Sunday, February 25, 2018

Carpe Diem #1377 Buddhism ... found its way along the Silk Road


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I hope you all have had a wonderful weekend. I can say that my weekend was a weekend of illness, because the flue caught me, but I recovered fast from it. It's not completely gone, but it doesn't make me feel miserable anymore.

This episode I love to tell you a little bit more about "how Buddhism was spread along the Silk Road". I have written about it in a few of the earlier episodes here , but in this episode (wit a little bit help of Wikipedia) I love to tell you a little bit more about it.


By the way that's also the reason why I tried to read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse together with you. Siddhartha is a wonderful Indian story in which we read how a young Brahman son, Siddhartha, goes on his way to find enlightenment. We already read about his encounter with the Buddha, but we also read about his encounter with the river ... or in other word the "religion" of the ferryman. About that last piece of Siddhartha's journey to enlightenment I will create an episode later this week. And our last episode of this month will be about "how Islam found its way along the Silk Road". That last episode will also be a kind of "pre-scripture" to our new CDHK month.

Buddhism ... found its way along the Silk Road:

The transmission of Buddhism to China via the Silk Road began in the 1st century CE, according to a semi-legendary account of an ambassador sent to the West by the Chinese Emperor Ming (58–75). During this period Buddhism began to spread throughout Southeast, East, and Central Asia. Mahayana, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhism are the three primary forms of Buddhism that spread across Asia via the Silk Road.

The Buddhist movement was the first large-scale missionary movement in the history of world religions. Chinese missionaries were able to assimilate Buddhism, to an extent, to native Chinese Daoists, which would bring the two beliefs together. Buddha's community of followers, the Sangha, consisted of male and female monks and laity. These people moved through India and beyond to spread the ideas of Buddha. As the number of members within the Sangha increased, it became costly so that only the larger cities were able to afford having the Buddha and his disciples visit. It is believed that under the control of the Kushans, Buddhism was spread to China and other parts of Asia from the middle of the first century to the middle of the third century. Extensive contacts started in the 2nd century, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin, due to the missionary efforts of a great number of Buddhist monks to Chinese lands. The first missionaries and translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were either Parthian, Kushan, Sogdian, or Kuchean.

Statue of Buddha giving a sermon
One result of the spread of Buddhism along the Silk Road was displacement and conflict. The Greek Seleucids were exiled to Iran and Central Asia because of a new Iranian dynasty called the Parthians at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, and as a result the Parthians became the new middle men for trade in a period when the Romans were major customers for silk. Parthian scholars were involved in one of the first ever Buddhist text translations into the Chinese language. Its main trade centre on the Silk Road, the city of Merv, in due course and with the coming of age of Buddhism in China, became a major Buddhist centre by the middle of the 2nd century. Knowledge among people on the silk roads also increased when Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty (268–239 BCE) converted to Buddhism and raised the religion to official status in his northern Indian empire.

From the 4th century CE onward, Chinese pilgrims also started to travel on the Silk Road to India to get improved access to the original Buddhist scriptures, with Fa-hsien's pilgrimage to India, and later Xuanzang (629–644) and Hyecho, who traveled from Korea to India. The travels of the priest Xuanzang were fictionalized in the 16th century in a fantasy adventure novel called Journey to the West, which told of trials with demons and the aid given by various disciples on the journey.

Journey to the West (illustrated)

There were many different schools of Buddhism travelling on the Silk Road. The Dharmaguptakas and the Sarvastivadins were two of the major Nikaya schools. These were both eventually displaced by the Mahayana, also known as "Great Vehicle". This movement of Buddhism first gained influence in the Khotan region. The Mahayana, which was more of a "pan-Buddhist movement" than a school of Buddhism, appears to have begun in northwestern India or Central Asia. It formed during the 1st century BCE and was small at first, and the origins of this "Greater Vehicle" are not fully clear. Some Mahayana scripts were found in northern Pakistan, but the main texts are still believed to have been composed in Central Asia along the Silk Road. These different schools and movements of Buddhism were a result of the diverse and complex influences and beliefs on the Silk Road. With the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, the initial direction of Buddhist development changed. This form of Buddhism highlighted, as stated by Xinru Liu, "the elusiveness of physical reality, including material wealth." It also stressed getting rid of material desire to a certain point; this was often difficult for followers to understand.

During the 5th and 6th centuries CE, merchants played a large role in the spread of religion, in particular Buddhism. Merchants found the moral and ethical teachings of Buddhism to be an appealing alternative to previous religions. As a result, merchants supported Buddhist monasteries along the Silk Road, and in return the Buddhists gave the merchants somewhere to stay as they traveled from city to city. As a result, merchants spread Buddhism to foreign encounters as they traveled. Merchants also helped to establish diaspora within the communities they encountered, and over time their cultures became based on Buddhism. As a result, these communities became centers of literacy and culture with well-organized marketplaces, lodging, and storage. The voluntary conversion of Chinese ruling elites helped the spread of Buddhism in East Asia and led Buddhism to become widespread in Chinese society. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism essentially ended around the 7th century with the rise of Islam in Central Asia.

Buddha-Day
Isn't it an awesome story ... Buddhism found its way along the Silk Road and became a worldwide religion. In this tradition several centuries later haiku emerged as a poem inspired on nature with a touch of Zen Buddhism ... does that mean that we, haijin, are in a way Buddhists, maybe that's our deeper source for our haiku ...

merchants trade
not only beautiful goods
believes too


© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until March 4th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Carpe Diem Weekend-Meditation #21 Out Of The Box #3 Chōka and Sedōka (Winter / Summer)



!!! Open for your submissions next Sunday February 25th at 7:00 PM (CET) !!!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new Weekend-Meditation. This weekend I have chosen for another nice "Out Of The Box" episode. In this "Out Of The Box" feature I share other poetry forms, mostly Japanese forms, but also other modern forms.

This weekend I love to challenge you to create a Chōka or a Sedōka. I will tell you a little bit more about it hereafter. This "Out Of The Box" episode I have also chosen a task for you. That task is to create a Winter poem and a Summer poem, but you have to use the Chōka or the Sedōka form.



The chōka, “long poem,” is of indefinite length, formed of alternating lines of five and seven syllables, ending with an extra seven-syllable line. Many chōka have been lost; the shortest of those extant are 7 lines long, the longest have 150 lines. They may be followed by one or more envoys (hanka). The amplitude of the chōka permitted the poets to treat themes impossible within the compass of the tanka.


The sedōka, or “head-repeated poem,” consists of two tercets of five, seven, and seven syllables each. An uncommon form, it was sometimes used for dialogues. Kakinomoto Hitomaro’s sedōka are noteworthy. Chōka and sedōka were seldom written after the 8th century.
An example of a Sedoka:

in the backyard -
a rainbow of chrysanthemums
finally autumn has arrived

monks chanting mantras
while sweeping the garden
being one with the universe

© Chèvrefeuille

This weekend meditation is open for your submissions and next Sunday February 25th at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until Sunday March 4th at noon (CET). Have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Carpe Diem #1376 Re-United


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelrs,

Today I love to tell you a little bit more about the friendship between Siddhartha and Govinda. Both Brahman's sons who befriended already early in their lifetime. Together they started a quest for enlightenment, but somewhere on their quest their paths separated. Govinda stayed at the Buddha and became a Buddhistic monk and Siddhartha became a merchant. As we read in one of our earlier episodes Siddhartha has chosen to leave his beloved Kamala and ran away from his home.

At the start of his quest he had to cross a river and now he has returned to that river ... and here is what happened after he heard the mysterious and holy "om", before he fell asleep against the trunk of a coconut-tree.

Siddhartha at the river (illustration from the novel by Hermann Hesse)

[...] "Deep was his sleep and without dreams, for a long time he had not known such a sleep any more. When he woke up after many hours, he felt as if ten years had passed, he heard the water quietly flowing, did not know where he was and who had brought him here, opened his eyes, saw with astonishment that there were trees and the sky above him, and he remembered where he was and how he got here. But it took him a long while for this, and the past seemed to him as if it had been covered by a veil, infinitely distant, infinitely far away, infinitely meaningless. He only knew that his previous life (in the first moment when he thought about it, this past life seemed to him like a very old, previous incarnation, like an early pre-birth of his present self)—that his previous life had been abandoned by him, that, full of disgust and wretchedness, he had even intended to throw his life away, but that by a river, under a coconut-tree, he has come to his senses, the holy word Om on his lips, that then he had fallen asleep and had now woken up and was looking at the world as a new man. Quietly, he spoke the word Om to himself, speaking which he had fallen asleep, and it seemed to him as if his entire long sleep had been nothing but a long meditative recitation of Om, a thinking of Om, a submergence and complete entering into Om, into the nameless, the perfected.

OM
What a wonderful sleep had this been! Never before by sleep, he had been thus refreshed, thus renewed, thus rejuvenated! Perhaps, he had really died, had drowned and was reborn in a new body? But no, he knew himself, he knew his hand and his feet, knew the place where he lay, knew this self in his chest, this Siddhartha, the eccentric, the weird one, but this Siddhartha was nevertheless transformed, was renewed, was strangely well rested, strangely awake, joyful and curious.

Siddhartha straightened up, then he saw a person sitting opposite to him, an unknown man, a monk in a yellow robe with a shaven head, sitting in the position of pondering. He observed the man, who had neither hair on his head nor a beard, and he had not observed him for long when he recognised this monk as Govinda, the friend of his youth, Govinda who had taken his refuge with the exalted Buddha. Govinda had aged, he too, but still his face bore the same features, expressed zeal, faithfulness, searching, timidness. But when Govinda now, sensing his gaze, opened his eyes and looked at him, Siddhartha saw that Govinda did not recognise him. Govinda was happy to find him awake; apparently, he had been sitting here for a long time and been waiting for him to wake up, though he did not know him." [...] (Source: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse)

Buddha
OM ("aum") means "highest concepts such as the cause of the Universe, essence of life, Brahman, Atman, and Self-knowledge". OM is a very strong mantra and is very useful to become one with all and everything.

In the story about Siddhartha and Govinda we see the embodiment of OM, because they belong to eachother like Yin and Yang and after they were separated they are again together ... that's the meaning of OM in this story. They will be together always in a spiritual way, because they both take their own path, but in a way the same path. Govinda follows his master Buddha and Siddhartha follows his master ... his Higher Self.

chanting OM
nature awakes in the early light
souls re-united


© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until March 1st at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on.


Carpe Diem #1375 Petra


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

My apologies for being late with publishing. I had a very busy evening shift and hadn't time to create our new episode. This month is running towards its end and that makes me a little bit sad, but also a little bit happy. I hadn't thought that this month would be this difficult to create, but ... well it is fun to create our episodes to inspire you.

We are on a journey along the ancient Silk Road and today we arrive at the ancient town Petra. Petra is renown around the world and I hope to inspire you to create haiku, tanka or other Japanese poetry form.


Petra:

Petra, originally known as Raqmu, is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies on the slope of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah valley that run from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It was established possibly as early as the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.

The trading business gained the Nabataeans considerable revenue, and Petra became the focus of their wealth. The earliest recorded historical reference to the city was when an envious Greek dynasty attempted to ransack the city in 312 BC. The Nabataeans were, unlike their enemies, accustomed to living in the barren deserts, and were able to repel attacks by utilizing the area's mountainous terrain. They were particularly skillful in harvesting rainwater, agriculture and stone carving. The Kingdom's capital continued to flourish until the 1st century AD when its famous Al-Khazneh facade was constructed, and its population peaked at an estimated 20,000 inhabitants.

Petra, capitol of the Nabataen Kingdom

Encroaching troops of the Roman Empire in 106 AD forced the Nabataeans to surrender. The Romans annexed and renamed the Kingdom to Arabia Petraea. Petra's importance declined as sea trade routes emerged, and after a 363 earthquake destroyed many structures. The Byzantine Era witnessed the construction of several Christian churches. By 700, the city became an abandoned place where only a handful of nomads grazed goats. It remained unknown to Europeans until it was rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who had read the historical descriptions of Petra and concluded that "there is no other ruin between the extremities of the Dead sea and Red sea, of sufficient importance to answer to that city".

The city is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage".

Petra or the Rose City
The Monastery at Petra, an ornate rock cut temple, is only accessible after climbing 800 stairs. This temple dates to the 1st century BCE and is said to be the symposium for those who followed the cult of Obodas I.

It's a renown tourist place in Jordan. I think you all know this ancient city that's renown of its sculptures.

Rose City
abandoned beauty
only grazing goats


© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 28th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Carpe Diem #1374 The Levant


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First I have to apologize for being this late with publishing our new episode of our journey along the Ancient Silk Road, that renown trade route straight through Asia. As I was doing my research for our yesterday's post I ran into what is known as The Levant. As I read that name I thought it was a kind of warm wind, but it turned out that it was a region in Asia. I was immediately triggered, because I think there are many around that have the same idea about The Levant. So here it is our new episode about The Levant and I hope it will be an interesting episode.


The Levant ... Land of the Morninglight

The Levant is a term in geography that refers to an area in the Middle East which includes the historic areas of Palestine, Israel and Syria. The Levant is bounded by the Taurus Mountains to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, the northern Arabian Desert to the south and Upper Mesopotamia to the east.
The word "Levant" entered the English language in the 16th century, together with the first English merchant adventurers in the region. English ships appeared in the Mediterranean in the 1570s and the English merchant company signed its agreement ("capitulations") with the Grand Turk in 1579.
Today, the word "Levant" is usually used by archaeologists and historians who are talking about the prehistory and the ancient and medieval history of the region, as when discussing the Crusades. The term is also used sometimes to refer to modern or contemporary events, peoples, states, or parts of states in the same region, such as Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

The Levant has been described as the "crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, and northeast Africa", and the "northwest of the Arabian plate".The populations of the Levant share not only the geographic position, but cuisine, some customs , and a very long history. They are often referred to as Levantines.

The Levant has a rich history

In this "crossroads"- idea we can see that The Levant was part of the Silk Road, so this region was rich and their main goal was trading. The Levant is also a region in which we see Islam as a leading religion. So maybe ... Islam came along the Silk Road too as did Buddhism and Christianity.
What an awesome idea that these religions were spread along the Silk Road ... as a kind of trading ideas and philosophies.

ancient crossroads
buried beneath the desert
raging sandstorms


© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 27th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, Petra, later on. For now .... have fun!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Carpe Diem #1373 Syrian Desert (Southern Route)


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are on a journey along the ancient Silk Road, a renown trade route straight through Asia. And today I love to inspire your imagination through a wonderful image of the Syrian Desert. So this will be a very short episode, because of lack of time.

Syrian Desert
shadows dance
against the sand mountains -
stark blue sky

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until February 26th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, Levant, later on. For now have fun!



Sunday, February 18, 2018

Carpe Diem #1372 Mesopotamia


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

What an amazing month this is. We are on a journey along the ancient Silk Road, a trade route straight through Asia. We started on the Northern Route around the Taklamakan Desert and now we are on the Southern Route. This Silk Road, there were several, we are now visiting ancient Mesopotamia. Let me tell you a little bit more about this ancient country.

Mesopotamia is a historical region in West Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq plus Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.

The marshes in the delta region of Euphrates and Tigris today

The Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.

Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with western parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, eastern part of it fell to the Sassanid Persians. Division of Mesopotamia between Roman (Byzantine from AD 395) and Sassanid Empires lasted until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire and Muslim conquest of the Levant from Byzantines. A number of primarily neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene, Osroene, and Hatra.

Mesopotamia (AdobeStock)
Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture."

I think you all have heard from this ancient country. It has a very rich history in is mentioned in the Bible and the Qu'ran, so there is a connection between these religions. That connection we will explore next month as we will "read" the Qu'ran. I have already started reading it and I only can say it's a beautiful book to read and I hope to explore it further next month.

As you know during our journey along the Silk Road we are reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and in that story a river plays a role too. As Siddhartha decides to go the Samanas he has to cross a river and after several years, and after his wealthy period with Kamala, he decides to leave again, He than needs to cross the same river again. He however doesn't cross the river because he becomes the apprentice of the ferryman. That part of the story we will discover later this week.

land of two rivers
which river I have to follow?
A new path chosen

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 25th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on.