| up a level
from the monka-monka-burnin'-love dept.
The variations of this newly harvested and developing tradition of Thelemic Buddhists has opened for us as magicians methods towards union with our Holy Guardian Angel that have been tried and true in the hands of a much older tradition.
It is this wonderful tradition known as Buddhism that can add a most stable form to the synthesis of a blossoming tradition of thelemic buddhist practitioners.
What is a Thelemic Sangha? That is a good question and one that will be looked at in the course of this article. First, let us look at the meaning of Sangha. Sangha is a Sanskrit word known as a community or assembly of practitioners who have taken refuge in a particular teacher, teaching and followers of that given teaching and teacher.
In this case, the teacher is the Buddha, the teaching is the Dharma (i.e. Universal Law) and the community is the Sangha -- the community/assembly of Saints who have gone this way before us, and in which we have an active part, due to our refuge vows within this triple jewel of liberation.
So in this regard, the idea of Sangha has many levels of interpretation, ranging from the non-monastic followers of the Dharma to those within the monastic setting, known as lamas in Tibetan Buddhism (i.e., Vajrayana or Diamond Vehicle of Buddhism).
And there are grades to this concept of Sangha.
One manifestation of this is the laity (i.e. those of a non-monastic order -- common folk, homeowners, a non-monastic persons). The laity is the mass of the body that makes up the Sangha, and therefore the relevant population to whom the teacher, teaching, and central core Sangha are devoted. The central core of the Sangha is that grade of Sangha known as the monastic or Noble Sangha who are made up of teachers, meditation masters, artisans, academics, and others, who through their service continue the propagation of teachings to those of the laity as well as their own religious caste.
The main function of the conventional Sangha is to expound and propagate the teachings of the Buddha, or the Dharma as it is called. This is done in such a way that the common people may understand and practice it, developing themselves in their progress along the path of enlightenment. Through the treading of the path of self-development and inner attainment the aspirant is not alone or helpless, but has the whole of the community to aid and support his or her progress through sharing and personal counsel.
In short, there are two kinds of Sangha which are mutually helpful and complementary in the realization of the Buddhist ideals. The first being those who have aspired to lead a life of practice and devotion and have sought to become members of the noble Sangha, such as teachers, masters of meditation, artisans, administrators, and travelling monks, and those that are called the Laity who are predominately homeowners and common folk. Both are self-harmonizing in that they are ultimately the same expressed in processes.
You see one starts on the path of the Sangha with first taking refuge, this refuge in turn generates compassion and the compassion in turn produces bodhicitta or enlightened mind. This state of bodhicitta causes one to 'act' thereby generating merit and wisdom, which continues in a self-perpetuating motion towards the goal of liberation and enlightenment. (At least, that is the Reader's Digest version in a nutshell.)
Now, let us look at what is Thelema?
The theology of Thelema postulates that all manifested existence arising from the interaction of two cosmic principles: the infinitely extended, all-pervading space-time continuum; and the atomic individually expressed principle of life and wisdom. The interplay of these principles gives rise to the principle of consciousness, which governs existence. In the Book of the Law (which is the supreme holy book of Thelemites), the divine principles are personified by a trinity of ancient Egyptian divinities: Nuit, the goddess of infinite space; Hadit, the winged serpent of Light; and Ra Hoor Kuit (Horus), the solar hawk-headed lord of the Cosmos.
The Thelemic theological system utilizes the divinities of various cultures and religions as personifications of specific divine, archetypal and cosmic forces. Thelemic doctrine holds that all the diverse religions of Humanity are grounded in universal truths; and the study of comparative religion is an important discipline for many Thelemites.
With respect to concepts of the individual soul, Thelema follows traditional Hermeticism in the doctrine that each person possesses a soul or "Body of Light," which is arranged in "layers" or "sheaths" surrounding the physical body. Each individual is also considered to have his or her own personal "Augoeides" or "Holy Guardian Angel," which can be considered both as the "higher self" and as a separate, sentient, divine being. With respect to concepts of the afterlife, life itself is considered as a continuum, with death an integral part of the whole.
Parallel to Buddhist doctrine, the Body of Light is considered to be subject to metempsychosis, or reincarnation, after the death of the body. The Body of Light is generally considered to evolve in wisdom, consciousness and spiritual power through cycles of metempsychosis for those individuals who dedicate their lives to spiritual advancement; to the point that its fate after death may ultimately be determined by the Will of the individual.
Thelema incorporates the idea of the cyclic evolution of Cultural Consciousness as well as of Personal Consciousness. History is considered to be divided into a series of "Aeons," each with its own dominant concept of divinity and its own "formula" of redemption and advancement.
The current Aeon is termed the Aeon of Horus.
The modern Aeon of Horus is considered to be dominated by the Principle of the Child, the sovereign individual; and its formula is that of growth, in consciousness and love, toward self-realization.
According to Thelemic doctrine, the expression of Divine Law in the Aeon of Horus is "Do what thou wilt." This "Law of Thelema," as it is called, is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim, but rather as the divine mandate to discover one's True Will or true purpose in life, and to accomplish it; leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways.
The "acceptance" of the Law of Thelema is what defines a Thelemite, and the discovery and accomplishment of the True Will is the fundamental concern of all Thelemites.
Achieving the "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel" is considered an integral part of this process. The methods and practices to be employed in this process are numerous and varied; and are grouped together under the generalized term "Magick".
Not every Thelemite utilizes all the practices available. There is considerable room for each individual practitioner to choose practices that are suitable to his or her individual needs.
However, some of our practices have been traditionally associated with what has generally been known as "occultism" -- i.e., astrology, divination, numerology, yoga, tantric alchemy, and discourse with "angels" or "spirits" -- are all taken by Thelemites as potentially effective means for obtaining spiritual insights into the nature of one's being and one's place in the universe; and for the fulfillment of such insights through harmonious, evolutionary works."1
It is on that note that contingents of Thelemites, Pagans, and others of the Western Mystery Schools have endeavored towards the new synthesis of Buddhism and Thelema. The synthesis in this case is not a far stretch, as the objectives of both Thelema and Buddhism are the attainment of Liberation and the accomplishment of their True Wills, the Great Work of Enlightenment, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.
And as stated above in the compilation of writings from Aleister Crowley on Thelema, the methods and practices to be employed are numerous and varied based upon the inclination and will of the practitioner and aspirant. This leaves a great degree of flexibility in the formulation of rituals, sadhanas, meditations, and Masses for the practice of this synthesis known as Thelema Sangha.
The variations of this newly harvested and developing tradition of Thelemic Buddhists has opened for us as magicians methods towards union with our Holy Guardian Angel that have been tried and true in the hands of a much older tradition. It is this wonderful tradition known as Buddhism that can add a most stable form to the continuous flow of Will (Intention) that is Thelema.
Currently there are two groups of Thelemites in the Bay Area that are working on the propagation of this Thelemic Buddhist ideal. One is called the Heru Ra Ha Sangha, which focuses its work on the development of the laity through the practices of two liturgical masses and various preparation rituals and readings.
One of these masses is called the Diamond Sapphire of Radiant Light and the other is called the Golden Topaz of Radiant Light. Both are perspectives on the synthesis of Buddhadharma and Thelema. All of this can be further explored via the Heru Ra Ha Sangha webpage.
The other Thelemic Sangha is currently in formation and will be focused on a more monastic model of the initiatory school. The name of this sangha is yet to be announced.
And of special note is the Pagan Dharma work of Sam Webster.
Sam Webster, M. Div., Mage, trained at Meadville/Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago and Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
He is an Adept of the Golden Dawn and the Chthonic-Ouranian OTO, as well as an initiate of Wiccan, Buddhist and Hindu lines. He directs Academy Arkadia, a school of the Pagan Magickal arts, and serves the Pagan community principally as a priest of Hermes.
In conclusion, the paths of the Thelema Sangha are still defining themselves and developing the centers of their focus. Some will lean more to the Buddhists iconography and teachings while other will embrace the deities of the Thelemic pantheon and the teaching which are the Holy Books of Thelema. And still others will take from their own traditions and mate and meld with the body of Buddhist teachings to birth forth-another child of sovereign intention. The ways are innumerable yet the Work is One.
May each of you come to know the glorious radiance of your Holy Guardian Angel and attain, Life, Love, Light and Liberation which is the mark of the Buddha, whose voice is guiding and protecting you along the Path of Return.
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