Studying Religion Part 1: 32 Signs of a Great Man

 

I’ve decided to start a regular series of non-fiction blog posts dealing with one of my favourite subjects. Religion! Now, before you get freaked out and run away, trust me. I’m not trying to convert you or convince you to join my weird cult or anything. I identify as atheist. I’m not a member of any churches and I don’t prescribe to any specific religious belief system. The main reason I want to start tackling this subject is because I think it is a fascinating and important thing to learn about. I minored in religious studies in university and always love learning more about it. This series will hopefully give me a chance to read and learn more about religion through research, and help my readers learn a bit about it too! It’s a bit of a pipe dream for me to go back to school and get a second major in religious studies and maybe pursue a master’s degree someday. Unfortunately that has to remain a dream for now as I am broke and already buried under a heap of loans. For now, I will self teach and share what I learn with you guys!

Some of my favourite aspects of religion to discuss and learn about are pretty basic. I love the history and simple facts. I do enjoy the heavier theory of it all as well, but I’m going to leave that stuff for later posts. For now, I thought it would be cool to look at one of my favourite religions to study. Buddhism! Since I’m still adjusting to my new work schedule a bit, this is going to be a short, simple post. Hopefully next week I’ll be sleeping better and have more time to put things together. For now, we’re going to talk about something that’s quite common in Buddhism. Lists! Or at least one list specifically.

Buddhism tends to organize important information very efficiently. They list the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and many other things. One of my favourite lists is “The 32 Signs of a Great Man.” Traditionally, anyone who becomes a Buddha will have these 32 specific traits. (This is where I admit that my research resources are a bit limited at the moment. This list comes straight from Wikipedia. Wiki is reliable, but I’m hoping to have more specialized sources in the weeks to come!)

  1. Level feet
  2. Thousand-spoked wheel sign on feet
  3. Long, slender fingers
  4. Pliant hands and feet
  5. Toes and fingers finely webbed
  6. Full-sized heels
  7. Arched insteps
  8. Thighs like a royal stag
  9. Hands reaching below the knees
  10. Well-retracted male organ
  11. Height and stretch of arms equal
  12. Every hair-root dark colored
  13. Body hair graceful and curly
  14. Golden-hued body
  15. Ten-foot aura around him
  16. Soft, smooth skin
  17. Soles, palms, shoulders, and crown of head well-rounded
  18. Area below armpits well-filled
  19. Lion-shaped body
  20. Body erect and upright
  21. Full, round shoulders
  22. Forty teeth
  23. Teeth white, even, and close
  24. Four canine teeth pure white
  25. Jaw like a lion
  26. Saliva that improves the taste of all food
  27. Tongue long and broad
  28. Voice deep and resonant
  29. Eyes deep blue
  30. Eyelashes like a royal bull
  31. White ūrṇā curl that emits light between eyebrows
  32. Fleshy protuberance on the crown of the head

I’m going to include a depiction of Gautama Buddha (the first Buddha) below as an example of a few of the things on this list. Some of these qualities can be seen in most depictions of Gautama quite clearly. The white urna curl (item 31) can be seen quite easily. An interesting item is number 32, the fleshy protuberance on the Buddha’s head. When you look at statues or paintings of a Buddha, you will often see a top knot in their hairstyle. This knot is actually believed to be a part of the Buddha’s head that grew in order to accommodate his growing brain. Buddha was so intelligent after achieving nirvana that his skull changed shape so it could hold his brain.

100538760.jpgThis list of items can be interpreted in a few ways. I hope to do more reading once I can find some more sources, but for now I’ll concentrate on the interpretation I learned about in my Intro to Buddhism course in university. This list serves two clear functions. First, it offers a very distinct image. If you were to encounter someone and they met all 32 of these qualities perfectly that would prove that they are without a doubt a Buddha. Another thing this list does is give us an idea of what the creators of the list thought were physically ideal qualities. A Buddha is supposed to be a perfect being in all aspects. So this tells us that having exactly forty teeth, a jaw like a lion, a gigantic brain, and full round shoulders are things the writers of the list thought were good physical qualities. A Buddha was perfect, and therefore a perfect being had to have these qualities. I’m not sure why “finely webbed” toes and fingers were such in important quality. Maybe they helped the Buddha swim? An interesting one that my professor pointed out when we covered this was item 10. “A Well-retracted male organ.” This meant two things. First, a Buddha has to have a penis and therefore be male. Second, that penis is well retracted. My professor described this as being like a dog’s penis. While it’s easy to giggle at the idea of a perfect, holy person having a retractable penis, this said a lot about the creator’s of this list. At the time Buddhism was forming in India and these descriptors were first being thought up, the first Buddhists were clearly quite sexist. While women were allowed to be members of the movement, they could not become achieve enlightenment without becoming a man. You could not become enlightened, or be “perfect” without being male. This was an issue, and arguably still is, with a lot of religious belief systems. It is still quite rare to see women in positions of power or reverence in many religions.

So, this brings my first post about religious trivia to a close. I’ll be the first to admit that this post should be sourced and involve more research. I think tomorrow night will involve a bit of fact checking and possibly updating. For now, my information comes from Wikipedia and the lectures of Dr. Kevin Bond of the University of Regina. I dove into this project a bit unprepared, as usual, so things will get better with time! I’m hoping to find some free, or at least affordable, online encyclopedias and research sources. If you know of any, please tell me! Hopefully you learned something interesting, and hopefully this series will help me to do the same!

Holy crap.

Holy crap have the last couple of weeks sucked. Sorry for the ensuing dump of potentially crappy feelings.

So I started a full time position recently working nights. I chose to take this job over the one I had previously since it had more hours and a regular schedule. The night shift is 9pm-7am, four nights a week. It’s nice to have three day weekends, but holy crap to I feel awful during the week. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m still getting used to being on my feet for at least 8 hours a day. Or maybe I’m getting used to being up all night and sleeping during the day time. I am hoping it’s just a matter of getting used to it, though, ’cause my weekdays have been exhausting and boring so far. I get home from work and feel too wiped to do much. This has made writing a real struggle. As you may have noticed there was no post last week and this one is a few days late. I was hoping to have a post about something other than boring real life crap for today but I’ve been too wiped to get anything written.

I’ve been feeling pretty depressed these past few weeks as well. Before last month I had been looking for work for seven months and unable to find anything. The jobs I managed to find recently have been fine, but they’ve been in my home town which is something I’ve been trying to avoid. I get very bored here and it frustrates me that the only work I have been getting has been here. I tried moving to another city last year and the few months I was there felt so exciting. I was really happy. I wasn’t able to find work, though, and had to move home. Now, the only work I seem to be able to get is at home. This wouldn’t be so bad if I had planned to live here but I keep setting goals for myself that are proving almost impossible to achieve. At the moment, I’d like to move to a city not too far from home. I’ve lived there before and really enjoyed it. There’s a lot more to do there, there’s more of a fine arts scene and more people to meet. There are a lot more events to go to, etc. Overall, I just feel happier living in a larger community. I also feel a lot more independant when I don’t have to live with my parents. I don’t have much privacy here which is extra stressful I don’t know if it’s a terrible economy or if my resume is no good, but I just haven’t been able to find anything else. I’m still trying, and hoping things will turn around, but it’s been a really frustrating year. At the moment, I just feel like I have very little control over my life. I have to live with my family, I have to work in my home town, I don’t get to make choices about where I live or what I do. And now my creative work, which I should have complete control over, feels like it’s suffering because I feel too tired to write most days.

So I guess the point of this post is that a whole lot of emotional stress has now been combined with physical exhaustion and it’s made being creative extra difficult. It’s good to have a steady paycheck, but I’m hoping my body will adjust to this schedule soon because it’s rough only feeling functional two days out of the week. My current goals are to move to the city, get a day job, and feel like I have energy again. Hopefully things turn around soon.

My apologies for a mopey post. I promised myself I would write every day and post every week, so this is what I had to write today. Sometimes it’s nice to vent. I promise next week there will be something more interesting here. Probably going to post on Sundays instead of Fridays from here on out.

Job Problems

I know I’m three days late with this post and I am a bit annoyed with myself. I feel I have good reason for this though. After having been unemployed for a long time I finally got a job a few weeks ago. It was part time but it was an alright gig. Unfortunately it was shift work that had me starting anywhere from five in the morning to seven at night. This caused my sleep schedule to become royally screwed up, even more than usual, and I’ve been mentally and physically exhausted. So this post is late because I was so all over the place I totally forgot about it until yesterday. On the bright side, I’ve quit that job after finding a full time position with regular hours. I’ll have the same shifts every week so I should be able to keep up with posts again! For now, this will be  a short update on what writing I’ve been doing.

Like I said in my last post, for the time being I’m going to be concentrating on writing scripts. I spent a few days pre-writing a play based on an idea I had for a web serial. I liked the concept and it adapted to the stage pretty easily. It was about a woman who has the power to speak to spirits by visiting people’s grave sites. Once I finished the plot outline, though, I didn’t like it anymore. It was really depressing, which is fine, but it was also kind of boring. So that ones on the back burner until I can come up with a more interesting story.

After that I started scouring my journal for other ideas. I didn’t find much, but I did remember another script I had already written. I wrote a screenplay for my third year film production class in university called “Stupendous.” It was a super hero story dealing with comic book archetypes and how they dealt with a post apocalyptic scenario. I really liked how it turned out but don’t think I’ll ever turn it into a film. I made an attempt to turn it into a radio play but even that was proving difficult. There were a lot of flashbacks and character movements that I wasn’t sure how to adapt for audio without just adding massive blocks of narration. So I thought, what if I just rewrote the story for the stage? It can still follow the same plot, themes, and characters. I just have to change the setting and start fresh. This idea got me really excited, so that’s what I’ve been working on! I’m basically starting from scratch with the actual dialogue because this is going to be much longer than the screenplay was. That’s okay though. I like being able to start fresh with certain characters and stories. I’m hoping to make this my first full length play. I’m not sure  how that’s going to turn out though. I’m very used to writing one act pieces so it may be a bit of a challenge!