25 NOVEMBER 1938 Psychology of Yoga Meditation Lecture
I have presented the text of the Amitâyur-Dhyâna-Sûtra to you.
Initially it was my intention to simply offer you a general sense of it.
I wrestled with the question of whether this text would interest you and came to the conclusion that this might well be the case.
For this reason, I am continuing with reading out the text, albeit in an abridged version:
Last time we got as far as the eighth meditation where Buddha himself is to be realized. It reads thus:
When you have seen the seated figure your mental vision will become clear, and you will be able to see clearly and distinctly the adornment of that Buddha country, the jeweled ground, &c. In seeing these things, let them be clear and fixed just as you see the palms of your hands.
When you have passed through this experience, you should further form (a perception of) another great lotus-flower which is on the left side of Buddha, and is exactly equal in every way to the above-mentioned lotus-flower of Buddha.
Still further, you should form (a perception of) another lotus-flower which is on the right side of Buddha.
Perceive that an image of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is sitting on the left-hand flowery throne, shooting forth golden rays exactly like those of Buddha.
Perceive then that an image of Bodhisattva Mahâsthâma is sitting on the right-hand flowery throne. [pp. 178–179]
A Bodhisattva is an almost god-like being who is on the way to Buddhahood, to perfection within a Buddha, or even a former Buddha who was once a Buddha in an earlier kalpa.
When these perceptions are gained the images of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas will all
send forth brilliant rays, clearly lighting up all the jewel-trees with golden color.…
When this perception has been gained, the devotee should hear the excellent Law.…
That is the canonical teaching of the Buddha.… preached by means of a stream of water, a brilliant ray of light, several jewel-trees, ducks, geese, and swans. [p. 179]
This is a peculiar image. A circle of geese surrounding a lotus at the center.
A mandala, i.e., the technical description of a magic circle, is, for example, used for meditation, but also in the lower magic of the Tibetan or other folk religions.
There, the medieval magicians also made use of a magic circle.
In India in the temples at Ellora or Hyderabad, here, where we have the entrance to the
church, I saw these mandalas with a circle of geese surrounding the symbol of the “body of perfect truth” or also the lotus.
This is specifically Buddhist. Why it is geese or even ducks is beyond my knowledge.
No one was able to give me any information about this.
I presume that these three water birds (ducks, geese, swans) refer to the fact that the lotus is always on the surface of the water and that these birds belong to that setting. Incidentally, the swan since ancient times has always been hamsa, the animal of the wise, who is considered winged
because he can transport himself in spirit over land and sea.
It is a sign of ultimate wisdom when someone can travel in spirit or levitate in the air. Buddha floats upwards, sitting in the lotus position.
In this position, he can move great distances at speed.
Whether he be wrapped in meditation or whether he has ceased from it, he should ever hear the excellent Law.
What the devotee hears must be kept in memory and not be lost, when he ceases from that meditation; and it should agree with the Sûtras, …
The sûtras are a teaching document.
They are part of the Tripitaka canon, being the three baskets in which the sûtras are gathered, i.e., speeches of the Buddha and so on. … for if it does not agree with the Sûtras, it is called an illusory perception, whereas if it
does agree, it is called the rough perception of the World of Highest Happiness;—such is the perception of the images, and it is the Eighth Meditation. [p. 179]
This point is particularly interesting.
It is being confessed that during this meditation perceptions occur that do not concur with the canonically stipulated doctrine.
These perceptions, being of the same intensity, are measured against the canon, and if their content does not agree with the doctrine they are rejected as invalid.
Here, Buddhism is taking the same position as the Catholic church: Somnia a Deo missa and not any others.
Dreams sent by God, however, contain all sorts of perceptions that do not conform to stipulated doctrine.
Then the evaluation is also measured against the doctrine.
Here one sees how the sûtras are composed; absolutely they are ecclesiastical texts, strictly orthodox with no room at all for individual experience.
Anything that does not conform is rejected.
Now we press onwards to the meditation on bodily signs and on the light of Buddha Amitâyus.
The text describes the light that radiates from Buddha’s body, the size of his form, the
shape of his eyes, the color of his hair, the halo, his breath and his surroundings, and please note: Buddha Amitâyus bears no fewer than 84,000 signs of perfection in his body.
You will note here that meditation is in no way about spiritual truth or philosophy, but rather it is about the Buddha’s body.
This is an absolute characteristic of the East, namely that truth of any kind, even ultimate spiritual truth (in which it is well known that Buddhism is poor) is developed as arising out of the body and not out of the spirit.
Everything, even the highest spirituality, grows out of the deep roots of the body.
This is one of those differences between the Eastern and the Western spirit.
This is why it is difficult for us to properly understand Eastern philosophy.
Because the European, due to his entire medieval Christian upbringing, feels an understandable resistance to such a differentiation or development of the spirit.
He has the feeling that this would be a complete impossibility.
For to him, the body is experienced as the unspiritual par excellence, even if the sanctification of the body is admitted, but it is not the point of origin for the development.
If you pass through this experience, you will at the same time see all the Buddhas of the
ten quarters.… Since they have meditated on Buddha’s body, they will also see Buddha’s
Here, the categorical proof is given that the experience of the spirit emerges out of the meditation of the body.
It is great compassion that is called Buddha’s mind.
It is by his absolute compassion that he receives all beings.
Those who have practiced this meditation will, when they die, be born in the presence of the Buddhas in another life, and obtain a spirit of resignation wherewith to face all the consequences which shall hereafter arise.
Therefore those who have wisdom should direct their thought to the careful meditation upon that Buddha Amitâyus. [p. 181]
Then follows another instruction in the text as to how the individual signs of Buddha Amitâyus are to be meditated upon, and thus ends the ninth meditation.
When you have seen Buddha Amitâyus distinctly, you should then further meditate upon Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.…
Then follows another description of these bodhisattvas, and thus ends the tenth meditation.
Buddha, especially addressing Ânanda, said: “whosoever wishes to meditate on Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara must do so in the way I have explained.
Those who practice this meditation will not suffer any calamity; they will utterly remove the obstacle that is raised by Karma, and will expiate the sins which would involve them in births and deaths for numberless kalpas.”
If they had not been not expiated.
Now we will see how this unfolds.
Even the hearing of the name of this Bodhisattva will enable one to obtain immeasurable happiness. How much more, then, will the diligent contemplation of him! [p. 183]
Then follows a similar instruction concerning how Bodhisattva Mahâsthâma is to be meditated upon, this forming the content of the eleventh meditation.
Those who have practised this meditation do not live in an embryo state but obtain free access to the excellent and admirable countries of Buddhas. […]
After thou hast had this perception, thou shouldst imagine thyself to be born in the World of Highest Happiness in the western quarter, and to be seated, cross-legged, on a lotus-flower there.
Then imagine that the flower has shut thee in and has afterwards unfolded; when the flower has thus unfolded, five hundred colored rays will shine over thy body, thine eyes will be opened so as to see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who fill the whole sky; thou wilt hear the sounds of waters and trees, the notes of birds, and the voices of many Buddhas preaching the excellent Law, in accordance with the twelve divisions of the scriptures.
When thou hast ceased from that meditation, thou must remember the experience ever after. [pp. 185–186]
This is the content of the twelfth meditation.
Then follows the preparation of the living man to cross over into the other state, namely by being situated to gaze upon the Buddha.
By meditating upon himself, gazing upon himself, he transforms himself into a being of the other side.
Here, he is portrayed as being enclosed in the lotus as if in an egg, and after some time the egg opens upon a lotus pond in the Amitabha land, and one hears the water that surrounds him, bird song—presumably encircling him from the ducks, swans, and geese—the rustling of the trees.
In other words, he is in the center of the Buddhist mandala with the circle of geese, as if transformed into a heavenly being of nature.
This is the image of eternal transformation, of passing and rebirth.
Buddha speaks of this to Ânanda and Vaidehî the queen:
Those who wish, by means of their serene thoughts, to be born in the western land, should first meditate on an image of the Buddha, who is sixteen cubits high, seated on (a lotus flower in) the water of the lake.
As it was stated before the (real) body and its measurement are unlimited, incomprehensible to the ordinary mind.
But by the efficacy of the ancient prayer of that Tathâgata, those who think of and remember him shall certainly be able to accomplish their aim. [pp. 186–187]
The prayer alluded to here is in fact the meditation upon the sûtra. This is the thirteenth meditation.
Buddha further speaks to Ânanda and Vaidehî:
The beings who will be born in the highest form of the highest grade (i.e., to Buddhahood)
are those, whoever they may be, who wish to be born in that country and cherish the
threefold thought whereby they are at once destined to be born there.
What is the threefold thought, you may ask. First, the True Thought; second, the Deep Believing Thought; third, the Desire to be born in that Pure Land by bringing one’s own stock of merit to maturity.
Those who have this threefold thought in perfection shall most assuredly be born into that country. [p. 188]
This refers to the doctrine of karma.
Through meditation the hindrances, karma, are cleared away from one’s path. Karma is the movement through former existences in which one has accumulated some negative matter.
However, there is not only negative but also positive karma.
When negative karma is to some degree diminished through merit, one has accumulated a store of merit, and ultimately the merit outweighs the negative karma and that is removed.
Merits can be accumulated through thorough and frequent practice of yoga meditation. Through yoga, a liberation from karmic powers, the kleshas, is achieved.
There are the hereditary features, character dispositions, which entwine us in guilt, and the Buddhist strives through these yoga practices to liberate himself from these hereditary powers, to transform himself through yoga.
Those who have this threefold thought in perfection shall most assuredly be born into that country.
There are also three classes of beings who are able to be born in that country.
What, you may ask, are the three classes of beings?
First, those who are possessed of a compassionate mind, who do no injury to any beings, and accomplish all virtuous actions according to Buddha’s precepts; second, those who study and recite the Sûtras of the Mahâyâna doctrine, for instance, the Vaipulya Sûtras; third, those who practice the sixfold remembrance198 [“the remembrance of the Buddha life;” CGJ].
These three classes of beings who wish to be born in that country by bringing (their respective stocks of merit) to maturity, will become destined to be born there if they have accomplished any of those meritorious deeds for one day or even for seven days. [p. 188]
Thus, a doctrine similar to the doctrine of indulgences in the Catholic church.
Then follows a description of the Amitâbha land as well as a description of the fourteenth and fifteenth meditations.
The sixteenth meditation concerns itself with the increasingly low level of enlightenment.
What I have just described is the highest achievable level.
The lower levels I will not describe further, I only mention the highest form of the lowest level.
The highest form of the lowest level is depicted as the fall of a man … who commits many evil deeds, provided that he does not speak evil of the Mahâvaipulya Sûtras, he, though himself a very stupid man, and neither ashamed nor sorry for all the evil actions that he has done, yet, while dying, may meet a good and learned teacher who will recite and laud the headings and titles of the twelve divisions of the Mahâyâna scriptures.
Having thus heard the names of all the Sûtras, he will be freed from the greatest sins which would involve him in births and deaths during a thousand kalpas.
A wise man also will teach him to stretch forth his folded hands and to say, “Adoration to Buddha Amitâyus” (Namomitâbhâya Buddhâya, or, Namomitâyushe Buddhâya). [p. 195]
This is the gesture of adoration.
Simply holding the hands together as we do to pray is considered commonplace by Indians.
You do this simply when you greet someone.
In prayer, with hands together, one has the arms either stretched out in front of one or above the head.
These dark figures with stretched out hands, at night, in the light of the flickering fire, this makes an overwhelming impression.
Having uttered the name of the Buddha, he will be freed from the sins which would otherwise involve him in births and deaths for fifty millions of kalpas.
Thereupon the Buddha will send a created Buddha.… [p. 195]
This is a Buddha created by the meditator himself in meditation, and yet it is an actual one for his own time.
Then he flows into nothingness, i.e., he is still there, but one cannot see him.
Indians believe the Buddha essence is present in the entire universe, an omnipresence, everywhere, only not formed.
So, when the Buddha’s form is incarnated, formed out of this spiritual matter, which is everywhere present, or when it has also disappeared again, even so it is everywhere present as an essence in this matter.
“O son of a noble family, as thou hast uttered the name of that Buddha, all thy sins have
been destroyed and expiated, and therefore we now come to meet thee.” After this speech, the devotee will observe the rays of that created Buddha flooding his chamber with light, and while rejoicing at the sight he will depart this life. [pp. 195–196]
This is the situation in the Bardo Thödol where this moment is described as a moment of departure.
The visions the dead man has as soon as he is separated from his body.
He realizes the dharmakâya, the body of perfect truth.
A white light appears, which the dying man cannot bear if he has unfavorable karma and therefore he sinks down to the sombre light and gets entangled again in being born.
Seated on a lotus-flower he will follow that created Buddha and go to be born in the jewellake.
After the lapse of seven weeks, the lotus-flower will unfold, when the great
compassionate Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahâsthâma will stand before him,
flashing forth magnificent rays, and will preach to him the deepest meaning of the twelve divisions of the scriptures. [p. 196]
Bodhi is complete enlightenment, Buddha is the enlightened one, the wise one, the clever, the intelligent.
So here, enlightenment is personified by the feminine. It is plausible that it could also manifest in a female form.
There are other texts where similar female figures play a role. Of the lowest form of the lowest level, it says:
If there be anyone who commits evil deeds, and even completes the ten wicked actions, the five deadly sins and the like; that man, being himself stupid and guilty of many crimes, deserves to fall into a miserable path of existence and suffer endless pains during many kalpas.
On the eve of death, he will meet a good and learned teacher who will, soothing and encouraging him in various ways, preach to him the excellent Law and teach him the remembrance of Buddha, but, being harassed by pains, he will have no time to think of Buddha.
Some good friend will then say to him: “Even if thou canst not exercise the remembrance of Buddha, thou mayst, at least, utter the name, ‘Buddha Amitâyus.’ ”
Let him do so serenely with his voice uninterrupted; let him be (continually) thinking of
Buddha until he has completed ten times the thought, repeating (the formula), “Adoration to Buddha Amitâyus” (Namo*mitâyushe Buddhâya). On the strength of (his merit of) uttering Buddha’s name he will, during every repetition, expiate the sins which involve him in births and deaths during eighty millions of kalpas. He will, while dying, see a golden lotus-flower like the disk of the sun appearing before his eyes; in a moment he will be born in the World of Highest Happiness. After twelve greater kalpas the lotus-flower will unfold; … [pp. 197–198]
That is the sixteenth mediation.
These are now the meditations anticipated by the practice of Bardo Thödol.
This is a collection of those prayers read by the priest for the dead and also for the dying, but as a rule for the dead, as in Mahâyâna Buddhism it is the view that when someone has died, as a rule they are not aware that they are dead and must have it explained to them: “If you have a body, then pass through the walls.”
He then recognizes that he is no longer alive, that he has no body and is a separate spirit.
Remarkably there is the same idea among American spiritualists, namely that the dead person does not know that he is dead. It is an original idea, deeply anchored in the human spirit.
When Buddha had finished this speech, Vaidehî, together with her five hundred female attendants, could see, as guided by the Buddha’s words, the scene of the far-stretching
World of the Highest Happiness, and could also see the body of Buddha and the bodies of the two Bodhisattvas.
With her mind filled with joy she praised them, saying: “Never have I seen such a wonder!”
Instantaneously she became wholly and fully enlightened, and attained a spirit of resignation, prepared to endure whatever consequences might yet arise. [p. 199]
So, you see that that ultimate good of India, the spirit of self-denial, proceeds from the body, not from the spirit.
Her five hundred female attendants too cherished the thought of obtaining the highest
perfect knowledge, and sought to be born in that Buddha country.
The World-Honoured One predicted that they would all be born in that Buddha country, and be able to obtain the Samâdhi (the supernatural calm) of the presence of many Buddhas.
All the innumerable Devas (gods) also directed their thought toward the attainment of the highest Bodhi. [pp. 198–199]
You see, the gods in no way take the highest position, they do not even have the level of the bodhisattvas, but function essentially as auxiliary powers.
This is a characteristic of Buddhism. The highest gods come to Buddha for instruction. They must become human in order to be able to be redeemed.
They are humans who lead a god-like life for uncountable aeons.
Then their karma is ended, and they must be born again like any other mortal.
It is said that Buddhism is a religion without gods.
In truth, however, that’s not the case. The highest god is the god reborn in man, Buddha himself.
Thereupon Ânanda rose from his seat, approached Buddha, and spoke thus: “O World Honored One, what should we call this Sûtra?
And how should we receive and remember it (in the future)?”
Buddha said in his reply to Ânanda: “O Ânanda, this Sûtra should be called the meditation on the Land of Sukhâvatî, on Buddha Amitâyus, Bodhisattva
Avalokiteśvara, Bodhisattva Mahâsthâma,” or otherwise be called “(the Sûtra on) the
entire removal of the obstacle of Karma, (the means of) being born in the realm of the Buddhas.”
Thou shouldst take and hold it, not forgetting nor losing it.
Those who practice the Samâdhi (the supernatural calm) in accordance with this Sûtra will be able to see, in the present life, Buddha Amitâyus and the two great Bodhisattvas.… Know that he who remembers that Buddha is the white lotus (pundarîka) among men, it is he whom the Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahâsthâma consider an excellent friend.
He will, sitting in the Bodhi-mandala, be born in the abode of Buddhas. [pp. 199–200]
This circle of the Bodhis is the so-called round terrace of enlightenment.
This circle is the ground upon which the Bodhi tree stands, that tree under which Buddha fought off the attack of Mâra, the devil.
By not being present, he did not allow himself to get lost in existence, but was non-existing. For this reason, the seat of the Buddha is empty.
And the devil also tries in vain to attack this seat.
There are pictorial representations of this situation in Indian art.
You see Mâra under the tree where the empty lotus seat of the Buddha stands.
~Carl Jung, Psychology and Yoga Meditation, Page 209-219