This article was written as Post 43 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series, but like the previous one (here) it also serves as part of a series of introductory articles in the ‘5 Wisdoms’ series, in which my intention is to guide my readers even deeper into some focused reflection on what the Buddha meant when he spoke of the ’emptiness of the five skandhas’, and of the illusory nature of the self.
Following on from my last article (here), there is much more that we need to explore in regard to the Dharmadhātu Wisdom. This is the Wisdom which is associated with the recognition of Consciousness, and with the centre of the mandala, and may be regarded as representing the source of the other four Wisdoms. Metaphorically, we can think of the relationship between the white centre of the Buddhist mandalas and its associated Dharmadhātu Wisdom, and the four colours of the quadrants – the other four Wisdoms – in a somewhat similar way to the way we might think of a source of pure white sunlight being split into the colours of the rainbow.
The Dharmadhātu Wisdom is the Wisdom that Buddhist tradition personifies in the figure of the archetypal Buddha Vairocana, the ‘Illuminator’, or more accurately in his female Buddha partner, the mysterious and powerful figure of Akashadhatvishvari (please see my note at the end of this article on the two different spellings of this name). Strictly speaking the male Buddha Vairocana represents the compassionate activities of wisdom teaching that arise from the experience or the Dharmadhātu Wisdom, whereas the female buddha Akashadhatvishvari personifies the Dharmadhātu Wisdom itself. The Sanskrit word ākāsha has a ring of profound mystery about it. It is akin to the quintessence, or ether, in western alchemical thought – the subtle, intelligent substance that pervades all space, and from which the other four elements are created. Perhaps the best modern equivalent would be something like ‘Quantum Space’ or ‘the Quantum Field’. Vibrant with energy and information, ākāsha is the primordial space of Consciousness that is the basis of everything. A reasonable English translation therefore, of Akashadhatvishvari, would be something like ‘Sovereign Lady of Infinite Space’.
Consciousness: Presence and Connection; Light and Space
I have previously talked of the Buddha couple in the centre of the mandala as personifications of Presence and Connection (here), which are the principles at the centre of my ‘NVC mandala’ (the four components in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication model – more on that here), but these archetypal Buddhas are multidimensional figures, and are much more than this – indeed all conceptualisations in regard to them are only ways of drawing a little closer to an indefinable mystery. My first response personally, when I reflect on this central ‘divine marriage’ image and its traditional names and associations, is to think of them as representing the metaphorical union of Light and Space in the experience of Consciousness.
The experience of Consciousness, or awareness of being aware, is difficult to describe. The words and images that various spiritual traditions have used to approach that experience are often misleading – being religious projections rather than attempts at objective description. Buddhist tradition, especially that of the Indian Mahayana, whose libraries and culture were unfortunately destroyed by Moslem invasions, is clearly distinguishable from other religions by both its commitment to objectivity in its intellectual analysis, and by the subtlety of the myths, images and metaphors by which it points to the unconditioned reality of Consciousness. Central among these metaphorical pointers were Light and Space.
It is as if Consciousness is an ever-present light within – a bright inner luminosity that never fails us, but is rarely acknowledged or examined. It is the diamond in our pocket that we do not know about; the beautiful gift that has been delivered to us, never to be actually received and unwrapped. It is not surprising perhaps, that in general, humanity fails to recognise Consciousness. While Consciousness is an objective reality, it is not an object like any other, and neither is it the subjective personal self that we often take it to be. The Buddha described it as ’empty’ – empty of self. As the Buddhist tradition established itself over the centuries, it increasingly acknowledged that this impersonal emptiness was also luminous and spacious – still difficult metaphors, but they bring us closer to the experience. And the word shunyata, Sanskrit for Emptiness, came to have these extremely positive associations of luminosity and spaciousness – connoting an infinitely abundant collective source of all truth, goodness, healing and positive transformation.