Significance of the Union of Wisdom and Compassion Seal

Yutang Lin

Significance of the Union of Wisdom and Compassion Seal

Buddhist teachings flow from the fruits of Buddhahood that is Wisdom and Compassion in harmonious union, guide worldly people through practices that exemplify both Wisdom and Compassion, and lead them back to the Dharmadhatu that is Wisdom and Compassion in non-duality. The circular shape of the seal signifies the Dharmadhatu; Wisdom and Compassion imbue the Dharmadhatu without boundaries.

Wisdom and Compassion mutually support and complement each other; therefore, the shapes of the characters complement each other in the fashion of the Yin and Yang of Tai Ji. Sharp ends of the characters are like the initial starting points, while their rounded heads are like their tendencies, and thus they signify that: Wisdom is born of Compassion and merges into Compassion, and hence the ultimate achievement of liberation is in compassionate salvation of sentient beings; Compassion stemmed from Wisdom and attains Wisdom, and hence the ultimate achievement of Compassion is in being naturally attachment-free.

Wisdom being formless and invisible is represented by Yin strokes (strokes formed by carving its shape into the seal so that the printout of such a stroke will remain blank), and this matches the Tantric teaching that Wisdom is represented by Mother (female) Buddhas (Yin represents the female principle). Compassion is illustrative only through active involvements, and hence it is demonstrated by Yang strokes (strokes formed by carving out the boundaries of its shape so that the printout of such a stroke will be in ink), and this matches the Tantric teaching that Skillful Means (compassionate salvation activities) is represented by Father (male) Buddhas. The perimeter shape of the characters and their colors (ink for Chinese seals is usually red) exactly symbolize the intimate union of red Bodhi and white Bodhi. (Cf. my work, " Significance of the Vajra Dharma Seal .")

The upper part of the Zhi-character (Wisdom) is larger, signifying using Wisdom to guide Compassion; the lower part of the Bei-character (Compassion) is larger (and it is the Xin-character (Mind) and hence it happened to match the significance of Great Mind), signifying using Compassion as support for Wisdom. The lower part of the Zhi-character is smaller, and it is the Ri-character (Sun), signifying that real Wisdom is as bright as the sun but it is hidden and inconspicuous, and hence ordinarily it is not easy to be comprehended; the upper part of the Bei-character is smaller, and it is the Fei-character (Inconsistency), signifying that the Great Compassion moves away from inconsistency and returns to Sunyata, and hence only through actual practice can one reach original purity.

Both characters Zhi and Bei are in dynamic style and their tendency (the moving direction of the rounded heads) circulates clockwise in accordance with the Buddhist tradition to signify mutual merging through endless circulation. They are two but in oneness, and in oneness yet with two aspects. They transform and appear in accordance with given circumstances; and yet remain free from duality and circumstantial influences and stay in natural harmony and tranquility.

As I got the inspiration for the construction of this seal as stated above, I wrote to Upasaka Tan Seong Yeow in Taipei, Taiwan about it, and asked him to carve the seal. He spent over one month in drawing tens of drafts, and finally finished the project at the conclusion of the third carving. He began the carving on lunar August 8th and perfectly completed the carving on the auspicious Mid-autumn Festival, lunar August 15th, that is traditionally regarded as an occasion for reunion and its full moon symbolic of perfect completion. The first draft of this article in Chinese was written in USA also on the auspicious Mid-autumn Festival. Such a coincidental matching of auspicious concurrence was certainly an auspicious omen for our subject, the harmonious union of Wisdom and Compassion.

When he mailed this seal to me he also enclosed a letter mentioning the following: in early morning of the Mid-autumn Festival in a dream a young man offered him a string of crystal prayer beads that was placed in a topless brocade box and the brocade was mainly in red color. I construed the dream as follows: red color represents Compassion; topless brocade box signifies unreserved instruction. A string of crystal prayer beads is held by the Tantric Four-arm White Chenrezig to signify applications of Compassion (salvation activities). Each and every crystal bead signifies the round and transparent Sunyata Wisdom that sentient beings innately have had; therefore, the string of crystal prayer beads represents harmonious union of Wisdom and Compassion. Furthermore, there is a deeper significance in that, since the string of prayer beads is continuously used in the hand of Chenrezig, it signifies that the harmonious union of Wisdom and Compassion is not static but instead turns around without hindrances and reflects according to situations.

Wisdom without implicit Compassion is not real Wisdom; Compassion that deviates from Wisdom is feigned Compassion. It should be the case that Wisdom is inseparable from Compassion and Compassion implies Wisdom; non-duality of Wisdom and Compassion means genuine Wisdom and Great Compassion. Wisdom and Compassion are originally non-dual; may all that have the opportunity to see a print of this seal would realize their innate non-duality of Wisdom and Compassion.

Written in Chinese on Halloween of 1993
Translated on October 14, 2004
Both at El Cerrito, California

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