The Breath of Life

Six large Jizo Bodhisattvas with 4 small Jizo Bodhisattvas

4 small Jizo Bodhisattvas (Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo)












Bodhisattvas must unfold the potent knowledge of Prajnaparamita (the wisdom to reach the other shore) into the ten modes of purifying and healing activity, the four spheres of formlessness and the six forms of super-knowledge. -- The Prajnaparamita sutra (Buddhis sutra)

Hathor, giving the breath of life to the Pharaoh
(Egyptian Museum, Cairo)
Ra is the divine god, who created himself, who made the heavens and the earth, and the breath of life.
-- Egyptian Legends of Ra and Isis

In this image, Hathor, the daughter (or sometimes wife) of the Egyptian Sun-God Ra, is giving the Breath of Life to the Pharaoh. Hathor symbolizes the heart, and the pharaoh is a symbol for the mind, which like a King or Emperor ruling his subjects, rules the many `I`s inside of a person.

Isis came with her words of magic, and the place of her mouth was filled with the breath of life.
-- Egyptian Legends of Ra and Isis
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. -- The Bible, Genesis 2:7

Gurdjieff (1866-1949) a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher, who brought a spiritual teaching to the West known as The Work, or The Fourth Way, explained that a human being does not have unity but is a collection of many I`s.

Man has no individual I … Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking ‘I.’ And each time his ‘I’ is different. … Man is a plurality. Man’s name is legion. -- George Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff called them I`s because we mistakenly take the thoughts, emotions and sensations we experience, as 'I.' In Esoteric traditions the number 10.000 is used to symbolize this plurality in man.

Tarot card X, The Wheel of Fortune
There exist ten thousand worlds, and all these are contained in man, without his being conscious of it .-- Darqawi (18th c. Sufi)
It is always a danger to the aspirant on the path when one begins to believe and act as if the ten thousand idiots who so long ruled and lived inside have all packed their bags and skipped town or died.-- Hafiz (14th c. Persian poet)

In this Tarot card the Wheel of Fortune, each animal symbolizes an 'I.' The 'I' on the top of the wheel, is the 'I' of the moment and is king for the duration of one breath, but mistakenly thinks it is there all the time. However, several seconds later it is followed by another 'I.'

A symbol that can be found in all esoteric traditions is the lifetime of an animal or human, representing one breath.

A lifetime is not what`s between the moments of birth and death. A lifetime is one moment, between two little breaths.-- Zen saying

Each breath brings a new thought, emotion or sensation, called an 'I', and this thought, emotion or sensation, is represented as the life of a living being.

Strictly speaking, the duration of the life of a living being is exceedingly brief, lasting only while a thought lasts. Just as a chariot-wheel in rolling, rolls only at one point of the tire and in resting only rests at one point; exactly in the same way, the life of a living being lasts only for the period of one thought.
-- Buddhaghosa, Visuddha Magga VIII (Buddhist Sutra)
One cycle of respiration takes about three seconds. This is a definite and complete period of time for a man. If he observes closely, he will find that every breath brings a new thought to his mind, or a repetition of an old thought. -- Rodney Collin (Fourth Way spiritual teacher)

The Breath of Life is a breath taken with Self Remembering. One reminds oneself to be present by saying Now or Be and then makes the effort to be aware of oneself in one`s surrounding for the duration of one breath. By prolonging this effort the God within is able to appear.

The breath of life is the consciousness of life. -- Upanishads (Hindu text)

To breathe consciously means passing from one breath to the next in presence, not in heedlessness. Do not allow a single breath to be drawn empty and heedless of God. -- Kashghari (15th c. Nakshbandi Sufi)

In the Hindu tradition, the Puranas speak of the ten incarnations of the God Vishnu. These incarnations are said to represent the divine help given by Vishnu; they re-establish the Dharma or righteousness, and destroy injustice from time to time, by appearing on earth in various incarnations. Each incarnation symbolizes a breath in which Divine Presence is occurring, destroying the state of waking sleep that man spends his days in.

The first five incarnations of Vishnu: Matsya, Kurma, Vahara, Narashina, Vahama (19th century, Bombay museum)

The first incarnation of Vishnu is a fish, followed by a turtle, a boar, a lion and a dwarf.

The second five incarnations of Vishnu: Parasurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki (19th century, Bombay museum)















The sixth incarnation is a man, followed by four Gods, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.

Within ten days thou wilt seem a god to those to whom thou art now a beast, if thou wilt return to thy principles.
-- Marcus Aurelius (2thc. Roman emperor)

One day symbolizes one breath; the night is the inhalation and the day represents the exhalation.

You will find the day spoken of as the breathing. -- Bernard of Clairvaux (12th c. French abbot)

The Ten Ox Herding pictures from Taoism and Zen Buddhism, show the same symbolism of ten breaths of remembrance. In pictures one to six, a child is struggling to find the bull, the lower self, and bring it under control. The child symbolizes the ruling factor or the mind, which Gurdjieff called the steward. The sixth picture shows that the lower self is now under control.

When the believer has mastered his lower self, so that it serves as a riding mount beneath him, the deeds of his heart will shine forth upon his face . -- Al-Jilani (12th c. Sufi)

After having control over the lower self, prolonged presence can occur, symbolized by the following four pictures. They are four breaths of rest and emptiness, which are represented by the four gods, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki in the ten incarnations of Vishnu.

The ten Oxherding pictures (illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki)

The Ten Incarnations of Vishnu and Ten Ox Herding pictures symbolize ten breaths of life. In six breaths or steps of action, one uses short reminders to be present, and then one stays present for four more breaths.

The secret of the magic of life consists in using action in order to attain non-action.
-- The Secret of the Golden Flower (Taoist text)
This immortal fourfold breath, is hidden in the original cavity of the spirit, behind the spot between the eyes.
-- Chao Pi Chen (20th c. Taoist Master)

Immortality refers to the state of presence, which it is out of time, regardless of whether it last for a second, a minute, twenty minutes or forever.

Alice: How long is forever? White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second. -- Alice in Wonderland
If you practice for a single breath, then you are a realized immortal for a breath. -- The Secret of the Golden Flower:

The Breath of Life is symbolized in many different ways.

Great are the Three Jewels, and honoured be the Way; The Four Kinds of Life and Six Paths are all explained.
-- Journey to the West (one of the four great Chinese classical novels)
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work. -- The Bible, Exodus 20:8-10
The first bowl moistens my lips and throat;
The second bowl banishes all loneliness;
The third expelled the dullness from my mind,
Inducing inspirations born from all the books I’ve read;
At the fourth cup, I begin to perspire –
life's troubles evaporate through my pores.
The fifth cup cleanses my entire being.
Six cups and I am in the realm of the Divine.
Seven cups - ah, but I can drink no more:
I can only feel the gentle breeze blowing through my sleeves,
wafting me away to the Isle of Immortality!
Lu Tong (8th c. Taoist poet)

Six large Jizo Bodhisattvas with 4 small Jizo Bodhisattvas (Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo)
Wisdom has a fourfold manifestation and a sixfold manifestation . . . But the wisdom beyond discrimination has a singular expression, which is constantly manifesting before our very eyes here and now: It is total and absolute enlightenment. -- Dogen (Japanese Zen Master)
Bodhisattvas must unfold the potent knowledge of Prajnaparamita (the wisdom to reach the other shore) into the ten modes of purifying and healing activity, the four spheres of formlessness and the six forms of super-knowledge. -- The Prajnaparamita sutra (Buddhist sutra)

4 small Jizo Bodhisattvas (Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo)
Ten steps that lead one up to heaven. Ten steps through which a man knows God. The ladder may seem short indeed, but if your heart can inwardly experience it, you will find a wealth the world cannot contain.
-- Philokalia, Theophanis the Monk
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