Mad as a Hatter – erethismus mercurialis

Genealogically I can claim by heredity to be as Mad as a Hatter. This is because the one sixteenth English blood of mine can be traced to a Manchester hat maker whose family subsequently ran a public house in Hulme before the family moving to near Euston and then Cardiff.

It is pretty difficult in genealogy to trace Taylor, Jones, Griffiths and Evans. Looking for a specific Jones in Wales is a needle in a haystack pass time.

I am quite prepared to accept the notion that I am bat shit crazy, a complete nutter, a loony tune and as Mad as a Hatter, at least in the eyes of others if not entirely in my own. There is a slight problem when I engage in discourse which is entirely sane and partially erudite as this does not sit well with the nut-job diagnosis.

Over twenty years or so I have been writing down dreams and doing either full blown or partial analysis of them. I have acted on a number of occasions, but it seems that these dreams are important only to me {and the wife}. Attempts at communication die off and go nowhere.

These dreams are entirely passive in the sense that I make no attempt to direct them though I am entirely lucid to the fact that I am dreaming. I have a long time ago directed dreams. That is a different kind of dreaming and I call that wanking about on the astral plane.

In Early 2007 I had a dream which said that I MUST find the Great White Lodge.

So, what does an allegedly sane erstwhile scientist do with a dream which seems imperative? They start to explore. It led me back into to the Blue Books and a year and a half later to some visions or telepathic conversations whilst walking near dawn, completely sober, on the Ashridge estate.

Perhaps it was the genetic legacy of the mercury poisoning?

Or perhaps those visions were real. There I was “told” that this is my last incarnation on Earth and given sketchy outlines of my previous lives, two of which were Buddhist. It was suggested that I had been a close disciple of Siddhartha and that I was subsequently a Buddhist priest / monk. I delved into the various flavours of Buddhism. I can rule out Tibetan Buddhism because the life after the monk life, was Christian, a religious warrior life based and ended violently during the early crusades.

If I was a close disciple, then that places me in space-time around the year 500 BC

As a teenager I was obsessed and that is the correct word, with the TV series Monkey in which the Tripitaka is being taken to China, these perhaps are the three baskets of the Pali canon.

Excerpted From Wikipedia

The Pāli Canon is the complete Tripiṭaka set maintained by the Theravāda tradition is written and preserved in Pali.

The dating of the Tripiṭaka is unclear. Max Müller states that the current structure and contents of the Pali Canon took shape in the 3rd century BCE after which it continued to be transmitted orally from generation to generation until finally being put into written form in the 1st century BCE (nearly 500 years after the lifetime of Buddha). The Theravada chronicle called the Dipavamsa states that during the reign of Valagamba of Anuradhapura (29–17 BCE) the monks who had previously remembered the Tipiṭaka and its commentary orally now wrote them down in books, because of the threat posed by famine and war. The Mahavamsa also refers briefly to the writing down of the canon and the commentaries at this time. According to Sri Lankan sources more than 1000 monks who had attained Arahantship were involved in the task. The place where the project was undertaken was in Aluvihare, Matale, Sri Lanka. The resulting texts were later partly translated into a number of East Asian languages such as Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian by ancient visiting scholars, which though extensive are incomplete.

Each Buddhist sub-tradition had its own Tripiṭaka for its monasteries, written by its sangha, each set consisting of 32 books, in three parts or baskets of teachings: Vinaya Pitaka (“Basket of Discipline”), Sutra Pitaka (“Basket of Discourse”), and Abhidhamma Piṭaka (“Basket of Special [or Further] Doctrine”). The structure, the code of conduct and moral virtues in the Vinaya basket particularly, have similarities to some of the surviving Dharmasutra texts of Hinduism. Much of the surviving Tripiṭaka literature is in Pali, with some in Sanskrit as well as other local Asian languages. The Pali Canon does not contain the Mahayana Sutras and Tantras as Mahayana schools were not influential in Theravada tradition as in East Asia and Tibet. Hence, there is no major Mahayana (neither Hinayana or Pratyekabuddhayana) schools in Theravada tradition. The Tantric schools of Theravada tradition use Tantric texts independently, and not as the part of the Collection.

Some of the well known preserved Pali Canons are the Chattha Sangayana Tipitaka, Buddha Jayanthi Tripitaka, Thai Tipitaka, etc.

The Chinese Buddhist Canon is the Tripiṭaka set maintained by the East Asian Buddhist tradition is written and preserved in Chinese.

Wu and Chia state that emerging evidence, though uncertain, suggests that the earliest written Buddhist Tripiṭaka texts may have arrived in China from India by the 1st century BCE. An organised collection of Buddhist texts began to emerge in the 6th century CE, based on the structure of early bibliographies of Buddhist texts. However, it was the ‘Kaiyuan Era Catalogue’ by Zhisheng in 730 that provided the lasting structure. Zhisheng introduced the basic six-fold division with sutra, vinaya, and abhidharma belonging to Mahāyāna, Pratyekabuddhayana and Sravakayana . It is likely that Zhisheng’s catalogue proved decisive because it was used to reconstruct the Canon after the persecutions of 845 CE, however it was also considered a “perfect synthesis of the entire four-hundred-year development of a proper Chinese form of the Canon.”

Some of the well known preserved Chinese Canons are the Taisho Tripitaka, Tripitaka Koreana, etc.

Buddhism has been practiced in Japan since about the 6th century CE. Japanese Buddhism (Nihon Bukkyō) created many new Buddhist schools, and some schools are original to Japan and some are derived from Chinese Buddhist schools. Japanese Buddhism has had a major influence on Japanese society and culture and remains an influential aspect to this day.

Arrival and initial spread of Buddhism

Buddhism arrived in Japan by first making its way to China and Korea through the Silk Road and then traveling by sea to the Japanese archipelago. As such, early Japanese Buddhism is strongly influenced by Chinese Buddhism and Korean Buddhism. Though the “official” introduction of Buddhism to the country occurred at some point in the middle of the sixth century, there were likely earlier contacts and attempts to introduce the religion. Immigrants from the Korean Peninsula, as well as merchants and sailors who frequented the mainland, likely brought Buddhism with them independent of the transmission as recorded in court chronicles. Some Japanese sources mention this explicitly. For example, the Heian Period Fusō ryakki (Abridged Annals of Japan), mentions a foreigner known in Japanese as Shiba no Tatsuto, who may have been Chinese-born, Baekje-born, or a descendent of an immigrant group in Japan. He is said to have built a thatched hut in Yamato and enshrined an object of worship there. Immigrants like this may have been a source for the Soga clan’s later sponsorship of Buddhism.

The Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan) provides a date of 552 for when King Seong of Baekje (now western South Korea) sent a mission to Emperor Kinmei that included an image of the Buddha Shakyamuni, ritual banners, and sutras. This event is usually considered the official introduction of Buddhism to Japan. Other sources, however, give the date of 538 and both dates are thought to be unreliable. However, it can still be said that in the middle of the sixth century, Buddhism was introduced through official diplomatic channels.

According to the Nihon Shoki, after receiving the Buddhist gifts, the Japanese emperor asked his officials if the Buddha should be worshipped in Japan. They were divided on the issue, with Soga no Iname (506–570) supporting the idea while Mononobe no Okoshi and Nakatomi no Kamako worried that the kami of Japan would become angry at this worship of a foreign deity. The Nihon Shoki then states that the emperor allowed only the Soga clan to worship the Buddha, to test it out.

Thus, the powerful Soga clan played a key role in the early spread of Buddhism in the country. Their support, along with that of immigrant groups like the Hata clan, gave Buddhism its initial impulse in Japan along with its first temple (Hōkō-ji, also known as Asukadera). The Nakatomi and Mononobe, however, continued to oppose the Soga, blaming their worship for disease and disorder. These opponents of Buddhism are even said to have thrown the image of the Buddha into the Naniwa canal. Eventually outright war erupted. The Soga side, led by Soga no Umako and a young Prince Shōtoku, emerged victorious and promoted Buddhism on the archipelago with support of the broader court.

Based on traditional sources, Shōtoku has been seen as an ardent Buddhist who taught, wrote on, and promoted Buddhism widely, especially during the reign of Empress Suiko (554 – 15 April 628). He is also believed to have sent envoys to China and is even seen as a spiritually accomplished bodhisattva who is the true founder of Japanese Buddhism. Modern historians have questioned much of this, seeing most of it as a constructed hagiography. Regardless of his actual historical role, however, it is beyond doubt that Shōtoku became an important figure in Japanese Buddhist lore beginning soon after his death if not earlier.

Early Heian Period Buddhism (794–950)

During the Heian period, the capital was shifted to Kyoto (then known as Heiankyō) by emperor Kanmu, mainly for economic and strategic reasons. As before, Buddhist institutions continued to play a key role in the state, with Kanmu being a strong supporter of the new Tendai school of Saichō (767–822) in particular. Saichō, who had studied the Tiantai school in China, established the influential temple complex of Enryakuji at Mount Hiei, and developed a new system of monastic regulations based on the bodhisattva precepts. This new system allowed Tendai to free itself from direct state control.

Also during this period, the Shingon ( Ch. Zhenyan; “True Word”, from Sanskrit: “Mantra”) school was established in the country under the leadership of Kūkai. This school also received state sponsorship and introduced esoteric Vajrayana (also referred to as mikkyō, “secret teaching”) elements.

The new Buddhist lineages of Shingon and Tendai also developed somewhat independently from state control, partly because the old system was becoming less important to Heian aristocrats. This period also saw an increase in the official separation between the different schools, due to a new system that specified the particular school which an imperial priest (nenbundosha) belonged to.

I did instinctively know some Shinto ritual and I have a strong affinity to Japan. The book I am reading in based in Mediaeval Japan and it is as if I am there when reading. I had a very profound experience in Yamanashi prefecture sat in a Buddhist cemetery looking south to Fujisan on bench under a statue of Buddha. So, my best guess, and it is only that, was that my second Buddhist life was Japanese, possibly Shingon. This suggests that “I” was dis-incarnate for 1300 years.

I wrote to a Shingon temple once, but they never wrote back.

I have one dream which locates at Bodh Gaya and another which locates in Eastern Japan.

This explanation is internally consistent

It is possible that I was given incomplete information at Ashridge and only a few “highlights” thrown in. A lot of Buddhist stuff in particular Śāntideva and Ryōkan Taigu speaks very directly to my heart.

A subsequent dream pointed at a specific individual for my ~500 BC incarnation and if the hagiography is correct that being would have some special talents.

The clearest recall I have are waking recalls in which a Buddhist incarnation is overlaid on my then current physical form. I got these during daylight walking along Upper Tulse Hill and on my way to lecture Chemical Kinetics at university. And very profoundly whilst sat at my desk in which I had om mane padme hum, which I remember with this Latin spelling as opposed to oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ, written in a Sanskrit tattoo ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ on both my forearms. Annoyingly I never got to see the colour of the robes, though there were dark in colour and not light. The recalls repeated over a period of several weeks. I never told anyone in case they sent me to the loony bin.

Imagine going to a senior science academic colleague and saying, “I have been having visions of myself dressed as a Buddhist monk sometimes even overlaid in the lecture theatre.”

What do you reckon the response / reaction would be?

I have attended a Tibetan empowerment run by Akong Rinpoche Tulku, for White Tara and Padmasambhava-Guru Rinpoche at Kagyu Samye Dzong London. I may have gotten an email reply from Akong’s brother at one stage. I very briefly gave a talk on dreaming there too.

This overlap with the extensive Tibetan lineages may account for the infiltration of Tibetan Buddhist figures into my dreams. If I am seeing a former incarnation of high lamas in my dreams that is a bit interesting, if only to me. These lineages are powerful, and people have been brooding upon them for centuries. A huge amount of thought, prayer and meditation has been directed at and into these lineages. There is ancient magic in the sense of tantra and Vajrayana therein.

The statue in my hall is ChenrézigAvalokiteśvara. I was particularly drawn to this in a shop opposite Watkins Books in London. I discussed the patina with the owner, having recently helped a student who was doing a science / art project on patinas.

Then there are all these dreams such as the Sanskrit-Senzar Messenger dream which remains very vivid in my recall to this day. I can bring elements of it straight to mind and have just done so.

The thing is what, if anything, do you do with these dreams? During them I am entirely lucid and know that my body is asleep. The wife reckons I sometimes kick around when dreaming.

Answers on a postcard please…

I guess as a pass time it is relatively harmless and it keeps me busy looking stuff up.

These recalls started after I found myself, almost by accident, in a high ranking UK science university, after having done a Ph.D. at The Royal Institution of Great Britain of all places. I was in the process of accepting a Ph.D. place at somewhere else. I saw the advert for the RI. I had no recall of the name. I asked my supervisor about it, and he made a fuss, suggesting that I apply. If I had gotten 2 more marks out of a thousand during my degree, I would have stayed at UCL. My third year supervisor was a bit upset that the last studentship was given to someone {Sue who I had helped when she first arrived} with one more mark than me. It seems that quirk of fate set off a whole chain of events.

In my mind the situation is binary. These things above are either highly significant or I am as mad as a hatter and nobody else cares.

If the former is true then there are extensive karmic implications for others, if I am as mad as a hatter there are only very minor implications for others.

What remains of my mind thinks that the sum total of all these dream events are, in fact, significant.

Anyone for tea?

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