Doing visualizations

Doing visualizations

Postby summertime » Wed Jun 04, 2014 4:54 am

I'm having some trouble with the concept of (tantric) visualizations and would like to get some input from other folks with more experience and wisdom than I.

(I should first point out that I have been meditating for about two years, going to Buddhist classes and services at Sakya Monastery in Seattle for about a year, and am planning to take refuge officially next month. I don't yet have a teacher.)

I'm trying to understand
a) how abstract concepts like prajnaparamita, for example, become human-like figures with four arms and yellow skin?
b) how imagining a specific figure in detail helps us on the path?

I'd also like to share some of my attempts at answering my own questions. Please let me know if I'm on the right track or if there's something I'm missing:

1. Thinking about abstract concepts like compassion or wisdom or prajnaparamita are difficult for most people, so having a human shape to anchor one's meditation can be helpful.

2. It's a form of mind training to learn to keep multiple details in mind at once, such as what each of four different arms are holding, the color of the diety's skin, the shape of his/her seed syllable, etc. One can develop one's powers of concentration by doing this sort of exercise.

3. There's perhaps a sort of morphic resonance with meditation on the same thangka as others. (Morphic resonance is a Rupert Sheldrake concept, where by for example, learning a task comes easier to people if they are supported by the resonance of all the accomplished people in the past who have done the same thing in the same way).

4. There is also what I could call "associative sense conditioning" whereby you learn to associate specific shapes, colors, letters and so forth with specific feelings. Just like if every time you visited your loving, compassionate grandma, she was wearing yellow and had red roses on her table, then years later whenever you see yellow clothing and red roses, you sense the love and compassion that she expressed and that which you felt for her. Likewise, associating a specific diety's characteristics with a certain color or seed syllable can help you more easily generate certain feelings/understandings the next time you are exposed to those colors/shapes/etc.

Thanks!
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby ngodrup » Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:39 am

How does emptiness become a human-like form that you call "summertime?"
The process is similar. The main difference is believing that the intangible form is Buddha.
You practice being that instead of the tangible from you already call 'me.'
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby heart » Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:41 am

Hi summertime,

First I don't think prajnaparamita is an abstract concept, its something that it is quite possible to experience yourself. Secondly, in the development stage practices everything is deities, like the 5 skandhas and the 5 elements and so on. The reason for this is manifold but the main reason is to let go of the feeling that everything in this world is solid and real because that is not the true nature of things.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby Anders » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:17 am

ngodrup wrote:How does emptiness become a human-like form that you call "summertime?"


That doesn't ring quite right to me.

It should rather be 'how emptiness is the human-like form and vice versa.

The notion that emptiness becomes form and form then returns to emptiness is not how I understand it to be.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:32 am

summertime wrote: I should first point out that I have been meditating for about two years, going to Buddhist classes and services at Sakya Monastery in Seattle for about a year, and am planning to take refuge officially next month. I don't yet have a teacher.


Hi Summertime, and welcome to the Forum. (That name happens to be the name of one of my favourite Gershwin tunes :smile: ).

I can see you are a very serious, thoughtful and diligent student, and it's really good that you are attending classes at Sakya Monastery, because I'm sure that is the kind of place where questions such as these can be addressed.

:namaste:
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby ngodrup » Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:11 pm

Anders, that too.
Just depends on whether you look
from relative or ultimate perspective.
Some tantricas view time is a factor,
others don't.
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby summertime » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:18 pm

heart wrote:
First I don't think prajnaparamita is an abstract concept, its something that it is quite possible to experience yourself.

/magnus


I think it might make more sense if I word it this way: it seems that prajnaparamita is a an ultimate reality concept, so why do we give it a specific form, color and shape, as if we are trying to bring it into the relative world? It seems to me that in visualization we are applying a color and shape overlay onto something that can be experienced without that.
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Re: Doing visualizations

Postby heart » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:41 pm

summertime wrote:
heart wrote:
First I don't think prajnaparamita is an abstract concept, its something that it is quite possible to experience yourself.

/magnus


I think it might make more sense if I word it this way: it seems that prajnaparamita is a an ultimate reality concept, so why do we give it a specific form, color and shape, as if we are trying to bring it into the relative world? It seems to me that in visualization we are applying a color and shape overlay onto something that can be experienced without that.


In Mahayana we make a big difference between the relative and the ultimate reality, but not in Vajrayana. Visualizations in Vajrayana are an amazing method to understand how your mind actually works and how to go beyond it. But if you're not interested in this path, there are plenty of other paths that don't involve visualizations.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
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