Ritual Tools and Altars (and mixing traditions)

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Ritual Tools and Altars (and mixing traditions)

Postby redd fezz » Sat Jul 08, 2006 4:14 pm

I was just about to buy a Tibetan Phurpa (3-edged dagger) based on how amazingly cool the concept behind it is. It seems perfect for the LBRP except that it is from a different tradition.

I Googled around and it seems at least a few other Western Ceremonial types are using Phurpas for their ritual work:

The Phurba is my Athame, three bladed! With a hand wrapped around the handle in a "Horned" representation too! The Goddess and the Horned God in one fail swoop. The Phurba is used to cast and to in pre-Buddhist pro-BonPo times to curse, as it wasn't (I believe) used in the physical sense its use as an Athame is perfect.


A few years ago I was at a booth in London (see other thread) and bought a beautiful silver phurpa because I like the feel of it. I didn't know the significance of it at the time except that it was a "ghost daggar." I was traveling, and had none of my ritual tools with me.

I had reason to do a specific working, and it was bracketed by the LBRP. Though I usually did that on the astral plane, I decided to do it with the Phurba...didn't even occur to me that it was inappropriate. The result was something beyond words for me. I had never felt energy flow through me like that before.

I continued using it for various things....and incorporated it into some shamanic healing work I do...which was very effective. Sometime later I had an opportunity to meet a monk from the Tibetan shamanic tradition. I was seeking a mantra to really open up the use of the phurpa for it's intended purpose. I asked him about my experience in ceremonial magick, and after a slight trance, he replied that there was absolutely no problem using it in rituals involving invocation and banishing.

What do I know? Not much really. I know what I was told. And I know what I experienced.

I say do what feels right to you, unless you want to be a purist, in which case, you have to be a purist, despite what feels right to you.

Enjoy your phurpa. It is a special thing.


I don't know why, but there's something about Buddhism I've always kind of liked, even now that I'm a little disenchanted with it. I should explain that I started to become disenchanted with it once I discovered they had a concept of "hells" and that they had magic and superstitions just like every other religion. At the same time, this realization unified the east and west for me, but I figured I might just as well stick more with the "western" since I rather prefer the idea of a magical path than the escapist mystical mentality that seems hell-bent on never reincarnating in this world of sorrow and many concepts seem to confuse self-denial and poverty with holiness.

I already have a bell and a dorje that I just got on a whim quite a while ago. Can't say I got much use out of them up til now, but if I get a phurpa and a butter lamp for the chalice, I've got practically a complete set of Tibetan themed Western Ceremonial Magick tools.

Is that just the stupidest thing you ever heard?
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Postby redd fezz » Mon Jul 10, 2006 4:03 am

Here's an interesting little item: Buddhism and Thelema

I'm in the process of building my altar, so that got me thinking about this stuff. Supposedly, the altar should have some image on it that represents the divine where you can make an offering of flowers or fruit. So, I got thinking: (1) Reminds me of what Jerry Cornelius said in "Aleister Crowley & The Ouija Board" about feeding Elementals flowers or fruit, (2) What Nancy B. Watson said in "Practicing Solitary Magic" about the inevitability of the magician to develop a relationship with 4 invisible friends known as Elementals, (3) As I've always liked the Biblical idea of "no engraven images" (ie. the point is to realize God's essential nothing-everythingness of which everything else is made) and I don't like the idea of having to feed some spiritual critter flowers and fruit or fear his wrath, just what the heck kind of an altar do I want to have?

I suppose it is most common to have a Stele of Revealing in your house and little offerings of cakes of light.
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Re: Ritual Tools and Altars (and mixing traditions)

Postby Nick Rusch » Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:44 pm

Redd Fezz wrote:... I started to become disenchanted with it [Buddhism] once I discovered they had a concept of "hells" and that they had magic and superstitions just like every other religion... but I figured I might just as well stick more with the "western" since I rather prefer the idea of a magical path than the escapist mystical mentality that seems hell-bent on never reincarnating in this world of sorrow and many concepts seem to confuse self-denial and poverty with holiness.


Hi Redd Fezz,

The study of magic and superstitions within Buddhism is an interesting one. India, Tibet, China and Japan have all merged local folk beliefs, shamanic magic and great magical systems such as tantra into particular flavors of Buddhism for each of their respective cultures. This was done to help the cultures better understand Buddhist philosophy when being exposed for the first time. And over the centuries these systems have developed very powerful magical constructs. Hence the reason why one probably gets such a strong reaction from using Buddhist implements within their rituals. As a side note to the incorporation of "magick" into Buddhism, in my experience the Buddhist esoteric teachers I've met will tell you any "magical operations" (using a Western term for familiarity) done not for the purpose of gaining enlightenment (i.e. Great Work) is considered what we would call black magick.

Yes Buddhism has concepts of hells and heavens, but they are not the same as the Western mental constructs. Buddhism states the hells and the heavens are created by the individual mind that is occluded by all its greed, ignorance and hatred causing it not to see the true way of things. The heavens and hells are all fabrications of the unenlightened mind, and are used in the Buddhist scriptures (primarily the Mahayana Sutras) as tools to help others towards enlightement with easily grasped mental constructs that seem to prevail in every culture.

The concept of Buddhist rebirth (not reincarnation, which is something totally different) is caused by an unenlightened conscious stream constantly grasping at things it likes and rejecting things it doesn't to build up its concept of self (i.e. ego). Breaking the cycle of rebirth is liberation - realizing what a trap the oscillating need to want things or hate things truly is. Because of this a true Buddha or Bodhisattva apear to live an ascetic life of abject poverty. Where in reality there motive for doing what they do is totally different; they no longer have a need for any stuff including their body. So why do they bother to stay alive? Because the Bodhisattva vows to aid others in realizing the same liberation they have experienced.

My personal opinion is the Buddhist concepts of Sunyata and how things manifest out of that is very similar to the concepts of Ayin and from that the Tree of Life. I would recommend for those that enjoy studing the philosophy that attempts to capture the experience of enlightenment to read some of the Madhyamika philosophy written by Nagarjuna. Those that also study Kabbalah will find striking similarities in the attempts of sages both East & West to verbalize experiences of these rarified states of consciousness (or lack there of :D).
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Postby redd fezz » Mon Jul 10, 2006 9:18 pm

Thanks, Nick, that was a great post!

I think it was the summer of 1999 that I got pretty serious about Buddhism and by that December, I was really going through efforts to change myself...

I am currently in BOTA which is very goal-oriented whle remaining focused on the Great Work. I would never have joined BOTA if my goal was not the Great Work because I've never really been interested in magick for any other reason. Some ideas I've picked up since joining BOTA have changed my attitude somewhat. I agree with the idea that one should enjoy inexaustable riches in this life, not obsessed by possessions, but merely enjoying the natural abundance life has to offer, working for these things to enjoy without trampling on others. These ideas don't seem that compatible with Buddhism to me if, as you say, anything not directed to the Great Work is seen as Black Magick. I've been seeing things in the way Duquette describes: "I need a car to get to work and I need to make a decent living so that I can live comfortably enough to dedicate my attentions to the Great Work." Makes sense. What you've now said reminds me of the ideas I got from Buddhism and which have, perhaps unfortuately, stuck with me: I don't really care about material things. Perhaps if I did, I would have more. What I learned since is that material things aren't necessarily going to be fulfilling, but that doesn't mean you should do without if you don't have to.

Now, you've got me curious if the Phurpa dagger and Buddhist ideas I want to work with are incompatible with goal-oriented practices.

Are you familiar with Tara? She has many forms and is a very popular deity of Vajrayana Buddhist practice. As Kurukulla or Red Tara, in her wrathful form, she sort of "magnetizes" people and events in the worshippers' favor, a sort of goddess of love and wealth. As White or Green Tara, in her benevolent forms, she provides health and happiness. Surely, in some way, these qualities could be seen as Black Magick. Then again, I recently read somewhere that deep in the heart of Tibet, these magical monks are not really opposed to black magick so long as it suits their purposes and that this is just something the Dali Lama is smart enough not to ever discuss openly. I have no idea of the validity of that statement, but it does seem to correspond with my understanding of the Tao Teh Ching or the Geeta, for instance.
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Postby Nick Rusch » Tue Jul 11, 2006 8:21 pm

93! Redd Fezz,

Redd Fezz wrote:I am currently in BOTA which is very goal-oriented whle remaining focused on the Great Work. I would never have joined BOTA if my goal was not the Great Work because I've never really been interested in magick for any other reason. Some ideas I've picked up since joining BOTA have changed my attitude somewhat. I agree with the idea that one should enjoy inexaustable riches in this life, not obsessed by possessions, but merely enjoying the natural abundance life has to offer, working for these things to enjoy without trampling on others. These ideas don't seem that compatible with Buddhism to me if, as you say, anything not directed to the Great Work is seen as Black Magick. I've been seeing things in the way Duquette describes: "I need a car to get to work and I need to make a decent living so that I can live comfortably enough to dedicate my attentions to the Great Work." Makes sense. What you've now said reminds me of the ideas I got from Buddhism and which have, perhaps unfortuately, stuck with me: I don't really care about material things. Perhaps if I did, I would have more. What I learned since is that material things aren't necessarily going to be fulfilling, but that doesn't mean you should do without if you don't have to.

Sounds like you've encountered the same incongruities that I did when trying to balance Buddhist practices against Western society. Because Buddhism is primarily centered around a monastic tradition it's basis for spiritual development does go counter to our living conditions in the West. There are very few examples of historical Buddhist practitioners that also engaged equally in the day-to-day mundane world.

It's my opinion that although Buddhist communities are trying to change in order to accommodate a Western culture, they are still monastic based. And there is a definite stratification of the order due to this separation between monastics and lay practioners. This categorization of practioners between monastics and lay causes problems with the integration of the philosophy and belief into our culture. This separation, which creates an elitist type environment, in addition to some other issues I had with access to esoteric material in English, and the difficulty of deeply understanding a tradition that is based upon a culture that is so different from my own is why I started my investigation into the Western mystery traditions. I find the Western approach more compatible with my life style - although not 100%. From some initial personal experience there is still a lot of work and life rearranging that takes place, but I'm willing to make these changes. I wasn't ready to give it all up and live in a temple or monestary in order to be considered worthy to be taught. I get to stay engaged with life while I work on my spiritual development. They (daily life and spiritual life) seem to be symbiotic in the Western tradition. Where as in the Eastern sense one must give up the daily life and fully immerse oneself in the spiritual.

Redd Fezz wrote:Now, you've got me curious if the Phurpa dagger and Buddhist ideas I want to work with are incompatible with goal-oriented practices.

I really have no experience with the subject of mixing ritual implements from various traditions. BTW I believe your description of using magick to assist in daily activities to ensure you have the resources to work your spiritual development is in line with what most would call the Great Work. It's all based upon the individual's intent. If the intent is truly for the advancement of your spiritual life, then all is good. But the very same practices can be used for personal (ego) agrandizment.

From what I understand there can be a very fine line here as the ego tries to trick / convince that part of you that has good intentions to use magical practices for personal gain. This is similar to the abuse of Buddhist tantric practices as one says they are doing the practices to gain enlightenment, but in reality they have a problem with spiritual materialism - performing works in the name of spiritual development, but is really just a guise for the ego. You'll see this in people that use their spiritual leadership positions for personal advancement. Usually their organizations crumble at some point when their ego is no longer able to support what has been created.

Redd Fezz wrote:Are you familiar with Tara? She has many forms and is a very popular deity of Vajrayana Buddhist practice. As Kurukulla or Red Tara, in her wrathful form, she sort of "magnetizes" people and events in the worshippers' favor, a sort of goddess of love and wealth. As White or Green Tara, in her benevolent forms, she provides health and happiness. Surely, in some way, these qualities could be seen as Black Magick. Then again, I recently read somewhere that deep in the heart of Tibet, these magical monks are not really opposed to black magick so long as it suits their purposes and that this is just something the Dali Lama is smart enough not to ever discuss openly. I have no idea of the validity of that statement, but it does seem to correspond with my understanding of the Tao Teh Ching or the Geeta, for instance.

I am generally familiar with Tara within the Tibetian Vajrayana tradition. However, I don't have a lot of extensive knowledge and zero practice experience with the deity. I was initiated into a Japanese Vajrayana tradition which used Fudo Myoo (Acala) as the central deity.

Regarding Tibetan monks using tantric practices for the wrong purpose, once again I believe it's the intent of the practitioner that determines whether practices are black or not. It wouldn't surprise me that there are monks who have the wrong intent and use the practices for the wrong purpose. I have personal knowledge of Japanese monks and priests who have done so. You'll find people like this in every tradition.
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Postby Edward Mason » Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:56 am

Regarding Tara:

I've never worked much with this system, but it was once suggested to me that the White Tara corresponds to Gimel/the Priestess; the Green Tara to Daleth/the Empress; and the Red Tara to Teth/Lust.

Edward
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Postby redd fezz » Wed Jul 12, 2006 10:22 am

HEY! You just got me curious about something!

There are supposed to be 21 Taras, which is exactly the amount of Tarot Major Arcana minus Key 0, which would kind of make sense because the Buddhist deities are supposed to be manifestations of the One, but not The One. That's an interesting coincidence.

EDIT: Found this article on the Star Atu/Key which says, "Tara, one of the most ancient of all eastern Goddesses, is still revered today in both India and Tibet. The name Tara means Star. The Tibetans to this day practice meditations honoring the 21 Taras. Since the true origin of the tarot is not really known some believe that the Tarot and its 22 major arcana had some of its roots in the meditational practice of the twenty one Taras. This practice is visualized with Jetsun Dolma, (Green Tara ) at the center and her retinue of the 21 aspects of Tara surrounding her.

This same ancient Goddess is also known in Latin as Terra Mater and in Ireland as the beloved Tara, the Earth Goddess.

Traditionally, the Star card speaks to us of hope, alignment with our higher self. It represents generosity and creativity. It stands for peace and harmony. In a reading this card sheds its light as a beacon upon the questioner."
http://heartofferings.tripod.com/Byraylene/id14.html

Thanks for that helpful pointer, Edward!
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