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Lions Roar : May 2018
BEGINNER’S MIND When I see statues and pictures of the Buddha, he often has a bump or a spire on the top of his head. What does that represent? Generally, paintings and statues of the Buddha (and other great Buddhist figures) are not meant to represent a historical figure literally, as the statue of a president or general might. They are intended to symbolize the spirit of the Buddha—his realization and attainment as an ideal to be sought after—and often include features similar to the halos and other signs of spiritual power seen in Christian iconography. The protuberance at the top of the Buddha’s head is known as the ushni- sha, literally “turban.” This is one of the traditional thirty-two marks of the physical body of a buddha (some of which, if taken literally, would make him look pretty monstrous). The ushnisha appears as round, conical, pointed, or flamelike, depending on the sculptural tradition. Most commentators see it is a kind of crown, depicting regalness and the supreme power of the Buddha’s enlightenment. When it’s a flame, it is said to represent spiritual energy. As for the historical Buddha, as far as we can determine he had a round, shaven, and quite normal head. DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS ILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER VAJRAYANA BUDDHISM divides the journey to enlightenment into three major stages. These are called yanas, which is usually translated as “vehicles” that carry you along the path to enlightenment. Although each yana lays the spiritual ground for the next, they are not necessarily taught or practiced in sequence. 1. The Yana of Individual Liberation We start by working on ourselves. This yana focuses on foundational teachings such as the four noble truths and the three marks of existence, and the practices of mind- fulness and awareness. The fruition is individual salvation: one is freed from the illusion of a fixed and independent self and the suffering it causes oneself and others. 2. The Bodhisattva Yana of Wisdom and Compassion We have cut through attachment to personal ego but con- tinue to hold onto the phenomenal world. We cut through that clinging with compassion practices and teachings on emptiness. The fruition of this yana is that we become a bodhisattva: we are free of clinging to both self and others and have boundless compassion for all beings. 3. The Tantric Yana of Indestructible Wakefulness This yana takes “the fruition as the path,” because ever- present enlightenment is the starting point as well as the goal. It is also called “the path of skillful means,” because it teaches many esoteric methods to transmute negativity and reveal our true nature as stainless and free. In this yana, there is strong emphasis on the role of guru as the teacher and example of enlightenment. Buddhahood is said to be achievable in one lifetime using these methods. RAYFENWICK LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 32