As a novice Buddhist_ spending three years in the Tibetan temple

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					                          Samsara and the Illusions of the Buddha Fields
                            By J.D. Kruger – B.A., M.A., B.Ed. TESL

As a novice Buddhist, spending three years in the Tibetan temple, practising a spiritual

exercise of mantras in my community, I have learned the power of illusions and the

torpid places that they take us to. I have followed many spiritual paths in my lifetime,

but I find that Tibetan Buddhism with its heart in compassion and communion,

recognises the strength in individuation while retaining a sense of immediacy and

immanence in enlightened prayer. To avoid wandering thoughts, we sometimes fixate on

pictures in the mind’s eye but they can be distracting although illuminating in a general

way. They may be easily conjured but sometimes somewhat more difficult to dispel.

They build up karma and attachments, and sometimes lead to a problematic disposition.

We are enveloped within light, and the chakras provide us with warmth, healing and

resistance to the evocation of other manifestations of spiritual energy. Conjuring images

in the temple, can be seen as gifts to other practitioners and monks, because they unbind

some of the spiritual weight that we feel on a daily basis. But as I recently witnessed in a

unique departure ceremony, they lead to the hellish realms, chaos and debasement. Even

a complete attitude of non-attachment can be encumbered by the relinquishing of images,

ghosts and demons that others play in a shadow show within the walls of the temple.

Certainly, however, they justify a spiritual existence that displays a need for the

transference of spiritual energy. I was caught up in this circle of images at first, seeing

flowers, fruit, and the like, but I know now that these were the imbalance that took a

heavy toll on the Buddhist enlightenment. Once I saw the swastika that I was given, I

learned that playing with the imagination is not a feat lightly travailed. And then, I too

learned that the task of containment and reticence was a true Buddhist’s calling and
dharma. Tied in with Christianity, this double cross is a painstaking weight, yet both

religions are humble in their compassion. Transfixed with imagism, the war on the

imagination wages on, and we cannot pretend to ignore the vicissitudes of that struggle.

So, we must keep the imagination alive, and on paper, or other media of communication,

to keep the spiritual energy moving. Otherwise, we exist in Babylon, and the chaos of

tongues wages high. This is our daily battle against samsara, the illusions of the Buddha


          In the Na Mo Ti Jang Wang Bu Sa ceremony, the illusions of the Buddha fields

are seen to be an encumbrance that leads to the hellish realms. Visions and illuminations

that once seemed all the merit in the attainment of enlightenment are discovered to be

fraudulent and corruptive; emancipation is achieved only when the illusions are

transcended. We see that the illusion is an offering, but in reality, when we deem that the

offering is only to another, it indeed attaches itself to a whole community, or

communities. This karmic weight, the ineffable, is the master of the servant. As Leonard

Cohen says, poetically, you must forget your useless offering. Although these

illuminations are cancelled out by those masters who have higher power and can contain

the imagistic spell, it is an encumbrance and should be transcended. However, it is easy

to see, that those who are slaves to the imagination, those whose thoughts are abundant

and plentiful, may increase suffering if they cannot rid themselves of these transgressive

thoughts. And so, we have communion, black, white, red, whatever colours or shapes

they may seem, and they indicate a longing for the Pure Land Buddha, where everything

in illusion may be manifest. Thus, the illusions of the Buddha fields, Samsara, leads to

the hellish realms, and in the end we who are deceived by their splendour are stolen by
their luxury, and only the true Buddha can contain these wishes of the weaker

congregation. With infinite compassion, we embark on ascertaining the phenomenology

of these desires, that lighten the weight of human existence. At one time, we were

innocent, and we were free in the Lotus Land; now, with the knowledge of the hellish

realms we can perceive the depths that we sink to, when we concede to throwing images

in the lap of the Buddha. At this point, I will not go into the details of the suffering that

is perceived at the end of the day, when the Buddhist descends to the hellish realms. Yet,

those who know the text, know the forms of physical suffering that one must go through

to burn off the karma that is accumulated through the active imagination of the world. I

can only concede that weltschmerz, or world suffering, is enough to know that some of us

live within these hellish realms on earth. To draw this to a close, I would say that

ultimately, samsara is not evil; we all have visions, and these visions lead us to a greater

and greater sense of order, peace and harmony. I would like to finalise this discourse by

saying that William Blake knew only too well, that this imagination was a double edged

sword, by leading us through his discourse in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

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