This is Post 27 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series.
When we rest as Consciousness, the Feeling aspect of that experience is the brahmavihāra of mettā, or Loving Kindness. Mettā is associated with the colour red, with the end of the day, and with sunset. Although, in Western tradition, the Feeling function is associated with the water element, in Indian tradition it is associated with the element of fire.
In the poetry and imagination of India (and the first nation peoples of North America) fire is the element that turns the gross into the subtle, that cooks and transforms things, that extracts bright metals from dull ores. When the body is cremated, fire helps the soul on its journey to the heavenly realms. Fire is the element that radiates a nourishing warmth – but we instinctively recoil from it when it threatens to scorch us. It is the upward-rising and aspirational element that dances, and appears to reach up to heaven. All this fire imagery provides eloquent symbolism of the Feeling function. In India, the Hindu religious ascetic, or sannyasin, will usually put on robes that are the colour of fire when he or she abandons the worldly life – signifying their aspiration, and the self-transformation that they are undertaking.
In the context of the mandalas of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the fiery Feeling function in the red Western Quadrant appears to carry us upward from the earthy Sensation function in the yellow Southern Quadrant, to the airy function of Volition / Intuition in the green Northern Quadrant. The downward-flowing water element in the blue, or white, Eastern Quadrant, which symbolises the Thinking function, carries us back down to the earth element and to the Sensation function, and so completes the cycle.
It is traditional among the Tibetan people to orientate their maps to the path of the sun, so they put the eastern sunrise point at the bottom of the mandala, and the western sunset point at the top – so the way in which the element symbolism highlights the cyclical process of the mandala is unfortunately usually lost. While it is my wish to honour Tibetan tradition, I find the western-style orientation of the mandala, which puts the north-point at the top, to be much more symbolically meaningful.
A Four-fold Embodiment of Consciousness
The foundational stages of meditation practice require that we familiarise ourselves deeply with embodied Consciousness in all four of the surface bodies, and one of our best guides to this four-fold embodiment is the cycle of the four brahmavihāras. The Emotional Body is the third of the surface bodies, and is associated with the Western Quadrant of the mandala, and with the brahmavihāra of mettā. It is the Emotional Body that is felt most keenly in the region of the maṇipūra, or Solar Plexus Chakra, which is a point in the centre of the trunk of body just below the solar plexus, which I have written about in the previous post (here). Continue reading