Tag Archives: Spirituality

Day of Enlightenment

There are thousands of lights decorating homes, yards, and businesses at this time of year. There is one light that doesn’t get unplugged or taken down after the holidays and that is the light that shines from inside each of us.

December 8 is Bodhi Day, celebrated in Japan as the day when Siddhartha Gautauma, the historical Buddha, experienced enlightenment. “Buddha” means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.”

In the strictest sense, I suppose, we are all striving toward enlightenment as our ultimate goal. I like to think of enlightenment more as the path itself, the journey or quest, simply living with light shining from within, rather than an end point we might never reach.

In Nicaragua, there is a combination of festivals that start on the night of December 7 called “la gritería.” People run through the streets shouting in Spanish, “Who causes so much happiness?”

This boisterous evening leads up to the following day, December 8, to “La Purísima” or the “purest conception of Virgin Mary.”

But I like to think the notion of “la gritería” is pushing us to recognize our inner light as the source of our happiness. May we all celebrate our own enlightenment!

A hui hou!

The Black Madonna

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

I have been collecting representations of the Black Madonna for many years. I’m not quite sure what my attraction is, but I suspect it’s because she’s not the untouched virginal White Madonna we often think of at this time of year. The Black Madonna has been through the fires of experience and has survived, each time stronger than ever. I have photographs of paintings, sculptures, icons, and more.

The Black Madonna is a national symbol in Poland, with Polish Catholics making the pilgrimage as often as possible to see her. The story of how she came to be known as the Black Madonna can be found here. A list of countries where the various Black Madonnas can be found is here.

There is a beautiful essay online by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox written in 2006. I highly recommend that article to you. He talks about the “Return of the Black Madonna” as being a sign of our times. The conclusion to the article is here.

Of all the female religious icons, the Black Madonna is my favorite, and of those I favor the Virgen de Guadalupe (Spanish for the Virgin of Guadalupe). Most of my collection is of her. I even have a mouse pad with her picture on it, although someone once asked if I didn’t think it was sacrilegious to be running a mouse over her.

I love to light rose-scented candles labeled “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” that are very popular with the Mexican population. When I lived in Tucson, I kept one burning on the altar in my entryway at all times. What a warm welcome the smell of roses gave each time I walked in my door.

The photo above is a painting that hangs by my front door of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I also have a huge platter with her image painted on it, that even Kaimana seems to love!

 

There are several books available if you are interested in reading more about the Black Madonna. Three exceptionally good books of all the ones I own are:

1) Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna, by China Galland
2) Our Lady of Guadalupe: Faith and Empowerment among Mexican-American Women by Jeanette Rodriquez
3) Dancing in the Flames by Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson.

If you are interested in having one of these, click on the Amazon.com ad on the right. Not only will you be getting a good book to enrich your life, but you will be helping to support this web site.

A hui hou!

Prayer As An Act of Human Kindness

 

On December 1, the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) members began a month of daily posting on the theme of MITZVAH. My first post for that was on the meaning of “Mitzvah.” In that post, I talked about watching boys going through their Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall (or West Wall) of the old Temple in Jerusalem.

Above is a photo a colleague took of me standing at the Wall, offering up my prayers. You can tell I’m the tourist by the backpack!

It is said that prayers written on a tiny piece of paper, folded, then stuck into a crack in the wall, are received and answered by the Almighty. If you want to know the origin of this, read this.

Every faith has some form of prayer. Even those without a faith are praying, when they say silently (or aloud), “I hope I pass this test.” I believe that any desire or need is received and acted upon. Words that are commonly used for the receiver are God, Holy Spirit, Higher Power, Allah, Great Spirit, Universe, Almighty, Energy Flow, and so many more. Regardless of the word we use, the meaning is the same.

To me, prayer is not so much what we are asking for, but listening to what we are to do. It is when I stop the “asking” that I begin “hearing.” Someone once reminded me that the answers are either “yes” or “wait, because I have something better in mind for you.”

When I’m working on the lava field that is my home, I am listening. When I stood at the Wailing Wall, I was listening. When I stand before my classes, I hear. Every sound in nature is telling me something. Every word uttered by another person is the answer to a prayer, whether I recognize it as that or not.

If more of us listened before we spoke, it might be a better and more peaceful world.

A hui hou!

Kwan Yin

 

I made my first visit to the Far East in 1966. If there is such a thing as a past life, I discovered it there. There are several events that have stuck with me for the past 40 years plus to validate those happenings.

One of those uncanny situations revolved around statues in various forms throughout my travels. It wasn’t until years later when I moved to Hawaii, that I discovered the significance of Kwan Yin (Guan Yin, Quan Yin) in all her various poses.

I began this month of posting everyday with a short post on Mitzvah, stating that I am not of the Jewish faith, so I want to say I am not of the Buddhist faith, either. There are elements of both that I find valuable and incorporate into my own faith, however.

 

So it is in keeping with the blogging theme of this month that I return to Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, a bodhisattva who continues to teach me more about being a spiritual female.

I am a retired United Methodist minister who uses meditation in several forms. So I feel free to let Kwan Yin guide me in my inner evaluations.

When I need to hear it, she reminds me to be compassionate with myself as well as others.

She reassures me that unconditional love, what we preachers call “Grace”, is for all people, including myself.

She is a constant reminder that the blessings of human kindness, or Mitzvah, connect us all.

 

Most of all, she reveals the feminine face of God, and allows me to experience my faith in ways that are more meaningful in my life, ways that are real.

As I travel throughout the world, it is hard to forget that we are all One, all needing that touch of human kindness and compassion that Kwan Yin offers. What a wonderful way to look toward the new year of 2010!

 

A hui hou!

The Purple Chrysanthemum

Today’s post is a bit of my short fiction.
From time to time, I will post something on that order.
Photo taken at Kalopa State Park, Hawai`i Island.

 

The Purple Chrysanthemum

 

Chores never cease, never subside. Menacing dark corners tower above and below her, dusty and dank. Driven here, thrust there, the woman frantically toils in vain. In every quarter of the luxurious home she unearths wads of shabby rags, inside bureau and closets, beneath tables and beds, over shelves and bookcases.

There is no seclusion here. It is no longer her home. Aliens invade, then abandon her in chaos. Serenity is shattered in the assault.

In a frenzy, she searches for one spot, one haven of beauty where she may hide from the muck and gloom, sludge and shadow. She is imprisoned and enslaved by the moment, shaken and disenchanted by infinity.

Others chart her headway as she labors, then regresses. Despondently she presses onward, now advancing, now reversing in an endless non-dance. Joy pales as the obstacles flourish in neglect. Song is stilled, light fractured, until she spots an overlooked box, unobtrusively tucked away behind the bureau.

In dismay, she lifts the lid, supposing it to be filth-filled, or barren at best. A small packet sheathed in foil rests inside, dormant yet dazzling in its obscurity. From the crumpled edge of the opening there protrudes a long green stem, crowned with a large purple chrysanthemum, blossom of her soul. An abundance of petals, long and delicate, unite around a pollen-filled golden center.

Tears fall as she recalls the moment she clipped the bloom from its parent. Tenderly she had placed it into nourishing water where it could take root and grow. Now long forgotten, the chrysanthemum has flourished, alone and in the inky obscurity of the ragged box. Surely it was withered and dead by now, for many moons have passed. Other celebrations have come and gone, but the blossom remains.

She pauses, then meticulously peels back the foil covering. That which was dormant for so long has burgeoned with fragile and lacy roots. What once was a flower, cut off from its source, has sprouted in the dark, unattended and ignored.

Weeping, she holds the hardy segment of beauty in the palm of her hand. The tiny bit of life, buried in the pit of her soul, is resurrected and retrieved. The purple chrysanthemum will never perish. She will survive.

Happy Mother’s Day!

MY GANG
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MY GANG

 

There are many “Mother myths” from various cultures and faiths. Some reveal the mother as nurturing, maternal, care giving, full of a feminine mystery and power. Other mother myths portray a darker side of motherhood, but I won’t talk about those today.

In Jungian psychology, there is the archetype of “Mother,” or the Divine Mother. I will briefly tell you about only a few of these.

To start out, there was Mary, Mother of Jesus, who has been called the Christian Goddess of Compassion. She is a universal symbol for motherhood. As a pastor as well as a mother, I could relate to the Christmas story that surrounds the birth of Jesus. I often wonder how she made the trip on a donkey at the time of delivery!

The Virgen de Guadalupe (Spanish for the Virgin of Guadalupe) is considered to be one of the “Black Madonnas.” That’s a story for a later post, but this picture hangs beside my front door.

VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE
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VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE

 

Another beloved mother figure is Kwan Yin, or Quan Shi Yin, or Kuan Yin. She is the compassionate bodhisattva of East Asian Buddhists. The actual word used (karuna) means something greater than compassion, which is described as “a love for all beings, equal in intensity to a mother’s affection for her child.”

On the grounds of the Waikoloa Hilton Hotel here on the Big Island stands this statue, the ocean creating a wonderful watery backdrop for this Divine Mother. Please check out my brother’s post on Guan Yin today.

GUAN YIN
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GUAN YIN

 

When I lived in Arizona, I learned of Ha Hai-I Wuhti, the Hopi Divine Mother, who was thought of as the mother of all kachinas. I don’t have a picture of her, but here is a shot taken in Tucson on the church grounds.

ST. FRANCIS IN THE FOOTHILLS
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ST. FRANCIS IN THE FOOTHILLS

 

That earthy picture brings me to Gaia, Greek Goddess we might be more familiar with as Mother Earth, the symbol of a mother who nourishes plants and young children. What better way to show her nurturing than by showing some of the local flowers?

All along Ali`i Drive on the Kona side of the island, and many other places as well, you will see the night blooming cereus. I remember friends in Tucson who sat up all night to see their one plant bloom. Here they are in abundance everywhere and certainly spectacular. These had bloomed during the night, but I was able to get a shot before they were completely gone the next morning.

CEREUS
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CEREUS

 

Here is one of the many flamboyant flame trees you will see all around Hawai`i, often called “Royal Poinciana.”

FLAME TREE
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FLAME TREE

 

Hibiscus are also everywhere in dramatic colors.

YELLOW HIBISCUS WITH PURPLE CENTER
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YELLOW HIBISCUS WITH PURPLE CENTER

 

Four years ago, my children got together to celebrate my girls’ birthdays, and also to say farewell to my son who was leaving for his first tour in Iraq. They sent me the picture at the beginning of this post. At first I wondered who all those people were! I thought the shot included friends of my children.

Then I realized they were all mine in one form or another. There were my four children, their spouses, and eight of my nine grandchildren (one couldn’t get away to be there). Since then, two great-grandchildren and one spouse of a grandson have been added to this “rogue’s gallery.”

Of course, I can’t forget my “other” child – Mr. Kaimana Kat! Here he is hanging over a large platter that is a painting of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

KAIMANA AND THE VIRGIN MOTHER
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KAIMANA AND THE VIRGIN MOTHER

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and their children – and especially to my gang!