Altar Sutra: On Prajna: Part 2

Since our minds are vast and of the nature of oneness, we should settle them on vast things rather than being distracted by trivial ones.

Don’t talk about Enlightenment all day without practicing it in your mind. To talk about it without practice is like pretending to be a king.

Wisdom can’t be attained by talking about it all the time. Those who think it can are not in the lineage of Patriarch’s and Masters.

There are, and have always been, those who spend a lot of time talking about spirituality while not doing any sort of spiritual practice. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called this ‘Spiritual Materialism’. It’s not about how you look or what you say or even who your teacher is. It’s only about how you engage the practice. Buddhism isn’t something you talk about or something you talk about. It’s not even something you are. Buddhism is something you do.

What is Prajna? Prajna is a Sanskirt word that means wisdom.

If we can keep our minds steady and free from attachment to desire and be wise in our actions, then we are practicing Prajna, or wisdom. One foolish idea is enough to block our wisdom, while one good thought will manifest it again.

When we are ignorant or held by delusion we can’t see it. We can talk about it, but we can’t really engage wisdom.
What is Paramita? It is a Sanskrit word that means ‘to the opposite shore’.

The metaphor here is crossing a stream. This shore is the world of clinging and suffering. It sometimes called Samsara. The other shore is the realm of Awakening, where we don’t cling to our attachments so completely, where we can engage the world without illusory duality. This is sometimes called Nirvana.

This shore is the world where we cling to sense objects. The other shore is where we are in a state of non-attachment, a state above existence or non-existence, where we transcend delusion.

To know the Dharma of Mahaprajnaparamita is to know the Dharma of Prajna. If we don’t put it into practice, then we are ordinary. If we direct our minds to practice it, then we are Buddhas.

But when we are ordinary, we are also Buddhas. And the truth is that delusion and Enlightenment are one.
The Mahaprajnaparamita is the most exalted and supreme teaching. It never stays, nor does it come or go.
Through this teaching the Buddhas of the present, past, and future attain Enlightenment. We should use this teaching to break up our delusions about ourselves, to disentangle from our egos. Following this practice ensures the attainment of Enlightenment. Through this practice we can turn the three poisons, greed hatred, and delusion, into morality, concentration, and wisdom.

This echoes the Diamond Sutra which, in many parts, sings it’s own praises and describes itself as the greatest and highest and most important sutra. It’s not surprising that Hui-neng is so devoted to the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutras. It’s said that he attained Enlightenment after hearing just a few words from the Diamond Sutra.

When we are free from delusions, wisdom manifests. Those who understand this aren’t carried away by idle thoughts. To operate from our true nature, to use wisdom for contemplation, to take an attitude of non-attachment toward all things: this is what is meant by realizing our true nature and attaining Enlightenment.
If you want to penetrate the mystery of ultimate reality and the Awakening of Prajna, you should practice by reciting and studying the Diamond Sutra, which will enable you to see your own true nature, which is, as described by the text, immeasurable and unlimited.

This Sutra belongs to the highest School of Buddhism and the Buddha delivered it for the wisest among us.
When followers of the Mahayana hear about the Diamond Sutra, the seed of Enlightenment is awakened in their minds, they know that Prajna is their true nature and they don’t need to turn to scriptural authority to understand this.

The Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, Tradition of Buddhism is the largest of the three main divisions. (the other two are Theravada, which came first, and Vajrayana). Mahayana Buddhism was created as a more accessible school. The different subdivisions of Mahayana are very diverse, but they have in common the notion that Enlightenment is available to everyone, not just monks, and that it can be attained in this life.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg lives in Kansas City with two kids and two cats. He runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. Daniel has a BA in English from KU and he works for the federal government. Once a Novice Monk in the Rinzai Tradition, he dropped out of monk school to become a regular person. He has taken his inspiration mainly from Zen renegades and madmen like Ikkyu and Han Shan. Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows in both the Nagarjuna and Asanga lineages. He is a frequent guest teacher on Daily Dharma Gathering.

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