Tibetan buddhist altar astrology

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Garuda Aviary

The second is the King's New Year -- in the past, largesse was distributed at public festivities -- and on the third day, offerings are made to local deities and other beings, and general partying may continue. Nowadays, since people have to work the festivities may be postponed until the closest weekend after the 'official' date. Losar in Nepal. Regional Festivities Extracts from Jan.

Lhasa In the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, the holiday begins on the 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month. During the holiday which usually lasts one week in urban areas of Lhasa and two weeks in the countryside, new clothes are made, houses and monasteries alike are cleaned from top to bottom, various shapes of ka. The family's best carpets and finest silver are brought out. The Eight Auspicious Symbols, which appear as protective motifs throughout Tibetan-populated areas, are painted in strategic locations. Butter lamps are lit. Flowers are placed on altars. Piles of juniper, cedar, rhododendron, and other fragrant branches are prepared for burning as incense.

On Tibetan New Year's Eve, the family gather around a steaming hot pot of dumpling soup called gortu. As the meal begins, each person opens one of these special dumplings. The object one finds will indicate, much like a fortune cookie, that person's personality. If one finds salt, that is a good sign and means that one is all right; the one who finds wool is very lazy; coal indicates maliciousness; a white stone foretells a long life; pepper means that one has a glib tongue.

Everyone takes what is left in their bowl and dumps it back into the pot, as well as a piece of hair, a fingernail, and an old piece of clothing at the end of the meal. A dough effigy representing collective evil and ill will of the past 12 months is made and put in on top of everything else. A woman carries the pot out of the house. A man follows her with a burning torch made of wheat stalks shouting: "Get out! Get out! So the city of Lhasa is illuminated by torches and resonant with the sound of firecrackers. This ceremony is conducted to get rid of all the negative forces at the end of the year so that the New Year will begin unencumbered.

In the morning of New Year's Day, the family rise early, put on their new clothes and finest jewellery, make offerings of barley flour mixed with butter and sugar at the family shrine, and then go to monasteries after breakfast. On that morning, tens of thousands of Tibetans swarm into the Jokhang, Zhaibung and Sera monasteries, and the Potala Palace, all in Lhasa, to worship Buddha.

People add roasted highland barley, wheat, and juniper and cedar branches into the burning incense burners on Barkhor Square. Smoke fills the area. On the second day of the Tibetan New Year, people begin visiting their relatives and friends. They feast on rich holiday foods, drink highland barley liquor, play mahjong, dice and card games, and sing and dance around huge bonfires at night. The revelry continues from three to five days. Xigaze Prefecture On that afternoon, local Tibetan men wash their hair after cleaning their houses and painting the Eight Auspicious Symbols on the walls.

It is said that this will help the men have black and shiny hair and bring good luck to the family. Women cannot wash their hair that afternoon because it would have the opposite effect. On New Year's Eve, the same ceremony to drive out evil spirits is carried out in every family. Instead of throwing away the remains of the gortu and the burning torch, the men of the family climb onto a hill far from the house and burn a boiled sheep head lung-po until black, which will be offered at the family shrine as a sacrifice.

As a result, the day has become known as "the smelly last day. Dressed in their festive best, some of them climb onto hills to erect new prayer flags for the village. The others go to streams or wells for "new water. In the second day of the New Year, all families gather in their neighborhood squares to burn juniper branches and offer highly alcoholic barley liquor and snacks as sacrifice to the area's deity of the land and protector deities. Starting on the third day of the New Year, banquets for friends and relatives are held one after another.

Most of the region is covered with vast grasslands. Tibetans living there are mainly nomads. For the Amdo Tibetan nomads, the first thing to be done on the morning of the Tibetan Lunar New Year is always to climb to the top of a hill near their settlement and try to be the first person to burn juniper branches to worship the local protector deities. It is a great honor to be the first to burn juniper branches, for he or she has the right to sound the white conch to inform the others living around the hill and the first smoke can be seen for a great distance. Other people at the top of the hill will then add more juniper and cedar branches to the fire and offer liquor and highland barley flour to the local protector deities.

Different from Lhasa and Xigaze, house cleaning and water drawing are prohibited on New Year's Day in many areas of the Amdo region. In some Amdo areas, men get up early in the morning of New Year's Day and run toward the cow or sheep sheds to see in which direction the animals are pointing while they sleep. Wherever their heads point, whether east, south, west or north, that direction will have auspicious conditions for the New Year.

Cows and sheep will be painted three colors or tied with five-color cloth stripes, and made to move in that direction for some distance to ensure good luck. See T 24, b This appears to be an evocation of stellar and directional deities. See T , b The later Tantric texts subsequently integrate both into their ideological and practical frameworks. This potentially placed someone with such knowledge in an advantageous position, especially within an aristrocratic society in which such skills would have been appreciated. He states that from the age of seven, youths gradually receive training in the great treatises related to the five sciences, the second of which expressly includes calendrical calculations.

During the seventh century, the emerging tradition of Buddhist Tantra integrated astrological lore into their practice, most notably the twelve zodiac signs from Hellenistic astrology. In addition, they adopted the Hellenistic custom of the seven-day week. This will be discussed below in detail 4. T , c It also describes the seven-day week based on planets presiding over each day, and each day is regarded as either positive or negative. This demonstrates that by the seventh century, astrology was fully embraced and incorporated into the Buddhist traditions of Magadha.

We should, however, note that the emphasis on astrological considerations appears to have been reconsidered later on in Tantric Buddhism. Christian K.


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Xuanzang returned to China in T , a This possibly indicates that Buddhism in Magadha had a great appreciation for astrology. In light of the Indian Buddhist interest in astrology, it is unsurprising that astrology was transmitted to China via Buddhism. Nevertheless, there were a number of ethical and legal issues that existed in Chinese Buddhism with respect to astrology that should be addressed. Astrology in the Chinese Buddhist Context Chinese Buddhist literature from at least the fifth century reproduced the general injunctions against divination as found in Indian texts.

The early model of Chinese bodhisattva precepts also expressly forbid divination. It became quite popular, providing the standard set of bodhisattva precepts for East Asian Buddhism. Divination is listed among other wicked acts. Astrology is not specifically mentioned. See T , a They should all remain far away from all manner of planting and wealth as they would avoid a pit of fire.

They may not cut grass and trees, till the soil, dig in the ground, mix medicines, divine fortunes, observe the stars, make astronomical calculations, or make calendrical calculations. All such activities are improper. This is a general explanation of the qualities of maintaining the precepts. The five types of wicked acts: I.

For personal gain reforming standard observances and dishonestly displaying strange signs. Divining the fortune of another for gain. The four types: I. Wickedness at a distance: dispatching envoys to the four directions in pursuit of clothing and food. Wickedness by looking upwards: surveying above features of star signs and lunar cycles. Wickedness below: tilling fields, planting seeds and various acts directed downwards. The four ways to eat by way of the mouth: learning various spells to invite profit to support oneself.

Daoxuan himself laments this development. Like yellow leaves, a wooden ox or a wooden horse deceiving a little child, these precept teachings are also like this. In this work, a bodhisattva is permitted to commit even homicide if the situation warrants it. As we will explore below, monks in the Tang dynasty in fact practiced astrology despite their monastic precepts prohibiting it.

T , 79c See T , 79c Conclusion The foregoing discussion covered the general historical background of astrology as it relates to Buddhism in India and China. It is clear that astrology was important in both civilizations from early on. It was therefore natural for Buddhists to take an interest in the art. Having outlined the essential background information for the following chapters, which explain the introduction and development of Buddhist astrology in China, we should note a few things. First, astrology is an art found throughout Eurasian civilizations, and has been perhaps the only art to transcend so many cultural and linguistic barriers, having been incorporated into several major world religions.

It is therefore unsurprising that Buddhists also took an interest. The evidence indicates that many Buddhists, in fact, practiced astrology, with such an interest actually increasing over the centuries, and eventually being incorporated into Tantric practice. There were views opposed to astrology within Buddhism. Although there are proscriptions that forbid monks from practicing divination, at the same time in Buddhist literature we find many examples of passive knowledge of astrology, in addition to evidence of belief in astral deities.

The reality, so far as present evidence suggests, is that those who specifically opposed astrology in Indian Buddhist history constituted a minority. It is clear that Buddhists generally believed in the efficacy of astrology. The Chinese vinaya tradition in the Tang period also specifically forbids monks from practicing astrology as a means of earning a livelihood, but the reality was that such rules were effectively ignored, as we will see. Throughout the first millennium, legal codes specifically prohibited the private study of astronomy, which is an important point to bear in mind throughout the following chapters as such prohibitions were, at least in theory, in effect throughout the Tang dynasty.

The technical astronomical knowledge required to practice astrology is another aspect of astrology that must be kept in mind, especially as we explore how the Chinese approached foreign astrology. The question to ask here is why the literature related to astrology in this period did not become widely practiced or popularized, in contrast to later developments in the eighth century, during which time foreign astrology was widely studied and further developed in China.

The answer, I propose, is that it was not necessary for Chinese Buddhists to observe astrology during these centuries. They furthermore display the successive developments that laid the foundation for the system which was ultimately adopted in China in the eighth century. As Zenba notes, there are two features of the text that indicate Hellenistic influences. The second Hellenistic feature, also in chapter seven, is the Greco-Egyptian ordering of planets which differs from that found in chapter five, in the order of Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.

This ordering was also not employed with relation to the seven-day week in China until the seventh century at the earliest. He proposed a system of intercalation based on lunar months, later called the Metonic cycle, in which there are seven intercalary months every nineteen years. This is designed to keep lunar months in pace with the solar year. See M. This ordering of the seven-day week is an amalgamation of the Egyptian belief in deities overseeing each of the twenty-four hours and the Greek cosmological concept of concentric spheres.

The first hour of the first day is assigned to Saturn, the second hour to Jupiter, the third to Mars, and so on. The twenty-fifth hour the first hour of the second day is assigned to the Sun. The forty-ninth hour is assigned to the Moon. This ordering was known in the second century BCE.

Saturn Buddhism

Gavin Flood Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, , This was on the sixth fasting day [Friday]. This recension included numbers revised to account for a higher latitude. This is significant since it shows that the first Central Asian influences in Chinese Buddhist astrological literature can be traced back to the late fifth century. In the absence of additional materials or a foreign specialist, it to China.

The seven-day week may have been observed by the early Nestorian church in China, but it was not observed by the Chinese until the late eighth century at the earliest. Note that the authenticity of the scripture is contested by some scholars. Reprint of work. The astrologer is asked to describe his path.

Following these sorts of astrological books, the stars of you the sage might be good, but you will still be reborn among cows, horses, dogs and swine. Moreover, there are those born together under the same star, yet there are differences in wealth and status. Thus, I know this is not a certain method. Why not ask of the causes and conditions for liberation? The detailed natal predictions nevertheless indicate that the author of the text 15 Their dimensions are defined by units of time, which stands in contrast to the way the lunar stations are defined with standardized degrees relative to fixed stars in Chinese astronomy.

He suspected the presence of Chinese influences in this work. Chapter eleven fasc. Some clearly favored the concept of divine beings presiding over celestial bodies, whereas others preferred a mechanistic theory. Chapter eighteen fasc. The Buddha then commands the stellar bodies and constellations to protect countries and raise beings. The Candragarbha-parivarta includes the earliest known mention in Chinese of the twelve zodiac signs, which are phonetically transliterated from Sanskrit into Chinese table 3.

T , c3. It is due to the wind blowing that the palaces of the Sun and Moon circuit around endlessly. This implies that the Buddha is not just the knower of these astro-terrestrial correspondences, but the agent controlling them. This same idea of commanding the stars is again seen below following the naming of planets and the twelve zodiac signs.

You all must proclaim [this] and ensure that they know it.

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It was therefore easy to conceive of the zodiac signs in the same manner. The emergence of zodiac deities within Buddhism can therefore be traced back to these earlier texts of the sixth century. Table 3. Zodiac signs of the Candragarbha-parivarta. It is easy when in agreement with time. It is difficult when not in agreement. When not in agreement with the specific times, it is not possible to attain liberation. I will explain in detail for you. This month is further connected to the solar deity. T , a1.

Attainment of liberation is said to depend upon correct calendrical knowledge. Despite the emphasis on such knowledge in this scripture, problematic as it is, it does not seem that Chinese Buddhists ever made serious use of such lore before the eighth century. In its description of the Indian calendar, it also mentions the twelve zodiac signs presiding over their respective months. Here they are semantically translated table 3. T , ab Although these datable texts in China provide valuable information concerning developments in India and Central Asia, it does not seem that they had much immediate impact in China.

As Pingree notes, the oldest representations of the planets as sculptures from India date from the late Gupta period. He notes that these sculptures were usually placed above doorways. On the eighth day of the month, envoys are always dispatched. They descend on an inspection tour of the whole world.

On the fourteenth day, they dispatch down the princes. On the fifteenth day, the four kings themselves descend. On the twenty-third day, the envoys again descend. On the twenty-ninth day, the princes again descend. On the thirtieth day, the four kings again descend. The specific days on which this is to occur, however, vary according to the text.

This would have been easy to implement, given that the Chinese month counts thirty days while closely observing the lunar cycle. Brahmanical Astrological Literature in Chinese Translation Other materials related to Indian astrology were translated into Chinese before the end of the Sui dynasty — Elsewhere it is specified as specifically year 4 of Tianhe See T , c There are no further details available on this short work.

It finally amounted to altogether more than two-hundred fascicles. This team was comprised of monks and laymen, though the project seems to have been initiated by the state, and not the Buddhist sangha. Foreign astrology of the non-Buddhist type was clearly understood as heterodox. It was written sometime before 25 CE. See John E. Conclusion There were several manuals on Indian astrology translated into Chinese between the fourth to the seventh centuries.

Although these texts provide datable examples of Indian astrology, while displaying noteworthy innovations, such as the Hellenistic seven-day week and the first mention of the zodiac signs in Chinese, their systems of astrology were not implemented during these centuries in China, since there was no pressing need to practice foreign astrology.

The latter two are noted for being the first texts to introduce the twelve zodiac signs into Chinese, but equally important are the statements relating that gods or even the Buddha himself are effectively architects of the cosmos. There were at least three manuals on Brahmanical astrology or astronomy translated before the end of the Sui dynasty in Despite such translations, the Chinese sangha had no need for such works until the mid-Tang, to which our attention now turns.

Zhonghua Shuju edn. This indicates that the text was translated into Chinese after I have not identified any citations therein of the Tianwen jing. Here we will focus on the historical Yixing, reconstructing his life and discussing his achievements in order to separate fact from fiction.

The Xin Tang shu includes additional materials concerning his calendar fasc. He was also said to have been quite diligent in his practice of the vinaya. See vol. This might have been what prompted him to travel to Mt. Yixing spent the next several years wandering in more southern areas, seeking out eminent monks, and was constantly on the move.

He later moved to Mt. It is not extant. Jiu Tang shu, Zhonghua Shuju edn. Yixing arrived in the capital and we are told in the Jiu Tang shu that he was often visited, presumably by the emperor, who asked about the ways of securing the country and placating the people.

The texts he carried were forwarded to China. The original Sanskrit text is said to have included , verses. The Chinese translation excerpted the main components of the original work. Yixing also received instruction from Vajrabodhi. Silk Leiden: Brill, , — Yijing met Wuxing in India. Wuxing at the time was fifty-six years old. Yamamoto, however, gives a death date of p. Yixing also flourished as a court astronomer, being the only example in the history of Chinese Buddhism of a monk fulfilling such a role.

His knowledge of the vinaya did not seem to hinder his professional interest in astronomy. The Jiu Tang shu reports that in year 9 of Kaiyuan , a lack of accurate eclipse predictions led the court to request Yixing to reform the state calendar. They also did not possess any instrument to measure the ecliptic.

His calendar had a number of innovative features including improved methods for solar eclipse prediction and the calculation of planetary positions, and a device to calculate gnomon length. Yixing also calculated the lengths of daytime and nighttime across differing locations and seasons. His calendar also likely incorporated some Indian elements.

For extensive details see fasc. Osabe identifies seven presently non-extant texts by or attributed to Yixing. As the territory of China had expanded since ancient times, it became necessary to account for these new lands, and Yixing had a role in updating the system.

It can therefore be said that Yixing was proficient in native Chinese astrology, but not foreign astrology. These are important points to bear in mind because in the s, Buddhist astrology in China was only starting to be seriously studied and observed under the guidance of resident Indian monks. A version of the Zixia Yi zhuan exists, but it is unclear how it relates to what Yixing compiled. The other titles appear to be treatises on Yijing number theory, and interpretations of the Yijing based on inherited traditions or lineages. See 4. The significance of these points will become apparent as we discuss how Tang Buddhist astrology developed from this point on.

In the second chapter of the text the following prescription is given. Here we should note that Osabe doubted whether Yixing really compiled this commentary, on the basis that it is not mentioned in Tang period catalogs and biographies, among other issues such as its complex history of recensions in China and Japan. Rolf W. T , 4c4—5. The latter became the standard term at a later date.

They moreover constitute the first outline of Tantric hemerology in Chinese Buddhism. They are thus reproduced in full. We furthermore see the first attempt in China to address the technical challenges posed by employing an Indian calendar. It was altogether seven fascicles. It was circulated throughout the world. He simultaneously wrote an exegesis of it. All Dharma rituals must be in accord with the temporal considerations. Now there is to be a selection and preparation of this location. Thus, on an auspicious day the earth deities are alerted. The other Dharma rituals can be understood based on the example.

Furthermore, the eighth, fourteenth and fifteenth are supreme. One these days constantly do recitations; furthermore, one should make extra efforts. What are the corresponding days? It cannot be used. The date of the averaged new Moon is based on its averaged degrees of movement. It will always incorporate a lesser [29] or greater [30] month. Sometimes [the date for the new Moon] will pass or be late with respect to the averaged movements of the Sun and Moon as their speeds will also differ.

This is why a fixed new Moon41 will sometimes be ahead or behind a day. A fixed full Moon will sometimes be on the fourteenth or on the sixteenth. For most months, the time when the Moon is completely full is designated as the fifteenth day of the waxing period. The time when the Moon is exactly half like a bow string will be the eighth. It may be arranged based on this, and then one can determine the day. In practice this means that the nominal new Moon will sometimes be out of sync with the true new Moon by up to a day.

Each unit of time has its designation. If it is daytime, one may then measure the length of a shadow. At one time it is auspicious to do something. At one time it is inauspicious. At one time it is neutral. Each have their respective imageries. The ecliptic42 is divided into 12 chambers like the 12 Jupiter stations here [in China]. The ecliptic is altogether quarters. The Moon has gone once around the ecliptic after transiting for 27 days. It is calculated according to the calendar. The ritual to be performed should also be in accord. Ketu is directly translated as banner.

The banner star is a comet. There should be elimination of obstacles prior to eating. In the evening there should be increase of benefits. At night there should be acts related to subduing [enemies]. Those people with pure faith and clear minds still find it difficult to accept, to say nothing of those harboring doubts. The accomplished individual has studied the Vedic scriptures, and is skilled and discerning in the arts. They cannot even select an auspicious time with good stars. This is to say nothing of other profound matters! They thus lose the power of firm conviction and instead bring about grave transgressions.

This is why [conventions] must be in accord with the dispositions of the beings. This is a topic upon which he touched in his calendrical discussions. Now these are calculated according to the progression of the Sun and the velocity of the Moon. The day [of the new Moon] can be ahead or behind [the averaged new Moon]. This is considered a fixed new Moon. For example, the Sun represents fundamental and pure bodhicitta, which is the body of Vairocana, while the Moon represents the actions related to bodhi.

The commentary suggests that although astrological considerations are worldly, they are still important in order to conform to mundane conventions, and to gain blessings for worldly endeavors. In this respect, astrology is not only employed to determine auspicious times, since there is also the aim of gaining the blessings of the navagraha deities through astrological knowledge. This is an important development because the planets graha are conceived of as deities capable of facilitating worldly endeavors. Thus, a basis for astral magic is directly affirmed in this commentary.

These remarks incidentally lend additional evidence in support of the traditional attribution of the commentary to Yixing. These are some of the first known visual representations of the twelve zodiac signs in China. These figures became important elements in the East Asian Buddhist art record. Their introduction also marks the early practice of Buddhist astral magic and star worship by Chinese Buddhists. During the eighth century, these deities were depicted in the Indian fashion, in contrast to later developments in which Iranian representations dominate, a topic to which we will return in the following chapter.

It is important to survey these icons in order to understand how they differ from the later icons. It is unclear why it is designated as a graha, though we might speculate it was to fill in all eight directions. He rides in a chariot [pulled by] white geese. See depiction below. TZ vol. One will note the similarity between these twelve zodiac signs and those of the modern West.

Table 4.

Saturn Buddhism

See TZ, vol. Gemini — Mithuna. Cancer — Karkata. Sagittarius — Dhanus. Capricorn — Makara. Aquarius — Kumbha. Moon — Candra. Mercury — Budha. Amoghavajra and Astrology Amoghavajra — led an active and influential life as a Vajra master in China, though his contribution to the development of Buddhist astrology in East Asia is less well known. He is positioned in the northeast. See Peter Bisschop, trans. Orzech et al Leiden: Brill, , — This was another element that initiated the widespread interest in astrology from the mid-eighth century.

Native Chinese astrology, which focuses on state interests and not those of the individual, could not provide the necessary lore and methods. The need for foreign astrological lore in Chinese translation became all the more pressing as a result. We might also note that the Emperor Xuanzong r. Amoghavajra took on the responsibility of compiling such a work, which despite being intended for Buddhists, still largely drew on non-Buddhist sources. As we will explore, the Xiuyao jing is, in fact, based on non-Buddhist astrology, with some of its content even being antithetical to Buddhist precepts.

There is no known parallel of this work in Sanskrit or Tibetan. Although Amoghavajra knew Sanskrit, and could have translated the materials himself, he might also have drawn on existing Chinese translations of Indian astrological material from earlier times, such as those listed in the Sui shu discussed above. This would explain the presence of expressly non-Buddhist elements in the text, to be discussed shortly. The mainland and Japanese versions of the Xiuyao jing are all comprised of two fascicles.

The lower fascicle is the later translation. It includes a preface. It totals forty sheets of paper. This is specifically stated in the preface of the Japanese recension. Sima71 Shi Yao of Duanzhou penned and collated it. He could not manage it well, making the meaning of the content abstruse. There was a concern that scholars would find it difficult to implement. As a result, the disciple Yang Jingfeng personally revised and annotated a new draft according to direct instructions, after which it was respectfully copied.

Each disciple carried off one scroll. The time was spring of year 2 in the reign era Guangde [] of the Great Tang.

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The first is the version Shi Yao first recorded. The second the revised edition is by Yang Jingfeng. It appears that the content of the Xiuyao jing was further developed. Appended ephemerides, 1 fasicle. Xiuyao jing Edited Commentary, 7 fascicles. The latter work appears to have been a commentary. This is why there was confusion about astrological auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. People often violated this. With these background details in mind, the present discussion turns to the content of the work, and specifically the challenges it addressed. The details are summarized in table 4.

This is far more detailed than 74 T , c The commentary defines lunar days 1, 3, 5, 7 and 13 as auspicious, while days 8, 14 and 15 are regarded as best see 4. These are Vedic deities. The list of associated deities from a separate tradition are also listed. An inserted note points out that China uses twenty-eight lunar stations, while in the western country i. This imprecision was perhaps the natural result of translating the Indian terms using Chinese terms, yet inadequately defining them.

This strategy of employing functional equivalents became the norm in Buddhist astrology in China. Xin Tang shu, Zhonghua Shuju edn. Wakita notes that it is perhaps that in the first fascicle, and thus omits it. Aries, however, is clearly designated as the first zodiac sign. Mars, for example, has two domiciles: Aries and Scorpio.

Ths presence of the domiciles does, however, represent the gradual introduction of what were originally Hellenistic elements into Chinese Buddhist astrology. This is the earliest known example of the domiciles in China. As noted above, there were multiple calendrical systems in India. Hence the second [Chinese] lunar month is called Caitra. Furthermore, lunar movement varies in terms of speed. How can these be known? It can be understood with reference to the following verses. In other words, the convergence in many cases is simply in name only. The vinaya exegete Daoxuan makes the same mistake.

His commentary on the Dharmaguptaka-vinaya may be the source of this widespread misunderstanding. See T , 40b The bracketed text is running commentary presumably inserted by Yang Jingfeng. The Indian calendar so impractically introduced like this could not have been feasibly implemented by Chinese practitioners of Buddhism without assistance from an Indian specialist. Many of these prescribed activities are antithetical to conventional Buddhist values. Prescriptions and proscriptions are given for times when the Moon lodges in each.

It is through them that one can know this. Their methods are quite excellent, and should be investigated in detail. The Xiuyao jing, although it became popularly practiced in subsequent decades, was originally compiled with elite monks and officials in mind. In light of the politically sensitive nature of astrology throughout earlier Chinese history, outlined earlier, and the fact that Amoghavajra was working directly with non-monastic court officials when compiling the Xiuyao jing, it seems likely that the work was originally never meant for popular distribution, but rather was intended for use at court.

A significant component of this fasicle of the text is the introduction of the seven- day week. This custom was not yet widely known in China, though it was observed by non-Han groups resident in China, such as Nestorian Christians, as noted earlier. The reader is therefore advised to ask foreigners the day of the week. The Persians also regard this day as an important day.


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  • These matters are never forgotten. As the text notes, the seven-day week is observed by both Buddhists and non- Buddhists in the north, west and south; only China remains unaware of it. Numerous manuals on the seven-day week were uncovered at Dunhuang see chapter 6. These convergences add another element to consider when determining optimally auspicious days. These convergences represent the mature union of Indian and Hellenistic calendrical elements table 4. As Yano notes, the Persian names are actually the numerals one to seven used to count the days of the week.

    Nicholas Sims-Williams informs me that the Sogdian terms are transcriptions of the names from Middle Persian. Private communication. July 25th, See also table 5. The zodiac signs are likewise not clearly defined, nor are their functions discussed.

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    The first fascile of the text in the revised version includes much of the same content as the second, but with various reworkings and additional content. After entering into an altered state of consciousness or trance induced through drumming and chanting, his or her consciousness principle known as the Namshe rnam-shes is projected out of the physical body through the aperture at the top of the skull into one of the three symbolic mirrors arranged on the shamanic altar. These three mirrors represent the gateways to the other worlds of the Lha the celestial spirits , of the Tsen the earth and mountain spirits , and of the Lu the subterranean water spirits , respectively.

    These three types of spirit correspond to the three zones -- sky, earth, and underworld-- into which the world was divided in the ancient Bonpo shamanic cosmology. The shaman has direct access to these three worlds and their inhabitants by means of an altered state of consciousness. At the moment when one's Namshe leaves the physical body, one's guardian spirit or spirit-guide, also called a Pawo, enters one's now vacated inert body and thereupon speaks through the shaman as a medium. This spirit-guide responds to questions and can diagnose the cause of the illness in question, usually that being some offended spirit.

    Then he recommends a procedure for effecting a cure and this usually includes the performance of a healing ritual gto in order to restore a harmonious balance of energies between the afflicted individual and his natural environment. In this way, a healing or a reharmonization is realized. With the establishment of Buddhism, together with its monastic system, as the official religion of Tibet in the eleventh century and thereafter, certain among these Pawo shamans came to be employed by the larger monasteries, and even later by the Tibetan government, as oracles.

    Such an oracle is known as a Lhapa or Sungma srung-ma. The most famous among these oracles is the State Oracle attached to Nechung monastery, and he is usually possessed by the spirit Pehar, who is said to have been originally a deity of Turkish origin. The Ngakpa, on the other hand, as a Tantrika and an exorcist, is rarely possessed by the spirits. Rather, the Ngakpa is able, by way of certain meditations and other psychic techniques, to enter into an altered state where one's consciousness or Namshe leaves the physical body in a subtle mind-made body yid-lus and enters into the dimensions of the Otherworld, where one searches for fragments of the soul of the afflicted person which has been stolen by deceitful spirits or imprisoned there by a black magician.

    A patient suffering from soul-sickness or loss of soul is characterized by inertia, weakness, depression, and loss of interest in one's surroundings and everyday affairs.


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    • If the La bla or the soul, this being a subtle energy field that serves as the vehicle for the individual's emotional life, is not recovered and restored to wholeness in the patient within a sufficient period of months, there exists the possibility of physical death. The Ngagpa may also perform a ritual procedure for this purpose known as La-guk bla 'gug , "recalling the soul". The Ngakpa, by virtue of his power to enter the Otherworld and return with treasures of knowledge and power, is able to diagnose the causes of diseases and prescribe a variety of methods for effecting cures.

      These same practitioners among both the Buddhists and the Bonpos have also been responsible for the rediscovery of Termas or "hidden treasure texts" which have contributed so much to the spiritual heritage of Tibet. Because the Tibetan people were thought not yet ready to receive these teachings, or else there was an actual danger of persecution, these Terma texts were concealed in ancient times at various remote places in Tibet by certain illuminated masters of the past, principally Padmasambhava.

      Then they were rediscovered many centuries later by Tertons gter-ston who were the reincarnations of the original disciples of those ancient masters. Some of these Termas were found as actual physical objects and texts sa-gter , others came through visions dag-snang and auditions snyan-rgyud , and yet others were channelled directly through divine inspiration and automatic writing and therefore constitute "mind treasures" dgongs-gter. Not the least among these Terma texts is the famous Bardo Thodol bar-do thos-grol , now widely known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Lama, whether Buddhist or Bonpo, is also profoundly engaged in healing practice.

      Many Lamas have been specifically trained in the practice of Tibetan medicine at a monastic college. Moreover, the most common ritual performed by Tibetan Lamas at the popular level is the tse-wang tshe-dbang or "long life empowerment", a kind of psychic healing that invokes and channels healing energy into the participants in the ceremony, whether they are ill or not.

      In many ways, the Lama and the Ngagpa have usurped in Tibetan society the archaic function of the shaman, and after the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, many cultural figures such as Guru Padmasambhava and the famous yogi Milarepa, have been assimilated to the archetype of the First Shaman. Thus it came about that the archaic shamanic techniques of the Palaeolithic have now been absorbed into the high spiritual and intellectual culture of both Buddhism and Bon in Tibet. This may be seen, for example, in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, where the Lama or the Ngakpa functions as as a psychopomp or guide for the perilous journey of the individual soul through the Bardo experience leading to a new rebirth.

      Or again, with the practice of the Chod rite, using visualization, as well as chanting and dancing to the accompaniment of the shaman's drum, the practitioner gains mastery over the spirits through offering to them the flesh of one's own body. In many ways this Chod ritual recapitulates the initiatory experience of shamanic initiation, with its motifs of dismemberment and resurrection. The practice of the Chod is said to be particularly effective in preventing the spread of plagues and infectious diseases. Both of these traditional Tibetan practices, the Bardo rituals and the Chod rite, represent a journey from fragmentation to psychic wholeness.

      Thus, in Tibetan culture, we find a harmonious integration of the archaic techniques of altered states of consciousness deriving from a primordial North Asian shamanism with the highly sophisticated psychic sciences of Buddhism and Bon. Now that we are on the threshold of the twenty-first century, our urban-industrial technology and rampant unrestrained commercialism threaten to devastate our natural environment world-wide, imperiling the very survival of the human race on this planet. It is this author's belief that the ancient wisdom and profound psychic sciences of Tibet, which emphasize living in a harmonious relationship with the natural environment, as well as with other human beings, will have a profound contribution to make to evolving a new type of global civilization that is both humane and wise.

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