The Kabbalah, the Tarot and the Middle Way
15. Opening the Door to Briah
With the attainment and adequate development of both Binah and Chokmah, the stage is now set for the most important step in the Tree of Life in Yetzirah, the one that opens the door to the higher Tree of Life in Briah. This is the path between Chokmah and Binah, depicted by the Tarot card, The Empress.
This path is the critical threshold we have to cross to gain access to the next higher Tree of Life in Briah. It is the path that combines the aspirational state of our being at Chokmah with that of our reference perspective at Binah. It thus combines the altruistic intention of bodhicitta with the realization of nonduality and the unity of all. Here, we lose the sense of there being an agent that carries out the task of saving all sentient beings from suffering. There is no self that carries out this task. Instead, we merge, like water into water, and become one with the All as well as become one with the very act of saving all from suffering. There is no “agent-that-acts” to be differentiated from the act itself. It is a deeper level of nonduality.
As Nagarjuna states:
Action depends upon the agent.
The agent itself depends upon the action.
One cannot see any way
To establish them differently.
Also, to further deepen the characterization of this combination of bodhicitta with nonduality, we should also recognize that activity also cannot be differentiated from the agent and the action. All are dependently arisen and are all thus empty of inherent existence. Again, as Nagarjuna puts it:
Without detachment from vision there is no seer.
Nor is there a seer detached from it.
If there is no seer
How can there be the seeing or the seen?
Plotinus echoes this same realization when he writes:
We ought not even to say that he will see, but he will be that which he sees, if indeed it is possible any longer to distinguish between seer and seen, and not boldly to affirm that the two are one.
All this characterizes the nature of the union of bodhicitta with the realization of oneness and nonduality. We become one with the action of saving all, where agent, activity, and the effect are all undifferentiated from one another. In other words, there is no agent, no activity, and no effect of the activity, to be separated from one another.
The combination, in this manner, of bodhicitta with the unitive realization of oneness with the All, is a potent combination. It generates the spiritual force that will open the door to Briah, and reveal the hidden Daath of Yetzirah so that it will now function as Yesod in Briah and enable us to take the path, in Briah, from Malkuth to Tiphareth. This is the beginning of the Path of Seeing, and when we reach Tiphareth, which is also Malkuth of the highest Tree of Life, Atziluth, we will have opened the third of the three Veils of Negative Existence, Ain.
This critical threshold is represented by the Tarot card, The Empress. She represents the universal mother figure that nurtures all sentient beings. She is depicted as an Empress because she cares for all her subjects without any exception. Also, she is not a separate entity that carries out a separate action that brings about a separate effect. She is all of these inseparably and becomes one with the action and its effect. This is the nature of the combination of the universal compassion of bodhicitta (at Chokmah) with the realization of the oneness with the All (at Binah). It is a potent combination.
From this point on, progress on the spiritual path is by relying on actions to benefit sentient beings. It is a total immersion of our motives, aspirations and thinking, into the aim of benefitting all sentient beings. In other words, it is a transformation of our entire being into the motherly principle of nurturing and saving all others. The aspirant becomes nothing but that. Hence, this path is represented by the Empress who cares for all.
The Empress is not a ruler in the sense of being someone who can dictate to others what to do. She is, instead, the embodiment of the willingness to sacrifice herself for the sake of all others. She is thus the motherly principle that cares for all her subjects to the extent that she gives herself totally for their benefit.
As for all the thresholds that result in the revelation of the hidden Sephirah, Daath, this threshold is in the nature of a surrender. Here, we surrender all motivation concerned with the nurturing of the self, as well as surrender the sense of there even being a self that carries out this motivation of nurturing the All. In crossing this threshold, we have become the very embodiment of working for the welfare of all sentient beings, and of striving to save all from suffering. In other words, we have become the feminine nurturing principle, the very essence of the bodhicitta ideal.