Dazzling treasures of the heart
Karunachitta introduces us to Ratnasambhava, the Buddha of abundance, and issues a challenge: Dare we discover the extent of our inner riches?
When I was a child I kept going back to certain fairy stories. There was King Midas’s quest for riches. He was so delighted at the beauty of trees and flowers when his touch transformed them into gold but horrified when those he loved became solid gold statues.
Then there was Aladdin with the lamp that could grant all wishes. I used to wonder what I would wish for, especially when in some stories people were granted three wishes but could only think of stupid things that changed nothing.
I had a glimpse of understanding that you needed to have a certain wisdom and selflessness for a wish to have a positive effect.
As I write this the January sales are on. Outside my window people are flocking to buy items at half price, or two for the price of one. This consumerism is contagious. I find myself thinking: “If only I had… if only I won £10,000 … if only things were different.”
What makes one feel poor is alienation from humanity. Ratnasambhava transforms the pride that separates us from one another
The quest for riches has now come to mean something different to me. Many years after I first mused on those fairy stories, I was sitting in meditation when I was suddenly dazzled by a shining yellow Buddha figure standing with a horse. One arm was placed lovingly around the horse’s neck, the other held out the jeweled bridle to me. He was waiting patiently for me and I could see that I was expected to mount the horse and ride off with him. But I was afraid. Blinded by the light, I could not see who it was. Yet such boldness suddenly came over me that when he asked: “Are you coming with me?” I found myself replying, “Yes!”
That night my mind was so full of yellow light that I couldn’t sleep. I had the feeling I’d said yes to something far beyond what I was even remotely capable of imagining. Who was he? After discussing my experience with a friend, I came to recognize this figure as the archetypal Buddha Ratnasambhava from the traditional Buddhist “Mandala of the Five Jinas.” Each Jina or Buddha becomes a gateway to Enlightenment. Ratnasambhava is the southern gateway. He comes from the Glorious Southern Realm, where:
Currents of pure fragrance fill the great rivers
Beautiful diamonds form their banks.
Rings of jewelled dust are spread on the ground;
The various ornaments are all rare and fine.
Jewel stairways arrayed in rows,
Balustrades surrounding, all extremely fine,
Flower decorations with stores of pearls
And various garlands draped all around.
(The Flower Ornament Sutra)
Ratnasambhava’s body is yellow in color — sunflower yellow, dandelion yellow, canary yellow, lemon yellow, luscious cadmium yellow hue, the color of sunlight. Wearing sparkling jewelled robes with a seven-stranded jeweled necklace, and illuminated by sunlight, he is beautiful to behold. He sits on a golden-yellow lotus throne upheld by four energetic horses with flowing manes and tails.
He symbolizes richness and generosity. In his left palm he holds a wish-fulfilling jewel, and his right hand is outstretched in the gesture of supreme generosity. His name means Jewel-Born One. The color yellow represents the earth element and the earth brings forth the wealth and richness of harvest crops, forests and flowers, as well as those “harvests” beneath the earth of gold, silver, rubies, emeralds and crystals. Shantideva evokes this in The Bodhicaryavatara: “As many flowers and fruits and species of healing as exist in the world, and as many jewels exist, and waters clear and refreshing.”
Ratnasambhava is associated with midday, when the sun is at its brightest. Midday has the brightest light and the deepest shadows.
As a practitioner of yoga, being in touch with the earth means being centered in my body, and fully experiencing physical sensations. This encourages me to relax, appreciate and enjoy my body, and to be wholly aware of body, feelings and thoughts. I come to know myself more deeply and this inspires confidence and fearlessness. It also means becoming more aware of my physical environment — especially by spending time in nature. This kind of appreciation brings a joyful, playful element to life, and a feeling of potency.
The four golden horses that hold up Ratnasambhava’s throne gallop across the wide expanse of sky with free, wild energy. But they have come together to support the lotus throne. This represents to me the focus, purpose and integration of meditation.
The horse symbolizes the transformation of the energies of the mind. This is the gift of focused vitality. As the Tibetan poet Milarepa sang:
The horse of the mind, moving like the wind, doth prance about.
What lasso must be used to catch this horse
And to what post it be tied when caught?
What food is it to be given when hungry?
And what drink is it to be given when thirsty?
In what enclosure is it to be kept when cold?
To catch the horse, use, as the lasso, Singleness of Purpose.
It must be tied, when caught, to the Post of Meditation:
It must be fed, when hungry, with the Guru’s Teachings;
It must be given to drink, when thirsty.
of the Stream of Consciousness;
It must be kept, when cold, in the enclosure of the voidness.
“The horse of the mind” can also be transformed through receptivity to the interconnectedness of all things, and this brings a sense of abundance. What makes one feel poor is alienation from humanity. Ratnasambhava transforms the pride that separates us from one another, and makes us judge others and ourselves in an unhelpful way. I find myself asking whether others are “better” or “worse” than me. And there is a preoccupation with the great ME the at center of my universe. Ratnasambhava connects me with others. Self-centredness is converted into love, and ultimately into compassion for all that lives.
Ratnasambhava is associated with midday, when the sun is at its brightest. So Ratnasambhava symbolizes both the heights and the depths of experience, and understands the importance of both. Midday has the brightest light and the deepest shadows.
This manifests spontaneously as generosity. Ratnasambhava’s great generosity is based on egolessness, the basis of his solidarity with all beings. He is said to possess the Wisdom of Equality, and this is symbolized by Mamaki, who is Ratnasambhava’s consort. Her name means “she who makes everything her own.” Mamaki looks on all things as identical with herself, because she knows the inner unity of Shunyata or emptiness which lies at the heart of all beings.
She delights in and appreciates everyone and everything. I see her as a dazzling yellow, bejeweled dakini. When I feel impoverished, I call her up and her dance brings back the feeling of inner abundance. If you call on Mamaki you may need sunglasses! Working from strength is like bringing jewels into the sunlight where everyone can see them. You have to be fearless to be generous. Auguste Renoir wrote of Algeria: “The magic of the sun transmutes the palm trees into gold, the water seems full of diamonds and men become kings of the East.”
The Wisdom of Equality is the great leveler. Possessing it, one has a kindly and impartial heart, one sees all people with equanimity. This wisdom is based on the insight that all phenomena are equal, because they are all empty. As the Heart Sutra says, “Form is only emptiness, emptiness only form.” All things and all thoughts are in a process of continual arising and passing away. Seeing this leads us to compassion. Shantideva in his compassion says:
May I be an imperishable treasure for needy beings.
May I stand in their presence
in order to do what is beneficial in every way …
I would be for all creatures a magic jewel,
an inexhaustible jar, a powerful spell,
a universal remedy, a wishing tree,
and a cow of plenty.
This attitude is what Ratnasambhava, with his wish-fulfilling jewel, represents. Am I wise enough to use my wishes generously? Dare I take Ratnasambhava’s challenge to dig down to the treasure trove of the mind — however small it seems to be? Dare I mount wild horses and gallop into the sky?
Ratnasambhava overflows with love. To take up his challenge I have to believe in who I am and feel the sun of the glorious southern realm shining openly in my heart. Sunny Ratnasambhava is able to give continually because he is rich and abundant in spiritual wealth. But if I gaze long enough into his wish-fulfilling jewel, then I, too, can feel more abundant. I must learn to let go of expectations and leap into the unknown.
Ratnasambhava is associated with midday, when the sun is at its brightest. So Ratnasambhava symbolizes both the heights and the depths of experience, and understands the importance of both. Midday has the brightest light and the deepest shadows. It means living from the heights of inspiration, while also being earthed. Ratnasambhava is rich enough to embrace it all.
He is the Buddha of beauty and aesthetic appreciation and the protector of those engaged in the Arts. Out of our spiritual practice surprising images and unknown colors can arise. According to Jung, “Color is the mother of the subconscious.”
Colors are enhanced in bright sunlight until they dazzle you in the midday sun. The more I engage my emotions in my painting and respond to color, the more I can enter this abundant realm. Ratnasambhava helps me to contact and sustain my spiritual vision and to bring it out into the sunlight where I can share it with everyone. Accepting his gifts enriches the world