THE PRINCIPLE OF POLARITY IN BUDDHISM & TANTRA

In INSIGHTS by Max CorradiLeave a Comment

In Mahayana Buddhism one of the key texts of the Buddhist Canon is called Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra, which literally means The Heart of the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom, commonly known as the Heart Sutra. Here we find one of the most important statements in regard to reality, a paradox in which the principle of polarity or opposites is transcended in the experience of perfection of wisdom, the nondual reality of pure being. From the Heart Sutra, translated by Edward Conze:

Avalokitesvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all buddhas.

Here, Shariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

The Buddhist understanding of emptiness is different from the physical meaning of being empty of something that fills it in, and it is definitely not nonexistence in the nihilistic sense of nothingness. We could substitute the term emptiness with oneness, openness or pure potentiality and the term form with diversity, manifestation, display, play of effulgence or adornment.

Emptiness, the essential potentiality, can and does manifest as forms, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousnesses and these are and remain pure and without characteristics just like magical illusions, not separate from their essential immaculate source. The two poles of emptiness and form don’t exclude each other, on the contrary, they are actually just two modes of being of the same thing, varying in degree. Reality is an expanse of infinite potentiality which expresses itself in various illusory or empty and pure magical forms which are nondefinable and nonseparate from one another. Ultimately, individual beings are an infinite and ceaselessly occurring display within the indivisible empty and pure potentiality of being, beyond one or many.

In tantric Buddhism, within the highest form of tantra, we find the principle of polarity expressed in the transformation of the five types of impure emotions. Anger, greed and attachment, dullness, envy and pride, which bind sentient beings to endless rebirth in samsara, are transformed into the five aspects of pure wisdom characteristic of awakened awareness. This is achieved by employing various enlightened deities as symbols of the pure and nondual manifestation of the energy of reality itself which, when not recognized and therefore experienced dualistically within the frame of subject and object, acts as a fuel for the five types of emotions.

Since the energy of the ground of pure being behind both the impure emotion and pure wisdom comes from the same source, which is the potentiality of the primordial ground, it is possible to transform one into another, first and finally transcend both poles and integrate oneself into this pure potentiality of the primordial ground itself, experiencing oneself as the center of one’s dimension and, at the same time, as the totality of all phenomena, the universe in terms of microcosm and macrocosm, without any referential dichotomy of self and other.

Ultimately, samsara, as the dimmed awareness of unenlightened experience of a sentient being, and nirvana, as awakened awareness of pure being, are like the two inseparable poles of the same potentiality of the ground of pure being.

About the Author

Max Corradi

I’m a musician, an author of Self Help and complementary medicine books and a practitioner of alternative and complementary medicine. I have been practicing Tibetan Buddhism and Dzogchen for 20 years under the guidance of a few Tibetan Teachers. I also like studying the ancient science of alchemy and spagyric medicine. I think in a nutshell my life is about learning the true and essential meaning of love.

Photo by Wikipedia.

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