I am currently preparing material for a Zoom-based group training program, so that those who want to engage more deeply with the themes that I have been presenting on the Mandala of Love website articles, can do so. I have chosen to call the program of courses Five Wisdoms Mandala. The program will be presented via weekly group-Zoom sessions, which will each run for two hours with a short break. The courses will be structured into a series of modules – the initial course will probably have at least three six-week modules, making eighteen Zoom sessions altogether. It will include guided meditations; powerpoint presentations; self-enquiry dyad exercises; group discussion; and group question and answer sessions.
Participants will be encouraged to take time to connect one-to-one via Zoom with other members of their course group during the week between the group sessions. Indeed, it is my hope that Five Wisdoms Mandala course participants will be able to participate via the Internet in a community of self-enquiry students, which perhaps could itself be called a Five Wisdoms Mandala.
The link at the bottom of this page will take you to my Five Wisdoms Mandala online courses email list sign-up page. At this stage I am only asking for expressions of interest. When I have had a chance to gauge the level of interest and ascertain where most of my potential students are located, I will be able to firm up my plans for the program and provide more details.
1. Buddhist Self-Enquiry and the Psychology of the Buddhist Mandala
Those who are familiar with my writing, know that I am fascinated by the mandala ‘model’ of mind that we find in Tibetan Buddhist tradition – presented in a very distilled form in Padmasambhava’s Bardo Thodol texts. This ‘Five Wisdoms’ mandala model has its roots in early Buddhism: in the Buddha’s ‘Four Nobel Truths’; in the Five Skandhas; in the ‘Four Brahmavihāras‘; in the ‘Five Spiritual Faculties’; and in the ‘Four Foundations of Mindfulness’ – but the illuminating connections between these various conceptual formulations are rarely given the exploration that they deserve. It is precisely this deeper exploration of, or self-enquiry into, these Dharmic principles that I what to systematical engage with in this basic course. It is my aim that participants will gain a deep experiential understanding of, and a deep experiential familiarity with, the ten Dharmic principles that are personified in the Dharmadhātu Mandala – the central mandala of Tantric Buddhism, in which each of the five Wisdoms is personified in five images of ‘Buddha couples’ who embody the ‘internal’ and ‘external’ aspects of their corresponding Wisdoms. The foundation course in the Five Wisdoms Mandala series will also be introducing the connections between this Buddhist model and Eugene Gendlin’s work (Focusing); Marshall Rosenberg’s work (Nonviolent Communication); and the Jung/MBTI psychological types model – I have outlined these models in the sections below.
2. Eugene Gendlin’s ‘Focusing’ Dyad Practice
Eugene Gendlin was both a professor of modern philosophy, and an innovative teacher in the field of meditative ‘innerwork’ in the context of humanistic psychotherapy. In both these fields of exploration he expressed profound insights about the nature of mind – insights which many have recognised to have a clearly ‘Buddhist’ character. The purpose of this course is to explore the use of Eugene Gendlin’s ‘Focusing’ Dyad practice as a practical and conceptual framework for Buddhist Self-Enquiry – as a practice for gaining a direct recognition of the key experiential principles, such as those outlined above in the description of the Buddhist self-enquiry course. One of the most powerful and characteristic principles in Gendlin’s approach, is the great importance he gives to recognising the characteristics of the ‘clear space’ at the centre of our experience – as a precondition for effective innerwork or meditation. A special focus of this course is the closely-related notion of ’emptiness’ or shunyatā. We will be seeking a real direct experience of what this foundational Buddhist concept is pointing to.
3. Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘NVC
I have been a student of Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘Nonviolent Communication’ (NVC) model for more than 25 years, and in my writing on Buddhist themes, I have explored the profound connections between Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘Four Components’ of compassionate, conscious, and nonviolent communication, and the corresponding Dharmic principles within the Five Wisdoms mandala. Those who choose to participate in this course with me, whether they are NVC students or exploring Buddhism, will find the cross-over between these two approaches to Mindfulness to be a source of profound insights. Not only does the NVC model give us an opportunity to ground the Five Wisdoms Mandala in every life and in our moment-to-moment experience of communication and relationship dynamics – it also provides us with a concrete ‘way in’ to the mystery of why the transcendent Dharmic order of conditionality always pervades our experience. Set in the context of the Buddhist mandala wisdom, NVC can reveal that not only is our conditioning (dukkha) always present and evident in the details our thoughts, feelings, language and actions, but that profound freedom is also always present simultaneously. My approach to NVC takes Marshall Rosenberg’s profound notion of ‘self-empathy’ as foundational. There is great value, in my experience, for meditators to gain an experiential appreciation of the integrative and emotionally transformative nature of establishing a truly self-empathetic inner relationship using the five skandhas as our guide – and to see how this deepens our capacity for outer relationships which are truly compassionate and free.
4. Jung/MBTI – Jungian Typology and our Personal Mandala
I engaged in a very deep study of Carl Jung’s psychology concurrently with my initial very intensive period of Buddhist study and practice in my twenties. It was my experience that Jung’s notion of the archetypes of the collective unconscious provides us with foundational understandings about the nature of mind, and gives us illuminating insights into the core Buddhist conceptualisations and cultural forms that find expression in the dharmadhātu mandala are ultimately empty (shunyatā). For me, the idea of ’emptiness’ is implicitly connected to the idea that these conceptual and cultural expressions are rooted in universal, or archetypal principles – principles which are ultimately inherent in the field of Consciousness.
Recognising this, Jung borrowed very heavily from Buddhist tradition, and made a very deep study of the whole complex system of spiritual psychology that he found in Padmasambhava’s Bardo Thodol texts. He saw pointers to this same universal mandala structure of the psyche in countless other ancient religious sources. Seeing that nothing else came close to the psychological sophistication of the Tibetan Buddhist model, I believe he incorporated the dharmadhātu mandala directly into his own ‘Psychological Types’ model – unfortunately without acknowledging the extent of his borrowing. In this course, I shall be attempting to heal and repair this important broken connection between the profound psychology of the Jung/MBTI 16-types model and Five Wisdoms Mandala from which, I believe, it was ultimately originally derived.
The impulse that has led, in recent years, to a huge expansion of interest in Jung and in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) 16-types model, is the same as the impulse that animates the Buddhist tradition. For me, this is the impulse that finds ultimate expression in the Bodhisattva archetype – in which the recognition of emptiness (shunyatā), and the drive for absolute freedom, self-transcendence, and compassionate responsiveness, is reconciled with the unavoidable need for each individual to honour their uniqueness, and to honour their particular gifts, and to face the particular challenges of their individual spiritual journey. The sixteen types of the MBTI model give us sixteen personal mandalas, and they provide a very illuminating focus for self-enquiry. They are personal psychological maps by which we can recognise our strengths and weaknesses; our areas of development and consciousness, and our areas of the underdevelopment and unconscious. Without a significant cultural engagement with the all-important and unavoidable phenomenon of personal Shadow, all manner of horrors find expression in human history – even emerging simultaneously and concurrently with cultural refinement, prosperity, and liberalism.
5. The Ten Archetypal Buddhas of the Mandala
Although, it is my intention to provide an outline of the ten archetypal Buddhas of the mandala and their associations in my introductory course (An Introduction to the Mandala of Love), it needs to be acknowledged that the Dharmadhātu Mandala provides a very complex and deep description of the nature of mind. I would therefore like to provide further more in-depth courses for students who are willing to go deeper. The whole Five Wisdoms Mandala program is guided by the Buddhist notion of the three levels of wisdom: the level of conceptual knowledge; the level of familiarity through contemplative reflection; and the level of direct non-conceptual recognition or realisation. While the first two levels of wisdom are valid in themselves, my ultimate aim is to facilitate, through a series of guided meditations and self-enquiry exercises, at least a glimpse of the third and final level of wisdom – a direct experience of the ten dimensions of the experience of the transcendental dharmic reality that the ten archetypal Buddhas represent.
The Five Wisdoms Mandala courses will be a collective exploration of the Buddha’s inclusive Middle Way. We shall not be engaging in mere philosophical reflection. Rather we shall be seeking that starting point perspective for truly transformative practice, which the Buddha called Right View. From that clear vantage point we shall endeavour, through systematic meditation practice, dyad work and group discussion, to embrace and reconcile the dichotomy of the conditioned and the unconditioned; the relative and the absolute; the time-bound and the eternal; the suffering of samsāra and the grace of nirvāna. While this may ultimately be an individual journey, the Buddhist tradition reminds us that the journey is always about interaction and relationship – that it takes place in the context of some form of Sangha, or spiritual community, or relationship. Indeed, when the ‘self-illusion’ is seen through, we recognise that the previously imagined unitary self is itself a relational phenomenon – a relational unity. We see that the self is an interaction – an inner relationship between Consciousness and its cognitive-perceptual functions; and a play, within the field of the eternal dharmadhātu, of mundane and time-bound, and ’empty’ conditions.
Click on this text, or the text below, to be taken to the email list sign-up page, where you can register your interest in my Five Wisdoms Mandala online courses.
© William Roy Parker 2022