with: lalita marguerite, charlie sofo, toy, chi tran performed live on the 27th of april at siteworks. including written submission by alex griffin
There once was a great house. It had a marvelous balcony with painted white columns and polished concrete steps. Here people gathered to enjoy all that they owned and to plan what they would take in the future. The Head of the house was accustomed to the reverence from his community which he received for no apparent reason other than being a beacon of civility and wealth, distributing carbonated drinks among the people. It was mid summer, the time of opulent festivities designed to wash away the wickedness from the previous years exploits. Clothes, ornaments and tools were bought and motivational discourses listened to.
After ritual bathing, the owner of the house had ample pots of alcohol prepared for the guests who would be arriving for the ceremony at noon. The celebrations included such patterns of giving and receiving to ensure an advantageous self birth.
Upon arrival the guests had a drink to change the state of consciousness, prepping for the Owner’s speech on virtues of training.They admired the courtyard: its collection of ornamental Chinese vases, the rare trees planted in ceramic pots, the various floral arrangements. All this added to the raised sense of importance while the Owner spoke thus: “Now my friends, what is the meaning of stress? Not getting what one wants is stressful. Before my training, when I was still a trainee, the thought occurred to me as well: It’s not easy to endure imperial exams, isolated domestic settings or empty dwellings. Not easy to maintain perfection, not easy to enjoy being alone. The world, as it were, plunders the mind of a person who has not been trained. There are indispensable tools for cultivation possessed by every family. A large balcony to keep watch, a large bath tub for ritual bathing while the Gods are watching, a long rod of bamboo with strips of leather for steering oxen and workers. All of these tools we have kept in our families for generations.”
The guests applauded. It was
comforting to know that there were no threats to their lifestyle within the community.
While they experienced no suffering to require hope nor lack of occupations to
need power, they immersed themselves in ritual to enhance the individual’s
Tools for Cultivation
The word dhar literally means the upper part of the body and the use of this term for groups of people carries out the idea of physical unity, that is, members of the same dhar are all of one body. For a body to operate successfully over an extended period of time it must meet three conditions.
1. It must be sufficiently cohesive to act as a unit
2. It must be large enough to act as a self-sufficient ceremonial group, for example, it must be able to summon an impressive number of relatives to a marriage party
3. It must have sufficient economic resources to be independent of other groups.
This means that it must have some well-to-do families that can rent out land or act as money lenders for its poorer members. It must also have sufficient resources to fight expensive and lengthy court cases.
There are some occasions, though these are relatively few and far between, when members of different factions come together despite their differences and unite for some common action. The major occasions are funerals, the building of village wells, the cleaning of the village pond and if two men of hostile factions have married daughters living in the same village, he must visit the daughter of that hostile faction and pay the customary one dollar to symbolise the fact that she, like his own daughter, is a daughter of the village.
The Owner of the House
insisted on checking every side of every piece of paper before anyone left the premise- in case someone had accused
him faulty loans to other groups. Or admitted to such an act themselves. The
doctor said that this OCD behaviour was the result of a lack of faith. He
polished his safe with a soft chamois every evening, and then applied brasso to
A Sample God, A Sample Festival
A community somewhere had an organic structure of territories. Whenever there was need of a room one was built onto the structure which splayed out horizontally. Whenever a room was constructed, the curer was sent for to sprinkle holy water. This assured the people that it was not able to be owned by any particular body. Sometimes these unfired brick rooms would melt in a storm but the people were equipped to deal with these unfavourable events.
There are things that people do and things that happen of themselves with the latter category being what we call omens. The silty mud that sloshed around their feet and few belongings was an opportunity to devise a ritual. It was a reminder that nothing is more permanent than the ability to create.
Each member of the locality lit an eathernware lamp and gathered around a pile of soil on the ground. The ritual began by joining hands and chanting the syllables of everyone in the circle. They proceeded to walk clockwise, thus turning their psychic energy like a wheel. When the energy reached its peak, the bodies came to a halt and behind closed eyes they focused on the mud effigy that was encircled by them.
A particularly beautiful vision of nature emerged from the mud. This metaphor would slip into living being, serving as a nurturing guide. Each person reached out and pasted a smear of the appreciated mud on each
others forehead, meaning that they would be looked after until the next meeting.
There were a few things in this village that connected the past and the present. While group practices changed frequently, in a seamless dance between the individual and the group, they were essential to continuing this sense of connection. The people didn’t care too much about the distinction between immediate and fantastic reality.
One day a person from outside the village arrived with a small suitcase. She had small features and wore a two piece suit made from a creamy coloured polyester. She had travelled a long way to have someone teach her how to relate to her spirit and was always writing in a book-diary. As a trainee, desiring the unexcelled relief from bondage, her aspirations are as yet unfulfilled. Accomodation was built for her on the outer ring of rooms. She pasted a map on the wall and installed a piece of reflective glass.
She had arrived just in time for a gathering. The congregational setting is called a Sangat or Satsang, a words that in ancient Indian texts means “like minded individuals, or fellow travelers on a spiritual journey.” Crowds carried a curved knife at their belts in a white leather case and bowed before sitting down to listen to the devotional singing. Blessings were given from a man or woman sitting atop sacred documents which were written in a succession of generations by passionate people. They waved a rod that had a tail of long cream hairs, swaying from one hand to another. Blessed also was a sweet semolina pudding that was handed out on leaving the singing space.
Symbols structure the world that we perceive and act in – working not only as models of the world, but also models for how the world ought to be.
Apparently there is no
priestly class and anyone can perform services.
What we teach our community, How to convert
Back in her mud loft the outsider wrote thus:
The person comes to feel a close relationship to meaning through singing, visualisation, lessons in how to feel God’s presence, meditation CD’s ecetera.
Rituals change behaviour and thus establish a set of new knowledge practices.
As she was searching for a biographically salient point about her own behaviour altering encounters, she was interrupted by a loud voice in the adjacent room.
“Now, friends, while my soul was viewing God, my fleshy part was working imaginations and saw many things which I will attempt or omit to tell.”
Someone asked: “What sir, are the signs of God vision?”
The other replied: “Well, sometimes God the ego of the devotee is totally effaced… at which point the person who was speaking came under a spell of divine madness- becoming speechless. The silence was broken by them saying: “Oh friends, do not bother about my ornaments. I have found my most precious ornament.”
On listening, she wondered what kind of ornament they were speaking about. Something like the nice Chinese vases back home? She was envious of this kind of enchantment.
She sighed and became abstracted. No ornaments are enough to distract me from what I feel is lacking. There is no framework for therapeutic transformation.
At this point in the
afternoon when the sun burst in from the West the whole mud room felt like an
earthenware lamp. In this light she scrambled around searching for a tiny bit
of dopamine she knew was hidden in the cracks of the walls. “See that it is not
given to the flames, in this body which I played with time…”
Her neighbours episode reminded her of a factory where she once worked. It was a multinational factory and its workers were particularly sensitive to spirits. Whenever a new section of the factory was constructed, the curer was sent for to sprinkle holy water, thereby assuring the workers that the place was rid of ghosts. Frequently nimble young workers became possessed by spirits, falling into a trance, condemning the technicians and managers on duty. When this happened, the curer was sent for. To cure: throw chillies into a fire, bring smoke near the patient and make her chew pepper. The spirit should start to speak and say what it wants- do this, don’t do that. A hair is plucked from the patients head and is bottled up. The hair becomes as thick as a finger. This is the spirit which has been caught and now cannot escape.
The visitor was not envious of this type of possession. She thought of the material causes that would create such a “spiritual affliction.”
Tools for cultivation
When the world is in trouble, such a soul takes birth of its own free will to render service to others. If one does evil deeds, their form changes and they fall lower until they are reduced to ashes with a single stare of God’s eye. Then the ashes mixed with clay convert them into the world’s most poisonous snake. In this form, the unfortunate person is condemned to slither all over the earth they sought to steal from.
The individual and social practice of visualization creates an orientation towards an individual or common goal. Someone seated on a throne before 1000 people told a story about a dog that was constantly sleeping at the neighbours house because it was too noisy at home. About how sometimes you can roll over in your sleep and accidentally switch on a light, and so one should persist with meditation. She then instructed everyone to close their eyes and visualise a vibrating white light fill the body, dissolving the boundaries between inside and outside, while vibrating vocal tones, wafts of rose scented smoke and vapours filled the hall. The strengthening of vision and the possibility of dissolving is affirmed by the group.
line 8 was curated by ben sendy-smithers, ruben(ruby) stoney and daniel ward.