Posted in buddhism

The Power of the Dharma

Power in the Dharma

Practicing the dharma is powerful and it can bring us great benefit. When we are practicing we are engaging in a different way of thinking and seeing the world. I don’t mean to say that we are seeing the world in a magical or supernatural way. We are seeing the world in  a way that’s beyond delusion.

We are engaging the truth, reality as it really is. When we tune in to the dharma, we are entering the stream. The stream represents the Buddha and all of the other people on the path who have come before us, the scholars, masters, noble ones, and renegades who have made the dharma what it is. Getting in touch with the dharma is getting in touch with the real flow of things, reality as it is. Our practice is our way of tuning in to reality as it is. It’s special because the dharma changes us.

In our practice we are working on our minds. We are turning our focus inward to try to deal with fundamental problems that exist in our minds. We want to understand our minds and how they work. This is the power of the dharma. We are capable of discriminating awareness.

In our normal awareness we experience duality, both attachment and aversion. When we engage in our meditation practice our minds become harmonious. Meditation is how we free ourselves from delusion. We see through delusion and we see another way of looking at the world. Our minds can uncover this world of nonduality.

This is the power of dharma practice.

 

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Posted in Three Trainings, Uncategorized

What Do You Mean By “Wisdom”?

It’s an important virtue in Buddhism.

It’s one of the Three Trainings, along with Virtue and Meditation.

But, Wisdom is not always well defined. We sometimes blur the line between wisdom and knowledge, or between wisdom and intellect. These things aren’t the same.

But What is Wisdom, Really?

To me, wisdom means an intuitive understanding of the Dharma.

We can understand concepts like impermanence, emptiness, and interconnectedness on an intellectual level without so much difficulty. It’s easy to memorize and recite the four noble truths or our favorite sutras, but memorization isn’t wisdom. If it was, then the directions for becoming wise would be simple and straightforward. It’s easy to say that “ego is an illusion.” but to really understand that in our minds is something different.

Understanding interconnectedness is knowledge. Wisdom is being interconnectedness—understanding and acting on our interconnectedness in everything that we do. It is much easier said than done.

Knowledge consists of words, letters, and concepts. Wisdom is beyond concepts.

We can learn about the Dharma all we want. There are endless things we can read and we are lucky to live in a time when that is the case. There was a time when many Buddhist teachings were hard to find. That is not so anymore. In fact, more old texts are getting translated all the time.

And that’s good. Knowledge is important too.

But we have to actually practice the Dharma to gain wisdom.

It isn’t just something to learn about. It’s something to do.

The Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki once said,

“There are no enlightened people, there is only enlightened action.”

When we engage with wisdom we are enlightened, we are experiencing enlightenment.

 

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Posted in tattooed buddha, Uncategorized

The Heart Sutra: A Meditation Guide

 

The Prajnaparamita Hridyam Sutra is a short text; it is about the length of a page.

But it’s a very deep text. It’s title means The Great Heart of Transcendent Wisdom Sutra, but we usually just shorten it to Heart Sutra.

It’s part of the Prajnaparamita school of texts, along with the Diamond Sutra and a few others. These are called the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ texts and they are considered by many to be the greatest works of the Mahayana.

Prajnaparamita means Transcendent Wisdom of the Other Shore. The Prajnaparamita School presented a new goal for Buddhist practice: achieving Buddhahood, rather than simply attaining Nirvana and escaping the wheel of birth and death. This is the ideal of the Bodhisattva instead of that of the Arhat. This is enlightenment in the midst of the world, rather than escaping it. Prajna is considered the highest virtue.

Prajna teachings are based on wisdom and emptiness.

This Sutra challenges us, in our meditation practice, to face duality, profound and relative truths, impermanence and emptiness.

It’s a beloved text and can be used as a guide of advanced meditation practices. It’s considered such an important sutra that it’s chanted in Zen temples every day all over the world.

It’s a dialogue, as a lot of sutras are. In this Sutra Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion is giving teachings to a monk named Shariputra.

Here is the text (1):

The noble Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva,
while practicing the deep practice of Prajnaparamita, looked upon the five skandhas
and seeing they were empty of self-existence,
said, “Here, Shariputra,
form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
emptiness is not separate from form,
form is not separate from emptiness; whatever is form is emptiness,
whatever is emptiness is form.
The same holds for sensation and perception,
memory and consciousness.
Here, Shariputra, all dharmas are defined by emptiness not birth or destruction, purity or defilement,
completeness or deficiency.
Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no memory and no
consciousness;
no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind; no shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling
and no thought;
no element of perception, from eye to conceptual
consciousness;
no causal link, from ignorance to old age and death,
and no end of causal link, from ignorance to old age and death; no suffering, no source, no relief, no path;
no knowledge, no attainment and no non-attainment. Therefore, Shariputra, without attainment,
bodhisattvas take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and live without walls of the mind.
Without walls of the mind and thus without fears,
they see through delusions and finally nirvana.
All buddhas past, present and future
also take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and realize unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.
You should therefore know the great mantra of Prajnaparamita, the mantra of great magic,
the unexcelled mantra,
the mantra equal to the unequalled,
which heals all suffering and is true, not false,
the mantra in Prajnaparamita spoken thus:
“Gate, gate, paragate, parasangate, bodhi svaha.”

 

Just meditation on this text can blow our minds wide open.

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

This challenges our notion of duality. Our minds like to put things into nice neat little categories that don’t often match reality. This Sutra challenges the idea that even existence and non-existence are two separate and distinct things.

No attainment and nothing to attain

Buddhist sutras remind us over and over that we’re walking the path in order to penetrate our delusion, not to attain something. Enlightenment isn’t something we gain. It’s our true nature, we just have to uncover it.

But the text also tells us that these teachings can take us to enlightenment. It tells us to “take refuge in Prajnaparamita and live without walls of the mind.” Cultivating this transcendent wisdom is a path to enlightenment.

A lot is made of that last line, which is usually left untranslated because it’s a mantra and we usually chant mantras in the original language.

“Gate, gate, paragate, parasangate, Bodhi svaha.”

“Gone, gone, gone beyond, fully gone beyond, enlightened so be it.”

Footnote

  1. Porter, Bill. The Heart Sutra: Translation and Commentary. (Berkeley, California: Counterpoint Books, 2004)