Warm returning greetings dear Friends,
from a happy and well returned Ayya Tathaaloka,
with Happy Solar New Year greetings to all friends from Sri Lankan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, South India and Nepal -- very many of our friends and neighbors. Most all of whom traditionally celebrate Sonkran (Thai) or Samkranti (Sanskrit) at this time of year -- as the sun, moving into Aries in the Zodiac, appears to reach the zenith of the heavens before moving back again.
I return to shifting moments of clouds, sunlight, wind and rain (also very common in New Zealand :-) here in this strange, wild and exotic land of Northern California which I call home. It feels a time of change, of new growth and transformation in nature. As grass grows long and green, and flowers bloom abundantly. Also in our Bhikkhuni Sangha, returning to new life, growth and transformation as our numbers increase, our practice deepens as both we, our environment and our society are mutually transformed.
I share with you some of the images of my journey, and images of the sun for clearing the heart, together with a little personal reflection on the meaning of South and Southeast Asian Buddhist people's celebration of the Solar New Year.
left/above: Sunrise in the Bush at Dhammasara Monastery, Western Australia
right/below: Afternoon Sun on Mt. Taranaki as seen from Mt. Ngaruapoe, New Zealand
Between sunrise and sunset,
in answer to a friend's question about "what does the Buddha have to do with the sun?" ~
In the Apadanas or Sacred Biographies of the ancient Theras and Theris--the male and female elder disciples of the Buddha-- in the Khuddhaka Nikaya, the Buddha is written of as Adicca-bhandu or "Kinsmen of the Sun," as well as being geneologically related to the Okkaka Gotra (the Solar Clan/Race), that is, of the ancient Ikshvaku dynasty.
In the meaning of the word Bhagava in the phrase Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa, or as he is often addressed in the Vinaya as Bhagavan Buddho, we find the Buddha, in his awakening and post-awakening embodiment compared to the sun at its zenith. That is, the peak of brightness, the pinnacle of experiences and of lived manifestations in our world.
The Buddha also used the simile of the sun at its zenith in teaching. In example, in a comparison of all worldly lights, with the sun at its zenith being the greatest, and second only to the light of the devas--divine beings. But with an ever greater light than either of these being the clarity and purity of the heart-mind when practicing jhana meditation (Cula-Sakuludayi Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 79).
However, the Buddha repeatedly recommended using the light of the sun and the clear mental image of it, in aloka sanna, to burn away and clear away one of the main five hindrances to samadhi and jhana meditation as well as deep and penetrating insight, sloth and torpor. Do not gaze at the sun at high noon directly with eyes open though (this is recommended with moonlight) but rather through trees, or at sunrise or sunset.
And finally, there is a charming Pali chant, often recited among the Paritta verses of blessing and protection. This is the Mora Paritta or Peacock Protection, which is related to the Mora Jataka. According to the story these verses were recited by the Bodhisatta, the Buddha-to-be:
I wish all the benefits of the clarity and freshness of the lightness of the season. May we honor that, realize its preciousness and use the good energy of it well and skilfully to burn off lethargy, burn out ignorance, and to penetrate into what is of deep and real value and meaning in our lives.
After all, this is very close to the definition of the "true Brahman" in the Buddha's teaching, (not only "a member of the hereditary priestly caste"), who is worthy of reverence and a reverential protector of all beings.
With deep metta and compassion,
PS. For those who would like to join in the Songkran Celebration in the Thai tradition, Ajahn Mahaprasert welcomes all to Wat Buddhanusorn on Sunday, April 15th. Information is below. Our monastics at the Bodhi House, myself and Samaneri Nibbida, will be at the Wat for the water-pouring "Honoring of the Elders" program from 1 pm.
left/above: Sunset on Mt. Taranaki, as seen from Taranaki Falls on Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand
right/below: Sunset on the Ocean, coast south of Raglan, last evening out in nature, New Zealand
Text of the Mora Paritta from Legends of Paritta
All captioned photos herein by Tathaaloka Theri
Songkran Celebration at Wat Buddhanusorn - Sunday, April 15th 2012
36054 Niles Blvd., Fremont, CA 94536 *Please Carpool*
10 am - Chanting
11 am - Pindapata/Alms Offering to the Monastics
Followed by Classical Thai Songkran Music & Dance Performance
12 noon - Dove Release
1 pm - "Honoring the Elders" Water-Pouring Ceremony
Followed by Sanghadana - Lay Community Offering of Requisites to the Monastic Community