Monday, August 17, 2015

Fearless Buddha Form (Abhaya Mudra) on the Moon

Fearless Buddha Form (Abhaya Mudra) overlooking Da Nang Bay, Vietnam, May 2012
On the first Full Moon night following enlightenment, in a gesture of pointing his finger at the Moon, Gautama Buddha told his five disciples that truth is not an illusion. One must find where truth exists. An early 1st Century Tibetan wall painting is a depiction of this gesture. The historical picture appears to be part of the Bhava Chakra.
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The top part of the Wheel of Life (Bhava Chakra) is a depiction of Gautama Buddha pointing to the Moon. In some paintings, one can see a standing Buddha, and in some others, one can see a sitting Buddha pointing to the Moon. What could Gautama Buddha have implied with such a gesture? 

The most common meaning given to the gesture is to not look at the finger, but, to look where the finger is pointing. What do you see if a person points a finger at something and says "Look there and you will find your answer"? That is our question. One must wonder about it at all levels of scientific and philosophical inquiry to seek a message from the gesture and decode it for all humanity to feel and experience a sense of global awakening.

From all aspects of human and biological evolution on Earth, the Moon and the Sun have for long been the center of study, by ancient theologians, philosophers, explorers and scientists . How do the Moon and Sun affect life on Earth? From a philosophical perspective, Gautama Buddha said, "There are Three things that cannot remain hidden, the Sun, the Moon, and the Truth". We know that the Moon appears and disappears with a period of 29.5 days. We know that there are ebbs and tides in the oceans on Earth. While we know many things about the Sun and the Moon, what is the Truth that remains hidden? Where? One cannot ignore what exactly the Grand Master was indeed pointing at and continue to philosophize about the gesture as it has been done until now. Philosophy is good because it teaches the moral values. Either through receiving explicit instruction or as a practitioner of education, we learn to practice what we preach. That which exists must be seen. The question one can ask is, in what form? One may not believe in a story about a fact, but, the fact still exists that Gautama Buddha pointed his finger at the Moon. What did Gautama Buddha see that inspires us to realize the power of tour Mind? One can only assume this means the power to perceive. Naturally, this thought coincides with the notions that perception leads to thinking, thinking leads to understanding, understanding leads to greater knowledge, and greater knowledge raises the state of the conscious Mind.

Truth exists in all forms. Anything we wish to know about the Universal truth exists. Where does one find it? If there is a message in this gesture, then the message must be perceived as such. But, what is the message? What did Gautama Buddha intend for all of humanity to see, understand and experience in our travel through time and space? Why now? It would be a moral obligation that if there is anything seen and known to be true, then one must reveal the truth. 

From the Zen classic Hekigonroku, Case 3: When Master Baso was gravely ill, the chief priest paid a visit and asked “I heard you have been very ill, how are you feeling these days? Baso replied “Sun-face Buddha Moon-face Buddha.”

What does Sun-face Buddha or Moon-face Buddha mean? Philosophically, of course, there are an endless number of ways to interpret Master Baso's reply. Was it just a matter of saying that he felt angry at times and pleasant at other occasions? Or, is it likely he had seen and understood what was on the Sun and what was on the Moon to describe the feeling of his illness? What could he have meant? What was the message of his reply? Of course, only Master Baso would know that. It forces one to think things through to understand what the message indeed is.

"Seeing is believing" is a common phrase that gives one the perception that nothing is believable until it is seen by the eyes. If this is true, then it is not enough just to hear about it. We must see to believe what we hear to be true. Is it true, therefore, that seeing is believing? "Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others," wrote Johnathan Swift (1667-1745 AD). So, "what is the art in vision?", we could ask.  To answer this, perhaps yet another phrase used to describe one's blindness brings greater understanding.

The phrase "Blind as a Bat" is used to describe someone that does not have enough visibility in the eyes, poor vision and cannot see. It could also be used to say that someone is ignorant. But the question is; is it true that a  Bat is blind? 
Buddha, in Sanskrit "भुद्ध ", means "the Awakened One". Gautama Buddha means "Gautama The Awakened One".  Anyone can, therefore, feel awakened and experience an awakening. Hence the phrase "There is a Buddha in everyone", meaning "There is an awakening in everyone". We must make the effort to seek it. Our quest is Where is the Buddha? Not Who?! Not When?! Not Why?! Not What?! Just Where! Where is the Buddha? It must be inside yourself, the Inner-Self, the Inner-Mind, the Inner-Consciousness.
Communication theory describes how messages are coded at the sending end, sent over a transmission medium, and decoded at the receiving end by considering propagation delays in node-to-node message passing, channel noise, and transmission bandwidth limitations. It is understandable that looking at the finger of a person pointing at something gives little or no information, i.e., low entropy, low uncertainty, mostly everything is known, and not much is unknown. However, if one were to look beyond in the direction being pointed, one is overwhelmed and deluged by too much information and not know what to see or select, i.e., high entropy, great uncertainty, no prior information, too many unknowns. "The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point. Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities." wrote Claude Shannon in Mathematical Theory of Communication.

There is absolute truth in Claude Shannon's statement. Every message has a meaning. Words have to mean something. Pictures have to mean something. Images viewed in different wavelengths and orientation showing different features, which otherwise are indistinguishable, must mean something. In other words, everything has a meaning and a purpose for its existence. The important conclusion from Claude Shannon's principles of uncertainty is that "of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point". The word "approximately" is important because it signifies the first impact of a finding. It is only through a systematic evaluation and understanding that one can fully decode a message. The "approximate" nature of the form of message is indeed always the beginning of a longer message that points towards greater understanding of Life. Exactness can never be achieved. Exact truth means absolute truth. Precise, with no room for tolerance. Precisely what something means could never be understood in one's lifetime.

Earth and the Moon, as they rotate around their axes around the Sun cause different view angles of the face of the Moon in the Northern and Southern hemispheres of Earth.

So, what was Gautama Buddha pointing to and what is the message? 

The Moon is the nearest celestial object to Earth. It has its axis of rotation with respect to Earth. The relative spin of Earth and the Moon is such that the same face of the Moon always faces Earth. Various myths and beliefs exist. But, our beliefs must transcend in the truth rather than in the myths surrounding the fact. Myths drive us towards false beliefs. Blind faith is to accept without reasoning. Our perceptions must be held firmly by reasoning and understanding.

In "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching", Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh describes a Zen story about a man riding a horse. While at first, it is just a man on a horse, a person watching the horse galloping quickly shouts at the man "Where are you going? You must be in a hurry!" The man, feeling utterly confused shouts back "I don't know! Ask the horse!".

Our life's path is like riding a horse. Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh's has said "We are riding a horse, we don't know where we are going, and we can't stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others." The message on the Moon appears to show this more vividly in that our journey through life is a story of being driven by desire and attachment.

Besides the typical patterns seen on the Moon, such as the "Rabbit on the Moon", patterns never perceived before seem to emerge and shine vividly. Here is one which gives the perception of a family unit on a horse that appears to add meaning to "Samsara" a cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

A spectacular sight that mystified me was the twin rays from the Crater pair, Messier A and Messier seen here in the NASA Apollo 15 Lunar mission taken from the window of the Apollo Command Module. I was intrigued by the beams of light and the power of the radiating source. If one were planning a trip to the Moon, it could serve as a homing beacon for navigation on the Moon. It was highly intriguing, to say the least.
Thay Thien created several watercolor renditions of Avalokhiteshwara portrayed as a provider of all human needs throughout the cycle of human evolution. His artistic rendition covered the areas of Mare Serenitatis, Mare Tranquilitatis, and Mare Fecunditatis. These three Marias in English are, the Sea of Serenity, the Sea of Tranquility, and the Sea of Fertility, respectively, all three which aptly describe the significance of Avalokitheshwara as the Giver of Compassion and provider of knowledge and wisdom to all humankind. Serenity, tranquility and fertility describe the pure and true nature for Peace of Mind throughout the life cycle of birth and death in a state of absolute calmness.

Then, like a sudden spark, a picture of the third-quarter waxing Moon baffled my imagination. The twin rays from the Messier Crater pair appeared to terminate at the center of the palm of a distinct Buddha form. The box highlights the location of a 3D holographic image that has the form referred to in Sanskrit as Abhaya Mudrā, or Fearless Form. It is a form that "represents protection, peace, benevolence and the dispelling of fear."

Like a bolt from the blue, I had stumbled upon something that stunned me. Could this be what Gautama Buddha was pointing his finger at the Moon? Could this be a message for the beginning of deeper understanding of the Bhava Chakra?

Images in the visible and invisible region of electromagnetic spectrum appear to show a hideous mask over a human face symbolizing the grip of Mara over the Mind of Gautama Buddha depicted in paintings.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple. Chiang Mai, Thailand, April 16, 2012

Finally, I am reminded of a Koan "No Water, No Moon" which sheds light on Nun Chiyono's enlightenment

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