Images of the Garbhakosa Dhatu Mandala 观胎藏界曼荼罗

Chamber 1 第一堂

The Full Garbhakosa Dhatu Mandala

Considered by most to be the pinnacle of Mahayana Buddhism and the root of Vajrayana Buddhism, this Mandala (the Wheel of Truth) is the 3D projection of the Teachings of the 大日经 Mahavairocana Sutra. The Sutra, collected in the mid 6th Century AD in Nalanda Monastery, is the first complete system of esoteric buddhism that combines previously mixed, unrefined esoteric traditions with the prominent Mahayana Teachings of the time. Vajrayana masters would later call it the "Carya Tantra" & "Yoga Tantra" 行部,瑜伽部昙特罗 systems.

The Sanskrit Seed Syllables (Bija) of all the Deities in the Mandala

The core teaching of the Mahavairocana Sutra is that Enlightenment is simply 如实知自心 "to know one's mind as it truly is". The 3-fold way to achieve this, it says, is to have a mind bent towards enlightenment (the Bodhicitta), to be motivated solely by Compassion, and to be Expedient in practice to the limit - 菩提心为因,大悲为根本,方便为究竟.

A Plan of the 12 Courts & Direction Alignments of the Mandala in Chinese

The Expedient Practice here refers to the infinite possibilities for Enlightenment hidden in the phenomenal world, depicted as the world of the Garbhakosa. Garbhakosa means 胎藏 'Womb Treasury', & Dhatu means 'World'. The Garbhakosa Dhatu Mandala is an all-encompassing womb carrying a foetus of the absolute truth within, represented as Maha Vairocana, the majestic Buddha in the middle of the Mandala.

The Vairocana Abhisekha Jvala Bija Mandala

He is surrounded by many other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas & Guardian Deities. These are not Vairocana's subordinates, but each & every one of these deities represents a different aspect & virtue of He who has realized the absolute truth. Each is a path unto its own. In the outermost court of the Mandala are all the Indian Brahmanic gods, who serve as worldly protectors, in addition to representing all the forces of the Universe. Some of them also represent existing tantric traditions prominent at that time, modified & improved with Buddhist principles. So in the Garbhakosa, which reflects the relativity of the absolute, nothing is rejected in the quest "to know one's mind as it truly is".

The Sarvavid Vairocana Mandala in Alchi, Kashmir

Because nothing is rejected, including heretical teachings, one must be of superior intrinsic wisdom to maintain orthodoxy in one's practice, with the help of the Acarya (Tantric Master). Adopting the 3-fold perfection of 三密加持 Body, Speech & Thought (Tri-guhya), all miracles, visions & attainments must be regarded as empty, however real or overwhelming they seem. Neither accepting nor rejecting them, only when one's mind grasps the mean can one actually reach the true center of the Garbhakosa Dhatu Mandala.

The Vairocana Abhisambodhi Mandala of the Tibetan Sakya Order

Through this realization, the fundamental emptiness of all deities corresponds with our own unreality. Thus we are one with them as they are one with us, sharing in their vows & respective super-knowledges. This is called 入我我入 'Samaya'. Realizing Enlightenment, the Acarya is now no longer different from Vairocana. This is the ultimate goal of both Carya & Yoga Tantras.





More to come…

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