The text below is the Preface to a book that I am currently working on – Buddha; Dharma; Sangha, and the Five Wisdoms Mandala – the first chapter of which I will be giving away free to ‘Mandala of Love’ subscribers.
There are three archetypal ideas that have guided Buddhist tradition for twenty-five centuries – Buddha; Dharma; and Sangha. This triad of archetypal principles is often called the Three Jewels (triratna) and also referred to as the Three Refuges. In each of the three long essays, that are the chapters of this book, I have taken one of these three principles, and in the course of the book, I have set out to weave them together in way that reveals both their underlying unity, and the completeness of the model that they present. Most of my readers will have some familiarity with the Three Jewels, but my intention with this book is to challenge myself, and to challenge my readers also, to go deeper into this familiar formulation. I feel a desire to bear witness to the universality of these three principles – to reveal them as universal spiritual principles – principles that can be regarded, ultimately, as going beyond the Buddhist tradition. The Three Jewels are three universal human values; values that ennoble humanity; values by which humanity may reach its potential.
I believe that we live in a time of great moral, and indeed mortal, danger – a time in which, even when humanity’s potential for peace and prosperity is at its height, key institutions and cultural forces for the good and for truth appear to be failing. This is a time in which the forces of evil and untruth and have drawn powerful new resources to themselves. By contrast, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are, in essence, three powerful universal truths that are much needed by humanity at this time of global crisis. There is a liberating wisdom and a natural compassion at the heart of all three of these principles, without which human civilisation will not survive.
While this may seem ambitious, to approach the Three Jewels in a lesser way would be to reduce them, in my view – to reduce them to a merely historical, cultural and religious phenomena. This awareness of Buddhist principles as universal, or archetypal, principles, is easily lost within the dominant post-modern worldview that we are educated into in the West. Although the Buddhist tradition has, historically, seen itself as naming the universal principles at play in our psychology and in our world, I feel grateful to have also gained a particularly keen sense of this sensibility through my reading in the area of archetypal psychology (predominantly through the work of Carl Jung and his students) – which I studied concurrently with Buddhism, in my twenties.
In addition to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, there are several other major themes that I have set out to weave through these three essays. Most obviously, there is the theme of the Five Wisdoms Mandala. When I speak of the Five Wisdoms Mandala, I am speaking of the universal mandala structure of the body-mind, which the Buddha spoke of in terms of the five cognitive-perceptual skandhas – a model which we find particularly well elucidated in the psychology of Carl Jung. These skandhas, when we are completely identified with them, give structure to the egoic mind and appear as a fixed and separate self. When, however, we begin to recognise, as the Buddha did, that the skandhas are universal and non-personal cognitive-perceptual components, they show us the structure of the Enlightened mind – the five Wisdoms.
It is one of my most important aims in this book to communicate this dual and reconciliatory function of the ‘mandala wisdom’. It provides us with both a powerful description of the various dimensions our egoic dysfunction, our suffering, our ignorance, our empathy failure and our cruelty, on one side; and a beautiful description of our sublime potentiality, on the other. The spiritual psychology of the mandala that we find in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, is extremely rich and profound, and I can only provide the barest introduction to this richness and profundity in this short book – but I hope to at least provide an overview of this vast and multidimensional inner terrain.