The Tarot deck can be used as an instructional guide to psycho-spiritual development. Following the path of the Fool which is the number 0 in the Major Arcana, a third level of consciousness, the super-consciousness is achieved at a psychological apex which is represented by the World card, number 21. Among many tenets, this supra level of consciousness embraces the knowledge that all humanity are One.
Superficial differences among humans such as those observed with the naked eye (appearance, geography, class) can mislead us to believe that we are separate, unique and different, or even more insidiously, better or worse than each other. These differences are emphasized through the egoic perspective and are often sadly used to justify abusive, combative and cruel behaviour.
This supra level of consciousness is referred to in Buddhism, as enlightenment. Students of the Tarot who are interested in pursuing a more in depth study relating Yoga or Buddhism to the Tarot will find a number of interesting treatises available to support your study. Whole books and tarot decks have been published which have contributed significantly to understanding the connections between these two spiritual disciplines.
One of the connections between Buddhism and the Tarot can be made in the Swords suit. In Buddhist thought, the sword was a symbol of discrimination that penetrates the deepest recesses of philosophy in order to find truth. In the Tarot, the Swords suit represent the intellect and wisdom from the deepest places of human spirit.
Buddhism teaches that the stages to enlightenment will involve a confrontation between our attachments to the temporal, material plane, and the necessity to overcome and ultimately release these attachments. The smaller spiritual lessons of release prepare us to be ready to leave the physical world ultimately, and finally.
The Fool’s Journey in the Tarot
The Major Arcana is a depiction and description of the soul’s journey in a physical existence. We are spiritual beings living in a body in a physical world. When we connect to the soul’s journey we discover a higher purpose for our physical embodiment. The Major Arcana in the Tarot is a depiction of the powerful energies that affect our soul’s journey. Becoming aware of our soul’s journey will lead to a discovery and acknowledgement of our higher life purpose. We may then apply ourselves to meeting the challenges that our path demands.
We reach the stage of the Hanged One, number 12, when we are prepared to make the egotistic sacrifices necessary to bring our authentic and true selves into the world.
Buddhism also guides adherents to making egoistic sacrifices (ultimately giving up the “I”) to reach a level of enlightenment whereby our consciousness opens so profoundly that we become aware our being has no boundaries or borders. The Tarot depicts this ego de-attachment in the Death card, and the Tower card with the lightening bolt striking the Tower.
Lightening as a Symbol of Bolt of Truth
Lightening has always been experienced by human beings as a manifestation of divine energy. Such a god figures in Buddhism as a symbol of the light of truth, which hypocrisy or falsehood cannot persevere.
A famous Zen Koan guides an adherent to know that, “While you are living, Know you are dying”. Live your life with purpose, make every moment count and always act from your deepest values. Discovering what those are, is what the spiritual journey of the Tarot is constructed to do. Whether you are walking the path of wholeness as mapped out in the Tarot or on the Buddhist path to enlightenment, you must learn these lessons of embodiment to reach nirvana and wholeness.