This article was written as Post 42 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series, but it also it also serves as bridge to, and is the first article in, a series of introductory articles in the ‘5 Wisdoms’ series, in which my intention is to guide my readers even deeper into some focused reflection on what the Buddha meant when he spoke of the ’emptiness of the five skandhas’, and of the illusory nature of the self.
In my last article (here) I looked at Compassion through the lens of the All-Accomplishing Wisdom, the wisdom which supports healing, wholeness and compassionate activity, by grounding it in a balanced, all-encompassing and multidimensional awareness of the energetic dimensions of our experience. This balanced and comprehensive quality is symbolised by the mandalas of Buddhist tradition. One of the curiosities of the All-Accomplishing Wisdom is that it is associated with the mandala-like symbol of the vishva vajra – the universal vajra, or Vajra Cross – which is usually understood to symbolise ‘the separation and reconciliation of the opposites‘. The mandala, we are being told, is a vishva vajra, and the vishva vajra is a mandala. Non-dual wisdom, it would seem therefore, is most comprehensive, and finds its most practical and effective expression as Compassion – and when it is recognised as having five dimensions. And because of the particular dynamics between the components of the egoic mind and their relationship to Consciousness, it is well symbolised by a mandala or a cross.
My intention with the previous articles – in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series – has been to provide information that may be of interest to readers with a general interest in meditation, self-enquiry practice, and non-duality teachings, while also drawing on relevant information from Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model, and from other relevant psychological models, especially that of Carl Jung . While I hope to engage the same broad audience in my future articles, this article is the first of a series of longer articles that is aiming to go much deeper into the Buddha’s teachings, so I have created a new ‘Buddhism’ category for them.
The Four Brahmavihāras and the Five Wisdoms
Although my previous writing (in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series) has been informed by an awareness of the corresponding Wisdoms in the Five Wisdoms framework from Mahayana Buddhism, the main mandala framework used in the early articles was that of the ancient Indian brahmavihāras: Equanimity, Appreciative Joy, Loving Kindness and Compassion. The Five Wisdoms, which I introduced in a previous article here, have some advantages over the four-fold brahmavihāras framework, but the brahmavihāras give us a simpler ‘way in’ to the experience of meditation, and they give us a necessary initial focus on the ethical and relational aspects of the personal transformation that arises from resting as Consciousness.
The brahmavihāras also represent an earlier, foundational stage in the development of the mandala wisdom within the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha appears to have adopted them enthusiastically and re-framed them, adapting them to the new context of his anatma (no-self) doctrine – more on this below. In the four-fold brahmavihāras framework, the central, fifth part of the model, which is Consciousness, is implied – the brahmavihāras can be seen as the four ‘attitudes’ of Consciousness. In the five-fold Five Wisdoms model, the central principle, of Consciousness, is explicitly included as one of the Wisdoms – the Dharmadhātu Wisdom.