Close this search box.


Up and Down the Spiritual Ladder

Image courtesy of the author

From the elemental perspective, creation is a devolution—the process of moving from the most rarefied to the densest; from energy to matter. This conforms with what modern physics has discovered and seems like common sense. Then, from the moment that creation is fully established, evolution begins in a reverse direction. There is a striving back up toward the ever more refined and subtle levels of existence. This is a return to the source. 

On a grand scale, a cosmic scale, creation and dissolution happen in different periods of world-making and unmaking. But on another level, this process continues at each moment and within living systems. Particularly for the human being, a microcosmic mirror of the larger cosmos, that reversal is a possibility. It remains latent, unknown, in the great mass of humanity. But rarely does an individual known as a sage, a saint, a prophet, a hermit, a male or female buddha, achieve this reversal. 

This is the inner or esoteric goal of all spiritual paths or religions. This of course requires that particular path to still have a living core, rather than merely an outer form for worship, for the generation of faith and ethical behavior, or for providing a sense of security. The journey from gross to subtle involves the transformation of mind and body from the material elemental form to the most rarefied bioenergetics. This is a process of purification as well as one of healing and refinement.

These core truths of the universe were not lost on the great masters of Vajrayana. Far from it, they held this process of making and un-making as the very essence of their system of self-realization. This arisal and dissolution they called the creation and completion stages, the two aspects of tantric meditation. While it is the center of deity meditation, it also mirrors how energy flows within and through us, and informs daily life. Each breath is indeed a drawing down and a releasing up. 

Image courtesy of the author

This polarity of “movement” is perfectly symbolized in the downward and upward triangle. Represented by the the famous Star of David in the Hebraic tradition, this dynamic symbol appears centrally in tantric Hinduism (Shaivism), where it appropriately represents the heart chakra. And for the tantric Buddhist it is the basis of the chö-jung, the source of all phenomena on which the sacred deity form emerges to partake in the dance of cosmic joy. 

That figure exists within us. There is no simpler, yet deeper practice than experiencing the Five Elements descending into our form and then reascending into pure awareness. On the one hand, it brings health, grounding, and re-organization to our disordered body and chaotic mind. On the other, it returns the elements to their pristine origin, taking with it the purified experience of this testing ground called life.

See more

Dr. Asa Hershoff
Asa Hershoff

Related features from BDG

The Mystery of the Dual System of Vajrayana Chakras
Purifying Samsara’s Grand Mess
Now or Never

More from The Five Wisdoms by Asa Hershoff

Related features from Buddhistdoor Global

Related news from Buddhistdoor Global

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments