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The Mandala - Tantric Symbol of Integration

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by Sangharakshita

... the Dharmadhatu, the knowledge or the realisation or experience of the whole cosmos as penetrated by, or pervaded by, or non-different from Reality Itself. This is the central experience of Enlightenment. So much then for Vairocana, the Illuminator, the white Buddha at the centre of the Mandala. 2. Akshobya, the Dark Blue Buddha Sometimes it is said that Akshobya is dark blue like the midnight sky without any stars. A very deep, dark, almost impenetrable blue, verging almost on black. The name Akshobya means the Imperturbable, the Unshakeable, the One Who Cannot Be Moved, who cannot be disturbed in any way, and Akshobya represents the firmness and stability and indestructibleness, as it were, of the Enlightenment experience. Akshobya occupies the eastern direction and his emblem is the vajra. The vajra is the thunderbolt or diamond. In Sanskrit, vajra means both thunderbolt and diamond: they're not distinguished. But the vajra is the hardest of all things.

The vajra can cut everything but nothing cuts the vajra. So Enlightenment, or Wisdom is like that. It cuts everything, but nothing cuts it.

The mudra, or the hand position, of Akshobya is what is called the Earth-touching. We heard something about this last week, because the earth-touching mudra is associated with the Buddha's victory over Mara, the Evil One, before he attained Enlightenment. You remember how, under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha sat unperturbed, unshaken, even though according to legend, he was attacked by the hosts of Mara, all these terrible misshapen forms. But he was able to repel them: all their weapons, their flames, their stones, fell harmless at his feet. So Akshobya, with his earth-touching mudra, is associated with this episode in the life of the historical Buddha.

Akshobya is associated with the Mirror-like Wisdom; the Wisdom which is like a mirror. This Wisdom represents that aspect of the Enlightened Mind, the Enlightened Consciousness, which sees everything. In other _________________________________________________________________________________________________ words, it understands the true nature of everything. Just as a mirror just reflects everything, if the mirror is free from dust, if it's perfectly polished, it just reflects - wherever you turn it, in every direction, it just reflects. It reflects everything but it is not affected by anything; nothing leaves a mark, nothing leaves a trace on the surface of the mirror. The mirror can reflect a hundred things, a thousand things, but there's no mark left. Not only is there no mark left, but it isn't affected in any way by the reflections; there's no, as it were, sticking: nothing sticks. There's no, as it were, subjective reaction. So the mirror-like Wisdom represents the pure, the perfect objectivity of the Enlightened mind which reflects everything, sees everything, knows everything, understands everything, penetrates through and through everything, but is not touched, not affected, does not stick anywhere, does not settle down anywhere, but moves freely on. So much then for Akshobya, the dark blue Buddha.

3. Ratnasambhava, the Yellow or Golden Buddha His name means the 'Jewel Producing One', the one who is productive of jewels and Ratnasambhava represents the aspect of beauty and richness and abundance of the Enlightened Mind. He occupies the southern quarter of the Mandala and his emblem is the cintamani, or wish-fulfilling gem. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the cintamani is rather like Aladdin's lamp. If you hold it in your hand and wish, then whatever you wish you get.

So in Hindu mythology, especially, all the gods and powerful kings are always trying to get this cintamani so they can hold it and just wish. But what is the true, the real cintamani? The true cintamani is the Enlightened mind itself, because that gives you in the highest sense in the ultimate sense, everything, whatever you can wish for: all beauty, all riches, all abundance: it's all there in the depths of your own mind. So Ratnasambhava, the jewel-producing Buddha, has as his emblem this cintamani, this wish fulfilling gem, suggesting that the true wish-fulfilling gem is Enlightenment Itself.

Ratnasambhava is also connected with the earth. His colour in fact links him with the Earth. The colour of the earth in the East is yellow in the East, and Ratnasambhava's colour is yellow. The earth is, as it were, the depth from which all treasures come; whether it's gold, silver or jewels - they're all dug up from the depths of the earth. It's the same with all spiritual treasures, if you like archetypal treasures - they're dug up, as it were, from the depths of the Enlightened mind, and especially we are told, what is known as the jewel of the Bodhicitta, the jewel of the Will to Enlightenment, the urge, the aspiration to gain Enlightenment not just of oneself, but all living beings.

The mudra, the finger position of Ratnasambhava, is the varada, supreme giving, because Ratnasambhava represents that aspect of Enlightenment which, as it were, bestows all spiritual gifts on all people without any discrimination at all, and therefore also Ratnasambhava is associated with the Wisdom of Equality, or the Wisdom of Sameness, because the Enlightened Mind sees things with complete objectivity: no preferences, no likes, no dislikes, no reactions, whether positive or negative. Therefore the Enlightened Mind is the same towards all - sees all equally; the same love, the same compassion, towards all.

I remember in this connection - this is just by the way but it perhaps illustrates a point - a certain archbishop of Canterbury was asked if he supported apartheid. He was asked whether all human beings, whether black or white, were equal in God's eyes. So he said, "They're all equal in the love of god, but they're not equal in the sight of God." He was asked, incidentally whether he supported apartheid or not and this was his reply, that all living beings are equal in the love of God but not in the sight of God. If we put that into Buddhist terms, we may say that all living beings, regardless of all these distinctions, all things whatsoever in the universe, are equal in the sight of the Enlightened Mind - this is the Wisdom of Sameness, and because they are equal in the sight of the Enlightened Mind, they're also equal in the love of the Enlightened Mind. You can't have the one without the other. The light, as it were, of the Enlightened Mind falls equally upon all, just like the rays of the sun on objects on the surface of the earth. So this is Ratnasambhava, the yellow Buddha.

4. Amitabha, the Red Buddha The word Amitabha literally means the 'infinite light'. Not just light, but also warmth. So Amitabha, the Red Buddha, represents what we may call the love aspect of Enlightenment. Red in Buddhism, a very deep, rich, brilliant red, is the colour of love. And the emblem of Amitabha therefore is the red lotus - a deep, rich, brilliant red lotus. Amitabha also represents what we may call the maturing power of love. We all know, both psychologically and spiritually, love is necessary to growth. I remember reading some time ago, (I don't know whether it was an experiment which had been performed, but it had happened in some way) that in an orphanage, a certain number of infants (I think they were about six months old) were treated in a very objective, hospital-routine sort of way, without any personal attention or handling, and another group of children were treated quite differently - they were handled a lot, carried about a lot in people's arms and given a great deal of personal attention, but otherwise everything else was the same. And they found that those who were not given the personal attention and the handling, or in other words, the love, the human contact, almost withered. They _________________________________________________________________________________________________ didn't really thrive. But those who were given the human contact, the sympathy, or in a word, the love, they did very much better. The difference was very, very marked. So we can see on the psychological level in the case of small children, in the case of babies, even in the case of all human beings, even all animals, some element of love is necessary for growth, for development on all these different levels. So Amitabha symbolises this.

Amitabha, the red Buddha, symbolises the love aspect of Enlightenment, that aspect of light and warmth of the Enlightened Mind which matures, spiritually, all living beings.

Amitabha's mudra is the dhyana mudra, the mudra of meditation, and he occupies the western quarter, the quarter where the sun sets. Amitabha is associated with the setting sun. And to some Buddhists, especially those in Japan, the setting sun, with its very deep, dark, rich red colour, is very reminiscent of Amitabha. When the sun goes down, light is gradually withdrawn, and this withdrawal of light from the earth represents or symbolises our own withdrawal of our consciousness, our attention, from the senses. When the light fades away darkness comes, in the same way, when we withdraw our attention from the senses, when we focus the mind within, it's as though the external world, even our own body, was as it were, a darkness to us. So that is why Amitabha, the red Buddha, with this gesture of meditation, is associated with the western quarter, the setting sun and with meditation itself.

He is also associated with the Discriminating Wisdom, sometimes called the Distinguishing Wisdom. The mirror reflects all things equally - reflects one object just as well as another. But at the same time, the mirror doesn't confuse or blur the distinctive features of any of the objects ...

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