Samantabhadra: Syzygy in the form of divine union

Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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Dream Yoga: transformation processes announce themselves mainly in dreams

Illustrations of practitioner of ancient Tibetan yoga. US public domain via wikimedia
Illustrations of practitioner of ancient Tibetan yoga. US public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung understood that psychic transformations presents itself in dream form. He says: “Natural transformation processes announce themselves mainly in dreams.” (Carl Jung 9i para 235)

For Jung, dreams are coincident with the process of psychic transformation. Such transformation is a “long-drawn-out process of inner transformation and rebirth into another being. ” When Jung speaks of this ‘other being’ he is speaking of ‘the other person in ourselves-that larger and greater personality maturing within us, whom we have already met as the inner friend of the soul.” (ibid)

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The Self and the Mystic Buddha

Buddha, Eastern Tibet, Kham region, 18th century . US public domain via wikimedia
Buddha, Eastern Tibet, Kham region, 18th century . US public domain via wikimedia

In the image above, we see an 18th century painting of the Buddha. Although Buddhism denies the existence of the Self, from the perspective of depth psychology the Buddha is an archetypal image of the Self.

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Baku: the eater of dreams

Japanese painting of a Hakutaku (aka Baku), c. 18th-19th century, Us Public Domain.
Japanese painting of a Hakutaku (aka Baku), c. 18th-19th century, Us Public Domain.

The Japanese Baku (aka Hakutaku) is known as “the eater of dreams.” In Japan it is said that if you chanted an invocation three times then the Baku will eat your dream. After a bad dream people call out to Baku: Baku Kurae! Baku Kurae! “Devour, O Baku! Devour my evil dream.” The Baku is a spiritual being. As explained in the following Japanese story the Baku knows the teachings of the Buddha:

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Dreaming of imprisonment and freedom

A Dream:

“I was taken to a prison. The time period seemed to be long ago, the location somewhere in ‘the orient’. The prison was in the countryside- with dirt floors and structures made of wood. There was a small place to sleep on the floor, a window which looked out over the countryside, and mat to sit upon.

After I was locked up, I thought: “Now what shall I do to the pass the time.” I had an answer. I sat down on the mat and began to chant an ancient Vajra mantra. Eventually, a woman came to my prison. She gave me an earthworm to eat. I put it in my mouth and it began to wriggle around in my mouth, like a water dragon in the sea. It felt pleasureful and even nourishing. Then I looked around and realized that the prison had transformed into a comfortable environment, a humble space in which I could meditate. There was a window from which I could watch the sun rising. As I looked out that window, I saw an old lady weighing a fat pink pig.

Some amplifications and interpretations of the dream content:

The dream took place in the”orient”. This could be a metaphor for the dreamer’s orientation.

In dreams, a prison may represent the dreamers state of mind. In discussing dream interpretation of imprisonment themes, Tony Crisp says: “We are often imprisoned by a state of mind, a fear, or by ignorance.”

In Buddhist Philosophy imprisonment and bondage are metaphors for suffering. Imprisonment is often used as a metaphor for “bondage to life and death.” (Edelglass, 2009) In the Nirvana Sutras of Buddha, it is said:

“All beings see two things, which are: suffering and non-suffering. The suffering and non-suffering are: hunger and thirst, cold and heat, anger and joy, illness and peace, old age and the prime of life, birth and death, bondage and emancipation… Material form is bondage. ” (Chapter 41 and 45, emphasis added)

A Buddhist philosopher named Fushan Fayuan (991-1067) said:

“Only with the last word one reaches the outer gates of the prison.”

Beyond the gates of the prison lies the Self. In the Mahayana Sutra the Buddha speaks of the Self:

“In truth there is Self … indestructible like a diamond.”

This dream may be pointing the dreamer in the direction of the Self. Through the focus on the truth of the Self (symbolized by the chanting in the dream) one is released from the bondage of suffering. The dreamer chanted a “vajra” mantra. Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning thunderbolt or diamond. The vajra symbolizes that which is indestructible. It can signify enlightenment, emptiness, and the eternal strength of the Self. In Nyingma iconography there is a poem for the vajra:

“The mystery of the mind, the omniscience,

the pure awareness of all the Buddhas,

Indicated by a symbol of eternal strength and constancy,

The vajra heart of knowledge and emptiness is like the sky –

How wonderful to see the intrinsic face of reality!”

As the dreamer focused on the Vajra, a symbol of the indestructible nature of the Self, the dream environment shifted. The prison scene changed to a humble and protective environment, where the dreamer experienced nourishment in the most simple of pleasures. The eating of the earthworm became an experience of delight.The humble room became a place from which to watch the sunset. The prison guards became protectors, anima figures there to watch over the dreamer. Notice also that the earth worm in the mouth is reminiscent of a “water dragon.”

Through our knowledge of the Self we may release “the bondage of materiality.” This does not mean that we transcend materiality, but instead that we shift our relationship to materiality.


  1. The Vajra, The Nyingma Icons was first published in Kailash, Kathmandu, 1974, from Keith Dowman: An online Resource for Vajrayana Buddhists.
  2. Buddhist Philosophy : Essential Readings: Essential Readings, edited by William and Jay Garfield (2009)