Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flowing in Prajna Parmita

At the heart of the Mahayana Buddhist revolution is the Heart Sutra, otherwise known as the Mahaprajnamita Sutra (Great Intuitive Wisdom Sutra). It seems that, like much of the Theravadin canon, this, too, was an oral tradition before being formalized and written down. There are many versions of the Heart Sutra. The largest version seems to be the Heart Sutra of 100,000 verses. The next most important version seems to be the Heart Sutra of 1,000 verses. There is a two page version of the Heart Sutra which seems to have spread around world and is chanted by many different sects of Buddhism to this very day. In some Zen Monasteries and Convents, it is chanted every day. It is considered by many Buddhists to be the supreme essence of the loving teachings of the Buddha. The two page version has the Great Dharani, an alchemical chant that is empowered to alleviate all pain ("Let go, let go, Really let go, Totally let go, Awake, Rejoice."). The shortest version of this sutra is the seed syllable "Ah", the primordial vibration of luminous emptiness. According to one tradition, it is said that the Buddha only chanted the sound "ah" for the entire 40 years of his teaching walk and the people who listened heard what they needed to hear in that moment.

Common to all the versions is a kind of dialectic designed to push the mind beyond logical and verbal reasoning. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are negated and transcended. They are not needed when we are "flowing in intuitive wisdom". This living understanding is beyond every literal formulation of the Buddha Dharma. It is an affirmation that behind all the teachings of Buddhism is a knowing that is based on direct experience and which is beyond words. The realization of this knowing is why meditation practice is important. The process of meditation allows us to flow within intuitive wisdom and dissolve the three roots of pain (addictive craving, condemning negativity, and obscuring delusion).

Also common to all the versions is the principle of emptiness. This is the assertion that no experienced phenomena has any substantial existence, but arises interdependently, subject to cause and effect, is ungraspable, and cannot produce enduring happiness. This emptiness is vibratory and luminous. Everything arises from this energy field, always abides in this field, is a manifestation of this field, and dissolves back into this field when it disappears. Directly experiencing the empty aspect of everything allows us to relax into intuitive wisdom and flow with intuitive wisdom. Many of the negations of the sutras have to do with seeing that even the all the nouns of Buddhism do not represent things that can be grasped and are also therefore empty. In terms of Gestalt Psychology, the sutra is designed so that nothing is "reified". This means the processes are not made into solid rigid things which do not change in time and which are considered isolated from other things. The Heart Sutra negates them to shake us free of the mental lock any idea can have on our mind. Many of the Zen Koans are designed to deepen the understanding of emptiness by paradoxical negations. These "skillful means" are meant to have us at least taste the 10th consciousness.

There is a feeling of nonclinging, nonresistance, and nondelusion within this flow of intuitive wisdom. The analytical fever has gone from the mind. It is no longer driven by craving, no longer tempted to condemn, resist, and fight anything, and everything is directly seen without the dullness of the interpretive mind spraying words all over everything. Every thing is "bright and clear from the beginning". Life is felt within a great affirmation. This makes the negations different from a kind of atheistic existentialist nihilism. Life is profoundly meaningful when flowing within intuitive wisdom. I did get a sense that many atheistic existentialist nihilists did eventually cut through the sorrow mind and did find what one of them described as an "eternal sunrise". The methodology is similar, but its seems many of them got stuck in samsara, stuck in the sorrowful, purposeless, and meaningless feeling that arises along the way. This sorrow cleanses a lot of conditioning, but in its turn needs also to be released. The very rigorous Madhyamika Buddhist philosophers negated everything through this dialectical process, including theism and atheism, karma and chaos, objective and subjective, believing and not believing, being and nonbeing, self and nonself, heaven and hell, goodness and evil, separation and oneness, and even Buddhism and emptiness itself ("the emptiness of emptiness"). This philosophical negation process is parallel to the meditative process of negating everything. The danger of this process is that it may stop short of the Great Affirmation which is Reality in all its luminous radiance, manifesting all the worlds of experience, deeply wise, unconditionally loving, intrinsically beautiful, ecstatically joyful, and inexhaustibly creative.

The Bodhisattva Subhuti, one of the earliest disciples of the Buddha, is considered to have been the disciple who most deeply understood the principle of emptiness. In one story, when the very last trace of subtle mind holding was released from his seventh consciousness, the Cosmic Dakinis sprinkled flower petals from the sky upon him. Subhuti asked them why they were doing this and they said, "You have realized supreme enlightenment." Subhuti then said, "There is no one who has realized supreme enlightenment and there is no supreme enlightenment to be realized." The Dakinis then said, "Nothing is given, nothing is received, no one to realize it. This is supreme enlightenment thoroughly realized."

A lucid silent clarity dawns inside the mind. It feels like walls are blown away into infinity and the night sky, serenely silent, is inside the head. Even when thought waves arise inside the mind, they feel like they emerge from this silence and do not obscure it, and are always a part of this silence, like crickets chirping in the quietude of the night. The mind is no longer caught up in the illusory density of seemingly solid things and solid selves. Everything feels transparent, interconnected, and radiant.

After this awakening, then there is no meditation practice as practice. The yoga is simply to flow in intuitive wisdom, to stay in the mood of allowing and nongrasping, and let life unfold, spontaneously responding to life from compassion, creativity, and wisdom.

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