Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Foundations of 8x8 and 9x9 in Hindu Temples - Ancient Gameboards

I found this at an interesting website, Frithjof Schuon (no idea what it is all about), which reminded me of some equally interesting information I discovered in "Secret Games of the Gods" by Nigel Pennick.  First, the information from the website:

luni, 8 decembrie 2008
Borobudur - Ştiinţă sacră (IV)

The Tathata-Vastu Mandala at Borobudur's Summit

In ancient India, the foundations for Hindu temples were typically based on a geometrical diagram called the vastupurusha mandala. Vastu is Sanskrit for “residence” while the Purusha is the primordial male giant whose body is divided or "sacrificed" to bring the world into existence.

When serving as the underlying schematic for Hindu temples, the vastupurusha mandala typically incorporates either 64 or 81 compartments. Architects typically employed the 81-block version of this diagram in the design of those buildings that were commissioned by members of the Hindu warrior caste, while the 64-square version was typically reserved for buildings that had been commissioned by members of the Hindu religious caste.

The 64- and 81-square Vastupurusha mandalas
of Indian temple Architecture based on the Manasara

"Radiating from the center (of the vastupurusha mandala) is its effulgence, the light of all suns that ever shone and which in repeated cycles illumine this universe. This light of all suns is carried by the Regents of 12 Suns, the Adityas.... The light is carried across this inner border and to the outer rim with its four orients in the middle of each side." The central core of both versions of the diagram is called the Place of Brahman (Brahmastana). It corresponds with the Embryo of Splendour (hiranyagarbha) that is featured in various Hindu tales of creation, where it is represented as "...the primordial germ of cosmic light.... In the center is the dark source of all light, the super luminous darkness, the central point beyond all time.... It radiates from there and its radiance proceeds through all the stations of the Regents of sun and stars, placed on the body of the Vastupurusha.... From the center beyond time, and around it, is displayed cyclical time in its sections, in its units of days, months and years and in the cycles in which the different courses of sun and moon are adjusted."

The 81-square version of the diagram is often illustrated in such a way that it appears as if some of the squares have been left vacant (see illustration above). However, the Brihat Samhita clearly affirms that the 45 deities who project themselves into the mandala collectively fill all of the available space, with certain deities either occupying two or three adjacent squares.

The nine squares of the Brahmastana are surrounded by three layers consisting of 16, 24, and 32 squares, respectively. The outermost layer of 32 squares is assigned to deities associated with the 28 asterisms or "nakshatras" of Hindu astronomy and the four Great Guardians (Lokapalas) of the cardinal directions, while the interior 16 and 24 squares are reserved for squares the placement of solar deities.

"The place of realization of the Supreme Brahman, the center of the Vastupurusa, is assigned to Brahma who is the effected Brahman; this is the subtle state of manifestation, which in ontological hierarchy is prior to manifestation. The place of Brahman corresponding to Brahmapura in the universe is the Hiranyagarbha, the Embryo of Splendor--the primordial germ of cosmic light. Similarly, from the Brahmastana proceeds the light of all times and in every direction; this makes the first belt, the inner border of 12 deities. In the outer rim of 32 entities it is marked at each place at its definite time and encompasses the extent of corporeal manifestation." (53)

Borobudur's summit has been laid out in a circular form of the 81-element vastupurusha mandala, with the main stupa occupying the center over the nine squares of the Brahmastana and the three surrounding tiers of stupas and Buddha images filling the remaining receptacles of the diagram. (54)

It is clear from a few of the island's surviving stone inscriptions that Javanese Buddhists perceived no conflict in applying Hindu architectural principles to Buddhist foundations. For example, the Stone of Kerengtengah, which dates from the Borobudur period, opens with a line that pays homage to an unnamed Buddhist hero of immeasurable might who is seated on a high mountain in the Vajrasana position, which is the meditation posture both legs are crossed and the soles of both feet face upwards just like the Buddha images are seated at Borobudur. A few stanzas later, the inscription's composer states that the daughter of the Sailendra Buddhist King Samaratungga "... installed in a temple, according to the Puranas, the image of the illustrious Sri Ghananatha (Lord of the Clouds) together with others worthy of worship," which not only suggests that the "Lord of the Clouds" is the hero seated on the high mountain, but also confirms that the images had been installed according to practices outlined in Hindu religious texts. (55)

In a large number of the island's surviving inscriptions, the priest presiding over the inauguration of the temple foundation evokes the presence of Brahma by performing a ritual that involves the cracking of an egg on top of the watu sima kulumpang--the central foundation stone that may have served the material analog of the "Golden Embryo" of the vastupurusha mandala. In Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra, author Florin Sutton presents several examples of how the Buddhist term Tathagata-garbha parallels the "Golden Embryo" (Hiranyagarbha) of the Hindu scriptures, where the term "...represents the first use of the word garbha in a compound with metaphysical implications. Significantly, for the purpose of our investigation, this compound was used interchangeably with Hiranyanda (literally 'golden egg'), already conveying a sense of ambiguity, or dilemma, of, of 'the chicken and the egg' type.

"Gradually, though, such naturalistic principles regarding the origins of the world were superseded by anthropomorphic ones symbolized by (the) names of divine beings--Prajapati and Brahma, who himself was born from a golden egg--and, eventually, by the thoroughly abstract principles of Brahman and atman, prana (impersonal power) and sakti (feminine power), purusa (spirit) and prakriti (matter).... The general meaning was that of all-pervasive essence, filling the air, the earth, and heaven, accounting for the unity of the universe, its vital force and the cosmic self." (56)

However, with regard to one Buddhist use for the word "garbha" as the embryo of Buddhahood the composer of the Lankavatara Sutra has elected to use the term as the preferred synonym for the Essence-of-the-Tathagata, rejecting the word for primordial substance (prakriti) as it appears in various Hindu texts. His word preference is a clear indication that the Essence-of-the-Tathagata should be regarded as an abstract cosmic "quasi-substance" rather than a real one. It not only impregnates but also envelops the universe, with its outer, manifested aspect available in the dimensions of both time and space. In the time domain of the eternal world of becoming, it is represented by the Five Skandas, " which the transient human personality conspicuously belongs. Its extension in space is the Dharmadhatu, the realm of the existential elements, as the most comprehensive view of the universe, including not only this visible sense-world, but all possibly conceivable ideal worlds." (57)

In my Architectural Survey of Borobudur, I have suggested that Borobudur's architect may have embedded units of solar and lunar time into the monument's plan, a practice that would in all probability have been related to the radiation of the "light of all suns" from the vastupurusha mandala at the monument's summit. Such architectural practices may also be related to even earlier rites involving the construction of the Vedic altar of sacrifice, which calls for the laying down of bricks in accordance with various Indian time cycles.
In addition, there are technical reasons for maintaining that Borobudur's summit has been laid out in conformance with the vastupurusha-mandala traditions of Hindu temple architecture. The architect had observed several technical rules during the monument's construction pertaining to the cross-over points of the diagram's horizontal/vertical lines as well as the diagonals that are inherent in the entire monument's plan. Additional information pertaining to these rules as well as examples of the compliance of other central Javanese temples with these rules will be appended to this Web site's Architectural Survey of Borobudur in the future as time permits.

If we wish to look for the earliest Mahayana Buddhist prototype for the primeval life force and the "light of all suns" that is symbolized at Borobudur, we need look no farther than the Lankavatara Sutra, which provides us with a suitable progenitor who fully accords with the parallel identifications to be found in the Hindu scriptures. The commentator of the Bhagavata states: "As the sun illuminates his own inner sphere, as well as the exterior regions, so soul (atman), shining in the body (Viraja), irradiates all without and within." (58)

The sutra's use of the word "Vastu," either coupled with the word tathata or arya, is also intriguing.

"When an objective world is no more grasped,
there is neither disappearance nor no-being
[as all these belong to a realm of relativity],
except something absolute known as tathata-vastu,
which realm belongs to the wise." (59)

While other Buddhist texts typically use the Sanskrit word Vastu to indicate a particular object of discriminating knowledge, the composer of the Lankavatara Sutra uses this word to express the absolute reality or tathata that is the "realm where the wise have their abode."

"In the first place Vastu and Tathata are synominously used; what is Tathata, that is Vastu.... Evidently in this connection where Vastu is Tathata, it must mean the highest reality. In the second case in which Arya is affixed to Vastu, the arya must be a modifier here, that is, this reality is something to be described as arya, noble, holy or worthy. The highest reality is also called 'something that has been in existence since the very first (purvadharmasthitita) or (pauranasthiti- dharmamata).' As it is the most ancient reality, its realization means returning to one's own original abode in which everything one sees around is an old familiar object.... The Buddhas, enlightened ones, are all abiding here as gold is embedded in the mine. The ever-enduring reality is above changes." (60)

In the ultimate sense, however, the name we use to refer to the Buddha at the center of Borobudur's Tathata-Vastu mandala is irrelevant, for the Buddha of the Lankavatara Sutra says that he is known "...under many names, amounting to a hundred thousand times three asamkhyeyas, and they address me by these names not knowing that they are all other names of the Tathagata.

"Of these, Mahamati, some recognize me as the Tathagata, some as the Self-existent One, some as Leader, as Vinayaka (Ganesha), as Parinayaka (Guide), as Buddha, as Rishi, as Bull-king, as Brahma, as Vishnu, as Isvara, as Pradhana (primordial matter, unmanifested prakriti), as Kapila (a sage), as Bhutanta (End of Reality), as Arishta, as Nemina, as Soma (Moon), as the Sun (Surya), as Rama, as Vyasa (a sage), as Suka, as Indra, as Balin, as Varuna, as is known to some."

"While others recognize me as One who is never born and never passes away, as Sunyata (emptiness), as Tathata (suchness), as Satya (truth), as Reality, as Limit of Reality, as the Dharmadhatu, as Nirvana, as the Eternal, as Sameness, as Non-duality, as the Undying, as the Formless, as Causation, as the Doctrine of Buddha-Cause, as Emancipation, as the Truth of the Path, as the All-Knower, as the Victor, as the Will-made Mind.... Thus in full possession of one hundred thousand times three asamkhyeyas of appellations, neither more nor less, in this world and in other worlds, I am known to the peoples, like the moon in water which is neither in it nor out of it." (61)
Publicat de dhruva la 17:26
Did you get all that?  LOL!  Yeah, some of it is pretty deep and unless you're familiar with some of the symbolism, it may not see very comprehensible - but it does relate to boardgames, for boardgames are nothing more, or less, than the incorporation of these 'abstract principles' into a format that non-initiated peopled can relate to, even if they don't necessarily "get it" - that is, get the total picture.  Of course, very few of us actually get the total picture, no matter how smart we think we are, or how advanced in religious and/or esoteric learning in which we believe we are steeped.

That's where populists such as Nigel Pennick come in and boy or boy, he sure was panned by the critics.  One must ask - why?  If he was so full of baloney, why was he so vilified? 

This is a 9x9 grid scanned from Nigel Pennick's "Secret Games of the Gods."  Sorry the image is blurry - my scanner is old.  I think you can readily see, though, the similarity in lay-out to the 9x9 mandela that is depicted in the information from the Frithjof Schuon blog, above.

Keep in mind - the 8x8 grid is none other than our 64-square chessboard; the 9x9 variation is the boad upon which Chinese chess - Xiang qi - is played.

This is what Pennick wrote:

Sacred Space

The Hindu tradition of earth harmony from India known as Vastuvidya is probably a very pure survival of the ancient geolocational art which gave rise to both the European and Chinese traditions.  an ancient Sanskrit text on temple foundation, the Manasara Shilpu Shastra, explains the geometrical techniques for laying out the basic square which is then subdivided into the sacred grid.  Having used the rules of Vastuvidya to find an appropriate location for the temple, the practitioner erects an upright or gnomon at the center of a water surface prepared at the site.  This gnomon must be of prescribed canonical dimensions, being either 12, 18 or 24 angulas in length.  From this center, using knotted rope to maintain the correct dimensions, a circle is drawn, with a radius twice the length of the gnomon.  By observing opposing limbs of the Sun, a true east-west line can be drawn.  The two positions of the sun when it is the same height above the horizon in the morning and the afternoon are maked on the circle, and a line drawn between them.  At each end of this equinoctial axis, a peg is driven into the earth, and the rope used to form arcs centered on the two pegs.  This makes a geometrical figure known as a vesica.  A line between the crossing-points of these two arcs, the extreme ends of the vesica, is true north-south, crossing the east-west line a little ot the north of the center of the original circle.  Taking this as a center, a new circle the same diameter to the original one is drawn on the ground.  From this circle, an east-west vesica is created in the same way as the first one.  The four intersection-points of the two vesicas are joined by straight lines to form a square, the basis of the sacred grid.

Ancient philosophy asserted the unity of all existence, the greater being reflected in the lesser.  Certain geometrical forms, which are capable of seemingly limitless expansion or subdivision, are a perfect way of expressing this truth.  The human form can be envisaged as a living physical reflection of the hidden patterns of the creation.  In the Jewish faith, human beings are created in the image of God, as temples ordained by the supreme creator to enshrine the divine spark, the sentient soul which elevates human beings above the animals.  The qualities inherent in the universe are reflected in the human body, which is the microscosmic mirror of the macrocosmos.  According to this viewpoint, all things present in the universe are encapsulated in each and every human person.  The so-called Hermetic Maxim, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the mythical founder of alchemy, state: "That which is in the lesser world (the microcosm) reflects tat of the grater world (the macrocosm)."

The geometrical form of ground-plans, expressed as the grid, manifests itself as the Yantra, a sacred image which is explained as a gathering-point or nucleus of spiritual force.  In Tantra, these geometrical patterns act as focal points upon which devotees may fix their meditative concentration.  But Yantras are much more than aid to meditation, for they are also sacred icons of specific spiritual beings, whose actual images are not present.  to practitioners of Tantra, Yantras represent the subtle bodies of these Devatas, their underlyng eternal network of energies.  Like Chladni patterns, they are connected with sound.  When the appropriate Mantram is recited, the corresponding Yantra is activitated.  The appropriate Devata manifests in the person saying the Mantram, unifying the person with the infinite. 

The similarity between the common forms of Yantra and gameboards is striking, showing their common origin in the sacred grid.  ...  In the sacred world view, every human artefact which might be seen as an image of the world - whole kingdomes, cities, sacred enclosures, temples, shrines, and even board games - were designed according to this sacred cosmic image.

Photo: Irina Krush v. Katerina Rohonyan, 2010 U.S. Women's Chess Championship.  Intense concentration upon the chessboard - one might almost say "meditative."  The best chessplayers are the ones who can attune themselves most closely with the "vibrations" of the board - the "dance of the pieces."  The ancient Egyptians called their game pieces "ibau" - dancers, also a variation of the Egyptian hieroglyphic for "ivory", from which many game pieces were made.

Notice that on the 8x8 grid - which we use for our chessboard, the power moves of the pieces most often involve moving on a diagonal - the bishops, the Queen; the pattern described by the move of a knight is a 90 degree or right triangle, the longest line of which is a diagonal.  Even the pawn takes following a diagonal line, and the lowliest piece on the board can take out the mightiest, if it be unwary. 

1 comment:

drjmercay said...

what appears to be a mystery to many is common knowledge among temple builders and authentic vaastu home builders (not these gringos around the world who calim to be doing vaastu). If you are interested in understanding the secrets behind the 8x8 and 9x9 that you see in temples, go to scribd nnd read a book called Fabric of the Universe.

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