January 10, 2010

The Seven “Buddhist” “Things” we need to live a Good Life.

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Buddhism’s Seven Things (I’m missing three) we need in our Daily Life. ~ Waylon

One of the many helpful Buddhist teachings I learned when I was young was about this simple, basic, yet profound notion of the “Seven Aryan Riches” that we all need it order to live a good, functional life of benefit.

Over the last year, I’ve been rather painfully missing two or three of these. Three, I guess. So they’ve been a helpful, present reminder that I need to work on these missing foundational pieces of my daily life.

The Seven Aryan Riches present in a Happy Life.

Forget the impressive car or big house. Here’s the 7 Riches the Buddha taught that are Vital to a Happy Life:

Note: the seven “Aryan” riches have nothing to do with blonde hair or blue eyes. In fact, the Aryans were Indian, and it was only when the Nazis adopted some Eastern terms (and one symbol in particular) that any of these words became tainted. In fact, growing up in my Buddhist community, swastikas were everywhere (only of course they spun the opposite direction, generally, from the Nazi’s symbol).

Anyways: one thing, growing up, we studied were the Seven Aryan Riches. These are the elements—minister, elephant, king or queen, etc.—that you need to have a successful, simple life.

I thought of these again last night, when my home’s water pipes busted, and I needed a plumber, and realized I didn’t know of a great dependable and responsible one. lt’s good to have such “Riches” in your life.

I can’t seem to find what I studied when I was young, probably teachings via Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, but here’s an excerpt of some info I found online:

The Seven Aryan Riches

…[these are] old Indian notions, adopted by the Buddhists. These are worldly attributes of dignity/success, or manifestations of nobility and ‘higher realm’ karma in the human situation. Good commentaries, which are rare, explain how the development of such dignities is linked to spiritual principles and developments, but they embrace [notion of] sane materialism. This sort of approach was also behind many of the techniques of rulership used by chakravartins (Dharma Kings) such as Ashoka. On their shrines would be icons of those seven aryan riches which…go back a long way before even formal hinduism.

…From a quick web search I found:

“Seven Jewels of Royal Power (T. rgyal-srid rin-chen sna-bdun, Skt. saptaratna) are the accessories of a universal monarch (T. khor-los bsgyur-bai rgyal-po, Skt. chakravartin). They represent the accoutrements that a king must possess in order to stay in power.

1. The precious partner (T. btsun-mo, Skt. raniratna)- who completes the poles where the chakravartin is the masculine aspect, and she the feminine. Those working to abandon negative mental states regard her as mother or sister. Her beauty and love for her husband are representative of the radiating, piercing joy of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

2. The precious general (T. dmag-dpon rinpoche, Skt. senapatiratna) symbolizes the wrathful power to overcome enemies.

3. The precious horse (T. rta-mchog rinpoche, Skt. asvaratna) serves as the chakravartin’s personal mount and shares similarities with the lung ta referred to earlier, both in appearance and in the ability to travel among the clouds. Its qualities mirror the Buddha’s abandonment of, or “rising above”, the cares of worldly existence.

4. The precious jewel (T. nor-bu rinpoche, Skt. maniratna), which is depicted on the back of the precious horse and separately in the upper left corner, deals with the themes of wealth and unfolding (power and possibility). The jewel is said to aid the chakravartin in his ability to see all things. In the same way, a Buddha can perceive all things; recognizing the manifold connections between all events, the relentless chain of cause and effect, and the nature of compounded existence.

5. The precious minister or householder (T. blon-po rinpoche, Skt. parinayakaratna) represent two different aspects of the rule of the chakravartin which are closely related. The minister aids the chakravartin in carrying out his commands expeditiously, while the householder provides the very basic support, given with devotion, without which the chakravartin would be unable to rule. The knowledge of the Buddha, like the minister, is always present to him who has realized it, allowing him to cut through the bonds of ignorance. While the householder represents the support of the lay community, without which the monastic community could not continue. Each community playing its part, the lay providing physical sustenance, and the monastic, the sustenance of the Dharma.

6. The precious elephant (T. glang-po rinpoche, Skt. hastiratna) The elephant is a symbol of both strength and the untamed mind in Buddhism. The precious elephant represents the strength of one’s mind tamed, through Buddhist practice. Exhibiting noble gentleness, the precious elephant serves as a symbol of the calm majesty possessed by one who is on the path. Specifically, he embodies the boundless powers of the Buddha which are miraculous aspiration, effort, intention, and analysis.

7. The precious wheel (T. khor-lo rinpoche, Skt. chakraratna), which is depicted both on the back of the precious elephant and separately in the upper left corner below the precious jewel, is a symbol of motion and power, representing the ability to “roll over” all obstacles. In Buddhism it symbolizes the truth and power of the noble path as realized and taught by the Buddha to deliver all from suffering. For just as the chakravartin has conquered the world, so the Buddha has overcome the defilements with the aid of the Dharma.”

This is a highly buddhistic, and somewhat arcane, commentary from within the later Tibetan monastic tradition. Older versions are far more secular, but such commentaries would be hard to find. Sometimes they are split into the inner spiritual practices/attributes and then the outer results/manifestations as in :

faith, discipline, generosity, learning, decency, modesty and wisdom leading to nobility, good physical appearance, opulence, prajna/insight, splendidness, without sickness and longevity.

Although the Taoist/Chinese cultures did not use these classifications (I don’t think), their approach has always put together spiritual development with outer (or material) manifestation, which the Confucian development evidences. (An example today is their desire to keep their hair black well into old age, which denotes strong life force and can only result from upright living. To this day, a statesman with grey hair would be distrusted by many as someone who has not managed to lead a virtuous life and therefore whose health/vitality has run down and therefore who cannot serve as a great leader.)

Of course you are coming from the Western lineages where I assume there is also plenty of background, but in any case, this is a very interesting topic. It would be nice to trace some of the chivalric traditions in Europe to their roots – with no doubts quite a few links to Middle Eastern and Asian notions of rulership, royalty, nobility etc. – as well as examine their interface with Christian theology and practice. It would also be good to penetrate into why such things have become culturally irrelevant. I think Nergol’s objections are on the money even if you and he are not on the same page with this exactly.

There is no reason why sane spiritual development and material well-being should be separated. By ridding ourselves of royalty – in most cases for good reasons since corruption was pandemic – we also lost certain profound binding factors and developmental disciplines that informed all orders of society, including the religious ones. That also is a huge topic and one that is very hard to discuss in today’s democratic-secular context.

The buddhist tradition as usually portrayed (i.e. principally from established monastic traditions) for example, presupposes some form of sane, if not enlightened, governance and social order. Without it, the material base for a truly vibrant spiritual tradition is undermined, which is why some contemporary teachers – especially from Tibet – are emphasising the ‘warrior traditions’ as some call them, or the chakravartin approaches of yore, even those these have remained somewhat dormant for over a millenium and transmitted mainly in the context of leadership training within spiritual communities. That said, I believe that most Asian monarchs were trained in such approaches, either formally or from within cultural and family forms, so they never truly went away until quite recently.

These sorts of things do not depend upon structured dogmas and are part of the basic aspirations and make-up of all human beings. Indeed, I think it is fair to say that any culture which does not value nobility as the manifestation of authentic virtue is in deep doo doo.

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