The symbolism and iconography of Buddhist mandalas have evolved through centuries of social transformation in India and Tibet, and their depictions of interconnected worlds resonate with contemporary psychology, physics, and cosmology.
In this seminar, Ian Baker will explore the ways in which mandalas have developed specifically within Buddhist cultures and yet point to universal, dynamic truths about human existence and the nature of reality as an interdimensional whole.
Eva Natanya will respond to his presentation from the perspective of the Guhyasamaja Tantra, The “King of Tantras,” and Alan Wallace will then expand on this theme by introducing the perspective of the Great Perfection, or Dzogchen, regarded by many as the pinnacle of Buddhist contemplative inquiry into the nature of consciousness and its role in the natural world.
In these Vajrayana contexts, as opposed to the common, contemporary view of a single universe composed of matter and energy, in which consciousness plays only a marginal role, here every sentient being is presented as manifesting at the center of his or her mandala, such that an integral totality arises relative to each sentient being in the universe, with consciousness fundamental to the whole of reality.
The theme of mandalas, Guhyasamaja in particular, and the Great Perfection will then be related to insights from quantum cosmology, in which the role of the observer is fundamental to understanding the processes of nature.
Given the current destruction of the ecosphere by societies dominated by materialism, hedonism, and consumerism, we are urgently in need of a paradigm of creative engagement that integrates the deepest insights from the world’s contemplative and scientific traditions.
This seminar will seek to address this challenge, both in theory and in practice.
Alan Wallace is an internationally recognised Buddhist teacher and scholar who has studied and practiced Buddhism for over 45 years.
He spent 14 years as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and was ordained by H.H. the Dalai Lama.
He has studied with many great teachers from the Geluk, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Theravada schools.
Alan is a world-renowned meditation teacher and guide, specialising in śamatha, vipaśyanā, dream yoga and Dzogchen teachings.
He has studied Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, under the guidance of Gyatrul Rinpoche, and translated the mind treasures of Dudjom Lingpa. He is authorised to teach all these texts.
He also brings deep insight into mindfulness as taught in secular movements and spiritual traditions other than Buddhism.
Apart from his training in Buddhism, Alan has a degree in physics and philosophy of science, and a doctorate in religious studies.
Since 1987 he has been a frequent translator and contributor to meetings between the Dalai Lama and prominent scientists, and he has written and translated more than 40 books.
Drawing on this multi-faceted background, he brings many years of dedicated and profound practice and the wisdom of authentic experience to the challenge of integrating traditional Buddhist training with the needs of the modern world.
Alan is the founder and director of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies.
He is the motivating force behind the development of the Center for Contemplative Research, MIYO SAMTEN LING | Center of Unwavering Meditation, in Tuscany, Italy.
Eva Natanya is a scholar of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, an academic lecturer, writer, translator, and retreat leader. Following a nine-year career as a professional ballet dancer with both the New York City Ballet and the Royal Ballet of England, she earned an MA in Christian Systematic Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, and a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia.
For over twenty years, she has studied meditation, yoga, and philosophy in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions with master teachers in the United States, England, and India. She is the editor of Open Mind: View and Meditation in the Lineage of Lerab Lingpa(2018) and co-editor of Fathoming the Mind: Inquiry and Insight in Düdjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence (2018), both by Dr. B. Alan Wallace.
Her own work explores the deep connections between Christian and Buddhist thought at rigorous levels of theology, ethics, mysticism, and contemplative prayer. Eva has spent over thirty months in solitary meditation retreat, and will soon return to full-time meditation practice, living in remote mountains of Colorado.
Eva’s website is: www.evanatanya.com
Ian Baker is an Oxford-educated historian and anthropologist, recognised by the National Geographic Society as one of seven ‘Explorers for the Millennium’.
His books include The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet’s Lost Paradise, Tibetan Yoga: Principles and Practices, Buddhas of the Celestial Gallery, & The Dalai Lamas Secret Temple: Tantric Wall Paintings from Tibet.
Ian was lead curator of ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple: Body, Mind and Meditation in Tantric Buddhism’, an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection based on seventeenth-century murals illustrating Tibetan yogic techniques and the philosocontemplative methods of Dzogchen.
Ian has studied and practiced Buddhism for more than forty years, and he has undertaken extended meditation retreats in remote regions of Nepal under the personal guidance of Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche and other highly regarded non-monastic Tibetan teachers.
He works regularly in Bhutan in connection with Tantric Buddhism’s current interface with modern science, enviromentalism, and secular values.