I have recently started another set of preliminaries—and I say another because I am a graduate student working on my “preliminary exams.” These preliminaries, while they are a test, are a different kind of test: I am talking about the Mahamudra (“great seal”) ngöndro.

The Mahamudra preliminaries are shared by a variety of “new translation” Tibetan Buddhist schools, such as the Kagyü, Sakya, and Gelug schools. The texts that form the basis of these preliminaries were translated from Sanskrit in the 11th century, forming the basis of the “new translation,” while the “old translation” school (the Nyingmapas) has its various preliminaries based on texts translated in the 8th or 9th century. For the Kagyü school, these translations were done by Marpa Lotsawa (lotsawa meaning “translator”) when he travelled to India from Tibet to study the Buddhist dharma.

These preliminaries, like all ngöndro practices really, focus on what are called the “Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to the Dharma”:

  1. Precious Human Rebirth
  2. Death and Impermanence
  3. Karma as Cause and Effect
  4. Defects of Samsara

These are the four thoughts that one is meant to meditate on as one practices the preliminaries, which are made up of taking refuge and doing prostrations, reciting prayers, making mandalas, and performing guru yoga at least 111,111 times. Where the these four thoughts are the theory beyond the preliminaries, the four stages (refuge & prostrations, reciting the “hundred syllable mantra,” mandala-making, and guru yoga) are the preliminaries’ praxis.

I have been focusing on the first of these thoughts, the preciousness of this human life in particular, a lot recently. Caring for a loved one who is depressed, even suicidal, can help bring into focus how valuable human life is, as it has for me. There are of course the desires—that one does not want to lose a loved one, that one wants to prolong the life of someone whom we love as long as possible. But then, when one sits and meditates on depression, there are also the feelings of compassion. How incapacitatingly difficult, how profound a struggle it must be—to think that death is a solace for one’s problems, for one’s lack of will, or desire for non-existence.

Once in my life, I was there, as I grappled then with a history of abuse and exploitation—just as I do now. What has changed for me is the dharma, philosophy, and the ardent and revolutionary feeling Sandus has represented and crafted for me. This is Sandus’s resilience, I suppose, and I know I am not alone in feeling it. It is a calling to ease my suffering and that of other sentient beings (as we Buddhists say).

The voluntary taking of one’s life is now no longer an individual’s problem, however, as the world grapples with the effects of the novel coronavirus. Now meditating on the preciousness of human life is no longer a concern for just the loved ones of those who are depressed and suicidal, but it is now the concern of everyone who knows someone who has downplayed the pandemic we face or who has trivialised and contravened either mandatory or recommended bans and restrictions.

News, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook abound with stories and with one’s own testaments that they value their lives, and even unconsciously the lives of others, when they skirt around these rules. I just watched an interview involving spring break goers in South Florida, who complained that the virus is inconveniencing them while they are on vacation because public officials are closing bars and beaches to restrict the gatherings of people. Others downplayed the effects the virus has on the body, though the dead around the world include healthy young people. Survivors have also spoken of the discomfort, fatigue, and near-death anxiety they faced—and no one, survivors to researchers, yet knows the long-term effects of the virus. This is all not to mention the lives of others, whom could be negatively affected by the carelessness of others.

It seems clear to me, and I am sure clear to anyone who takes a moment to think, meditate, and think of themselves and others, how reckless and careless this attitude. Clearly, I think, we need to meditate on the preciousness of this human birth.

First, meditate on this precious human body,
So difficult to gain, so easy to lose.
This time, I shall make it meaningful!

Mahamudra commentaries (I am using one from the Karmapa Kagyü lineage) begin with this root text translated into Tibetan from Sanskrit by Marpa Lotsawa, and again into English by modern translators. Then, they suggest, contemplate the reasons why this life is so easy to gain and the many leisures it has. The commentaries refer here to concepts from Buddhist cosmology. This human life is superior to the lives of narakas (hell-beings), pretas (hungry-ghosts), and animals, whose lives are always in flux, who are dull and ignorant, and who will never hear the Dharma being taught. Gods, including devas (gods) and asuras (jealous demigods), are deluded by desire, form, and sensory pleasures—so, while they may be superior to humans in the hierarchy of beings, they will not rid themselves of suffering.

But they also include real facts from the human world. The countries that have received the Dharma’s teachings are few; those who are extreme and who dislike the Dharma hold wrong views that increase their suffering; and then there are those who are incapable to turn their minds toward the Dharma.

Even still, there are also other reasons why one might be led away from practicing the Dharma: they might have bad friends, have uninformed views, be lazy, lack of self-awareness, be under another’s control (through enslavement or abuse), act out of a need for fame or basic needs. And then there are other mental barriers too: attachment to one’s body or possessions, behaving badly, not fearing the miseries of samsara (of suffering), lacking conviction, inattention or carelessness, breaking one’s vows.

So, the commentary recommends thinking that:

  1. You have obtained this precious human body, opposite from other bodies that lack leisure altogether
  2. You have been born in a country where there is philosophy and where the Dharma has come
  3. Your senses are intact and you can understand when you are taught
  4. Since you have not encountered wrong views that lack evidence, you may not have a wrong livelihood
  5. You have faith and conviction and have this philosophy as your refuge
  6. The philosophic tradition has remained until now
  7. There are many other students along with you, and many who can teach you
  8. There are people around you who will encourage you and will help you

These thoughts, according to Buddhist philosophy and teachings, are meant to humble us—but also to think seriously about our suffering and that of others. This is the meaning of bodhicitta, or the “enlightened mind,” that can be both relative (in showing compassion for others and ourselves) and absolute (in recognising the inherent emptiness of all phenomena). Absolute bodhicitta, however, does not mean an absolute rejection of the world. It does not suggest nihilism—this is a typically “wrong view”—but rather it suggests that we strive to accept and to understand why these phenomena matter. That is, it is meant to drive us to study karma, or our relationships of cause and effect, and to study the causes and the effects of our own suffering.

This pandemic is ample time to begin thinking about the preciousness of this human birth. Each of us who is currently self-quarantining likely understands it in some small way. Today, now that spring-breakers are home and regretting their decisions, more and more are starting to see and to appreciate this life’s preciousness. It is in this small way that I hope this short exegesis, or, well, eisegesis, is helpful for you and for others.



Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, The Torch of True Meaning: Instructions and the Practice Text for the Mahamudra Preliminaries, with a foreword by H.H. the 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje (Woodstock, NY: KTD Publications, 2014).

Athena’s Day in Sandus has traditionally been known as our very own “Thanksgiving” given in honour of our matron goddess, Athena. The holiday is derived from the ancient Athenian holiday of the Chalkeia, a holiday dedicated to bronze-working artisans and workers at the end of the month of Pyanopsion. Dedicated to the god Hephaestos and the goddess Athena Erganê, we know very little about the holiday but we do know—the little we do from a fragment of Sophocles—that a procession happened involving people carrying baskets of grain, such as the kanephoroi, and that the peplos, or robe, for the large cult statue of Athena in the Parthenon was begun ahead of the Panathenaia games. Not much to go on for such a symbolically important Sandum holiday!

Traditionally in Sandus, the holiday has been treated as an analogue to American or Canadian Thanksgiving, but we would like to change that and develop our own traditions. So, we have a few suggestions:

First, that we respond to the tradition of grain-carriers in a creative way. In doing so, we can distinguish ourselves from our neighbours in the food we choose to prepare for the holiday. In lieu of turkey, we instead propose making a seitan roast—a gluten-based substitute that can be prepared without meat or animal products. Seitan has a long history in meat-replacement among Buddhist communities in China, Japan, and other Buddhist countries. In preparing a seitan roast, perhaps even with more traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, we can be connected to the tradition of the Athenian grain-bearing processions, Buddhist vegetarian diets, and to our contemporary vegetarian and vegan friends and family—as well as making this tradition wholly our own while also responding to and building off of the traditions of Americans and Canadians.

Second, that we should develop a new tradition based on the artistic quality of the Athenian festival. We propose vowing the creation of more artistic work in the period from Athena’s Day to the Minervalia, the birthday of our matron Athena. Like a secular Sandum Lenten season, this period of the year can be dedicated to the inward-turning that we already envision in winter. Already some ideas have been floated from vowing drawing more to embracing more cultural products. This goal can, as well, be wide ranging—from artistic to creative in other ways, such as with baking, cooking, musical, etc. This should call us back to our roots as creative people: instead of striving to achieve productivity in our disciplines or places of work, we should seek a balance and strive, as well, to fulfil our means and our needs of expression.

Third, that Athena’s Day should mark the beginning of the winter holiday season in our country. In suggesting this, we both reject the increased profit-making of our contemporary macronational societies and their corporations as they push the holiday season earlier and earlier, and we also reject the commercialisation of the holiday season. We reject the subordination of thanks-giving and autumnal holidays to Christmas: we embrace the need for thanksgiving and gratitude, to our friends and family or even to higher, loftier metaphysical concepts. But we also reject the need to maximise our spending and to fit the newest fashions in our gift-giving. Instead, we encourage each other and ourselves to buy local, to do more than just buy gifts and food. With the change from autumnal to winter holidays, which in Sandus span both December and January, we encourage our citizens and people generally to make gratitude and appreciation for common humanity a larger priority beyond the conventional winter holiday time.

In doing the suggestions above, we propose that Athena’s Day can both represent the ardent Sandum belief in radical self-determination and autonomy and encourage us to build upon our already-established (dare we say, traditional?) holidays to breathe a new breath of fresh air into our micronation. But these suggestions also embrace our micronation’s already-established cultural independence.

Gaius Soergel Publicola, the head flamen of the Collegium Sacerdotum, has proposed the creation of a focus group attending to events and holidays (Latin: sodalitas eventis festisque animadvertendis, French: groupe de discussion des cérémonies et des fêtes). The group will be tasked with coming up with ideas for what to do to celebrate select Sandum holidays and will publish its ideas for citizens and others to think about. Attendance is open to all members of the college, to all citizens of the State of Sandus, and anyone interested in the wider world. The group will be managed collectively by the leading flamen and the epulo (feaster); requests to join in discussions can be sent to either of them.

Each sitting of the focus group will focus on a particular selected holiday one to three months in advance. Meetings are meant to be low-key, ad hoc, hour-long discussions about ideas each attendee has about what they will do and why—while keeping the meaning of the holiday at the centre of the group’s discussion. In that sense, members have homework to do before they come to the meeting: think about what you will do at the holiday, who one will invite, etc. At the end of each sitting, members will choose the next holiday to focus on.

Holidays do not necessarily need to be important and large-scale Sandum holidays. They can be holidays of any type, even those not already on the Sandum calendar. The group’s purpose is both to encourage participation in Sandum culture and to encourage activity from those in positions of authority and those who are interested in our holidays.

Today, Christians celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit poured itself upon Christ’s disciples in fulfillment of his promise to send an advocate and comforter to be with us always. According to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, this outpouring was made manifest by a fiery apparition and the apostles speaking in tongues, with Peter’s sermon understood by each person in their native language.

Each Christian is baptized with the Holy Spirit and thereby given grace to do God’s work. The public miracle recounted in Acts is extraordinary, but the influence of the Spirit is felt by each follower of Christ in ways unique to each. In his letters, Paul identified some of the numerous spiritual gifts one might receive, including ministering, discernment, diligence, and charity. To the Corinthians, he wrote that all varieties of gifts “are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

The special graces we receive through the Spirit are all reflections of the divine. If we are to be one body, we must acknowledge and honor the divine in each other—not only as baptized Christians, but as humans, for we are taught that all are alike unto God.

Consider what spiritual gifts are at work in the world today. To some, it is given power to recognize injustice and courage to act against it. To others, it is given to make art that probes the soul’s depths. Some are empowered to minister to the marginalized and excluded. Some are given the gift of dissent, furthering the pursuit of truth when it is uncomfortable. These are all precious gifts in the Church, our families, our nations, and the world. All come from the same Spirit. Let us honor them in ourselves and in each other, and in doing so honor their Source.

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us b the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in this holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Adam Camillus von Friedeck, Priest of the Collegium
Sisenna Melville, Bishop of ἡ Ἔκκλησία τῆς Σανδῆς

ἡ Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία logo display

Adam Camillus von Friedeck, a priest of our college, has written a rite for Christmas yesterday. The rite itself is based on the Episcopalian and Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

Read the 2018 Christmas rite here or below.

Order of worship for Christmas Eve 2018

Collegium Sacerdotum

Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America

The people standing, the Celebrant says
Blessed by God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

People             And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever.


The Celebrant says
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

The Collect of the Day

The Celebrant says to the people
                        The Lord be with you.

People             And also with you.

Celebrant        Let us pray.

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: grand that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Lessons

The people sit. The Lessons are read, the Reader first saying

A reading from _____.

A citation giving chapter and verse may be added. This service’s Readings are Isaiah 9:2-7 and Titus 2:11-14.

After each Reading, the Reader says
                        The word of the Lord.

People             thanks be to God.

Then, all standing, the Celebrant reads the Gospel (Luke 2:1-14), first saying

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke.

People             Glory to you, Lord Christ.

After the Gospel, the Reader says
                        The Gospel of the Lord.

People             Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Prayers of the People

With all our heart and with all our mind, let us pray to the Lord, saying “Lord, have mercy.”
For the peace from above, for the loving-kindness of God, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the Holy Church of God, and for the unity of all peoples, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For all the clergy and people, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the Sôgmô, for the leaders of the nations, and for all in authority, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For this city, for every city and community, and for those who live in them, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For seasonable weather, and for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the good earth which God has given us, and for the wisdom and will to conserve it, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For those who travel on land, on water, or in the air or through outer space, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and the suffering, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, and for all who remember and care for them, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, and for all the departed, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For deliverance from all danger, violence, oppression, and degradation, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the absolution and remission of our sins and offenses, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

That we may end our lives in faith and hope, without suffering and without reproach, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

Defend us, delivery us, and in thy compassion protect us, O Lord, by thy grace.

Lord, have mercy.

In the communion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and of all the saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to Christ our God.

To thee, O Lord our God.


O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Celebrant says
And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

People and Celebrant
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Celebrant blesses the people
The almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you. Amen.

The Celebrant dismisses them with these words
                        Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

People             Thanks be to God.

In addition to being Halloween, today marks Lhabab Düchen, a Tibetan Buddhist holiday that celebrates the Buddha’s descent from Indra’s heaven where he taught the Dharma to his mother. Khenpo Tenzin Norgay of the Palyul lineage has jokingly called it “Buddhist Mother’s Day,” but it is a day that especially celebrates the miraculous acts and deeds of Siddhartha Guatama, the Shakyamuni Buddha.

The following are two works of praise for the Buddha and his miracles.


Great Praise of the Ten Acts of the Buddha
by Arya Nagajuna

tabkhé tukjé shakyé rik su trung, shyen gyi mitub dü kyi pung jompa
With skillful means and compassion, you were born in the Shakya clan, unconquerable by others, you vanquished Mara’s hordes,

ser gyi lhünpo tabur jipé ku, shakyé gyalpo khyö la chaktsal lo
your physical form resplendent, like a mountain of gold. To you, the King of the Shakyas, I pay homage!

gang gi dangpor changchu tukkyé né, sönam yeshe tsok nyi dzok dzé ching
You I shall praise who first awakened the mind of enlightenment, then completed the accumulations of merit and wisdom,

dü dir dzepa gyachen drowa yi, gön gyur khyö la dak gi töpar gyi
and now in this age, through the vast sway of your actions, have become the lord and protector of living beings!

lha nam dön dzé dulwé dü khyen né, lha lé bab né langchen tar shek shing
Homage to you who, having taught the gods, knew the time had come to tame the human world, and

rik la zik né lhamo gyultrulmé, lhum su shyukpar dzé la chaktsal lo
descending from the god realm like a great elephant, foresaw the family of your birth and entered the womb of Mayadevi!

dawa chu dzok shakyé sepo ni, tashi lumbi tsal du tampé tsé
Homage to you, prince of the Shakyas, born after ten months in the auspicious Lumbini grove, where

tsang dang gyajin gyi tü tsen chok ni, changchub rik su ngedzé chaktsal lo
Brahma and Indra revered you, your supreme marks proving you were destined to be enlightened!

shyönnu tobden mi yi sengé dé, agha magadhar ni gyutsal ten
Homage to you, lion among men, in all your youthful vigour, displaying your prowess in the games at Agha Magadha,

kyewo drekpachen nam tsarché né, drenda mepar dzé la chaktsal lo
where you triumphed over the proud contestants, so that no one could stand as your rival!

jikten chö dand tünpar jawa dang, khana mato pang chir tsünmo yi
Homage to you who, to comply with worldly convention and avoid all misdeeds, took on a queen and courtiers

khor dangden dzé tab la khepa yi, gyalsi kyongwar dzé la chaktsal lo
and by acting with such skilful means, so you ruled the kingdom!

khorwé jawar nyingpo mé zik né, khyim né jung té kha la shek né kyang
Homage to you who saw that samsara is wholly futile, renounced the life of a householder,

chörten namdak drung du nyi lé nyi, rabtu jungwar dzé la chaktsal lo
and, travelling through the sky, ordained yourself before the Vishuddha Stupa!

tsönpé changchub drubpar gong né ni, nairanjané dram du lo druk tu
Homage to you who, intent on persevering until enlightenment, for six years practised austerities on the banks of the Nairañjana,

kawa ché dzé tsöndrü tarchinpé, samten chok nyé dzé la chaktsal lo
and taking diligence to its ultimate perfection, attained the supreme samadhi!

tokma mé né bepa dönyö chir, magadha yi changchub shingdrung du
Homage to you who, seeking to make meaningful all your efforts, made throughout beginningless time, sat

kyiltrung miyo ngönpar sangye né, changchub dzokpar dzé la chaktsal lo
unmoving in the vajra posture beneath the bodhi tree in Magadha and awakened into true buddhahood, attaining perfect enlightenment!

tukjé dro la nyurdu zik né ni, varanasi lasok né chok tu
Homage to you who, in your compassion, gazed at once upon living beings, then

chö kyi khorlo kor né dulja nam, tekpa sum la gö dzé chaktsal lo
turned the wheel of the Dharma in sacred places like Varanasi, and established disciples in the three vehicles!

shyen gyi golwa ngenpa tsarché chir, mutek tönpa dang lhejin sok
Homage to you who destroyed evil-minded opponents, by defeating the six teachers of the tirthikas, Devadatta and the rest,

khormo jik gi yul du dü nam tul, tubpa yul lé gyal la chaktsal lo
as well as the maras in Varanasi; you were the mighty sage, victorious in battle!

sipa sum na pemé yönten gyi, nyen du yöpar chotrul chenpo ten
Homage to you who performed great miracles in Shravasti, unmatched in their splendour in all the three realms,

lhami drowa kün gyi rab chöpa, tenpa gyepar dzé la chaktsal lo
and through the offerings made by gods, humans, and other beings, caused the teachings to prosper and increase!

lelo chen nam chö la kuljé chir, tsachok drong gi sashyi tsangma ru
Homage to you who, to spur the lazy on to the Dharma, left your body, though immortal and like a vajra,

chimé dorjé tabü ku shek né, nya ngen dawar dzé la chaktsal lo
and passed into parinirvana in the pure abode of Kushinagara!

yangdak nyi du jikpamé chir dang, ma ong semchen sönam tobjé chir
Homage to you who, to show that you had not in reality perished and so that beings of the future could gain merit,

denyi du ni ringsel mang trul né, kudung cha gyé dzé la chaktsal lo
emanated a wealth of relics and caused your remains to be divided into eight portions!


Short Praise of the Buddha’s Deeds
by Aryashura

gang tsé kang nyi tsowo khyö tam tsé, sa chen di la gompa dün bor né
When you were born, chief among human beings, you took seven steps on this earth and said:

nga ni jikten di na chok ché sung, detsé khepa khyö la chaktsal lo
“In this world I am supreme.” To you, O wise one, I pay homage!

dangpo ganden lha yi yul né jön, gyalpö khab tu yum gyi lhum su shyuk
First, you descended from the heaven of Tushita, and in the royal home you entered your mother’s womb;

lumbini yi tsal du tubpa tam, chomden lha yi lha la chaktsal lo
In the grove at Lumbini, O sage, you were born: to the victorious ‘god amongst gods,’ I pay homage!

shyalyé khang du mama gyé shyi chö, shakyé drong du shyönnü roltsé dzé
You were tended by 32 nurses at the palace, you spent your youth in sports at the house of the Shakyas;

serkyé né su sa tso khab tu shyé, si sum tsunmé ku la chaktsal lo
At Kapilavastu you took Gopa as your wife: to you who are unequalled in the three worlds, I pay homage!

drongkhyer go shyir kyowé tsul ten né, chörten namdak drung du utra sil
At the four city gates, you were shown the four kinds of sorrow and cut your own hair in front of the Vishdda Stupa;

nairanjané dram du katub dzé, drib nyi kyön dangdral la chaktsal lo
On the banks of the Nairañjana, you practised as an ascetic: to you who are free from the faults of the two obscurations, I pay homage!

gyalpö khab tu langchen nyönpa tul, yangpachen du pé’ü drangtsi pul
At Rajagṛha you tamed a rogue elephant, in Vaishali the monkeys offered you honey;

magadha ru tubpa ngön sangye, khyenpé yeshe bar la chaktsal lo
In Magadha O sage, you realised buddhahood: to you in whom omniscient wisdom blossomed, I pay homage!

varanasir chö kyi khorlo kor, dzeté tsal du chotrul chenpo ten
At Varanasi you turned the Wheel of Dharma, and in the Jeta grove you showed great miracles;

tsachok drong du gongpa nya ngen dé, tuk ni namkha dra la chaktsal lo
At Kushinagara your wisdom mind passed into parinirvana: to you whose mind is like the sky, I pay homage!

ditar tenpé dakpo chomdendé, dzepé tsul la do tsam töpa yi
Through the merit of this brief praise of the deeds of the Enlightened One, Master of the Teaching,

gewé drowa kün gyi chöpa yang, deshek nyi kyi dzé dang tsungpar shok
may the actions of all living being come to equal the acts of the Sugata himself!

Armilustrium 2018

Happy Armilustrium!

The ancient Romans celebrated Armilustrium festival in honour of the god of war, Mars. They ritually purified their weapons and stored them for winter. In Sandus, we celebrate Armilustrium as a fall festival, where we purify our own weapons—the materials of our identities. These weapons might be our books, pens, and paper or the instruments of our trade.

While the unique geography of a micronation like Sandus means that we cannot all celebrate this holiday in the same physical space, the following ritual is offered to you so we can celebrate together in the same spiritual space.

For this ritual, you will need those instruments mentioned earlier (or a symbol of them).

If you have an altar, place these instruments (or a symbol of them) on or near the altar. Clear the space around your altar and prepare yourself for this ritual.

To begin, it is first important to get into the right headspace for ritual. Dim the lights, light a candle on your altar.

We are going to be making a sigil of our intention for both this ritual and this season. Consider a phrase that you want to set as your intention. This phrase might relate to your work and specifically your weapons for this ritual, or it might not.

  • You might begin with the phrase, “Let me use these books to research new things and grow in knowledge in my field.”
  • Get rid of all the vowels in this phrase: “Lt m s ths bks t rsrch nw thng nd grw n knwldg n m fld.”
  • Then eliminate duplicate letters: “Ltmshbkrcnwgd”
  • Finally, create an artistic rendering that combines these letters in some way. You may use all of the letters in this, or you may not. The practice of working through this phrase will help deepen your intention, and after this ritual, you can keep this sigil on a bulletin board or other prominent place.

Sigil Example

Here is an example of a sigil. While I am unsure what the original phrase was, you can clearly see some letters that have been artistically rendered in this symbol that is now meaningful and important for the person who created the symbol, although it is meaningless to an outsider who was not privy to the process of creating that sigil.

Next, we are going to charge that sigil.  Place your sigil on the altar and prepare to meditate (although this process will have hopefully been meditative).

Roman trumpets would be played as part of the purification ritual. In the spirit of this important part of the Roman Armilustrium, here is a meditation track that largely features a trumpet.

While you play this track, sit and face your altar with your weapons on or next to it, and your fresh sigil placed on top of it.

For this meditation, you may want to focus on the original phrase you created as an intention, or rely on any personal meditative practice that works best for you.

Finally, we turn to the washing of weapons that marked Armilustrium to the ancient Romans.  Raise your “weapons” over the smoke of your candle in order to spiritually cleanse them. If you believe in G-d, pray to the deity of G-d, thanking G-d for those instruments and asking for blessing in continuing to use them well.  If you believe in a multitude of gods, or no god at all, you may choose to address a specific deity or merely thank the universe for your gifts, remarking that you hope you are able to use them well.

Sit in this space for as long as you would like. If you do this ritual after dinner, it would be more than appropriate to eat your (seasonal) dessert near your altar with your lights still dimmed, thinking about the ritual and about Sandus.

Happy Armilustrium, Comrade Citizens!

— Sisenna Melville

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Titian, Crucifixion (1558)

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of the liturgical year, when Christians reflect on the suffering and death of Christ. Tomorrow is Transgender Day of Visibility, when trans people and their allies proclaim the presence and worth of transgender people in our society. I note this coincidence because Christians, in particular, have a responsibility to reflect on what this public visibility means for transgender people and the role that we have played and continue to play in rendering visibility a trial and a burden to those trans people for whom visibility is not a choice and in rendering it unelectable for those who would like to choose it.

In considering this, I invite you to reflect on the spectacle of the crucified Christ. I say “spectacle” deliberately: the word connotes a source of titillation or entertainment for a mob. In the Roman Catholic observance, this spectacle is enacted during the Good Friday liturgy, when the narrative of the Passion according to John is read. It is common for the assembled faithful read the part of the crowd, exclaiming “Crucify him!” and other invectives, in order to remind us of our own complicity in the death of Christ. We become partakers of the mob’s morbid delight in the spectacle of the wounded and crucified body of the Savior, seeing in the brokenness and grotesquery of a human body nothing but an object for our amusement.

This the ever-present risk of visibility: the transformation of visibility into spectacle, of a human body into a puzzle, of the Imago Dei into just another agglomeration of data to be “read” and categorized. For the person reduced to spectacle, even the simple fact of their public existence becomes material for evaluation and speculation by an audience for which they did not ask and with whom they have no relationship except proximity. This is a source of suffering for those forced to be visible in this way, and it is spiritual poison for those of us who participate in making spectacles of others’ bodies. Just as we imposed the logic of the world on the One sent to redeem us, and thereby killed him, so do we continue to impose the logics, régimes, and categories of the world on those sent to be our sisters and brothers, and thereby kill them.

The Crucifixion also affords us a glimpse at the alternative that opens us to redemption. Christ was not found out and interrogated by the world, but revealed Himself in His time and in His terms: for a Christian, salvation depends upon accepting those terms, and the imposition of worldly logics on Christ has rightly been condemned as heresy. Why, then, do we sin against our transgender neighbors in the same way? The régimes and systems through which we process the world are not self-contained: all depend ultimately on our accepting terms that do not come from us but are given from another. Each person we meet reveals to us, in a new way, the very image of God: who are we to think we can read it unaided? But the very fact of God’s image revealed to us tells us all we need to know: love and revere them as an icon of the Lord. As we move through this day of penance for our role in the Crucifixion, we can’t forget the people of whose lives we make a spectacle, whose existence we have made a crucifixion. We can do better: we can refuse the logics of the world that demand the legibility of each person and thing, and instead be open to God’s revelation in each person, and to any revelation that might be given to us from each person. Only in being open to God revealed can we hope for our salvation. God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life.

D. Walden

The Sôgmô in þess capacity as Sacer Flamen of the Collegium Sacerdotum of the State of Sandus has established a new sodality for Sandum Buddhists on the last Amitabha Day of the Tibetan year 2144, or the year of the Fire Rooster. The new sodality is mandated with organising discussions of the Dharma, meditation events, and pan-Buddhist ceremonies.

Though the State of Sandus is made up of a minority of Sandum Buddhists, the country’s Buddhist tradition is seen as one of the most significant traditions in Sandus, as well as the country’s Socialist traditions. The Sôgmô, who is a Tibetan Buddhist, formed the country in May 2009 as a Tibetan Buddhist country under the then-Grand Lamate of Sandefreistikhan. Under the government then, the Grand Lama was intended to dress in state robes which reflected a lay person’s commitment to the Buddha’s teachings of poverty and asceticism. Today, the Sôgmô still wears state robes which reflect the country’s Buddhist tradition.

The leader of the Sangha will be governed by the Sandum Facilitator of the Council, Hatsu Ryuho, rather than the Sôgmô. Hatsu is expected to be made a flamen in the Collegium in the coming days.

As the Sandum Sangha does not have any teachers or officials of the Dharma, the body will be comprised only of lay people and of any ordained who may decide to join. While the body will not accept vows of ordination, however, it may receive pledges of refuge and of taking precepts.

While the country’s tradition is mostly Tibetan Buddhist, moreover, there will be no doctrinal or cultural divisions in the Sandum Sangha. Sandum Buddhism, as an abstract concept separate from Buddhism as a cultural community and practice in Asia and in America, is but a fledgling idea.

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The new logo of the Sandum Church

The Sandum Church (officially known as ἡ Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία in Greek) has been granted a new monogram and logo from the Sôgmô in þess role as the Sacer Flamen of the Collegium Sacerodotum. The monogram is composed of the letters Iota and Eta, which are the first two letters of Jesus’s name in Greek (Ἰησοῦς). The monogram could also be seen to contain the Latin IHS monogram, meaning “Iesus Hominum Salvator” (Jesus the People’s Saviour). The colours within Christogram contains the colours of found in the coat of arms of the State of Sandus.

The significance of the new monogram, as described by the Sacer Flamen, is that the three lines separated by a single horizontal line represent the Trinity in heaven and on earth. The number three is also significant to Sandus generally because of the three parts of the Sandum Philosophy on human suffering, socialism, and pluralism.

ἡ Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία

The new emblem or monogram of the Sandum Church depicts the stylised letters IHS and the Sandum national flag.

The church’s logo is comprised of the monogram with the name of the body in both English and Koine Greek.

The Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία is a semi-autonomous body of the Collegium Sacerdotum, the Sandum cooperative which pioneers cultural developments and provides for religious and philosophical expression in the State of Sandus.