Five Vidyas

Traditionally, the vidyas of ancient India are divided into the five major vidyas and the five minor vidyas (ten vidyas). The five major vidyas are the silpakarmasthanavidya (craftsmanship vidya), the cikitsvidya (healing vidya), the sabdavidya (sound vidya), the hetuvidya (causality or Buddhist logic vidya), and the adhyatmavidya (inner realization vidya). The five minor vidyas are rhetoric, ornate diction, prosody, dramaturgy, and astronomy. However, as H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu has explained, these five major categories are much more complex and subtle than these headings would suggest. To think of them as just five items or categories would be incorrect. We would be wrong in our understanding of the five vidyas. Vidyas is an ancient Indian word that is used in many different contexts to mean different things. Taken literally, it represents the opposite of ignorance which is a-vidya or darkness. You might say that vidya then represents the essential truth of everything or all that is bright and good. Venerable Akou Lamo Rinpoche in H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III states it very clearly: “Everything in the universe can be classified into five aspects of brightness and darkness. To develop everything that is good in the universe and that benefits living beings is classified as ‘bright.’ That which confuses and is evil is classified as ‘dark.’ This is the real meaning of the Five Vidyas of which the Buddha spoke.”


The five vidyas in the Buddhist context represent the underlying principles of the universe. They are comprehensive and profound and totally encompass everything in the universe with life or without life, the spiritual and the material. Everything–all dharmas–are contained in the five vidyas. All animate and inanimate, conditioned and unconditioned phenomena in the entire universe are expressed in the five vidyas. It is essential that they be understood and mastered, if one is to obtain the full power of the Buddha-dharma. You could even say that they are the Buddha-dharma. That is because the Buddha-dharma includes all truth, including the truths of modern day science. However, strictly speaking, these truths are not Buddhist truths or truths that belong to Buddhism. They are the underlying principles of truth and the original nature of all phenomena. They represent the entire interrelated Truth of the Universe. There cannot be a sixth vidya. There are only five and those five contain everything. That is why His Holiness has told us that it is heresy to refer to the five vidyas as merely five sciences or areas of knowledges.


The Chinese translation of the five vidyas is “wu-ming,” which can literally be translated as the “five brightnesses.” The Chinese character for “ming” is composed of the characters for the sun and the moon representing the source of all illumination. The principles expressed by these five categories contain the clarity of the true science of enlightenment. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu often talks about this “brightness.” Once He expressed concern that the improper transmission of the Buddha-dharma would cause the world to loose this light. That is why we must be so careful in transmitting this dharma. Understanding these principles enable one to have the full magical power of the “Jewel Mirror” of the Buddha-dharma. When one can understand these five principles, one understands everything and can do anything! There are many examples given on this website of how this brightness has been manifested in the world today by His Holiness and His advanced disciples.


Different Buddhist sects and also certain non-Buddhist groups understand some aspects of these vidyas, but only a Buddha can understand these universal truths in their entirety. This knowledge was the Buddha’s awakening–His “Enlightenment.” These five principles existed before the coming of the Buddha and were not changed or altered by the arrival of the Buddha. However, the Buddha was able to comprehend the inner-most truth of these principles and thus gain their power. That is part of what is meant by the term Buddha-dharma. “Dharma” is a Sanskrit term that can have different meanings in different contexts. It is usually thought of as the holy teachings of the Buddha (sometimes capitalized as “Dharma”), but it is also used to mean all phenomena or the universal principles underlying all phenomena. When you understand the meaning of Buddha-dharma, you can see that these meanings are not different.


H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha iII Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu has given several examples of these principles in various discourses. He took phenomena that we could all see in our immediate setting to explain each vidya, but told us that this applied to everything throughout the universe.


Hetuvidya–the Vidya of Causality (Cause and Effect or Buddhist Logic):


For example this vidya is often translated as “logic” but it is not the logic of Western philosophy. It is the logic of the Law of Cause and Effect. Understanding this principle can enable you to see both past (causes) and future (effects). His Holiness pointed to a lamp and explained that the darkness and lightness of this lamp creates different karmic reactions. There is one effect if the lamp is lit and another if it is turned off. When the lamp is in different positions it also creates different effects. He also picked up a teacup and explained the cause and effect of drinking the tea. Taking the lid off a teacup is the cause. Vapor or steam arising from the tea is the effect. Taking the cup in your hand and bringing it to your mouth is the cause. Slaking your thirst is the effect. He has given many, many examples of how this principle works from the causes that result in a single hair falling to the collective karma of nations or groups of people that results in either prosperity or disaster. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu told us: “Of course, the causality vidya relates to all matters and all dharmas, all levels of conditional and unconditional phenomena, the entire logical relationship among them, the relationship of cause and effect, and so on. What the causality vidya covers is countless.”


Cikitsvidya–the Vidya of Healing (Medicine)


Although this vidya is listed as medicine or the healing vidya and does include all aspects of what we normally think of as medicine like diagnosis of illnesses and the various healing modalities, it also includes anything where you take something coarse or rough and then refine or correct it. It includes everything where something goes from a bad state to a better state. The healing vidya includes all activities that improve a situation or thing. For example, revising a draft manuscript, repairing a clock, or any other revision, repair, alteration, or activity that raises the quality of something is part of this vidya. Anything that is refined or changed to be good is considered part of the healing vidya in this ancient way of understanding universal principles. While giving a discourse, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu gave the following example: “Zhaxi Zhuoma Rinpoche takes notes on this discourse. When she goes back and refines her notes to produce this web page–that’s the healing vidya. If she gives a discourse on these notes she will use her mastery of the sound vidya to deliver the discourse.”


Sabdavidya–the Vidya of Sound (Speech and Grammar, Communication)


This vidya of sound or speech does not simply involve spoken or written words or singing. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu explains that “Singing is only part of the sound vidya. The sound vidya includes all types of sounds, such as the sound of breathing, the sound of an earthquake, the sound of an erupting volcano, the sound of a firearm, the sound of a gentle breeze in the forest, the sound of a roaring tsunami, the sound of an air whistle on a boat, the sound of buzzing insects, all of the intermingling sounds of nature within the universe such as the sound of flowing water; the sound of us debating, speaking, reciting literature; and so on and so forth. All sounds produced by everything that can produce sound that are pleasurable to living beings are included within the sound vidya.” It can also involve hand gestures or other forms of communication. Broadly speaking, it also includes the ability to communicate with other species and types of living beings both on earth and beyond. His Holiness asked, “How could you say that the sound vidya is simply spoken words? Such an interpretation is terrible! The sound of rain is part of the sound vidya. All delightful sounds and any sound that is beneficial to living beings emitted from animate beings or inanimate things compose the sound vidya.”


Zhaxi Zhuoma Rinpoche asked His Holiness if a certain jazz musician who was so enthusiastic about the His Holiness’s calligraphy—who was attracted to the rhythms of the writing even though he knew no Chinese, maybe “heard” them? She was told, “Yes.” There is an energy that can be felt and heard as well as seen and that is expressed in the sound vidya.


Silpakarmasthanavidya–the Vidya of Craftsmanship (Art and Technology)


This vidya is usually referred to as craftsmanship or art and technology, but it is also much more. It not only includes the ability to create works of art, like sculpture or painting, or technological innovations, but also anything where you express yourself from making facial grimaces where you turn a frown into a smile to applying makeup to the clothes you wear. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu warns us that to foolishly say that this only includes painting is wrong. “The craftsmanship vidya is much more than merely painting. If it were merely a craft like painting, then shouldn’t Yun Sculpture not be part of the craftsmanship vidya? Shouldn’t artistic sculptured landscape scenes also not be part of the craftsmanship vidya? Shouldn’t the alteration and tailoring of clothing likewise not be part of the craftsmanship vidya? All of these are in fact part of the craftsmanship vidya. As I said a moment ago, haircutting or hairdressing is also part of the craftsmanship vidya. How a model walks on stage is part of the craftsmanship vidya. This is a type of artistic expression. Everything that is beautiful and artistic is included within the craftsmanship vidya. Whatever brings enjoyment and happiness to people is part of the craftsmanship vidya. Sitting in a dignified manner, as straight as a bell, totally conforming to the appearance of a member of the sangha, is also part of the craftsmanship vidya. The craftsmanship vidya contains the manifold changes. In short, things that embody that which is good and things of art are all part of the craftsmanship vidya. You must understand these things!”


H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu told one of the rinpoches present: “You are smiling with your mouth lightly closed. At this time, your expression is part of the craftsmanship vidya. The falseness or trueness of what you express outwardly and feel inwardly are all part of the craftsmanship vidya. If you did not have a certain inner feeling, then you would not be smiling with your mouth lightly closed. In your heart or mind, you lack art. You only know to smile. Thus, you lack craftsmanship. The craftsmanship vidya represents the two aspects of our outward expression and our spirit. Our spirit is included in the craftsmanship vidya. Take, for example, the case where someone’s spirit is full. How is it full? Such a person is very self-confident. He feels that the expression of his spirit is very beautiful. This is also part of the craftsmanship vidya. Some actors in plays have stage fright. Although on the surface they very much appear to have craftsmanship, their spirit lacks craftsmanship. When some people take the stage, not only do they appear well, they are full of spirit. They think that they will certainly be the best. Their spirit is very full. This spirit is part of the craftsmanship vidya. This is extremely profound.


Adhyatmavidya–the Vidya of Inner Realization (Enlightenment, Supernormal Powers):


This vidya–the inner science is the hardest to understand and is unique to Buddhism. It is often defined as inner realization. For example, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu can use his inner skills or realization to understand all things in the universe like the palm of his hand. This includes everything about all sentient beings and all things without consciousness (non-sentient). He was able to answer the question raised by Zhaxi Zhuoma Rinpoche concerning the five vidyas by means of this inner science. His inner science skills are transformed into wisdom. He then used speech skills to deliver the answer. His Holiness has told us that the internal vidya refers to inner realization powers. He said, “These inner realization powers are very deep. There are the inner-tantric initiations. At the highest level, this includes the magnificent, limitless, complete, and perfect enlightenment powers of the Buddha. It includes the ability to hide Mount Sumeru in a tiny mustard seed. All of this is part of the inner realization of the inner vidya. Some people say, ‘This inner vidya is actually supernormal powers!’ It includes the accomplishment state of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Such enlightenment and realization states are included within the inner vidya. Understanding one’s mind and seeing one’s original nature is a state of realization that is part of the inner vidya.”


H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu explained that some acts are connected with more than one vidya. Take, for example, a barber or hairdresser. The act of cutting hair belongs to the craftsmanship vidya. However, taking a bad head of hair and fixing it up belongs to the healing vidya. For another example, a car breaks down. When a car repairman takes that broken car and fixes it, that is called the healing vidya. Yet another example is when there is a weather imbalance and it does not rain. A few projectiles are shot into the air that stir up [seeds] the clouds and cause rain. This method of handling the problem is a type of healing of the earth. It is also part of the healing vidya. Another example would be when problems arise during your meditation. You request the Master to point out where you are making mistakes and how to get on the right path. The Master’s instruction will cause you to visualize correctly and show you how not to be attached to phenomena. That is also part of the healing vidya. In short, the healing vidya includes that which is huge in the universe as well as that which is as minuscule as dust.


Thus, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu told us that the Five Vidyas are not just five items of science or knowledge. “If you randomly select any one of the Five Vidyas, it will contain thousands of scientific items. Just casually select a tiny part of any of the Five Vidyas, and you will see that it contains thousands of scientific items. Isn’t labeling the Five Vidyas as the five sciences a form of trampling upon the Buddha-dharma? We should expose anyone in the present or past who spoke of the Five Vidyas in such way, whether he be a dharma king, great rinpoche, or great dharma master, for such a person cannot represent the mind-seal teachings of the Buddha. Mastery of the Five Vidyas is the perfect realization of the magnificent Buddha. It is a brilliant achievement that can be manifested. This is the Five Vidyas.”


Only a very great dharma king or buddha could understand and expound on these principles in their entirety. When H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu gave the impromptu discourse on which this web page is based, the dozen or so disciples in the room were radiant and extremely appreciative. It was a very auspicious and wonderful occasion. A second discourse on this subject was then recorded and made available to many disciples and is studied at the Xuanfa Five Vidyas University.


Buddhist books tell us about the accomplishments that a true vajra master must possess. They mention that an accomplished one should excel in all five vidyas, yet most who claim to be masters cannot demonstrate proficiency in all of these areas. Even the famous historic dharma kings have not reached the levels manifested by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu ! In the current world there are certainly no others who can reach this level! He is able to obtain the help of the devas and the dharma protectors at any time to help him with his work. These devas and dharma protectors can accomplish things at thousands of times the speed of ordinary human beings. Some of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu’s works of art would have taken decades to be completed by conventional means, yet His Holiness can turn out masterpieces in only a few hours or sometimes even a few minutes. Zhaxi Zhuoma said, “I know. I have seen His Holiness start a work of art and I have come back a few hours later and seen a completed masterpiece. Some of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu’s art work resembles withered vines or petrified wood or ancient coral that would have taken thousands of years to produce, yet when His Holiness called the deities to help, they aged in a matter of minutes.”


When Zhaxi Zhuoma Rinpoche introduced H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu’s achievements at an exhibition in Southern California, she started by saying that everything that was seen—all 200 examples of 18 different categories of work—were from the Buddha-dharma. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu is an extremely accomplished artist, poet, writer, inventor, etc, because He has complete realization of the Buddha-dharma. His manifestation of prajna wisdom or the various vidyas as seen in his art and innovations exceeds that of any other dharma king in history. And these exhibits were only a very small sampling of the creative genius of this great being! They did not include His Holiness’s work as a healer, nor accomplishments in the martial arts, nor his musical achievements, nor his holy writings and discourses, etc.—all of which are considerable.


It is important to realize that this mastery and very high level of accomplishment is available to all who learn and practice the correct Buddha-dharma. Venerable Zhaxi Zhuoma

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