This article is the third of fifteen articles inspired by the ‘Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo’, in which I shall be aiming to show meditators how each one of the ten deities of the Dharmadātu Mandala can be felt in the fields of the body as profound suprapersonal sources of somatic healing and wisdom. Those who read the whole series of articles – and it is intended that these articles should be read in sequence – will be able to incorporate these reflections into their meditation practice in a systematic way. The first article in the series can be found here, and brief summaries of all the articles can be found here.
In this article, I make reference to the five-fold ‘System of Practice’, that has been used, within the Triratna Buddhist Community, as a framework for thinking about the dimensions of meditation practice and the Dharma life more generally. This model originally identified Integration, Positive Emotion, Spiritual Death (i.e. Insight), and Spiritual Rebirth, as four key stages. To these four, a fifth component – Receptivity – was later added as a new third stage. While I am in complete agreement regarding the importance of receptivity, I do not agree with the addition of it as an additional stage. In my own experience Receptivity is integral to the foundational Integration stage – and therefore to all the subsequent stages.
I need to acknowledge, and indeed emphasise, that where I have suggested that Receptivity should be given greater primacy, and have proposed that five of the ten deities are particularly supportive of the initial ‘Integration’ phase, and that the other five can strongly support us during the subsequent ‘Positive Emotion’ stage, this is an observation from my own explorations, and certainly goes beyond the standard interpretation of Sangharakshita’s model. I do not however, believe my suggestions are in conflict with Sangharakshita’s emphasis. I prefer to think of my ideas as a respectful engagement with his; as building on the foundation of his work; as affirming the value of his orginal four-fold model; and as a tentative contribution to the process by which the Triratna meditation practice model is being forged in the furnace of experience.
In this article, I hope I can begin to tentatively explore how the kleshas and Wisdom energies, that I spoke about in the last article in this series (here), are located in the fields of the body, and on how we can begin to ‘hold the tension’ between those opposite groups of energies – as they appear as polarities within our bodily-felt experience in meditation practice.
The Dharmadhātu Mandala as a Ten-Fold Meditation Cycle
I prefer to meditate on the ten dieties, not only as five apparent ‘couples’ as in the ‘Inspiration-Prayer’ – with one male-female pair representing each of the Five Wisdoms – or as five female Buddhas and five male Buddhas. Rather, I meditate first on what I have come to think of as the five ‘receptive’ deities (three female Buddhas and two male ones), and then on the five ‘expansive’ deities (three male Buddhas and two female ones). The two diagrams below, show these two groups of five deities – each with the ‘Dharmic Principles’ that I find useful for identifying the aspect of the Five Wisdoms that they personify, represent, or embody.
In the course of the articles in this series, I shall be explaining the words that I have chosen for the ‘Dharmic Principles’ – there are two ‘Dharmic Principles’ for each Wisdom – and expanding upon them. Briefly however, the eight ‘Dharmic principles’ that are shown in the four quadrants of the two mandala are either brahmavihāras (Equanimity, Appreciative Joy, Loving Kindness, and Compassion), or are closely related to the brahmavihāras (Being, Embodiment, Uncaused Happiness, and Life Energy). While the Five Wisdoms are usually defined as the aspects of the wisdom that arise as the emptiness of each of the skandhas is recognised, I, like many others, regard the brahmavihāras as an equally important way in to an understanding of them – and absolutely key to our bodily-felt experience of the Wisdoms in meditation. In previous articles on this website, I have already written quite extensively on each of these Dharmic principles, but will be expanding on each one as we progress in this series of articles.