, “Women in Buddhism“.

Goddess Jun Ti

18 Arms of Cundi Bodhisattva

“Jun Ti’s themes are long life, fertility, wisdom and tradition.  Her symbols are dragons, sun and moon, the numbers 3 and 18.

This Chinese Buddhist Goddess oversees all matters of life generously. In works of art she is depicted as living on Polaris, the star around which all things revolve, including each individual’s fate. She has three eyes for wise discernment, eighteen arms holding weapons with to protect Her people, and a dragon’s head that symbolizes Her power and wisdom.

Jun Ti can help you live a more fulfilled life this year be overseeing your fortune and well-being. To encourage Her assistance, think silver and gold (or white and yellow) – the colors of the moon and the sun. Wear items is these hues, or perhaps have a glass of milk followed by pineapple juice in the morning to drink fully of her attributes!

On or around this day, the Chinese take to the streets with new year festivities that last two weeks. Eating various rice-based dishes today encourages fertility, respect and long life, while wearing new shoes brings Jun Ti’s luck. It is also customary to be on one’s best behavior and honor the ancestors throughout the day for good fortune. The climax of festivities is a dragon parade, the beast, Jun Ti’s sacred animal, being associated with ancient knowledge and tradition. So, find a way to commemorate your personal of family customs today to draw Jun Ti’s attention and blessing.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

While researching Jun Ti this evening, as with many of the East Asian Goddesses I research, I ran across several variations of Her name to include Jun DiZhunti/Zhuenti, Chun Ti, Chandi, Cundi, Cundi Guan Yin and Juntei Kannon.  I also found some associations with the Taoist Goddess Dou Mu Yuan JunKwan YinAvalokiteśvara and Marici.

Cundi is immensely popular in East Asian Buddhism. While Cundi is less well known in the Tibetan Vajrayāna Buddhist community, she is revered in the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist Esoteric sects. In China, she is known as Zhǔntí Púsà (準提菩薩, “Cundi Bodhisattva”) or Zhǔntí Fómǔ (準提佛母, “Cundi Buddha-Mother”), while in Japan she is known as Juntei Kannon (准胝観音, “Cundi Avalokitasvara”). She is recognized as one of the many forms Guan Yin – the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A Bodhisattva is anyone who vows to cultivate Wisdom and Compassion to save sentient beings from suffering.

The word ‘Cundi’ literally means ‘extremely pure’. Due to Her status as the Mother of all the Lotus Deities in Tantrism, so She has the epithet of Mother Buddha, Cundi Mother Buddha is also called the Seven Koti Mother Buddha, which means that She is the Mother of Seven Billion Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The cult of Cundi probably originated from Mahayana Buddhism’s absorption of some elements of Indian religion in which the Mahayanists accepted the Goddess Chandi as a bodhisattva (just as many Chinese deities were eventually absorbed into the pantheon of Chinese Buddhism and declared by Chinese Buddhists to be “Dharma protectors”). Perhaps the original intended audience of the Maha Cundi Dharani Sutra were devotees of Chandi who believed in the efficacy of magic spells and as an upaya, a text that would appeal to them and encoded with Buddhist teachings was composed. The Dharma is infinitely accommodating and can be expressed in different ways to people of different levels and perceptions.

Cundi can be seen as a personification of the Enlightened Mind of Compassionate Wisdom. Her devotees revere her as “The Mother of Seven Million Buddhas”. This is perhaps a poetic way of saying that the Reality which Cundi represents is the Source of All Enlightenment. Each one of Cundi’s eighteen arms represent a particular quality of enlightenment such as the unflagging zeal to save sentient beings and perfect knowledge of the past, present and future. Each one of her hands are either forming a mudra or holding an instrument symbolizing an activity characteristic of an enlightened being. For example in one of her arms, Cundi holds an axe which signifies the elimination of evil. Another of Cundi’s arms form the Abhaya Mudrā which signifies the bestowing fearlessness to Her devotees.

Jun Ti

A production of Lucky Thanka

The Symbolism and Meaning of the Eighteen Arms of Cundi
Cundi is depicted seated with eighteen arms, all wielding implements that symbolize skillful means of the Dharma or Tantra.  The symbolism of each arm is as follows:
1. The original 2 hands forming the root Mudra of Expounding the Dharma represents the fluency of elucidating all Dharma.
2. The hand holding the wondrous precious banner represents the ability to build a most magnificent, great monastery.
3. The hand forming the Fearless Mudra represents the ability to deliver sentient beings away from all terror and fears.
4. The hand holding a lotus flower represents the purification of the six senses which, untainted, are as pure as the lotus flower.
5. The hand holding a sword of wisdom represents the severing of the entanglements of afflictions and the three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance.
6. The hand holding an empowerment vase represents the flowing of nectar to nurture all sentient beings so that they may receive the empowerment of the buddhas.
7. The hand holding a wonderful jewelled headdress represents the wish to be linked to wonderful dharma art.
8. The hand holding a vajra lasso represents the ability to attract all into the yoga tantra.
9. The hand holding a wonderful celestial fruit represents the accomplishment of the fruition of enlightenment, and the extensive cultivation of good karma.
10. The hand holding an eight-spoke wheel represents the constant turning of the great dharma wheel, radiating its magnificent lights over the three lower realms.
11. The hand holding a battle axe represents the elimination of all evil practices and the severing of attachment to oneself and others.
12. The hand holding a large dharma shell represents the expounding of pure Dharma which shakes the universe.
13. The hand holding a vajra hook represents the skill to magnetize and attract all phenomena within one’s view.
14. The hand holding a wish-fulfilling vase represents the function of manifesting all treasures and scriptures at will.
15. The hand holding a vajra represents the collective convergence of support given by the eight classes of celestial beings and dragons. It also represents the subjugation of stubborn sentient beings.
16. The hand holding a wisdom sutra represents the self-cognition of knowing the profound and wonderful truth without any guidance from a teacher.
17. The hand holding a mani or wish-fulfilling pearl represents the vibrant and luminous state of mind which is flawless, pure and perfect.
18. The two original hands, beginning with the first hand, are held in the Dharma Expounding Mudra. Hence, the eighteen arms.

Some images of Cundi Bodhisattva depict different gestures, such as forming the root mudra or holding mala beads. The meaning remains the same, regardless. Her eighteen arms also represent the eighteen merits of attaining Buddhahood, as described in an appendix to the Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra or that of Cundi Bodhisattva.

 Details of Cundi’s iconography can be found here.

Additional Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cundi_(Buddhism)
http://cundimantra.weebly.com/
http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/chinese-mythology.php?deity=JUN-DI
http://www.meditationexpert.com/meditation-techniques/m_buddhist_zhunti_meditation_opens_your_heart_chakra_for_enlightenment.htm
http://www.taoistsecret.com/taoistgod.html#17
http://www.thangka-art.blogspot.com/view/classic
http://theyoungpolytheistic.blogspot.com/2011/07/gods-and-goddesses-jun-di.html

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