I had mentioned the Five Dhyani Buddhas in a number of recent posts, so I figured I’d do a “meditation” entirely dedicated to them and their Emptiness. Some key information that will be vital for this post can be found in this one here, do give it a read if you haven’t already, or if you find yourself lost in regards to what is being said here! Let’s begin…
To elaborate on the Five Dhyani Buddhas, we’ll look at the introduction section of Case 74 of the Blue Cliff Record titled Kingyu’s Rice Bucket. In one rendition of the case’s introduction, Zen Master Engo remarks: “The Bakuya sword in hand, he cuts through all complications. The clear mirror hung high, he himself utters the words of Vairocana. In self-mastery he quietly puts on his clothes and takes his meal. In occult and playful samadhi, what will he do?”
The “he” is referring to Kingyu, who in the koan, brings his rice bucket in to the front of the monk hall, dances and cheerfully invites everyone to come and eat their share of the rice. However, the purpose of the koan is to apply the wisdom to our own lives, so of course the “he” is “you”, the meditator. So, in occult and playful samadhi, what will we do?
Japanese Zen Master Bankei most famously promoted the Zen concept of the ‘Unborn’, famous for the phrase “don’t get born.” Aleister Crowley in his koan-like Book Of Lies wrote to “die daily”, with commentary urging students to practice samadhi daily. Samadhi is being in the “Unborn”. In Yogacara the eighth (and final) limb of yoga is Samadhi, the model of the eight limbs of yoga were the model used as the basis in Buddhism which the Eight Consciousnesses evolved from, wherein the Eighth Consciousness is Alaya-vijnana (emptiness). In the Five Dhyani Buddhas the Eighth Consciousness is the Water/Winter/Vajra/Non-Duality direction, which is given the attribute of the Perfect Wisdom of Self-Reflection (Mirror wisdom; as the mind is the mirror).
This can be seen established throughout Zen texts, such as in Yongming Yanshou’s (904-976) Records of the Source Mirror: “The vast sea of all encompassing existence that universal mind manifests is correctly accounted for in the Perfect Teaching. Throughout the eight consciousnesses, the light of wisdom lights up darkness to reveal incorrect views. The mind-mirror in fact refers to the spiritual abode of living beings and the implicit truth of the myriad dharmas. It is constantly changing in unpredictable ways, expanding and contracting with unimpeded spontaneity. It manifests traces as conditions warrant; names are formed according to the things manifested.”
As Kingyu’s Rice Bucket koan introduction mentions the mirror being clear, this is referring to it mirroring cosmic space, as echoed in Zen Master Dogen’s Makahannyaharamitsu (Vast Perfect Knowing): “So the study of perfect knowing is space, and space is perfect knowing.” As the mirror (mind-ground) is clear, which is saying, as mind is enlightened, one utters the words of Vairocana. Vairocana is the Space element, and represents emptiness, so when one has cultivated their “Buddha nature” (sunyata/emptiness), their words become truth. (The Three Vajras, also known as the Three Mysteries are attained when non-dual and free from the Three Poisons (delusion, anger, jealousy/greed). The Three Vajras being True Speech, True Thought, True Action.)
In Buddhism there are the four Rupajhanas (meditations on form), and then there are four Arupajhanas (formless meditations). Dukkha (suffering) is when one identifies in their form, suffering of the four elements as they are the root of suffering being our “physical form”. However consciousness has no-form, and is formlessness, so the transcendent meditations (which in the Five Dhyani Buddhas are designated to the Four Wisdoms) are upon emptiness, or the space element. The Mahaprajñaparamita-sutra says: “Being without an object of contemplation is called ‘contemplating the Buddha.’” When “contemplating the Buddha”, one is experiencing the present moment with clarity and without delusion and duality. The Fourth Patriarch of Zen had said “with constant contemplation of the Buddha there is no grasping at objects, and everything is utterly without marks, equal, and nondual.” (In the Five Dhyani Buddhas, non-duality is assigned to the Eighth Consciousness).
Vairocana sits at the center of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, and represents cosmic space, emptiness, and the Wheel of the Dharma (Law). It represents our physical body, when we have cultivated our self-nature, and when we are practicing the dharma (which is moving with the Way, moving in flow with the Tao, or the flow of life). Another way to look at it is to be turning with the wheel of the dharma. (See the post “No Suffering, Turning With the Wheel of the Dharma”).
As the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism are “Dukkha, the arising of Dukkha, the cessation of Dukkha, and the Path which leads to the cessation of Dukkha”, the fourth, the path, is moving in accordance with the flow of life. This latter one is referred to in Zen texts as The Way. When one is non-dual, one is in occult playful samadhi and is their true self, as Buddha. As taught in Zen, “Ordinary Mind is the Way”. (Oh, and do remember that in Chinese Mind (心) means heart, soul, and mind which gives it an intuitive and sensing-feeling quality.)
So who are the Five Dhyani Buddhas and what do they represent? Vairocana (Space element – the Dharma Body, Emptiness, Cosmic Space); Amoghasiddhi (Air element – destruction of the poison of envy, name means “He Whose Accomplishment Is Not In Vain“); Amitābha (Fire element – magnetizing, pure perception, deep awareness of the emptiness of phenomena, name means “Infinite Light“); Ratnasambhava (Earth element – equanimity and equality, destroys greed and pride); lastly, Akshobhya (Water element – name is Sanskrit for “Immovable One“, the embodiment of ‘mirror-knowledge’, knowledge of what is real and what is illusion. “The mirror is mind itself – clear like the sky, empty yet luminous. Holding all the images of space and time, yet untouched by them.”)
When not in Dukkha (suffering), one transcends the four elements and moves into the body of enlightenment, which enables the cultivation of bliss and peace for the self, and others. Ones speech, thoughts, and actions become truth and become proper emanations of one’s “Buddha nature”.
“This physical body of yours, composed of the four great elements, can neither expound the Dharma [Buddhist teaching] nor listen to it… Then just what can expound the Dharma and listen to it? This very you standing distinctly before me without any form, shining alone—this can expound the Dharma and listen to it! Understand it this way, and you are not different from the Patriarch Buddha.” – Zen Master Linji.
In occult and playful samadhi, what will you do?