Well, I am taking my Buddhist shoes off at the door tonight for a Solstice Party held by some Pagan (not a bad word) friends of mine. Largely organized by DCP, our friendly neighbor guest blogger who was kind enough to detail some of his belief while framing them in a Buddhist context earlier this month, the party looks to be heathen heavy and full of Norse Goodies!
I like to interact and partake in some rituals that I wouldn’t ordinarily since I also see some striking similarities in the process of many pagan rituals with some Buddhist practices that I am investigating. By and large they seem to mesh well with the visualization practices that many Esoteric Buddhist schools use. Granted, there are no mandalas, seed symbols or many armed bodhisattvas but there are some similar human qualities that need to be nurtured and fostered into awakening.
Being largely a Zen-dork myself, I don’t really dig on the visual aspect of meditative practice. To me it seems like the annoying middle-man that some people use. Not because they aren’t able to seal the deal themselves but because they aren’t ready or able to take the step. This is not inferring that it is a weaker practice than my own “silent sitting” but simply a different one.
If Zen “silent sitting” is the boring accountant of the Buddhist world then Esoteric visualization is the 40 year-old brother-in-law that wears bright blue bandanas and hawaiian shirts. Esoteric Buddhism is the dude tha,t at the party, grabs a drink and someone they don’t know and insist that they take over the bar-tending duties for the night. Zen, meanwhile, is the dude sitting on the couch thinking and quietly conversing with glass of wine (or in my case – can of Schlitz).
Do you see what I mean? Both are enjoying the party and getting something out of it but both are coming from two different routes. Have those two switch places and you got two miserable dudes (or dude-ettes. Hi Ladies!).
Anyway. Off-topic. I plan on switching gears a bit and seeing what the visualization technique is all about (doesn’t matter what deities, animals, saint or bodhisattvas you work with). I know that I won’t get much out of it tonight. No more than someone sitting shikantaza for the first time or siting with a koan for only a half an hour. But sometimes the effort is not doing what you usually do that may lead you to some greater realizations on what you need to do.
One thing I do dislike about visualizations though is the heavy emphasis on a teacher. Without a teacher or guide you are not really in the Esoteric world, just picking scraps on the peripheral of the great Vajra table. There is also the emphasis on “secret” teachings. Paths that you don’t walk unless you are determined ready. Zen is more open and less “closed-door” about those things…
But, anyway, here I go. Hugging Avalokitesvara, offering mead to Thor and Odin while sipping Schlitz. If I come back with horns or snaggle-teeth then you know something went horribly, horribly wrong!