Posts Tagged ‘Prajna Paramita’

Buddha quote anger, goodness truth generosityIt is one thing to read something and another thing to remember what you’ve read.  How often do we read something at work and quickly forget what it said?  When we are studying the texts and the writings of Buddhism we really want to absorb what we’re reading.  We want to understand the meaning behind the words.  We want to embody the teachings in such a way as they make a palpable difference in our lives. In such a way that we generate an aura of peace, love and compassion for all things and it is evident in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We do this through contemplation of the Buddhist teachings.

These two verses are often chanted before or after a talk or lecture

The Dharma is deep and lovely.
We now have a chance to see it,
Study it and practice it.
We vow to realize its true meaning (page 150).[1]

May the merits of this practice penetrate
Into each thing in all places.
So that we can realize the Buddha’s way,
The Ten Directions, the three worlds, all buddhas,
All honored ones, bodhisattvas, mahasattvas, and
The great prajna paramita.

You can, of course, change the pronoun from we to I if you are studying alone.  There is a veritable encyclopedia of great works of Buddhism to read and digest and contemplate.  The more we study and learn and embrace the words of the great teachers from Shakyamuni Buddha to our current writers and translators the more we will be able to embody the teachings until they become a part of who we are.

Then and only then can we begin to automatically, without thinking, act in a kind, loving, helpful, and nonjudgmental way.  No longer will the questions of “What would the Buddha do” enter our minds.  Our brain will automatically know and go to that action or find those kind and loving words so quickly you will wonder where they could have come from.

Being a Buddhist is not simply putting on a robe and expecting everyone will look up to you and think you are grand or special or knowledgeable.  It is with or without a robe acting like a person with merit gained from your studies having penetrated into your words, deeds, thoughts, and actions. That lets people know you are a student of the Buddha.  It is not easy to be a “real” Buddhist.  In fact, it is very challenging in the beginning. Why? Because goodness must swell up from within you in all situations and with all people regardless of the circumstances of the moment.

I am not always the best Buddhist and I know when I have slipped away from my vows and have to begin anew.  How do I know that? –through knowledge of the teachings, through my time spent on the cushion contemplating and studying the sutras and the teachings of Buddhism through the ancients to the modern authors–that’s how.

It’s quite like the world class chefs. They do not learn how to be a great chef by eating, they learn by studying with other great chefs, and cooking, and cooking some more. Creating recipes takes a lot more time, thought, and effort then eating! What recipe are you using? Jell-O Instant pudding or one made from scratch with great ingredients, time, effort, studying, concentration, and love of the teachings?

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

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Here we are finally at the last few verses of “The Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra,” this incredible adventure is about to come to an end and hopefully it will be one of such wonderful magnitude that your life will be better in every way from studying it and chanting it and contemplating its words and listening to the sounds that it sends through your ears into your head.

The verses are as follows:

This is no other than truth.

Therefore, set forth the Prajna Paramita mantra,

Set forth this mantra and proclaim

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha (x3)

The last line is actually sung like a chant three times.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living By Vow writes this about these verses.

Since this is a mantra, the words themselves are believed by some to have divine power and so are not translated.  Depending on the translator, the meaning is, “Gone, gone, gone beyond” or “Gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!” Bodhi means “awakening” and svaha means “all hail.” “Gone” points to a reality beyond our system of values, beyond the boundary of our ready-made picture of the world and ourselves.  This mantra enables us to break through our internal limitations and see a deeper reality inside us.  The Buddha taught us to wake up to this deeper meaning in our daily lives. (page 203).[1]

So when we read and chant and think about this sutra we discover our innate ability to go beyond the physical world of modern day living to go where awakening exits and all things are one living in unison and harmony.  Beyond thinking and feeling and beyond the intellect that is always trying to make things of mystery have weight and measure and answers and logic.  Beyond sight, and sound, and touch, and taste–beyond anything the human mind can comprehend.

Gate, Gate Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi SvahaGone, gone, gone beyond!  Gone altogether beyond anything I can know through my intellect.  Gone into a world of possibilities that my human mind may not be able to comprehend.  This is the place that Deepak Chopra calls “pure potentiality.” The place between this thought and the next that exists some place in quantum physics but is not seen by the human eye.  To live in this space is to be all there is to be in this life and any other.  To bath in that place where life has “pure potentiality beyond any place my human mind can take me at this moment…into the “silence” as we say in Unity Church.

This is where Shodo Harada in his beautiful book of poetry, calligraphy, and prose, Moon by the Window, writes, “The old pine is speaking prajna wisdom (page 203).”[2]

Normally we see our body and the rest of the world as separate; we live a life apart. When our world and our body meld, we experience the awakening of the Buddha, becoming a perfect whole.  Our zazen isn’t for playing around with our own thoughts. This world is filled with problems; our bodies are imperfect too. But putting everything aside and becoming one with this world, completely and totally, is what has to be done (page 203).[3]

So let us take time this week to sit and meditate while chanting the last verse of the sutra chanting until you are lost and have gone beyond the words into that perfect place of pure potentiality where the old pine, or the cushion, or the wind in the trees melds you with all things, all sounds, all sights, and all thoughts…melds you into one where you have gone, gone, gone, beyond into awakening.

You can do it…so go for it—go beyond it!

In gassho


Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day with at least 5 minutes of chanting “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.”
  2. Before I put my feet on the floor each morning I will remind myself that “I am pure potentiality.”
  3. I will remember that if “The old pine is speaking prajna wisdom.” I can too!
  4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[2] Harada, S. (2011) Moon by the Window, The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada. Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[3] Ibid.

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Our thoughts today will be on the verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Although they sound a little crazy once we get the idea that is trying to be expressed in the sutra our lives will be filled with much less stress, strain, and worry.

No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death;

No suffering, no cause or end to suffering;

No path, no wisdom and no gain.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Pramita.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

If our life is based on dichotomies like good and bad, we chase after good things and run from bad things.  We are concerned about whether we are good or not.  If we think we are good, then life is worth living. If we think we are bad, then life is just a mistake. This dualistic thinking makes our life rigid and narrow.

No matter what mistakes we make, we can start over because everything is impermanent.  We can change. We can change the direction of our life.  This is the way we transform our life, our thinking, and our views.  According to Dogen Zenji, sitting in zazen and letting go of everything is the key to shifting the basis of our life (p. 163).[1]

Yet, we allow the above thoughts of old age and death and suffering to chase after us each day and we allow those thoughts to upset us and ruin our day.  Or, if we choose, we can begin our day with sitting (meditation) and let go of everything good and bad, fear and happiness and more.  We can be free of the mind made chains of emotions and thoughts. We can focus on the now and the only thing important in the now when sitting is “your breath.” Allow your mind to be free of the to-do lists, the past conversations and actions, the fears and the joys. Simply wait and watch quietly for the body to become still and the mind to become quiet and the breath to become deeper and slower.

I am not tied down forever to the behaviors that have been hindering me in my life and can see them for what they really are impermanent.  The programming may be old and deep but with time and effort all things are possible.  Remember the old saying, “All things are possible for those who believe.” So begin today to let go of your fears of old age and death, suffering, and limitation or whatever else may be holding you back from being the person you desire to be, a person living a life of compassion, love, and peace.

This is a new year the perfect time to begin your life a new!  You are a Bodhisattva, whether you know it or not, so live this Prajna Paramita today and watch the results manifest in your life.

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything but my focus on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and my rigid and narrow thinking.
  3. I am changing the direction of my life for good today!
  4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

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