In the previous post, I discussed a symbolic meaning of the arrow according to fundamental Buddhism. The Vajrayana Buddhist point of view embraces all the early school teachings but adds a slight nuance according to the tantrayana. Tantra can mean transformation, as in “like cures like.” The arrow can harm or it can heal. Tantra also means continuity, the ability to maintain stable awareness of our natural wisdom and compassion.
In practice, the ritual arrow is a tool that magnetizes accomplishments for long life and favorable wealth. The arrow itself represents skillful means (compassionate action) and the feathers symbolize wisdom. The five-colored cloth ribbons represent the five wisdoms, but can also be seen as the five Buddha families and the five elements. The arrow is used in many Long Life practices for reclaiming all the aspects of our vital energy and protective energy that are damaged, lost, or stolen. So, rather than causing harm, the arrow becomes a symbol of transformation.
It is quite appropriate that Buddhism evolved over time to embrace the tantric point of view as the Dharma moved from northern India to Tibet. Being able to see the medicine in all things is very empowering. For instance, although the Covid-19 virus causes great suffering, it has a healing quality in the way we work with it. Our health care system in getting a ‘tune up’ so it can more skillfully deal with pandemics. People around the world are rediscovering a deeper sense of kindness and compassionate activity.
As we move from this pandemic toward a return to ‘normalcy,’ I have a wish that we take the medicine distilled from the virus on a daily basis. Maybe it will strengthen our natural immunity to attachment and hatred. Maybe we will learn to be skillful archers, slinging arrows of kindness everywhere.