Wisdom is a cornerstone attribute of life and quality living. The previous post laid down detailed groundwork on the nature of wisdom and its many permutations. ‘Perennial wisdom’ and ‘wisdom traditions’ have been mentioned many times here. These mean a systematic worldview that has been with humanity through the ages. It’s a worldview that holds true cross-culturally and has a set of common tenets. These tenets are universal.
Buddhism is a one of the world’s wisdom traditions. To illustrate just exactly how a wisdom tradition works and why it’s so precious and significant, let’s look at one buddha and the inner workings of related teachings. The Japanese names are going to be used since this is a Reiki blog, but Sanskrit versions will also be given.
DAINICHI NYORAI 大 日 如 来
Literally, “Great Sun” (Mahavairocana or Vairochana in Sanskrit)
Variously known as the Great Buddha of Universal Illumination, Cosmic Buddha, All-Encompassing Buddha, Life Force of the Universe, Spreader of Light in All Directions, or Great Shining One, Dainichi is a ‘celestial’ buddha. Buddhism teaches that there are three bodies (kayas) or manifestations of enlightenment. Of these dharmakaya is that aspect of the Buddha which is unchanging and eternal, referring to the essence of awakened being, absolute buddha nature. It’s the basis of all existence, including human. It’s also the spiritual body or “truth body” of all buddhas. This is Dainichi Nyorai, and where the ‘cosmic’ or ‘celestial’ reference comes in.
Dainichi is said to be omnipresent and all things, like the air we breathe, with all other buddhas and deities being emanations of Dainichi.
The first virtue of Dainichi Nyorai is the universal radiance that dispels darkness, with the ability to destroy suffering and despair. The second virtue is that this radiance has neither beginning nor end, and that the light of wisdom is like the sun, which always shines regardless of whether it’s day or night. The third virtue is an ability to enlighten living beings, and that great compassion is the parent of life which continues to nourish all living beings at all times.
Dainichi Buddha corresponds to the historical Buddha’s first turning of the Wheel of the Law in Deer Park in Sarnath, India. This is where the historical Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The Turning of the Wheel is a metaphor for the teaching of the path to enlightenment.
One of the ways that wisdom comes into play is in understanding the mind of enlightenment and its various facets. The “five buddha families,” is an ancient Buddhist system of doing just that. The buddha families are traditionally displayed as a mandala. Each buddha in the mandala embodies one of the five different aspects of enlightenment. These manifest themselves as enlightened qualities as well as neurotic states of mind. The buddha families clearly present a complete picture of both the world of enlightened mind and the world of ego.
Traditionally, at the center of the mandala is Vairochana [Dainichi Nyorai], lord of the buddha family, who is white and represents the wisdom of all-encompassing space and its opposite, the fundamental ignorance that is the source of cyclic existence (samsara). The dullness of ignorance is transmuted to a vast space that accommodates anything and everything.
In the east of the mandala is Akshobya [Ashuku Nyorai], lord of the vajra family, who is blue and represents mirror-like wisdom and its opposite, aggression. The overwhelming directness of aggression is transmuted into the quality of a mirror, clearly reflecting all phenomena. Vajra is associated with the element water, with winter, and with sharpness and textures.
In the south of the mandala is Ratnasambhava [Hōshō Nyorai], buddha of the ratna family, who is yellow and represents the wisdom of equanimity and its opposite, pride. The fulsomeness of pride is transmuted into the quality of including all phenomena as elements in the rich display. Ratna is associated with the element earth, with autumn, with fertility and depth.
In the west of the mandala is Amitabha [Amida Nyorai], buddha of the padma family, who is red and represents discriminating-awareness wisdom and its opposite, passion or grasping. The intense desire of passion is transmuted into an attention to the fine qualities of each and every detail. Padma is associated with the element fire, with spring, with façade and color.
In the north of the mandala is Amogasiddhi [Fukūjōju Nyorai], buddha of the karma family, who is green and represents all-accomplishing wisdom and its opposite, jealousy or paranoia. The arrow-like pointedness of jealousy is transmuted into efficient action. Karma is associated with the element wind, with summer, with growing and completing.
— Irini Rockwell (brackets are mine)
Correspondingly, Dainichi’s characteristic hand gesture in Japan (although not always) is the Mudra of Six Elements (seen in the picture above as Chiken-in — also called the Knowledge Fist mudra.) In this mudra (hand gesture), the index finger of the left hand is clasped by the five fingers of the right. It symbolizes the unity of the five elements (Goshiki) — earth, water, fire, air/wind, and space/void — with spiritual consciousness.
Wisdom Fist mudra or simply Wisdom mudra speaks to the truth that only by adding the sixth element — mind, perception, or spiritual consciousness — do the five elements become animate. This equates to the Diamond World (noted in the picture above, it’s a metaphysical realm inhabited by the five wisdom buddhas, also detailed above). Put another way, there’s “unity” only when the sixth element is added. Without the sixth element, ordinary eyes see only differentiated or separate forms or appearances.
In summary, Dainichi Nyorai is known as the Supreme Buddha of the Cosmos in Esoteric Buddhist thought, being the source from whom all other deities and everything in the universe emanates, as light does from the sun. The hands form the mudra of perfect knowledge, which holds the power to restrain passions that hinder enlightenment. With the left index finger surrounded and protected by the fingers of the right, this gesture expresses the all-encompassing union of the spiritual and material realms of existence, and how the spiritual gives life to and sustains the material.
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