The Bodhi-tree  Logo


The bhairava summarizes the stages of the Bodhi-Tree meditation as steps in a progression of identities:

The First Watch of the Night or Jivamala practice is the breakdown of personality, and finding its components in the past lives, which have contributed to the impulses and desires, which bind the person.

The Second Watch of the Night is the breakdown of identification with human life, and finding its precursors in the experience of plants and animals. Life is realized to be full and rich and shared with all sentient beings, and beings other than humans are recognized to be sentient.

The Third Watch of the Night is the breakdown of identification with universal awareness, as the universe is broken down into its component parts, and each of these into their component parts and so on to infinity. We see that consciousness is not limited to individual beings.

The Fourth Watch of the Night is awareness of both emptiness and fullness, with all parts working together in the vast sky of freedom. While the first two watches have the meditator step back from the universal fragmentation of consciousness and realize the interconnectedness of all sentient beings, the fourth watch is the return to presence, not as an individual but as the union of all states of awareness, and their opposites. The mind of the bodhisattva is vast and travels while the mind of the Buddha is vast and still. It is both the ocean and the sky merged into one.

For the first two watches, the awareness goes through the ocean of life. Indeed, the person is like a jellyfish known as the Portuguese man of war with its rippled body floating above the water, and its long tentacles going far, far below. Under the waters of consciousness are the past lives drifting away into invisibility. The person is not like an iceberg with much below the surface, where the bottom looks like the top. He or she is more like a jellyfish where the tentacles do not resemble the rest of the body. If the two were not seen together, it would not be obvious that they were connected. In the same way, unless the link between the current and past life experience can be seen during the meditation of the First Watch of the Night, it would not be obvious that there was any linkage.

While the first two watches expand awareness, the third deconstructs causality. The first two watches emphasize the power of karma. But when we get to the workings of karma, we see its limitations; it too is illusory, part of a long chain of causes and events whose source is emptiness. Suffering is the result of being bound by karma, by cause and effect, and by identity itself. Any form of identity, even the vast awareness of a deity, is a form of ignorance if it is taken as a limitation [that cannot be transcended].

Awakening accepts identity with its vast net of causes, and also the vast sky in which the net is cast. The third watch reveals the universality and the bottomlessness of cause and effect. The fourth watch and the entrance into Nirvana is the union of opposites, and awareness of all possible states of consciousness at once. The Buddha mind is awareness of all existence at once without focusing on any particular object.

When this state is attained, it may be called nirvana, enlightenment, or ultimate truth. Any further exploration brings creativity, and waves on the infinite ocean, or wind in the infinite sky.

The End

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Introduction | The Yidam or Spiritual Guide | The Symbol of the Bodhi-Tree | The First Watch of the Night | The Second Watch of the Night | The Third Watch of the Night | The Fourth Watch of the Night | Conclusion


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