Category Archives: Ancient Books Series

Ancient Books {8} ~ The Four Agreements

“The Four Agreements is a book that lays out an alternative, indigenous Mexican take on the nature of reality and existence. And though the author, Don Miguel Ruiz, identifies as “Toltec“, a broader label of neoshamanistic is probably more realistic.

In any case, the mythology he introduces is page-turning, his writing is powerful and his treatment of the illusory nature of reality is lucid and compelling.

If you’re already steeped in Western or Eastern philosophy The Four Agreements is a good (short) read that casts familiar truths in new and enjoyable forms.

If you’re new to philosophy of any kind, exploring neoshamanism or just looking for a good spirit-lifting read, The Four Agreements is as good a place as any to begin.

To this end, Ruiz proposes four new agreements to make with yourself today:

~Be impeccable with your word;
~Don’t take anything personally;
~Don’t make assumptions; and
~Always do your best.

1 – Be impeccable with your word.
Words are more powerful than we realise, they are the building blocks of labels, concepts and beliefs.

To avoid creating new, harmful illusions, be extremely conservative when using them on yourself or on others.

Get in the habit of saying only what you mean and meaning only what you say. When in doubt, say nothing at all.

2 – Don’t take anything personally
Remember that the words and actions of others are the products of their own illusory realities.

Acknowledge that if you shared the same reality you would know no better than to act and speak in exactly the same way.

Armed with this knowledge: take nothing personally. It will defuse the power of the words and actions of others to impact you.

3 – Don’t make assumptions
Though we know most assumptions are baseless, we often still give them the weight of full agreements.

The result? The violation of one-sided expectations is a major source of misunderstanding and suffering at all levels of life.

Be aware and wary of your natural tendency to assume things about yourself, others and the world around you.

Instead, look and listen without labels or judgement. Have the courage to ask questions and clarify.

And remember, when someone or something surprises you – the failing isn’t theirs, it is yours.

4 – Always do your best
Always do the very best you can. Live with maximum possible areté in each moment.

But don’t worry about whether your best now is the same or better than your best yesterday, or even five minutes ago.

Instead, accept that your best will change from moment to moment – depending on the conditions within and around you.

Now, do what you can, with what you have, from where you are – you can ask nothing more of yourself.”

Source ~ https://theartofliving.com/the-four-agreements-toltec-don-miguel-ruiz/

Ancient Books {7} ~ I Ching

“The I Ching is the world’s oldest oracle; it’s a book of Chinese wisdom; it’s the accumulated experience of over 2,500 years of diviners and sages, and beyond that of unimaginably ancient oral traditions; it’s the voice that has been offering people help and wise, genial guidance for generations.

The I Ching as you buy it today will be a collection of texts – a wonderful mixture of imagery and advice, philosophy and poetry – divided into 64 ‘chapters’. These are the 64 hexagrams, which means simply a pile of six lines, either broken or solid.

When you consult the I Ching, you build up a hexagram line by line according to the results of coin tosses or one of the other methods, such as sorting yarrow sticks or pulling marbles from a bag. All the translations will tell you how this works – it’s absurdly simple. And so you are pointed to a particular collection of texts – and, if one or more of your six lines is in the process of changing from solid to broken or vice versa, then there are also line texts to read, and the second hexagram that’s formed after the lines have changed. A hexagram isn’t just a convenient chapter heading – it’s also a very simple, elegant picture of how the energy is flowing through the situation. I Ching means ‘Book of Changes’, and change is really the one constant throughout the book. The hexagrams are not so much static pictures as ways to move: Creating, Receiving and sustaining, Beginning, Learning, Waiting, Arguing…

What can I achieve with it?

This is a far better question than ‘what can it do for me?’ Whether you use Runes, Tarot, the I Ching – or indeed consult a psychic or a reader – the power actually to bring about change stays with you. The I Ching is simply an oracle: it answers your questions. Its answers bring you into contact with something fundamental and unchanging, but at the same time absolutely, vividly connected to your present situation. It brings deeper insight – and that in turn empowers you to make changes for the better.

I have seen the I Ching help to bring harmony to relationships, and deepen and strengthen spiritual practice, reassuring or challenging as the need arises. It’s also been known to guide lawyers through important cases, offer very practical business advice, and help with investment decisions. I know that this sounds like an extraordinary range of subjects, but I have a feeling that we respond in this way only because we have lost the connection between everyday life and spiritual practice. The I Ching restores this – which is one reason why it is so constantly stimulating and challenging to consult.

In practice, I have found that most people value the I Ching for its ability to help in their relationships. Its answers are extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances of human interactions – in business and friendship as well as love. This is not the same as the ‘genuine clairvoyant psychic will find you your soulmate’ type of thing! Used with sincerity and respect for the other person’s privacy (very important!) the I Ching can bring greater understanding of the other person’s feelings and how the situation looks from their perspective. You can be better prepared for the challenges ahead, and negotiate current problems successfully. This is probably the area in which I’ve gained most from the I Ching myself – including a valuable friendship that was well on the way to becoming enmity before I asked how to rescue it!”

Source ~ https://www.holisticshop.co.uk/articles/guide-ching-iching

Ancient Books {6} ~ The Vedas

The Vedas are the oldest Hindu sacred texts, considered by many to be the most authoritative of all the texts. They are also the oldest known texts that contain yogic teachings. The Vedas are written in Sanskrit and originated in ancient India. There are four Vedas, or books, which make up the collection of Vedic literature.

The Vedas were written down thousands of years ago, but it is believed that they contain knowledge and wisdom that originated even long before then, passed down orally. Very little is known about the writers of the texts. In fact, Hindus regard the Vedas to be authorless, or not of man. Instead, they believe that they were originally revealed to ancient sages through divine inspiration.

Yoga that derives from the Vedas is known as Vedic yoga.

The Sanskrit word, veda, means “knowledge.” The Vedas are also referred to by some as sruti literature, meaning “what is heard,” as opposed to other sacred smrti texts, meaning “what is remembered.” In this way, they are considered to be the direct word of the Divine.

Orthodox schools of Indian philosophy take the Vedas as their spiritual authority. Other schools may not accept them as the authority, but still teach ideas that are expressed in the Vedas, such as the concept of karma.

The four books, or texts, of the Vedas are the “Rig Veda” (which is the oldest), the “Yajur Veda,” the “Sama Veda” and the “Atharva Veda.” They contain four types of text:

The Samhitas ~ Mantras and hymns for chanting
The Arankayas ~ Details of rituals and ceremonies for liturgy
The Brahmanas ~ Commentaries on rituals and ceremonies
The Upanishads ~ Discussion of meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge

The underlying philosophy, or teaching, of the Vedas is the concept that the individual is not an independent entity, but, rather, a part of the Universal Conscious.

The texts refer to many gods, including Indra, Agni and Soma. They also present many different creation stories.

Ancient Books {5} ~ The Upanishads

The Upanishads are an assortment of texts central to Hinduism that are recorded from oral traditions. They contain information regarding the philosophical principles and concepts of Hinduism, including karma (right action), brahman (ultimate reality), the atman (true Self or soul), moksha (liberation from the cycle of reincarnation) and Vedic doctrines that explain Self-realization through yoga and meditation practices.

Upanishad is a Sanskrit word that translates in English to mean “sitting at the feet of” or “sitting down near.” This illustrates the position of receiving wisdom and guidance humbly from a teacher or guru.

There are more than 200 Upanishads that have been recorded from oral traditions and passed down over centuries. Thirteen of these include core philosophical teachings of Hinduism. The philosophical concepts contained in the Upanishads are principal to Hinduism, but some are shared with Buddhism and Jainism as well.

The texts govern and explain the idea of Self-realization, which can require the practice of yoga and meditation. They also cite the concepts of non-violence, compassion, charity, and self-restraint as ethical characteristics. Many people translate the texts subjectively, which contributes to the varied Hindu schools of philosophy and religious practice. It also contributes, in part, to the various schools of yoga.

Ancient Books {4} ~ Tao Te Ching

“Who wrote the Tao Te Ching?
Lao Tzu, widely considered to be the father of Taoism. What is Taoism, you might ask? A quick Google search reveals the following from BBC:

Taoism is an ancient tradition of philosophy and religious belief that is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview.

Taoism is about the Tao. This is usually translated as “the Way.” But it’s hard to say exactly what this means. The Tao is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Tao.

From what I gather, Taoism is a set of spiritual beliefs related to how one should live their life. It seems closely related to zen philosophy. Here’s a bit more on the subject:

And who was this Lao Tzu?

[He] was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

From my limited internet research, there seems to be much suspicion that — like Homer of the Odyssey or (dare I say it) Jesus of the Bible — Lao Tzu is a mythical character and that the Tao Te Ching was likely a compilation of many authors from the time of the 6th century BC.

Despite his mythology, there are some theories about the fabled Lao Tzu’s life. It’s posited that Lao Tzu was a friend and peer of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius. You might know Confucius for such sage quotes such as “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated,” or “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Many stories claim that Confucius sought out Lao Tzu’s advice from a young age and was deeply impressed with the older man’s wisdom.

The Tao Te Ching explained
In Chinese, “tao” means “path,” “te” means “virtue,” “ching” means “ancient text.” So this book is an ancient Chinese text that lays out the path to virtue (in the eyes of the likely mythical Lao Tzu). It reads something like the Bible from an ideas perspective, but with a definite zen/anti-establishment lean. Despite being contrarian for its time, it leaves the reader with a calm, soothed feeling, not agitation.

The entire book is about achieving what Lao Tzu calls “The Great Integrity,” a global society in which we’re governed by strong morals oriented toward humanity, rather than capitalism. It gets vaguely political, which might be unexpected for some.

What I liked about it was that it’s primary call to action was around connecting with our roots in nature and communal groups of humans. Over and over again, it returned to the idea that people and humanity are largely good, which is an incredibly soothing idea in a world saturated with negative media coverage and widely divergent political groups.

Lao Tzu makes the case that, over time, society has been trained to believe that injustices and cruelties are simply part of our nature, which rationalizes why we must compete so fiercely for resources. Instead, he argues that human nature is fundamentally good, and that goodness begets goodness.

Thematically, the Tao Te Ching trends positive. The prose is rich with words like cooperation, altruism, nature, self-actualization, humanity, transcendence, the universe, tranquility, and oneness. Right up my alley.

Notably, it also gets into some interesting topics on the nature of reality, the ego, fragmentation of society and self, as well as our relationship with excess. These are all areas of struggle for me and therefore powerful concepts to explore through philosophy.”

Source ~ https://www.ablueskymind.com/blog/the-tao-te-ching-explained

Ancient Books {3} ~ The Egyptian Book Of The Dead

“The Book of the Dead prevails in both popular culture and current scholarship as one of the most famous aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. This funerary text provides some of the most vivid and enduring images from the ancient world – there are few who have not heard some version of the Book of the Dead’s afterlife mythology. Familiar scenes – like a scale weighing a heart of the deceased against a feather or the eternal destruction of a soul by a deity composed of animal parts – originate from the Book of the Dead. With such impressive narratives, it is clear why Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife are so thoroughly ingrained in our collective memory. But despite the Book of the Dead’s lasting fame, it is often misunderstood or purposefully romanticized for the sake of an exhilarating story, as in the cultural phenomenon of The Mummy in 1999. So what is the Book of the Dead, how was it significant to Egyptians in the past and how do Egyptologists use this important resource today?

“The Chapters/Book of Going Forth By Day” is the official translation of the title given to a collection of papyrus rolls on the same subject known commonly as the Book of the Dead. Though the word “book” brings to mind a story or text written by a singular author and reprinted repeatedly in the same form, these texts have multiple authors and each version has its own variations. These texts served as a guide for the dead to use on their journeys to the afterlife. Each was prepared by scribes for burials, with varying quality depending on the scribe’s skill, and some were prepared with blank spaces to later fill in the name of the dead. In addition to the long-form papyrus versions of the Book of the Dead, spells and passages from the text were recorded other places – on tomb walls, mummy wrappings and even inside King Tut’s golden mask.

The Book of the Dead first appeared in the New Kingdom, but the text evolved from a long tradition of magical funerary writing. The oldest of these writings, the Pyramid Texts, were available exclusively to Egyptian royalty. As religious beliefs on the afterlife changed, copies of the Coffin Texts – an adapted version of the Pyramid Texts – were written on coffins and included in the tombs of non-royals, such as wealthy Egyptians and elites. By the New Kingdom, the afterlife was understood as accessible to all who could afford their own Book of the Dead, a handy guidebook providing the spells necessary for the perilous, confusing and elaborate trials faced to earn eternal life among the gods.
The gods Osiris, associated with resurrection, and Re, associated with the sun, star in the Book of the Dead. Forty-two additional gods appear to judge and test the newly departed. Although the text itself varies in content and order, the narrative is generally divided into four main sections: the deceased enters the underworld and regains the physical abilities of the living, the deceased is resurrected and joins Re to rise as the sun each day, the deceased travels across the sky before judgement in the underworld by a panel of gods and, finally – assuming the soul hasn’t been destroyed – the deceased joins the gods. To progress through the complex challenges in these stages, the dead must speak the right names and spells at the right time and respond with the right answers to the gods’ questions. In one interesting and curious case, the deceased must name various parts of a sentient doorway before passing. Luckily, the Book of the Dead conveniently holds all the required information.

These texts were certainly important to ancient Egyptians, and now they constitute one of the most important resources for Egyptologists hoping to understand the Egyptian religion and afterlife. In addition to explicitly describing the afterlife and the roles of the gods, the Book of the Dead also gives insight into important concepts like the ka and ba, aspects of the soul believed to live on after death. The ka needed a physical form to return to in order to exist, and so the Book of the Dead helps us to understand the importance of the well-known Egyptian practice of mummification. Similarly, the Book of the Dead also contains spells for preserving specific parts of the body and the spell for the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, a ritual performed before the mummy was sealed in its tomb, often depicted in tomb decoration. The Book of the Dead reveals central aspects of the ancient Egyptians’ belief system, and, like many topics in Egyptology, our theories are constantly changing, growing and adapting with every new translation of this text.”

Source ~ https://www.arce.org/resource/book-dead-guidebook-afterlife

Ancient Books {2} ~ Bhagavad-Gita

The Gita is the sixth book of the Mahabharata, one of India’s most famous epic poems. It’s unclear exactly when the Gita was composed—estimates vary widely, but a number of scholars suggest it was completed around 200 CE and then inserted into the larger work; many see it as the first fully realized yogic scripture. Curious though it may seem that such an ancient text from a foreign culture has been so enthusiastically received by Westerners, the Gita, like all truly great works of literature, can be read on many levels: metaphysical, moral, spiritual, and practical; hence its appeal.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading it, the Gita recounts a dialogue between Arjuna, one of five Pandava princes, and the Hindu deity Krishna, who in this epic serves as Arjuna’s charioteer. Arjuna and his brothers have been exiled from the kingdom of Kurukshetra for 13 years and cut off from their rightful heritage by another faction of the family; the Gita takes up their struggle to reclaim the throne, which requires that Arjuna wage war against his own kinsmen, bringing his considerable military skills to bear.

The story begins on the dusty plains of Kurukshetra, where Arjuna, a famed archer, is poised to fight. But he hesitates. He sees arrayed against him friends, teachers, and kin, and believes that to fight—and likely kill—these men would be to commit a grievous sin and could bring nothing good even if he were to win the kingdom back. Krishna chides him for his cowardice—Arjuna is from the warrior caste after all, and warriors are meant to fight—but then goes on to present a spiritual rationale for battling his enemies, one that encompasses a discussion of the karma, jnana and bhakti yogas, as well as the nature of divinity, humankind’s ultimate destiny, and the purpose of mortal life.

Ancient Books {1} ~ The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

“Have you ever wondered what life after death, or in this case, life between death and rebirth, is like? What type of existence must it be? What would you do and learn? While these questions have been asked by billions of human beings, some cultures have gone the extra mile and written books to assist those who are in between.

One of these intermediate state manuals is The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The book was originally written in the eighth century CE, ostensibly by an ancient Buddhist teacher named Padma Sambhava. The book’s original title is Bardo Thodol, which is translated to ‘liberation by hearing on the after death plane.’ The purpose of the book is to help those who are in the intermediate state to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. This is accomplished by reading aloud the text of the book, thereby assisting the dead individual in their escape from the cycle.

The Bardo Thodol is primarily concerned with helping those who have entered the intermediate state to elevate themselves into a new reality, thereby escaping the life, death, bardo, and rebirth cycle. This is accomplished through the reading of instructions to help the confused, disembodied soul find its way through the bardos, or levels of the dream state the dead enter into following separation from their physical forms. There are three bardos encapsulating various aspects of the afterlife realm, in which the living whisper instructions of comfort, peace, and guidance to the deceased.

The First Bardo is the stage of the afterlife that occurs immediately after death. At the beginning of the First Bardo, instructions are read in an attempt to help the dead accept what is called the Clear Light, which helps the soul understand death as the ultimate existence. If the soul can embrace this truth, it will remain in the Clear Light forever, thus escaping the cycle. If not, the soul will sink into the Secondary Clear Light and then move into the Second Bardo.

The Second Bardo is a two-week period divided in half, in which the soul is met by numerous spiritual beings. In the first week, the Peaceful Deities appear to the soul. Seven deities appear, one for each day of the week, bringing their magnificent glory before the soul. If the soul is able to stand before the first deity, it will reach Nirvana, the aforementioned ultimate existence. If not, the soul descends from one day to the next, passing or failing the tests of each deity. In each case, the soul will be reborn into gradually decreasing states of existence, with the final state being reborn as an animal.

During the second week, the soul is met by seven legions of Wrathful Deities, which are actually just the Peaceful Deities in disguise. The instructions to the soul are to be still and unafraid in their presence. If the soul runs away, it will pass down to the Third Bardo, but if it stands its ground it will be liberated.

The dreaded Lord of Death awaits the soul in the Third Bardo. He judges the soul using a mirror that shows all the good and evil deeds of the soul. If the soul can realize through the instructions being read that the Lord of Death and all his minions are merely imaginations of its own mind, the soul can still be liberated. However, if the soul gives way to fear, it will be reborn once more, trapped again in the cycle.

Translation of the Book
The initial Tibetan writing of the Bardo Thodol and its subsequent translation has an interesting history. The book was originally written in Sanskrit, which is the language of Tibet. However, after writing the Bardo Thodol, legend holds that Padma Sambhava decided the writings would be too spiritually advanced for the Tibetans of the time. Therefore, he hid the writings in the hope one day they would be discovered and interpreted judiciously.

Around 1365 CE, a young man named Karma Lingpa discovered many of the texts hidden on a mountaintop. After his discovery, more texts were found, eventually fulfilling Padma Sambhava’s wish for them to be received with openness.”

Source ~ https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-tibetan-book-of-the-dead-summary-translation-quotes.html