“Outside my building, there is a small shrine, and some trees around it. There is a pomegranate tree my wife tells me I shouldn’t pick from. It doesn’t belong to me, this is true. So, the pomegranates grow, and then shrivel and mold on the tree. That is space and form. There is the space around the tree, which changes as the pomegranates expand slowly. Then the fruit expands, ripens, and rots, which is, in a sense, space permeating the fruit. Then the fruit falls off, I guess, and is on the ground, rotting.

The space around the tree is back. You could say the space encompassing the tree has just shifted shapes. There’s space and form in every perception or situation. People line up to wait for a bus. Then the bus comes, they’re gone, and space remains. The space inside the bus has changed, and the bus flies through space, taking people to their destinations. You could say the same for a meditation chair and a pratitioner. The chair waits, empty, and then the practitioner comes along and sits, for a while. Then she leaves.

The space is back. This dance happens everywhere. Practice, in the Buddhist tradition, works with this dance, this dance of space. Things are defined by their inside and their outside. The meditator sits and breathes, and the inside and outside interact. Breath goes from inside to outside, it dissolves, and then breath goes from out to in. ” 108 Reflections

This is not the tree in question, or the shrine. I looked for spirit houses on Google and found this. The shrine I mentioned is somewhat similar to this one (but not overgrown). As I understand it, there are basically spirit houses dedicated to the gods (Indra/Phra In, Ganesha, Ganga/Konka are popular in Thailand) and spirit houses dedicated to local spirits, the “grandmother and grandfather” of the forest. The above image shows something more like a local spirit house. I am not sure if one needs a monk to perform the ceremony of wrapping a tree in colored ribbons, or if you can do that yourself. There are rituals done by priests and monks, there is magic and witchcraft, and then the very very common and wonderful (to my mind) practice of blessing places and things by offering flower garlands (often on trees, but also in/on cars and buses, on food carts, almost anywhere).

Space? Not sure. Well, locations as spaces are very blessable here. Generally, I think people are open and allowing of this. In America, there’s often a fear of religion- fear of persecution by the majority/conformists, or the opposite fear of bringing it up at all and offending someone. It’s not as simple as that, there’s plenty of soap boxing and shouting too, giant 3000 person churches, but that’s inside the church. In Thailand, you can make a shrine almost anywhere. You can hang your garland on almost any tree or plant or street sign. Sometimes it gets taken down, but usually not. I worked at a university here, and found a tree stump my first trip there to the campus that I liked, that had a quality I liked. It seemed unappreciated. I started putting my own flowers on it, and even a little more (some hand drawn symbols, a little naga statue, some other stuff). To my surprise, it didn’t get bothered. Someone even offered a few of their own flowers one day.

(naga)

The obvious drawback to being able to “enchant” or wake up a space in this fashion is spiritual materialism, or materialism in general. You could hope for some kind of peace, experience, or high. Various concepts and theories turmoil through the mind. You could ask for help from the spirits, hoping for success, fearing chaos accidents and failure.

I think as long as there’s some real practice, like sitting on a cushion, or praying, the other stuff is okay. It balances it out. It’s “the saving grace,” siting meditation. Just on the level of technique, if invoking something or someone or multiple someones via offerings does something, changes energy or atmosphere, the ability to be aware of said energy, and work with it comes from practice.

“’All our observations of apparent exceptions to Great Space can be reconciled with it. The reality of discrete entities… must be considered in light of the conditioning space which determines these boundaries. This conditioning space is, in turn, an expression of Great Space.’” Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge

As we near the end of this chapter, the discussion in the book focuses on lower space and Great Space. Although we associate Great Space with less restriction, confusion, and unneccessary boundary, it is not separate from lower space. That is to say, although enlightened mind seems different from confused mind, they are not separate. If they were, maybe there would be no way to bridge the gap. If they were different, enlightened mind probably wouldn’t be as big or as great as it is supposed to be.” Intro to TSK

 

Practice can involving bridging the relative and ultimate. VCTR and his students emphasized the “experiential” aspect of learning the path. This is very intelligent, I think, and quintessentially Buddhist (although it would work for anything). If you really experience something, then the whole realm of wishes, fantasies and “transcendence” falls off dramatically and quietly. The bridging of relative and ultimate has to be experienced, in an “earthy” way. So making flower offerings to a stop sign might be excellent, but really only if there’s some experience going along with it.

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About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

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