Cardinal directions

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:19 am

Cardinal directions

Postby DhammaDan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:54 pm

Hi all,

I's been awhile and I'm back with yet another question that has come up.

I was recently talking to my Hindu friend's father again, and something came up about the cardinal directions. According to his tradition, bowing to the ten directions (N, S, E, W, NW, NE, SW, SE, up, down) is symbolic for paying respect to different gods and people associated with those particular worlds. I explained to him how the directions in Buddhism symbolize different groups of people, such as families, teachers, etc, and how we should keep good relationships with them. He had never heard of this before.

Now my question is a simple one, and really just deals with the number of directions. When I was explaining it to him, I said that we usually refer to 6 directions, wheras he told me they will always have 8 or 10. I understand the Mahayana tradition has 10, but Theravada appears to only have 6, without the intermediate directions. I have however seen the intermediates (NW, SE, etc) in the Patisambhidamagga Mettakatha.

Besides that, do we only refer to 6 directions or do 10 appear more than I am aware of? If so, what would the intermediate directions be symbolic of? Thanks for your help!

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Cardinal directions

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:15 pm

Paying homage to the six directions — East, South, West, North, Nadir, and Zenith — comes from the Sigalovada Sutta.

In the practice of loving-kindness, then the intermediate directions are also included. They are not symbolic of anything in that context — they are just directions.
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