The great vastness that is the dharmakaya is not totally blank or void. From the dharmakaya, all kinds of manifestations occur without any effort or thought. They are not separate from or different from the dharma kaya; they are manifestations of the potential of the primordial nature. According to the Dzogchen teachings, from the nonexisting nature— from the basic nature that is nothing whatsoever—all kinds of things arise naturally. Since things do not need to be created forcefully by someone, they are spontaneous. The nature of this spontaneity is known as rigpa, which is the nature of primordial wisdom. From that wisdom energy the five wisdoms naturally arise, and they are reflected as the five dhyani buddhas and all the vidyadharas.
When we do not have a profound understanding of reality, in the ordinary world the five wisdoms appear as the five aggregates, the five elements, the five colors, and the five poisons. Those conceptions arise because they suit our deluded thinking. In reality they are none other than the five wisdoms or the five dhyani buddhas.
Whether they appear as the five wisdoms and the five buddhas, or as the five poisons and the five aggregates, the five wisdoms are based upon the same primordial nature—the great dharmakaya. In whatever form, place, or time they arise, there is not one atom that goes beyond the primordial state. This is the essence of the profound true nature. However, because we are deluded by dualistic perceptions, we make distinctions between subject and object, and when we hold on to those notions, we create many different things around us.
To protect beings from this kind of delusion, the buddhas appear in many different forms. For example, among the various emanations are the buddha families of the five directions. The eastern buddha is Akshobya, the southern buddha is Ratnasambhava, the western buddha is Amitabha, the northern buddha is Amoghasiddhi, and the central buddha is Vairochana. On the absolute level, there is just one emanation of primordial wisdom; ultimately, there are no different levels. But in order to help remove our dualistic concepts or to dispel our ignorance, they appear as different buddhas. These buddha families are not separate families who exist in the various directions, such as the vajra family, the rich family who lives in the east, and the padma family, the aristocratic family in the west; that is not the point. They appear this way in order to lead sentient beings to nondual wisdom.
These symbols of wisdom are used to illustrate profound meaning. For example, the buddhas appear as peaceful, wrathful, or semi-wrathful, and as male or female. In terms of symbolism, the eight great male bodhisattvas represent the transmutation of the eight consciousnesses. The eight great female bodhisattvas represent the transformation of the objects of the eight consciousnesses. The four gatekeepers are the transmutation of the four extreme views about existence and nonexistence. They all have symbolic meanings.
(adapted from The Dark Red Amulet)