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.
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 is another name for Saka….One of these days, Merriam-Webster must revise its definition of Saka.
When I first started researching and writing about the Saka tribes in 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 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 but somewhat sketchy.
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, rock paintings show the complexity of the religious beliefs of tribes inhabiting 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 (after all, Buddha Shakyamuni was a Saka), 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, 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 burial 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, 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), Cimmerians (Gimirrai), Amyrigians, Homodotes, Komedes, Kaspians, and the like. They spoke Indo-Iranian languages and dialects. Eventually, they were referred to as the nomadic eastern or western Scythians of the Eastern or Western Steppes, respectively. As for the non-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 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 paradraya (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, many were employed as troops who helped capture Athens ca. 479 BCE. If one carefully follows the tribal flow of those who ruled, one would, more than likely, find them to be of Saka origin, Darius I was one of them. (It is too detailed to print here, and that is not where this prose is headed.)
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 paradraya 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 paradraya) 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–Sin of 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 is territorial conquest also included upper Mesopotamia as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Anatolia (Turkey, Syria, Armenia combined), later to be conquered by the Achaemenids. Further illustrations on the Pointed/Horned headwear—
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 bs-relief figures on the entrance walls to the complex were Saka tigraxauda. When his reign ended, and the destruction of Persepolis, by Alexander the Great, as Alexander moved eastward towards the Indus Valley, there were written encounters of his army meeting up with warring Saka tribes of Bactria, Sogdiana, and Arachosia.
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 (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 [Shiva,]the Wrathful One. An interpretation of these godheads is that they are not persons but titles of positions. In this case, it is the position bestowed upon 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 replaced by 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 Tibetan Buddhism, the vajra is 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 find 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, he 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….
Now, let us get a sense of the time period this is recorded in history and let us look at the linguistic origin of the word “asura.” It is a term related to the Indo-Iranian people and is pre-Zoroastrianism. It should be noted that those who compiled the Rigveda were writing about people who existed 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 comprises 38 percent of the entire text. Within the Mandalas are hymns dealing with a particular deity. In this case, Agni 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.
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.
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).
Left 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.
Image to the right below shows Enki wearing a cone-shaped hat
Though names of empires and of territories changed, one thing was slow to change—the unfashionable peaked headgear and lofty attributes of human consciousness and existential emotions.
Returning to the legend of Indra. Portrayed as a primordial battle between forces, 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 retained his power and kingdom until the earthlings no longer respected his powers as a result of fear. Indra turns to Brahma. At this point, the earthlings are experiencing a schism among themselves as to their belief systems. Brahma becomes the principal deity for one side (the Vedic 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 allegory unfolds, the principalities of good (representing the northern sky) and evil (representing the southern sky) came together to use the cosmic mountain Mandara 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 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 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 pro-Saka tribes. The prevailing earthling players changed the trinity. For example, Krishna supplanted Shiva Surya.
The chart below portrays how these events were allegorically portrayed among 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
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 nomadic tribes remained hostile towards these farmers. By this time, the farmers had domesticated cattle. As the population grew between 40,000-50,000, 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. 600 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 civilization may have predated the Early Dynastic Period ( ca. 3000-2675 BCE) of ancient Egypt. The civilization was governed by elected official; there was no evidence of kings and queens.
During this period, 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. 600 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.
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.
And who were they? Unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotanians, they were not builders of temples, palaces, or monumental structures, and no names of kings or queens or stelae or royal statuary. Their city planning before being inhabited 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,. The wheel was developed for cattle-drawn carts and wide (by this time, Indra is riding a chariot led by horses (Ramayana Book 4 Shloka 103Indra’s Chariot)), flat-bottomed boats to engage in trade. 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.
The Aryan Invasion Theory has been discredited in recent times as serving a political racist agenda by certain westerners. After all, the Aryans may likely be the ones of the Saka tribes described by Darius the Great. When they migrated into India, they did it peacefully, comingling with the society made up of various groups of people, which was unique. This migration happened at a later date. In fact, the only self-identifying as “Aryan” (Saka tayai paradraya) were themselves a minority on the Iranian Plateau between ca. 1900-1500 BCE and were in no position to mount an invasion.
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.
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 lapis lazuli mines located there and other valuables—seal of a rhinoceros motif and script, cla models of cattle with carts, 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, the Aryan Land (Airyana Vaeja) was established between these two rivers and eastwardly.
There are several speculations as to the original Saka (including Saka–Aryan lands). As documented in several sources, their ancient historical land had many mountains, valleys, and pastures that supported cattle. (Cattle was domesticated c 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.
Homa and Soma
As mentioned earlier, in the Rig Veda, the entire ninth mandala is dedicated to homa and soma.
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.
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, noted that Maujavatasoma was being traded ca. 4000 BCE who albeit of Saka origin, were Tocharian speakers (naming themselves as Yuezi (origining to the north and east of the Caspian steppe). They had initially migrated out of the Indus Valley to settle in Gandhara. These Tocharian-Saka 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. They 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. This migration 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, Kalyanaraman noted that, to make soma, it ad to be digested hundred times with the juice of plaintain 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 towards 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.
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.
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).)
Several maps below are provided to show how names of peoples and territories changed over time with an eye on the Indo-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 from the middle of the second century BCE to the fourth century CE. More aptly, a genetics map shows best how the Saka’s Haplogroup R1 migrated over time. Current archeological discoveries consider the traditional lands of the Sakae to form parts of present-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
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 and conquering key cities such as Taxila. 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 Utter Pradesh. Other Saka kings ruled thereafter,
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 paradraya; 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.
Much of King Maues’s legacy survived via coinage. Maues struck some coins incorporating Buddhist symbolism, such as the lion, symbol of Buddhism since the time of the Mauryan king Ashoka. 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.
“Aryan” Sakae. Of the known four tribes of Saka people, the Aryan is most studied. As for the “Aryan race,” it is mythology from a segment of Europeans who wanted to affiliate themselves politically with a people whose name meant “pure,” “chaste,” and the like, self-referenced by the Aryan tribes. There was no widespread ethnic connotation prior to the 19th century CE. For the Aryans, they were a conglomerate of peoples of Saka, Persians, Elamites, and the like who eventually shared a spiritual vision and from which came the Zoroastrian faith and current traditions in Hinduism. This Indo-Iranian group of people who followed the founding father of Zoroastrianism, Zarathustra Spitama (aka Zoroaster), were the members who composed the Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta, which Alexander the Great mostly destroyed during his conquest of Darius III of Persia. The Avesta referenced these members as Aryans (Airya and Airyan); in the Rigveda, they were called 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 moved westward before they returned to their previous lands in the East.
With regards to their first migration, it appears they moved from the Indus Valley around 1700 BCE when the Indus Valley civilization was at its peak. Zoroastrian scripture was developed, in part, by retaining various aspects of Sumerian religion in that certain terms were used prior to the time of Zoroaster (ca. 1500-1000 BCE); for example, an Aryan 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 use the word arya to mean “noble,” (i.e., to be worthy of assent and respect (“exalted”)).
In the beginning, the Aryans were composed of at least three religions at different locations and times. 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.
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.
Periodically, the deva Indra-worshippers and the asura Mazda-worshippers would win dominance over the other throughout history until their separation into the nations of India and Iran, respectively.
By the time of the birth of Zarathushtra (aka Zoroaster, founder of Zoroastrainism, Mazda worship was supplanted by deva worship. 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.
The schism between the Aryan–Indra (deva) worshippers and the others (asura and Mazda 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 Mazda worshippers counterattack. Eventually, the Mazda worshippers migrated westward into what is Iran (Persia)–thus the histories recorded in the Avesta and Rigveda. Knowing how human nature works, two behaviors were involved–kings and ruling groups seeking power and religious advisors seeking influence to cause animosity and control. Eventually, the Aryan–Indus (deva) worshippers migrated south across the Hindu Kush mountains into the upper Indus valley (former Saka territory).
Though Zoroastrianism (Mazda worshippers) reckoned themselves more as having a religious origin, their ethnicity was Saka, in general, and Saka–Aryan, specifically. The first map below shows how they spread throughout the Near East and Middle East. The following map shows how the Saka (e.g., Parsi traders) then became established and rich with trade, being the ones who really developed the original Silk Roads. They spread throughout the Near East and Middle East.
At some point in time, the Saka tayai paradraya 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 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.
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 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.
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. The word Aryan 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).
About a thousand years after the diaspora of people from the Indus Valley Civilization (ca. 1600 BCE), the Vedic period of 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 was dominant during the Indus Valley Civilization. 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. King Sagara was the ancestor of Rama 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.
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,” a paternal lineage) 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.
King Suddhodana was 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 military people. They were descendants from the warrior lineage of Mahasammata. 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 to be allowed to marry Yasodhara whom he married.
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.
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,
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.
under construction 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 is another name for Saka….One of these days, Merriam-Webster must revise its definition of Saka. Saka noun Sa·ka | \ ˈsäkə \ plural Saka Definition of Saka: any of various nomadic peoples […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
Have you ever experienced going into a crash or a fall when time seemed simply to stand still and then there was no mind reaction, even for just a nanosecond? The above haiku speaks to such an event. What is the mind doing? Is the mind experiencing its very own nature? Awareness looking at (experiencing) itself?
Buddhist literature speaks to this awareness with many metaphors such as a mirror or a crystal. Our awareness can be likened to a mirror that reflects with complete openness while unaffected by the reflections whereas a clear crystal sphere takes on the surrounding colors of the materials (e.g., red cloth, refraction of surrounding light) with the sphere, remaining unchanged.
Another way of understanding the nature of our mind is to note that the images on our digital display (e.g., iPhone, iPad, TV) are made up of miniscule lights that are similar to our unexamined experiences as “solidified” light energies in a dance of awareness. Except for one thing, we have not allowed our cognitive senses to notice this phenomenon. Yet, every moment in our life, we are the natural, primordial energy state of being as a sentient being. However, in a lifetime of conditioning, of instilling preferences and aversions, our mental patterns engulf our sense of being. We form attachments to our feelings and become enslaved or addicted by these experiences. Yet, they are merely reflections without any inherent permanency. Once you change a channel or enter a query into GoGoDuck, the images change instantly. Such are our experiences; they fade away into space. Yet, the heart of reality—the light of the natural mind—remains present.
Basically, we are made up of three types of energy:
The first one is like the mirror. Though the voidness of a mirror is essentially endless and formless, the mirror can fill itself with any content. This is also true of us — our energy has the capacity to adopt any form and to emanate radiantly.
The second energy is like the clear crystal ball. External forms appear as though seen with the “eye of the mind.” In other words, it sees the form internally as if it were seen with the “eye of the mind” when, in fact, the appearance is neither inside nor outside no matter how vivid the internal image of the form may be.
The third energy is explained by the properties of a crystal-prism. When the light falls on the crystal-prism, the light is refracted and decomposed by it. Though the appearance of rays and forms in colors seem separate from the crystal, it is the actual function of the crystal-prisms own nature. Thusly, when it comes to our own energy, which experiences the world dualistically — the illusion of a self-existing individual separate from the external world — our fragmented dualistic consciousness takes the projections of the senses to be independent and separate from oneself. At this level of experience, one accrues karmic traces, contained in the one’s stream of consciousness that gives rise to two kinds of forms: forms that the individual experiences as his or her body, voice and mind and forms that the individual experiences as an external environment as described earlier. Everything that manifests in the individual’s field of experience is a continuum.
As one Tibetan master summarily wrote, “our ultimate nature is said to be pure, self-existing, all-encompassing awareness. It intrinsic nature has no form or its own. Yet, it has the capability of perceiving, experiencing, reflecting, or expressing all form. As such, it is being without being affected in a permanent way.” Other evocative phrases have been used by wisdom masters to describe this state of being as an ‘effulgence’, an ‘all-pervading fullness’ or as ‘space that is aware’. When an individual is able to maintain the “rdzogs chen” (perfection) state continually, he or she no longer experiences dukkha(i.e., feelings of discontent, tension and anxiety in everyday life in samsara). Experiences can become nirvana in this lifetime. The opposite of dukkha is sukha that means happiness, pleasure, ease, joy, or bliss, which has authentic states of being that are lasting. Such life pursuits of well-being can be achieved in one’s life time if pursued.
Imagine that you are the eyes of the world but unaware. It is always now to wake up. The protagonists of both novels, DAUGHTERS OF THE DANCE and CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, attempts to bring this awareness to mind. The protagonists sought to remain open to the creation of beautiful spiritual experiences while understanding the workings of samsara that flows from birth, illness and death to rebirth (also known as the Wheel of Life based on the Law of twelve Interdependent Origination (co-arising)). There is a world of being imbued with loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity – non-dual and generous.
As for the image above, it is the Wisdom Eye of the Awareness Consciousness surrounded by a circle (the Enzo) that represents the wholeness of experience in non-duality.
In chapter five of Daughters of the Dance, Mata Hari is referenced in connection with when Madame Dara was introduced into the high society of the elite of Panama in Colon. Mata Hari was her stage name, a Malayan term that means “eye of the day (sun).”
The well-produced 2017 Russian-Portuguese television series, “Mata Hari,” portrays her as a Roman Catholic. Be that as it may, her father was a Zelle, a very Jewish surname. Unfortunately, in the novel, the surname is misspelled; erratum “Zeele”, a likely missed error in print. (Other derivatives of the root name Zell are Zeller, Zellner, Zellerbach, Zelnick, and Zellniker.)
Mata Hari was born in Leenwarden, The Netherlands, on August 7, 1876, as Margaretha Gaertruida Zelle under the sign of Leo. Her father was Adam Zelle, and her mother was Antije van der Meulen. Though Adam was a haberdasher by trade, he made investments in oil that allowed his family of three sons and first-born daughter to live lavishly. This may explain why Margaretha had expensive tastes, for at an early life, she was known to be flamboyant. However, the Zelle’s world changed drastically when ther family went bankrupt in 1889 and her mother died two years later. She was sent to live with her godfather Mr. Visser (another Jewish surname) in Sneek where she, at 15, was sent to a preparatory school specializing in teacher training. A scandal broke out when the headmaster of the school obsessed over her, causing Margaretha to live then with her uncle, Mr. Taconis, in The Hague. (The origin of the name Taconis is unknown, but he was married to a Faber, another Jewish surname. There were other Jewish surnames associated with the family tree–De Roos and Rosendaal).
At age 18, Margaretha responded to a newspaper ad of matrimony from officer Rudolph “John” MacLeod who was stationed in the Dutch East Indies (currently, Indonesia). After eleven years of marriage—seven years in Java and the latter four years in The Netherlands—the MacLeod’s went separate ways.
Margaretha moved to Paris where she reinvented herself, drawing from the Javanese dances she had learned from one of her servants. She arrived at the height of the Paris Belle Èpoch (1880-1914) when all things “oriental” were very fashionable in Paris, allowing her exotic looks to add to her mystique. She danced at various venues—private salons, later at large theaters (ballets and operas), and large parties. She also traveled extensively. She was known for her number of lovers (often military men from various countries) who were willing to provide her financial support in exchange for her company.
In the ending of the Russian-Portuguese TV series, there is another detail about her that needs adjusting: her arrest–the currently known version of Mata Hari’s real-life story is that she was actually arrested in England by Scotland Yard at the behest of the French police. She was not kidnapped by the French police in Spain. This detail was only declassified in 2017, a century after her death and after the production of the TV series was completed.
The notion that Margaretha Zelle was an exotic dancer who used her seductive powers to extract military secrets is also false. She was years past her prime as a dancer by the time she agreed to serve as a spy for France—and possibly for Germany—while maintaining her innocence up until the time of her death.
One of Mata Hari’s surviving quotes is, “Death is nothing, nor life either, for that matter. To die, to sleep, to pass into nothingness, what does it matter? Everything is an illusion.” She must have gone bravely before the French execution squad.
CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES is more than just the use of consonance alliteration. There is a critical “C” employed in the novel, and it is “Chlorpyrifos.”
What is “chlropyrifos?” Common commercial names are Brodan, Bolton insecticide, Chlorpyrifos-methyl, Cobalt, Detmol UA, Dowco 179, Dursban, Empire, Eradex, Hatchet, Lorsban, Nufos, Paqeant, Piridane, Scout, Stipend, Tricel, Warhawk, others. Identifiers. CAS Number. 2921-88-2. But what is it, really? But, but, but?
Chlropyrifos (aka chlorpyrifos-methyl) is as an insecticide, a kind of pesticide, that attacks the nervous system to eliminate insects and worms on a range of food crops. However, extensive scientific studies over years have concluded that it also attacks the nervous system of young children’s brains as those of farmworkers and animals.
In fact, the European Union recently voted in December 2019 to ban chlorpyrifos. Their scientific experts concluded that its use affects human health, in particular in relation to genotoxicity and developmental neurotoxicity. The World Health Organization banned it in 2000 for most household uses but still allows it to be applied to dozens of crops on over 40,000 farms. Due to economic trade-offs, it has been difficult to wean countries off the stuff. However, the allowable Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of both EU food products and imports are being lowered to become effective in October 2020.
Instead of following the science, the Trump Administration is rejecting all scientific evidence of poisoning to humans, particularly, children’s brains, fetuses, and farmworkers. Accordingly, the anti-science Administration refuses to ban the use of this neurotoxin. As toxic as it is, there is no apparent mitigating the harm it causes. In September 2020, the U.S. Environmental Agency has released its risk assessment calling the toxic pesticide’s effects “unresolved” and allowing its continued use in a wide variety of agricultural products. A final decision on its use is pending. Meanwhile, will American food products be banned from entering the European Union?
(CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES mentions it in pp. xv, xvi, xvii, 79, 80, 83, 141, 281.)
Not many admirers of Leonard Cohen’s artistry know that he was a Zen Buddhist monk for five years even though he kept ties with the synagogue affiliated with Ashkenazi Orthodox Judaism throughout his life. His Lithuanian mother, Masha Klonitsy, was the daughter of a Talmudic rabbi. His Polish father’s surname, Cohen, was a strong influencer that was at the core of his faith. Throughout his life, Cohen (1934-2016) received a “Messianic childhood” because his Kohen surname (in Hebrew for the “priestly” class) came from a hereditary caste descending from Moses’s brother, Aaron. Among the many song themes of Cohen, he explored loss, religion, romance, and sexuality. “Hallelujah” is an overmind mix of those listed themes, both religiously and secularly, and are explored below. Without a doubt, his songs tapped into the universal human condition.
Through the eyes of Nona, one of the primary spiritual dancers in the novel DaughtersoftheDance, the protected and spiritually evolved Nona knew (chapter 28), as did Cohen, how everything in life is impermanent, including her tantric union with Ariel. Leonard touches on that in the sixth stanza. Oh, the secret is out! In her case, the Hallelujah feeling was unbroken, for hers was an internal practice she took with her wherever she went. For Nona, her tantric practice was a ritual act that integrated her body, speech, and mind.
On the surface, we can agree that Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is about a mourning of a broken but true love and a journey of pain, suffering, and fleeting joy. “Hallelujah” is a metaphor for his journey. What we may fail to see is the mysticism that he brought into the words as phrased, including the count of the word Hallelujah.
Hallelujah appears 24 times in TheBookofPsalms, which is attributed to King David, although not all modern scholars agree. After all, he was king and had scribes to write songs for him. Hallelujah has always been a term to invite songs of praise. However, having a history of liturgical prayer among Jews and Christians alike, Cohen did not necessarily use Hallelujah (which translates into a joyous praise to boast in the Hebrew God (Jah) of the Israelites) in that manner exclusively. The Buddhist Zen monk in him explained, “This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled. But there are moments when we can reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘hallelujah’.” Cohen had learned to work with his human condition, not against it.
Cohen did not let hallelujah be just a sound validating dubious praise; he was invoking the feminine, not just sexuality, both of which are fleeting. For him, the song was a form of existential crisis, a deep emotion of something broken. Was it about the broken shards referenced in the Kabbalah? An artist and mystic often see multiple dimensions whereas non-artists only see two. Cohen was a poetic mystic as well.
Briefly on the origins of the Kabbalah tradition—the kabbalistic knowledge was traditionally transmitted orally by sages (hakhamim in Hebrew) and other influencers, and was eventually interwoven into religious writings and culture. It is held that there was an open knowledge of the Kabbalah, which literally means reception, by the people of ancient Israel (10th century BCE). Due to foreign conquests, the Jewish spiritual leadership of the time hid the knowledge and practices, fearing it would be misused in the wrong hands. It resurfaced in the 10th century C.E. Thus, the esoteric and mystical aspects of such knowledge lends itself today to many flavors of interpretations as it has become popular in these times.
More to the point, the Kabbalah tradition views the infinite God—OhrEinSof—as having contracted from His/Her creation to design an empty space for humans to have free will, thus creating a dynamic crisis-catharsis in the divine flow of light, a divine light of influence that fills all existence. One view is that God created the material world as vessels (HaKelim) in the empty space that was full of His/Her light. But these material vessels of light were not strong enough to hold His/Her powerful light. Thus, the vessels of light shattered into many shards also made of light. With divinity still in the light, it was up to the humans to repair the broken shards, energizing the light once more to become whole and at one with God. That is why Cohen makes reference to the “light” twice and to “broken” thrice. For a lovely reading on this topic of kabbalistic light , visit https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/architecture-plus-kabbalah/https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/architecture-plus-kabbalah/
There are many attempts at interpreting Cohen’s lyrics. Remember that Cohen was deeply versed in Judaic scripture and teachings. A key point, I believe, is that Cohen was grappling with a quote from the BookofIsaiah 45:7: “God says, ‘I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things.'” So, why did God create duality?
Now for another interpretation of Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” written in 1984, as follows:
Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord That David played, and it pleased the Lord But you don’t really care for music, do you? It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth The minor fall, the major lift The baffled king composing Hallelujah … Hallelujah (4x)
Cohen implies that the person he addresses does not care for the technicalities of music making, especially about the esoteric secret chord; but he does explain the complexities of creating music as he is hinting the song is multidimensional.
In the Book ofSamuel, prophet Samuel is also the last judge of Israel, who records that David is a skillful lyre (harp) player and the sweet psalmist of Israel. As baffled king, David had his highs and lows with his God. Some of his psalms reveal his depression, too, when he feels he has lost a connection to his God. In Psalms 43:3 , David beseeches God to “send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”
I would be remiss if I did explain the ancient symbolism of the Star of David. As a hexagram, the base equilateral triangle represents the masculine, and the inverted equilateral triangle represents the feminine. When combined, or equally matched, the Star of David represents union, similar in meaning to the Yin-Yang symbol.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof | You saw her bathing on the roof | Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you | She tied you to a kitchen chair | She broke your throne, and she cut your hair | And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah | Hallelujah(4x)
In this stanza, Cohen conflates two heroes, first King David and then the strongman Judge Samson. Both of them, as was Cohen, loved the company of women.
We know the story of King David and Bathsheba. David’s involvement with Bathsheba broke his rule/throne. He had garnered disfavor before his God’s eyes for coveting another man’s wife; thus, he had to hand over his reign as punishment to his son Solomon with Bathsheba when Solomon became of age.
Though Delilah, possibly a Philistine prostitute, may not have tied Samson to a kitchen chair; but she did attempt to bind him three times and failed. She was after a lucrative monetary bribe by Philistine chiefs. On her fourth attempt, she managed to get his secret of his source of strength. His seven tresses were cut off his head while he slept. In so doing, she finally succeeded and turned him over to the Philistine chiefs who captured him and gouged out his eyes. His tresses represented the power of Israel among enemy nation. The Samson story is about him having a relationship with a non-Jewish woman and having a decline in his spiritual state by violating his Nazarite oath, mainly, refraining from cutting the hair on one’s head and allowing the locks of the head’s hair to grow (similar to uncut hair by men who practice Sikhism).
In any event, stanza involves two women who brought about distress or downfall in the rapture of embrace with these women. To draw from King David/Samson’s lips the hallelujah is a very strong metaphor, an ennui toward depression and not wanting to condemn womanhood.
You say I took the name in vain | I don’t even know the name | but if I did, well really, what’s it to you? | There’s a blaze of light in every word | It doesn’t matter which you heard | The holy or the broken Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)
Whether or not Cohen felt he took God’s name in vain, he is making reference to a name which is so holy that it cannot be pronounced—YHWH and El, Eloah, Elohim, Elohai, El Saddai, Tzevaot, Jah, Yah, Ein, Ohr Ein Sof, Eternal One, Elyon, Yaweh, Jehovah, including the Shekhinah, to name a few. He wrote, “I don’t even know the name,” because there were many in his tradition. But I think it is the Ohr Ein Sof that intrigued him.
I did my best, it wasn’t much | I couldn’t feel so I tried to touch | I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you | And even though it all went wrong | I’ll stand before the Lord of Song | With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)
Cohen had many relationships with women. The known ones he loved and who loved him back were Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Marianne Ihlen, Nico, Suzanne Verdal, and Suzanne Elrod. Sharon Robinson, however, was his platonic muse during the period this song was written. With all these goddesses in his life, how could he not sing Hallelujah? Nonetheless, there was an overriding numbness—had to touch—because he could not feel his mind-body connection.
Baby I’ve been here before | I use to live alone before I knew you | And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch | Love is not a victory march | It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)
I may have solved the mystery of the line, “And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch“. He was referring to the Fascist flag. The woman he called the “perfect Aryan ice queen” is one of his known lovers: Nico, a German singer whom he seemed to have been batty over, following her all over New York. Her real name was Christa Päffgen. One day she told Cohen, “I like young boys. You’re too old for me.”
The incurable Cohen said in 1990, “I loved her.”
There was a time you let me know | What’s really going on below | but now you never show it to me, do you? | And remember when I moved in you | The holy dove was moving too | And every breath we drew was Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)
It is in this stanza where Cohen gets very honest in describing his sex with a special woman, literally or figuratively. There was a break in their sexual contact. He was feeling no heat of desire that caused him to ask, “What’s really going on below.”
He was remembering their ecstatic moments—tantric in nature—when he conjoins the sexual act to the holy dove. Likely this holy dove is not the Holy Spirit of the Greek scriptures but the Shekinah herself of the ancient Hebrew scriptures—the glory of a divine presence.
Sexual orgasm, as short-lived and evanescent, is a reason for enjoying the act, because that is when the glory of divine presence is felt. Not being able to take it beyond is to admit the “Hallelujah” would remain broken. There would be no permanent union of the energized consciousness and the conscious energy of existence—the Shakti. In the Kabbalah, the Shakti is Binah and resides opposite to Keter, the masculine in the Tree of Life.
Unpretentiously, Cohen spoke of the height of tantric achievement, but unfortunately, with clinging. It would remain a broken shard of light.
Maybe there is a God above | But all I’ve ever learned from love | Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you | And it’s not a cry that you hear at night | It’s not somebody who’s seen the light | It’s a cold and a broken Hallelujah | Hallelujah (18x)
Like many agnostics, there is doubt either way about the existence of a benevolent God. For him, as was King David’s plea to see the wisdom light again, Cohen is saying that existence is muddled and that dissatisfaction and suffering are due to lack of trust in others and an inability to know knowing.
So why 18 Hallelujahs at the end of the last stanza? In numerology, 1 and 8 are blended to the higher frequency of nine. Nine is considered a cardinal number and a complete, perfect, and divine number. It is to harmonize the development and creation of the will of God. To reduce it to its essence, it symbolizes wisdom and spiritual energy—what Leonard Cohen was searching for throughout his life—through song, relationships, sexual ideation, and his flavor of Judaism.
As for repeating Hallelujah four times after each previous stanzas, it could be another way that Cohen honors the mystery of womanhood and gives tribute to the four ancient Jewish matriarchs—Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, and Leah).
Five years in a Zen monastery as a monk, he was given the name Jikan (it means normal or ordinary silence) that was to become his spiritual achievement to combat his depression of existential angst. When he left the Zen monetary, he wrote some of his amazing work, including being inducted to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) in 2006.
IN MEMORY OF A MAN WHO FELT TOO MUCH
“Never lament casually but within the constraints of dignity.”