Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Vajradhara goes Dark

Visualization is a strange business. I've written, I think, about how Vajradhara (a.k.a. Dorje Chang) vanished at one point from his place at the center of the refuge tree. When he came back, he was sometimes sky blue, whereas he's supposed to be dark blue. Then I had a sort of minor epiphany, and realized that the reason he was sky blue was that I was unwilling to have him so dark that his features weren't clear to me -- even though in many representations that's exactly how dark he is: it's very difficult to distinguish the contours of his nose or of his ears. Now, this shouldn't really be a problem. Tibetan Buddha faces are (to Western-trained eyes, anyway) monotonous: there are rigid rules for the proportions, and you don't get to mess with them. I already know what Mr V's features look like like. They look just like Buddha Shakyamuni's, or any other Buddha's. Nevertheless, I wanted badly to be able to see them. And it suddenly came to me that if I was supposed to be able to see them, then -- Vajradhara wouldn't be midnight blue. I was second-guessing the thangka painters as if I knew better than they (and the tradition) what Vajradhara should look like.

So I let him go dark. I let his features be only red lips and the whites of his eyes, and the little swirly forehead thing. Of course, he is supposed to be brilliant, too, so I gave him a sort of irridescence, like the blue gleam of jet black hair, or the shine of a crow's feathers. And now, suddenly, he was no longer my sky-blue harmless pal, but a dark and almost ominous figure, twice as big as he had been before, gold jewelry gleaming on his chest and arms and headdress, his face unreadable. Still Sarah, maybe, but not necessarily pleased with me or interested in me. I had a feeling that maybe I had just turned a corner, and this visualization might never again br the sort of cozy, intimate thing it started out to be. More spacious, maybe, but less safe.

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