Zen Koan #41: Parable of Joshu’s Zen – Buddhist Teaching on Being with Disappointment

Zen Koan #41: Parable of Joshu's Zen - Buddhist Teaching on Being with Disappointment Our struggle is obligatory, but it is eventually just our inclination to be present that counts and that this is the true effort of the way. Glad to know that you have time to meditate. In a country like America, where people can do so many things, and where there are so many distractions, to meditate is not easy. One gets older doing this and that, finding no real satisfaction in anything. Coming to accept that there is nothing wrong with me has been a very important part of growing up.

How can one be certain that there was a Teacher known as the Buddha? We present everything to the object of our surrendering. The basic act of surrender does not involve the worship of an external power. Rather it means working together with inspiration, so that one becomes an open vessel into which knowledge can be poured. You may feel liberated. If you do this, you are grasping the false. For instance, suppose you endeavor to clear a blocked pipe by pushing another object into it.

You can see the tip of each blade of grass and the outline of every leaf. The person who is seeking to attain is separate from the attainment, the object of his search. All of your actions will boomerang back to you and you will have to take the consequences.

Zen Koan: “Joshu’s Zen” Parable

Joshu began the study of Zen when he was sixty years old and continued until he was eighty, when he realized Zen.

He taught from the age of eighty until he was one hundred and twenty.

A student once asked him: “If I haven’t anything in my mind, what shall I do?”

Joshu replied: “Throw it out.”

“But if I haven’t anything, how can I throw it out?” continued the questioner.

“Well,” said Joshu, “then carry it out.”

Buddhist Insight on Being With Disappointment

Wisdom is also this development of patience, love, or constancy that you go through so many cycles. Unfortunately, the truth dealt with by science is only a partial one. By looking for complexities of developing and perfecting within the primordial unstructured presence of the nature and disenchantment, the essence without accepting and rejecting will not be seen. The American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special: Living Zen,

When we refuse to work with our disappointment, we break the Precepts: rather than experience the disappointment, we resort to anger, greed, gossip, criticism. Yet it’s the moment of being that disappointment which is fruitful; and, if we are not willing to do that, at least we should notice that we are not willing. The moment of disappointment in life is an incomparable gift that we receive many times a day if we’re alert. This gift is always present in anyone’s life, the moment when “It’s not the way I want it.”

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Man is the Noblest Flower in God’s World

Charity Towards Those Who Disagree with Us

Charity Towards Those Who Disagree with Us Tolerance is more than charity towards those who disagree with us. It is a duty we owe to ourselves.

What is the essence of tolerance? It is respect for the free expression of minds other than our own. Surely, I do not possess perfect wisdom. My way of life reflects my own taste, my background of experience, what my limited knowledge has suggested to me as being sound and right. Because I am conscious of my limitations, I want other forms of life to flourish freely. It is their right, and I owe it to them. Nevertheless, I also owe it to myself, for how else will I ever correct my own deficiency except by permitting myself to be challenged by those who disagree with me?

A bigot is a source of misery to his fellow man, but he is also the forger of his own chains, jailing his soul from free contact with die world. He bites the hand that offers him food he has never tasted before, and which has new delights for the body or the mind.

A single flower could not contain within itself all the beauty and fragrance of the universe. This is why God has made many flowers in the garden of the universe. Woe unto the man who is so in love with the flower in his own window box that he would deny all others the right to be!

Man is the noblest flower in God’s world. When you meet one with unfamiliar color or character, do not trample on it. Cherish it as a new revelation of enriching beauty.

This is why good will is so often the best place to start wishing the other person well, but realizing that true happiness is something that each of us finally will have to find for ourselves.

True Merit and Pretend Knowledge

True Merit and Pretend Knowledge A growing body of theological reflection has concluded that ethical treatment of nonhuman creatures is an issue of justness and mercy. It is perpetually better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong. Men in health who are outstandingly dirty, or that have been in the company of those who have been affected with an infective fever, will transmit disease as much as the sick themselves, and the jail distemper has been known to continue from prisoners who were not themselves affected by it. Nevertheless, crucially, we have to want to be emancipated; we have to want to become educated. It is on all hands acknowledged, that the most obvious appearances in nature are those, which are least, understood. The progressive and discerning public can readily differentiate true merit from pretend knowledge. Facts are demonstrable—his superiority is universally acknowledged. Into what grievous forms these have shot forth, and what various mischief’s they have produced in society, is too well known.

You are either somebody who feels this (or has felt it) or not-much like you are someone who either gets headaches or does not. Even if you have never felt it yourself, almost sure enough you know someone who has (whether you recognize it or not). Existential boredom defines an inability to find not just specific things but all of life interesting. It manifests itself as a mood in which, for no reason you can articulate, nothing seems to satisfy-even things that normally do. American founding father Ben Franklin once wrote,

  • Plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and keep. Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows, and Never leave that till tomorrow, which you can do today.
  • If you were a servant, would you not be ashamed that a good master should catch you idle? Are you then your own master? Be ashamed to catch yourself idle when there is so much to be done for yourself, your family, and your country. Handle your tools without mittens: Remember, that the cat in gloves catches no mice.
  • It is true, there is much to be done, and perhaps, you are weak handed; but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects; for Constant dropping wears away stones; and by diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks.

When you find yourself flipping from Cyberspace site to Internet site; picking up a book, reading a few pages, and then putting it back down; walking around your flat or house in search of something to do but finding nothing to occupy you.

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Glimpses of History #13: First Civilizations in Minoan Crete

First Civilizations in Minoan Crete

The biggest Grecian island was home to the first important Aegean civilization—the Bronze Age Minoan culture (approximately 27th–15th centuries BCE). Evidence for the hunter-gatherer inhabitants of Greece has been flimsy, but intensive research in Epirus (northwestern Greece) and Argolid (Peloponnese, southern Greece) proposes that long-lived successful adjustments probably were prevalent on the mainland by the end of the last Ice Age and in the first few millennia of the current warm era (the Holocene, after 8500 BCE).

The island of Crete sustained the most composite civilization in Europe. Similar to the Phoenicians, with whom they traded, they were skilled seafarers trading with Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean; they had a written script known as Linear A, which is still untranslated at the moment (Linear B seems to have been the first form of Greek).

The pioneer was Heinrich Schliemann, an amateur archaeologist from Germany who, in 1870, uncovered the site of Troy that was made famous by the legend of the Trojan War. Four years later, he exposed the rich remains of an ancient kingdom at Mycenae.

Minoan culture, religion, bulls Archaeological work has endured on Crete until the present day, with archaeological diggings of palaces, villas, and towns and important archaeological surveys of much of the island. The portrayal of this civilization that we can piece together is at the same time impressive and frustrating. Many towns and palaces were built, the most famous of which, Knossos, inspired Greek myths of the labyrinth thanks to its sheer size, complexity and religious rites involving bulls.

Minoan culture degenerated for a number of reasons—earthquakes affected the island more than once, and a natural disaster in the 15th century BCE, possibly the flare-up of the close by Thera volcano, had a major impact. From 1500 BCE, there was growing influence from the Mycenaean culture on the Greek mainland, and there is clear archaeological proof for prevalent destruction on the island around 1450 B.C. If the Mycenaeans were blameless for this destruction, they definitely took advantage of the events—administrative records from this period are written in Linear B, the script of Mycenaean Greeks. The cultural interconnection now shifted towards the developing Mycenaean civilization of mainland Greece, but the tale of rapid destruction of a sophisticated civilization is occasionally credited with motivating Plato’s Atlantis.

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The Measure of Responsibility

The Measure of Responsibility

Moderation in All Things

Moderation in All Things We need moderation in all things—even in our virtues. It is good to have a sense of responsibility, but if carried too far it will destroy our peace.

No man can carry the world on his shoulders. Our responsibility is limited by our capacity. Even our own private world often presents problems, which we cannot readily handle. A person must do his best under all circumstances, and leave the rest to God. When we have done this, we should be content. The outcome is not in our hands; and we cannot assume responsibility for it.

Some of us feel that it is incumbent upon us to safeguard our future, or the future of our children. We want to make plans that will reach far ahead into time and build round our vital interests a fortification, which will make us impregnable to circumstances. In addition, when we discover that we cannot do so, we become disturbed with a sense of insecurity.

Some of us have committed our energies in the service of some good cause, which has come to possess us. We would like to transform the world into the image of our ideal, but we find ourselves frustrated. The world will not listen, will not understand. Then, we may retreat, broken hearted by defeat, or we break ourselves, trying to do the impossible.

However, a man’s responsibility does not extend to such extremes. We were meant to live with a measure of uncertainty. We cannot provide for tomorrow in tomorrow’s entirety. When we have done the best we can, we must have faith that He Who gives us a new day will also give us the sustenance thereof. And we must have faith too that the cause which is so dear to us will not necessarily fail because at present the world appears indifferent to it. There will be others who will try again, another day.

You are not free to desist from the work; but it is not incumbent on you to finish it

Narrowly Defined Customization and Academic Freedom

Narrowly Defined Customization and Academic Freedom Unable to compete with the propinquity of television, cable and then the Internet, newsmagazines have been moving for decades in the focus of analysis, commentary and news-related feature articles. The whole chronicle of humankind shows, that spiritual belief is no inconsiderable rationale of action. In other words, should be flat. An instrument of this kind might be utilitarian in kitchens, to reflect, and thus double the heat of their fires. In this, as in all the rest, we have only to increase the space between the strength and property, to give the man that works the tool greater power: the cause has been already explained at large. Friendships were formed with the other volunteers and master archaeologists as we divided up lunch in the field and dinner at the campground, swapped stories and discoveries, and studied the scientific method and natural history. Journalist Vanessa Spedding writes,

If we belong somewhere, we feel nourished and safe, naturally ourselves, free to receive and to give. If we belong somewhere we are in a relationship with the place and its inhabitants: we develop a sense of affection for it, love even. If we belong somewhere, as Paul Kingsnorth says, we will defend it.

Belonging can provide armory against the heartless travesties of exploitation and destruction meted out by the indifferent, detached institutions and processes of profit and development. Belonging, then, can form the basis for peace, equanimity, and the sustenance of life.

Such narrowly defined customization is of course inconsistent with academic freedom, but exclusively in line with political correctness. The reality is that for many of us family was the incubator of desperation rather than the dependable, nurturing harbor the myth promised. In beautiful nature no capture can they find, the pleasures they follow a sting leave behind. Time unquestionably makes more of a remainder for remedial tasks. How the old man may know he is in health? Those who drink a great quantity of tea, and are regardless in the making it, using a bad kind, and drinking the last dishes cool and palled, will emphatically weaken their stomachs: but this is not the case with such as are more careful. I would not want to be an optimist because when I fell I would fall such a frightfully long way.

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Zen Koan #40: Parable of In Dreamland – Buddhist Teaching on Loving Our Humanness

Zen Koan #40: Parable of In Dreamland - Buddhist Teaching on Loving Our Humanness Just as gainsaying, the linear conception of time establishes an incipient area of ethical responsibility, so in taking up this responsibility we locate ourselves more entirely and firmly in history. On retreat, you are living with many people, which may create an uncomfortable environment. It is from this particular viewpoint that the rationale for this interpretation has developed. To paraphrase lines three and four: As soon as you discard your likes and dislikes, the Way will immediately appear before you.

At the end, recite some males while visualizing that the beams emitted from the prayer wheel purify all the sufferings and obscurations of the sentient beings of the six realms. These absorb into the prayer wheel and all sentient beings, including you, are then liberated, actualizing the whole path and becoming the Compassion Buddha. Others are too relaxed. There are two possible interpretations of the line “One thought for ten thousand years.”

One is that the mind simply does not move. Perhaps you are having a miserable time from day one. Eventually they are married and are very happy together. This concept can be found in both oriental and western philosophy. Indeed, practice can make you more mature, tranquil, and stable.

Zen Koan: “In Dreamland” Parable

“Our schoolmaster used to take a nap every afternoon,” related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. “We children asked him why he did it and he told us: ‘I go to dreamland to meet the old sages just as Confucius did.’ When Confucius slept, he would dream of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them.

“It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our schoolmaster scolded us. ‘We went to dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did,’ we explained. ‘What was the message from those sages?’ our schoolmaster demanded. One of us replied: ‘We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow.'”

Buddhist Insight on Loving Our Humanness

In Zen Buddhism, these thoughts can cause your discriminating mode of apprehension of the object, the mind’s being too tight, to lower or slacken somewhat whereby you are better able to stay on the object of observation in humanness. With respect to one object, therefore, as you get used to understanding its non-inherent nature, not only is it impossible at that time to generate love for humanness. The American clinical psychologist John Welwood, who frequently writes about the integration of psychological and spiritual concepts, writes in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships,

Although perhaps only saints and buddhas embody absolute love completely, every moment of working with the challenges of relative human love brings a hint of this divine possibility into our life. As the child of heaven and earth, you are a mix of infinite openness and finite limitation. This means that you are both wonderful and difficult at the same time. You are flawed, you are stuck in old patterns, you become carried away with yourself. Indeed, you are quite impossible in many ways. And still, you are beautiful beyond measure. For the core of what you are is fashioned out of love, the potent blend of openness, warmth, and clear, transparent presence. Boundless love always manages somehow to sparkle through your limited form.

Bringing absolute love into human form involves learning to hold the impossibility of ourselves and others in the way that the sky holds clouds – with gentle spaciousness and equanimity. The sky can do this because its openness is so much vaster than the clouds that it doesn’t find them the least bit threatening. Holding our imperfections in this way allows us to see them as trail makers of the work-in-progress that we are, rather than as impediments to love or happiness. Then we can say, “Yes, everyone has relative weaknesses that cause suffering, yet everyone also possesses absolute beauty, which far surpasses these limitations. Let us melt down the frozen, fearful places by holding them in the warmth of tenderness and mercy.”

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Review: Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand, Norway—a Grand Tradition of Hospitality

Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand

Kviknes Hotel—this tradition of hospitality at Balholm stretches back to 1752. The Kvikne family, who own the hotel, took over in 1877, marking the start of fast-paced development, which continues to this day. The hotel was built in the Swiss chalet style; the original character of the palace has been left unchanged despite several new buildings, rebuilding, and extensions.

Waterfront of Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand

Kviknes is a modern hotel with soul and atmosphere, and is one of the largest tourist hotels in Norway. The hotel has 190 rooms: 25 rooms in the historic Swiss chalet-style building and 165 in the modern building from the 1960s (in the Late Modern style). The hotel has a long list of prominent guests and has amassed a collection of works of art and treasures that adorn the hotel and contribute to its unique style.

Distinctive Furniture and Fjord Views

Historic Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand

Activities and special features: Fjaerland and Norwegian glacier museum, the Flam railway, the Naeroyfjord, magnificent walking terrain in the mountains. Beautiful biking and walking along the fjord. Free use of rowing boat and fishing gear, good bathing facilities for residents. The Aegir Bryggeri Pub & Microbrewery is in Flam.

Activities around Balestrand Kviknes Hotel

Balestrand’s Kviknes Hotel: Named “Best Historic Hotel of Europe by the Water 2014”

Kviknes Hotel - The Jewel of the Sognefjord

Kviknes Hotel is the classy Grande dame of Balestrand, dominating the town and packed with tour groups. The picturesque wooden hotel—and five generations of the Kvikne family—have welcomed tourists to Balestrand since the late 19th century.

Kviknes Hotel - Picturesque Wooden Hotel

The hotel has two parts: a new wing, and the historic wooden section, with 17 older, classic rooms, and no elevator. All rooms come with balconies. The elegant Old World public spaces in the old section make you want to just sit there and sip tea all afternoon.

Kviknes Hotel Balestrand - Swiss Chalet Style

Part of the Kviknes ritual is gorging on the store Koldtbord buffet dinner—open to non-guests, and a nice way to soak in the hotel’s old-time elegance without splurging on an overnight.

Balestrand Kviknes Hotel Buffet

Kviknes Hotel offers a splendid store Koldtbord buffet dinner in a massive yet stately old dining room. For a memorable fjord-side smorgasbord experience, it does not get any better than this. Do not rush.

Koldtbord Buffet at Kviknes Hotel

Consider taking a preview tour—surveying the reindeer meat, lingonberries, and fjord-caught seafood—before you dive in, so you can budget your stomach-space. Get a new plate with each course and save room for dessert. Each dish is labeled in English.

Old-fashioned Furniture and Fjord Views at Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand

After dinner, head into the rich lounge to pick up your cup of coffee or tea (included), which you will sip sitting on classy old-fashioned furniture and basking in fjord views.

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Glimpses of History #12: Judaism

Judaism is a monotheistic, scriptural religious conviction that evolved from the religion of ancient Israel during the Second Temple period (516 BCE–70 CE.)

Two fundamental beliefs shaped the attitude of Judaism toward nature and toward the systematic study of nature (that is to say, science):

  1. that God is the creator of the universe
  2. that God revealed God’s will in the form of Law—the Torah (literally “instruction”)—to the chosen people, Israel.

Judaism: History, Belief and Practice

Biblical accounts and archaeological findings are roughly in agreement: there were once two adjoining kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel to the north, sharing the same monotheistic belief. Whether, as the Bible asserts, Judah fell on account of tolerance of other gods is unidentified: modern thinking is that it was a vassal state of Assyria. As a result, Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah’s capital, Jerusalem (and its temple) around 600 BCE, with a fraction of its inhabitants taken into captivity. This separation motivated the formalization of the Tanakh, Jewish scriptures: much had already been written, but the canon was set at this period and shows signs of Babylonian cultural domination.

Much of the populace, though, had been left in Israel, causing dispute when Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great took Babylon and allowed the exiles to return to the Levant and rebuild their temple. Subsequently, Israel and Yehud (past Judah) would become more and more self-reliant, gaining independence again in the second century BCE under the Maccabees (the Selucid empire, who had succeeded the Babylonians, were failing). After the celebrated general Pompey invaded in 63 BCE, the area became Roman.

'Judaism History' by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (ISBN 1138912212) Following a great Jewish revolt, the second temple was destroyed in the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE, but Jewish opposition to the Roman empire continued sporadically until 136 BCE, when the Bar Koziba rebellion against the aggressively antisemitic Emperor Hadrian led to the disbanding of Israel and the Diaspora (pan-European migration of Jews). Others had moved eastwards in Roman times, becoming convenient contacts for the Abbasid caliphate and Convivencia-era Spain, and later Venice and the Ottoman empire.

Talmudic observations and rabbinical lore would become vital foundations of a faith without a homeland. Christianity, for the meantime, was regarded as an derivative of Judaism until Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in CE 325.

As Europe adopted Christianity, emigrant Jews became opportune all-purpose hate-figures; the Black Death was blamed on them and Tsarist pogroms forced many from east Europe and Russia to America and east London in the late 19th century. This movement, culminating in the Holocaust, led to the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.

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Yes Minister Christmas Special Sketch: “Christmas at the Ministry”

Yes Minister Christmas Special Sketch: Christmas at the Ministry

A two-minute Christmas-themed television sketch, featuring Paul Eddington as the Rt Hon. Jim Hacker, Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby, and Derek Fowlds as Bernard Woolley, was broadcasted on BBC One as part of a Christmas special named The Funny Side of Christmas.

Sir Humphrey has a special end-of-year message for the Minister, delivered in what is even by his standards an especially circumlocutory style. His message is transcribed here:

Jim Hacker: Are there more, Bernard?

Bernard Woolley: Before you go home for the holiday, Minister, Sir Humphrey has something to say to you.

'Yes Minister The Complete Collection' by Paul Eddington Nigel Hawthorne (ISBN B00008DP4B) Sir Humphrey: Oh thank you, Bernard. Minister, just one thing. I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice within government circles as we approach the terminal period of the year, calendar, of course, not financial, in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One, and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation, indeed confidence, indeed one might go so far as to say hope, that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible of being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average.

Jim Hacker: What’s he talking about?

Bernard Woolley: Well, Minister, I think Sir Humphrey just wanted to crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation…

'The Complete Yes Minister' by Jonathan Lynn,? Antony Jay (ISBN 0563206659) Jim Hacker: Alright, alright, Bernard! Hum…but Humphrey…

Sir Humphrey: At the end of the day, Minister, all due things being considered…

Jim Hacker: Hum…don’t, don’t, just forget the…

Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister?

Jim Hacker: Are you saying “Happy Christmas”?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister!

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Seven Root Causes for Poor Employee Engagement

Seven Root Causes for Poor Employee Engagement

Here are seven root causes-factors that cause employees to disengage and leave:

  1. They found the job or workplace to be different than what they had expected when hired.
  2. They were not well matched or challenged in the jobs for which they had been hired, or to which had been assigned or promoted.
  3. They received too little coaching and feedback from their supervisor.
  4. They perceived few prospects for professional growth and advancement.
  5. They felt undervalued or underrecognized, either through lack of informal acknowledgement of their contributions, feeling underpaid, not feeling “in the loop,” not having their input sought, not having the right tools.
  6. Feeling stressed or burned-out due to overwork or life-work imbalance.
  7. Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.

These seven causes are not the reasons most employees give in exit interviews. Departing employees typically respond with the answers their leaders prefer to hear-better pay or opportunity. Through such denial, managers never learn what they need to avoid or correct the real causes of disengagement and turnover.

'The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave' by Leigh Branham (ISBN 0814408516) Most managers believe employees leave mainly because of “pull factors”-pay and opportunity. However, Saratoga’s research concludes that 80 percent are motivated to leave because of these seven “push factors.”

Managers and leaders may not want to acknowledge the real reasons employees leave-since all seven are factors they can influence directly.

The good news is first that some turnover is desirable. Second, between the time employees become disengaged and the point when they leave, there is time and opportunity to re-engage them. Third, if we know why employees disengage and leave, then we also know why they stay and engage. Fourth, since only about 12 percent of employees leave mainly because of their pay, the things we need to do to re-engage most employees are relatively inexpensive, requiring mostly the time and attention of direct managers, the support of HR, and the commitment of senior leaders.

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Glimpses of History #11: Unified Egypt

History of Unified Ancient Egypt

In one of the most important occurrences in the history of Africa, the first steps toward food production were initiated in its northeast corner. The area, now occupied by Egypt and Sudan, was the ground for initial attempts to keep cattle from an African stock. It was also the area that hosted the beginnings of cultivating cereals and of herding sheep and goats introduced from Southwest Asia.

Once agriculture arrived from Mesopotamia, Egyptian civilization evolved rapidly. It centered around the predictable regular flooding of the Nile River, which provided both irrigation and fertile silt. The Pharoah, treated as a living god, was thought to ensure both sunrise and river tides through various rites, recorded in hieroglyphic (‘priest-script’) texts. Two major kingdoms established: Lower Egypt around the Nile Delta, and Upper Egypt, bordering Sudan. Traditionally, the two were unified by the Pharaoh Menes around 3000 BCE. Menes founded Egypt’s First Dynasty (of 31 in total). Shortly afterwards, a new capital, Memphis, was built. Dynasties came and went recurrently, with major regional conflicts and civil wars defining the Old, Middle and New Kingdom periods.

The first step pyramid, built by the brilliant architect Imhotep about 2630 BCE, was a natural progression of the mastaba tombs—Khufu’s Great Pyramid, built a thousand years later, is the sole survivor of Herodotus’s Seven Wonders of the World.

Rituals and Rites of Ancient Egypt

The beginning of kings and chiefs was linked to the development of a belief in cosmic forces responsible for the generation (birth) and regeneration (resurrection) of life. Cows, already sacred in the African Sahara as indicated by elaborate cow burials, became life-giving deities, and kings became identified with bulls. The iconography of deities on decorated Nagada II pottery showed the cow goddess at the top of the palette associated with Narmer (5,000 BCE), the founder of a unified Egypt. Cows ultimately came to represent many of the earliest Egyptian goddesses, who were symbols of birth, nurturing, and protection. Local political centers in the Nile Valley were, moreover, identified with local cult standards and centers. Many of these centers developed into towns with large graveyards.

Pyramid building was a prominent characteristic of the Old Kingdom. The first pyramid was the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, built by King Djoser (c. 2667-2640 BCE) in the Third Dynasty, the first example of a pyramid and also of monumental architecture in stone. The Step Pyramid Complex developed out of the earlier royal burials at Abydos, where a squared mound covered the burial and a separate, large, rectangular enclosure provided space for royal rituals. By the Fourth Dynasty, the stepped pyramid had developed into a true pyramid, as seen best in the famous pyramids at Giza.

In the Fifth Dynasty, pyramid building persisted, although on a much reduced scale. Rather than a massive pyramid protecting the king’s body for his afterlife, each Fifth Dynasty king also built a sun temple complex, connecting his afterlife with the eternal cycle of the sun. By the time of the Sixth Dynasty, pyramid texts carved in the burial chambers of the royal pyramids guaranteed that the king awakened from death and joined the gods in heaven.

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