Below, is a listing of all the articles (so far) in the ‘Ten Archetypal Buddhas of the Mandala’ series, with brief descriptions of each. Click on the titles or the images to be taken to the article.
15 Mar, 2020 – 12500 words
In this fairly challenging introductory article, I have used the three yānas – the three historical phases of the development of the Buddhist tradition (Hinayāna, Mahayāna, and Vajrayāna) – as a framework for talking about the way in which our engagement with the archetypal Buddhas naturally deepens if we allow ourselves to by guided by the learning process that took place within the tradition. I present the three archetypal perspectives, which correspond to the yānas, and which may be called ‘self-development’ (Hinayāna), ‘self-surrender’ (Mahayāna), and ‘self-discovery’ (Vajrayāna). Importantly, I present these three archetypal perspectives, or ‘myths’, as three aspects of the myth of the Bodhisattva. My hope is that this article will support a synthesis of these three perspectives in our understanding – and an awareness of the possible psychological dangers that we face if we fail to recognise the archetypes behind each myth. The Five Wisdoms Mandala grew out of the teachings of the Buddha, but this body of mandala wisdom-knowledge was not clearly articulated until the Vajrayāna period, so there it is important for us to understand how the Vajrayāna is nested within, and naturally arises from, the Hinayāna and Mahayāna perspectives.
15 April, 2020 – 3850 words
In this article, I briefly introduce the ‘Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo’ and its author Padmasambhava, the Indian scholar-monk and tantric master who introduced Buddhism to Tibet. There is a brief outline here also, of the ten mandala deities that are the subject of this series, and of how these five archetypal ‘Buddha couples’ serve as guides to the bodily-felt experience of the Five Wisdoms. For those unfamiliar with Buddhist philosophy, there is an introduction to the Buddha’s five-fold cognitive-perceptual model (the five skandhas); the five corresponding ‘Realms’ of conditioned existence; and the five corresponding kleshas – which are the five categories of ‘afflictive states’ that inevitably obscure our true nature until the Five Wisdoms are realised. I also, by way of illustration, show how the ideas in the 1999 sci-fi movie ‘The Matrix’ have parallels in Buddhist wisdom.
15 May, 2020 – 4450 words
In this article we meet Vairocana and White Tara / Ākāshadhātvishvari, the white ‘Buddha couple’ at the centre of the mandala, who provide pointers to the nature of Mindfulness and Presence, and to the experience of ‘resting as Consciousness’. I also introduce the key ideas of shunyatā (emptiness), individuality and receptivity; and begin to explore the nature of effort in meditation practice through reflection on the way the traditional ‘Spiritual Faculties’ of virya (effort) and samādhi (meditation) can be seen as complementary opposites, and as factors that must always be finely balanced, and ultimately reconciled, in our spiritual lives. A further important theme is introduced, which is the idea that meditation practice can be seen as combining two important principles – ‘receptivity’ and ‘expansiveness’, or Integration and Positive Emotion – which can thought of as the first two stages in a logical ‘System of Practice’.
15 June, 2020 – 4200 words
In this article, I outline a possible approach for those wishing to engage in systematic meditation upon the ten archetypal Buddhas of the Dharmadhātu Mandala. I do this, not by taking each of the Wisdoms, or Buddha couples, in turn; or by taking the five female Buddhas first and then the male ones; but by identifying the five ‘receptive’ deities (those associated with the development of Integration), and the five ‘expansive’ deities (those associated with Positive Emotion). Furthermore, the suggestion is made, that the ten archetypal Buddhas of the mandala can therefore serve as our guides in a systematic approach to meditation, from a beginners level to the most profound levels of insight and transformation – that we can return to them again and again at ever higher levels of practice.
15 July, 2020 – 6750 words
I begin this systematic outline of the ten archetypal Buddhas, with an exploration of the meaning of Pandaravarsini. As the female Buddha counterpart of the great red male Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Loving Kindness, or unconditional love, we can think of her as embodying a Dharmic principle that I have chosen to call Uncaused Happiness. These two Buddhas, together personify the Discriminating Wisdom – its introverted aspect (Pandaravarsini) and its extraverted aspect (Amitabha). Pandaravarsini is associated with the Emotional Body – which is both the energetic repository of all emotional memory, and the place where we feel the resonance of the Great Loving Kindness (mahamettā / mahamaitri) that is inherent in Consciousness. She takes us deep into the nature of meditation, wisdom, and personal transformation – and is a profoundly important source of inspiration if we wish to learn to love ourselves; and to achieve psychological integration and contentment.
15 August 2020 – 8900 words
Vajrasattva is a figure of great power. He personifies that aspect of the Mirror-Like Wisdom, which is our receptive recognition of the primordial purity of mind as Consciousness. He embodies Equanimity – that attitude of Consciousness, or brahmavihāra, which in meditation practice brings healing to the Mental Body. In this article I have aimed to highlight the complementarity of Equanimity (Vajrasattva) and Uncaused Happiness (Pandaravārsini), both of which are ‘receptive’ principles which profoundly support our psychological and somatic integration. In this article I share some more detailed information about the five skandhas and the ‘Four Foundations of Mindfulness’ – a personal perspective in which I draw on some of the understandings on the nature of cognition and perception that Carl Jung took from Buddhism after reading the Bardo Thodol. I have also included some reflections on the five Niyamas – the five levels of conditionality – an important Buddhist model, which distinguishes a primordial Dharma niyama, a mysterious Transcendental level of conditionality within our psychological functioning.
18 June 2022 – 8000 word
This article began as an introduction to a much longer article on the figure of Māmaki, a female archetypal Buddha who personifies that aspect of our embodiment of Consciousness that is associated with the ‘internal’ aspect of the vedanā skandha. Because it includes a long recapitulation and presentation of an overview of how I have come to see the overall mandala ‘model’ that we find in Buddhist tradition, I chose to publish the introductory section of this article separately. So, this article does introduce Māmaki, but also provides a lot of important background reflection on the five skandhas model, which is the earliest form that the Buddhist mandala model takes. I attempt to clear up many of the misunderstandings which have prevailed in Buddhist reflection on the Buddha’s five skandhas, and highlight the importance of recognising the skandhas as dimensions of a ‘somatic’, or ‘body-mind’ approach to meditation and self-enquiry – an approach which takes the notion of an inherently integrated ‘body-mind’ as its starting point. Māmaki is especially associated with the experience of the somatic – with our mysterious capacity to appreciatively perceive the internal sensory space of the body. But when we investigate the ten Dharmic principles of the mandala through this lens of the somatic, we recognise that all of them find a somatic, or bodily-felt expression.
I will be adding more summaries as new articles are added to this series.