Article 49 Seed Syllables
Many articles ago, the incredibly ingenious notion of ‘mandala’ was introduced. Here follows a supplemental. The picture above shows a traditional ‘seed syllable’ but don’t let it scare you off: this article goes into a mundane understanding of the notion which not only helps those familiar with esoteric symbols like this but also is quite interesting in contemplating daily life dynamics or as a general insight of use to practicing artists.
Our universe comprises no end of interdependent mutually intertwining mandalas. The house mandala includes the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, basement, attic and garden mandalas – not to mention the various mandalas of past present and future individuals living therein; and the house mandala is within larger containing street, neighbourhood, town, region, nation, continental and planetary mandalas. And so ad infinitum.
But each mandala has something defining about it that distinguishes it from the smaller and larger mandalas with which it is interdependently intertwined.
In esoteric yogic language the essence of this something is called a ‘seed syllable.’ It is said that everything has its own seed syllable. What is that? This is similar to Plato’s Logos which is Idea behind Form. Before a horse can be born into this visible world, the idea of a horse has to be there. In scientific terms we might say that the DNA code must first be figured out before the DNA molecule can be formed.
That is why the Bible starts with ‘in the beginning was the Word.’ Word, idea, speech. Speech is some sort of message coming forth into the world of form from the formless realms, a first utterance, a primordial burp albeit in this case already intelligent and containing within it, as with a seed, all the preconditions needed for a fruitional outcome to unfold.
We can hear speech or read speech but we cannot locate a word in time or space. It just is. This is similar to other intangible but real phenomena like our experiences of love, courage, honour, cowardice, inspiration, patriotism, disgust, greed and so forth. They are real, but you cannot measure them or locate them. However, they too have seed syllables for every such intangible, even if formless, nevertheless has particular qualities.
The kitchen is a place made of physical forms such as floors, ceilings, stoves, sinks, counter tops, shelves, cupboards, utensils and so forth. But the experience of any given kitchen is something existing on the formless speech realm too as each kitchen feels different and therefore has a different unique and particular ‘seed syllable.’
Sometimes they are referred to as ‘spirits’ or ‘gods.’ This is because there is a wakeful, sentient aspect. A kitchen mandala is not a purely objective experience. At the same time, it is not a living person per se either. Rather it is a living something in between, much like any good painting or work of art or special moment in time. And of course because mandala, like a work of art, is something experienced – versus being an objective separate entity out there somewhere – there is always an awareness quotient involving presence or atmosphere.
So the seed syllable is the quintessential character of any given mandala, or presence field. Any time we take in a particular atmosphere involving a person, place, thing or situation we are instantly tuning into the seed syllable principle. And if you can begin to catch them on the spot whilst being aware that you doing so you might find that every mandala is a live tiger filled with vigor, bristling with presence – and a powerfully intimate teacher to boot.
The world is always speaking to us. Do we hear its many voices coming to us through the alphabet of innumerable seed syllables?
As with prior Buddhism 101 Articles, just for contrast let us look at a classical explanation of the term ‘seed syllable:’ (from wikipedia)
“In Vajrayana Buddhism and Hinduism, the term bīja is used for mystical “seed syllables” contained within mantras. These seeds do not have precise meanings, but are thought to carry connections to spiritual principles. The best-known bīja syllable is Om, first found in the Hindu scriptures the Upanishads. Khanna (2003: p. 21) links mantras and yantras to thoughtforms:
“Mantras, the Sanskrit syllables inscribed on yantras, are essentially ‘thought forms’ representing divinities or cosmic powers, which exert their influence by means of sound-vibrations.”
There is nothing wrong with the above explanation except that it is arcane and targeted towards a limited audience of those doing esoteric tantric visualisation practices. As such it fails to really describe how all this relates to ordinary experience. Hopefully, the above article gives you a better idea of the ‘spiritual principles’ to which seed syllables ‘carries connections.’
If you are interested in artistic expressions you might find tuning into seed syllables extremely helpful. Anything you are witnessing, such as even clothes draped over a chair in the bedroom, has its cluster of particularities which together create some sort of something, moment or presence. And that ‘something’ is a mandala whose particular quality or atmosphere is its ‘seed syllable.’ If you try to paint or write about any essential something you will find that tuning into this seed syllable principle helps reveal its core character helping to bring it alive; indeed it may start telling you things you would never think of unless you first opened up to saying hello in the first place.
Recently, have been tuning into the various seed syllables (or essential character if your prefer) of various NFL teams. Some of them are clear, others are muddied. More on that later. Maybe we’ll have a prediction of outcomes based on strength of seed syllable manifestation, i.e. the degree to which the team not only has a clear seed syllable to start with but is also manifesting in line with it, i.e. being true to its essential character. One example to get us going whilst ending this short article:
Buffalo Bills. A seed syllable sketch.
Buffalo is the NY State city with most amount of snow in US. The buffalo is a powerful old breed animal with thick coat keeping it warm in winter. It has legs which are a tad short and stumpy for so powerful a body. They are firerce when cornered and almost unstoppable when charging as a herd.
How the Buffalo Bills team should be when aligned with it’s core character or ‘seed syllable:’ They should have the best Offensive and Defensive lines in the league able to mass together and charge their opponents and trample them down. That should be the core. They should be a running team on offense with powerful backs, some of whom are short. They should not be overly fancy with complicated schemes rather simply running down the other side.
How close do they have it? It seems they are over-emphasizing the passing game because of their dynamic, well-built quarterback Josh Allen. He suits an ideal Buffalo Bills team but is not running one because of the emphasis on the pass. Their defense is ranked #18 out of 32. So they don’t have strong offense and defense lines and thus are not playing true to seed syllable character. They are a very good team but will not go all the way this year until they get that right.