' What do we say any more to conjure the salt of our earth?'
The following sequence of short essays have their origins in a celebratory ritual I was involved in devising to mark the Buddha’s Enlightenment. This explored the mythical background leading up to the pivotal moment when the Buddha ‘touches the earth.’ In doing this he calls upon the Earth Goddess Drdha to bear witness to his past spiritual attainments and his right to declare himself a Buddha - an Awakened One. The morning’s festivities began with a specially devised video. During this the movement of ‘touching the earth’ was acted out. I found myself being very strongly moved when I saw this. It aroused my curiosity. There seemed to be a lot more levels on which this fantastical story could be viewed, than a sketchy outline alone might reveal.
Whatever it was that struck me in that simple gesture had a deep resonance, one that went way beyond its profound place within the apocryphal story of the Buddha’s journey towards Enlightenment. After all there was an Earth Goddess involved, and why was it she that was the archivist and historian of the Buddha’s experience in past lives? What started off as a simple rumination and teasing out of some of the hidden meanings concealed within this myth, extended into looking more closely into the numerous iconic stories from ancient mythologies involving Earth Gods and Goddesses. All of whom it appeared had remarkably similar qualities invested in them. They were all bound up in some way with the transition of the seasons, the transitions of sun or moon, and more importantly human anxieties about the transition from life, to death, to whatever the afterlife was conceived as.
Despite Buddhism’s non-theistic nature, nevertheless the same divine archetypes are at play within it. Personally the multi-faceted nature of Earth intrigues me, and has greater significance and relevance for me, than I can adequately communicate here. The sequence of the essays, is pretty much as they came. If there is an overarching schema it is a rough one. It charts in an associative stream of connections our changing imaginative relationship with heaven and deities. This moves from beseeching earthbound deities, to surrendering to lofty heavenly deities, to more purely archetypal beings who, whilst not themselves gods, represent human potential at its fullest. The Buddha’s teachings if completely realised, finally shatters a person’s dependency on all that is earthly and samsaric. Within all of these there is one common thread - the symbolic role that the Earth takes in this.