Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Music: Tibetan Chant (Om Mani Padme Hum)

Tibetan script for "Om Mani Padme Hum"
In honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Birmingham this month, enjoy some Tibetan Buddhist chanting. The Dalai Lama will be in Birmingham this week as part of Human Rights week and will be at a public gathering at Region's Field on October 26.

"Om mani padme hum" is one of the most revered mantras in Tibetan Buddhism. It is often carved into rocks and written on paper and placed into prayer wheels. It's aim is to bring the liberation of enlightenment to all living beings. To read what The Dalai Lama has said about this mantra, scroll down below the video. You can read more about Om mani padme hum at

                 On the meaning of: OM MANI PADME HUM

    "The jewel is in the lotus" or "praise to the jewel in the lotus"

  by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet

   It is very good to recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, but while
you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the
meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. The first, OM, is
composed of three pure letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the
practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the
pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

   Can impure body, speech and mind be transformed into pure body,
speech and mind, or are they entirely separate? All Buddhas are cases
of being who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path
became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who
from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good
qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from
gradually leaving the impure states and their being transformed into
the pure.

   How is this done? The path is indicated by the next four syllables.
MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factor of method- the altruistic
intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love.  Just as a
jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of
enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of
cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel
fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to
become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.

   The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as
a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud,
so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-
contradiction where as there would be contradiction if you did not
have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing
that persons are empty of self-sufficient or substantial existence,
wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality (that is to say, of
difference of entity between subject and object), and wisdom that
realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are may
different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom
realizing emptiness.

   Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and
wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable, HUM, which indicates
indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of
method and wisdom refers to one consciousness in which there is a full
form of both wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom.
In the mantra, or tantra vehicle, it refers to one conciousness in
which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one
undifferentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five
conqueror Buddhas, HUM is the is the seed syllable of Akshobhya- the
immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by

   Thus the six syllables, OM MANI PADME HUM, mean that in dependence
on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom,
you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure
body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is said that you should not
seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the
achievement of Buddhahood are within. As Maitreya says in his SUBLIME
the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed
of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (TATHAGATAGARBHA), that is
to be transformed and full developed into Buddhahood.

(From a lecture given by His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet at the
Kalmuck Mongolian Buddhist Center, New Jersey.)

Transcribed by Ngawang Tashi (Tsawa), Drepung Loseling, MUNGOD, INDIA

 (retrieved on 9/15/2014 at

Note: His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be in Birmingham, Alabama at Regions Field on October 26, 2014 as part of Human Rights Week.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Morning Moon


   when the moon rises
   while the sun has lit the sky
   two realms are at peace

                            ~ CK

Photo: Morning moon over the water
Credit: Sharon Caulfield Lewis


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Birding – a Photo Essay

Earlier this month I went on a field trip sponsored by the Birmingham Audubon Society. We spent a Saturday morning at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to see if we could spot any migratory birds making their way from cooler to warmer climes. I always enjoy getting out in nature, and the Botanical Gardens offers the opportunity without even leaving the city confines.
Crepe myrtle trees in front of the Conservatory
 on the way to the Bog Garden

I took along my camera, not imagining that I would actually get any bird photos, but knowing that there would be something worth capturing on film. The good thing about going with a group was that there were people who could share knowledge about the flora and fauna we encountered along the way. I saw some beautiful native plants that I would not have been able to name without help from friends.

"Hearts-a-bustin'" (Euonymus americanus)
 Also known as strawberry bush

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
More "hearts-a-bustin'"

American Beauty Berry (Callicarpe americana)

Our little band putting a sight on some avian life

We did manage to see a variety of birds, which was the aim of the trip. We saw a downy woodpecker, brown thrashers, a catbird, phoebes, flickers, and three kinds of hawks. The hawks we saw were a Cooper’s hawk, a red-tailed hawk, and a red-shouldered hawk. We witnessed the red-shouldered hawk eating his prey, a small rodent, high up in a tree above us.

Eastern phoebe at a distance

The highlight for all of us was a close encounter with a phoebe, a variety of eastern flycatcher. We were hiking a service road that runs along a ridge at the upper end of the Botanical Gardens. Up ahead in the distance we saw a small flock of phoebes flittering about in the shrubs beside the pathway. One of them flew up toward us and alighted in a bush about 20 or 30 feet away. Some one said, “Oh, I’ve never seen one that close.” I took up my camera and quickly got a shot, thinking that would be my only chance, and hoping the bird would be discernable in the picture. To our surprise, the little phoebe then flew toward us again, stopping in a bush even closer. All in our party stood still, watching and quietly remarking at the sight.

The phoebe came closer
to get a good look at us

Amazingly, the little bird then flew right up to our group and stopped on a branch just a arms length away from me. She fluffed her feathers and cocked her head, looking me in the eye, so it seemed.  The she flew up to me, right in front of my face, but finding no spot to light returned to the branch in front of me. She seemed content to pause and commune with us for a few minutes.

She sat for a regular photo shoot
from the group

One person said, “See if she will hop on your finger.” I slowly reached out my hand and extended my forefinger in front of the bird. She eyed my finger, eyed me, and then flew up to my shoulder. She did not land, but instead returned to the branch of the shrub. There was a fly of some sort hovering there, I told, her, “Go catch that fly” (as if the phoebe could understand human speech). She did in fact see the insect, flew down to it but missed. After that, the bird flew on past us to another bush along the path. With that encounter, we proceeded down the road where we would encounter the hawks in the woods, seeking their prey.

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. I was glad I went along, and look forward to other natural encounters in the future. I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity to explore nature. There are many bird-watching groups around that can offer support and guidance in connecting with the natural world.

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