Posted in enlightenment

Saving Ourselves

The path of Buddhism is called the Dharma. It is a method for saving ourselves.

I don’t mean that as a trite platitude. The Dharma will save you. Not save your soul from damnation. As Buddhists we don’t believe in that. The Dharma will save you from yourself. It will save you from your own greed and delusion. It will save you from that feeling that you are hopeless or broken or weak.

The Dharma is direct and precise. It can lead us to a state of realization that is beyond the state of delusion in which we spend most of our time. Practicing the Dharma is nothing less than the highest human aspiration. We are trying to attain Enlightenment and transcend our egoic self.
We use mind training to work on our poisons, these are the things that hold up back from our potential. Greed, hatred, and delusion are the things that feed our ignorance and keep us mired in suffering. We also work on transcending our habitual patterns, those old ways of thinking that are with us all the time, the preconceptions and baggage that we all carry that prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
We want to learn how to understand our own minds, how to accept what’s around us instead of rejecting it.

There is a truth about life that the Buddha realized and we need to realize it too. The truth is that life is painful with occasional moments of pleasure. The Dharma shows us that we can have a healthier relationship to that pain. We can experience it without letting it overcome us. We can get out of this ocean of suffering.

Enlightenment is like seeing the sun. It’s something you can do. It’s something we all can do. The most important thing about the Buddha’s life is that he was an ordinary person, like us. He wasn’t some kind of god or spirit. Because of that we can aspire to do what he did. You can do it. In fact, no one else can do it for you. It’s up to you to experience reality as it is.

 

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Posted in altar sutra

Altar Sutra: On Prajna: Part 1

On Prajna (Wisdom)

One day, after reciting the Heart Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch Huineng gave the following teaching:
The great seed of Awakening is within all of us. It is because our minds are under delusion that we fail to realize this. This is why we seek advice and guidance from Masters and Teachers
The truth is there is no difference between an Enlightened being and an ignorant one. The only difference is that an Enlightened being sees their own true nature.

Now, let’s talk about the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra so each of us can engage with wisdom.

Several things going on here. The Master is talking about the concept of Buddha nature. This is a traditional Mahayana Buddhist teaching that we are all awakened already, that Enlightenment isn’t something we are seeking, it’s just that we are trying to see through our delusion to see our Enlightened nature underneath. The Mahaprajnaparaimta Sutra is the Sutra of Great Transcendental Wisdom. We’ll talk more about that a little later.

Those who talk about wisdom all the time don’t know that wisdom is inherent in our nature. Talking about food won’t make you full when you’re hungry. Just so, talking about wisdom will not make you wise. We can sit and talk about Emptiness forever, but talking will not make us realize our fundamental nature. It’s pointless.

This is similar to a line from another famous Chinese spiritual text, the Tao Te Ching. “The way that can be spoken of is not the true way.” That is, once we start speaking, we have probably missed the point. The truth is beyond the language we can use to talk about it. Bodhidharma, the first Chinese Patriarch called it, “Beyond words and letters. Emptiness here means we are without inherent self nature. That is, there is no part of us that is really separate from the world around us. Our nature is oneness.

‘Mahaprajnaparamita’ is a Sanskrit word. It means Great Transcendental Wisdom.
We have to put Transcendental Wisdom into practice.Just reciting the teachings of Mahaprajnaparamita without putting them into practice is like a phantom, a delusion, a flash of lightning.

This reminds me of this quote from Ikkyu: ‘Like vanishing dew, a passing apparition or the sudden flash of lightning– already gone — thus should one regard one’s self,’

When we simply recite the teachings, we aren’t doing much good. We have to embody the teachings. Don’t study the Buddha. Be the Buddha.

The Buddha outside isn’t the true Buddha. The true Buddha is within.

Maha means ‘great’. The abilities of the mind are great. What lies within us is infinite, neither long nor short, neither happy nor sad, neither good nor evil.

Our true nature is Emptiness and there is really nothing to be attained. The Essence of our minds is the absolute void.

When I talk about Emptiness, don’t think in terms of nothingness or annihilation. We shouldn’t fall into this idea because then we could begin to think that nothing matters.

A very common mistake people make when they start learning about Buddhism. Buddhism is not nihilism. I think of Emptiness as being vast and open, like the sky.

The void we are talking about is capable of containing many things of various shape and size. The void
contains the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth.

The void contains all of these. So do we.

This echoes a quote by Rumi, the famous Muslim mystic:
‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop’

We call our true nature great because it contains all things. All things are within our nature. When we see the behavior of others, we must not be attached to it, so that our minds can be as void as the sky. In this way, we can say our minds are great. So, we use the word Maha.
The ignorant talk about it and the wise put it into practice.
The mind is great in capacity because it is one with everything.

When our minds work without being clouded by hindrance, to ‘come’ or to ‘go’ then we are dwelling in a state of ‘Prajna’, wisdom.

All wisdom comes from within ourselves.

Once we understand the essence of our minds, we can be free from delusion.

Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond Sutra, chapter 16

The Buddha then asked Subhuti, “Do I have human eyes?”

“Subhuti replied, “Yes, you have human eyes.”

“Does I have the eyes of Enlightenment?”

“Yes.”

“Do I have the eyes of transcendent intelligence?”

“Yes.”

“Do I have the eyes of spiritual intuition?”

“Yes.”

“Do I have the eyes of love and compassion for all sentient beings?”

Subhuti said, “Yes, you love all sentient life.”

Here the Buddha is trying to understand Subhuti’s level of devotion. He wants to make sure Subhuti is worthy of this teaching, although I”m sure he already knows the truth. Subhuti makes clear with his answers that he has fully and completely accepted the Buddha as his Guru.

Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond sutra, chapter 13

“Subhuti, if on the one hand, a virtuous individual gives up his or her life many times as an act of generosity and continues doing so for countless ages; and if, on the other hand, another person listens to this Sutra with complete confidence and without contention, that person’s happiness will be far greater. But the happiness of one who writes this Sutra down and explains it to others cannot even be compared it is so great.”

“Subhuti, we can summarize by saying that the merit and virtue of this Sutra is boundless. The Buddha has declared this teaching for the benefit of initiates on the path to Enlightenment; he has declared it for the benefit of initiates on the path to Awakening. If there is someone capable of receiving, practicing, and sharing this Sutra with others, he or she will receive boundless merit and virtue. Such a person is known to be carrying the Supreme Enlightenment attained by the Buddha.”

We might be overwhelmed by repetition at this point. This is important to remember: many of these teachings spread by word of mouth first, rather than as written texts. So, it was important to make the same points over and over to ensure that the students remember them. The Buddha is reminding Subhuti that this Sutra is really important. Because we are studying it together, we are carrying the Supreme Enlightenment attained by the Buddha.