Prajna Paramita Hridaya

teisho 1116    (2008)

Hridaya – that which is basic to it all.  It all goes back to I am.  You cannot pin it down, you cannot say ‘that is it’.  You cannot say anything definitive, but that does not mean to say that you cannot say anything. There is often the belief that if one cannot say everything, one shouldn’t say anything. But it is how we use words that is significant. If one approaches what is in an open way, one realises that there can be no beginning or end.

Pra means aroused, na means primordial awareness, primordial knowing, primordial openness. So Prajna means aroused awareness, aroused knowing.  But this does not mean aroused once or twice, it means this is the nature of knowing.  You cannot say that knowing is, it is not an ongoing condition, it is not a substratum, or background.  And yet it is continuous.  This seems to be a contradiction, but it is only a contradiction when we try to seize it, nail it down.The word prajna is an invitation to be open to what is.  It is pointing us to an alive vital state.

Paramita traditionally means ‘to the other shore.’  Buddha’s teaching was likened to a raft that one rode on to cross to the other shore, which we usually look on as ‘over there.’  But with Paramita the other shore is ‘I am.’   The other shore is here already;  it is not a journey, it is an arrival.

One could say that Prajna Paramita is the source.  From the source, all beings are Buddha. As the source, as the origin, all beings are Buddha. As the origin, all beings are aroused knowing.

Dogen said that one must think the unthinkable. This does not mean moving around words and ideas, it is going to the heart of the matter, it is giving the mind to, not something over there, but what is already here.

The Bodhisattva of compassion, as opposed to the Arhat who is the one who has stepped off the wheel of birth and death, foregoes entry into nirvana and takes on the suffering of the world. This looks as though the Bodhisattva of compassion is the ultimate in altruism, but it would be a mistake to view it in this way.  Bodhi means knowing.  You could say Bodhi stands to Prajna like the sun stands to the rays of the sun.  Bodhi is the brilliance of the sun, of the light.   Sattva is being.  Bodhisattva, knowing which is its own being; being which is its own knowing.  We talk about this as fundamental reality.  When we ask ‘what is reality?’ we are talking about Bodhisattva.

The Bodhisattva is not a person, but anyone who seriously practices the way is bodhisattva. This is not saying that the person is a bodhisattva, but that the seriousness of the practice is bodhisattva.

One must go where it all begins.  It is not something which is known or knowable, not something which stands apart, it is not something that can be felt;  it is the bodhisattva of compassion.

When we see there is no I that suffers, we sunder the bonds of suffering. The I suffers because there is an implicit acclaim of being separate, distinct, unique.  We do not come to an end of suffering, we come to an end of I.  As long as I want to free myself from suffering, inevitably I will suffer.  As long as we look on suffering as the problem, we perpetuate our suffering.  When we see that I am the problem, then it is no longer the problem.

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