The initial frame of reference of my writing for this website was to try to write for any general reader with an interest in spirituality, personal development, self-awareness and communication. In the course of my own process as the project progressed, I have however been drawn to engage more specifically with the traditional terminology of Buddhist psychology and meditative enquiry – especially the five Skandhas and the five Wisdoms, which are the main focus of this ‘5 Wisdoms’ series. I hope those who have enjoyed the Meditation Guidance series will also enjoy this series of articles, which are summarised below. You can click on any article’s title, or it’s icon image, to access the full article.
1. The Dharmadhātu Wisdom
1 January 2019 – 4650 words
This article may be regarded as a linking article between this ‘Meditation Guidance’ series, and the ‘5 Wisdoms’ series that follows it. It introduces the Dharmadhātu Wisdom and its associated male Buddha – Vairocana. Both sets of articles are approaching meditation from the point of view of Buddhist non-dual wisdom and a non-dual psychology. However, whereas the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series takes the mandala of the four brahmavihāras as its primary frame of reference, the ‘5 Wisdoms’ series uses the Emptiness of the Five Skandhas (i.e. the mandala of the Five Wisdoms) as its starting point, and attempts to more deeply address the richness, complexity and subtlety of Mindfulness practice in Buddhist tradition. In this article, there is reflection on the Buddha’s Enlightenment; on the Four Noble Truths; on my ‘Short Breath / Long Breath’ approach to the Mindfulness of Breathing; and on the healing power of the brahmavihāras. I also reflect on the Buddhist notion of ‘Emptiness’ – the non-personal nature of Consciousness.
2. Ākāshadhāteshvari / White Tara – Luminous Space
15 June 2019 – 4550 words
In this important article, we begin to go deeper into the Dharmadhātu Wisdom, and I introduce the figure of Ākāshadhātvishvari (which later Buddhist tradition came to call White Tara), who personifies this Wisdom in the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead). The Deva Realms of Buddhist tradition are also introduced in this article, because it is important for us, as meditators, to understand the important distinction – which is made very clearly by the Buddhist tradition – between, on one side the ultra-refined and extremely positive mental states (i.e. deva states) which are nevertheless experienced as personal, and the release of identification and recognition of Emptiness, which characterises the Dharmadhātu Wisdom. In the Bardo Thodol texts the devas are presented as an egoic opposite of the Dharmadhātu Wisdom – the deva archetype representing high-level states of integration, in which unfortunately, the impersonal reality of Consciousness is personalised. The metaphors of Light and Space used in Buddhist tradition to point the nature of Consciousness, are explored with brief reference to other spiritual traditions. The Buddha’s teaching on the ‘Emptiness of the Five Skandhas‘ is further introduced.
3. The Five Skandhas – Dakini Wisdom
6 October 2019 – 6100 words
This is a key article. It takes us deeper into an understanding of the integration and embodiment of feminine and masculine aspects of Consciousness – with a particular focus on the great importance of the divine feminine, which is another way of thinking about the idea of letting go, allowing, and ‘resting’ as Consciousness . The Buddha’s ‘Four Foundations of Mindfulness’ are introduced, and explored with reference to five skandhas. The idea of Mindfulness as non-duality practice is introduced – the importance of recognising that Consciousness is ’empty’, or non-personal. I also attempt to show how the imagery of the Bardo Thodol is directly relevant to meditation practice. At the end of the article I return to some reflections on my NVC Mandala’ model, which illustrates the direct parallels between Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model and the skandhas, Realms, brahmavihāras, Wisdoms and ‘Foundations of Mindfulness’ in Buddhist tradition.
4. The Five Skandhas – the Cognitive-Perceptual Components
29 October 2019 – 10500 words
Please find time to read this article. In it, I have set out to show some of the implications of the way we find the skandhas arranged in the Bardo Thodol – as a mandala with the ’empty’ vijñāna skandha, or Consciousness, in the centre, and with each of the skandhas clearly related to five kleshas (the ‘afflictive states’ which obscure the true nature of mind) and the five corresponding ‘Realms’, on one side, and positive mental states and Wisdoms, on the other. Further to this, I have shown here how the skandhas of the four cardinal directions or Quadrants of the mandala, are best understood if we recognise them as two pairs of opposites – the North-South axis and the East-West axis. Our recognition of these polarities is essential, because the Wisdoms arise from a separation and reconciliation of these opposites. Our habitual, egoically identified way of being is always an inherently one-sided view, in which a personalised identification with, and apparent development of, the skandha at one end of each axis, leads inevitably to a relative unconsciousness in the opposite skandha.
5. The Rūpa Skandha – Part 1: Thinking and Wisdom
7 May 2020 – 5000 words
This article is the first of several articles that form a mini-series within the larger ‘5 Wisdoms’ series. My aim in these articles is to take a very deep, broad and detailed look at what recognising the emptiness of the rūpa skandha, or Form, means in practice. The fact that the rūpa skandha is associated, in the Bardo Thodol, with both the Mirror-Like Wisdom and the Buddhist Hell Realms, establishes a very clear archetypal association between the rūpa skandha and the Thinking function of the mind. Rūpa is however, frequently rendered as ‘body’. The aim of this article (and indeed of this whole series of articles on the rūpa skandha) is to contribute to our recovery of the liberating power of the Buddha’s ‘Five Skandhas‘ teaching by addressing this particular area of common confusion.
6. The Rūpa Skandha – Part 2: The Mirror-Like Wisdom
21 May 2020 – 4400 words
This article introduces the male Buddha Vajrasattva-Akshobya, and the female Buddha Buddhalocanā, who emerged as personifications of the Mirror-Like Wisdom in the Indian Mahayana, and subsequently in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Drawing on the teachings in the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead), we begin to explore the polarity between the Mirror-Like Wisdom, or one side, and the klesha energies of dvesha, or hatred, which obscure this aspect of Consciousness, and lead us into the individual and collective psychological territory that is symbolised by the archetypal ‘Hell Realms’ of Buddhist cosmology.
7. The Rūpa Skandha – Part 3: The Body
6 June 2020 – 4250 words
This article explores the important notion of ’embodied Consciousness’ as a way of conceptually approaching meditation and Mindfulness practice. It highlights the fact that ‘the body’ in both in the Buddha’s ‘Four Foundations of Mindfulness’ model, and the underlying skandhas model, is best not seen as a separate and distinct entity, but as an ’empty’ and indistinguishable component in an open and dynamic ‘mind-body’ system that is inseparable from the transcendental reality of Consciousness. The use of the Five Elements, in Indian-Himalayan tradition, as symbols of the ’empty’ skandhas and Wisdoms, is briefly introduced. The way in which the Tibetan Vajrayana combines the dynamic mandala-model of the five skandhas with the hierarchical model of the subtle bodies and chakras is briefly outlined.
More summaries will be added here as I publish the articles
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