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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
FORUM | UNSEEN REALIZED BEINGS 61 qualities come into form, so to speak, it has to do with our relationship. There is a relational process going on here. Buddha activity is manifesting a certain quality—for example, the quality of uni- versal compassion. When I begin to come into a relationship with that, I may give it a relative appearance, a form, like the deity. It then becomes more localized in terms of my awareness, but I’m not sure I would necessarily say they have locations or that these beings have pure realms where one could visit them. Personally, I’m not quite sure how I relate to that. LAMA TSULTRIM ALLIONE: I had that question for years: do they have onto- logical existence apart from my beliefs? For long time I thought they didn’t, that they were only archetypes that embodied certain qualities, which then brought forth those qualities in my consciousness through meditating on them. With Tara, if I saw her as the embodiment of all the qualities of compassionate activity, then by visualizing myself as her, I would bring forth those same qualities in me. But I’ve had experiences in my life that have made me question that. My experi- ences with yidams, or dieties, have led me to believe that they do have an inde- pendent existence, as much as anything else does from a Buddhist point of view. I didn’t used to believe in pure lands either, but then in practice, I ’ve had the experi- ence of going to those places. I had a near-death experience in Tibet in which I went into a dakini-dimension pure land. So I think my overarching answer is that the level of awareness these beings are at is very different from ours, unless we’re really in a deep state of practice. We can try to fit them into our concep- tion of place, but I don’t think it quite works that way. ACHARYA GAYLON FERGUSON: The words “experience” and “practice” are prominent here. Practitioners have had experiences, realized beings have had experiences, and the question of location within space and time takes us down a road that goes more toward philosophy and ontology and away from practice and experience. We might ask: where is compassion located? Or where is joy located? In this society and culture, we say those are psychological states, and I do think psychology is probably the most useful secular bridge for what we’re talk- ing about here. The word “archetype” is often used, but when we say these beings are actually archetypal aspects of mind or aspects of the psyche, we don’t mean aspects of the ordinary dualistic mind or the conventional ego psyche. We mean something much larger and vaster: our awakened mind, the awakened being that