The profound teachings of Buddhism, encompassing the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana paths, offer varied perspectives on understanding and experiencing reality. Intriguingly, these perspectives can be metaphorically likened to the experience of using and removing bifocal glasses, providing a unique lens through which to view Buddhist philosophy.
THE BIFOCAL VISION OF THERAVADA AND MAHAYANA:
Bifocal glasses, with their dual lenses, serve as an excellent metaphor for the approaches and practices of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. The lower lens of bifocals, which helps focus on close objects, points toward the Theravada approach. This part of the path emphasizes a deep, introspective journey into what people tend to claim as "our own mind," sense of our personal personality, and experiences. It's the same as looking closely at the fabric of one's personal truth or reality, understanding the nature of self, no-self, and achieving personal or localized awakening. The focus here is on the immediate and subjective, aligning with the concept of 'Anatta' or non-self, where the practitioner is encouraged in the direction of personal realizations and liberation. We could call this "Physician heal thyself."
In contrast, the upper lens of bifocals, designed for seeing distant objects, represents the Mahayana approach. This perspective widens what Tibetans commonly refer to as "The View," helping us to see and embrace the interconnectedness of all beings and the universal nature of suffering. This could be, "okay physician that has healed oneself, through the practice and training of the way, help others who ordinarily would abandon themselves to their conditioning and delusion of society that turns us into copper-top batteries to power the constructs of money, power, property and prestige that divert us from Realness. Mahayana Buddhism extends the journey to include not just individual enlightenment but also the collective liberation of all sentient beings. This aligns with the concept of 'Sunyata', or emptiness, recognizing the interconnected fabric of existence and the importance of compassion and altruism.
VAJRAYANA: REMOVING THE GLASSES FOR DIRECT PERCEPTION:
The metaphor extends to the Vajrayana, that's the final part of the so-called "path," likened to removing bifocal glasses altogether, without placing anything between us as Reality Itself. Rather than "Looking" at the so-called "It," it's conscious contact with the clear understanding that we are "It" and not a so-called copy or version of "reality."
Vajrayana, known for its esoteric and direct approach, encourages practitioners to experience reality directly as Reality, without the aid of conceptual frameworks. This act of removing glasses symbolizes transcending the dual lenses of Theravada and Mahayana, encountering the raw, unfiltered nature of existence AKA known as Sonomama. Vajrayana teaches that enlightenment is an immediate reality, accessible through specific methods and profound insights. It is a journey beyond the conventional, where the practitioner uses the foundational teachings of the other paths to experience the direct and unmediated objective big 'T' Truth or big 'R' Reality.
Using this metaphor of bifocals and the letting go of them, hopefully offers you a compelling way to understand the diverse paths instead of mutually exclusive pathways within Buddhism, as I've personally trained, practice, and experienced them, without being a philosophy. While Theravada and Mahayana provide distinct lenses for viewing our personal and collective experiences, Vajrayana invites a direct encounter with Reality, free from any lenses or filters.
A plain face is a plain face without the need to be changed to meet one's craving for convenience and preferences. It is what it is. It isn't what it's not. This metaphor not only illustrates the unique aspects of each path but also shows how they complement each other, together offering a holistic approach to understanding and achieving enlightenment. Just as bifocals aid in seeing both near and far, and their removal offers unmediated vision, the paths of Buddhism guide practitioners through a journey of personal insight, compassionate living, and direct realization.
--We Are the Practice Itself