dharma pagan

Dharma Pagan is the intersection of Buddhist and Pagan teachings is a lively crossroads where free will and mind training meet magical and mythic phenomena. This is a collective body of the work of many, hosted by YesheRabbit Matthews and Erick DuPree and home to Dharma Pagan Dialogues and Discussions Vlog.

Do Not Allow Yourself to Be Recruited

Cross-posted from Yeshe's blog:

Every day we are faced with choices about whether to remain firm in ourselves or follow the crowd. Some of these choices are about things as simple as what we buy, and some are much more difficult.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 showed that people will buy an inferior product, when given the choice of a higher-quality product, if they see others around them purchasing that lower-quality choice. The authors of the study stated, “Our research demonstrates that automatic forms of social influence are more pervasive than previously thought. The automatic processes that underlie behavioral mimicry appear to not only influence nonverbal communication, emotions, and behavior when people interact, but they adopt the same preferences as other consumers.”

If herd mentality influences us at such a basic level that it overrides our ability to make sensible decisions regarding the quality and value of products we are purchasing for regular use, what else might be impacted by this human tendency? And, how might we catch ourselves before we fall down the rabbit hole of public opinion and make errors in judgment?

In the 11th century, Tibetan mystic Machig Labdrön offered these 5 slogans to help people confront their lesser tendencies. Each of these slogans serves as a toe hold that can keep us from sliding down the slippery slope of our conditioned behaviors.

Confess your hidden faults.
Approach what you find repulsive.
Help those you think you cannot help.
Anything you are attached to, give that.
Go to the places that scare you.

By cultivating awareness of our patterns of attachment, aversion, and indifference as revealed by these 5 slogans, we have the opportunity to see WHY we are so easily influenced by public opinion: because it's comfortable and familiar. In the absence of personal awareness and decisiveness about our actions and choices, we are more likely to choose a comfortable but lower-quality life experience rather than the more risky path of self-discovery, which may yield discomfort. Yet, amidst the discomfort of choosing the more difficult path of Machig's slogans, or another code of conduct that demands that you take the high road, there can dawn within you an almost excruciating bliss. This is your direct connection to the web of light. No one can take it from you, no one can give it to you, and many around you will not understand it. Then you will know you have broken free from the herd.

Do not allow yourself to be recruited: not by well-intentioned but incomplete ideas, nor by the collective power of a group of people reveling in low-energy or aggressive emotions, nor by trends and fashions, nor even by your own lesser impulses.

Learn to be who you truly are, an emanation of light within a field of light, and find the deepest possible wellspring of joy by taking the risk of discomfort in stepping free of the crowd and its focus on empty opinions and lower-quality experiences. Then, when your own light shines brighter as a result, watch how others around you begin to do the same. This is the opposite of recruitment and the beginning of a kind of entrainment that can change entire communities.

Prosperity and Living Your Dharma

Guest post by Ravensong Phoenixfire

"It is better to live your own Dharma imperfectly, than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection." -Bhagavad Gita

This past August, I sat around a table with my fellow CAYA Aspirants, musing about what we wanted to do for our lunar working for that month. We had agreed to choose a theme and then do our individual workings around the theme, checking in with one another for support. The theme chosen among us was Prosperity. Some mused about creating budgets or saving for a vacation. At first I felt a bit of a disconnect with that particular working, since as a yoga teacher, there isn't a whole lot of money in what I do. So instead of focusing solely on the monetary aspect, I instead chose to focus on Right Livelihood.

The day after, I hopped a plane for Washington State, and spent some much-needed time relaxing, rejuvenating, swimming in natural bodies of water, and connecting with nature. I had precious time there to reflect on what I valued, reassess what kind of work I wished to do in the world, and look at where I had been wasting my energy.

When I returned home to San Francisco the following week, I set to work. As a witch who is a yogini and a devotee of Ganesha and Kali, many of my spells have to do with mantra. I chant in Sanskrit, which is a holy language that has immense power to focus the mind and bring about transformation and healing.

In my studies of mantra, one of the most powerful chants to bring forth abundance is "Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha". In yogic philosophy, Om is the syllable that encompasses all sound and no sound simultaneously. Shrim is the seed syllable for Lakshmi. Maha means "great". Lakshmiyei is a term of endearment for the Lakshmi, goddess of beauty, abundance, and prosperity. Swaha means "I salute you."

Taking a cue from my colleague Edward Vilga, who has used this mantra for years with great effect, I added one more syllable to give the mantra some extra oomph: Gam, the seed syllable for Ganesha, the Opener of the Way, Remover of Obstacles, Lover of Knowledge. The reasoning behind this addition was to invite Lord Ganesha in to open the way for Lakshmi to birth abundance.

For the remainder of the moon cycle, I chanted 108 repetitions every day of "Om Gam Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha". After each day's working, I would either wear the mala I used to track my repetitions, or I'd leave it to charge on my altar.

Mantras wear a groove in our subconscious, thereby rewiring our thoughts and words so that we can bring about change within ourselves. Paired with action in the mundane world, this practice can move mountains! I mercifully let go of a class I had tried and failed to build for two years, as well as a class I was subbing out regularly due to scheduling conflicts. Then I put out a call to my colleagues in the yoga world to let them know I was looking for work teaching Hatha, Yin, Restorative, and Therapeutic Yoga. My colleagues stepped up to the plate and began making introductions to studio owners and managers. Requests for interviews began to flood my email inbox. Those interviews gave way to practical demos. Then the offers started pouring in. The classes I decided to keep from before this working have grown not only viable, but profitable. At one of the new studios where I was hired, I submitted proposals for four workshops, and all four got accepted. It has reached a point where I will need to exercise discernment on accepting any further offers.

I am grateful for the abundance that has begun to flow my way. I am grateful to Ganesha, Lakshmi, all of my colleagues who made introductions, and all the studio owners and managers who genuinely wanted what I have to offer. This is the Dharma in action. When thought, word, and action are in alignment with one's truest and highest self, some potent magic can happen.

Offerings from the Air Dakini Writing Retreat

One of the exercises at the Air Dakini writing retreat was an invocation of a meditational deity after a guided visualization. Here are two selections from that exercise, with gratitude to RoseJayada and Karen!

Invocation to the Beloved (Aphrodite Melissa)
When I was a baby, in my mother’s womb, Your love landed on her belly as she sat outside, in the sunlight  You crawled there, on her skin, searching for me. She sat very still, awed by your love and beauty.

She told me later, Beloved, how honored she was to be gifted with this blessing on the daughter she knew would soon be in her arms

You danced Your grace on her belly, You laughed and sang her joy and gave that joy to me, inside, listening and sleepy, in the sunshine, in my mother’s belly, knowing Your love was with me, that I was made entirely of and by Your love, and love was and is my birthright.

May Your love be with us always.
May Your love bless our actions always.
May Your love guide and protect us on our path.

Io Aphrodite
Io Aphrodite
Io Aphrodite

-RoseJayada, 2015 all rights reserved

Power, blood, fire, wind,
oak tree, lightning, blasting forge.
Voice of pain, You god of swords,
You are iron, Mother of Death,
blood-red teeth, the Mother of monsters.
You are living, all eternal,
Your heaving sword is battle-tested.
You are the oak and tender acorn,
Life in one hand, death the other.
Mother of fire, blazing iron, 
walls and strength and deep black earth, 
Mother of the end of all things.
Wielder of sword and bow and hammer,
maker of magic, You know the wind's secrets.
Bringer of armies, leader of men,
Hag of the Iron Wood, Chieftan of the Wolf Clan.
You lead, unflinching; You do not shirk the hard thing.
You love your children no matter how ugly.
You command, You rise--in life, in fury, 
in determination. You do not look away.
God of fire, blazing passion, You lay with fire and rise unburned.
Power of ice that crushes all things, 
power of earth that hides your grief,
power of fire that flows through earth and stone and mountain,
carrying loss and all your howling,
that, when it cools, builds new mountains.
You are stone and rock and hill, you are the mighty root
at the foot of all things. 
Come now, Mother and Grandmother and Great-Grandmother.
Come now, Wise Woman and Healer and Shaman.
Come now, Leader and Warrior and Chief.
Come to me now and bring me wisdom.

-Karen Krebser, 2015 all rights reserved


Dharma Practice vs. Pie in the Sky Buddhism

by guest blogger Larry Cornett

Do as much as you can to maximize happiness and the causes of happiness and to end suffering and the causes of suffering for all sentient beings while in this incarnation, while effectively using available opportunities to improve your abilities to accomplish even more. Focusing only on achieving total enlightenment while neglecting to do what you can toward the aforementioned objectives, even though still caught in the net of Samsara, is selfish and ineffective at clearing counterproductive emotions, attachment, and ego -- at least at my level of development. Don’t let fixation on the perfect be the enemy of the good. It would be like trying to climb a mountain looking only at the peak and neglecting to watch your step. 

Recognize your limitations and apply daily meditative practice to overcome them, but back off on mundane actions when the situation and your habits and limitations are likely to make you do more harm than good. Mistakes in this process can reveal negativities that you can clear thru practice so you can do even more. One needs to expand one's boundaries so you can handle diverse situations without getting upset because you did not get your way, etc. This builds good karma, leads one to better incarnations, and helps build relative wisdom and enable the advanced forms of meditation that lead to full enlightenment.

Training and occasional meditative retreats can also help. When one can reliably achieve calm abiding and are making rapid progress, it may be appropriate for an advanced practitioner to take the considerable time needed from mundane concerns to realize emptiness and achieve full enlightenment for the purpose of being as effective as possible.

Tara Wisdom Cards by Jessica Zebrine Gray

One of the most exciting creative projects we have seen in a while are these Tara Wisdom Cards by Zebrine Gray. This tarot deck, featuring 78 cards that follow the Rider-Waite format, feature the 21 forms of Tara as the Major Arcana, as well as suits such as Vajras (Fire), Bells (Air), Vases (Water), and Wheels (Earth).   

Zebrine launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to get these cards printed, and you still have 7 days to get your support in if you want to. Otherwise, hopefully you can find these cards for sale on Zebrine's website.


Writing from Spirit Retreat

Up next in our 2015 Retreat Schedule, we explore the element of Air. We will gather at 11 am PST in person in Alameda and online across the country to invoke the dakinis of the Air element into our bodies and minds with a combination of chanting, meditation, and guided writing exercises. Here is the schedule of our day:

10:45 am PST: Gather locally and online
11: first chanting session
11.30: first writing exercise
 12 noon PST: lunch (bring your own and we will eat together while discussing Writing as a Spiritual Process)
1: second chanting session
1.30: second writing session
2: Guided Meditation
2.30: third chanting session
3: third writing session
3.30: final chanting session and wrap-up

We will be doing several different pieces of sacred writing on this day, and calling upon the meditational deities Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal to inspire us with clarity, skill, and power of the word in service to the highest benefit of all beings.

Suggested dana: $50-100, no one turned away for lack of funds.

Please contact Yeshe if you would like to attend: yesherabbit@gmail.com

Chanting to Change the World

UPDATED: WE GATHERED OVER 100,000 recitations! Read below.

When we chant to create change, we are both chanting in a ritual way to manifest an effect in the world and chanting in a meditative way to cause changes in ourselves and our views.

Creating change in ourselves is not different from creating change in the world. Creating change in the world is not different from creating change in ourselves.

How is change even possible, when the truth of all existence is suffering? Throughout space and time suffering is something all beings experience. Often, suffering is the direct result of our attachments to particular desired outcomes. So, in wanting change, are we not just moving from one form of suffering to another form of suffering?

It is true that we cannot permanently end suffering. The desire for change, however, is not built on the notion that we will permanently eradicate suffering. The desire for change, when motivated by bodhicitta, is the natural upwelling of compassion, spontaneous and unbidden, and the wish to alleviate another's pain, even temporarily, as quickly as possible.  

Change is possible in non-forceful ways, just as clouds change shape in the sky with a gentle breeze. Change is also possible as the result of force, just as our breath on the head of a dandelion changes the shape of the air as the seeds go dancing. Change is actually neither force nor lack of force. It is simply movement.

The breath and voice, raised in chant, create movement. With our chant, we can create change.

The Tea & Chanting Sangha is chanting for those afflicted by police violence, brutality, and militarization for the entire month of December. May these beings, and all beings, have freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering. 

From Tibet to Ferguson to New York, and beyond, there are better, safer, more compassionate solutions for law enforcement officers to use than violence. It is also the responsibility of law enforcement officers to actually be twice as sensitive to those who have already been marginalized and oppressed, and to protect all people equally and fairly: suspected criminals, concerned citizens, refugees, and those who left their own countries to come here in search of a better life. They should even protect us from their own expressions of anger, frustration, and other negative emotions, since they are aware that their jobs place them under significant stress. 

Finally, law enforcement officers would be more successful if they were actually also peace and justice officers, carrying out acts that build and strengthen the communities they serve rather than demeaning and damaging them.

Our goal is to collectively and individually accomplish 100,000 repetitions of OM MANI PADME HUM toward positive change and healing regarding law enforcement. We will keep a tally of the recitations here throughout the month, so check back for updates. We will be chanting both in our Tuesday online sessions, and on our own at home. You may fill in this form to receive an email with the link to the chanting sessions or to send in your at-home recitations.

As of Dec. 7, we have accumulated 13,075 recitations.

As of Dec 9, we have accumulated 22,155 recitations.

As of Dec 15, we have accumulated 40,584 recitations.

As of Dec. 28, we have accumulated 66,243 recitations.

As of Jan 6, 2015, we have accumulated 89,074 recitations.

As of Jan 11, we have accumulated 102,291 recitations.

Sonam diyi tamche zigpa nyi
Tobne nyepay dranam pam chenay
Kye ga na chi balap drukpa yi
Sipay tsole drowa drolpar sho 

Dharma Divination Blessing

This week in Tea & Chanting Online we consecrated our tarot cards using methods associated with the Longsal teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. This is a practice for blessing and preparing your divination tools. Usually, this would be a blessing of dice, stones, or a mala, in Tibet. However, this can also be used for tarot, mirror divination, and other tools that you think would benefit from this kind of blessing.

You can bring your divination tools and some incense in front of the computer and follow along if you like. The mantra is OM JNANA PANCA DHAKKINI AKARSHAYA CHA TÖN, in which you  call upon the 5 Wisdom Dakinis to bring their blessings and prophecies.

May this practice and its use be of benefit to all beings.

Generation in Front & Arising As: Vajrayogini

Sitting on my cushion, I am watching the smoke from the incense waft upwards and swirl around the altar in front of me. Circling, the smoke climbs like a flock of white birds, soaring around the lotus-shaped candle holder with its flickering tea light. The warm, smoky glow illuminates the brass statue of Vajrayogini dancing her sinuous, dreadful, sensuous dance upon the altar. Tongue lolling in ecstasy, skulls chattering from a necklace wreathing her neck, she laughs in my face.

I brace myself to enter the nightmare, to willingly go into the places that scare me. "You think you're strong? You think you're calm and fearless? One snap of my jaws and this fragile thing you call life will be extinguished, composted into my gullet for slow digestion. It's not pretty. I eat all of your ego first. I consume everything you hold dear. Cling to nothing lest I seize it from you and rip it to shreds. Avoid nothing lest I create a special hell where you are faced with that thing wherever you turn. Do not feign indifference. I can smell your nervousness from here." She smiles and rattles the bones at her waist, looking wild, looking maniacal, looking ferocious, inviting me to attempt to refuse the inevitable.

"I love you." It comes out a whisper from my tight throat. She laughs derisively. "You know nothing of love."

In my mind flash images: statues of Hekate, paintings of Kali,  the gaping maw of the Sheila-na-gig, the flocking crows of the Morrighan, the cackle of Baba Yaga, the fetid stench of rotten flowers and unwashed bodies clustered around a mass pyre, the humid loamy smell of the gaping grave, the sound of weeping, wild eyes staring blankly in grief.

"I love you." My voice is louder now. My heart gains courage as my lips move in mantra. She glares at me, daring me, confronting me. From within she begins to glow with red light.

"I love you." The red lights at her crown, throat, heart, gut, and sex begin to beam pinpoints of heat in my direction, penetrating the matching spots on my form. She snarls, gnashes her teeth, stomps on the squishy fresh corpse beneath her feet. I feel the warmth of her liquid light moving through my body, filling me, rending my sense of identity to shreds, tearing apart from within any sense of "self." I can feel her hot breath on my face. "You are nothing. You know nothing. You love nothing. There is nothing here to love."

"I love you." Now my voice is loud, high, anxious. She notices and draws nearer. Her face is in my face. Her body is pressed against mine. Her hips are working, legs shaking, her arms pinning my arms to my sides, her ragged exhalation covers me in clouds of violent, red wind. The warm blood from her heart center flows into mine. Filled with this light, I am keenly aware of how paradoxically empty I feel. At this point, there is no "me" to "feel." I just begin to pulse along with her.

Something in me, me-not-me, remembers that in the body of the Goddess, all things are undifferentiated phenomena. This horrible vision could just as easily be a beautiful vision. This fear and pain could just as easily be paradise. All is one, and all is all. And it is my decision if it is paradise or not.

Suddenly, all there is, is Vajrayogini. She is overwhelming. She is utterly overwhelming in every way. Her body dissolves and I breathe deeply the odor of decay she leaves in her wake like a fine powder mist.

"I love you," the words echo in the empty space as my awareness bursts back into bloom. I AM that red, liquid light. I AM the Vajrayogini. I AM undifferentiated and diffuse. I AM pure, rhythmic awareness of the cycles of life, death, and rebirth. I AM NOT SEPARATE from the ultimate power of creation and destruction. I AM love. Love is all there is. Amidst pain and suffering and bliss and joy there is love, love love. Love is everything, love is anyway. IT'S ALL RIGHT HERE.

All that I have ever been, in any body, and all that I will ever be, in any time, is here, now. There is no more stench, no more force, no more fear. Instead, red light flows forth into and from each pointless corner of the cosmos, shattering my illusions of what is and what is not. This is a place beyond geography, a time beyond hours. This is the "no-thing-ness" that is everything. This is the deafening silence.

From the eternal brilliant darkness the sound BAM begins to resonate, vibrating more and more loudly until a pinprick of light shines forth, a heat generated from sonic friction. That light takes the form of the written syllable BAM, floating above a cushion, above the moon, and then begins to morph into the body of Vajrayogini. This time, Vajrayogini and I arise together. I AM Vajrayogini, and I emanate into the space where my former "sense of self" dissipated moments ago.

Having take empowerment from her, having surrendered to her, having allowed fear to wash over and through me, and having chosen love as the only way through into dissolution, Vajrayogini now appears completely differently than she did before. Her face is no longer twisted in a snarl, her hair is flowing like a rich waterfall down her neck. Her body is clean and fragrant and nourishing. Milk and nectar flow bounteously from her breasts. The skull necklace is now a ring of roses, and the odor of decay has become perfume. Her wild movements that once menaced me are now my own body's beautiful, gyrating dance. 

Adorned with precious carved bone ornaments rattling, and crowned with the beauty of the stars, I sweep my hands, hips, and feet in the rhythm of creation. Around me, rainbows bloom from galaxies, vines grow and wither, the endless churning of existence resumes, the wheel of the faithful turns. I remember. I re-member. I breathe life into the next turn of the dance, and universes are born and collapse within my body. I love it all. I am in love with it all. I am love in all its aching, wretched, soulful, mysterious, messy forms. I return to love. I abide in love. Time passes, yet nothing passes. I open my eyes.

I turn my attention back, now, to the phenomenal world, sitting on my cushion at my altar. The incense is out. The candle flickers.  My legs are asleep. I ring a bell, and move on with my practice.


Refuge in the Dharma, Pagan?

Posted by Erick DuPree

People often assume that I am a practicing Buddhist, and I suppose that in many ways I am. I am certainly a buddha in a world of many!  A buddha is someone who sees the way things really are. When we see the way things really are, we see that we’re all in this together, that we are all interdependent. Through this experience, I have come to learn that great surpassing love arises, and this love is what leads a buddha to wish that all beings would open to this wisdom of interconnectedness. Through this lens, we become free of the misery that arises from ignoring the way things are. This is the dharma.

However, my daily practice isn't Buddhism, and my spiritual process leans more esoteric, a lot more esoteric. This is because I am a Pagan. Like many Pagans, my quest for truth and wisdom lead me on an exploration. See, Paganism gives us the permission to dare. To create a glorious pantheon of interfaith deities that enrich and empower our lives. I happened to develop a strong relationship with the magical practices of deity yoga and Tantra, and the great stillness that comes from Zen. I met my beloved colleague Yeshe Rabbit over two years ago, and we were of like mind in seeking the balance between Buddhism and Paganism. Here we are now, Dharma Pagans. 

What we do is take the esoteric teachings from Buddhism and build practices from there that offer the wisdom of the immanent, transcendent, and the immediate. There is no 'rede' or three fold law, because everything is dharma for us. Some might say that when others bring the sword of truth, we bring the dharma. Dharma is the body of wisdom teachings that inspire us to seek refuge from suffering, what the Buddha himself once said, "I teach on suffering and the way to end it".

The Dharma Pagan takes refuge in ending suffering and uses our magic, be our practices Thelema, Eclectic, Feri, Wicca or other (or many), in partnership with the lessons of the dharma. We rely on four truths in our work together:

  • Rely on the teaching, not on the person;
  • Rely on the meaning, not on the words;
  • Rely on the definitive meaning, not on the provisional,
  • Rely on the wisdom mind, not on the ordinary mind.

Dharma Paganism is not a spiritual tradition, there is no five point plan towards initiation. We are a self identified, self initiated, community of seekers who take refuge in ending suffering. We just happen to do it with a lot of magic!  Welcome!

I am excited that today, YesheRabbit and I launch Dharma Pagan. This website is collection of ideas, thoughts, inspirations and more. Here we will write about topics like how and why we take refuge,  what is an offering, how can we live more meaningful lives in the dharma, etc.  This is not a gospel, but an invitation. Many join us on the blog, and in our Dharma Pagan Dialogues. Together we are building an online community. Our sangha is open to all who seek to liberate themselves and others from suffering. This is Goddess, what it means to be part of Her great interconnected web of human experience.  Together, we are dharma and pagan, and we take refuge.