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Aztecs

Aztecs continue their assault against the conq...

Aztecs continue their assault against the conquistadors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Aztecs were a group of 12th century conquerors who entered the geographical area that later was to become Mexico.¹

The new Aztec religion synthesized their own gods with those of the conquered population, along with nature deities.

The Aztecs are known for their ritual calendar gods but their chief God Huitzilopochitli stood apart and was not a calendar deity. The term “Mexico” is based on his name.

In Aztec creation myth, the earth began as a huge toad, brought down from heaven by the gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl. All natural landforms sprang from the toad’s body. Next, the sky fell down and the two gods transformed themselves into trees in order to support it.

The Aztecs inherited pyramids that pointed toward the sun. Human sacrifices were common. It was believed that human sacrifices maintained the sun’s course in the sky, so to be sacrificed (apparently) was regarded as an honorable spiritual duty. It’s hard to know, however, how the victims really felt. And to contemporary thinking, these kinds of actions are just barbarous folly.

Aztec

Aztec (Photo credit: GazzaS)

Doctors and fortune-tellers practiced magic but the people’s religious life was dominated by a powerful priestly class, not unlike the Catholic Church in the European Middle Ages.

For sport the Aztecs played an outdoor game with two competing teams in which a rubber ball was believed to represent a planet.

Aztec Dancer Dia de Los Muertos 1

Aztec Dancer Dia de Los Muertos 1 (Photo credit: dustysnowcrash)

Their best-known ruler is Montezuma II, under whom the Aztecs had a sophisticated agricultural system, irrigation, swamp drainage and artificial islands and lakes.

Because the Aztecs had their own form of hieroglyphic writing, a detailed calendar and pyramid-shaped temples, a some kind of connection with ancient Egyptians has been suggested. Some believed the Aztecs were in fact of the same peoples as the Egyptians, and went to great lengths trying – unsuccessfully – to prove this with archaeological evidence.

Aztec Ritual At Veggielution Farm

Aztec Ritual At Veggielution Farm (Photo credit: snej)

Others, like the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, maintain that the similarities between the Aztecs and the Egyptians support the idea of a collective unconscious—that is, some kind of fundamental connection, partly biological and partly spiritual, among all peoples.

The Aztecs were overthrown by the Spanish in the 16th century. Archaeological evidence suggests that some Aztecs butchered and cannibalized the Spanish.

¹ According to Wikipedia the idea of the Aztecs is variously defined. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec

Related Posts » Joseph Campbell


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Avesta

Bodleian Library, MS J2 fol. 175 (colorized) via Wikipedia

The Avesta is a collection of the most sacred scriptures in Zoroastrianism, containing the teachings of the prophet, Zarathustra (Gk. Zoroaster). The original, written form is in the Avestan language (an eastern Indo-European language). However, its contents were most likely orally transmitted before being written down during the 3rd to 7th centuries in Iran.

First translated from Avestan and introduced to Europeans in 1771, it’s still used by Iranian Gabars and Indian Parsees.

The Avesta is mostly read to instill a sense of personal religious duty to the Lord (Ahura Mazda). As such, its style roughly compares to a combination of the Hindu Rig Veda and Book of Manu. Within the text Zarathustra dialogues with Ahura Mazda, asking questions and receiving answers on practical, cosmological and soteriological issues.

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The theme of physical and spiritual pollution enters prominently in the Avesta, extending to both corpses and women during the menstrual period. Evil spiritual beings – “fiends” – are said to haunt the dakmas (graves or exposure sites known as “towers of silence”) and from their feeding create a stench.

Ahura Mazda tells Zarathustra,

The fiends revel in there until that stench is rooted in the Dakhmas. Thus from the Dakhmas arise the infection of diseases, itch, hot fever, humours, cold fever, rickets, and hair untimely white. There death has most power on man, from the hour when the sun is down.¹

These diseases tend to beset evil people who do not try to improve their ways.

As in many ancient cultures, including India and Greece, sickness and disease are attributed to the influence of the Evil One (Angra Mainyu) and his various demons.

A variation of evil spiritual beings feeding off and weakening mortal beings is found in Vampirism, and in today’s New Age circles, the concept of spiritual or psychic vampirism.

At one point in the Avesta narrative, Zarathustra enters into battle with the fearsome Angra Mainyu, to emerge victorious. The resulting invocations and praises to various deities (all subservient to Ahura Mazda) again reveals that the Avesta is very much influenced by – and yet different from – the Hindu Rig Veda.

Although the Avesta is traditionally believed to have been revealed to Zarathustra, most scholars claim that only the Gathas, a group of 17 hymns, were authored by the prophet. While sections of the original text survive, much has been lost over the centuries.

¹ http://www.sacred-texts.com/zor/sbe04/sbe0413.htm


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Avatar

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Krishna

Avatar (Skt.=”descent”) In Hinduism, its offshoots, and in Sikhism the avatar is an incarnation of God who takes birth on earth to restore dharma.

In Hindu thought, God comes to earth to restore order whenever morality becomes egregiously imbalanced.

Jesus Christ is sometimes regarded by Hindus as one of a series of avatars. But in orthodox Hinduism, there are generally ten avatars of Vishnu.

The first is Matsu, a fish. His story parallels that of Noah‘s ark.

For some medieval Hindus like Sankara (and his followers) the Buddha is regarded as an evil avatar because he tried to sway the masses away from the sacred Veda.

But Hindu philosophy also interprets this in an overall positive light. Not unlike the Christian idea that God permits evil for a greater but not immediately apparent Good, many Hindus say the Buddha’s “deception” restored balance because Hindu priestly functions were becoming too hypocritical and elitist.

Hinduism, however, teaches that those who persistently continue to be deluded by evil are on a path to hell—but not an eternal hell, as with Christianity, because Hindus believe in reincarnation.

The Ten Traditional Hindu Avatars are:¹

1. Matsya: the fish
2. Kurma: the tortoise
3. Varaha: the boar
4. Narasimha: the man-lion
5. Vamana: the dwarf
6. ParashuRama: the axe wielder
7. Rama: Rama of the Ramayana
8. Krishna
9. Buddha
10. Kalki: the white horse, yet to incarnate

An avatar is also a term now commonly used to denote “a digital representation of a participant in an online environment.”² This kind of avatar is usually a graphical representation, such as the small icons visible in the “Community” and “Recent Comments” area at this blog. Interestingly enough, more Western people probably know about this meaning of avatar without really understanding its Asian roots. The same could probably be said of the 2009 Academy Award winning film “Avatar.”

¹ More detail can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashavatara

² Jonathon Keats, Control + Alt + Delete: A Dictionary of Cyberslang, Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2007, p. 11.


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Avalon

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The Last Sleep of Arthur via Wikipedia

In Arthurian legend Avalon is the enchanted island of apples and lush vegetation where people are said to live over 100 years.

First mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia regum Brittaniae (c. 1136), we have to remember that, at that time, 100 years represented an unusually long lifespan.

Avalon is also the place where King Arthur’s famous sword Excalibur was forged. Various Arthurian legends portray Avalon as a mystical realm replete with faeries and enchanted beings. These otherworldly beings interact with heroes on Earth.

Morgan le Fay is said to rule Avalon. She’s a somewhat contradictory fairie, enchantress, sister of Arthur and, in later legend, malignant sorceress.

In 1982 the art rock band Roxy Music released a best selling record called “Avalon.”


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Avalokiteshvara

Image via Wikipedia

Avalokiteshvara (Skt. isvara = The Lord) is a Major bodhisattva of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, also appearing in the Theravada school.

His name means “The one who looks down” or “The one who hears the sound below” and is associated with compassion and divinity.

He is often represented in Tankas (elaborate Buddhist art) with several heads and up to a thousand arms.

Scholars don’t agree as to when Avalokiteshvara was first revered by believers.


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Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo (formerly Aurobindo Ghose, 1872-1950) was a British-educated Indian freedom fighter and nationalist (seen by some British colonialists as a terrorist) who morphed into a mystic philosopher and futurist.

English: Sri Aurobindo presiding over a meetin...

Sri Aurobindo presiding over a meeting of the Nationalists after the Surat Congress, with Tilak speaking, 1907 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aurobindo apparently took the bellicose aspect of the Bhagavad Gita – that Arjuna must fight to fulfill his dharma (sacred duty) – to heart. Bombs were constructed in the family home at Calcutta while he headed a resistance movement against the British in India. After two British women (a mother and her daughter) were killed by a stray bomb, Aurobindo was held in jail for about a year before being acquitted.¹

While in jail, he began a difficult spiritual path, culminating in his unique views and the founding of an ashram at the French settlement of Pondicherry, India.

Sri Aurobindo said he was visited by Vivekananda [another prominent Hindu guru (ed.)] in the Alipore Jail. In his words, “It is a fact that I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in the jail in my solitary meditation and felt his presence.[23] The voice spoke only on a special and limited but very important field of spiritual experience and it ceased as soon as it had finished saying all that it had to say on that subject.”²

Aurobindo’s “integral yoga” is intended to infuse what he believes is the highest “supramental” reality into the lowest, physical and “subconcient” plane of physical existence.

Shrine

Shrine (Photo credit: premasagar)

According to the story, Aurobindo mystically foresaw his future spiritual partner, the French woman Mirra Alfassa, while she was residing in France, and well before she arrived in India. Moving to India and living with Aurobindo at his ashram, Alfassa took on the new appellation “The Mother.”

After establishing the ashram in Pondicherry, Aurobindo became increasingly in need of solitary meditation and eventually stopped appearing before gathered disciples (darshan). Although, so the story goes, the Mother still brought him a cup of hot chocolate at night.

Aurobindo translated and wrote extensively on Hindu scriptures, expounded his ideas in works like The Life Divine and original poetry like Savitri. Unlike Plato, Aurobindo believed that poetry is the best medium for communicating spiritual ideas.

In The Riddle of this World Aurobindo tried to answer central religious problems (such as the existence of evil) and wrote about different types of evil beings (asuras) whose sole intent apparently is to torment, confuse and hinder those on a spiritual quest toward the highest, supramental awareness.

Fear and Abandonment

Fear and Abandonment – reinekaos via Flickr

Aurobindo says an intermediary state, a midpoint between worldly imperfect and sacred true knowledge, exists in which

one may go astray…follow false voices…that ends in spiritual disaster.

These voices arise from the imperfect guidance of

little Gods…[or from] the well-known danger of actually hostile beings whose sole purpose is to create confusion, falsehood, corruption…³

Today, of course, many would just say someone who follows false voices is mentally ill. The difference, however, is that Aurobindo attributes a spiritual source to the deception/delusion, instead of just writing it off as some kind of brain-based hallucination (which, of course, is also possible).

Aurobindo says he was divinely provided with funds for his spiritual mission but added that the Lord has a “maddening habit” of waiting until the last moment before coming through.

He also believed that he assisted the Allies in winning WW-II by virtue of his meditative intercession. So he clearly saw himself as no small player in the world of mysticism. His later writings talk of a future that includes an evolved humanity with flexible, shapeshifting bodies.

The ashram book publisher, Sabda, prints and binds Aurobindo’s writings. Some of his contemporary followers reside in Auroville, an experimental town lying just outside of Pondicherry. Lonely Planet’s TV host Justine Shapiro visited Auroville and seemed to imply that it was a haven for foreigners seeking enlightenment while exploiting local laborers.

On visiting the Sri Aurobindo ashram in the late 1980s I was asked to follow the Indian custom of removing one’s sandals at the entrance. On returning to the ashram entrance at the end of my visit, I found that my sandals had disappeared. The gatekeeper didn’t seem overly concerned, and she didn’t help to try and find them. Riding a bicycle barefoot back to my hotel made me realize the huge gulf between those who do and do not have shoes in India. As the Joni Mitchell song goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

This, perhaps, was the most important lesson I learned that day.

Related Posts » Clairaudience, Demons, Fallen Angels, Guru, Hinduism, Intercession, Jnana-yoga, Kabbala, Numinous, Pollution, Psychic Spies, Spiritual Attack, Evelyn Underhill, Yoga

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alipore_Bomb_Case

² Ibid.

³ Aurobindo Ghose, The Riddle of This World, Calcutta: Arya Publishing House, 1933, pp. 56-57.

 


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Aum-Mani-Padme-Hum

om_mani1.jpg

Om Mani Padme Hum” (on the left in different colors) and “Om Vajrasattva Hum” (on the right all in red), written in Tibetan on a rock at the Potala Palace. via Wikipedia

Aum-Mani-Padme-Hum is a popular Tibetan mantra, composed in Sanskrit and associated with Avilokiteshvara, is of uncertain origin.¹ It is often found carved or painted on rocks, written on paper or flags, and inserted into prayer wheels.

The repetition of the four syllables is said to recreate the ebb and flow of the universe and engender an attitude of compassion appropriate to Tibetan Buddhism.

If the mantra is inscribed on or inserted within a Buddhist prayer wheel, spinning that wheel is said to have the same effect as repeating the mantra for the same number of wheel rotations. A kind of “mechanized” prayer, perhaps.

¹ The first known citation of the mantra occurs in the Karandavyuha Sutra published in the 11th Century which appears in the Chinese Buddhist canon.[3] However, some Buddhist scholars argue that the mantra as practiced in Tibetan Buddhism was based on the Sadhanamala, a collection of sadhana published in the twelfth century.[12] See » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_mani_padme_hum