Wrathful and Peaceful Deities:
Get the breathing and mindfulness down. You are going to use it.
The essential skill is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of the present moment in a curious, open and non-attached manner. It is a position of merely observing without reaction. Without the reaction to aversion (fear) or of attraction (love). It is the ability to remain in an equanimous or undisturbed observational state. It is the detached witnessing of our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and reactions of our experience. Mindfulness provides the opportunity to observe the subtle patterns of development, manifestation and dissolution of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Subsequently, it leads to insight and understanding of these thought, emotional and behavioral patterns. Ultimately, mindfulness provides opportunities to make conscious decisions about our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
A simple 4 stage progression for the development of mindfulness:
First is the ability to sustain a level of focused attention. It is the ability to concentrate on a single thing. Referred to as “one pointedness or single-mindedness.” It is the ability to focus on a single thing is like a concentrated laser beam of attention. Focusing your attention on one thing until it opens up and reveals itself. The natural place to develop this ability is to pay attention to your breath. Whenever you realize that your attention is not on your breath and has wondered off, just gently bring your awareness back to your breath as it moves in and out.
Second is the ability to observe without reacting, responding and becoming attached. The basis is to observe without fear, aversion or recoil. Nor have an attraction (love) reaction of seduction, fascination, being drawn in nor have feelings of joy or bliss. In some meditative schools, the introduction is the instruction to meditate on impermanence, develop non-attachment and/or by meditation on death. Many folks find that this non-reacting or state of detachment is difficult because of their feelings, which form the attachment or connection. However, an easy way to think about this is to suspend your judgment. Nothing is inherently good or bad, nor positive negative. Instead of making a judgment of “good or bad, positive or negative, light or dark”; just make the statement “well isn’t this interesting!” It’s both good and bad, positive and negative or light and dark. It is just both sides of the same coin. However, the focus is on merely stating, “isn’t this interesting.” When a person makes a judgement, then there is no further observation and analysis. The person has merely put that thing in a box and has declared it to be “this or that” which on a more subtle level is attachment. However, in the observation of “isn’t this interesting” mindset it allows for the next stage of insight. Again, if you notice you are wandering and becoming involved or having a fear or love reaction; then merely gently re-focus on your breathing and re-establish your equanimous observational mindfulness posture.
The third stage is insight. With the ability to focus and observe without responding or making a judgment. A person can “witness” insight. Being in an equanimous posture to “witness” insights will reveal the inner workings and salient aspects of whatever is focused up on. Insight recognizes or noticing patterns of thoughts, feelings or behaviors.
For example, often folks come in depressed over some situation in life; like a breakup of a relationship, loss of a job, death of a friend and such. Often, there is an underlying concept of “fairness.” They taught us to play by the rules, work hard and be kind. The expectation is that we are treated with fairness (or karma). We do our best though, something seemingly unfair occurs. For example, we get passed over for a job promotion. Often the response is anger and being upset at the other person or the unfair situation. The support underlying the idea of fairness is our expectation that we receive in kind rewards for our effort. Why do we expect somebody or some situation to be fair? In actually we have no control. We might have some control over our response to the situation.
First take some deep breaths, then become curious and make the statement, well isn’t this interesting! I wonder why I’m angry and upset about being treated unfairly? What is fairness? Where did I get the concept of fairness? Why is fairness so important to me? Why do I feel disrespected? What it revealed is that our “expectation” of fairness was unmet. Perhaps being raised with a sense of fairness and it is one of our core values. However, the deeper insight is ”why should I let this situation define who I am, determine how I feel, make me angry or subsequently invalidate my sense of well-being and who I am.” Realize that the world is not fair and there are no guarantees of fairness in life. However, we have an insight into our experience of fairness in the world. We realize the behavior or actions of others do not define us. We can choose to treat others well despite being treated unfairly or poorly. Therefore, we attempt to treat others well despite the situation, because this is what we have determined (chose) our self to be.
In the fourth stage, we understand and recognize the dynamics, patterns and presentations of whatever is brought to our mindful awareness. There is now the opportunity to influence or change our experience. We can focus, observe and have insight in to the dynamics; and therefore, we can choose what, when and how. Thus, being mindful, we can choose a different outcome, path and experience.
Wrathful and Peaceful Deities:
I discovered the wrathful deities back in my early 20s from my dive into Tibetan Buddhism. The wrathful deities are protectors and they also remove obstacles on the path. They are protectors of the secrets. And they protect the aspirants by requiring them to develop themselves before the secrets are revealed and claimed. The wrathful deities are the gatekeepers.
From a psychological perspective, the wrathful deities provide a psychologically sound, exquisite and skillful means of doing shadow work. The aspirant must face their shadow or dark side. Before deciding to face and deal with the shadow, the aspirant via fear, recoil, aversion and repression avoids their shadow. A person can only proceed so far on their path and eventually must face their dark side. These shadows or dark side are their wrathful deities. These wrathful deities are simply their fear, demons and anxieties and must be faced. If one does not face their dark shadows, then one will not proceed further on the path and will instead be chased all over hell. And thus, the wrathful deities have fulfilled the purpose as a protector of their secrets and the protection those aspirants who are unprepared.
One can only proceed past this point by facing the wrathful deities. The mythic allegory is crossing the river, bridge, desert, through the valley, etc. One does not avoid or go around, but through these horrific deities. It is through this journey one comes to understand that these horrific ones are really an ally (peaceful deity) that removes obstacles on the path in an efficient, skillful manner. But it requires a heroic amount of courage, faith and commitment. Anything less and the aspirant will fail, become lost or perish. Therefore, they will not gain access to the deities’ secrets nor help in removing the obstacles. If we cannot face, acknowledge and surrender to these wrathful deities, they will not reveal themselves other than being wrathful and chase us all over hell.
The wrathful deities are actually peaceful deities that are showing themselves in the wrathful form. Facing the wrathful deity and demanding a gift of revelation, is in a psychological sense, one is absorbing or making the deity an ally. The student faces the wrathful deity and claims the deity for themselves. And in this process, the wrathful deity reveals itself as a peaceful deity and reveals the gift of insight and removing obstacles in the path towards enlightenment. A comical way to view this is the wrathful deity chases us all over hell because they are trying to catch up to give us their gift. But we are too afraid and run around all over hell until we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. In exhaustion, we finally give up and turn and face the horrific deity. Surely, we are going to be slaughtered, eaten or slayed. Facing this wrathful one, we surrender; telling ourselves, “I don’t know what is going to happen but I can no longer do this insanity of running all over hell.” So what is surrendered is your ego, The wrathful deity has slayed your little anxious, fearful ego self. At this moment, the wrathful appearance, disappears. And the deity reveals their true nature of being a peaceful deity and bestows their gift of knowledge, insight and understanding.
A simple way to look at this is the barking dog example. You’re walking along in your neighborhood, and here comes a ferocious beast of a dog running toward you. If you take off running, what is the dog going to do? Of course, the dog is going to chase you all over hell. You are terrified and running for your life. The following day, you’re walking along the same path and here comes the ferocious dog. Yesterday, it chased you all over hell. But today you turn and face the dog and despite what appears like you are going to be eaten. The dog then reveals itself as a friendly dog that just wanted to say hi and play with you like yesterday’s fun of chasing you. On the third day, you are walking along and here comes this dog bounding toward you with ferocity you turn to the dog and say good morning dog how are you today let’s go play. So, this dog has become your ally and gives the gift of companionship, of enjoyment and play.
In psychology, when a person can face their greatest fears, their most ferocious nightmares it gives them insight. Ultimately, these fears, demons and anxieties become a source of power, resource, skills and understanding on one’s path. It provides an underlying of integrity, compassion and gracefulness when you encounter other souls who are facing these wrathful appearances because you have been there.
Meditation provides an opportunity to become acquainted with your shadows and your Self. Facing your fears is also a meditation or concentrated study that takes breath work and mindful awareness. Decades ago, jumping into a flotation tank, it threw me into myself. In the tank, there is nothing there but you; your experiences, thoughts, feelings. Whatever is in the tank, by logic, is you and whatever you create. There is no deniability that it is you facing yourself. The Buddhist also use the mirror metaphor, i.e., all experience is merely a reflection of yourself. But who is watching yourself looking into the mirror?
Historically, the Buddhist tantric path of the wrathful deities is an advanced practice with the stern warnings of pitfalls and is only undertaken by a student that has progressed sufficiently and under the guidance of a qualified teacher. I tend to agree, this is not for the faint of heart or for folks that have no interest or experience of facing themselves. It is the good, the bad and the ugly. However, the safeguard or the protector quality of these wrathful deities is that most people will not proceed because of the wrathful deities. Those who are not ready to face their fears, demons and anxieties; will recoil, run away and avoid at all cost facing the wrathful deities. Those who dare journey through the valley of the shadow of death will confront these wrathful ones. If one recognizes this as a great opportunity and by humble subjugation of these wrathful ones, will receive wondrous gifts beyond imagination.
Remember, the wrathful deities are actually peaceful deities but appears in the horrific form. Similarly, fear is love frustrated or stuck and unable to move. Love is the positive force that pulls/attracts/inspires us to chase our loves, passions and joys. While fear is the negative force that repels or chases us. The push/pull, negative/positive, fear/love creates movement. The darkness can motivate (chase) us toward the light. We can look at fear as love that is not flowing. With a bit of faith, the trials and tribulations are opportunities for both receiving and giving compassion, gracefulness and shining our love light.
The current global situation is quite interesting. It seems there is a lot of wrathful and dark crap in the world. I wonder if this is an opportunity to face these great wrathful ones and see through their horrific the appearance? I wonder about the adage, “that when the student is ready, the teacher appears?” I wonder if the appearance of these wrathful deities are the demanding teachers because we, the students are ready? Must we repress, recoil and run away from these challenges? I do not know what’s going to happen. But I do know that we sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the stuff that’s going on. So, facing the wrathful deities, i.e., our fears, demons and anxieties; we claim their secrets and implore them to remove the obstacles. What priceless gifts await us; integrity, compassion and gracefulness? Remember to Breathe, Accept and Be (see link below). We know how to do this and we have done this before. I wonder if we are here to ascend with Mother Earth to a new existence of peace, love and light.
End Note; just a few thoughts:
Buddhist schools are quite adept at the workings of the mind. Stripping the religious accouterments from Buddhist thought, it is one of the great Eastern schools of psychology. It views experience from logic and reason toward the study of consciousness.
Versus Christianity is an approach to experience from the heart. Again, Christianity striped of its orthodox accouterments, is a school of the heart. The Christian experience is about love, faith, hope, forgiveness, grace etc. which is heartfelt instead of the psychological logic of Buddhism.
And then you have the Aboriginal/indigenous traditions. These traditions are more about intuition and connection with the earth. Instead of documents and religious treaties; there are the stories told by elders, the shaman and crones. They are the healers who traverse unseen worlds and the medium between the tribe and its individual members and nature/earth/Gaia. Their knowledge is of plants, animals, the elements, the movement of the sun, the cycles of the moon and stars in the night sky.
Peace love and light!