Ngak’chang Rinpoche: question and answer sessions

‘Lam Rim Chö Ling’ Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Raglan, Wales, 1984

Q If we’re talking about something like, say, a vajra being a symbol of means, and a bell being a symbol of wisdom, why are they symbols of this that they symbolise? You said they cannot be created by invention, so why have they become symbols?

R Because… these things are created by awareness that has direct perception of wisdom and means. As soon as you make contact with anything, you make contact with it at different levels. You make contact with it in its emptiness, in its state of being the field of energy, and in its symbolic form in the sphere of materiality. So symbols become apparent in this visionary world anyway. And the essence of what is symbolised is continually giving rise to symbolic form all the time – rather in the way they speak of when you become enlightened: you’re able to project infinite manifestations to help people. So everything is like that. Everything in its most essential form manifests imagery of itself in many different forms.

Q Is that like different people doing it in different ways?

R That’s right.

Q Apart from that logic, I can’t see why it is a symbol of method, rather than anything else is a symbol of method. Why not something else?

Q2 Is it one of these things that when you, at the time you discover why it’s a symbol of method, you’ll discover what it is a symbol of…?

R You see it’s not obvious why it’s a symbol of method. It was discovered as a symbol of method in meditational experience. And so these things are all created – a whole visionary world of making contact with the sphere of intangible appearance. This is more usually known as the Sambhogakaya – the visionary world; the world of sound and light; the world of energy. So… as soon as you attain more advanced meditational states, then you make contact with a more visionary world. You gain visionary experience. Then when you relate that experience to the human material world, you present it in terms of symbols. You present it in terms of symbols because you can’t present the energy in itself.

So… the symbol you produce will be a communication between the field of nondual energy and you. Because everyone is different, everyone has a slightly different relationship with the self-existent energy of Being… So the kind of energy that you communicate in terms of presenting the unbounded visions of the realised state, will be the kind of symbols that arise in the context of you. The symbols that you display will be different from some other realised Being who shows symbols of the same reality. This is why in different cultures there are different symbols. These symbols don’t contradict each other in any way, it’s just that if you approach the enlightened state as being Welsh or as being English or being whatever, as being a man, as being a woman, in a particular society at a particular time, then the kind of symbols you’re going to use are going to have a connection with where you are in a relative sense. So when you look at these symbols that we use here, these are symbols of Tibet, and of that culture. So if this activity ever takes root in this country over a long period of time these things could change and people will have slightly different symbols, because people will start creating things. If there are ever western masters, they will start generating their own forms of practice, their own forms of imagery, which have more resonance with the West – these would be new symbols. There always have been new generations of symbolism – it’s unending.