Poem: Voices of Madness – I – self

Voices of madness, a spontaneously composed series of quasi haiku voices in bedlam
dedicated to Axel Neumann

a leading European clinical psychiatrist
who became a structured psychotic
(one who can transmit that state to another)
who later died of the drugs they gave him after each increasingly frequent episode
and which he knew would eventually kill him

Prompted by Gabriel Rosenstock encouraging the author to enter an international poetry competition around the theme of ‘madness’ organized by a university in Katmandu, Nepal (linked below).

Esther Hannah 1858 Chronic mania with delusions

Voices of Madness I: self

when the chattering mouth inside
engollops the whole world
now so many tongues
screaming back at you!

The union of
all and everything with
Mighty Me and
Mini Me

the wastrel candy wrapper
scudding across the ocean of bedraggled pavement
talks in sign language
only I can understand
and so we are friends

gazing into my dog’s soft eyes
drowning in kindness
we long for the oblivion
of everlasting life

suffering so extreme
I am King
of the charnel ground
I survey
in ostracized isolation

Woe is me!
Alone at last!
Alone again!
Alone forever!
Alone alas!

I have dug deep into hell
where you can’t see
flowers
sunlight
fresh air
green fields

now worship my many manias
which you good people
with your many conventional insanities
have driven me screaming into!

once I jumped off the mountain peak
and started gliding far above
and you all down there far below
there was no turning back
so here we are
alone together again!

Captain George Johnson 1848, homicidal maniac

I screamed…
and the other person
in here with me
jumped almost out of their skin
and into mine!

you people are all so dumb
and sanctimonious about it
you’ve driven me
out of my wits
and into the arms of demons

I know a little devil
she’s right here
do you want to see her…
now?

don’t ask me how
but I know
for certain
this nightmare will never
end

I could cry
all the tears
for all the girls
and it would never
be enough
to slake the thirst of this anger

Harriet Jordan 1858, acute mania

teeth and nails are my claws
my gaze lightning
my speech a bloody knife
my body a writhing sex crazed she devil!

when I see you
I feel the urge
to squash a banana!

how many years ago
was I a happy child?
that life has left me…

the apples are falling
falling, falling
I will soon drown
in that well

if only you could touch me
you might see me
if only you might see me
you could touch me

I am the veritable Queen of Ireland
but you FOOLS
have put me in a straightjacket
though one not nearly as restricting
as the ones you wear yourselves
over your taut middle class heads

I yearned so much to fly
that after I leapt
I simply refused to come back down
to earth

on the ride home
after our time together
after reading Kafka’s trial together
the train tracks kept
telling me, telling me, telling me, telling me
you’re mad, you’re mad, you’re mad, you’re mad
you’ll die, you’ll die, you’ll die, you’ll die,
you know it don’t you, you know it don’t you,
you know it don’t you, you know it don’t you
you’ve always been mad and you’ll never get better
you’ve always been mad and you’ll never get better
you’ve always been mad and you’ll never get better
you’ve always been mad and you’ll never get better
then tears flowed down
uncontrollably
but somehow I made it home
through the mist of sadness and madness
and slept for a day and a night
and woke up
blessed and
clean.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Spontaneous composition 2022-02-09

The competition open call for poetry:

Haikus #91-94 Mind and Colour

measuring an entire life

in the colour

of a single moment

#91 2022/02/01

coming and going…

meeting and parting…

our dog is waiting for her walk!

#92 2022/02/03

I see you when I’m not looking

I find you when I’m not seeking

you sneaky, all-pervasive ever-present

nature of mind!

#93 2022/02/05

hot color cold colour

bright color dim colour:

colours are the speech of the gods!

#94 2022/02/05

Haikus #95-103 Grasping

one breath

after another

existential grasping!

#95 2022/02/07

each breath

grasps connection to

this heaven and earth world

this living dream life

#96 2022/02/07

death:

a final outbreath

no more grasping

no more inbreath

#97 2022/02/07

driven by grasping onto each new scent

compulsion steering her unfolding path…

Ginger pulls mightily on the leash

#98 2022/02/07

disconnected from higher organismic purpose

the let go leaf

dissolves into soil

#99 2022/02/07

self-liberated mind

no longer grasps

whatever arises next

as thought or perception

#100 2022/02/07

turbulent winds

may knock down ancient trees

but cannot touch

the sky

#101 2022/02/07

absent grasping

the knots of self-entangled confusion

like knotted snake

self-uncoil

#102 2022/02/07

peace:

mind still, mind moving

no difference

#103 2022/02/07

Trikaya Ruminations #2 The Three Levels of Spiritual Development

The Trikaya gives us a simple working model of how experiential reality functions. We don’t actually need to go to war with materialism in order to start incorporating this model into our base view of who, what and where we are in life, leaving the materialists to their own devices – literally.

So: onward!

First, it is worth pointing out the obvious, that this model posits our reality as fundamentally experiential. None of us has any direct knowledge of anything that exists outside the realm of sentient experience. We can imagine an objective world out there but we cannot know for sure if it exists on its own terms as such beyond our own physical and cognitive interface. Is the table we see the same as the table the housefly sees and the same as the table itself not seen by either? We can never really know but what we do know is that the world we know comes via experience of it and ourselves (via this fundamentally awake knowingness embodied as the ocean of Dharmakaya). A scientist may insist that he is studying objective data gathered by reliable machines, but he is still evaluating the data with his living, and thus also very subjective, mind.

Second, it posits a fundamental reality before any obfuscations. Which brings us to confusion. Even though the Three Kayas are inseparable but different aspects of the same overall reality, confusion creates duality in that we come to believe that the various particulars on the Nirmanakaya level are each distinct from the other and moreover not part of the same overall continuum. In other words, there is no One, there is only Many. Each object we see – spoon, fork, chair, table, building, sentient being and most especially our self – is seen as unique, individual and separate from any larger whole. In the Buddhist scriptures this is described as nama-rupa, or ‘name and form’ and it is one of twelve links (nidanas) in a process called ‘dependent origination’ each of which helps create our world described as a perpetually spinning wheel (samsara) of unending birth, death and rebirth moment after moment, life after life. These twelve nidanas are too complicated for this blog but suffice to say they describe how we get to creating a seemingly solid world made of seemingly solid and separate parts with seemingly solid and separate entities such as ‘you’ and ‘I.’

So essentially we now have two principal types of mandala, namely mandalas of confusion and mandalas of wisdom. The confused mandalas are out of touch with the Trikaya unified field theory whereas the wisdom mandalas are at one with it. This is why traditionally the Buddhist teachings involve three main Yanas, or vehicles, which correspond with the three main stages of spiritual development (essentially the same in all genuine traditions) namely:
a) working with confusion to tame and pacify it
b) working out of confusion into realization
c) working with realization to stabilize and complete it

Put more simply: confusion, in between confusion and realization, and realization. Each phase features both teachings and methods which can be briefly summarized as follows:

a) working with confusion: the teachings help deconstruct primitive beliefs about reality, principally the illusion that we are solid, separate entities trapped in bodies and various existential predicaments causing endless ups and downs from birth until death which experiences often leave us floundering in an ocean of turbulent emotions being driven from one extreme state of distress or exhilaration to another to the point of exhaustion and bewilderment. The methods involve learning to slow down through meditation practice so that we can pacify this turmoil and begin to live in a more simple way without roiling the waters of intense emotion.
b) on the way out of confusion and into realization: working on the assumption that we do actually possess the Buddha Nature inherent in dharmakaya we study and emulate the positive qualities of those who are more fully integrated with their own enlightened natures; the methods involve training in developing those qualities principally by further meditation practice including those which enhance tranquility and insight as positive radiant qualities in body and mind as well as serving others by habitually putting them before ourselves essentially replacing samsaric, ego-centered habits with more enlightened ‘bodhisattvic’ ones.
c) working with realization: as we progress on the path we begin to encounter our own true nature. This so-called ‘realization’ of the nature of mind at first comes in glimpses, most often by spending time with someone who is realized but then gradually having our own personal experiences until finally this becomes a 24/7 state of being, which at that point is called ‘enlightenment.’ Interestingly, the Tibetan word for meditation translates as ‘becoming familiar’ because really all that is going on is simply becoming familiar with our own true nature which is there all the time but which we kept ignoring because of samsarically dualistic habits of perceiving and thus being. Enlightenment is simply the absence of confused states of being. This is why the highest form of vajrayana meditation is called formless meditation or more bluntly ‘non-meditation.’ There is nothing to develop or produce, there is no goal to achieve or prize to be won. We have been home all along.

Because they are dealing with different stages of reality perception or states of being, the methods and vocabulary differ from one yana to the next. So to finish this post, lets look at how the bedrock meditation technique of mindfulness is worked with at each of these three main levels which traditionally are termed Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.

Hinayana Mindfulness: the student is an ordinary sentient being fully enmeshed in the samsaric behaviours believing in an existential separation between self and other, mind and body, wisdom and confusion. The mind and body are perceived as essentially problematic, untamed, following one habitual impulse after another. So mindfulness practice is about learning how to slow things down so that one can avoid endless explosions in the minefield of experience. First one walks slowly, one step at a time. If necessary one goes to one side or another to avoid a direct confrontation with an explosive result and then returns to the original path until one makes it across. It’s about learning to navigate through hostile territory burdened by a body and mind that are themselves not fully familiar, not under control, not tamed.
So the Hinayana version of mindfulness at first has to do with basic taming of self and external situations so that one can calm down enough to actually hold the mind steady. The traditional analogy is that of a steady candle flame versus one that is flickering. If you put your attention on something it can stay there steadily without wandering. This sort of skill – which is common to all creatures including most animals – can take anywhere from a few weeks to many decades to develop.
In terms of meditation practice one learns how to apply antidotes to any disruptive obstacles so that one can place the mind on an object and keep the attention there without straying or lapsing into dullness or agitation. The object of attention might be the moving second hand of a watch, a stick, stone or painting, or most often people simply use the breath which is a naturally occurring phenomenon happening both inside the body as well as out in the world – plus it’s always there and always slightly changing. You can also place the mind on a sound, like birdsong or a babbling mountain stream, or waves breaking on a beach, or the hum of a refrigerator or air conditioner for that matter. In all cases the idea is to place the mind on something and train it not to wander but stay relaxed, awake and attentive. This skill is needed very much at the end as you will soon see.

Mahayana Mindfulness: Hina means narrow or straight. Maha means great or expansive. The Mahayana is about leaving the confines of the narrow self-centred approach and merging the inner and outer worlds, so it is about dissolving the ramparts of ego to become one with all others. Mindfulness here is about focusing on various positive qualities that bodhisattvas (literally awake beings) manifest, principally wisdom, compassion and vitality. We can learn to imagine ourselves possessing such qualities in various meditation practices such as sending and taking (used in the Lyme Liturgy for example), but also our sitting meditation mindfulness at this level has to do with maintaining an open heart connected with bodhichitta (awake heart-mind) which is making a direct connection with the dharmakaya aspect of ourselves common to all other living creatures.
The more we can establish a direct connection with this bodhichitta the more we find ourselves experiencing naturally spontaneous compassion and wisdom. In meditation practice following the breath as before in Hinayana this is now experienced as a significantly expanded sense of spaciousness and warmth. Again, if we are fortunate enough to encounter someone fully developed in this way we get a direct transmission of how this feels by being with them and this accelerates the familiarity process. In any case, the ability to place the mind and keep it somewhere attentively but without strain is now used to develop the heart-mind wakefulness of bodhichitta.
This can be likened to the stage in the journey of a river where it opens up shortly before merging with the ocean. So Hinayana is like learning to navigate minefields to the point where one can avoid them altogether, and Mahayana is like learning how to open up far beyond what we earlier thought conceivable let alone possible and begin to manifest as fully realized bodhisattvas possessing – and thus also sharing – wisdom and compassion with all other beings.

Vajrayana Mindfulness: Vajrayana is the path of realization. Vajra is a mythical substance akin to diamond which is known for being extremely hard. However vajra is beyond hard: it is indestructible and it is so because it cannot be divided. This is the idea encountered when deconstructing moments of time at the beginning of the Liturgy. Any given moment of time (just as any given dimension of space when measuring an object) is infinitely divisible. One second can be cut in half and so on ad infinitum just as any given distance between Point A and Point B can be halved and so on. The point here being that since it is infinitely divisible in fact it is not divisible at all because such divisions are fictive constructs. Any given moment in time, for example, has no duration and therefore cannot be subdivided, i.e. is indestructible.
That’s a conceptual definition of vajra indestructibility. On a more experiential level it is more like the following: in terms of time we can say that we find ourselves dwelling in the present moment, we can feel this as something which is always there meaning it never begins or ends and therefore transcends birth, death or any measurable dimension. In terms of place, when we are in a state of nowness the space is alive, awake, present and endlessly so, there are no boundaries between self and other, here and there, it is all one, hence indivisibly indestructible and this is something we now experience directly.
So mindfulness in Vajrayana involves resting the mind in its own nature, its own vajra nature without anything which arises distracting or separating us from that awareness presence. In early stages we go in and out, sometimes resting in a seemingly deep, luminous state of mind and other times being again distracted by habitual interruptions and distractions, be they imaginary discursive events on the meditation cushion or in daily life. So the mindfulness practice at the level of working with initial realization experiences involves maintaining a state of presence of vajra being, of resting in that perpetual nowness without effort or contrivance. As thoughts and feelings arise they do so from within this spacious presence and we learn to stop identifying with them as part of a ‘me’ which is separate from that spacious presence. Things keep coming up in the ever-playful dance of Sambhogakaya which is ceaseless and infinite in variegation, like waves on the ocean, but we never isolate the dance from the background, the dance is always part of the background. Mindfulness is resting in spacious awareness whilst enjoying any given dance displayed in the inner and outer worlds.


So if mindfulness in Hinayana involves taming and pacifying wild, hostile inner and outer terrains, and mindfulness in Mahayana involves attuning oneself to the more selfless qualities of an altruistic bodhisattva manifesting wisdom and compassion, then mindfulness in Vajrayana can simply be likened to that of actually being a Buddha or Bodhisattva, actually doing it in the here and now rather than striving to do it or be it at some point in the future. At some point the student – if the path and the practitioner are both worthy – becomes a master.

If you tell a beginning student to rest in the nature of mind when every time they sit down to meditate they are jumpy, sleepy, horny, excited or altogether discombobulated, it won’t work. Gradually, gradually the student settles into becoming more tamed and open until gradually, gradually they begin to experience their own ground nature, the always-there bedrock nature of dharmakaya which is at the core of their own being as well as that of all other creatures. This is an actual experience, not theory, and at some point one begins to know the primordial knowing, which is called wisdom. Wisdom is not about knowing all data, rather about knowing the nature of primordial self-existing knowing. When this happens there is a deep sense of relaxation because the endless existential struggle of samsara has been let go. Enlightenment ultimately is about letting go of unenlightened habits of body and mind. A release – or rather what’s there after release. A profound simplicity. You cannot tell someone to do that at the beginning. So at least in terms of the mindfulness aspect, first you tame and pacify unruly mind; then you open it to wider possibilities and view and maintaining that naturally; then it involves learning to rest in spaciousness without following or identifying with old habits born of lifetimes of recreating samsaric patterns of dualistic fixation and grasping. Indeed, such habits can be popped like bubbles as they arise. But that’s another story for another time…

In sum:

The Hinayana level involves hard work to tame and pacify.

The Mahayana level involves developing limitless bodhisattva altruism whilst bringing all confusion to the path of awakening.

The Vajrayana involves mastery.

Related reading:

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

Buddhism 101 Series #4 The Three Kayas Trinity – One and Many

Sambhogakaya Buddha

The Buddhist equivalent of the Trinity is what is known as the Three Kayas, sometimes translated as the ‘three bodies of the Buddha.’ Before describing what they are, it might be helpful to point out an assumption that might not be immediately apparent to the typical modern person reading this. That assumption is that we live in a fundamentally spiritual world in that reality is comprised principally of spirit from which matter emerges. Today this seems somewhat outlandish or fantastical, but in fact it has been how most humans have thought throughout history. Take the Genesis story for example: here it quite simply posits that God created the world and then created Man in that world – and all in only seven days. God is not defined exactly but He is some sort of intelligent being who essentially used Mind to create Matter and in the beginning was ‘Word’ or ‘Logos.’

Many pagan deities dwell in realms above this material plane from where they lord it over us. Such notions as Thor God of Thunder and Zeus God of all Gods may seem quaint and rather silly today but quite likely they are more vivid in the context in which they were originally treated, namely family or tribal stories around the fire in which the attention of children as well as adults needed to be held. Be that as it may, they clearly involved deeply powerful ideas and energetic qualities.

In any case, an assumption being made in the Three Kaya postulate is that we live in a spiritual world, a world where mind trumps matter not the other way around as most modern people now believe. Moreover a spiritual world is one experienced during the course of our actual lives not an abstraction suitable only for philosophers to discuss in classrooms, libraries and conferences.

So what are the Three Kayas?
The word kaya means body and the three bodies under discussion are the three bodies we encounter throughout all our experienced reality. The Sanskrit terms are:
Dharmakaya
Sambhogakaya
Nirmanakaya.

Dharmakaya means ‘body of dharma’ which latter in this case means truth or reality; more experientially we could say ‘isness’ or ‘beingness.’
Sambhogakaya means ‘body of perfect enjoyment’ which in this case means various qualitative aspects that come up in relation to the other two. There is no end to the variety of energetic display making our reality fundamentally creative and playful – not to mention marvelous and beautiful.
Nirmanakaya means ‘body of manifest form’ which in this case includes organisms, objects and so on – our physically manifest phenomenal world.

All three can be explained with a simple ocean analogy. Dharmakaya is the ocean itself in its entirety. The millions of different particularities on the surface such as ripples, waves, spray and so forth – infinite in number and with each particularity entirely unique and never to be repeated – all of this is Nirmanakaya. The energetic qualities of those particulars is the Sambhogakaya – some waves are huge, some tiny ripples, some rushing, some placid, some breaking apart, some massing together, some playful, some life threatening, some blue, some green and so forth. In other words, the physical forms are expressive, communicative, dynamic or what can be called qualitative. These qualities are neither the ocean or the form per se, rather something intermediate in the middle created by both.

These three kayas, though distinct, are inseparable; no single one happens without the other two being present so basically they are just three aspects of one overall reality. And again, reality is not some dead thing outside in a non-living world; reality is an experiential realm whose fundamental property is that of being awake and knowing, one technical term for which is ‘Buddha.’ That’s why these are often referred to as ‘the three bodies of Buddha’ for they are the three aspects of what we call Reality, so Buddha here is not so much the historical person who first presented all this rather the self-existing wakeful quality that permeates all levels of our existence and which he both discovered and managed to communicate as something all others could also experience. They are also the three bodies which comprise each of us as beings living in this realm, so they are descriptions of our own fundamental Buddha nature which all living beings possess naturally.

Primordial wakefulness is the main quality of the Ocean and one which pervades all the other kayas, i.e. all and everything. It is beyond birth and death because it dwells forever and only in the present and thus is primordial, beyond time. Put more simply: it’s always there no matter what, just like the ocean is always there no matter what is happening on its surface, moreover the surface is not separate from the ocean even though it has many more particular displays – waves, ripples, currents, foam etc.

The main quality of all waves is that they are the many particularities within the domain of the ocean’s One. We live in a world of limitless particulars each of which in its own particular place. If you look around you can probably see thousands of different particulars. Out of my windows as I type, for example, I can see thousands of different leaves, millions of blades of grass, occasionally dozens of birds feeding on fallen oranges, whilst many more are cackling or singing in the trees all around; there is blue sky, sun shining on some things, others being in shade, a squirrel or two come leaping by, no end of things in the garden like trees, bushes, flowers, walls, tools, a shed, a path, bricks lining the path. If I look inside on the table there are dozens of particulars in various compartments, shelves, drawers. On my hand there are wrinkles, lines, spots, areas of light and shade, different fingers, movements of fingers and so on. It is endless. This is the world of the surface, the world of endless waves and movement and particularities, of Nirmanakaya. Every spot in our world is filled with this infinite array of particulars – the many or what the Dao Te Ching calls ‘the ten thousand things.’

Again Sambhogakaya is the energetic interplay of the fathomless ocean of primordially awake knowing and that from which it is inseparable, namely each and every particular event and phenomena all of which are in some sort of constant dance or play, arising and then dwelling for a while doing whatever dance any particular wave does, and then dissolving back into the oceanic continuum from whence they came and from which they never truly separated but in the meantime got to express some sort of drama, some sort of beauty, some sort of dynamic, some sort of display, some sort of life, some sort of something. (Hopefully the picture at the beginning of this article now makes more sense.)

So that is what is going on each and every minute of each and every day with each and every being in each and every place anywhere and everywhere. And this, if you will, is the traditional Buddhist view of Reality, these are the ‘Three Bodies of Buddha,’ the Three Kayas,or what I think of as the inseparability of One and Many.

Now (perhaps!) you are ready to make a little sense of a traditional explanation such as found here in an online Tibetan Buddhist dictionary:
http://www.tibetanbuddhistencyclopedia.com/en/index.php?title=Three_Kayas

Hopefully now after reading this Article’s everyday language you can penetrate into what is being discussed in typically opaque specialist vocabulary. It’s not that the explanations are wrong or poorly worded but too often any simple experiential meaning gets lost under the huge pile of verbiage.

Photo © Darren Seamark / Stocksy United

Liturgy References:

All beings in this self-dreaming universe present aspects of Body, Mind and Speech.
Flowers in their flowering communicate the lovely enlightened language of Flowering Being
With manifold qualities of form, texture, colour, temperature, scent, beauty, sensitivity.
All forms embody living languages of meaningful qualities – which some call ‘gods’ –
Continuously broadcast and received throughout this dreamlike continuum.

Body Speech and Mind are shorthand terms for the Three Kayas. The text emphasizes the speech aspect in order to highlight how all the forms about to be listed include an intelligence aspect, that the qualities they express are built into the form in the first place, which is why a flower ‘communicates … flowering being…… all such forms together weaving karmic spells of interdependent being, living languages of meaningful qualities.’

Here is the full text from the Long Daily Liturgy:

All beings in this alive and awake self-dreaming universe present aspects of:
Body – some sort of shape or form manifest in location and terrain
Mind – some sort of consciousness, awareness or intention
Speech – some sort of communicative expression of meaningful information singing a
Living symphony of ever forming and reforming clouds and waves of Primordial Intelligence
A marvellous holographic self-mothering Song making itself up as it goes along
Saturated in interconnected living presence pervading all and everything
Manifesting no end of self-organizing life forms, living creatures imagined into sentient being
With all their co-emergent elemental and inanimate phenomena
Comprising luminous intelligence inseparably part of the universal background field continuum
Containing, including and pervading all and everything, micro and macro.

Flowers in their flowering communicate the lovely enlightened language of flowering being
With manifold qualities of form, texture, colour, temperature, scent, beauty, sensitivity;
As with flowers so with all, from microscopic universes to macrocosmic spiralling galaxies
Multifarious microbes permeating soil and all life forms, primordially awake plants
Majestic trees, incredible insects, fabulous fishes, beautiful birds, marvellous
Animals, minerals, metals, crystals, silver, gold, jewels
Rainbows, sky, stars, ocean, wind, clouds, rain, sunlight, moonlight, thunder, lightning
Mountains, valleys, jungles, deserts, farms, steppes, rural, urban, stormy, placid
Earth, water, fire, air, red, green, blue, yellow, purple, indigo
Visibles, touchables, smellables, tastables, audibles, edibles
Perfumes, spices, herbs, meats, fats, oils, vegetables, fruits, sweets, sours, fermented
Wools, cottons, furs, silks, costumes, uniforms, males, females, dressed, naked:
All such forms together weaving karmic spells of interdependent being
Living languages of meaningful qualities – which some call ‘gods’
Continuously broadcast and received throughout this dreamlike experiential continuum
All basically empty, basically luminous, basically workable, basically good.

Hopefully these lines now make more sense in the light of the Three Kayas description and vice versa.


As part of the limitless cornucopia of particularities in the phenomenal world we are born into and help create as we go moment by moment we also have inner feelings, our emotions, reactions and so forth, which in turn have languages of their own which manifest, for example, as different tribal and national cultures and languages. Moreover all creatures express no end of feeling and emotion albeit in different ways in accordance with their various makeups. This is why the Long Form text continues next with:

When we pay close attention and relax into any unfolding inner feeling like
Courage, love, wonder, joy, disgust, fear, anger, sadness, grief, peace

fetid cesspool, putrid sewer, whispered moan of pain or pleasure

chronic fatigue, exhaustion, ache or anguish, a simple touch, taste, sound or smell

– blue jungle butterfly fluttering aslant golden sunbeam

– white daisies of detail in willowing green meadow of awareness
Through the portal of any such particular we plunge into an ocean of experiential infinity

Where one is many, all are one, where we are all each others’ undying and unborn ancestors
All we think, say and do echoing throughout eternity, an ever-present lineage of
Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, teachers, allies, enemies, leaders, followers
Friends, rivals, predator, prey, masters, slaves, warriors, cowards, saints and sinners
So many shapes and colours, large and small, coarse and fine, fangs, teeth, claws and fingernails
All inseparable from innate wisdom, all fellow poet dreamers.

(forgive formatting problems – there are some things very hard to control in the WordPress editorial interface)

Basically, we live in a universe filled with feeling and communication that features the multifarious many on the surface all of which reflect the underlying knowing presence of the ocean beneath of which they are an inseparable part no matter how much materialist scientists and cultural influencers attempt to persuade us otherwise!

The topic of spirituality versus materialism in the light of this Three Kaya world view will be the subject of a forthcoming article….

Haikus: #79-90 Contemplations

the sound of music

is neither inside nor outside

neither existent nor non-existent

¡que milagro!

#79 26/01/2022

delicate blossom petal

falls to the ground

as if in a dream

#80 26/01/2022

crickets singing outside

sounding in my ear…

musical messengers of

nonduality

#81 26/01/2022

cricket song

is it sounding inside or outside?

Who’s asking?

#82 26/01/2022

sipping green tea

each swallow disappearing

into fathomless ocean

#83 27/01/2022

limitless luminosity…

is this unsurpassable complete enlightenment

or just more of the same-old same-old?

#84 27/01/2022

sitting inside in winter

mind settled into mind but:

no frog

plopping into pond!

#85 27/01/2022

materialists may beg to differ

but we all know what we know:

that in the beginning is Word…

living mind-spells weaving

matter into being

#86 27/01/2022

one lone bird warbling

one whole life story

in fragile moment of song

#87 31/01/2022

On viewing a family of water beetles swirling around on a river pond’s surface:

every place is a country

every country a kingdom

whose monarch is primordial wakeful knowing

#88 31/01/2022

true meditation is

resting in the nature of mind

without deliberately meditating

or any such grasping

at anything arising

#89 31/01/2022

raucous squawking ducks and magpies

joyful and mournful

a brand new day and

the passing of an era

#90 2022/02/01

Poem: A song of simplicity

Song of Simplicity

Turning away from complexities
of this and that
of me and mine
of where and what and why and when
turning toward simplicity
like a bird tucking head ‘neath wing to sleep on bough
like cloud slowly passing in blue above
like my dog chasing her toy with the little bell inside
like Bach harpsichord pieces sounding with early morning green tea
like one breath at a time
like plants in the early morning waiting for later sunshine
standing still, present, fresh, simple, awake
like dew on dawn grass
like millions of leaves waiting in quivering stillness for wind
like paint staying faithfully on a wall
like old wrappers scudding across pavement expanse
like you and me gazing into each others’ eyes
and finding the smile of old love ready to crack another joke
like bacon smell in the morning
like steam rising from the coffee cup
like a clean house with all in order
like our dog running and jumping in the woods out of sheer joy of being
like listening to naturally beautiful birdsong

like letting thoughts loose without addictively grasping them
like letting feelings go, all returning to original gracefulness
like following the path because the crunch of gravel is so satisfying
like another simple sip of green tea
like sitting quietly enjoying the primordial nature of mind
like letting go
like letting be
like loving you
like you loving me
like we are all one
and none.

Note: This song of simplicity relates to the ‘Effortless Resting’ section of the Lyme Liturgy:

The imagined situation vanishes like mist over a lake in the morning sun,
Leaving body, speech and mind at one with the birdsong:
Present, fresh, ordinary, naked, awake.

From the Secretary: Re: Lyme Liturgy Series update

The posts having been published here including a Guidelines section, they have all been consolidated into one file and placed for download on the Lyme Liturgy page linked on the menu top right. Later, once a little more editing and formatting has been done the texts will be added in and the whole thing published as a single file.