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Buddhism and Tarot: Buddha's Crazy Quilt
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2003


My Grandmother and her three sisters were quilters par extraordinaire. They enjoyed many the pleasurable hour creating masterpieces that are valued heirlooms today. These quilts contain the essence of their memories in every handstitched piece. None of these lovely ladies are on this plane any longer but their creativity and sisterly love is forever contained in them. As you can imagine with such an abundance of giggling, gossiping and quiltmaking there were a few fabric remants. These scraps were sewn into amazing works of art called Crazy Quilts, randomly shaped pieces, vibrant and colourful, joined together and decorated with crazy stitch embroidery - a most unique piece.

This article is for all those avid collector's of interesting quotations. It has always been an amazement to me how many wonderful little messages I get in the course of the day - and not just the abundance of email that I receive. A stray quote from a conversation on the radio or television, a song lyric that touches my present feelings, a headline that caught my eye at the Becker's this morning while I was buying a coffee, email signatures, the random flicking open of a book to see what thought on the page has a pertinent insight for me - all of these help me in my daily navigation of this strange and sometimes wonderful world that we all share.

The following are a collection of Buddhist thoughts which I felt expressed the essence of the Major Arcana and the Tarot - an arcana crazy quilt for Buddha.

The Fool

From the time there appears in this world one who has seen the truth, a fully awakened one, blessed by the truth, abounding in happiness, a teacher of wisdom and goodness, a buddha. He, by himself, thoroughly knows and sees this universe, and knowing it, makes his knowledge known to others. The truth, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation, he proclaims. A new life he makes known, in all its fullness. -Tevigga Sutta "Buddha Speaks"

The Magician

When there is grasping, the grasper
Comes into existence.
If he did not grasp,
Then being freed, he would not come into existence.
-Nagarjuna, "Mulamadhyamaka-Karika"

The High Priestess

What is the skilled approach of someone seriously interested in realizing his or her highest potential? Stated simply it is to keep the mind continuously in as happy and peaceful a condition as possible. -Lama Thubten Yeshe, "Introduction to Tantra"

The Empress

Unless we practice loving feelings toward everyone we meet, day in, day out, we're missing out on the most joyous part of life. If we can actually open our hearts, there's no difficulty in being happy. -Ayya Khema, "Be an Island"

The Emperor

Be quick in doing what's admirable.
Restrain your mind from what's evil.
When you're slow in making merit,
evil delights the mind.
-Dhammapada, 9, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

The Hierophant

He who has put away evil, who is humble, free from impurity, self restrained, versed in knowledge, leading a holy life, That man may be truly called a Brahmana. For him there are no desires anywhere in the world. -Udana

The Lovers

Turn away from mischief.
Again and again, turn away,
Before sorrow befalls you.

Set your heart on doing good.
Do it over and over again,
And you will be filled with joy.
-Dhammapada 117-118

The Chariot

The mind is often compared to a horseman and the breath to the horse. A wild and untamed horse is difficult for the rider; a very good and well-trained horse is quite useful. If both rider and horse are extremely well trained and skilled, an excellent combination has been made. -Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, "Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen"

Strength

How very happily we live, we who have nothing.
We will feed on rapture like the Radiant gods.
-Dhammapada, 15, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

The Hermit

He who entirely cuts off his craving by drying up its fierce and rapid flow, --such a monk gives up the here and the beyond, just as a serpent sheds its worn-out skin. -Sutta Nipata

The Wheel of Fortune

Adopting an attitude of universal responsibility is essentially a personal matter. The real test of compassion is not what we say in abstract discussions but how we conduct ourselves in daily life. -His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "Imagine All the People"

Justice

While practicing generosity, we should always remember how very fortunate we are to have this opportunity. -Gomo Tulku, "Becoming a Child of the Buddhas"

The Hanged Man

Forsaking dark practices, the wise person should develop the bright, having gone from home to no-home in seclusion, so hard to enjoy. There he should wish for delight, discarding sensuality-- he who has nothing. He should cleanse himself--wise-- of what defiles the mind. -Dhammapada, 6, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Death

Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done. If there were no likelihood, I would not ask you to do it. But since it is possible and since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: abandon wrongdoing. Cultivate doing good. It can be done. If it brought deprivation and sorrow, I would not ask you to do it. But since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: cultivate doing good. -Anguttara Nikaya

Temperance

Skillful speech not only means that we pay attention to the words we speak and to their tone but also requires that our words reflect compassion and concern for others and that they help and heal, rather than wound and destroy. -Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness"

The Devil

When you are thinking about an object, it sometimes occurs that evil, unwholesome thoughts connected with hate and delusion come into your mind. The way to get rid of them is to concentrate on another object that is wholesome and good. Just as a skilled carpenter knocks out a coarse peg with a fine one, so the evil thoughts will disappear. With their departure, the mind will become calm, unified, and concentrated once more. -Majjhima Nikaya

The Tower

Trust has nothing to do with moral courage. It occurs when we have nowhere else to turn, when we reach the end of our need to control. -Rodney Smith, "Lessons from the Dying"

The Star

Because it lacks consciousness, I must admit that a word cannot praise me. Undoubtedly, the cause of my delight is that another is delighted with me. But what does it matter to me whether another's delight is in me or someone else? His alone is the pleasure of that delight. Not even a trifling part of it is mine. -Santideva, "Bodhicaryavatara"

The Moon

This mind is like a fish out of water that thrashes and throws itself about, its thoughts following each of its cravings. Such a wandering mind is weak and unsteady, attracted here, there and everywhere. How good it is to control it and know the happiness of freedom. -Dhammapada

The Sun

How very happily we live, free from busyness among those who are busy.
Among busy people, free from busyness we dwell.
-Dhammapada, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Judgment

Accept my words only when you have examined them for yourselves; do not accept them simply because of the reverence you have for me. Those who only have faith in me and affection for me will not find the final freedom. But those who have faith in the truth and are determined on the path, they will find awakening. -Majjhima Nikaya

The World

A blessing in the world: reverence to your mother.
A blessing: reverence to your father as well.
A blessing in the world: reverence to a contemplative.
A blessing: reverence for a brahmin, too.

A blessing into old age is virtue.
A blessing: conviction established.
A blessing: discernment attained.
The non-doing of evil things is a blessing.
-Dhammapada, 23, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Buddha's Trellis: Buddhism and the Tree of Life (c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2002




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This page was created March 7, 2003 and updated August 10, 2006.