2008.10.26 13:00 - Hungry Ghosts and green tea

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    The guardian for this meeting was Maxine Walden and the comments are hers.


    Very soon after I got to the Pavilion, Quilty dropped by.  The discussion today involved only the two of us.


     Quilty Bookmite: Hi Maxine.

     Maxine Walden: Quilty, haven't seen you in awhile

     Quilty Bookmite: I've been away. :-)

     Maxine Walden: Good to see you, oh, hope it was a good away, tho' I recall you had events coming up

     Quilty Bookmite: Yes. I had a funeral followed by a holiday so good and bad.

     Maxine Walden: yes, so how have you been?

     Quilty Bookmite: Pretty good actually.

     Maxine Walden: glad to hear it.

     Quilty Bookmite: I lost my gran a few weeks ago but we where all expecting that.

     Maxine Walden: yes, I recall, and I am very sorry; even when expected such a loss is difficult I think

     Quilty Bookmite: Today we did a Segaki ceremony to help the dead, so that helped me a lot as well. :-)


    Not knowing what a Segaki ceremony was I asked Quilty for clarification.


    Maxine Walden: I do not know what a Segaki ceremony is, could you tell me?

    Quilty Bookmite: It's a Japanese ceremony to help those who have recently died as well as hungry ghosts.

    Quilty Bookmite: It is a Zen Buddhist ceremony which is why we were doing it.

    Maxine Walden: ah, I see.

    Quilty Bookmite: Involves lots of food. :-)

    Maxine Walden: Perhaps the ceremony helps those left behind as well as the newly departed...yes, lots of food

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes, I'm sure it does. :-)


    Feeling both curious and a little confused I asked a further question, and Quilty and I began a conversation about hungry ghosts, and I found myself curious and a bit wistful on several levels.


    Maxine Walden: May I ask, how is the ceremony supposed to help the departed?

    Quilty Bookmite: A good question. I know how it helps the hungry ghosts. :-)

    Maxine Walden: hungry ghosts...

    Quilty Bookmite: I think the departed often have difficulty moving on or are in distress. It helps to soothe them and let them know it is OK.

    Maxine Walden: ah, yes moving into the unknown, leaving all the loved ones...

    Quilty Bookmite: Hungry ghosts are creatures who can't eat. They have large mouths and very narrow throats.

    Quilty Bookmite: They represent greed.


    Again my curiosity which Quilty helps me sort out.


    Maxine Walden: oh, please tell me more about...ah yes, greed. How does that come into the thinking of the departed, how does greed play a role?

    Quilty Bookmite: Well, when you die such feelings can come into play

    Quilty Bookmite: So sometimes the dead become hungry ghosts.

    Quilty Bookmite: Or so it is said. :-)

    Maxine Walden: ah, I see. Sorry to ask such questions, I know nothing about that ceremony

    Quilty Bookmite: Fair enough. I think it is something that started in Japan.

    Quilty Bookmite: Probably predates Buddhism and was incorporated as many things are.

    Maxine Walden: I could imagine feeling greedy for the world I left, the living world as it were

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes. Greed takes many forms.

    Maxine Walden: when I die. Maybe an ancient tradition, fantasy

    Quilty Bookmite: The point of the hungry ghost is to show it can never be satisfied.

    Quilty Bookmite: It is also one of the six realms in Buddhism.


    Seems I was still trying to sort out the realm of the hungry ghosts and just what states of mind they might represent


    Maxine Walden: ah, I see, yes a picture of some despair, lonely, hungry destined to never be satisfied...

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes. One of the 3 lower realms - hell , animals and the realm of the hungry ghosts.

    Maxine Walden: hmmm..interesting

    Quilty Bookmite: Such things are maybe not to be taken literally. :-)

    Maxine Walden: Right, thinking metaphorically

    Quilty Bookmite: Or not. Some people do believe in them in a literal sense.

    Maxine Walden: I see, hope I did not offend in my statement

    Quilty Bookmite: Which statement.

    Quilty Bookmite: ?


    Here probably because I was still trying to sort out the hungry ghosts I felt a bit off kilter, wondering if my curiosity probably was offensive to someone steeped in the tradition of the ceremony


    Quilty Bookmite: You havent said anything to offend. :-)

    Maxine Walden: 'metaphorically' taking the lower realm as a metaphor...great, just checking

    Quilty Bookmite: Well, as I said, many do take them metaphorically, :-)

    Maxine Walden: Sometimes when I think of something as a metaphor and to the other person it is a literal reality they can be offended, as if I am not taking their belief seriously. did not think you would be offended but just thought I would check

    Quilty Bookmite: Well, for me it is probably both. :-)

    Maxine Walden: both literal and metaphoric


    Quilty then says something which made a lot of sense to me and I felt a bit more oriented.


    Quilty Bookmite: I think the 6 realms are quite real in the sense that we all live them, but I don;t know if they are real in any other sense.

    Quilty Bookmite: And I don;t know anything about your own belief system if any. :-)

    Maxine Walden: I see.

    Quilty Bookmite: Also, I don;t really know what happens to people when they die.


    Wanting to share as Quilty had shared I then mention something about myself.


    Maxine Walden: what is my belief system? Well, I know very little about the Eastern religions and belief systems

    Maxine Walden: and while raised in the Christian tradition, non-Catholic, I currently would not really consider myself Christian in terms of believing in the Bible and its stories. Not sure about life after death, but guess I do believe we all are a part of a wider reality so that after death I imagine we become folded back into the wider reality.

    Quilty Bookmite: Sounds quite eastern. :-)

    Maxine Walden: The quest for Being, or realization of Being makes sense to me. Oh, perhaps I am Eastern-minded then

    Maxine Walden: Are you a practicing Buddhist?

    Quilty Bookmite: Well, I think there is something like that in most religions.

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes.

    Quilty Bookmite: Soto Zen.


    Here again I felt a need for clarification; and at this point I was feeling one of the least informed guardians re eastern thinking and practice but soon we were speaking in a way about the intersection of Soto Zen and PaB


    Maxine Walden: I see. Could you remind me about Soto Zen?

    Quilty Bookmite: Well, it was originally developed in China and moved to Japan...

    Quilty Bookmite: It is based on simply sitting.

    Quilty Bookmite: In other words meditation.

    Quilty Bookmite: Quite a simple form of meditation which doesn;t involve any visualisation or mantras.

    Maxine Walden: ah, what comprises the meditation?

    Quilty Bookmite: In this case, just sitting, facing a wall with your eys open. :-)

    Quilty Bookmite: There is a little more to it than that. The mind is supposed to clear but you can't do that by force.

    Quilty Bookmite: Just letting things drop away naturally.

    Quilty Bookmite: Once you clear the mind of everyday "obstructions" then you can truly see. :-)

    Quilty Bookmite: I hope I don;t seem like I am evangelising. :-)

    Maxine Walden: I see, very close to the PaB notion of practice. I don't think of our conversation

    Maxine Walden: as any kind of evangelism, Not at all

    Quilty Bookmite: It is quite similar to PaB. Also the word practice is used in he same way.

    Maxine Walden: ah, interesting. You must feel quite at home in PaB then

    Quilty Bookmite: Good. I am always aware that it might seem so when I talk about my religion. :-)

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes and no. There is a tension there.


    Our to and fro felt a kind of balance or symmetry at this point, each of us had apologized for something, which the other had not inkling of offense about.  There seemed indeed to be some emerging symmetry in the discussion: Zen and PaB; esoteric aspects and the very mundane; mind and body


    Maxine Walden: Glad you asked; would not want there to be unnecessary tension, but I know what you mean;

    Quilty Bookmite: PaB is not quite like Zen meditation. It is too short to get into a proper meditative state although I'm sure it happens.

    Maxine Walden: when I speak about things I am passionate about I can wonder how they are being received.

    Maxine Walden: Oh, so how long might your zen meditation practice last?

    Quilty Bookmite: It helps for me not to take PaB too seriously and to see it as the experiment it is.

    Quilty Bookmite: A Zen meditation session can be as long as 40 minutes but no longer.

    Maxine Walden: yes, I find it helpful to think of as an experiment as well.

    Quilty Bookmite: i also appreciate that many people take PaB very seriously.

    Maxine Walden: No longer than 40 minutes? Any specific reason?

    Quilty Bookmite: Just that the body finds it difficult to sit for any longer. :-)

    Maxine Walden: oh, yes, I know about that well!

    Quilty Bookmite: On more intense retreats a 40 minute session can be followed by a short period of walking meditation and another 40 minute session.

    Quilty Bookmite: Me too. I can;t use a cushion or a bench because my legs can;t take it. :-)

    Maxine Walden: ah, yes, looking after the needs/abilities of the body as well as the mind

    Quilty Bookmite: In RL I would be able to sit like this for long. :-)

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes, it is important to be kind to yourself.

    Maxine Walden: Without looking after the body the mind cannot focus or quest

    Maxine Walden: or that is my experience

    Quilty Bookmite: True, although you also have to be aware that sometimes the pains in the body are a product of the mind. :-)


    Here as Quilty brought up how the pains of the body can be caused by the mind, an area I have some interest in, I felt sorry that my time was running out for being at this meeting.


    Quilty Bookmite: You practice meditation?

    Maxine Walden: I really agree, Quilty. I am not sure if I practice meditation in the general sense of the word. I think about the unconscious realms a lot, part of my work, and so am trying to be open and understand them better.

    Quilty Bookmite: You work in psychology or something similar?

    Maxine Walden: I tend to think that such considerations are very similar to meditation practices. For me the unconscious realms are like an inner cosmos

    Maxine Walden: yes, I work in that area

    Maxine Walden: and so it occupies a lot of my mental space and interest

    Quilty Bookmite: Ah. Interesting. I know a few Buddhists who work in that area. :-)

    Maxine Walden: yes, several overlaps in viewpoints I think

    Quilty Bookmite: I guess meditation isn;t really an unconscious state though.

    Quilty Bookmite: In fact, I find it quite the opposite.

    Maxine Walden: no, I would agree, but the discoveries from the unconscious might be similar to what enlightenment occurs in meditation

    Maxine Walden: occur from meditation

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes. Interesting thought.


    And so I felt I had to begin to think of going, something which nearly always lightens the discussion, but feels important to mention.


    Maxine Walden: Quilty I have to keep track of the time. Need to leave in about 5 minutes to go to another meeting at 2pm SL. Just want to mention it not to be jarring when I need to leave

    Quilty Bookmite: Sure. Me too.


    And having noticed a little ball of bright green in Quilty’s hand nearly all hour I have to ask about it.


    Maxine Walden: May I ask, you have a little green thing in your right hand. What is it?

    Quilty Bookmite: Enlightenment is often described as the dissolving of the self. does htis occur in unconscious states?

    Quilty Bookmite: It's tea. :-)

    Quilty Bookmite: It's from the table originally.

    Maxine Walden: Oh, tea! Thanks, just wondered. Re dissolving,

    Maxine Walden: not sure but when we become increasingly aware we do give up those little self definitions, edges, insistences and in that sense a kind of dissolving might occur

    Maxine Walden: so that my petty concerns fall away

    Maxine Walden: and wider, deeper concerns come into view

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes, sounds very similar.


    And again I feel a need to begin to leave, attending to the chores of the chatlog and other things.  The time this hour feels like it has gone by very rapidly’ wishing there were more time to talk.


    Maxine Walden: Quilty I had better begin to go, which means getting the chatlog and all. I have enjoyed our talk today and hope we can continue

    Quilty Bookmite: I don;t think Buddhism is at all unique in its viewpoint. It just describes things in a way that makes sense to me,

    Quilty Bookmite: Yes. It's been a pleasure.

    Maxine Walden: see you soon

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