Before They Had Cameras…

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A wonderful page describing the history, purpose and content of Orthodox iconography:

ICONOGRAPHY IS THE ORIGINAL TRADITION of Christian sacred art, and has been an integral part of the worship and mystical life of Christians since apostolic times. Referred to in the Eastern Christian tradition as “windows into heaven,” they have inspired and uplifted millions of the faithful, and have at times been the instruments for demonstrating God’s miraculous intercession in the life of mankind.

Despite my status as full-time iconoclast, I must admit to a long-standing affinity for this particular form of imagery. I’m not drawn to worship or even venerate the personages preserved in these pictures, but I am drawn to the love and devotion poured into them by their creators.

And the icons do seem to beam out some sort of juiced-up spiritual energy, don’t they?

One thing I didn’t know: St. Luke is considered to have been the first iconographer, when he painted the Virgin Mary and obtained her blessing. Apparently at least five of these images are still revered today, 2000 years later.

Green Tara

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Here’s a Buddha to whom I’ve been drawn since first seeing a thangka that depicted her. Lots of good information at this site:

The great Buddha Green Tara (the most common form of Tara) who made the vow to return always as a female Bodhisattva is resplendent in her aura of green, radiant with the attainment of all the six perfections of giving, ethics, patience, effort, meditative stabilisation and wisdom, and bright with her ever-compassionate care for all sentient beings.

Tara is immensely beautiful, youthful like a 16-year-old maiden. Her top is naked though not in a lustful way – she is bare in the way that she remains unshackled by the times of samsara, free from suffering. At the same time, she wears the slender, bright pants traditional of Indian ladies to show us that though she is enlightened, she works through samsaric conventions to help us overcome our suffering.

Because of her strong karmic connection to all sentient beings in samsara, Buddha Tara tilts towards us in her great compassion to listen to our prayers, grant us our virtuous wishes and protect us as a mother would for her child. She is emerald green, splendid in the swiftness that the coolness of the colour represents.

Her ability to come to our assistance as we invoke her presence is instant – we need only think of her to have her compassionate heart with us. Unusually, Green Tara does not sit in meditative pose; instead her right leg extends outwards, to show us that she is ready to step forward to help us in our time of need.

Her spiritual energy in the form of sound that helps to transform the mind (Mantra)

Zen Steps to Enlightenment

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I’ve always loved the Ten Oxherding Pictures as a metaphor for awakening. The image above is the first in this interesting depiction, accompanied by the following stanza:

I. Undisciplined

With his horns fiercely projected in
the air the beast snorts,
Madly running over the mountain
paths, farther and farther he
goes astray!
A dark cloud is spread across the
entrance of the valley,
And who knows how much of the fine
fresh herb is trampled under his
wild hoofs!

Please visit this site to view — and meditate upon — the other nine images. You’ll find yourself in each one, with an emphasis on a particular stage that resonates in the present moment.