Why Pan-American Stew? Why not? As a starter, there are many notable stews from around the world. They number at approximately 179 stews. So why not add another that draws from the fruits of Latin America and from export trade?
The Pan-American stew uses three prominent food sources of the Americas—namely, sweet potato, beef. and cayenne pepper. For good measure, let us throw in some mushroom stock (a food source known to improve the digestive system and enhance one’s immune system) instead of beef stock. Common stews are Mulligan/Burgoo (United States), Chili con carne (southern Texas), Brunswick (southern United States) Ropa Vieja (Cuba); but not so well known are Booyah (midwestern United States), Seco (Equador), Sancocho (Puerto Rico), and Fricot (Acadian Canada) to name a few.
This recipe is prepared in an electric pressure cooker, the Instant Pot, and is easy to prepare.
1.5 pounds of chuck roast beef (boneless, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch chunks)
¾ teaspoon ionized sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly ground is preferred)
2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil
1 pound mushrooms, optional (any mushroom or mixed or your favorite, cut into chunky sizes)
1-2 medium onions (chopped)
1 medium jalapeno (seeded and chopped) or one small serrano pepper[i]
1 tablespoon paprika or smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
3-5 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup red wine (unused/leftover wine)
3 cups of mushroom stock
1 pound of sweet potatoes (cut into 1-inch chunks)
2-3 carrots (peeled and cut angled-sliced rondelle)
2 tablespoons of unbleached, all-purpose flour
1a. Beef, salt and pepper: In advance by at least an hour, season the beef with the salt and pepper.
1b. Using a 6–quart Instant Pot, press the Sauté tab. When “hot” appears on the display, swirl in the oil.
1c. Add the beef into the inner stainless-steel pot, a third at a time so that the beef is golden brown on both sides.This method is required so that beef does not end up “stewing in its own juice and so that it has room to evaporate and brown. The browning into a rich, dark color is the secret of developing flavor in the stew. Cook each batch for approximately 5 minutes to achieve the golden browning of the beef. Each batch is transferred to a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
2. Depending on the size of the cut mushrooms, cook in batches as well, stirring occasionally, until they release their juices and brown. This takes about 10 minutes for each batch. Each batch is to be transferred to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Once all the mushrooms are sautéed, season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pour off any extra liquid, if necessary.) Season with salt and pepper. Set aside as well.
3a. Add enough oil to the inner pot when adding the onions and chilipeppers, stirring constantly for approximately 5 minutes until soft.
3b. Add paprika, oregano, and garlic, stirring for about 1 minute.
3c. Add the cup of redwine, stirring occasionally while craping the brown bits from the bottom of the inner pot.
3d. Add the 3 cups of mushroombroth, stirring, and then adding the browned beef and browned
mushrooms with the accumulated juices.
3e. At this point, season the ingredients to taste with salt and pepper. Optionally, you can add some dashes of cayennepepper for a spicier flavor.
4a. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Turn the steam-release handle to “sealing” position. Press the Pressure Cook tab and set at high pressure for 25 minutes.
4b. Allow a 10-minute for the pressure to release naturally. Then turn the steam-release handle to “venting” to release the remaining pressure.
4c. Do not open until the float valve drops back into the lid. When this happens, you know that it is safe to open the lid.
4d. Turn Instant Pot off and remove the lid.
5. Add the sweetpotatoes and carrots. (You could add other vegetables that are a tuber or root, but the liquid ratio to the added vegetables could result in a burn event.)
5b. Remove 1 cup of broth of the stew to use for the thickening agent.
5c. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Turn the steam release handle to the “sealing” position. Press the Pressure Cook tab and set at 5 minutes.
5d. After the 5 minutes, use the quick pressure release, ensuring that the float valve has dropped back into the lid before removing the lid.
6. Turn Instant Pot off and remove the lid. Turn the cooker off.
7a. Gradually add the 2 tablespoon of flour to the tepid 1 cup of broth of the stew held in reserve, stirring until smooth. Add the mixture to the stew in the inner pot, stirring constantly. Press the sauté tab and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the stew boils and thickens slightly.
7b. At this point, before serving, season to taste—more salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper?
8. Serve and enjoy with rice, mashed potatoes, salad, or the like.
[i]Caution about chile peppers: Chile oil released by chopping, seeding, or even harvesting hot peppers will cause a burning sensation, especially when applied to the face. Wear kitchen goggles and thick rubber gloves when preparing serranos and be careful not to remove them until all prep has been completed and tools and surfaces washed. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and the rest of your face while in contact with chiles. If you are processing or pureeing the peppers, avoid placing your face over the appliance after opening. Hot chile peppers are used to make pepper spray, and pureeing in a closed environment can create a puff of noxious fumes when first opened.
There is a beguiling chapter on dust in the fourth edition (1980) of Deserts on the March by Paul B. Sears. It reads as follows:
Long before the days of the microscope and the chemical balance, it was understood that dust is the beginning and the end of all things. Dust is always in the air we breathe, an invisible world of tiny, buoyant particles, infinitely rich in is variety, and with laws of its own. While most people think of it as being only minute bits of earth stirred up by strong air currents, it contains a host of living organisms, bacteria, molds, pollen, animals, as well as fragments of material from larger plants and animals. Except perhaps in air newly washed by rains, these particles float about perpetually sustained by gentle drifts in the atmosphere of which the human senses are scarcely aware….
Merriam-Webster defines “dust” as “fine particles of matter (as of earth)” and as “the particles into which something disintegrates”. To raise awareness that dust is more than just something to dismiss as common, one must realize that dust is often dangerous to one’s health.
In chapter three of Choir of Cloistered Canaries, the heroine epidemiologist gave dust a different interpretation as follows:
She watched the tiny dust particles that floated silently through the beams of light as she kicked off the blanket and coverlet. Making more dust particles to dance in the air, the epidemiologist focused on what is actually dust: airborne particulate matter (PM) and an air pollutant en masse…dead skin from previous guests, other solid particles, and liquid droplets from aerosol sprays that living organisms breathe. What she saw was only what the naked eyes could see; other PM required an electron microscope. One thing was certain—venetian blinds were great collectors of PM missed by an ostrich feather.
Much has been written about PM. Here are a few examples.
Of particular concern is how to limit diesel particulate matter from drifting into nearby neighborhoods as diesel trucks drove other routes—such as neighborhood streets—to avoid the freeway during construction.— oregonlive,com 2 June 2020
Already, data has shown that cities are recording much lower levels of harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5, and of nitrogen dioxide, which is released by vehicles and power plants.— Amy Woodyatt, CNN, 12 May 2020
Boland is a project system engineer developing the MAIA instrument, the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols that will characterize particulate matter in air pollution.— Ashley Strickland, CNN, 1 May 2020
Another air pollutant of concern is particulate matter, microscopic airborne particles of dust or soot that linger in the air, often from burning fossil fuels.— Dennis Pillion | Dpillion@al.com, al, 26 Apr. 2020
The researchers found that, on a long term basis, an increase in the average concentration of particulate matter of one microgram per cubic meter led to a 15 percent higher death rate from the new coronavirus.— Ula Chrobak, Popular Science, 22 Apr. 2020
One of the biggest reasons for drug recalls is particulate contamination, or invisible matter found in the drug containers.— Lawrence Ganti, Forbes, 18 Jan. 2022
Fine particulate matters of diameters smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) have been identified as the fifth-highest risk factor for global mortality.— Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 12 Jan. 2022
Now, suddenly, the V.A. had swung abruptly to align with the department’s most vocal critics, openly acknowledging that respiratory disease was a likely result of airborne particulate [chemicals] exposure during deployment.— New York Times, 11 Jan. 2022
Coal, which produces sooty, particulate-laden pollution, is responsible for half of those deaths, while natural gas and oil are responsible for the other half.— Tim De Chant, Ars Technica, 16 Dec. 2021
Each dryer would include a wet scrubber, a filtration method to control or reduce particulate emissions.— Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, 5 Sep. 2021
But instead of fertilizer being churned into the earth and its phosphorus binding to the soil in a particulate form, the pellets now sit like a crust on top of uncultivated fields.— jsonline.com, 2 Sep. 2021
Particulate matter, unfortunately, is inhaled and can cause serious health problems. It can even get into the bloodstream, not just into the lungs. The finest PM (less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) pose the greatest risks. Nonetheless, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) easily attach to a “dust particle” to cause health problems, especially those that are derived from petroleum. For example, each spritz of perfume contains chemical vapors known as “volatile organic compounds (VOCs).” Once sprayed, the VOCs react with sunlight and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone pollution, according to NOAA, and can damage one’s health. As defined by the FDA, fragrance is a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Many artificial fragrance ingredients are often derived from petroleum because it is cheaper than natural raw materials.
The environmental issues occur because the chemical vapors react with sunlight to form ozone pollution. They also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form particulates in the air, which can cause damage to people’s lungs.
So here is the punchline to all fragrance toxic:
Artificial fragrances are highly toxic. Fragrances commonly contain phthalates, which are chemicals that help the scents last longer. Health risks for phthalates are startling and include cancer, human reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and respiratory problems.
The blogger’s heartfelt advice is: First, do no harm to yourself and to others. Then, stop enabling manufacturers’ desire to maximize profits. Stay away from artificial, toxic matter found in household goods, clothing, laundry products, colognes, air fresheners, and the like. Now that “clean” is a marketing term to fool your senses.
The twenty-first century phenomenon about dust is more swingeing: microplastic polution. We are now experiensing polymer particles in the blood. The latest research, published in the journal Environmental International, detecte4d such particles, as small as 0.0007 mm, can contain two or three types of plastic. Researches are concerned that these microplastics cause damage to human cells and cause millions of early deaths a year. To reduce contacting/ ingesting, avoid PET plastic used in drinks bottles and avoid packaging food and other products that contain polystyrene!
The novel, Daughters of the Dance, mentions several foods from Curaçao.* Now that we are in the midst of winter where, in the panhandle of Florida, there were rare flurries landing on the ground, enjoy the treats that are of Sephardic origin and popular in custom on the island. The most ancient is a recipe of the Curaçao Sephardim, which is also a favorite–the panlevi, a festive accompaniment with “hot chocolate” made with cacao or cocoa powder.** Hot chocolate is a traditional drink at a brit milah, the Jewish religious rite of male circumcision (aka bris).
Since there is no recorded plantation of cacao in Curaçao, the likely plantations from the French St. Lucia and Martinique must have provided the cacao to Curaçao as early as the 1660s, about 28 years after the revolt of the Spanish Netherlands. Although it was Christopher Columbus who was the first European explorer to taste chocolate in Nicaragua in 1502, it was Hernandos Cortes who sent the first shipment of the cacao bean to King Charles V of Spain in 1585. But it was not until 1828 that the Dutchman Casparus van Houten created a machine that makes chocolate as we know it today. It was his son, Coenraad Johannes, who invented the soluble cocoa powder which replaced the greasy, difficult to digest chocolate, which had to be cooked in milk.
The recipe for Panlevi (aka Dutch Caribbean Sponge Cookies) is as follows:
4 medium eggs, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon and ¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2or 1 3/4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two large baking sheets.
Put the eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and beat together well, either by hand or using an electric handheld mixer.
Stir in the vanilla.
Fold in the flour and baking powder by hand to make a smooth batter.
Drop tablespoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and loosen the cookies from the baking sheets using a palette knife. Turn the oven off, then return the cookies to the oven to crisp up. Once crisp, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Store the panlevi in an airtight container at room temperature; they should keep for a few days.
Hot chocolate for four servings
14½ oz. evaporated milk
3½ T unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder
4 T granulated sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg
Place all the ingredients, except the egg, in a saucepan.
Fill the empty evaporated milk can with water and add this to the pan.
Mix well and bring gently to a boil, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and cool to drinking temperature.
Beat the egg well.
Add to the cocoa mixture, stirring to combine.
Pour into serving mugs/cups and serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of cocoa powder on top, if you like.
* Curaçao? The name Curaçao does not come from the word cacao as some claim. More than likely, it comes from a Portugues word, coraçao, which means “heart .” At a point in the colonized history of the Leeward , the Island was where injured or sick sailors went for R&R, to heal. Earlier in history, however, in his first voyage to Venezuela with Amerigo Vespucci, Alonso de Ojeda visited modern-day Curaçao in 1499 or in early 1500s. As discoverer, he called the island, Isla de los Gigantes (Island of the Giants), since he found the Arawak Indians or Kalingo Caribs to be of tall stature for indigenous people. However, the modern name probably could be another Europeanized version of a lost indigenous word.
**Basically, cacao is the word for the raw product (cacao bean) while cocoa is the name for a processed powder that is manufactured at a higher temperature and is often packaged with the addition of sugar and dairy, making it less acidic than cacao powder. However, both terms tend to be used interchangeably by people in the industry. Both are processed to separate the fatty part known as cocoa butter.
The character in Daughters of the Dance, Nona, speaks from the beyond on the passing of Thich Nhat Hanh (11 October 1926 – 22 January 2022) who was such an important world voice for peace, mindfulness, and kindness. She recalls hearing his voice about the cosmic dance.
“I broke into the primordial dance that was peaceful, sacred, and infinite,” she said as she recalls hearing his words.
No Death, No Fear
This body is not me. | I am not limited by this body. | I am life without boundaries. | I have never been born, and I have never died. | Look at the infinite oceans and skies filled with stars, | manifestations from the basis of consciousness. | Since beginningless time, I have been free. | Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey. | Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek. | So laugh with me, hold my hand and,let us say good-bye. | Say good-bye to meet again soon. | We meet today. | We will meet again tomorrow. | We will meet at the source every moment. | We meet each other in all forms on the myriad paths of life.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
This page is dedicated to collecting information that is available on the peoples mentioned in the title. Consequently, it is A WORK IN PROGRESS. By the way, Shakya, like in Shakyamuni, is another name for Saka. One of these days Merriam-Webster must revise its definition of Saka.
When I first started researching and speculating on the Saka tribes in the historical novel, CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES (pp. 183-192), there was hardly much information on the Saka-Scythians. I did, however, rely on the DNA research that, undoubtedly, led to an explosion of interest in these collective, ethnic people, not to mention archeological findings. The current prevailing research on them is that they originated in the Altai region. The Altai Mountains (where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan converge) have been identified as being the point of origin of a cultural enigma that arose during the Bronze Age around the start of the 2nd millennium BCE if not earlier and led to a rapid and massive migration of peoples from the region into distant parts of Europe and Asia. The reason to believe they likely originated from the Altai region is a cultural commonality: These “Scythians/Saka possessed advanced metal working technology and an unexplained rapid migration. These nomads traveled on horseback (domesticated ca. 4000-3500 BCE) and later, once urbanized, moved about on two-wheeled chariots. In addition, similar patterns of burial sites with similar bronze artifacts (ca. 2300-1700 BCE) have been found across northern Eurasia, including Korea and Japan.
As for the Shakya derivative, there is a lot of ancestral references in Tibetan Buddhist literature, which I wish to explore. The search for the ethnic origin of Siddhartha Gautama (alias Buddha Shakyamuni), whose birth date is controversial, was originally thought to have been born ca. 700 BCE (however, the birthday has been posited based on astrological mapping and historical references—ca. 1887-1807 BCE). (It should be noted that, when the British came up with their timetable of Indian history, they imposed the Biblical interpretation of origin.) This journey into ancient history is only a hobby; it is not an academic venture although academic literature has been digested to understand the existing body on the subject matter.
[The following images are without captions because slideshow software does not accommodate them. Essentially, as you read, they will gain meaning.]
Origins: Geographers and historians claim that, between the Altai Mountains and the Sayan Mountains (north of Altai in Siberia), a civilization existed during the time of the Egyptian pyramids if not earlier. They even call that region as “the cradle of civilization” where humans could survive. It was an area in which the stability of the area made it possible for them to populate to the point that there was possibly a need to migrate. They left behind thousands of petroglyphs, cave paintings, burial mounds, upright man-made stones, steles, and other ancient monuments.
Archaeological materials of Bronze Age, monumental sculptures, and rock paintings show the complexity of the religious beliefs of the tribal entities that inhabited the territory of the Altai Mountains (ca. 6 millennium BCE – 9 century BCE). They allow to see elements of Indo-European mythological tradition, images of shamans, and spirits of patrons. Iconographic images associated with unique motifs related with early Buddhist subjects are found in Tibetan Buddhism as well, which originated on the basis of pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet Bon, also known as Yundrung Bon (“tradition of eternal wisdom”), such as the swastika.
The swastika (“Higher Self Being Good” in literal Sanskrit) appeared in the archaeological record around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley. It also appeared in the Bronze and Iron Age cultures around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In all these cultures, the swastika symbol had a marked position or significance with varying complexity. More than likely, it was the symbol of the revolving sun, infinity, continuing creation, and auspiciousness. For example, in Hinduism, it is the solar symbol of Surya (aka Vishnu). In Buddhism, it represents the whole enlightened mind of the Buddha. Over time, this ancient symbol became the most common symbol in its varying interpretation throughout the world and found in the art of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Native Americans, Persians, and the like. Swastikas on pottery and other household objects found in China suggest that the swastika traveled with traders and with the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia.
The various clans and tribes inhabiting Altai represent a synthesis of several religions and cultures that developed over time, two of which are reflected in funeral ceremony and the arts during the Scythian period between 8-2 centuries BCE. Scythian/Saka cultures mixed shaman, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist ideas. The symbiosis of Indo-European and shamanic burials are vividly presented in the funeral ceremonies in Altai Pazyryk barrows (burial mounds). Despite high degrees of religious beliefs and differences of that period, the tribes preserved the cult of fire, sun, ancestors as well as elements of magic and witchcraft. In addition, archaeologists have found strands of human hair sewn into skin, nails and various charms at the Pazyryk site. There is also archaeological evidence that confirms the presence of special techniques of ecstasy, ritual fumigation, and the use of the enigmatic ritual drink “soma” in religious practices. No one has yet to come up with the recipe except that milk, opium, and cannabis were in the mix.
Keep in mind that the Scythians/Saka cultures had many similarities, yet not identical. Also keep in mind that the Scythians/Sakae, basically, were a loose federation of semi-nomadic clans and tribes with advanced technologies to boot (e.g., gold, copper, and bronze metallurgy and pastoralism). All Sakae were Scythians, but not all Scythians were Sakae. What was similar was weaponry, horses, bridles for horses, bow and arrows, chariots, jewelry, decorative arts, cattle, and the like. Eventually their cultures were subsumed into other renamed peoples—such as the Cimmerians (Gimirrai), Elamites, Amazons, Massagetae, Thracians, Sarmatians, Parthians, including early Slavs, Balts, and Finnic peoples (as for Vikings, the term really was an occupational designation rather than a people), Amyrigians, Homodotes, Komedes, Kaspians, and the like. They spoke Indo-Iranian languages and dialects rooted in Sanskrit. Eventually, they were referred to as the nomadic eastern or western Scythians of the Eastern or Western Steppes, respectively. As for the semi-nomads that remained in Asia and Asia Minor, they eventually became known as Aryan or Shakya.
Nonetheless, Darius I (Darius the Great; TIB. Dareyawes) of the Achaemenid Empire, who reigned from ca. 522-486 BCE, recorded at Mount Behistun in Iran that the Sakae people comprised of four tribes. For Darius I, it was like conquering the last frontiers. He identified the Sakae as follows: (1) Sakahaumavarga (the Soma drinkers), (2) Saka tigraxauda (with pointed caps), (3) Saka tayai para draya (likely from the regions between the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, including the land between its main tributaries—the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya (thus the name Aryan (alias aryas) comes into play), and (4) Saka tyal para Sugdam (beyond Sogdiana). Under Xerxes I (ca. 518-465 BCE), many were employed as troops who helped capture Athens ca. 479 BCE along with others as named in the image below.
Due to the pointy-hat phenomena preserved in ancient sculpture and existing attire throughout history, it is almost safe to say that the Saka tribe described by Darius I is Saka tigraxauda (aka Tigra–Khaudi, aka Massagetae, etc.), were known for the pointed hats. They were located east of the Caspian Sea. However, all Saka wore “pointed-hats” of varied sorts. One such group was referred to as Tigra–Kakud who wore horned headdress and were the gold miners mining the northern lands (Jammu-Kashmir), but it also is likely that the Saka para Sugdam (Saka beyond Sogdiana) and the Saka para draya and Saka haumavarga are in the mix when identifying the pre-Vedic civilization of Harappa (named after the current locality and aka Sapta Sindhu or Indus Civilization), and finally the Aryan presence (likely the Saka para draya) into the Indian Continent. Nonetheless, most scholars believe that the Saka tigraxauda and the Saka haumavarga were located east of the Caspian Sea, but they do not recognize that those “pointed hats” made it to Tibet. The Saka para Sugdam were likely those who resided in the Tarim Basin (ca. 7th century BCE) in modern-day Xinjiang, China. (They were called Sai in Old Sinitic, and in the Chinese Book of Han, the area was called the “land of the Sai.”) At a later date, after they were driven out of the valleys between two rivers, the Ili and Chu, they continued to occupy the remaining area east of Bactria and Sogdiana known as Sacae, including the Pamir Mountains.
Regarding the pointy hats, here is evidence of such people, beginning with Naram-Sin:
Naram–Sinof Akkad reigned from 2254-2218 BCE. His headgear was pointy or horned. In addition, he claimed that he was the King of the Four Quarters and the King of the Universe, a likely reference to the Altai mythology of Mount Meru. He was the first to claim himself ruler over the pantheon of Gods. He reigned from 2254-2218 BCE and conquered territory also included upper Mesopotamia as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Anatolia (Turkey, Syria, Armenia combined), later to be conquered by the Achaemenids.
Nabonidusof Babylonia (ca. 556-539 BCE) was called the King of Babylon, Sumer, and Akkad. He was the last “indigenous” monarch to rule the Second Babylonian Empire (aka Chaldean and Neo-Babylonian Empires). His mother was the daughter of the Assyrian King Assurbanipal (ca. 648). Moreover, the maternal grandfather to Nabonidus’s son was Nebuchadnezzer II.
When Cyrus the Great chose the site of Persepolis (ca. 515 BCE) as his ceremonial capital of his Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BCE), to celebrate the first month of the Iranian solar calendar, marked by the spring equinox (Aries), many of the bas-relief figures on the entrance walls to the complex were mostly Saka tigraxauda. When his reign ended with the destruction of Persepolis by Alexander the Great whose military campaign moved eastward towards the Indus Valley, there were written encounters of Alexander’s army meeting up with warring Saka tribes of Bactria, Sogdiana, and Arachosia.
CHOICE Traces of Saka references in Tibetan Buddhism
The most important holy month for Tibetan Buddhists is Saka Dawa (Saga Dawa), which is dedicated to “making merit.” Thus, it is referred to as the “month of merits.” Dawa means “month” in Tibetan, and “Saka” or “Saga” is the name of a star prominent in the sky during the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar when Saga Dawa is observed. Saka Dawa usually begins in May and ends in June with the new moon. According to American journalist and author, Barbara O’Brien, merit is understood in many ways in Buddhism. We can think of it as the fruits of good karma. In early Buddhist teachings, the three grounds of meritorious action are generosity, morality, and mental culture or meditation. Since the lunar month begins and ends with the new moon, the full moon day that falls in the middle of the month is Saka Dawa Duchen (duchen means “great occasion”). This is the single most holy day, for it commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death (paranirvana) of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Mount Meru: Is it possible that the word “merit” is derived from the word “Meru?” According to Buddhist and Hindu mythology, the abode of the gods and devas where the universe began is known as Meru (Mount Meru) made of copper or gold. Thus, the earthlings seeking favor from the gods/devas behaved appropriately to garnish merit so that their lives would be auspicious. They knew in ancient times that planets and Sun orbited around something, in this case, Mount Meru.
In particular, for Tibetan Buddhists, Mount Meru is considered, metaphorically and allegorically, the center of the universe, much like the Hindu belief that it is the center of the universe. However, for Buddhists, Mount Meru was surrounded by a body of water and that water was encircled by the wind and included 31 different planes of existence residing on the mountain, each one with its own style of life form and worlds (their understanding of the evolutionary process). Mount Meru was considered so high that it touched the heavenly expanse, and the polar star shone (alias Saka) directly above the mountain, giving it a more sacred appearance. In addition, it is said that the River Ganges came to the mountain as one river. Once it hit Mount Meru, the Ganges divided itself into four separate rivers. Also, there are four cities, one for each side of the mount, filled with inhabitants.
Indra/Sakra. This is the period of time when Indra (aka Sakra or Sakka that means “mighty one”) was the one lord of the heavens who lived at the peak of Mount Meru while four other celestial kings lived one of each side of the mountain. The Mount extended to the southern continent, Jambudvipa where Siddhartha Gautama was born and which itself is divided into four continents.
As the chief god of the heavens and of the East, Indra (alias Sakra) is mentioned in the Rigveda, a collection of Vedic hymns (ca.1900–1200 BCE if not older). In the Tibetan text, VajraSky, Indra is mentioned as Sakra along with Brahma, Vishnu, and the Wrathful One [Shiva]. An interpretation of these reified godheads is that they are not persons but titles of positions. In this case, the position bestowed upon Indra later on was the “King of the Devas.” They are not reified as having any permanency, for once the zeitgeist (my term) dissolves or dies, the energy is inferred onto another. Numerous Rigveda hymns refer to Indra such as “the friend of mankind who holds the different tribes on earth,” for example.
When it comes to Tibetan Buddhism, Indra wields a powerful weapon, the Vajra, a terrifying light-throwing and destroying thunderbolt. When depicted with four arms, Indra holds two spears. He and his wife, Shachi, ride a white elephant and are associated with lions. Imagine the stampeding sounds of elephants and the roar of lions. Other epithets assigned to Indra are as a god of war as well as a god of wisdom and magic, including the power to cause heavy rains, the rivers to flow, and beneficial rainfall for agriculture. Indra was known as the King of Svarga (or Svargaloka), which was one of the seven heavenly realms and also which was associated with Anu, Sumerian ruler of the heavenly abode. In Buddhism, Indra is Vajrapani, “Devender and Protector of Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and Who Embodies the Five Wisdom Powers,” and of the modern-day Vasava of Gurajat (mostly agricultural laborers with husbandry).
In Tibetan Buddhism, the vajra is also the symbol of Vajrayana (“Thunderbolt or Diamond Way”) teachings that implies the experience of enlightenment or bodhi—indestructibility of a diamond, which is harder than other gems or skillful means of spiritual practice. Somewhat similarly, in Hinduism and Jainism, the vajra is considered the most powerful tool, representing spiritual resolve and power.
According to Finnish professor of Indology, Asko Parpola, the Sanskrit vajra and the Avestan (language of Zoroastrian scripture) vazra refer to a weapon of the Godhead, and are possibly from the Proto-Indo-European root *weg’ that means “to be(come) powerful.” It is related to Proto-Finno-Uralic vaśara, “hammer, axe.” Both the Sanskrit and Finno-Ugric derivatives, however, are likely Proto-Aryan or Proto-Indo–Aryan. Moreover, it is cognate to the ukonvasara of thunder god Ukko from Finnish mythology, and the mjolnir of thunder god Thor from Norse mythology.
The most famous accomplishment of Indra’s worth to the earthlings was his slaying of the malevolent snake (naga, an asura) named Vritra, the demon of drought. Fitting to the mythology of the time, Indra drank an immense volume of Soma, the drink of immortality, to gain the necessary strength and set off to fight Vritra. Indra stormed Vritra’s fortress and dragged him out. A terrible battle ensued. Finally. Indra destroyed Vritra with his thunderbolt Vajra, cutting Vritra’s belly open and releasing all the water to flow back to the world. Thus, Indra brought back life to the world and was hence named “King of the Gods.” Not only do we have Varuna, sky deity, reduced to a demigod with similar epithets as Indra, Indra is mentioned in hymn 7.86 of the Rigveda and is attributed with the characteristic of “Satya” (“truth, dharma“). What we see here is a change in etymology of the root word saka, sakya, shakya, sakra, saketa….
TRACES IN THE AVESTA AND RIGVEDA LITERATURE….
Now, let us get a sense of the time period that this is recorded in history and let us look at the linguistic origin of the word “Arya[n]” as well as the word “asura.” Both word are terms related to the Indo-Iranian people and is pre-Zoroastrianism. It should be noted, too, that those who compiled the Rigveda were writing about people who existed also before 12,000 BCE.
Estimating that the Rigveda could be as old as 1900 BCE, the oldest part of the books are ten Mandalas (“circles”) or “books”. Mandalas 2-7 are the oldest part of the Rigveda, which comprise 38 percent of the entire text. Within the Mandalas are hymns dealing with a particular deity. In this case, Agni (the Fire God) comes first; Indra comes second, consisting of 25 percent of the hymns, etc. The ninth mandala is entirely dedicated to Soma and the Homa ritual (Yajna).
The following is a brief overview of Agni, the fire god in Jainism, Hindusim, and Zoroastrianism. Apparently, Agni is described as a bird-like being that carries fire from the gods to the earthlings who also brings an elixir of immortality (Amrita). Some ancient Indo-European hymns refer to Agni as the “heavenly bird that flies.” He played a role in being the guardian deity of the southeast direction, which aptly portrays the relationship between homa and soma in the Rigveda. Later on, Agni was renamed Azur as the Fire God and son of Ahura Mazda (King of the Gods, the symbol of purity, redemption, and wisdom) in Zoroastrianism.
It is also written that Agni was the first force to bring light into the universe, thus creating night and day as well as personifying the ultimate source of the “creator-maintainer-destroyer” triad and then the one who ruled the earth, possibly confused with Indra. After all, he was the twin brother of Indra (Agni is ascribed many epithets and synonyms throughout the 1,028 hymns (over 200 hymns or 1/3 of all hymns) in the Rigveda).)
This bird-like being became a standard of Cyrus II of Persia (epithet of Cyrus the Great or the Elder; ca. 600-30 BCE). Nonetheless, fire has been an important element in human culture since the Acheulian culture of the Old Stone Age (ca. 790,000-300,000 years ago). The earliest archeological site is at Jacob’s Ford on the upper Jordan River where a number of bridges were built, using fire.
Right image of bas-relief: For stealing the Tablet of Destinies, which conferred upon god Enlil supreme authority as ruler of the universe, Anzu is pursued by Ninurta with his thunderbolts.
Anzu, another bird-like entity related to Agni in ancient mythology, is referred to as the “Heavenly Eagle” (Akkadian)); aka Imdugud (“Heavenly Wind”(Sumerian), or Ansuk or Zu). Anzu was also associated with thunderstorms and was later connected to the lion due to the roar of the thunder. Eventually, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythologies, he was personified as the southern winds and thunder clouds and also as a half bird and half man who stole the Tablet of Destinies from Enki (chiefly, the Sumerian god of water and creation) and hid it on a mountaintop. Among other ancient poems, Anzu is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Allegorically, Anzu survives as a griffon in ancient Greek and Roman times. In medieval Christian heraldry, the griffon symbolized divine power and protector of the divine. Associated with Agni, Anzu is also reminiscent of the ancient Greek and Roman griffins and Arimaspians (horse-lover tribes rather than the propaganda term “one-eyed” tribes) who were associated with gold deposits of Central Asia—of the Riphean, Carpathian, and Ural Mountains. (The griffins laid eggs in burrows, which were gold nuggets (thus, somewhat reminiscent of the Aesop’s fable, “The Goose that Laid Golden Eggs”). Historically, the Scythians knew where to find the gold, and they were the miners and artisans of gold. In fact, Enlil was also was one of the Anunnaki (princely offspring of Enki).
Bottom right image shows Enki wearing a cone-shaped hat with horns, representing also the Annunaki, one of them coming out of the gold mine as Anzu awaits to protect the gold (ca. 2300 BCE, Sumeria (ca. 2300 BCE) (A mythology referred to them as Giant Ants.)
Though names of empires and of territories changed throughout the centuries and millennia, one thing was slow to change—the unfashionable peaked headgear and lofty attributes of human consciousness, aspirations, and existential emotions.
Returning to the mythological legend of Indra in “Milk Ocean Churning,” he is portrayed in a primordial battle between forces. There was a period in which there was coexistence among the Indus Valley tribes whereby urban and rural lifestyles were symbiotic. But, perhaps by population pressure, opportunistic power struggles, and/or wanderlust, things changed for Indra. This is when Indra needed to retain his power and kingdom. Nevertheless, his power was supplanted with the rise of Zoroastrianism, causing earthlings to no longer respect Indra’s powers. At this point, the earthlings are experiencing a schism among themselves as to their belief systems.
As the heterodox legend unfolds of a schism between two Saka factions occupying the Mesopotamian region, Indra turns to Brahma for counsel. Brahma becomes the principal deity for one side (the Vedic deva), and AsuraMazda becomes the other side (Asura founders). Nonetheless, Brahma told Indra to look for Amrita (the elixir of immortality) in the Milk Ocean (the Milky Way). This was an extraordinary undertaking to get help from the other principalities. As the allegorical legend unfolds, the principalities of good (representing the northern sky) and evil (representing the southern sky) came together to use the cosmic mountain Mandara (located next to Meru) as a stirring stick and the serpent Vasuki as a rope. With these two tools, they stirred and churned the Milk Ocean for a long time.
The Milk Ocean became a catastrophic flood that not only submerged animals and plants but also the princely treasured possessions and Amrita. A dangerous poison, kalakuta, came to the surface, which the Lord Shiva had to swallow to prevent the world from total destruction. . At first animals and plants were drowned in the increasing roar, then milk emerged from the frothed water, which gradually turned into butter through the constant stirring. After a while, a dangerous poison, kalakuta (a death potion such as mercury), came to the surface, which Lord Shiva had to swallow to prevent the destruction of the world. After that, various treasures surfaced from the Milk Ocean (which, with all the churning, produced butter)—such as, to name a few, Indra’s mount, Lakshmi (the first maternal cow), the Parijat (Jasmine) tree, and Dhanvantari, the Ayurveda medicinal doctor, holding the container of the elixir Amrita. (Perhaps this is the conflated Indus-Vedic memory of a great flood at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago.)
Finally, once the Amrita was found, one faction wanted it for themselves; however, Vishnu (sitting on the top of Mandara) intervened by turning into the enchantress, femme fatale Mohini, using the illusion of Maya. Taken by the beautiful appearance of Mohini, they forgot the elixir long enough for Vishnu to make the other faction to regain immortality. From this primordial, episodic event, enmity divided the peaceful existence among the fractioning of the Saka tribes. The prevailing earthling players changed the trinity—Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Eventually, Krishna supplanted Shiva while Ahura Mazda was supreme among the Zoroastrians.
The images of the “Milk Ocean Churning” above illustrate the opposing forces of devas and asuras. Each exchanged roles as power-seeking versus benevolent tribal clans.
The chart below portrays how these events were allegorically portrayed among the Saka descendants of the Indus Valley population who understood valid cognition. It was, and still is, all about the inner exploration of selfhood rather than the material world that is the universe. It appears they knew then that the mind has always governed the material world.
Goals of good and bad
Positive and negative forces within our personalities
Integrated good and bad goals
Harmon for self-realization (psychosynthesis into a harmonious whole)
Wishes and desires (e.g., for immortality) and selfishness
Suffering and pain (e.g., mental pain and inner turmoil)
Clouded mind with pride and delusional worldly concerns
Psychic powers gained through spiritual progress as side effects
Spiritual success; true-self realization
Of the known four tribes of Saka people, the “Aryan” is most studied but misunderstood. As for the so-called “Aryan race,” it is mythology to identify with an ancient people whose name meant “pure” and “chaste” (i.e., the “Aryan Race of Nazi Adolf Hitler”). There was no widespread ethnic connotation prior to the 19th century CE. The self-designated Aryans saw themselves as a conglomerate of peoples of Saka, Persians, Elamites, and the like who eventually shared a spiritual vision and from which came the Zoroastrian faith that includes current aspects in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This Indo-Iranian group of people split on spiritual grounds.
The “Aryan Invasion Theory” has been discredited in recent times as serving a political racist agenda by certain radical westerners. After all, the self-designated Aryans were among the Saka tribes described by Darius the Great in his Behistun Inscription. When the Saka “Aryans” migrated into India, they did it peacefully, comingling with the society made up of various groups of people similar to them, which was unique. In fact, the only self-identifying “Aryan” (very likely, Saka tayai para draya) were themselves a minority on the Iranian Plateau between ca. 1900-1500 BCE and were in no position to mount an invasion. However, their religion did come into discord with the rise of Zoroastrianism.
It was during the time that the Indus civilization began to decline (ca. 2000-1600 BCE) that Indra is referenced in the Rigveda accounts (ca.1700-1100 BCE). He was known to imbibe soma a lot due to rituals made on his behalf. But when the Vedic culture formed in opposition of the prevailing Indus culture, the powers of deities changed. In the Vedic literature, Indra is a celebrated god but later replaced by Shiva. In the Avestan texts, Indra became a demon. There is no mention in the latter texts that heroic Inda kills the demon Vritra.
The members who composed the Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta, which Alexander the Great mostly destroyed during his conquest of Darius III of Persia, called themselves Aryans (Airya and Airyan). In the Rigveda, composed by the other faction, the Vedics, also called the Zoroastrians Arya and Aryan. This shows that the peoples of the Avesta and of the Rigveda were closely related, and they spoke two dialects of the same language. These Sakae groups moved westward before they returned to their previous lands in the East. The Vedic followers applied the “Aryan” designation to themselves as well. After all, in the Rigveda, Indra was attributed the characteristic of “satya” (truth, dharma). The word Aryan had become more of an identity of personhood rather than a tribal identity. Ancient Sanskrit scripture writes that the “Aryan people are led by the divine grace” (praja arya jvotiragrah). To deserve such an honorific designation, which meant “noble” and/or “pure,” the person had to work for the equality of all and be dear to everyone.” Moreover, a child born among them was not an Aryan until born in spirituality, around the age of 15 (sort of the equivalence of being born again, new life, or twice born).
Mazda worship supplanted the deva worship of the Indus-Vedic culture. From the Saka Aryan Land, he preached to re-establish the old Mazdayasni faith (aka the Mazdayasni Ahura–Tkaesha) by seeking change through reason, wisdom, and empowerment of the downtrodden, in other words, a populist.
In the Rigveda, the initial relationship between the asuras and devas was one of coexistence, but gradually become one of competition. Nevertheless, some of the asuras were invited to become devas (i.e., Indra invites Agni and Varuna to become devas (Rigveda 10.124 and verse 5, respectively). Recalling the Milk Ocean, co-existence ended as soon as the amrita was recovered when the devas took possession of it, breaking their promised to share half with the ausras, stealing the asuras’s share and consuming the Amrita that gave the principal devas immortality. In effect, the devas’s belief system overwrote the asuras’s and became exclusive.
Periodically, the Aryan-Indra (deva) worshippers and the Aryan-Mazda (asura) worshippers would win dominance over the other throughout their cultural and religious history until their separation into the nations of India and Iran, respectively.
Though Zoroastrian asuraworshippers reckoned themselves more as having a religious origin, their ethnicity was Saka. The adjacent shows how they spread throughout the Near East and Middle East. Primarily, these Saka were Parsee traders who became established and rich with trade, developing the original Silk Roads. They spread throughout the Near East and Middle East.
The schism between the Aryan–Indra (deva) worshippers and the Aryan–Mazda (asura) worshippers, the latter managed to drive out the deva worshippers from the upper and lower lands of Aryan lands (to include former Sakastan, Bactria, Hindu-Kush, Sogdiana, Pamir, and other surrounding areas). It led to religious wars in which the deva worshippers prevailed only to have the asura worshippers counterattack. Eventually, the asura worshippers migrated westward into what is Iran (Persia) as recorded in the Avesta and Rigveda. Modern-day Asura worshippers are the Parsee (who fled to India from Muslim persecution in Persia during the 7th–8th centuries). Human nature at work, two behaviors were involved—kings and ruling groups seeking power and religious advisors seeking influence to cause animosity and control. Eventually, the deva worshippers migrated south across the Hindu Kush mountains into the upper Indus valley (former Saka territory).
REVISITING CULTURAL DIFFUSION FROM THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
There are several speculations as to the original Saka (including Saka–Aryan lands). As documented in several sources, their historical ancient land had many mountains, valleys, and pastures that supported cattle (domesticated ca. 6000 BCE). The land was rich in waters, deep lakes, and wide rivers while being mountainous with alpine measures and fertile, well-watered vales. It smacks like the ancient Indus Valley, which is now in Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh, and Uttarakhand.
The Indus civilization (alias Indus-Sarasvati and Harappan Civilization, including Mohenjo Daro) formed first as an agricultural community ca. 7000 BCE in the valley of the Indus River while some of the nomadic clans remained hostile towards these farmers. By this time, the farmers had domesticated cattle, thus a mixed economy of farming and cattle herding coexisted. As the population grew between 40,000-50,000 strong, the growth began with the first towns that were formed ca. 4000 BCE; the seed cities formed ca. 3700 BCE, reaching their peak period ca. 2000 BCE. By this time, the population is thought to have been five million! However, there is a discrepancy in the dating of their peak period when scientists found evidence at the second largest encampment, Dholavira, in Goa, India, of large, 59-foot-wide walls that were built 5000 years ago (ca. 3000 BCE) to protect against encroaching tsunamis. They dispersed ca. 1600 BCE for any number of reasons, one of them being population pressure. The civilization grew from along the banks of the Indus River to all directions outward. Many sites have been found—for example, near the border of Nepal, in Afghanistan, on the coasts of India, and around Delhi. In fact, this Indus civilization may have predated the Early Dynastic Period ( ca. 3000-2675 BCE) of ancient Egypt.
During this span of time, domestication of animals had become instrumental in their development. The first animals to be domesticated were sheep and goats ca. 8000 BCE, followed by cattle ca. 6000 BCE. Finally, the horse was domesticated ca. 4000 BCE.
Indus script first appeared around 3700 BCE when the first cities appeared in the Indus Valley. When the script became more developed, it was during the period that urbanization reached its peak period (ca. 2600-1900 BCE), which was read from right to left. By ca. 1800 BCE, the script started to disappear. Vedic literature describes its homeland on a long lost river called the Sarasvati, which, according to Vedic descriptions, flowed east of the Indus from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. When the Vedic culture in Northern India took hold, a new script was developed ca. 1600-1500 BCE known as the Brahmi script with similar Semitic adaptations as the Indus Kharosthi language.
Reflected on the Indus Valley seals, there was already domestication of the bovine, reindeer, and Indra’s favorite mount, the elephant. There was a high level of artistic sophistication as these squared, stamp seals appeared on pottery, bronze tools, stoneware, bones, shells, ladles, ivory, small tablets made of steatite; and they were made of bronze and copper. Chiefly, made of steatite, these stamp seals were also made out of a smooth glassy-looking material, silver, faience, and calcite. What is particularly unique in the Indus seals is the artistic symmetry of their logo-syllabic script where the script is on the top and the animal is centered immediately below. It should be noted that some of the Indus valley seals show swastikas, a sacred symbol, which are still used in Buddhist, Bon, Jain, and Hindu iconography.
What characterizes the Saka clans and tribes was their sense of spirituality in that, though they were great traders and conquerors, they were more interested in their relationship in understanding the mysteries of the universe or divinity and achieving such divinity, according to Indologist, Dr. Puneet Gupta (aka expert Dr. Gupta Harappan Code). They labeled things and consequently developed the proto-Sanskrit during the ancient Indus Valley civilization that portrayed astrology/astronomy, medical achievements, balance with their environment, and the like.
With regards to the Sakae’s first migration from the Indus Valley, they migrated around 1700 BCE when the Indus Valley civilization was at its peak. Zoroastrian scripture was developed, in part, by retaining various aspects of Sumerian and Indus Valley religions at different locations and times. For example, in the Avesta, an Aryan (asura-worshipper) was one who who adhered to the path of Light rather than Darkness (e.g., a translation—”the one is the path of Asha (“Truth”); all others are not paths”). When Buddha Shakyamuni spoke about the Four Noble Truths (the aryamarga), he also used the word arya to mean “noble,” (i.e., to be worthy of assent and respect (“exalted”)).
So what became of this expansive civilization after ca. 1800 BCE? According to Vedic texts, the Sarasvati River had dried up by ca. 1900 BCE, causing the surrounding townships-cities to move away. Evidence seems to point to climate change—the drying up of Sarasvati River and her tributaries, the path change of monsoons—and a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia when these peoples had their own survival challenges. There is no indication of flooding, and the cities were not completely abandoned.
There are a number of prominent features of the Indus religion—the Great Mother Goddess (Shakti; female sexuality is deeply ingrained in Indus religion and ideology), a Great Male God, and veneration of animals. Also, there are important depictions of the phallus (linga) and vulva (yoni), and the importance of bath and water in religious practice, which are predecessors of the Vedic culture. Also excavated is the “Proto-Shiva” or “Proto-Brahma” (as the great creator) that depicts a male character sitting in a yogic position on a dais and surrounded by animals, including fire altars and swastikas. These provide evidence of Indic ideology that was subsumed by the Vedic culture that followed. The spiritual foundation of the Vedas cannot be divorced from the earliest civilization of the Indus Valley region.
And who were they? Unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, they were not early builders of temples, palaces, or monumental structures, and no names of kings or queens or stele or royal statuary. Before being inhabited, their city planning followed a grid pattern. As an early advanced civilization, houses had flush toilets; a sewer system; air conditioning provided by a wind-catching device attached to roofs, a courtyard with a great public bath. There was early use of irrigation techniques and canals. There were flat-bottomed boats to engage in trade. Originally, the wheel was developed for cattle-drawn carts. By this time, Devanam Indra is riding a chariot led by horses (Ramayana Book 4 Shloka 103Indra’s Chariot). But more important is the evidence of conformity to a single visions; they standardized bricks, stone cubes, and roads widths. There was no standing army. By the time Cyrus II of Persia invaded India in 530 BCE, the Indus civilization had already fallen. I prefer to say, its ingenious culture had been distributed over a wide area of influence very early.
A parallel civilization was developing at the time of the Indus Valley civilization (alias Harappa) known as the Oxus civilization (alias Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex (BMAC) ca. 2250-1700 BCE; aka Mohenjo-Dare and Allyn-Depe)) with similarities to the proto-urban settlements of the Indus Valley. In fact, many archeological artifacts from BMAC show evidence of trade between the two civilizations. The trading colony ca 2000 BCE, Shortugai, on the Amu Darya (aka Oxus) River illustrates the presence of the Indus Valley civilization, which was a source of lapis lazuli jewelry from the lapis lazuli-copper mines located there and other valuables—seal of a rhinoceros motif and script, clay models of cattle with carts, clay models of horses, pottery of Indus Valley design, and the like. Also found was evidence of farming and irrigation canals from Indus Valley technology. Within this region (aka Transoxiana) between the rivers Amu Darya (aka Oxus) and Syr Darya (aka Jaxartes), there was much migration to the north and to the west from the Indus Valley ca. 3200-2000 BCE. Nonetheless, what became known as Aryan Land (Airyana Vaeja) was established between these two rivers that flowed southeasterly.
SURVIVING SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS: Homa and Soma and the Wind Horse
As mentioned earlier, in the Rig Veda, the entire ninth mandala is dedicated to homa and soma.
Homa, the Fire Ritual: Though Homa was very much a part of the Vedic culture, such fire altars were found in the earlier Indus Valley culture. To this day, the present Zoroastrians, such as the Parsees (Parsis) use fire as a focus of worship.
Although referred to as a “sacrifice ritual,” rooted in the Vedic religion (as yajna), it is more like a “votive ritual” in which the fire is the agent and the offerings are symbolic material to appease the deities. It spread from India to Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia and was adopted by Buddhism and Jainism in ancient times. Even current-day Buddhists in parts of Tibet (referred to as goma), Japan, Siberia, and China; and modern-day Jains make such fire offerings. Among Buddhists, large-scale ceremonies often include multiple lamas, chanting, the beating of Taiko drums, and the blowing of conch shell (horagai) around a mandala with fire as the ceremonial focus. Homa (TIB. goma) rituals are featured widely in Tibetan Buddhism and Bön that are linked to Buddhas and tantric deities.
Soma, the Ritual Drink: Soma is described as an elixir (attributed in some records as amrita) that turned the skin of the imbiber a yellow gold (as an association to the Sun people) that was personified by a deity of the same name Soma who is associated with the Moon. It was highly praised in one of the Rigveda Mandala hymns. The closest and possibly credible description of the soma drink is derived from the fermented milky sap extracted from the Asclepias acida, a climbing plant which thrives in mountain areas. It was praised as sweet and empowered Indra to be victorious in taking on enemies. Some theories include hallucinogenic mushrooms, honey, cannabis, blue lotus, milk, saffron, and pomegranate. Soma in Sanskrit literally means “distill, extract, and sprinkle.” It is surmised that it is a drink prepared by pressing the stalks of a plant and offered to Indra for blessings
According to Dr. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman, archeologist-anthropologist at Pune, India, it was noted that Maujavatasoma was being traded ca. 4000 BCE by, albeit of Saka origin, were Tocharian speakers (naming themselves as Yuezi (from the north and east of the Caspian steppe)). They had initially migrated out of the Indus Valley to settle in Gandhara. These Saka-Tocharian are thought also to have moved to Mt. Mujavant (in Kyrgystan) and to Xinjiang (currently, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China). They traded in soma sticks (made of pyrite or flint) which could make fire. These sticks were deemed as expensive as gold and was bartered in exchange of animal as well as gold. More than likely, these pyrite products where used in homa ceremonies, thus the name soma sticks. The migration of the Saka-Tocharian was due to trade technology meeting the needs of the religious-spiritual cultures that reached into Xinjiang communities of small towns.
According to the alchemical treatise, RudrayamalaTantra, Dr. Kalyanaraman noted that, to make soma, it ad to be digested hundred times with the juice of plantain leaves and then steeped for three days in oil, clarified butter, and honey after which it was heated strongly in a crucible that yields its golden-hue essence. In some ways, it conflates the pyro-sticks with the ritual drink soma, because part of the alchemical treatise describes the process of smelting gold.
Nonetheless, the homa and soma go together in oblations toward deities. It should be noted, however, that, when deities play a role in spiritual practice, the essence sought is how to realize the true nature of reality. That is the alchemy of immortality to be discussed briefly below.
Vedic soma is equivalent to the Iranian haoma. Thus, the Saka referred to as haoma drinkers are the Saka haumavarga. (It should be noted that modern laboratory analysis of archeological artifacts, the analysis found traces of opium and cannabis in the gold drinking vessels (Turpan, Xinjiang, 6th century BCE).)
Apparently, the Saka haumavarga and Saka tigraxauda of the pointed hats were the keepers of the alchemy of immortality. My take on this mystery is as follows:These two Saka tribes were “joined at the hips” as keepers (vajra holders) of the secret technology of soma and homa, which was kept hidden in Oddiyana and in Kashmir for some time. It is inferred that ancient Kashmir received its name from Kashyap(a), one of the ancient seven maharishi (sages) mentioned in the Rigveda. Originally, it was known as the “lake of the sage Kashyapa” (“Kashyapa Mir“) in a valley that had to be drained to make it habitable.
Rishi Kashyapa is credited to have composed MandalaIX of the Rigveda, regarding soma and homa that were discussed earlier. As in any alchemical literature, the symbols of letters and words are metaphorical. Even the sound of “Ah,” (“A,” the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet) is the symbol for the “sun.” As for the dharmic technology of soma and homa that has survived to this day, it more than likely originated in Kashmir from Kashyapa with Kundalini yoga (the yoga of awareness) and the Six Yogas of Niguma, a psycho-physical, yogic discipline to attain spiritual emancipations, wisdom, compassion, and enlightened awareness at the time of death to achieve immortality.
Simply summarized, the body is used as a distilling device. In this yogic practice, the body is visualized as an empty vessel or container. The breath of the pranic body is used to light a flame (homa) in the central energy channel where the heat of that flame rises. The flame invigorates soma as an etheric substance that travels upward through the subtle energetic pathways to the top of the head and that eventually causes the dripping drops from the amrita at the top of the head to melt, like the melting of gold. Then the amrita travels downward to, and reside in, the heart chakra. Once at the heart chakra, the amrita transforms into a very subtle consciousness to experience an unbroken stream of bliss or joy flows, giving rise to the the beyond-conceptuality mind. Distorted emotions are self-pacified, and wisdom is induced.
Needless to say, the ritual and liturgical schemas to hold this knowledge intact can be explained emblematically. For example, in Kashyapa’s words as a non-dual meditator, he speaks illustratively: “Undisturbed am I, undisturbed is my soul, undisturbed mine eye, undisturbed mine ear, undisturbed is mine in-breathing, undisturbed mine out-breathing, undisturbed my diffusive breath, undisturbed the whole of me… In close embrace, Indra holds Soma when poured within the jars. And on the purifying sieve, Indra sends forth a voice on high to regions of the sea of air, shaking the vase that drops with mirth. The Tree whose praises never fail yields heavenly milk among our hymns, urging men’s generations on. The Wise One, with the Sage’s stream, the Soma urged to speed, flows on to the dear places of the sky….From Kala [Time] self-made Kasyapa, from Kala Holy Fire was born” (from Atharvaveda and Rigveda).
The Zoroastrian deity of fire, Azar, spoke of the holy fire as a burning and unburning fire and as a visible and invisible fire, referencing the outer visible fire and the inner body heat. Lastly, gold as soma is that gold reflects infrared light that one cannot see but interacts with heat, which interacts with our molecules, making a good heat shield as in tummo (the inner heat yoga) in Buddhist Vajrayana practices.
The Wind Horse: Needless to say, the horse played a major part in the Sakae cultural diffusion from the Indus Valley Civilization. In general, the Scythians brought horsemanship to a new level in the Eurasian steppes, including horsebreeding. Referred to as horselords, they were initially horse-riding nomadic pastoralists and covered an impressive spectrum of workmanship in warfare and of land mass. They bred the horses with robust forelimbs to withstand long winters. Their horsemanship invented new technologies such as the recurved-tip archery bow, protective helmets and clothing, shields, the phalanx formation, fish-scale armor, and the llike. They also had a penchant for cannabis. However, there was a spiritual side to how they saw the swift horse.
In Bon and in Tibetan Buddhism, the horse symbol has significance as a dynamic fundamental principle of life and the cosmos. Basicially, the swift horse was the expression of basic goodness. As such, this self-existing energy of goodness is called the “wind horse” in Shambhala teachings. This “wind” is strong, exuberant, and brilliant that radiates tremendous power in one’s life. This goodness can be harnessed and ridden but never tamed. The Tibetan word for “windhorse” is lungta, whcih carries several levels of significance. However, the popular understanding of the lungta, albeit limiting, is that it conveys “good fortune” or “luck.” As a prayer flag, the wind that the galloping horse makes blows the prayer flags to bestow such blessings to everyone.
There is a deeper meaning to the “windhorse” in that the “wind” rides the horse just as the breath is ridden by one’s subtle consciousness. The concept becomes metaphical. The horse is the energy of the vital breath; hence, life itself. The notion of “goodness” is the inseparability of wisdom and compassion as the natural state of the world, its inhabitants, and the entire scope of phenomena that is innately without conflict and replete with basic intelligence such as an awakened mind.
REVISITING SEVERAL KNOWN MIGRATIONS
Several maps have been provided to show how names of peoples and territories changed over time with an eye on the Sakae-Scythians.
Basically, the Indo-Scythians were a branch of Sakae who originated from southern Siberia into ancient Bactria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Gandara, and the current territories of Kashmir, Punjab, Gujaret, Mahanashtra, and Rajasthan well into fourth century CE. More aptly, a genetics map shows best how the Sakae’s DNA Haplogroup R1a migrated over time. Current archeological discoveries consider the traditional lands of the Sakae to form parts of present-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
At some point prior to 3000 BCE, a groups of Indo-Iranian (alias Indo–Aryans) migrated southwestward to the southern region of ancient Persia (near the ancient city of Susa). In time, the regional became known as Ariana and Iran. Some scholars claim they came from the Ural Mountains of Russia while others postulate that they migrated from the Aral Sea and the Syra Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, likely places were there would be settlement supported by recent archeological sites. As Aryan lands or as a nation, they were called Airyana Vaeja or Airyanam Darhyunan in the Avesta; in the Rigveda, they were called Arya Varta. However, those boundaries shifted as noted on several of the maps posted.
Aryavarta literally means “abode of the Aryas,” the area of the Indian subcontinent settled by various “Aryan” tribes and where Aryan religion and rituals predominated. The boundaries of Āryāvarta changed over time, characterized by the influence of Brahmanical ideology after post-Vedic times. The ManuSmriti defined the area as “the tract between the Himalaya and the Vindhya ranges, from the eastern (Bay of Bengal) to the Western Sea (Arabian Sea).” The Vasistha Dharma Sutra (oldest of the sutras ca. 500–300 BCE) locates the Āryāvarta to the east of the disappearance of the Sarasvati River in the desert, to the west of the Kālakavana, to the north of the Pariyatra (aka Sanapada) Mountains and the Vindhya Range, and to the south of the Himalayas.
At some point in time, the Saka tayai para draya moved eastward from the Caspian Sea and the Saka beyond Sugdam from the Pamir Mountains moved into the northern region of the Indian Continent, bringing cultural changes that transpired after their exodus from the Indus Valley. They joined with the remnants of the Saka populations from the Indus Valley of yore who retained the traditional spiritual values, which have survived in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. In fact, the Sanatan Dharma followers recognize that Sanatan Dharma is an alias for Arya Dharma.
About a thousand years after the diaspora of people from the Indus Valley Civilization (ca. 1600 BCE), the Vedic period of Saka–Aryans took hold in the northern subcontinent of India. With that came a change of the pantheon of deities: The main Indus deities were Indra (aka Sakra), Brahma, and Vishnu; under the Vedic influence, of the top 33 deities were Indra, Agni, and Soma, which changed to Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra, etc. At one time it was Mitra, Varuna, and Aryaman, etc., retaining both devas and asuras. For example, during the 1400 century BCE, the favored asuras were Varuna, Mitra, and Mazda and the favored devas were Indra and Nasatyas. Somewhere in these transformations, Shiva, God of Waters, swam into the picture while Shakti (Goddess protector of villages, ca. 9000-8000 BCE) was dominant during the Indus Valley Civilization and somewhat present among modern-day adherents. Nonetheless, these newcomers into the subcontinent retained the pluralistic structure of the Indus Valley Civilization.
The first time one of the Saka tribes was written about in Indian literature was during the reign of King Sagara of the Ikshvaku Solar Dynasty of the Kshatriyas. King Sagara was a descendant of progenitor Rama lineage who took back his country from the invading Haihayas and Talajanghas. On the advice of the family priest Vasishtha, he released them from captivity. Among the captives were the Saka (Parādas, Viṣṇu–purāṇa) who had to shave half of their head, distinguishing them from the others. They were all called Mleechas (non-Vedic) and driven out into uninhabitable terrains such as mountains and deserts.
Another well-known, recorded king of the Saka is King Maues (alias Moga, ca. 98-57 BCE) who gained power in Gandhara and gradually extended his rule over northern India by conquering key cities such as Taxila. (Taxila had great influence on Hindu culture and the Sanskrit language and founded by Rama of the Sun Dynasty (Early Harappan period ca 2900 BCE).) In so doing, he established the Saka hegemony by conquering Indo-Greek territories once formally established by Alexander the Great, extending control up to modern-day Mathura, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Other Saka kings ruled thereafter.
Much of King Maues’s legacy survived via coinage. Maues struck some coins incorporating Buddhist symbolism, such as the lion, a symbol of Buddhism since the time of the Mauryan king Ashoka the Great of the Gonandiya Dynasty of the Kashmir region and who was also a descendant of the Rama Sun Dynasty . The symbolism of the lion had also been adopted by the Buddhist Indo-Greek King Menander II. Maues, therefore, probably supported Buddhism whether sincerely or for political motives is unclear. His coins also included a variety of other religious symbols such as the bull of Shiva, indicating wide religious tolerance. (The symbol of the lion represents royalty, stateliness, and bravery.)
Sakestān (“the land of the Saka“) is a historical and geographical in present-day Eastern Iran (modern Sistan/Baluchestan provinces) and southern Afghanistan (modern Nimruz, Helmand, Kandahar) was formed ca. 3000 BCE. Old Perisian text referred to this land as Zranka (“wetland”) and the territory as Zaranka. But, there was another name for the Saka tyaiy para draya; it was Ariya in Old Persian or Arya in Persian or Indian in the Rigveda. It had connotation such as “pure,” “chaste,” and “honorable” to this day.
Based on the Bhagavata Purana that was compiled during Siddhartha Gautama’s time (ca. 1887-1807 BCE), the Solar dynasty or the Ikshvaku (aka Aikṣvākaaka, Suryavamsa, or “Descendants of the Sun,” was a paternal lineage that reigned from ca. 3138-1634 BCE. Siddhartha Gautama was from that lineage, and Surya is symbolized by the sun. Later on, Surya was transmutted to Vishnu.
(As a sidebar, it appears that the Moon dynasty (aka Soma Vamsha) was established by the maternal lineage of the “Descendants of the Sun.”)
King Suddhodana was also a descendant of Rama (reference to the ancient Indus Valley civilization known also as the Rama Empire), the 138th king in the Solar Dynasty of one of the Sakyan tribes, who ruled over Kapilavatthu, and was Siddhartha’s father. Siddhartha and his son Rahula abdicated from belonging to the Indian caste of Kshatriya, comprising of rulers and warrior aristocracy.They were descendants from the warrior lineage Mahasammata (of the “solar race”). They underwent extensive military training, probably from Taxila, to become experts in archery, swordsmanship, and hand-to-hand combat. We know that Siddhartha had to prove his skills in archery, horse riding, and swordsmanship in a tournament before he could marry Yasodhara.
As an aside, the Sanskrit word Sakadāgāmi means “sainthood,” and many later kings of the Indian subcontinent claimed to be of Suryavanshi descent.
During the Kosala Kingdom, King Okkaka of the Solar dynasty had sons who reigned Saketa (“a place where God resides”), established the Shakya capital Kapilavastu, and formed the state SakyaGanarajya, according to a Mahavastu Buddhist text.
The Shakya (aka Sakya, Sākiya, Sakka, Śākya) inhabited an area in Greater Magadha, situated at present-day southern Nepal and northern India, near the Himalaya, and formed the independent oligarchic republican state of Sakya Ganarajya. Both geographically and culturally, the Shakya embraced Buddhism and Jainism, which were, under the laws of Manu, considered non-Vedic and non-Aryan regardless of the fact that the divinities, concepts of enlightenment, and mythical stories were similar to the Vedas. The Sakyans were criticized because “they do not honor, respect, esteem, revere, or pay homage to Brahmans.” Needless to say, the Brahmans (priests as the most upper class of the Vedic caste system) opposed Buddha Shakyamuni, a former kshatriyan who was allowed under the Vedic law to study the Vedic scriptures but not teach them.
When the SakaAryans first came to India, there was no caste system, which evolved during the the Rigvedic Age, the Later Vedic age, and the age of the Sutras or Upanishads. However, these early Saka Aryans had class divisions for economic and social organization; and unlike the caste system, the class divisions were not hereditary.
A lesser known ancient history is that of the Sakae of the Elamite Empire (ca. 3200-539 BCE), the remains of which correspond to the modern-day provinces of Ilam and Khuzestan in southern Iran (including parts of modern-day southern Iraq) along the Persian Gulf. During their proto-Elamite Period (ca. 2700 BCE), they were already uniquely-accomplished artisans and traders with the Indus Valley Civilization. The Babylonians referred to these people as the “House of Khumri” or “Gimirri” (part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (perhaps the reason why the story of Job was retained in the Book of Genesis)). The “House of Khumri” was named after the Israelite King Omri (ca. 8th century BCE). According to linguists, “Khumri”, “Omri”, and “Gimirri” are phonetically similar. In Persian and Elam, they were Saka. The Gimirri (aka Cimmerians, Beth-Khumirii of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of Israel).
In recalling the Behistun Stone of Darius I, the Behistun inscriptions were written in three languages—Babylonian, Elam, and Persian. The Babylonian word “Gimirii” meant “Saka” while Saka remained the Elam and Persian names for the same people. There is also the Black Obelisk in which the conquests of Assyrian King Salmaneser III record the names of two Israelite kings—Ahab (871-851 BCE) who was defeated and Jehu (842-814 BCE) who willingly yielded to Assyrian rule. In the 8th century annals of both King Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II, the northern Israelite tribes are mentioned as the “Khumri.”
By the 6th century BCE, the Gemirii, as the Israelites of Elam called themselves, moved in large number to the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, settling the areas of Phrygia and Uratu (modern-day Armenia). The Greeks called them Germirians or Trerans (a Cimmerian tribe). For more information, click here. See below a video on the Elamites and check out the following minutes into the video: 7:41, 11:50, 19:20, 20:06, 21:22, and 22:04 for some commonality of Scythian-Sakae pointed hats.
Another name for Sakae are the modern Jats. It can be said that all Jats are Sakae. Several researchers have written books on the Jats, namely, E. Pococke, India in Greece, tracing the migrations from India to north western countries, and Hukum Singh Panwar, The Jats: Their Origin, antiquity and Migrations (1993). Revisiting the genetic distribution of Haplogroup R1a, one can locate the Jats. For more information, see link.
The following are entymological derivatives of “Sakae”:
Saka or Shaka or Shakya in Sanskrit | Sakka in Pali | Sakka or Sakya or Sakha in Prakrita | Saki, or Sikki or Siki in Sumarian | Sakae or Sakai in Latin | Scyth or Skyth or Scooth or Scuthoi in Greek | Saxon (Sakason) in English | Sakka or Sakkan or Sakknah in Arabic | Saka or Caka or Sacoe or Saku in Persian | Sse or Sce or Se or Su or Sai or Sek or Saiwang in Chinese | Sok in central Asiatic languages | Skol or Sokol or Skolot in Scythian | Ashkuzai or Ashkuz or Ashkenaz or Sukuz in Assyrian | Anunnaki in Hebrew
One can almost say that the cradle of civilization was the Indus Valley Civilization and not Mesopotamia, apparently.
A MAHAMUDRA ESSAY: I’ve Looked at Life from Both Sides Now
There is a popular song of the 60’s that, in recent times, caused me to undertake a contemplation on a before-and-after gnosis (knowing) sourced from the Treasure Texts with little to no emotional reactivity. That is to say, the conventional “I” reflected on how life was viewed before and after endeavoring practices of Anuyoga and Antiyoga, having transitioned from the Sutrayana view of Emptiness based on understanding Dependent Co-arising of the Abhidharma section to the Atiyoga of pure vision. In this case, it comes from meditative experiences only. As noted, the view changes dramatically. After all, our transformational practice is made up of living moments while breaking out of the mold of limitations; and, lest we forget, we are all nirmanakaya, the mental and physical manifestations of Buddha.
When lyrics are a form of art, we must remember that all art is supposed to increase our mindfulness—the ability of self-awareness and the capacity to reflect on experience and daily life. The name of the song as an object of meditation is “Both Sides Now,” by songwriter/singer Joni Mitchell. Her noetic lyrics will be interspersed throughout the essay as my contemplation unfolds. In several ways, the words send me on a journey of where I am, looking at both sides, in the now, throughout.
Here is a spoiler alert when it comes to the word “love.” As interpreted, it is not about the numerous failed attempts at karmamudra in which the final mind refinement (the very, very subtle mind) is actualized. Read this essay while recognizing that “in reality, each phenomenon appears vividly while recognizing that the essential nature of subject, object, and action are without inherent existence.” In effect, a quantum effect—it exists and does not exists at the same time in each moment of life. A more poetic way of explaining the quantum phenomena is that “it comes in the stillness, a wordless knowing of everything and beautifully nothing (nondual).”
Thus, we begin this journey of “Both Sides Now” together as we also attempt to recognize any of our cognitive biases.
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way….
Though the first stanza exists in the memory of sense objects, the imagery appeals to our sensual consciousness—they create a loop, especially of the eye- and intellect-consciousnesses. There is contact. There may also be a craving for forms, taste, and tactile sensations, including ideas. Nevertheless, the lyrics seem to recognize a wisdom that is inseparable from Emptiness.
The reference to “feather canyons everywhere” is a visual of the actual Feather Canyon located between Pulga and Keddie, California. It is known for its high winds (aka Jarbo Winds). For our purposes, we can recognize the prevailing winds as consciousness rides the breath (Prana)—the Wind Horse metaphor. Wind as Prana is everywhere.
But now they [clouds] only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way….
There is an awakening here, recognizing that, although the Clear Light is in everyone, it remains a common clear light that is hidden by a cloud or veil. In other words, it remains dormant, undefined, and ignored. Thus, when we speak about ignorance in Buddhism, we are really referring to the ignorance of the bliss, clarity, and non-conceptual awareness that is our birthright. In other words, as Dr. Ian Baker, explorer and author of Tibetan Yoga; Principles and Practices, states, “The recognition of mind’s innermost photonic nature to an all-pervading luminosity—’like a moonlit sky in autumn,'” is our natural inheritance. Moreover, the sun, when darkness (ignorance) is expelled, becomes the complete brightness of mind.
The awakening starts with the words, “so many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.” How do I see ’em clouds, let me count the way. No, do not bother. Phet! If I had known then what I know now, I could have gone beyond self-liberation….
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all….
How do clouds play illusions? I really do not know how they create illusions if not by recognizing that “(1) all appearances are mind; (2) mind is empty, (3) Emptiness is spontaneous presence; and (4) spontaneous presence is natural liberation?” All of existence is made up of dreaming while awake, dreaming in sleep, and dreaming the blending of both day and night dreams. The cloud of illusions is a teaching. This reminds me of a stanza in the Upadesha Tantra on the Great Perfection, The Secret Kissing of the Sun and Moon: Self-awareness transcends all obstructions | It is within the special quality of our place. | This itself is divided between the external and the internal. | So there is the measureless place of the precious citta.
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way….
The roundness of Ferris wheels and moons while June radiates with solar energy—such lovely and sneaky imagery. The fairies of Midsummer gather for the ritual of fertility come into play with the word “June.” This is how we mostly sense “love” in many cultures to perpetuate the existence of rebirth. It is a dizzying ritual dance.
But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em[,] laughing when you go
And if you can, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away….
A change does take place. When Shakyamuni Buddha was asked what he gained from meditation, he replied, I gained nothing, but I lost greed, hatred, and delusion.” This is what I see happening here. All that preceded in memory is likened to “just another show” of delusion/illusion. A comma had to be inserted before the word “laughing’ to make it clear that the object/subject is the one laughing, not her friends or not any reified idea. The clinging, craving, and feeling sensations dissipate, too. In caring, one shows oneself the courage to surrender one’s mind and ego to the realm of unknowing, at which point one glimpses many times over the nature of mind. The world of tantra is difficult and perilous enough to want to share it with anyone who simply could not understand.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know love at all….
To reflect on all the different types of loves experienced—as daughter, sister, mother, wife, divorcee, widow, and the like—there is all this give and take and confusion until one stands up, stamps the foot, and clasps the hand to exclaim, “I have had enough of this absurdity!”
Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way….
Ah, the temporary disturbing emotions of tears and fears. They are illusions that will deceive and mislead. Instead, identify with your Buddha Nature. That is how “feeling proud” comes into play. Tears and fears are surpassed by Vajra Pride that encourages to continue cultivating Bodhicitta for the benefit of all others. Without Bodhicitta, there is no Mahamudra, Tantra, and much less Dzogchen Nyingthik (Heart Essence of the Great Perfection). The warning of Tantra is that an unbalanced Vajra Pride can lead to schemes of megalomania, like Rudra and the circus crowds he collected for his aggrandizement. So the practice of a Yidam is to be healthy and balanced.
Yet, the shooting out loud “I love you,” is loving oneself first for the purpose of healing. Bodhicitta is always for oneself and others, the immeasurable mind of equanimity.
One embarks on the knowledge and wisdom of what is termed relative, correct deceptive reality: There is a path of seeing that is realized awareness—the practice of cutting through the dualistic conceptual thoughts into the raw uncontrived primordially pure nature of reality. Everything becomes a mirage of dreams after dreams until it is gone—tathagate (as used here, one who has acquired perfect knowledge or who has attained liberation from karma).
But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, and they say that I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day….
Yes, “old friends” is another loss. They just cannot see how you are wishing them Enlightenment in your samaya recitations. What is gained? a transformation into the Five Wisdoms of one’s own Alaya, not to be confused with the Alaya–vijnana.—the collective ground consciousnesses. Some songwriters have an inner vision that is clear-eyed.
O, I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know life at all.
They say, “Patience is the virtue of time.” As Toni Bernhard, former law professor turned Buddhist, once wrote, “Patience is an act of compassion toward ourselves, and it also gives rise to equanimity—that sublime state of mind that leads to peace and well-being.” For the tantric practitioner, it is pure vision and pure awareness turned into ‘pure awareness being primal purity.” The subject, object, and action become inseparable, recognizing itself. From a Buddhist perspective, patience is the ability not to be perturbed by anything. After looking at life from both sides, the gnosis cognizes the nonduality of Emptiness as immaculate as a cloudless sky and wisdom as the perfect discrimination of phenomena (all knowable things).
As a last thought, even the melody of “Both Sides Now” sticks to the ribs, affording a satisfying opportunity to lower the chest voice registry by an octave; it helps vibrate the Vagus Nerve to strengthen the immune system. Whistling the melody also helps strengthen the Vagus Nerve. Of course, there is always the mantra–OMMANI PEME HUNG HRI.
May all dream-like beings awaken
from their illusory suffering, confusion,
In several ways, the character of Pope Hormisdas II in CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES parallels the scientific bent of Pope Francis who called upon other religious-spiritual leaders to make a joint appeal at the upcoming meeting of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November at Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, October 3, 2021, to offer concrete solutions to save the planet from “an unprecedented ecological crisis.”
The “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” meeting brought together leaders representing Christendom, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and Jainism. The leaders represent about 3/4 of the population of the world, a significant percentage of people across the planet. Perhaps that collective voice will be heard.
In addressing the forum, which was organized by The Vatican, Britain, and Italy, Pope Francis said, “COP26 represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and [to] the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing and, in this way, to offer concrete hope to future generations. We want to accompany it with our commitment and [with] our spiritual closeness.”
The appeal, which described climate change as a “grave threat,” was posited as a “war on creation,” that calls for a “global financial architecture that repents of its sins in the past 100 years,” including changes in tax rules to promote green activity.
“If one nation sinks, we all sink,” said Rajwant Singh, a U.S. Sikh leader. The pope said, “Each of us has his or her religious beliefs and spiritual traditions; but no cultural, political or social borders or barriers prevent us from standing together.”
In Chapter 10, page 221, of CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, Pope Hormisdas II speaks to Pope Francis’s signature theme — Environmental protection. “Climate change is causing the planet Earth to be on Fire! … Failure to cut the use of fossil fuels leads to a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperature … Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!” Nonetheless, Pope Hormisdas II, a scientist, is also interested in alchemy.
Francis, 84, about 11 years ago and several times thereafter appealed to the fossil fuel CEO’s and investers to have good faith in protecting the environment to no avail. He continues to strongly support the environment and the goals of the 2015 U.N. Paris accord to reduce global warming. He told young people at the weekend that theirs was “perhaps the last generation” to save the planet.
The pope’s impassioned appeal to protect nature is increasingly urgent as the global pandemic alters lifestyles and makes painfully plain the fragility of life.
The online blog, Taste of Home, posted an article, “If You See a Blue Porch Ceiling,” dated July 20, 2021, was indeed a treat to read since such a ceiling was mentioned on page 230 of CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, 2020. The ceiling of the subdued Queen Anne was painted a pale shade of blue known as “haint blue,” a color sourced from crushed indigo plants.
The article stated, “The painted blue porch ceiling started in the American South around 200 years ago. The practice traces back to the Gullah Geechee, enslaved people living in the low country of Florida, Georgia[,] and [the] Carolina[s].
“Gullah folklore explains that ghosts, also referred to as ‘haints,’ were not able to cross water. In order to repel evil spirits from plantations, porch ceilings were painted a soft blue. The color was meant to mimic water in an effort to keep any haints or spirits at bay. The Gullah people made sure to cover all their bases—windows, doors[,] and shutters were often painted the same color of ‘haint blue.’”
What is not stated is that the masters also agreed to the color and more than likely just as superstitious.
Miss Ellie, who had served the Carr family for many years and raised young Carr, was a Gullah Geechee descendent.
Frogmore Crossing by Jonathan Green, 1997, with permission of the artist.
WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its withdrawal of all food uses of chlorpyrifos. This announcement follows the 9th Circuit Court’s May 2021 order to withdraw all uses of chlorpyrifos in food production that cannot be proven safe.
Kristin Schafer, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Executive Director, issued the following statement in response to EPA’s decision:
“Together with partners across the country, we’re celebrating this decision that protects the health of millions of children, farmworkers, and rural families — and is long overdue. Science documenting the harms of this neurotoxic chemical has been strong for decades. It took persistent organizing, advocacy in statehouses, and coordinated legal action to finally force EPA to do its job.
“Our understanding is that today’s action will also result in a ban of chlorpyrifos use on commodity crops grown for feed, and in the coming months, EPA will consider action on all remaining (non-food) uses of chlorpyrifos as well. We urge the agency to also quickly withdraw these uses, so we can join the 35 countries that have already fully banned this dangerous chemical.
“We’re hopeful that today’s decision signals a shift for this Administration, toward re-centering science and justice in decision-making about dangerous pesticides. For too long the pesticide industry’s interests have been prioritized over protecting children’s health or the health of those on the frontlines of industrial agriculture — farmworkers, farmers, and rural families. It’s time for this to change.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and miticide used primarily to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests.
In August 2021, EPA released a final rule revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish an amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. Read a prepublication version of the final rule: Chlorpyrifos; Tolerance Revocations (pdf) . In addition, the agency will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances.
For those of us who find Gautama Buddha (aka Siddhartha Gautama; Shakyamuni) a compelling historical figure, he was an extraordinary figure before he became ordinary (i.e., knowing reality from illusion, for those who are extraordinary are living under the spell of illusion/delusion). To this day, the Gautama Buddha (“one who is awakened to reality”) still…
There is much to be said about personalities and their temperament. In fact, management banks on it with regards to their managerial staff, especially. Management has used Kepner-Tregore for critical-thinking processes for some time as well as Myers Briggs on personality types. The latter has been a reliable measurement of “know thyself” as an employee…
President Biden on Thursday, December15, 2022, officially unsealed over 13,000 records on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but they are primarily from the U.S. National Archive. It appears that some of the records from the CIA and the FBI have been released while there are many others still under review before a decision…
One of the characters in the novel, CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, was a prospective Alzheimer’s disease candidate. The clinical-residential center, however, adopted music therapy (binaural beat) for her treatment, in addition to other alternative modalities. [p. 76).]
will be the medicine
Binaural beat therapy has been recognized in recent times as an emerging form of sound wave therapy, which helps balance and improve long-term memory among other benefits such as increased concentration, deeper meditation and enhanced psychomotor performance and mood. In reading the literature, there are those who claim that the therapy is semi-experimental, leaving one to wonder if the chemistry pharmaceutical-industry senses competition.
Nonetheless, it was Albert Einstein who posited that the “future medicine will be the medicine of frequencies.” The frequency of binaural beat therapy is amazing in that, when two tones of slightly different frequencies are played in separate ears simultaneously, the human brain perceives the creation of a third tone. This new third tone is equivalent to the difference between the two tones being played. If a person hears a tone of 405 Hz in one ear and a tone of 415 Hz in the other ear, that person would be hearing a beat with a frequency of 10 Hz.
Binaural beats provide the same benefits as meditation. While research is still ongoing, binaural beats still offers low risks of side effects if any. Many apps, podcasts, videos and other services provide free access to binaural beats offering a range of brain waves.
Beta waves at 13-16 Hz occur when we are awake and alert. Alpha waves at 8-12 Hz occur when we are relaxed with eyes closed as in meditation. Theta waves at 4-7 Hz occur in lighter stages of sleep or the transition from waking to sleeping. Theta waves at 0.5-4 Hz occur in a state of deep sleep. Then there is gamma wave to be discussed below.
A gamma wave (aka gamma Rhythm) is a pattern of neural oscillation in humans with a frequencey between 25 and 140 Hz, the 49-Hz point being of particular interest. Gamma wave activity is correlated with large scale brain network activity and cognitive phenomena such as working memory, attention, and perceptual grouping. It can be increased in amplitude by meditation or by neuro-stimulation. Altered gamma activity has been observed in many mood and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.
For a binaural beat to work, the two tones have to be less than 1000 Hz in frequency, and the difference between the two tones cannot be more than 30-40 Hz.
From a study by Aron and Yanker at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, they reported that “[t]reating neurodegenerative disorders by non-invasive modulation of neural networks is an intriguing prospect. The present study used light to stimulate gamma oscillations in the visual cortex, which is relatively unaffected by Alzheimer’s disease. It will be important to determine whether other approaches can stimulate gamma oscillations more globally, in brain regions that are affected in Alzheimer’s and other disorders. For example, behavioural interventions such as meditation have been shown to increase gamma oscillations. Electrical stimulation of deep brain regions — an effective approach in drug-resistant Parkinson’s disease — could potentially be adapted to stimulate gamma oscillations in specific brain regions. These are just two of many potential therapeutic approaches likely to arise from a greater understanding of the role of neural networks in neurodegenerative disorders. [https://doi.org/10.1038/540207a]
There is much to be advanced in this area. Research/Development needs to be budgeted now that there is a greater need to delay brain deterioration. Though estimates may vary, experts believe there more than six million Americans have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. Moreover, recent estimates indicate that the disorder ranks third as a cause of death in older people, just behind heart disease and cancer.