Listen without distraction. On the fourth day, a red light, the purified element of fire, will shine, and at the same time Blessed Amitabha will appear before you from the red western Realm, The Blissful. His body is red in color, he holds a lotus in his hand and sits on a peacock throne, embracing his consort Pandaravasini. He is accompanied by the two male bodhisattvas Avolokitesvara and Manjusri and the two female bodhisattvas Gita and Aloka, so that six buddha forms appear out of the space of rainbow light.
The red light of the skandha of perception in its basic purity, the wisdom of discrimination, brilliant red, adorned with discs of light, luminous and clear, sharp and bright, will come from the heart of Amitabha and his consort and pierce your heart so that your eyes cannot bear to look at it. Do not be afraid of it. At the same time, together with the wisdom light, the soft yellow light of the hungry ghosts will also shine. Do not take pleasure in it; give up desire and yearning.
At that time, under the influence of intense desire, you will be terrified and escape from the sharp, bright red light, but you will feel an emotion of pleasure and attraction towards the soft yellow light of the hungry ghosts. At that moment, do not fear the red light, sharp and brilliant, luminous and clear, but recognize it as wisdom. Let your mind rest in it, in a state of non-action. Be drawn to it with faith and longing. If you recognize it as your own natural radiance, even though you do not feel devotion and do not say the inspiration-prayer, all the forms and lights and rays will merge inseparably with you, and you will attain enlightenment. If you cannot recognize it in this way, supplicate it with devotion, thinking, "It is the light-ray of Blessed Amitabha's compassion, I take refuge in it." It is the light-ray hook of Blessed Amitabha's compassion. Feel devotion and do not escape. Even if you escape it will stay with you inseparably.
Do not be afraid, do not be attracted to the soft yellow light of the hungry ghosts. That is the light-path of unconscious tendencies accumulated by your intense desire. If you are attracted to it you will fall into the realm of hungry ghosts, and experience unbearable misery from hunger and thirst. It is an obstacle blocking the path of liberation, so do not be attracted to it, but give up your unconscious tendencies. Do not yearn for it. Feel longing for the luminous, brilliant red light, and say this inspiration- prayer with intense one-pointed concentration on Blessed Amitabha and his consort:
When through intense desire I wander in samsara,
on the luminous light-path of discriminating wisdom,
may Blessed Amitabha go before me,
his consort Pandaravasini behind me;
help me to cross the bardo's dangerous pathway
and bring me to the perfect buddha state. (pp. 46-47)
|wisdom||discrimination - concept|
|poison||desire - passion|
|temptation||soft yellow light of the hungry ghosts|
Above, in the west, comes Amitabha, whose family is padma, the lotus. He symbolises passion and desire, grasping hungrily at everything. The wisdom which corresponds to this poison is discrimination, which provides the coolness and detachment for passion to be transformed into compassion. (p. xix)
On the fourth day there is the purified element of fire, represented by Amitabha, the padma family. Amitabha means boundless light, and the basic quality of padma is magnetising, seductive, invitingly warm, open and compassionate. The light is boundless because it just shines naturally, it does not ask for any reward. It has the nature of fire, not in the sense of aggression, but of consuming any substance without rejecting or accepting.
He is holding a lotus in his hand, which means the same thing: the lotus opens when the sun or the moon shines on it, it opens towards the light, so any situation coming from outside is accepted. It also has the quality of complete purity; such compassion could grow in mud or dirt but the flower is completely perfect and clean. Sitting on a peacock seat is again openness and accceptance; in mythology the peacock is supposed to be fed on poison, and its beautiful colours are formed from eating poison. It is openness which extends so far that it can deal with any kind of negative situation, in fact compassion is exhilarated by negative situations.
His consort Pandaravasini, the White-clad One, is associated with the symbolism of an Indian legend of certain clothes woven from stone, which could only be cleaned by fire. She represents essence of fire, consuming everything, and also the result of consuming process, purification, complete compassion.
Then there is the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the essence of compassion, he who sees in all directions, which is the ultimate intelligence of compassion. Whenever compassion is needed it happens naturally, it has a sharp, automatic quality; it is not idiot or blind compassion, but intelligent compassion which always fulfills its function. Manjusri too represents the mechanical aspect of compassion, but here it is an intellectual rather than a purely impulsive quality. He is also the creator of sound, the communication of compassion; he represents the sound of emptiness which is the source of all words.
Then there is Gita, the female bodhisattva of song, who sings to the music of Manjusri; and along with her is Aloka, who holds a lamp or torch. The whole process of compassion has rhythm and light, it has the depth of intelligence and the sharpness of efficiency, and it has the purifying nature of the white-clad buddha as well as the infinite, all-pervading quality of Amitabha.
That is the complete padma family, which transcends the skandha of perception and shines with the red light of discriminating awareness wisdom. Compassion is very detailed and precise, so it is necessary to have discriminating awareness wisdom, which does not mean discriminating in terms of acceptance and rejection, but simply seeing things as they are.
In this book it is associated with the realm of the hungry ghosts; there is some conflict here, because passion is usually connected with the human realm. All these padma qualities, sharpness and precision and depth and majesty, have been found too overwhelming, and somehow one would like to play a game of deaf and dumb; one would like to sneak away from that complete picture into the sidetracks of ordinary passions. (pp. 19-21)