Trikaya Ruminations #1 Of Materialists and Spiritualists

Photo © Darren Seamark / Stocksy United

Here follow some general ruminations following on from the Trikaya notion introduced in a recent post.

First off, there are five kayas in some systems, not three. The fourth was mentioned in the last post namely that the first three are inseparable but different aspects of the same overall dynamic. In immediate human terms this is like how we have both body and mind all the time and although each is discernibly different one cannot define where one stops and the other starts, there is no definitive dividing line between the two. Similarly, the ocean, its ever-expressive qualities and the arising physical forms such as waves, currents, spray and so forth are three aspects of the same overall ocean. The name of the fourth one in Sanskrit is ‘svabhavavikaya.’ The fifth one will be discussed later but essentially it’s a state continuously aware of all four kayas.

The traditional translation for the Trikaya is ‘The Three Bodies of the Buddha.’ This is partly because in some presentations the three kayas are explained as being the three aspects of an enlightened being. A common formal translation of Dharmakaya is ‘Body of Truth’ because what is being described is the nature of reality, how things are, namely that all living creatures comprise these three kayas and thus are connected with a universal continuum, or substratum, which is primordially awake and spacious, manifested – and hence a kaya – in no end of different particular forms. They are called bodies of Buddha because a Buddha is someone who is fully cognizant, or awake, to the nature of reality; which implies an interesting twist: those same bodies that a Buddha has we have too since we are of the same nature.

This begs the question: what is the difference between a Buddha and an ordinary sentient being? The difference is that the latter is confused about the nature of reality and the former clearly sees the nature of that confusion and in so doing ‘self-liberates’ it, popping its bubble. The liberation of enlightenment is simply no longer functioning in a state of existential confusion. And what is the nature of confusion again? Not seeing, and therefore not being at one with, the nature of mind.

In a way you could say that we are so fascinated with what is happening on the surface that we come to believe that each wave is apart from instead a part of the vast ocean of Dharmakaya primordial wakefulness. We begin to believe that each particular wave has its own independent existence just as we feel that we ourselves are independent entities disconnected from the larger continuum. And then we find that all experience confirms this bias. We walk where we choose to walk, we say what we choose to say, we are in one chair and our companion is in a different chair, we only eat what is on our plate not from the plate across the table, we grow up as a particular person, lead our lives as such and then finally die on our own without anyone around us doing so at the same time. Clearly we are unique individuals.

All of that is true; and yet it’s not the whole truth because, just like any wave for example, although we do have unique particular characteristics and experiences nevertheless we are never separate from the larger universal whole. Never. And the base foundation of that larger whole in this Trikaya model is a primordially awake knowingness. Technically speaking there is also a space in which all these bodies arise, the Sanskrit term for which is dhatu, but here we are discussing the forms or bodies in space and, interestingly, the Dharmakaya aspect of form, or body, is primordial wakefulness which is a little like walking into a vast chamber in a splendid palace and realizing that everything and everybody in that chamber is totally awake and knowing, the chairs, the floor, the walls, the ceiling, even the sky showing past the windows, it is all fully awake and knowing. So this wakeful, knowing quality is the form aspect in Dharmakaya, one manifest in every particular form you see; for all reflect some knowing quality, some blending of purpose, terrain, function and spirit – be it a spoon on a table, a discarded candy wrapper scudding across the pavement, every leaf on every tree, every living creature quivering, running, jumping or flying, and so on.

This brings us to the horns of an ongoing dilemma playing out in our world today with potentially catastrophic consequences, namely the inability of those with different world views to understand each other. Indeed, it’s worse than that: in most cases these days they don’t even want to try because increasingly one side feels that the other is not only beneath contempt but actually evil deserving only of being ignored, ‘cancelled’ or destroyed. I might be talking about left and right in the US political arena but mainly am referring to the great divide that separates – seemingly – materialists and spiritualists. First off, neither side would necessarily call themselves such so some definition is in order and since this issue has popped up elsewhere on this blog (link) we can be brief. Basically most modern people and especially scientists believe that the world is made of physical matter (hence the term ‘materialism’) and the mind is an emergent property of brain cells which produce images and thoughts which essentially create a homuncular internal fantasy, a cognitive proxy world. So mind is actually a whole lot of electrical and nervous sparks and impulses and the images and sensations we experience personally are simply cognitive-perceptive constructs caused by chemical interactions. Underneath those cognitive hallucinations lies a reality that is essentially and only physical matter. So from this point of view a radio is the box and circuitry whereas the music it is playing is a non-existent fiction. You cannot say exactly where the music is since it is not physical. Yes, it comes from an instrument which is physical, then relayed by electrical impulses through a physical speaker diaphragm which in turn causes our physical ear drums to vibrate which is then cognitively interpreted as what we call music. The pleasure or pain we get from such music is a cognitive fiction that has no scientific, aka material, reality. In other words, to the true materialist the world of mind, of feeling, of intuition, of imagination, of beauty, of sensitivity, of love, of wisdom none of that has any substance to it and therefore is not, scientifically speaking, real.

In this context a ‘spiritualist’ is simply someone who does not believe that reality is primarily and only made of mindless matter but rather the universe includes sentient awareness somehow. Again, the Genesis story is one such model wherein ‘in the beginning was the Word’ which in turn is also God who in turn made the outer physical world and all bodies living therein from his intention that it be so. Or another similar model is the Trikaya which posits that the underlying basis of our body-mind beings is the dharmakaya whose prime quality is primordial knowing, some sort of perpetual wakefulness beyond beginning or end, birth or death – i.e. it is always there no matter what is going on at the surface level where things are coming and going all the time, be they movements, noises, sights, creatures coming and going or being born, living for a while and dying. So the Trikaya model is similar to Genesis positing some sort of primordially extant mind principle beyond matter alone.

This brings us back to the difference between Buddhas and sentient beings, namely that the latter are confused about the nature of reality and the former are not. From the point of view of the Trikaya model, scientific (and other) materialists are confused. And this is why the issue is one that goes beyond abstract philosophical niceties: materialists essentially believe that the universe is made of mindless matter making us no more than biological machines.

And herein lies a great danger: ultimately those who believe that our universe and all beings within it are no more than mechanical essentially don’t value life and if put in power over the lives of billions might well end up sacrificing them all on the altar of some Great Idea or other which they have convinced themselves is the better way to go. These are the Sarumans and Saurons of today and they are now mustering their forces and about to unleash a war to impose a soulless Reality on all of us. Of course they cannot ultimately succeed for their view is based on a deep confusion which ignores the true nature of reality, but confusion can create no end of suffering and go on for a very long time. The Buddhist terms for this is samsara, which will be the subject of another post.

NOTES:

Materialist vs spiritualist

Purpose of meditation – stillness, silence, open spaciousness, bliss – training to remembering

The power of habit creates our world. Even if you don’t believe that, have to concede that scientists cannot measure what’s out there objectively without at some point evaluating the data with minds. There is no known universe without cognitive interface.

Note: Inner Sambho includes emotions – cults come from shared vocabulary and sharing heightened emotional mandalas together.

There are 5.

Three levels of training / meditation

Published by The Baron

Retired non-profit administrator.

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