teishos 1090 & 1088 – year 2007
Buddha said, “When I came to awakening, the whole world came to awakening.” It is this awakening that is fundamental, it is not the pacifying of the personality. This awakening is prajna, it is what the Prajna Paramita is all about. Manjusri on the alter during sesshin is the bodhisattva of prajna.
When we had the Manjusri on the alter made, we gave certain specifications: one of them was that the sword must be in action, not just held upright; and we asked that the lion be active, the paw upraised. They did a marvelous job of portraying the dynamism and action of prajna.
‘jna’ means primordial knowing. Knowing beyond content. It is the light of the world. It is that primary condition out of which everything arises and to which everything returns.
Why we have to practice so hard and so long is because this primordial knowing, this knowing without content, is ignored. We have turned our backs on this which is the fundamental treasure. Our practice is to turn around, to go beyond, paramita.
In the Prajna Paramita sutra it says ‘emptiness is no other than form, form is no other than emptiness.’ This is the heart of the sutra. The rest of the sutra is an expansion of these two phrases.
At the end of the sutra we have the mantra:
gone right beyond,
This is a dynamic expression of paramita.
Then is says ‘bodhi’. Bodhi is the light, the light that shines by itself, it is pure knowing. This knowing is right now, and it is essential to see this. It is right now.
You go into a room and you see the room – in that is the problem. The seeing is already the room. The room is empty of the room, there is no room. There is the seeing. This is paramita, the turn about. It is equally true to say there is no seeing, the room is already the seeing. We insist on the room, we insist on the seeing. But beyond the room and the seeing, what is there?
When you ask ‘who am I?’ you go at it with the same attitude: that you see the room, or you hear the bird, or you feel the cushion. There is no room, there is no bird, there is no cushion. Buddha said that there is no world, that is why we call it a world. When you are working with ‘what is Mu?’ that already is Mu. It is not that if you work on Mu, one day you will discover Mu. Asking ‘Who am I?’ will not eventually lead you to some kind of response. You are always looking for something. There is no Mu; Mu is empty of Mu; that is why it is called Mu. As long as you feel there can be a result and that it is the result that matters, you have set up an impassable barrier.
Praja is already paramita. As you are you are already awakened. True nature is awakened.
The first of the four vows: “all beings without number, I vow to liberate”, lets us out of the prison of ‘I’ into the freedom of One Mind. This vow is a vital part of our practice. It is not a vow to become a person who does ‘good deeds’ for others. On the contrary, it is recognizing that there are no ‘others.’
We are so used to seeing ourselves as an atom in a vast world, a vast universe. We have the feeling we are just an accident, something that might never have been. And yet we are that knowing/being, that light, which not only contains everything but which is everything. What is this light? It is the light beyond all shadows. It is not something you can see. What is your light? There was no time when the light was switched on and there will be no time when the light will be switched off. It is far removed from what you see and know.
We chant ‘all beings are Buddha.’ We do not chant ‘all beings are Buddhas.’ There is only One; not a numerical one, but an inclusive, dynamic, living One. Each of us is that light, that One. You can only see the truth of this when you shed the skin of personality. Let go of all the ways by which we identify ourselves, how we determine what we are, how good we are, how important we are – see beyond all that. These are the chains that bind us.
We are identified with the clash and clang of existence, but we can step outside this. It is not necessary to undo the mess of existence, – with the question ‘what am I?’ we can stop all this activity and come home. To begin to understand you must cut off what you know and what you see. As long as we are identified with what we know and what we see, as we invariably are, the subtle essence will always escape us. Our life is set up as a kind of competition, we are either winning or loosing, we are making the grade or not making the grade. Forget gain and loss. Ummon said, “let that go; life is not a competition. It is not a course to be run, it is not something we can win, loose or fail in. Life is, and that is all.”
What is reality? First there is knowing/being. First there is you. I am is the beginning of it all. Not the words I am, not even the thought, but beyond that, what is there? Fundamental emptiness. Emptiness is real. The terrible scourge of our life is that we take for granted that which cries out for close attention.
The truth is so vast, it is so magnificent that we shy away from it. It is like trying to look at the sun, we are blinded. Everything is contained in It, and this means there is one world, one world of light. Knowing and being are essentially one: knowing is being and being is knowing; but this ‘is’ is not the is of identity but the is of non severability. When it is said that emptiness is form, it does not mean that emptiness is identical to form, but that you cannot separate one from the other. Knowing/being contains it all, and does not only contain it, but is it all.