This is Article No 3 in the ‘5 Wisdoms’ series. It is one of three introductory articles to a longer series of articles in which I shall be exploring each the five ’empty’ skandhas of Buddhist tradition – the five non-personal cognitive-perceptual components, which come together to create the illusion of a separate self.
The Dharmādhatu Wisdom, the central Wisdom in the Five Wisdoms mandala, refers to the non-dual understanding that the historical Buddha referred to in terms of Emptiness (Pali – suññatā; Sanskrit – shūnyatā) – the absence of any separate self-nature in all beings and in all things. So the Dharmādhatu Wisdom can be thought of as the ability to rest as Consciousness knowing that the root of that experience is entirely impersonal. It can also be characterised as the knowledge that Consciousness is like a single universal light; or an all-pervading expanse of benevolent intelligence; or as a infinite compassionate space in which we, and everything else, are held and loved.
The Dharmādhatu Wisdom is also the wisdom of Mindfulness, the wisdom of Balance, the wisdom of Humility – but especially, it is the wisdom of Emptiness. Importantly, Buddhist tradition tells us that if we manage to acheive a degree of spiritual development without endeavouring to also recognise Emptiness, we will personalise our experience of Consciousness, and will be trapped in the spiritual delusion and refined narcissism that are the culture and consciousness of the Deva Lokas, or God Realms – which I briefly described in my previous article (here).
Consciousness, Mindfulness, and ‘Remembering’
Mindfulness and Consciousness are very closely related, but not synonymous. The objective and collective space of Consciousness does not need to be cultivated, but Mindfulness does. To be Mindful is to be choosing to rest as Consciousness in the midst of life. We cultivate Mindfulness by a process of more fully ‘embodying’ Consciousness in various ways. The Buddha talked about this process of embodying Consciousness in a variety of ways – often using four-fold mandala formulations like the brahmavihāras, or five-fold mandala formulations like the ‘Five Skandhas‘ and the ‘Five Spiritual Faculties’ (indriyas). One of the Buddha’s most important formulations however, was the four ‘Foundations of Mindfulness’ (satipatthāna – Pali; smrtyupasthāna – Sanskrit) – yet another expression of the mandala archetype. I shall be exploring these four categories in detail in future articles, but have listed them in the table below, and in the second of the two mandala diagrams below that.
While we might at first think that we become conscious, or realise Consciousness, by a heroic effort of personal will power, this is an inadequate way of describing the process. Rather, we become conscious by acknowledging that Consciousness is who we are – in essence. The path therefore is better characterised as one in which we ‘rest’, and allow Consciousness to pervade all our activities. This allowing, this surrender to our true nature, this ‘letting go’ process, by which the light and space of Consciousness is received into every fibre of our being, and pervades every nook and cranny of our lives, is Mindfulness. This process of the embodiment of Consciousness via an attitude of receptivity, relaxation, surrender, and ‘resting’, can be characterised as feminine, relative to the intentional, purposeful, willful attitude, which is more often associated with Mindfulness, and which can be characterised as masculine. The validation of this more neglected attitude, which we can think of as archetypally feminine, is one of the main themes of this article.