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Carl Jung on the Bodhi Mandala.
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Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture V 2nd December, 1938

We stopped last time when we were nearing the end of Amitayur-Dhyana-Sutra.

I will now read you another text which gives a description of the Bodhi-mandala, it comes from the classical Mahayana Buddhist literature.

You can find it in the Sacred Books of the East. Vol. XXI, p. 155.

Sad dharma – Pundarika. VII. 7.

Sad means good or true, dharma law and pundarika the white lotus.

Its name, therefore, in English is: “The Lotus of the True Law”.

“In the beginning when the Lord had not yet reached supreme, perfect enlightenment and had just occupied the summit of the terrace of enlightenment, he discomfited and defeated the whole host of Mara,”

The Buddha who is spoken of here is not Buddha Sakyamuni, but a far more ancient, primeval Buddha.

Buddha Sakyamuni was one of a long line of Buddhas.

A Buddha appeared from time to time as the need for one arose.

The one who is spoken of here has an eight syllable name and is separated from our era by an unfathomable distance of time.

Here is the description of it :

“remember the great Seer, Mah Abhig nag nanabhibh ii, the most high of men, who existed many kotis of Aeons ago as the superior Gina of the period. If, for example, some men after reducing this universe to atoms of dust took one atom to deposit it a thousand regions farther on. If he deposited a second, a third atom, and so proceeded until he had done with the whole mass of dust, so that this world were empty and the mass of dust exhausted. To that immense mass of the dust of these worlds, entirely reduced to atoms, I liken the number of Aeons past. Fifty four hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Aeons.”

Another interesting text gives a description of light spreading through the universe, wandering aimlessly for countless aeons till at last the Buddha came and brought it back into himself.

The Saddharma-Pundarika continues:

“After which he (the primeval Buddha) thought: I am to reach perfect enlightenment. But those laws (of perfect enlightenment ) had not yet dawned up on him. He stayed on the terrace of enlightenment at the foot of the tree of enlightenment during one intermediate Kalpa. He stayed there a second, a third intermediate kalpa, but did not yet attain supreme perfect enlightenment . . . . He remained for 10 intermediate kalpas (12 hours) on the terrace of enlightenment at the foot of the tree of enlightenment, continuing sitting cross-legged without in the meanwhile rising. He stayed, the mind motionless, the body unstirring and untrembling, but those laws had no t yet dawned up on him. Now, monks , while the Lord was just on the summit of the terrace of enlightenment, the gods of Paradise prepared him a magnificent royal throne, a hundred yoganas high, on occupying which the Lord attained supreme, perfect enlightenment; and no sooner had the Lord occupied the seat of enlightenment than the Brahmakayika gods scattered a rain of flowers all around the seat of enlightenment over a distance of a hundred yoganas; in the sky they let loose storms by which the flowers, withered, were swept away. From the beginning of the rain of flowers,
while the Lord was sitting on the seat of enlightenment, it poured without interruption during fully ten intermediate kalpas, (12 hours) covering the Lord. That rain of flowers having once begun falling continued to the moment of the Lord’s complete Nirvana. The angels belonging to the division of the four guardians of the cardinal points made the celestial drums of the gods resound; they made them resound without interruption in honour of the Lord who had attained the summit of the terrace of enlightenment. ”

This is the original description of the Bodhi-mandala.

The mandala stretches to the horizon, it is not just a circle round the tree itself, the four doors are the four points of the compass.

The outer world comes in through these doors, or emanates out from him who is sitting up on the lotus.

The Bodhi-mandala is also called the Bodhimandavara, vara means circuit.

It is not just a static circle but has a circular movement to the right.

You see this in the classical Stupas of India and Ceylon.

I will give you a rough drawing (see p. 35).

There are 4 doors (1) and as you go in you are forced to walk round clockwise, there is a wall to prevent you going the other way.

The Buddhists go in, bow to the Buddha and walk round the circle three times.

The stairs (2) lead to a second circle (3) where the process may be repeated.

There are three umbrellas (4) above the dome representing the three worlds:

a) The Dharma Kaya = the world of absolute truth.
b) The Sambhoga Kaya = the world of subtle bodies.
c) The Nirmana Kaya = the world of created things.

One could also call these three: Self, anima and body.

The stupas in the region of Nepal and Tibet are called Chorten.

They are white, shaped like an onion and have a gold peak and are surrounded by flag staffs.

I saw these in the neighbourhood of Darjeeling.

The prayer or mantra which is repeated while they walk round these stupas is “om mani padme hum”.

Om is a primeval sound, you find it in every culture which is still growing on its original foundations, and we ourselves make the same sound to express natural pleasure , we m-m about food , for instance.

It is a very impressive sound in India.

Mani means pearl or great treasure, padme is the lotus and hum, like om, has no definite meaning, it is a sound like the humming of bees.

So we find the pearl and the lotus sandwiched between a singing sound and a humming sound.

The stupas are a concretisation of the Bodhimandavara, the terrace of enlightenment, the circular course of the mandala.

They are in fact the symbols of our text in a concrete form.

I will read you the end of the Amitayur-Dhyana-Sutra:

“When Buddha concluded these words, the worthy disciples Mahamandgalyayana , and Ananda, Vaideha, and the others were all enraptured with excessive joy. Thereupon the World-Honoured One came back, walking through the open sky, to the Mount Gridhrakuta, Ananda soon after spoke before a great assembly of all the occurrences as stated above. On hearing this, all the innumerable Devas (gods), Nagas (snakes), and Yakshas (demi-gods) were inspired with great joy; and having worshipped the Buddha they went their way. Here ends the Sutra of the Meditation on Buddha Amitayus spoken by Buddha. (Sakyamuni.)”

We see here the attitude which the Devas (gods) had towards Buddha.

They appear at the important moments of his life as human people might, they are in no way above him but are pupils of the Buddha.

I will give you a short resume of the text of the Amitayur-Dhyana-Sutra.

It is interesting, for it is exceedingly typical of the process of Buddhist Yoga.

The process takes place on very strict lines from which it is not possible to deviate, there is no freedom from beginning to end, the details are all incarnated so that a Buddha will necessarily be created as
a psychic image at the end.

The East regards the psychic as half physical, it is not immaterial for them as it is for us, it is definite, it has a given concreteness; so that you can actually create a Buddha through imagination.

The process begins with seeing the sun, the Yogin fixes it, so to speak, before his inward eye.

This is done in order to have a point of concentration, which is used as a “point de depart”.

This is somewhat like self-hypnotism.

Then he must see the water and then the ice.

Both are quite transparent, so that he can see into the depths beneath and find the lapis lazuli which again is transparent.

It is only a spiritual eye which can see these things.

We have established a ground or floor, and now we discover a dhvaja under it.

Dhvaja is the Sanskrit word for banner.

It is a great pity that the original Sanskrit text of this sutra has disappeared, as I said before there is only a Chinese translation, though it has now been retranslated into Sanskrit.

The dhvaj a is not just an ordinary banner, but an emblem or a symbol; so it is under the surface, under the lapis lazuli, that you create the symbol.

This diagram represents the fundamental foundation of all the Mahayana Buddhist mandalas, there are 8 points, held together by golden ropes.

There are some exceptions in Tantrik Yoga where the mandalas are sometimes based on different numbers.

The Tantrik books are the text book on the subject.

They are scholastic and correspond to western culture.

Tantrik Yoga has played a big role in Tibetan Buddhism.

A peculiar form is the Kundalini Yoga, the serpent fire Yoga, but this is Hindu, not Buddhist.

It is despised by some but prized by many Indians.

It is much more mysterious than ordinary Yoga and is not so dogmatised.

I have brought a Lamaistic Mandala** to show you.

There are three great teachers sitting above.

Two belong to the yellow hat school (those with the hats shaped like hoods) and one to the red hat school.

The latter belongs to the Bon religion, a very early Tibetan religion which is full of magic; and the former belong to Buddhism.

The large double ring is the ring of concupiscentia, that is the fire of passion, desire, envy, etc. It is represented in four colours , green, magenta, blue and red.

The inner circle is black, and is a magic circle, protecting the mandala from the fire of the concupiscentia.

The picture is fourfold and has gates to the four points of the compass.

The square is divided into four colours, yellow, red, green and white.

Such a mandala is built in butter every year in Peking.

They build it five metres high and colour it.

There is a Dorje in the centre of the mandala.

This is the thunderbolt, diamond centre and is the symbol for collected energy.

All the energy is drawn in from outside into this diamond centre and is fixed there.

There is another black magic circle round this to protect it.

I have two such mandalas, copies of the larger originals in the China Institute at Frankfurt.

The other is much darker in colour, too dark to be clear.

The circle is half embedded in the earth.

You see the mountains below, coloured green, and representing the Himalayas.

This corresponds to the idea of Buddha’s tomb.

When his disciples asked him how he wished to be buried, the Buddha took two cooking bowls and explained that he should be buried inside and between two such bowls.

This makes a sphere, half of which is hidden in the earth and the other half is visible above it.

The sphere is a very important fundamental form which means transformation.

Such mandalas must not be thought of as static, for they hold the idea of circumambulation.

We find them in the form of passages in the temples.

Those in the Shiva temples are circled to the right and those in the Shakti temples to the left.

The right has a masculine significance and has a spiritual effect, whereas the movement to the left is connected with the feminine and leads down into the earth, into the depths of the body.

It is a sort of spiral formation, one leads up and one down.

The mandala, which is describe d in the Amiyiyur-Dhyana-Sutra, must be thought of as radiating light and brilliance.

It is sending forth t h e 84,000 rays of light and 84,000 colours which are the signs of the perfection of the Buddha.

The light of the mandala, and therefore the mandala itself, is already the Buddha, although he himself is not yet visible. T

he mandala is not just the seat of the Buddha, it is identical with him.

We come next to the eight lakes. The lotus must be imagined to be floating on the shining surface of the water.

The flowery throne of the Buddha is in the lotus, and this throne must be thought of as a tower.

“There are four posts with jewelled banners miraculously found on that tower”.

Indian temples have four flag staffs, symbolic pillars of this flowery, towered throne.

Buddha himself is imagined as sitting upon his throne and the devotee goes on to imagine that he is the Buddha.

He is then transformed into the Buddha and knows that his consciousness is the consciousness of all the Buddhas.

“It is your mind that is indeed Buddha”, and not only the mind of the Buddhas but also that of all the Bodhisattvas.

The East sees everything which exists as an emanation of human consciousness.

We come here to an enormous difference in point of view between the East and the West: we regard human consciousness as an extremely humble affair, but for the East it is the Buddha, the god who creates the world.

Consciousness is Buddha, Buddha is the lotus, and we can work back through the identity of the symbols till we reach the sun with which we started, and then we arrive at the fact that consciousness equals the sun.

This is an important concept of the East and of all eastern philosophy, Buddha is the inner sun.

Naturally we must not fall into the mistake of thinking that our ordinary everyday consciousness is identical with Buddha, there is no question of that.

We are speaking of that consciousness which is formed by meditation, induced by Yoga, Bodhi enlightenment, that is what the East means by the inner sun.

We find a bridge here to the West, to Christian mysticism.

The Christian mystic also sees Christ as the inner light.

This point of view is not exactly official and theologians gladly overlook the passages in the New Testament which testify to the same truth.

They do not fit into the Christian dogma, so they are explained differently.

The passage, for instance, which runs: “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (II Cor. XIII 5) is explained as among you. I

admit that with an effort it is possible to translate the Greek in that way, but there is a passage (Gal. II: 20) where it becomes impossible:

” I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

Here it is impossible to interpret the Greek word as among.

The interpreters of the Bible could not conceive of individual experience, they were convinced that such experience needed a congregation, a whole Church.

In these days where everything is thought of in terms of the state, I should like to emphasize the fact of the existence of the individual and of individual experiences.

The State consists of a mass of individuals and only the individual gives it meaning and value.

What is collectivity without the individual?

No god can be made out of such an idol. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 25Nov38, 34-40.