The Mahayana (Middle Way) Buddhist path orients toward embodiment of wisdom and compassion. The Great Vehicle of these attributes is parsed as a progression toward the fruition of altruistic intent and the transformation of all sentient beings. Here, consensus reality turns into non-conceptual blissful awareness: buddhahood
Wisdom is a reference to the emptiness of inherent nature, the lack of any material existence to be found in any phenomena. To perceive the true nature of phenomena is called pure vision. A Buddha field is a pure realm manifested as a product of pure vision. Such a field would include everything we see, think or know, everything that happens “to” us, everything we “have” or “do.”
From the Vajrayana perspective,…the understanding of buddha fields is a deeper one. The root of the Vajrayana is “pure vision“, or the perception of the perfect purity of all phenomena. To enact this purity of perception, we do not perceive the place where we are now as just an ordinary place; we imagine it to be a celestial buddha field.”
— Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche
In other words, the esoteric celestial Buddha field is here now, in this moment. It encompasses everything in every instant. It is our everyday experience illuminated by the Dzogchen vision. The deliberate creation of detailed visualizations to achieve transformative experience is a cornerstone of Vajrayana practice. Silly rhetorical questions like “where is a buddha field to be found?” or “how would we know?” carry little weight against the benefits of engaging directly in a personal practice of pure vision, creating your own Buddha field, yet also realizing that the true nature of our everyday experience is, in essence, already pure and exists whether we “create” it or not.
The offering of mandala is a related practice dating back to the origins of Buddhism whose rituals, detailed in the Kalachakra Tantra, are an offering to accumulate personal merit and thus ultimately escape cyclic existence and gain entry into the pure vision of a Buddha realm. The outer form of this offering employs a physical representation of the universe, all its worlds and continents. The universe that we know as well as billions of other universes we don’t know are considered pure lands to be offered.
A more internal intent of the mandala-offering practice is to self-purify by offering all possessions, all property, including one’s pleasant and unpleasant experience, one’s body, to the pure realm of the Buddha field with a clear altruistic intent.
By the virtue of offering to you… visualized before me,
This mandala…resplendent with flowers,
– my body, wealth and enjoyments–
Adorned with Mount Meru and the four continents,
As well as the sun and the moon,
Without any sense of loss, I offer this collection.
May all sentient beings enjoy this perfect realm…..
By offering everything we have to the spiritual home of Buddha, we are reminded it is all Maya, an illusory projection that dissolves under the scrutiny of pure vision.
This shift in perception to a recognition that our entire existence is suspended within an omnipresent projection of Buddha-mind, pure and transparent in quality and depth, completely overthrows our limited habitual view. We come into an immediate and personal encounter with its illusory nature, which tells us that we don’t truly “have” anything at all.
Isn’t that the whole point of the mandala offering–to give up everything for the sake of realizing we never had anything in the first place?
This Moebian Realm:
Seeing everything arising as a Buddha realm renders notions of “being” and “doing” as frail representations of reality, relying as they do upon a dualistic view conferring actions and possessions with intrinsic materiality. Being-since it implies a state of non-being, is already an objectification. Doing implies the existence of a doer. The very nature of these references to something that cannot be rationalized or categorized holds us in the sway of illusion. Maya creates the language and language reinforces the illusion that there is any material reality to objects, possessions, thought, including every conception about thought, including the very notion of Maya itself!
And yet, at the same time, we live in a world of consciousness and intent. The Two Truths, Relative and Absolute nature, are said to be completely interdependent, inseparable and timeless, yet even these categorizations are also illusory. The Two Truths, convenient though they may be, are neither Two, nor “True.”
“Things,” material realities, states of consciousness, do not hover between polar states. Phenomena do not alternate between material and non-material nature, true and not-true, like electrical current. They do not conform to any intellectual description. Nor can they be reified as either wave or particle as is light when we are (or are not) looking. Their essence is beyond conception, always empty. Materiality exists as an energetic manifestation of emptiness simultaneously and constantly, timelessly, without beginning or end.
Rendering everything–and it must be everything–to a Buddha realm potentially opens the pure vision of a Bodhisattva, the fruition of the Middle Way, the Moebian view in poetic dance, always becoming its opposite, destroying and reinventing itself continuously in every moment, cause melting into effect and effect into cause.
The one in whom the altruistic intent becomes stabilized no longer becomes lost in the material view of contaminated Maya, resting in a radical openness and supreme unity, yet also finding a bottomless well of compassion for those who do.