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Charnel ground

A charnel ground (Devanagari: श्मशान; Romanized Sanskrit: śmaśāna; Tibetan pronunciation: durtrö; Tibetan: དུར་ཁྲོད, Wylie: dur khrod),[1] in concrete terms, is an above-ground site for the putrefaction of bodies, generally human, where formerly living tissue is left to decompose uncovered. Although it may have demarcated locations within it functionally identified as burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria, it is distinct from these as well as from crypts or burial vaults. In a religious sense, it is also a very important location for sadhana and ritual activity for Indo-Tibetan traditions of Dharma particularly those traditions iterated by the Tantric view such as Kashmiri Shaivism, Kaula tradition, Esoteric Buddhism, Vajrayana, Mantrayana, Dzogchen, and the sadhana of Chöd, Phowa and Zhitro, etc. The charnel ground is also an archetypal liminality that figures prominently in the literature and liturgy and as an artistic motif in Dharmic Traditions and cultures iterated by the more antinomian and esoteric aspects of traditional Indian culture.

From a deeper structural significance and getting to the substantive bones of the Vajrayana spiritual point of view however, the charnel ground is full of profound transpersonal significance. It represents the 'death of ego' (Sanskrit: atmayajna), and the end of:

  • attachment (Sanskrit: Upādāna; Tibetan: len pa) to this body and life
  • craving (Sanskrit: Tṛṣṇā; Tibetan: sred pa) for a body and life in the future
  • fear of death (Sanskrit: abhiniveśa)
  • aversion (Sanskrit: dveṣa; Wylie: zhe sdang) to the decay of 'impermanence' (Sanskrit: anitya).[1]

Simmer-Brown (2001: p. 127) conveys how the 'charnel ground' experience may present itself in the modern Western mindstream situations of emotional intensity, protracted peak performance, marginalization and extreme desperation: "In contemporary Western society, the charnel ground might be a prison, a homeless shelter, the welfare roll, or a factory assembly line. The key to its successful support of practice is its desperate, hopeless, or terrifying quality. For that matter, there are environments that appear prosperous and privileged to others but are charnel grounds for their inhabitants--Hollywood, Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Washington, D.C. These are worlds in which extreme competitiveness, speed, and power rule, and the actors in their dramas experience intense emotion, ambition, and fear. The intensity of their dynamics makes all of these situations ripe for the Vajrayana practice of the charnel ground." — [5]

...The charnel ground is not merely the hermitage; it can also be discovered or revealed in completely terrifying mundane environments where practitioners find themselves desperate and depressed, where conventional worldly aspirations have become devastated by grim reality. This is demonstrated in the sacred biographies of the great siddhas of the Vajrayāna tradition. Tilopa attained realization as a grinder of sesame seeds and a procurer for a prominent prostitute. Sarvabhakṣa was an extremely obese glutton, Gorakṣa was a cowherd in remote climes, Taṅtepa was addicted to gambling, and Kumbharipa was a destitute potter. These circumstances were charnel grounds because they were despised in Indian society and the siddhas were viewed as failures, marginal and defiled. — [5]



Lila (Sanskrit: लीला, IAST līlā) or Leela, like many Sanskrit words, cannot be precisely translated into English, but can be loosely translated as the "divine play". The concept of Lila is common to both non-dualist and dualist philosophical schools, but has a markedly different significance in each. Within non-dualism, Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute (Brahman). In the dualistic schools of Vaishnavism, Lila refers to the activities of God and his devotees.

Modern interpretations

The Vendantic yogi never tires of stating that kaivalya, "isolation-integration", can be attained only by turning away from the distracting allure of the world and worshiping with single-pointed attention the formless Brahman-Atman; to the Tantric, however—as to the normal child of the world—this notion seems pathological, the wrong-headed effect of a certain malady of intellect. (...) "I like eating sugar," as Ramprasad said, "but I have no desire to become sugar." Let those who suffer from the toils of samsara seek release: the perfect devotee does not suffer; for he can both visualize and experience life and the universe as the revelation of that Supreme Divine Force (shakti) with which he is in love, the all-comprehensive Divine Being in its cosmic aspect of playful, aimless display (lila)—which precipitates pain as well as joy, but in its bliss transcends them both.
— Rohan Bastin, The Domain of Constant Excess: Plural Worship at the Munnesvaram Temples in Sri Lanka


Buddhist concepts

Four Higher Truths

  • The existence of suffering
  • The origin of suffering
  • The cessation of suffering
  • The path for the cessation of suffering

Eightfold Path

  • Right View
  • Right Thinking
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Diligence
  • Right Concentration
  • Right Livelihood

The Two Truths

  • Relative or Worldly Truth (Sambriti Satya)
  • Absolute Truth (Paramartha Satya)

Three Dharma Seals *Impermanence (anitya)

  • Nonself (anatman)
  • Cessation & Liberation (nirvana)

Three Doors of Liberation *Emptiness (shunyata)

  • Signlessness (animitta)
  • Aimlessness (apranihita)

Three Bodies of Buddha

  • Dharmakaya, the source of enlightenment and happiness (Incorporeal, Formless, Void)
  • Sambhogakaya, the body of bliss or enjoyment (Semi-corporeal, Symbolic, Dreams & Visions & Ecstasies)
  • Nirmanakaya, the historical embodiment of the Buddha (Corporeal, Empirical, Explicit)

"Three Jewels"

  • Buddha (Founder/Leader/Teacher)
  • Dharma (Teachings)
  • Sangha (Community of practitioners)

Four Sublime Mindstates

  • Loving-kindness (Sanskrit maitri; in Paliit is metta)
  • Compassion (karuna)
  • Sympathetic-Joy (mudita)
  • Equanimity (upeksha in Sanskrit and upekkha in Pali)

Five Hindrances

  • Greed
  • Aversion, Ill Will
  • Sloth & Torpor
  • Anxiety / Restlessness / Indecisiveness
  • Doubt

Five Aggregates

  • Form
  • Feelings
  • Perceptions
  • Mental formations
  • Consciousness.

Five Powers

  • Faith
  • Energy
  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration
  • Insight

Six Paramitas (Perfections)

  • Dana Paramita – giving, offering, generosity.
  • Shila Paramita – precepts or mindfulness trainings
  • Kshanti Paramita – inclusiveness, the capacity to receive, bear, and transform the pain inflicted on you by your enemies and also by those who love you
  • Virya Paramita – diligence, energy, perseverance
  • Dhyana Paramita – meditation
  • Prajña Paramita – wisdom, insight, understanding. Practicing the Six Paramitas helps us to reach the "other shore"

Seven Factors of Awakening

  • Mindfulness
  • Investigation of phenomena
  • Diligence
  • Joy
  • Ease
  • Concentration
  • Letting go

Shamatha (Tranquilizing) Meditation

  • Stopping
  • Calming
  • Resting
  • Healing

Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising

  • Ignorance
  • Volitional Actions
  • Consciousness
  • Mind / Body
  • Six Sense Organs & Their Objects
  • Contact
  • Feeling
  • Craving
  • Grasping
  • Coming to Be
  • Birth
  • Old Age & Death

Five Mindfulness Trainings

  • Reverence for Life
  • True Happiness
  • True Love
  • Loving Speech and Deep Listening
  • Nourishment and Healing

Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing (Modern Zen)

  • The First Mindfulness Training: Openness
  • The Second Mindfulness Training: Non-attachment to Views
  • The Third Mindfulness Training: Freedom of Thought
  • The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Awareness of Suffering
  • The Fifth Mindfulness Training: Compassionate, Healthy Living
  • The Sixth Mindfulness Training: Taking Care of Anger
  • The Seventh Mindfulness Training: Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment
  • The Eighth Mindfulness Training: True Community and Communication
  • The Ninth Mindfulness Training: Truthful and Loving Speech
  • The Tenth Mindfulness Training: Protecting and Nourishing the Sangha
  • The Eleventh Mindfulness Training: Right Livelihood
  • The Twelfth Mindfulness Training: Reverence for Life
  • The Thirteenth Mindfulness Training: Generosity
  • The Fourteenth Mindfulness Training: True Love

Eight Worldly Winds (Vicissitudes)

  • Pleasure & Pain
  • Gain & Loss
  • Praise & Blame
  • Fame & Disrepute

The Four Metta Phrases

  • May (I/you/others) be free from danger
  • May (I/you/others) be happy
  • May (I/you/others) be healthy
  • May (I/you/others) love with ease

The Five Remembrances

  • I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
  • I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health.
  • I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
  • All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  • I inherit the results of my actions in body, speech, and mind. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

Four Gratitudes

  • Gratitude to parents, teachers, friends, and all beings.

The Three Realms

  • The Desire Realm (where we are attached to sensual desire)
  • Form and Formless Realms (where we are attached to the pleasures of meditative concentration).

Five Awarenesses

  • We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us.
  • We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children, and their children have of us.
  • We are aware that our joy, peace, freedom, and harmony are the joy, peace, freedom, and harmony of our ancestors, our children, and their children.
  • We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love.
  • We are aware that blaming and arguing never help us and only create a wider gap between us, that only understanding, trust, and love can help us change and grow.

Four Wrong Perceptions

  • Something that is impure, we call pure
  • Something that is painful, we call pleasurable
  • Something that is impermanent, we call permanent
  • Something that is no-self, we say it has a self

Four Kinds of Nutriments

  • Edible Food and Water (Physical sustenance)
  • Sensory Impressions
  • Intention/Volition
  • Consciousness

Three Kinds of Pride

  • Thinking I am better than the other(s)
  • Thinking I am worse than the other(s)
  • Thinking I am just as good as the other(s)

Metta Practice

  • May I be peaceful and light in body and in mind.
  • May I be safe and free from accidents.
  • May I be free from anger, unwholesome states of mind, fear and worries.
  • May I know how to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
  • May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
  • May I learn how to nourish myself with joy each day.
  • May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
  • May I not fall into a state of indifference or be caught in the extremes of attachment or aversion.