Radix

Buddhist Deities on the Tree of Life

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Greetings,

I've been thinking a lot recently about how various Mahayana deities, boddhisattvas, Buddhas, etc might "fit," from a comparative perspective, on the Tree of Life. I don't take a rigid approach to these matters, since ultimately every Sephiroth contains every other, and different aspects of deities might fit in more than one place. I like to think of it from a universalist perspective, i.e. taking for granted that the Tree of Life can serve as an adequate, nondenominational "map" of human and superhuman consciousness.

 

I have to say, though, this seems quite difficult in the case of Buddhism. Aleister Crowley has made some attempts in 777, but from what I remember his attributions did not include the deities, but only the various meditations. My tentative suggestions are below--you'll notice these are quite arbitrary and not really consistent with each other. I doubt if any rigid system is even possible here; probably several different sets of attribution might work, however unsatisfactorily:

 

000 ?

00 ?

0 ?

I Samantabhadra

II Vairocana/ Amitabha 

III Prajnaparamita (goddess)

IV ?

V Manjusri

VI Avalokitesvara 

VII Tara ?

VIII  Medicine Buddha ?

IX Cundi?

X Shakyamuni?

 

Perhaps AC was correct in approaching this from the perspective of meditation stages rather than deities. Any suggestions?

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3 hours ago, Radix said:

taking for granted that the Tree of Life can serve as an adequate, nondenominational "map" of human and superhuman consciousness.  (Emphasis mine, ZYD)

 

A good starting premise.

 

3 hours ago, Radix said:

I have to say, though, this seems quite difficult in the case of Buddhism. Aleister Crowley has made some attempts in 777, but from what I remember his attributions did not include the deities, but only the various meditations.  My tentative suggestions are below--you'll notice these are quite arbitrary and not really consistent with each other. I doubt if any rigid system is even possible here; probably several different sets of attribution might work, however unsatisfactorily:  (Emphasis mine, ZYD)

 

Part of the problem you are having is that you have insufficiently defined your goal and the nature of the elements, i.e. Buddhist Gods and the 'nondenominational "map"' with which you are working.  There are many type of maps, and when Korzybski says "the map is not the territory, as he explains elsewhere he really means that "the model is not the cosmos", no matter how useful it might be for engineering purposes.  As a teenager I paraphrased part Chapter One of the Dao De Jing this way, "the model that can be explicated is not the eternal model" and of any "final theory" it can truly be said, this too will pass.  However this doesn't mean that a ""rigid system" is not useful, just as a stepping stone is only as useful as it is rigid, so as long as one is aware that any such model is only one of many possible ones and that one should try to understand their actual area of application and not get carried away with any particular one, it will probably be OK to use it as a stepping stone.

 

My first model of the Tree of Life was as a "map of Creative Process", and as a useful model it has stood the test of time, but as a religion Buddhism is not about celebrating creation as Judaism is, but about how one can forever escape from it and its endless cycles of "Birth and Redeath".  If Buddhist Gods had any place on the Tree it would be constantly repeating "No, don't go there" to descending "souls", and providing aid and comfort to those who, finding themselves in "God's Kingdom", i.e. Malkuth and realizing they are not at all happy with it find themselves, in the Immortal words of Tooter Turtle "Help me, Mr. Wizard, I don't want to be (Whatever Tooter had foolishly requested to be) any more!" (Tooter Turtle on Wikipedia).  Fortunately Mr. Wizard is always there to liberate Tooter from the foolish life that in his ignorance he had wished for, and Mr. Wizard had this wonderful incantation "Drizzle, Drazzle, Drozzle, Drome; time for this one to come home." that liberated Tooter from the circumstance of his foolish wish and brought him home.  I have used some Buddhist terminology in the above, to give a clue for the type model that you may find useful for placing Buddhist Gods on the Tree of Life, and that is, the Tree of Life as a map of Liberation and how any members of the Buddhist Pantheon might fit on it.  With that in mind you might make some connections to the Tree of Life that are both less arbitrary and more consistent.  In this regard Crowley's attributions of "the various meditations" might prove a useful starting point.

 

I hope these suggestions are helpful.

 

ZYD

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Thanks for your response, ZYD. The analogy with "Tooter Turtle" is pretty inspired! Mr. Wizard could be a manifestation of Chenrezig or Medicine Buddha :D

 

 

Quote

I have used some Buddhist terminology in the above, to give a clue for the type model that you may find useful for placing Buddhist Gods on the Tree of Life, and that is, the Tree of Life as a map of Liberation and how any members of the Buddhist Pantheon might fit on it.  With that in mind you might make some connections to the Tree of Life that are both less arbitrary and more consistent.  In this regard Crowley's attributions of "the various meditations" might prove a useful starting point.

 

The "Map of Liberation" is a good idea. I think this is is basically how Crowley approached the Tree, and why the use of the meditations makes sense. I also imagine (I could be wrong) that his knowledge of Mahayana was probably far inferior to his knowledge of Theravada, hence his lack of application of the more "mythological" aspects of the Mahayana sutras and tantras in 777. I come from a more Mahayana angle, and the figures of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and devas/assures can, I think, be useful, since they basically manifest or personify the different aspects of consciousness to which the meditations lead. 

 

The difficulty is that, with Buddhism we are really dealing with a variety of different systems, aspects and symbols arranged at different levels and interacting in different ways. One might attempt to make attributions,  but these will mostly be most useful to the one who finds it it necessary to undergo the exercise. Hence Crowley's maxim that everyone must make their own QBL rings true for me here.

 

What I would like to do (and what I invite others to use this thread to do) is to come up with a Tree, or several Trees, which map out various concepts of Buddhism in ways that are consistent and personally meaningful. I think the exercise is valuable in forcing one to really contemplate these concepts and there relationships deeply. As such the exercise itself is possibly worth more than any particular results, though these might also have their value.

 

I need to think more about this, speaking for myself. I want to review the 10 Bhumis of the Boddhisattva path and see if there is some way in which they might map onto the Sephiroth.

 

For now I will humbly submit my suggested attributions for the Three Kayas (Buddha Bodies):

 

Kether: Dharmakaya

Tiphareth: Samboghakaya (Guardian Angel?)

Malkuth: Nirmanakayas

 

This hopefully makes sense; I don't think Buddhism sees the acquisition of these bodies as a "progression," but rather that they are all there simultaneously, at different levels.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Radix said:

 I don't think Buddhism sees the acquisition of these bodies as a "progression," but rather that they are all there simultaneously, at different levels.

 

I could be wrong here; I need to do more research on the relationship between the Kayas. According to Wikipedia: 

 

Sambhogakaya also refers to the luminous form of clear light the Buddhist practitioner attains upon the reaching the highest dimensions of practice.

 

According to tradition, those skilled in meditation, such as advanced Tibetan lamas and yogis, as well as other highly realized Buddhists, may gain access to the Sambhogakaya and receive direct transmission of doctrine.

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5 hours ago, Radix said:

 

I could be wrong here; I need to do more research on the relationship between the Kayas. According to Wikipedia: 

 

Sambhogakaya also refers to the luminous form of clear light the Buddhist practitioner attains upon the reaching the highest dimensions of practice.

 

According to tradition, those skilled in meditation, such as advanced Tibetan lamas and yogis, as well as other highly realized Buddhists, may gain access to the Sambhogakaya and receive direct transmission of doctrine.

Yes you are wrong here.

 

on the same page it says

 

"

to teach bodhisattvas through visionary experiences

"

visionary is astral not mental/higher...its still FORM realm otherwise you would just know it or something ...

 

further: 

"

Absolutely seen, only the¬†DharmakńĀya¬†is real; the SambhogakńĀya and¬†Nirmanakaya¬†are "provisional ways of talking about and apprehending it".

"

I know they say all these bodies are of the buddha but that's confusing. I mean the traditions say the Nirmanakaya is Gautamas body. Simply telling you, without being a buddha/having dharmakaya you can have a Nirmanakaya. Simple. 

IN the quote^ it says only Dharmakay is real "dharmakaya" the rest are not part of dharmakaya, ie ' "provisional" ' 

 

"

According to tradition, those skilled in meditation, such as advanced Tibetan lamas and yogis, as well as other highly realized Buddhists, may gain access to the Sambhogakaya and receive direct transmission of doctrine.

"

Dharmakaya/enlightement is beyond meditation. Here further we see Sambogakaya is still daily life cultivation.

 

"

There are numerous SambhogakńĀya realms almost as numerous as deities in Tibetan Buddhism

"

Numerous astral realms?

 

"

One manifestation of the Sambhogakaya in Tibetan Buddhism is the rainbow body. This is where an advanced practitioner is walled up in a cave or sewn inside a small yurt-like tent shortly before death. For a period of a week or so after death, the practitioners' body transforms into a Sambhogakaya light body, leaving behind only hair and nails.

"

Here...it is this body that manifests light which is visible by your post-natal body in post-natal / FORM dimension. Thus .. astral. Or one 'realm' Right NEXT to physical/malkuth in order to be able to 'penetrate' it it needs to be right next to it.

 

Further...body of enjoyment/bliss. Orgasm right? Orgams is not 'mental'...FORM/external/POST-NATAL stuff...

 

- - I'm annoyed google has Harvey Peters second edition of the book from 2013, not 1995 which is quoted on the wiki article. Can someone get the 1995 first version online ? I want to read it:D

 

If you click on the Trikaya [email protected]:¬†https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trikaya

 

" (from Mahayana section)

The Sambhogakaya is that aspect of the Buddha, or the Dharma, that one meets in visions and in deep meditation. It could be considered an interface with the Dharmakaya.

"

again, deep meditation stuff...achievable to anyone in their daily, unenlightened lives...

 

Another way to think about it is. The non dharmakayas are made in the real world of the dharmakay living sort of on top, external to the dharmakaya. For example a mirror is not the real world but still a world. 

 

So for example in this quote from the page:

 

" (dzogchen section)

In dzogchen teachings, "dharmakaya" means the buddha-nature's absence of self-nature, that is, its emptiness of a conceptualizable essence, its cognizance or clarity is the sambhogakaya, and the fact that its capacity is 'suffused with self-existing awareness' is the nirmanakaya.[20]

"

 

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Great points, Emerald Head! Provisionally, then, we can perhaps view the various Samboghakayas as "angels" in the sense that they are, as it were, direct emanations from the Dharmakaya. One's own experience of Tifereth could be one's own experience of one's Samboghakaya, which is the "Son" of the "Father" Dharmakaya in Kether. The ultimate indissolubility of Malkuth and Kether ("Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether") might be seen as analogous to the ultimate union of Nirvana and Samsara--hence the phenomenon of the Nirmanakaya. In an absolute sense, however, there is only Ain Soph, as there is only the Dharmakaya. All else are the illusory manifestations of mind.

 

I would also submit that one might view Vairocana as analogous to YHVH when viewed as the Name unifying all four Cabalistic worlds, i.e. Adam Kadmon. As Taigen Dan Laighton says, Vairicana is "the Reality Body Buddha (dharmakaya in Sanskrit) whose body is the equivalent of the entire phenomenal universe, which is known in Buddhism as the dharmadhatu."

Edited by Radix
Punctuation

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PS. I don't mind opening this thread up to Taoist and even Confucian conceptions also. I would like to learn more about how the Taoist deities might fit on the Tree.

 

The way I see it, the problem that we in the West are dealing with now is similar to that faced by Chinese thinkers over the previous two millennia, i.e. the problem of the "Three Teachings" which ultimately were synthesized into what is commonly known as "Chinese religion." There have been countless variations of this synthesis, as many variations as there were practitioners, from complete mutual exclusivity to nearly complete syncretism--and everything in between. The difference now is that the conceptual playing field has opened up, and now we have Christianity, Judaism, and all the other "isms" thrown into the mix. The easy, safe and still popular answers are to insist on mutual exclusivity, or else not to think about the matter at all. But those of us who are familiar with more than one of these systems will often have a hard time taking refuge in the "easy way." 

 

I'm coming at this problem less as a "champion for ecumenism" than as a (feeble) aspirant to the Great Work. Part of my "original chaos" is a somewhat uneasy mix of all these things bouncing around in my soul/mind. In the modern world, fewer and fewer of us can rest completely isolated within a single "symbolic universe." In an effort to transcend, part of my own alchemical work is to reconcile for myself the different universes that have been important to me, and working with the Tree of Life in this way is one way of doing this, though it is not without its limitations. I'm certainly not an unconditional apologist for Crowley, but I see in his life and work a great modern expression of that crucial alchemical insight (sometimes crudely expressed, to be sure) which is increasingly unavoidable in our increasingly pluralistic world: the imperative need to reconcile all (apparent) opposites.

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On Sunday, September 01, 2019 at 6:47 AM, Radix said:

"Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether")

Malkuth is inside Kether. You can't play with words to make them look pretty. 

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You can't play with words to make them look pretty. 

Excuse me...what?

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On 8/31/2019 at 1:42 PM, Radix said:

This hopefully makes sense; I don't think Buddhism sees the acquisition of these bodies as a "progression," but rather that they are all there simultaneously, at different levels.

 

This is correct in the dzogchen teachings.

The three bodies, at least according to the dzogchen teachings that I've received and studied, are not a progression.

They are inseparable.

This perspective may vary among the three categories of Buddhist teachings (sutra, tantra, and dzogchen).

 

Edited to add: In the dzogchen teachings, "acquisition" would be considered a wrong view. The three bodies are not acquired, nor is there anyone to acquire anything. In this model when one has adequately let go of attachment to the self, perception, and all of the conditioned responses; the three bodies are always already present. That is precisely the meaning of dzogchen, the great perfection or completion. Again, the other Buddhist teachings may approach the topic a bit differently.

 

Edited by steve
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Good points, Steve. I think you're right: in the "gradual path" systems it "seems" like a progression, whereas in the "direct path," ie Zen, Dzogchen, there not and cannot be any concept of progression. Still, I think that even in a gradual path in Buddhism, it is still recognized, at least implicitly, that the notion of "gradual enlightenment" is purely provisional, since in the ultimate view, time is illusory.

 

One of the things that annoys me about modern occultist Qabbalah is that it seems too rigidly schematic and linear, i.e. start at Malkuth and "travel" step by step to Kether. Still, it seems to be useful for many people. Even in this system it is usually clearly understood that none of the Sephiroth exist without the others, ie Tiphereth (the "Holy Guardian Angel") and Kether (unconditioned consciousness) are always "there," which is why one can be guided by the Angel in the first place. Categories of time and space, in fact, cease to apply above Chesed (the highest point of Yetzirah, before the "Abyss"). I'm not an expert at all, but the Jewish sources don't seem to view the Tree of Life as a microcosmic/ macrocosmic "map" as the occultists do, and the different levels of consciousness seem much less linear in terms of how their accessibility is presented. There is also the well-known story of Enoch from Genesis, who "walked with God: and he was no more; for God took him." Make of that what ye will!

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Following on from the above, I would also like to suggest that, mutatis mutandis, the Buddhist teachings on cosmology only discuss three of the macrocosmic realms posited in the Qabbalah, that is, Assiah (the material world, Malkuth), Yetzirah (the subtle realms, Yesod through Chesed), and Atziluth (the "Divine" realm, Kether). The "heavenly realms of the gods" in Buddhism are really the upper regions of Yetzirah, since they are still characterized by time and individual consciousness. This must even hold for the "formless" regions of the highest Buddhist heavens, for as long as there is a discrete consciousness to reincarnate, there is still a "form," however subtle. Individuality, as such, ends at Chesed. 

 

Now, on what is known as the "archangelic"  or archetypal realm (Briah) in Qabbalah, Buddhism is silent, or only "hints" in very oblique ways (the "apparition" of Vairocana, who "represents" the Dharmakaya but never incarnates).

 

Of course this will sound heretical to a Buddhist perspective, but my intention is certainly not to disparage Buddhism or its cosmology. Whatever silences are apparent in Buddhist doctrines are in keeping with the fundamental intentions of its existence, since to be effusive on the subject of the archetypal realm, a cosmological world that is technically "outside" of samsara, could only serve to complicate the Buddhist upaya at the risk of its salvific efficacy.

 

Still, from a more global perspective, and keeping in mind that all statements about reality are provisional, it strikes me that the Briatic archetypal realm serves a useful explanatory function, i.e. it serves as a vital link between the pure potentiality of Dharmakaya and the "facts" of samsara. Again, this is not a "slight" of Buddhism, since in order to present its saving truths it must conceal certain things (think of the Burning House parable in the Lotus Sutra).

 

These are just my speculations, which I offer in the spirit of friendly prompts to further discussion, rather than dogmatic contentions.

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On 30/08/2019 at 10:58 AM, Radix said:

Greetings,

I've been thinking a lot recently about how various Mahayana deities, boddhisattvas, Buddhas, etc might "fit," from a comparative perspective, on the Tree of Life. I don't take a rigid approach to these matters, since ultimately every Sephiroth contains every other, and different aspects of deities might fit in more than one place. I like to think of it from a universalist perspective, i.e. taking for granted that the Tree of Life can serve as an adequate, nondenominational "map" of human and superhuman consciousness.

 

I have to say, though, this seems quite difficult in the case of Buddhism. Aleister Crowley has made some attempts in 777, but from what I remember his attributions did not include the deities, but only the various meditations. My tentative suggestions are below--you'll notice these are quite arbitrary and not really consistent with each other. I doubt if any rigid system is even possible here; probably several different sets of attribution might work, however unsatisfactorily:

 

000 ?

00 ?

0 ?

I Samantabhadra

II Vairocana/ Amitabha 

III Prajnaparamita (goddess)

IV ?

V Manjusri

VI Avalokitesvara 

VII Tara ?

VIII  Medicine Buddha ?

IX Cundi?

X Shakyamuni?

 

Perhaps AC was correct in approaching this from the perspective of meditation stages rather than deities. Any suggestions?

 

I'd say western esoterism has grown too accustumed to trying to fit things inside other things instead of using two things to create a third, more comprehensive.

 

We have a popular occultist here in Brazil who spends a lot of his time trying to fit things into the Tree of Life, from popular netflix series to pagan gods. It is a pain in the ass, because it limits and diminishes the overal value of these figures. Someone trying to access Thor through the Geburah sephirot will get mostly one of its many faces, and be unable to figure out real mysteries behind that.

 

It has been a very old fetish in Europe, ever since the times of Plato (the whole "search for the real and ultimate Truth" thing), but it has come to a point were it is plainly misleading and destructive.

 

So I would recomend instead to try and get a comprehensive view of the Kabbalah and then use its essence as a way to access new things inside other systems, as well as a form of communicating those systems and creating a new one.

 

For instance, so far I've managed to ask a few of my spiritual guides about buddhism, and they had very interesting views on the subject, complementing it and leading me to compare between the states of detachment from buddhism and daoism - even to the point of finding a greater state of detachment which apparently holds more consciousness than the isolated states from both systems.

 

So, I would recomend doing that instead of trying to fit things inside the Judaic-Christian system of mysticism. It is richer and more interesting - even though it requires traveling quite far in more than one system of mysticism.

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