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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
buddhadharma| 39 |fall 2007 erners, they are symbols first and living presences a distant second, if at all. We live in reason-based modern societies, not the myth-based traditional cultures where these practices were originally developed. Some Westerners try to regard yidams as a living presence, but relatively few people are able to shed the cultural condition- ing of a reason-based society to the point that they can live in a mythic world in a healthy way. Instead of first visualizing the form, then incorporating the symbolism, and finally identifying with the deity, you may find it more effective to focus on the feeling or sense of being the deity and let the other aspects follow. While awake compassion is traditionally depicted as a white being with four arms (representing the four immeasurables of loving-kind- ness, compassion, joy, and equanimity), in deity practice one has chosen to com- mit to being awake compassion, not sim- ply to having a certain form. The deity, after all, is not the form. The deity is the actual expression of compassion and emptiness in life. Visualization of a symbolic form and precise performance of rituals are not the only way to connect deeply with awake compassion or other expressions of awake mind. By connecting first with the sense and feeling of being awake compassion or awake pride, we stop shifting from one personality shard to another. We stabilize personality and work from the inside out, letting the awake expression permeate our lives and everything we do. In this approach, the formal sadhana or method of practice is the training – the equivalent of hitting tennis balls against a wall or playing scales and studies on a piano or guitar. The actual practice is living our lives as the union of form and emptiness, feeling and emptiness, and awareness and emptiness that each deity expresses. The compassion at the heart of Bud- dhist practice is not just the compassion that arises from reflection on the suffer- ings of others, nor the more natural com- passion that arises when we see someone struggling with difficulties we know through our own experience; for these are, in the end, emotions. It is the unrestricted expression of direct awareness itself, an expression that arises because emptiness frees awareness from the restrictions of self, thought, and projection, frees it to respond to the imbalances that generate struggles and suffering in this world we experience, and frees it to respond in any appropriate way. Instead of first visualizing the form, then incorporating the symbolism, and finally identifying with the deity, you may find it more effective to focus on the feeling or sense of being the deity and let the other aspects follow. (#294)redtara(detail),collectionofrubinmuseumofartwww.rmanyc.org