Dec 09

The buddha and the beggar

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Nov 27

Verified Confidence: Faith in Buddhism

 

Religious belief relies, to varying levels, on faith, acceptance of dogma and doctrine without expectation of experiential verification that what is being taught has a basis in reality. Some religions teach that a practitioner must continue to believe what is not, or cannot be proven or experienced . . . that they ‘take it on faith’. This can lead to an overzealous faith that suffocates intelligent exploration and questioning of dogma. People who believe without any attempt to prove will likely find themselves mired in dogma rather than accruing knowledge of themselves and the world around them. There is a great disservice to the individual and society if faith replaces the motivation to investigate and to experience personally the efficacy of any teaching or knowledge.

Buddhism is practiced by many as a religion and so faith plays a role, but with particular views not shared with other religions. To highlight the difference in intent Siddhartha used a synonym for faith; he used the word confidence. The same intent from a different arising. Faith, arises as the acceptance that what is being taught is reality without the expectation of, or means of verification . . . or too often it stifles the desire to verify. Confidence arises as a result of knowledge, practice and experience proving the effectiveness of tenets and practices . . . it is faith founded in the reality of experience. Knowledge that Siddhartha was human and that each of us are human gives us confidence (faith) that we can experience awakened moments. Engaging in practices such as generosity of spirit we experience that the good we do matters for ourselves and our society. The Buddha wanted each disciple and follower to engage his teachings and experience their value so that a verified faith (confidence) arose in them. In the Nandiya Sutra, Siddhartha teaches the ideal of ‘verified confidence’.

“There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: ‘The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.’ Content with that verified confidence in the Dhamma, he does not exert himself further in solitude by day or seclusion by night.
“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Sangha: ‘The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples who have practiced well… who have practiced straight-forwardly… who have practiced methodically… who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types of noble disciples when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.’ Content with that verified confidence in the Sangha, he does not exert himself further in solitude by day or seclusion by night.

Confidence in the Buddha doesn’t arise because HE IS THE BUDDHA. It arises due to the evidence of Siddhartha’s life, and the evidence of how his life affected others . . . including most importantly our own lives. It is verified confidence.

Confidence in the Dhamma doesn’t arise because they are texts of the WORDS OF THE BUDDHA. It arises due to the evidence of Siddhartha’s life, and the evidence that each practitioner gathers as they engage the Dhamma in life and experience the results. It is verified confidence.

Confidence in the Sangha doesn’t arise because the members are ALL ON THE SAME PATH. It arises due to the evidence of 2600+ years of Buddhists gathering together, and the evidence each of us experience when we sit together. It is verified confidence.

There is the concept of faith (sraddha) in Buddhist practice. Nagarjuna said, “When one’s mind is grounded in faith, one escapes doubt and regret. Then the power of faith is strong, one can seize and espouse the dharma; and this is called dharmaksanti: tolerance of the dharma, patient acceptance of the teachings about the nature of reality even though they are not yet within your grasp.” This also points to confidence. Though there are aspects of the dharma that aren’t immediately experienced the practitioner has ‘faith’ that they will eventual come to full realization.

The Buddha’s teachings do not begin with a leap of faith meant to affirm a metaphysical doctrine or theory but instead draw our attention to something we care deeply about: we don’t want to suffer and we don’t want others to suffer. The Buddha’s teachings don’t ask us to solely believe, or have faith. Trust in the dharma, in the form of faith or confidence, is useful in allowing practitioners to continue practicing, studying, thinking and meditating even when one hasn’t yet realized how worthwhile the effort is. A mature practice goes beyond faith in the Buddha’s teachings to confidence in the practitioner’s own experience gained from mindful practice and broadening awareness. Buddhist practice doesn’t ask you to just accept anything, even the reality of suffering. It offers teachings about the nature of reality while also offering ways that you can verify it for yourself.

Doubt and regret can arise at any level of Buddhist practice, the feeling that you just aren’t getting it; that you’re not seeing results. Meditation practice is where this is likely to first manifest. You meditate each day for twenty minutes and don’t recognize any benefit. You don’t feel more aware, it doesn’t feel like that part of your brain is getting bigger. You recognize the arising of emotions but still don’t seem to be able to control them. Everything else might be impermanent but you still feel like the same old you. There is doubt that what you are doing is of value and you develop a sense of regret that practice is wasted effort.

A sense of confidence enables you the patience necessary to come to the realization that ideals like impermanence, not-self and suffering are realities. That that same realization can lead to a more wholesome personal character. Acting with compassion and selflessness may not have immediate recognizable wholesome results, the ideal of confidence allows you the time to develop the encompassing awareness needed to realize them.

For some people the concept of faith in Buddhism is not complete with touching on the metaphysical ideals and practices in some Buddhist traditions. Faith in rebirth and karma, that some Zen Masters gain the ability to move instantaneously from one place to another, that a Vajrayana lama can control the weather, or in the legendary birth stories of Siddhartha Guatama is up to the individual practitioner. For others an agnostic approach to the metaphysical may have more value. Setting those concepts aside they focus on those practices that have practical moment-to-moment value while remaining open to the possibility of altering their view through direct experience.

Will you choose to put your faith in the hands of others, or take confidence firmly in hand and turn it into a useful tool in your Life Toolbox? Actualizing confidence that allows the arising of patience and endurance works. It can be the clamp that holds your Buddhist practice together while the glue dries.



I bow with respect,
Wayne Ren-Cheng Hughes, Shi 仁 诚

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Nov 19

Reading in voice

Hello Dharma friends.

I’m happy to join the conversation here and I’d like to share some of the reading I’ve been doing. I just completed a series of recordings of my reading the book “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. I found the guidance for my practice presented in this book to be informative and useful and at some points personally touching and relevant to my own experience. I hope you get a chance to listen and enjoy it as well.
links below to recordings of varying lengths 45 minutes to 90 minutes each.

chapter 1 – 4       https://www.dropbox.com/s/ojlgeo2bex7vnku/When%20Things%20Fall%20Apart %201%20chapter%201%20thru%204.m4a?dl=0
chapter 5 – 7       https://www.dropbox.com/s/56zvtidorsmzhh4/When%20things%20fall%20apart%202%20chapter%205%20thru%207.m4a?dl=0
chapter 8            https://www.dropbox.com/s/8dtx2d0ntu4ak4e/When%20Things%20Fall%20Apart%203%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%208%20%2C%209.m4a?dl=0
chapter 9            https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ndwsxuxmiaafiq/When%20things%20fall%20apart%209%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2018%20to%20end.m4a?dl=0
chapter 10 – 11   https://www.dropbox.com/s/mb5l1646z4ka7xl/When%20Things%20fall%20apart%204%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2010%20%2C%2011.m4a?dl=0
chapter 12 – 13   https://www.dropbox.com/s/ho2z54z301ot5hh/When%20things%20fall%20apart%206%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2012%20%2C%2013%2C%202nd%20read.m4a?dl=0

chapter 14          https://www.dropbox.com/s/8rdbn2zkp6kdg1z/When%20things%20fall%20apart%207%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2014.m4a?dl=0
chapter 15 – 17   https://www.dropbox.com/s/fiywqbx0n1je8q0/When%20things%20fall%20apart%208%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2015%2C%2016%2C%2017.m4a?dl=0
chapter 18 – 21   https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ndwsxuxmiaafiq/When%20things%20fall%20apart%209%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2018%20to%20end.m4a?dl=0

Thank you all for supporting my practice in sl
Rolotomasi

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Oct 30

Agression in many forms

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

A critical aspect of Buddhist philosophy and practice is the ideal of non-violence (ahimsa). Violence, any physical action that results in the harm or death of another being, is antithetical to the development of compassion, loving-kindness and to liberation from suffering. The reality is that violence abounds in the world; violence in acts like murder, rape, war and genocide, as well as any other actions that cause harm or death to living beings. The question each Buddhist practitioner must ask, and answer with rigorous self-honesty is what acts of violence have I committed or am I considering. None, or very few is likely to be the honest answer. Most people have never purposely taken a truly violent action. It is very likely though that most people have engaged in aggression in one of its many forms in thought and in action. To reach the ideal of non-violence requires an acceptance of the reality of aggressive habitual reactivities, unwholesome dispositions and habits that arise without mindfulness. Once accepted there must be a commitment to weeding the bodymind of them. When aggression is accepted as a major causal precursor to violence then practice can begin to mitigate and finally eliminate aggression in thought and action. Eliminate aggression and violence falls away.

The Buddha began the Attadanda Sutra with this verse,“Violence breeds misery; look at people quarreling.” It offers the reality that violence leads to suffering. The words look at the people quarreling also offers a glimpse of a causal factor of violence, aggression. Some people believe that aggression is as much a part of the human condition as is suffering itself. There is a factual basis for this view that can be experienced in language. In human relationships for example an argument gets called a fight even thought nothing physical usually happens and disciplining a child gets called punishing a child. Aggression is a phenomenon of human personality, personality that is subject to causal conditioning and impermanence so aggression can be transformed into loving-kindness with the application of mindfulness and compassion. A bodymind anchored in loving-kindness is one without aggression; a bodymind anchored in unbounded compassion is incapable of violence.
Look at people quarreling is the Buddha’s skillful way of directing mindfulness and awareness to aggressive thoughts and actions. The Buddha’s common mode of teaching through discourses is by pointing out the problem to be addressed, in the Attananda Sutra the first verse offers that it is violence that causes suffering. Then he points to a path to addressing the problem, be mindful of our own aggressive tendencies and aware of the same in others. This is a path that leads through practice to the elimination of aggression, a path that when walked further will lead to the elimination of violence.

It is recent situations at the Buddha Center in the virtual world of Second Life that prompted me to think deeply about aggression. ‘Griefers’ have been disrupting sessions by interfering with attendees, being inappropriately undressed, using foul and abusive language. and being disrespectful to teachers, sangha members, and staff. The fear and anxiety caused by these actions have led sangha staff and members to engage in their own thoughts and actions of aggression, sometimes even thoughts of violence. How some people have reacted to these ‘griefers’ reveals the negative impact that aggression can have on others, and how the seeds of aggression spread on this wind of unwholesome activities.

Asking why these griefers are acting so aggressively has little value in stopping them from engaging in the activity. Asking why is like the man in the Parable of the Arrow wanting to know all about the person who shot him with the arrow before he would seek medical help. The more pragmatic question is asking why are people allowing these griefers to have such an unwholesome effect on their experience in Second Life. There is nothing to fear or get anxious about. Second Life is a virtual world peopled by avatars with no actual physical interactions at all so the only harm they can do is emotional and emotions are temporary phenomena that one can allow to fall away. The most effective non-aggressive way to respond is to not respond. Be silent. Ignore IMs. Walk away. Teleport away. Aggression thrives on the emotional reactions it causes so don’t fertilize it, let it wilt, wither and die off.

There is another non-aggressive way to handle griefers but it requires one to be extra mindful and calm. Respond in open chat so that nearby avatars become aware of the griefer. Ask them this question: What is your reason for choosing to act this way? No matter what is done or said keep asking the question until it is answered. After a time either the griefer will answer, will get frustrated and give up, or the one being griefed can teleport away. Dealing with such issues in the virtual world of Second Life is great training for similar experiences in real life (RL).

Griefers, as they are understood in a virtual world aren’t as common in real life because there is not the anonymity that a virtual world offers. The term can apply though, the manifestations of action are still based in aggression. Aggression is readily recognized in threatening acts, property damage and openly carrying weapons in public (some will disagree with this view but their view is based in delusion). Aggression arises in more subtle ways, ways that a practitioner must be mindful and aware of. Mindful so that their own aggressive habitual reactivities can be realized; aware so that the aggressive tendencies of others can be appropriately responded to.

Intentional rudeness and disrespect are common examples of aggression that occur in human interactions. Whether it is forcing their way to the front of the line at the grocery store checkout or loudly making fun of a woman in a burkha, it is aggression. There is experiential proof that aggressive actions such as these lead to violence. In the first instance it precipitated a fist fight in the aisle; in the second two men who attempted to intervene were stabbed, one died of his injuries. These are physical reactions but a Buddhist practitioner must be mindful that even the thought of taking such rude and disrespectful actions is aggressive behavior. Aggression leads to violence. The more that aggression is limited in thought and action, the more that violence is limited.

Go back to the statement made above that openly carrying weapons in public is an act of aggression. To further this idea, even carrying a concealed weapon is aggressive. In both cases you might think that no violent act is being done by just having a weapon and you would be correct, but remember we aren’t just talking about acts of aggression and violence. In Buddhist philosophy and practice there is acceptance of the role that the mind has in how we interact with the world around us. How we think is of equal importance to the actions that we take. Carrying a weapon, in view or concealed is done with the anticipation of aggression or violence and so it creates in the mind a continuous possibility of the same. The expectation of aggression is rooted in the mind by a physical representation of that aggression.

In his book Creating True Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Hatred cannot be stopped by hatred. Violence should not be responded to with violence. The only way out of violence is for us to embrace the practice of peace, to think and act with compassion, love, and understanding.” With the realization that aggression leads to violence then Master Hanh’s words find a deeper meaning. When aggression is accepted as a causal precursor to violence then practice can begin to mitigate and finally eliminate aggression in thought and action.

The individual practice of eliminating aggression begins with the mind, with how you choose to think. Letting go of the fear of what might happen is a step on that path. Fear is a major causal factor of aggression. The practitioner must ask themselves what they have to fear and then, with rigorous self-honestly answer the question. Determine if the fear being experienced is founded in reality or in delusion.

These days it might seem that aggressiveness and violence is everywhere and that belief is strengthened by the language being used. In politics for example there used to be opponents, now they are enemies; contest became war. Political rhetoric uses the combative word campaign to describe the activities of elective officials. In sports it used to be the Rams play the Falcons, now the Rams battle the Falcons. In the social arena it was Us and Them, now it is Us versus Them. Just today I heard a comment on the radio about retail stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Sear vying for holiday business and the CEO of one company called these businesses ‘battleground industries’. These examples may seem trivial but these are all subtle examples of aggressive habitual reactivities. We must be mindful of the language we use as an element of a path to non-aggression and ultimately to non-violence.

By now someone is thinking what about defense. How can I defend myself and others without aggression, without violence? The initial question to ask is just what I am defending. Defending the the ego is a waste of energy. Defending from a physical attack is another matter entirely. The ideal of physical defense without aggression is a reality. It is all in the intent.

Intent in this type of situation is key. Looking to the martial arts practice of aikido offers one path. The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba said, “To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.” The foundation of the practice of aikido is doing the least harm to an attacker by redirecting the energy of violence.

Most people have never purposely taken a truly violent action or been the victim of violence leading to physical injury. Most people have experienced some form of verbal or non-damaging physical aggression. The ideal set forth by Master Ueshiba can be applied to that reality. Respond to such situations with calm and equanimity. Walk away if possible. Do not return verbal injury with verbal injury. Do not return rudeness and disrespect with the same. Instead respond more appropriately with actions of loving-kindness and the voice of compassion.

The unwholesome weeds of aggression can bear the fruit of violence. Weeding aggressive thoughts and actions for the bodymind must be the goal of all of us who choose to walk the Noble Path. Be mindful of aggressive habitual reactivities so they pulled from the fertile soil of the bodymind leaving space to plant the wholesome seeds of loving-kindness, compassion and generosity.

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Oct 28

Dealing with emotions

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Oct 16

CAUSAL MOMENTS

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

The whole of the human experience is a sequence of causal moments. Some of those moments pass without notice, others never seem to pass. Each moment, no matter the span of time is causally conditioned by the moments before and by the conditions in that very moment. Then that moment conditions the ones beyond that experience. It is up to each of us that walk the Noble Path to be mindful that each moment presents us with an opportunity to take action intended to have wholesome causal effects on others and ourselves. It is up to each of us that walk the Noble Path to take firm hold of this responsibility.

“Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.” This verse is from the intentional practice of Sharing the Merit that is recited at the close of meditation and sangha sessions. It is a ritual of intent meant to remind us that the journey from birth-to-death is short and that we must make the most of each moment. The human life span, on average is 80 years. At age 20 that seems a long way off; at 60 the view shortens considerably. The appropriate view isn’t how many years are ahead, it is how do we make each moment count in the pursuit of liberation and human flourishing.

Zen Master Eihei Dogen is revered for the transformation he brought to Japanese Buddhist meditation practices. He also spoke of the utter continuity between being and time; that time is interconnected to, but not interdependent on all phenomena, animate and inanimate. Experiential examples of that interconnectedness is found in human aging, the effects of erosion on earth, and global warming all due in part to the passage of time. Along with time though there is another factor, causal conditioning or dependent origination.

A Zen practitioner is instructed to “be in the moment” in meditation practice and in the course of daily life. They train themselves to engage mindfulness and awareness in every moment so that appropriate choices can made in the variety of situations that life encompasses. There is great value in doing so no matter the Buddhist path being walked. What must first be clear is what is a moment anyway. Master Dogen offered a view in order to define “in the moment”. He determined that in each day there are 6,400,099,180 moments, moments that happen in 1/75th of a second. A quick math exercise reveals that an hour equals 266,670,799 moments, a minute equals 4,444,510 moments, a second equals 7407 moments, the time it takes to snap your fingers equals 60 moments. Moments come and go very quickly.

There are 6 billion, 400 million, 99 thousand, and 180 moments in each day and Zen practitioners are meant to “be in” each and every one, to maintain a high level of mindfulness and awareness in order to do so. Dogen likely wasn’t expecting others to memorize these numbers be he must have thought that knowing them would bring about the realization that time does swiftly pass by. One could find themselves disconnected from experiences if moments were allowed to pass without one being mindful and aware of their passage. Things change, impermanence happens in each moment. This can be intimidating, the ideal that being in the moment requires mindfulness and awareness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in each of the daily 6 billion, 400 million, 99 thousand, 180 moments.

Buddhaghosa, an Indian Buddhist scholar of the 5th century CE is most famous for writing the Visuddimagga, a Theravada based commentary on the Tripitaka (the Three Baskets). It included his own ‘theory of moments’ in which he used the textual components of Buddhism to make his point. He wrote, “Herein, the flowing present finds mention in the commentaries, the enduring present in the sutras (discourses). Some say that the thought existing in the momentary present becomes the object of insight.” Buddhaghosa offers that when studying or writing about Buddhist texts that commentaries are the lessons being engaged in the moment they are written so culture, context and experience shape the thoughts of the writer. The discourses or sutras, whether recited from memory or written down are the foundational moments those thoughts arise from; they endure before and beyond the writer. The reader’s thought, dependent on culture, context and time arises in the present moment of that individual and can provide a view of that immediate experience. A past moment transforms into a present moment, and is an immediate moment. How can this theory of moments have value in a contemporary Buddhist practice? With a touch of creative re-description.

The enduring present is the experience itself that is viewed without delusion or perception. It is what is actually happening, the reality or dharma. This is what must be appropriately responded to. What we tell ourselves in the midst of a momentary experience, with or without delusion is the flowing present. Language based in reality is more likely to lead to a wholesome response than language intended to sooth the ego or avoid the issue. The thoughts that arise during a momentary experience should be remembered if they lead to wholesome effects, or they can be allowed to fall away when unwholesome effects are the result. This is the insight that Buddhaghosa wrote of. The practitioner must learn from each experience no matter how long the moment lasts. The whole of any experience or moment is causally conditioned by the past and present and conditions the present and the future.

Eihei Dogen offers the 1/75th of a second suddenness of a moment. Buddhaghosa offers three aspects of each moment. Two paths arise from these views. One of a minute span of time and another of such complexity in each moment that it would be extremely difficult for the human mind to process a momentary experience within it. A third path can be blazed to engaging moments in a contemporary Buddhist practice.

Moments become a more accessible ideal when the reality that a moment isn’t a span of time is engaged. Instead it is viewed as a span of experience that is dependent on moments before it. Sure a moment can happen in the “snap of finger”. The suddenness of an enlightened moment, of satori, when all hindrances fall away and Buddha-element is revealed is such a moment. The gradual training of meditation, character building, practicing of Buddhist ideals such as generosity of spirit and acceptance that may take decades to affect the practitioner and others is also a moment. View moments not as chunks of time, instead as the whole of experiences keeping the insight that within each gradual moment there will be sudden moments.

With the acceptance that each moment causally conditions the following moments a practitioner more fully realizes the value of moral thought and ethical action. The thought or action we engage in each moment matters. What we do matters. Cease to do harm so no harm is done. Do good so good is done. Do good for others so they will do good for others.

The practice of the bodymind being in each of the 6 billion, 400 million, 99 thousand, and 180 moments that Master Dogen offers is in each day isn’t a pragmatic goal. It is more valuable and useful to practice being mindful and aware of each experience, each situation we find ourselves having to respond to during the day. It isn’t the quantity of moments that is the reality of the lives of human beings; it is the quality of each experience in which we engage the ideals of our practice.

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Oct 15

Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu

Videos on meditation, Buddhism and the monastic life. Live broadcasts every day at 9 PM Eastern at: http://meditation.sirimangalo.org/

https://www.sirimangalo.org

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https://www.youtube.com/user/yuttadhammo

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Oct 03

Talk on the heart sutra

This a contemporary, personal and also a scholarly investigation in to the meaning of the Heart sutra. Different Heart Sutra translations Of course there are many Translations of the Heart sutra. Many varying only slightly. There is however one translation I know of, that varies more. So, for this talk we will have a look at two translations of the Heart Sutra of which I believe they are of acceptable authority, or, at least of authority that can be considered to be an authority. The first translation we will use in this talk is the version used by monks in the Mahayana tradition of whom the Dalai Lama is the respected leader and a famous example. The second translation we will use in this talk is the version of Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Vietnamese Zen-buddhist monk. His ‘new Heart Sutra Translation’ has been given a new name and is called “the Insight that brings Us to the Other Shore”. – / – FIRST translation (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) http://cdn.fpmt.org/wp-content/uploads/sutras/heart_sutra_c5.pdf?2ebbb6 The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra I prostrate to the Arya Triple Gem. Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavan was dwelling on Mass of Vultures Mountain in Rajagriha together with a great community of monks and a great community of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Bhagavan was absorbed in the concentration on the categories of phenomena called “Profound Perception”. Also, at that time, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara looked upon the very practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and beheld those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature.
Then, through the power of Buddha, the venerable Shariputra said this to the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara: “How should any son of the lineage train who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom?” He said that, and the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara said this to the venerable Sharadvati putra. “Shariputra, any son of the lineage or daughter of the lineage who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom should look upon it like this, correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is also not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty. “Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic, unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled. “Shariputra, therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no discrimination, no compositional factors, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no visual form, no sound, no odor, no taste, no object of touch, and no phenomenon. There is no eye element and so on up to and including no mind element and no mental consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to and including no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Similarly, there is no suffering, origination, cessation, and path; there is no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no nonattainment. “Shariputra, therefore, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and dwell in the perfection of wisdom, the mind without obscuration and without fear. Having completely passed beyond error, they reach the endpoint of nirvana. All the buddhas who dwell in the three times also manifestly, completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfect, complete enlightenment in reliance on the perfection of wisdom. Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, should be known as truth since it is not false. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared: TADYATHA [OM] GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA
“Shariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound perfection of wisdom like that.” Then the Bhagavan arose from that concentration and commended the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara saying: “Well said, well said, son of the lineage, it is like that. It is like that; one should practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have indicated; even the tathagatas rejoice.” The Bhagavan having thus spoken, the venerable Sharadvati putra, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara, and those surrounding in their entirety along with the world of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas were overjoyed and highly praised that spoken by the Bhagavan. (This completes the Ärya-bhagavatï-prajñäpäramitä-höidaya-sütra.) SECOND translation The new Heart sutra translation by Thich Nhat Hanh http://plumvillage.org/news/thich-nhat-hanh-new-heart-sutra-translation/ The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore Avalokiteshvara while practicing deeply with the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore, suddenly discovered that all of the five Skandhas are equally empty, and with this realisation he overcame all Ill-being. “Listen Sariputra, this Body itself is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is this Body. This Body is not other than Emptiness and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations, and Consciousness. “Listen Sariputra, all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness; their true nature is the nature of no Birth no Death, no Being no Non-being, no Defilement no Purity, no Increasing no Decreasing. “That is why in Emptiness,Body, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations and Consciousness are not separate self entities. The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena which are the six Sense Organs, the six Sense Objects, and the six Consciousnesses are also not separate self entities. The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising and their Extinction are also not separate self entities. Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being, the End of Ill-being, the Path, insight and attainment, are also not separate self entities. Whoever can see this no longer needs anything to attain. Bodhisattvas who practice the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there are no more obstacles in their mind, they can overcome all fear, destroy all wrong perceptions and realize Perfect Nirvana. “All Buddhas in the past, present and future by practicing the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore are all capable of attaining Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment. “Therefore Sariputra, it should be known that the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore is a Great Mantra, the most illuminating mantra, the highest mantra, a mantra beyond compare, the True Wisdom that has the power to put an end to all kinds of suffering. Therefore let us proclaim a mantra to praise the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore. GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA! – / – Because the “The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra” as found on the website of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition is probably the the most authorized, the most used and best known version of the Heart Sutra we will take this version as the basis from which to work on understanding its meaning. I chose an “unscholarly”, text analysis based approach, to understand the meaning of the sutra,
I call it the ‘naive approach’. Besides this naive approach one of course should not avoid have a more scholarly approach, and so I did check the findings and did correct and complement these if needed: Although it might be considered to be naive, I think it is only logical to assume that the One Who gave us the content of this Sutra – Avalokitesvara, has chosen the words of it wisely, foreseeing its future use being translated to many languages. For this reason I believe that an English version of Heart Sutra will reveal its core meaning from a logical text analysis, without the need of reading commentaries or having an authorized teacher to guide you. So this will be a basic principle to start with. For this reason the text analysis using this point of view, will only use little more than common research methods like translation and Wikipedia. About translations – I did not go into translating the Heart Sutra myself. I have looked into the meaning of a few Sanskrit words but that is all. I will tell you the progression of the talk by indicating which indention of the text is coming up. I will divide an indention in several parts though, and only when a new indention comes up I will say so.. The Title The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra As the title seems to suggest the Sutra is about the Perfection of Wisdom and the addition ‘Heart of’ seems to indicate, to a westerner at least, the sutra contains ‘the essence’ of the Perfection of wisdom. That the word ‘Heart’ is used in the Title of the sutra, in stead of ‘essence’ is extremely puzzling for many Tibetan monks, who fail to understand how the word Heart ended up there. The one after the other proposes the word ‘essence’ as a far better translation as one will find out soon enough if one is researching on the Heart Sutra. The better translation, as far as many monks are concerded for the Title seems to be ‘the Essence of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra’, although one might also find it translated as “Heart of the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom sutra”. First indention of the sutra text Sutra text: I prostrate to the Arya Triple Gem. Thus did I hear at one time. Text analysis: As a contemporary person without any prior knowledge of Buddhism, one would have to research on ‘Arya Triple Gem’ to know what that means. I assume we here all know its meaning to be ‘Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
These first two sentences can, for the naive approach, be regarded as a standard opening and of little relevance for understanding ‘how to train the Perfection of Wisdom’, the main theme of the Sutra. Sutra text: The Bhagavan was dwelling on Mass of Vultures Mountain in Rajagriha together with a great community of monks and a great community of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Bhagavan was absorbed in the concentration on the categories of phenomena called “Profound Perception”. Text analysis: A little research would tell you that ‘the Bhagavan’ here means the Buddha. The Buddha was at that time meditating on another topic than ‘the Perfection of Wisdom’. A little more research would tell you what Wikipedia tells us what a Bodhisattva is; I quote Wikipedia: In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattva is the Sanskrit term for anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. End Quote These second two sentences also seem to be of little relevance for understanding ‘how to train the Perfection of Wisdom’, the main theme of the Sutra. Sutra text: Also, at that time, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara looked upon the very practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and beheld those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. Text analysis: This last sentence of the first indention of the Sutra gives us a first clue about ‘ho to practice the Perfection of Wisdom’, which is, that ‘the aggregates are also empty of inherent nature’.
Researching what is meant with ‘aggregates’ in this sentence one would find it is referring to the Sanskrit ‘Skandhas’ or Pali ‘Khandas’ As Wikipedia explains under the term ‘Skandha’ these aggregates are, and I quote Wikipedia: Skandhas or khandhas means “heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings”.In Buddhidm, it refers to the five aggregates concept that asserts five elements constitute and completely explain a living being’s mental and physical existence. The five aggregates or heaps are: matter or body (rupa), sensations or feelings (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana) End of quote. I will shortly explain these skandhas, aggregates or heaps, as I have come to understand them. My explanation might vary slightly of more scholarly essays about them, but it will do to make us get the idea. Important it is to remember that these aggregates ‘constitute and completely explains a beings physical and mental existence’. Explanation on the skandhas Rupa or matter, form or body If one researches on these skandhas, one will find that the skandha called rupa is more then we westerners might expect. It is not only our physical body; it is that plus all material phenomena that we perceive with, or through, that physical body. The material world outside a being body is an inseparable part of the material body experience of that persons being, in Buddhist tradition. Vedana or sensations or feeling is the bodily faculty of reception of impulses, and I guess we have to assume that the bodily reception of touch, sounds, smells, views and tastes all count as vedana. Also one should consider that one can have bodily sensations or feelings at the reception of a thought! Samnja or Perception is the way in which the reception of an impulse is noticed and valuated. For instance, the one person can’t stand getting tickled; another one might hardly take notice. One person would feel deeply annoyed if someone begs for money, another would happily share some and feel quite the same as before the beggar begged him for money. So Perception is the way how the one specific being experiences a certain impulse. Sankhara or mental formations can be seen as being deep habitual currents which have a strong impact on how one reacts to the perception of certain impulses, these mental formations might even be rooted
in ‘old karma’, build up in previous lives. For instance if a person can’t stand being in small spaces and always feels afraid when entering one, which makes him scan for escape routes. The cause might be a traumatic experience of being locked up, for instance in childhood; or even in a previous life. Vijnana or consciousness : It can be hard to see consciousness as an ‘element’ of a living being and on top of that it should be beheld as empty of inherent nature. It might just get a little less difficult if we remember that this consciousness, just as every one of these skandhas, is a part of the physical and mental constitution of the person. We do not have to be conscious all the time, although we might think so. We however do spent lost of hours in un-conscious state while sleeping. We even have un-conscious moments during our waking hours, but these are hard to remember. Everybody will, every now and then, see themselves come out of a moment of no-consciousness I think. This short investigation into those aggregates shows them to be the way or the medium through which our personal minds make – and make contact with the physical and psychical world we experience. This finishes this short explanation on these Aggregates. We now can go on analyzing the sutra text. So the last sentence of the first indention states that Avalokitesvara beheld that the elements that constitute and explain a living beings mental and physical existence are empty of inherent nature. What a stunning judgment this is! So, for instance, the elements that make up the physical body of a person and the world around that person is not even inherently material. Then again …. don’t we all experience this world as being made of the nature of matter? I am sure most of us do so, so this finding on the nature of these aggregates needs to be investigated further if we hope to understand what is being meant here. I’m sure the usual average minded scientist would now think this is all nonsense! So let’s not be scared away and read on, looking for more clues …. Second indention Sutra text: Then, through the power of Buddha, the venerable Shariputra said this to the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara: “How should any son of the lineage train who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom?”
Text analysis: Here obviously the Buddha somehow made Sariputra ask that question. The importance is that the question, having been asked at that time, would get an answer which of course is of the greatest relevance for understanding ‘how to train the Perfection of Wisdom’, the main theme of the Sutra. Third indention Sutra text: He said that (see the previous indention) , and the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara said this to the venerable Sharadvati putra. “Shariputra, any son of the lineage or daughter of the lineage who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom should look upon it like this, correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. Text analysis: Not important but certainly noteworthy is the fact that here in the answer Avalokitshvara demonstrates the equality of genders! More importantly, Avalokitesvara answers to the question put forward and. In the answer we find our second clue for understanding ‘how to practice the Perfection of Wisdom’. We are being told to behold those five aggregates as empty of inherent nature as obviously Avalokiteshvara did before, but not only that. We are being told to do so correctly and repeatedly! How to do so repeatedly is not hard to imagine, but how to do so correctly has not yet been made clear. Hoping to find clues for that in the rest of the text. Fourth indention Sutra text: Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is also not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty. Text analysis:
Here, it seems, the first statement about the emptiness of the five aggregates is being repeated. This repetition of the statement, seemingly, comes a little overdone because saying ‘Form is Emptiness’ has the same meaning to our minds as saying ‘Emptiness is Form’. Then this already doubled statement gets doubled ones more by not only saying ‘the one is the other’ and ‘the other is the one’ but saying on top of that that ‘the one is not other then the other’ and ‘the other is not other then the one’. It seems in all these words, no extra information is to be found. Seemingly it is no more than repeating the same meaning. What is noteworthy though is that in this indention the existence of the aggregates or skandhas (form, feeling, discrimination (perceptions?), compositional factors (mental formations?) and consciousness are being acknowledged to exist as well as that the existence of something called ‘Emptiness’ is being acknowledged. One might notice the great emphasis put on the unity of these two – that the one never can be without the other and visa versa. Lets count the Unity of Form and Emptiness for a new clue, for the time being, making it the third clue for understanding how to practice the perfection of wisdom,. The emphasis might have significant meaning, even if one can’t see it yet. Fifth indention Sutra text: “Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic, unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled. Text analysis: When researching on these five aggregates or skandhas we already learned that the world of material forms arises together with, or belongs to the same skandha as a beings physical body. This in itself is a strange concept for our western minds, but now and here things get even much more strange! What is being said here? ‘All phenomena’, which has to include ‘all material forms’ or even matter itself are all ‘only emptiness’. On top of that we are being told ‘they are al without charecteristic’. Before in the third indention both phenomena and emptiness were acknowledged to exist as if they were equals, but here we see that that statement seems to become revoked. Now it seems that, actually, the only ‘thing’ truly existing is Emptiness.
And then, while thoroughly pondering on the meaning of this statement, our fourth clue for training the Perfection of Wisdom shows up, when the meaning of the word ‘Emptiness’ is seen in this line of text – a deeply awesome concept of the whole phenomenal world, is here being rendered before our minds eye! Everything we can perceive of, whether material or immaterial is without characteristic! If they are without characteristic, they obviously can’t exist or can’t have been produced, because that would be their first characteristic, would it not?! If they did not get produced they couldn’t get ceased either. If this vision is accepted as a fact (or as a concept for consideration), it gets easy and logical to see why all phenomena are for instance both ‘stainless’ and ‘not without stain’. Anything that does not exists could be said to be both of any other pair of ‘opposite qualities’ as long as these qualities are put in the negative form. They also could be called every negative quality without adding opposite positive quality, because anything which does not exist, logically can be named to be ‘not anything this’ and ‘not anything that’. Hmmm – getting this insight in this statement clarified a lot of this seemingly very obscure fifth indention, if only because of understanding the logic of the words. The meaning of these words remain puzzling I guess.Nothing exists … how so? I think the usual average minded scientist by now might have fainted … Since we are still analyzing the meaning of the text of the sutra we will go on now, but we will return to this awesome finding later, because some really important questions come up because of this and they need to be answered! Sixth indention Because all phenomena do not exist as is stated in the fifth indention, the sixth indention can start with the word ‘therefore’ . Sutra text: “Shariputra, therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no discrimination, no compositional factors, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no visual form, no sound, no odor, no taste, no object of touch, and no phenomenon.
There is no eye element and so on up to and including no mind element and no mental consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to and including no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Similarly, there is no suffering, origination, cessation, and path; there is no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no nonattainment. Text analysis: When analyzing this text from the naive point of view and superficially there seems to be little to add to what already has been found, and some elaboration on that, in the previous indentions. But on second thought there is something that might catch the eye here. Here now in this sixth indention, the existence of matter or form, or any other phenomena, is not only not being acknowledged to exist, but are now actively being denied to exist! How come? Why is this? Obviously the level of experience in which ‘form is emptiness and emptiness is form’ – thus the level where forms are experienced as reality – has been left ‘behind’ if one can say it like this. Another level of experience or awareness is the topic here. This level is ‘in Emptiness, inside Emptiness’ – where form has been taken out of the equation because form and phenomena have been recognized as non-existent and thus they are no longer get to be acknowledged as reality. Then there is a another point of attention that arises if one sifts this indention. It is not easy to see, I think, and it took a long time for me to even notice it. It is our fifth clue. The text states – but not in the usual negative quality format – that in Emptiness there is no exalted wisdom. This is a new and quite different format of saying what exists or does not exist in emptiness. If you look closely at this sixth indention, you will see all named phenomena and named qualities are in the negative format. It is not that difficult, pretty obvious even, that the meaning of the text is that these phenomena and qualities do not exist in Emptiness. But this analysis fails for the non-existence of Wisdom in Emptiness! Why is that? If one says for instance that in a bucket there is no blue water this does not mean that there is no water at all present in that very same bucket. In the same way the statement that in Emptiness there is no exalted Wisdom does not mean that there is no Wisdom at all present in Emptiness.
The use of the word ‘exalted’ here in this context seems intended to underline the actual fact of the presence of Wisdom in Emptiness. This finding then in its turn raises questions about the nature of Wisdom because it can no longer be regarded as some random phenomena. Inside Emptiness the only possible experience has to be ‘Wisdom’, if it even can be called so or experienced as such, since in Emptiness there seems to be no object to relate to. I geuss the question is if Wisdom can be aware without anything objectified. This question will go unanswered for all who are unable to be in Emptiness! Outside Emptiness, when form is objectified and experienced as reality by most beings, one looses access to Wisdom because one is inclined to see the actually non existing phenomena (form) as foundation for reasoning. In this way those five aggregates who or which bring the experience of the material phenomena and psychical phenomena block our IN-sight. Seventh indention Sutra text: “Shariputra, therefore, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and dwell in the perfection of wisdom, the mind without obscuration and without fear. Having completely passed beyond error, they reach the endpoint of nirvana. Text analysis: This statement indicates that the realization of the existence of Emptiness, as well as the realization that in Emptiness is the Wisdom, ceases the urge of the Bodhisattvas to search for something to attain outside of Emptiness and causes them to remain in this awareness in confidence – with un-obscured mind and without fear. By deduction we now also can see that it is because of not realizing the existence Emptiness one has an obscured mind and thus suffers fear. Realizing Emptiness and keeping ones focus firmly on this realization will make a bodhisattva reach the endpoint of Nirvana. Harder to see are the next two clues. The sixth clue is found in the statement that it is the bodhisattva who reaches the endpoint of Nirvana; so it is not the not-Bodhisatva!. The un-selfish (!) compassionate loving-kindness motivation of the bodhisattva is an absolute necessity to attain Nirvana. Truly realizing the unity of all beings in emptiness will spontaneously generate this motivationif this was not yet sufficiently present.
The seventh clue is to be found in the statement ‘dwell in the perfection of wisdom’. This ‘dwelling in the perfection of wisdow’ we now know is disconnected from the input that can reach awareness over those five aggregates. This means the bodhisattva actively dismisses gratification of any sensory urges as being a distraction which hinders from attaining the goal set. This is the basis for renunciation; renunciation, ceasing sensory input is a necessity to reach the endpoint of nirvana. Sutra text: All the Buddhas who dwell in the three times also manifestly, completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfect, complete enlightenment in reliance on the perfection of wisdom. Text analysis: Obviously here is being told that all the Buddhas also rely on the perfection of wisdom, which we now know is the acknowledgment of Emptiness as the only truly existing basis of all experience of phenomena, to awaken to the complete enlightenment. An interesting point to notice is, that here is being spoken about ‘Buddhas who dwell in the three times’. The three times are of course ‘the past, the present and the future’. So in reliance on the perfection of wisdom one also will transcend time – or said with other words; time, also, does not exist in Emptiness. Any time seems to be accessible from inside Emptiness. eighth indention Sutra text: Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, should be known as truth since it is not false. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared: TADYATHA [OM] GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA Text analysis: Here in the eighth indention several qualifications for the Heart Sutra mantra as well as the mantra itself are being given. Noteworthy, of course, is the fact that using this mantra can pacify all suffering. Since we have been studying the meaning of the sutra, now we know, that in order to end our suffering we must realize awareness of Emptiness. Thus using the mantra will make one realize awareness of emptiness.
Of course this has to be such kind of use which would qualify as ‘correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature’, as we were being told to do if we wish to train the practice of the perfection of wisdom. I will return to the topic how to use this mantra as a practical tool. ninth indention Sutra text: Then the Bhagavan arose from that concentration and commended the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara saying: “Well said, well said, son of the lineage, it is like that. It is like that; one should practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have indicated; even the tathagatas rejoice.” Text analysis: The meaning of this indention is easy to understand and needs no further explanation. What is interesting to notice though is the fact that it seems to be correct and suitable for the tathagatas to rejoice ! Tathagata of course was a word the Buddha used for designating himself. There seem to be more then one tathagatas. tenth indention Sutra text: The Bhagavan having thus spoken, the venerable Sharadvati putra, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara, and those surrounding in their entirety along with the world of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas were overjoyed and highly praised that spoken by the Bhagavan. Text analysis: The meaning of this indention is easy to understand and needs no further explanation. Although there is mention of the existence of worlds beyond the one we know, there is no new information on how to train the practice of the perfection of wisdom. What is interesting to notice though is the fact that it seems to be correct and suitable for the Buddha and the Sangha to rejoice – at least on that occasion! This finishes the naive text analysis Summarizing the conclusions
1. We now have learned that in order to train in the practice of the perfection of we wisdom we should repeatedly and correctly behold those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. 2. Those aggregates are the way or the medium through which our personal minds create – and make contact with the physical and psychical world we experience. 3. We should behold all phenomena both material and psychical as non existent. They do not even get to be created! In reality all that exists is Emptiness, a non-dual reality – in which Wisdom exists. 4. There obviously is a second reality, a dual reality in which we experience our material and psychical reality and time. 5. The un-selfish loving-kindness motivation for the welfare and liberation of all sentient beings is a necessity to attain Nirvana. 6. Renunciation is a necessity to reach the Nirvana. 7. Relying on – and dwelling in the perfection of Wisdom will end all suffering and will make a bodhisattva reach the endpoint of nirvana. -.-.-.-.- Unanswered questions: So now there are a few questions still unanswered, which we need to investigate for some answers. These are the points to be revisited, as was pointed out before. The first point to revisit was the fifth indention Fifth indention
Sutra text: “Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic, unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled. The text analysis shows that this means that all phenomena do not exist because they are not being created. The first question that arises here is: If phenomena do not get created, how can a person be and be aware of anything at all? Well, I guess the only way to solve this problem, is to suppose that ‘the one inside the person’, which calls the person ‘I’ is imagining the physical and psychical phenomena that enter upon its awareness. Right? To make this more graphic we can look upon it like this in an applicable way since we are talking about imagining which has the word ‘image’ for its root; The mind inside a person is like a clear light simply shining brightly in all directions. Space acts as a medium, like a film-screen, simply reflecting and showing whatever is projected on – or in it. The person who is not aware of the Emptiness nature of all phenomena, is constantly imagining situations, circumstances to attain. This intention of attaining empowers the image which is being imagined to obscure the clear light mind and then the obscuration acts like that old analog film which is drawn between the light and the screen. This then results in the image getting projected in space like the analog movie on the screen. Like this a person gets to see what was empowered to appear. I guess the imagination is something one would like to tame. A clear light mind which ceases to imagine dwells in the perfection of Wisdom and no longer empowers phenomena and experiences to objectify and appear. If this is or would be the true way how a beings ‘world’ gets created, immediately a follow up question comes up on rather logical grounds. The follow up question:
If this is true, that a person ‘sort of dreams up his own reality’, how then is it possible that all of us seem to share a common reality? If person A sees a wall chances are great for all who can see to see a wall there too, or even bump there heads against it! An nteresting question, right? So we have seen that all phenomena do not exist but that they do appear in space when the intention of lets say ‘the dreamer’ to attain something, is strong enough to act as the generating factor – as the image providing, old analog film between the clear light and the film-screen. In order to be able to answer this question of shared experience satisfactory, at least in theory, one must be able to transcend or overcome the borders of one’s personality. If one can’t accept the idea that ones own personality is actually not a personality in absolute reality, one never will accept the answer, not as a hypotheses let alone as a foundation for practicing the perfection of Wisdom. So here comes the answer, the only answer I could think of that makes sense to me. So if the world of experienced phenomena is a projection of ‘the dreamer’, why then would it not be possible for the dreamer to ‘dream up’ a whole universe, with star systems, stars, planets moons and an earth with many species and a mankind existing, of many so called individuals with a sense of awareness of individuality? There is no reason I can think of why this solution for the logical follow up question would be impossible. So I would suppose the answer to the follow up question is that. The absolute truth is that there is only Emptiness. That Emptiness is a non-dual reality, meaning it is only ‘One’. On the basis of this ‘One’ the relative reality of a multitude of phenomena appears. But out of necessity, these phenomena are all the same ‘One’ on their founding level, which is Emptiness. If you ask me it is only logic to assume this ‘dreamer’ to be the so called ‘Buddha nature’ or the ‘True Self’ which Avalokitesvara was searching for in those five aggregates and did not find there. If all phenomena do not exist and only Emptiness is Reality and Wisdom, then only emptiness can be the True Self. This True Self is logically free from ‘rising and falling’ and other imperfections, since it is eternally unborn. Since this all is of utmost importance for understanding how to practice the perfection of Wisdom, it is necessary to call in some indisputable Buddhist authorities to show that precisely this awesome view on
the reality of Emptiness and the non-existence of phenomena including the non-existence of individuals is the core teaching of the Heart Sutra or even of Buddhism! So the rest of this talk will bring you more than the personal and naive text analysis that has been given so far. There will be some referencing to accepted or acceptable authorities. New Heart sutra translation’ by Thich Nhat Hanh If one now reads the ‘New Heart sutra translation’ by Thich Nhat Hanh, included in the notecard, they will see that Thich Nhat Hanh thought it most important to explain precisely this point of non-individuality in his new translation. In his new translation of the Heart sutra he has taken the liberty to elaborate on what we have seen in that fifth indention in the classic Mahayana Heart sutra version we studied in this talk so far. The biggest change he made in his new translation it is that fifth indention. He designated those phenomena to their standard Buddhist classification, being; the 18 realms of phenomena and the links of interdependent arising. Precisely these two changes point to the core of practicing the perfection of wisdom. I’ll get back to these shortly when discussing how to work with the mantra. He emphasizes that in Emptiness these phenomena, being those aggregates or skandhas, the 18 realms of phenomena and the links of interdependent arising and the four noble truths ‘are not seperate self entities’. This of course is exactly the conclusion which was reached on logical grounds by simply analyzing the meaning of the text of the Heart sutra as we just did in the so called ‘naive approach’. So the conclusion is that Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation approves of our finding that we are not separate self entities. I would like to point to the Diamond Sutra as a second proof for the correctness of our finding that we, our individualities, are actually not separate self entities at all. The Diamond sutra is another one of the sutras from the Mahayana tradition and can be regarded as being of sufficient authority. I will quote one quote from the Diamond sutra now: quote Section III; The Real Teaching of the Great Way Buddha said: Subhuti, all the Bodhisattva-Heroes should discipline their thoughts as follows: All living creatures of whatever class, born from eggs, from wombs, from moisture, or by transformation whether with form or without form, whether in a state of thinking or exempt from thought-necessity, or wholly beyond all thought realms — all these are caused by Me to attain Unbounded Liberation Nirvana. Yet when vast, uncountable, immeasurable numbers of beings have thus been liberated, verily no being has been liberated. Why is this, Subhuti? It is because no Bodhisattva who is a real Bodhisattva cherishes the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality.
Unquote As you see the Diamond Sutra also takes this very same view on the unity of beings as opposed to separated ego-entities or individualities. All liberated and to be liberated beings are ‘phenomena’ in the sense that they never existed, they never were anything else then Emptiness and Emptiness cant be more then One since it is non dual. Pali Canon As a third reference of proof that the result of the analysis of the Heart Sutra text is correct, one of course would like to find proof in the Pali Canon. The Pali Canon is pre-sectarian and is respected as authority by both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. The Pali Canon is very extensive and one of the more important and well know parts is the Digha Nikaya. In this Digha Nikaya we find a description of Buddha Gautama’s teachings just as he himself has given them – so, his teachings in his words. If there is an authority one needs to check to see if the finding about non-existence of phenomena and the non-separated-self-identity of beings is correct it is the Digha Nikaya. Reading the Digha Nikaya is a lot to do and has many many repeating text-indentions because it has been written as it was verbally transmitted for many decades. Luckily Alexander Ducan has done the hard work for us and wrote a book called ‘Conversations with the Buddha’ about it. In his book, ‘Conversations with the Buddha’, each sutra is regarded as a unique window into the dharma, the teaching of the buddha, to be compared and collated with all other canonical sutras in order to arrive at a synthetic basis for comprehensive understanding of the whole of Buddhas teaching. Honestly I deeply recommend this book if you truly wish to know what Buddha taught and how he taught it. Alexander Duncan has done a great job getting rid of needless repetitions in the text and ordered the teaching by making lists if possible and giving conclusions and summaries if needed. http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/alexander-duncan/conversations-with-the-buddha/paperback/product-22857025.html On the wall behind me on my right hand side, which is left of me for you of course, you see that board on which I pasted a few lists from Duncans book (from chapters 14 and 15), so they are lists the Buddha gave in his teachings. The terms used might be slightly differ from terms I used in this talk, but that is nothing that is drastically different. For instance, when someone is talking about the twelve links of interdependent arising, as Thich Nhat Hanh does in his translation of the Heart sutra, that basically is the same as the ‘chain of cause and effect’ consisting of 10 links as seen on the top left of the board. There just have grown several traditions which we for our talk today basically can ignore if we keep our mind focussed on the big picture.
So we see the Buddha taught those links of interdependent arising as we find them listed in Duncans book. We even see one arrow pointing downward, indicating the direction in which one is busy to become born , to age and die and then this person will start to become born again if he did not reverse the process and liberated himself. If we look closely we see that Duncan made the links 1. consciousness ( is consciousness in an ignorant or a non-wisdom state), 2. mind-body (I would prefer Name and form which often is used for this), 6. craving and 7. clinging in a darker color, indicating that these links are the links a being can take influence on in order to break the chain of ‘getting reborn in Samsara all the time’. This teaching in the Pali Canon fits seemlessly to the findings the naive text analysis provide; It features the ‘separating from the Union inemptiness and becoming as well as the necesseties of perfecting Wisdom and renunciation of clinging craving to form. A second list one finds in the Heart Sutra and of which we can find proof of existence in the Digha Nikaya is the list with the Five aggregates of grasping (in the top right position on the board) , which were called ‘those five aggregates in the Heart sutra. Please note how the list of aggregates strongly relates to the list of the links of interdependant arising. If one considers these correspondences one can see how those five aggregates or skandhas, which make up the total constitution of a person, really came into being because this person was under the influence of becoming as is shown in the downward motion on the list of interdependent arising? The Heart sutra is teaching is how to break this chain of becoming by perfecting our wisdom or by taking out the ignorance of identifying our personalities as separate self identities. Sp it aims at breaing the chain of interdependant arising on the first and second link. How would Buddha have said how to do this? Because of not spending too much time and being very elaborate we can again simply use two lists from Duncans book. The list of course are composed of Buddhas teachings. If we look at the list on the lower right side we see the ‘seven stations of consciousness’, numbered 1 to 7 and each level is a higher or more spiritual level. Take notice that on station 1 we find our human consciousness. Then on station 5 we find the consciousness we might label ‘infinite space’ and the perception one has when in that station of consciousness is described for us as; transcendence of perception of matter vanishing of perception of sense reactions non-attention to the perception of variety
Can we see how here those aggregates which became to be because the person was on route for becoming will cease to have grip on a person who learns to focus on this without ever letting down? Then two stations up from here on station 7 the highest station of consciousness is found. This level of consciousness is called ‘nothingness’. Of course it is no accident the core teaching of the Heart sutra is ‘that nothing exists’ if the highest station of consciousness is ‘nothingness’. The last list from Duncans book, on the lower left side on the board is called ‘the eight liberations’, which are eight stages necessary to go through to attain final liberation. As you can see it starts out on the first 3 stages with a person getting immersed in Samsara, immersed in form and clinging to form. The person ‘being intend on it’ as is shown in stage 3 is causes that person to be unable to break the chain of interdependent arising. Intention is karma! If the person however, having understood and accepted the core teaching of the Buddha and starts to train as Buddha teaches (and that the Heart sutra teaches also) this person will go as is described in stage 4 of the list. This person will start to practice concentrating to not forget that all phenomena do not exist and to learn to transcend all perception of matter to no longer be intent on the world of form and the sense reactions to it, because only by the the vanishing of these sense reactions to the world of one can hope to learn to transcend all perception of matter. No longer pay attention to all varieties of matter and form ponder on and realize in ones mind the infiniteness of space in the hope to be able to enter and abide in stage 4, the Sphere of Infinite Space, the fifth level of consciousness. After that a person training for liberation has to get to stage 5, the level of nothingness corresponding to the 7. level of consciousness. Even in this 5. stage, the Sphere of Nothingness, a person still has perception and feeling, because to transcend perception and feeling one has must first get to stage 7, the Sphere of ‘Neither Perception nor Non-Perception’ Having passed through there one gets to stag 8 where one finally reaches the state of Nirvana from which one can break through the last link by ceasing all perception and feeling. Our Bodhisattva from the Heart sutra, who trained to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, of course will refrain from breaking this last link because doing so would make the bodhisattva disappear from Samsara. Having lost all connection to Samsara the bodhisattva will no longer be able to help suffering sentient beings.
About practicing using the Mantra Before I go on a few words of warning. Meditation can be dangerous for those who are not fit for it. The practice of the perfection of wisdom has always been given with the warning it should not be taught to those who are not fit. Although I see no ground not to discuss the meaning of the Heart Sutra as is done openly these days, I feel the need to give this warning about practicing strongly and intensely with the mantra and the method I will describe and which is the method as I have been using for a year now. So please, if you feel or know you have mental or emotional problems you should be careful and have a strong attention on what the meditation does to you. If it makes you more instable or otherwise negative please be wise and stop! You will achieve much better goals starting out on paying attention to maintain a loving kindness attitude by doing a voluntary job if possible and do good as much as you can –while doing normal activities it is save to ponder on the meaning of the Heart sutra and emptiness! So again, please pay attention to the effects of your practice if you practice! The meaning of the words of the mantra: The translations of the mantra of ‘gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodi svaha’ into English is ‘gone, gone, gone over, gone fully over, Awakened, so be it!’ Now if one uses this mantra in practice, in meditative concentration, they should consciously use every word filled with intention for result. Now lets see what meaning is in the Mantra ….. what is gone? What has gone fully over? Having analyzed the meaning of the text, for us now obviously the notion of an existing world of phenomena and separate self entities has gone over. How to meditate using the mantra? Of course one needs to start with calming body and mind and generating the unselfish loving kindness motivation. Then one has to try to visualize the unity of all things in Emptiness, maybe by visualizing the Universe in Empty Space, trying to see this as inside oneself as opposed to outside. Then one might start using the mantra as a supporting tool.
This will help firstly to retract attention from those aggregates, the skandhas, which one can simply see as retracting attention away from the sense organs and the awareness of the outside world. Secondly it will support the inner generation and maintenance of that vision of unity of Emptiness or the vision of the universe in space inside. Of course one needs to practice this. Sustained concentration does not come easily. I (meaning this personality) use the words of the mantra pared to concentrated thoughts, sort of in this manner; I say: I try to concentrate on: OM the One Vision of Light in Space Gate I am not this body nor the senses nor the world around me , it all does not exist Gate I am not those feelings or other sensations , they do not even exist paragate I am not the perceptions of these sensations nor am I the habitual responses I may have in reaction to these perceptions; they do not exist parasamgate I am not the individual nor the name nor the form , there is no ‘I’ present in it, this person does not even exist Bhodi Consciousness Awakened, Infinite Space Infinite Clear Light svaha it is! The clue of course is that the person meditating keeps his concentration focused and his attention aimed at the goal. For this ones should be aware that the workings of those five aggregates, the skandha’s – the sense organs and perceptions and daily thought and thinking are contra-productive.
Because of this I try when using this mantra to make it fit to my breath as follows. I take a breath and start on top of the breath or a little later, with the first word and thought. Then while slowly exhaling the rest of the mantra slowly will be spoken and thought! The result for me is over the course of a year that it is getting progressively more easy to retract all attention from sense organs and normal daily consciousness. In the process of that, things the mind takes notice of start changing. The darkness I normally perceived with closed eyes is getting lighter and every now and then even very bright, or even so bright I thought it would burn my eyes although I was sure they were firmly closed. This way of Heart Sutra practice is like consciously walking the Chain of interdependent arising in reversed order. The effect of meditating like this outside of the time one is actually sitting in meditation is both strengthening the understanding of interdependent arising and decreasing the power of clinging and craving which creates Space for …. ehmmm Emptiness … well .. at least it does that for me, there is more rest in all of my systems so to say and a far deeper acceptance of circumstances. So I am confident that this meditation for me is effective. I have to say I have no teacher for meditation – nor for debate on dharma. My fate is to do it without having found a teacher in RL. This does not have to be your way though. If possible you might want to consider searching a teacher in RL. That comes in very good for most I believe.

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Oct 01

Rock in the Road – Uncovering Buddha-element

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

A student asked, “Is Buddha-element easy to find?”

“No.”

“Then why should I put in the effort to find it?”

That led to a tale.

There was a road that led to a magnificent castle. The people of the kingdom used the road to get to that castle where they could sell their produce, their wares and get what they needed to live. It was a rough road made even more treacherous by a large rock directly in the middle of it.

Horses were made lame by stumbling on it. Wagon wheels shattered when they bumped against it. People who climbed over it would fall breaking legs, arms and sometimes heads. It made a trip to the market a challenge.

One day a family of farmers headed into the castle to sell their wagon load of vegetables stopped before the rock. Ahead of them a wagon had lost a wheel to the rock. The tipped over wagon had spilled melons across the ground, some cracked open and others bruised beyond use.

In the farmer’s wagon a young girl turned to her father and said, “Father, why is that rock allowed to remain there? It causes so much anger and loss, still no one tries to move it.”

Daughter, it has always been there and there it will remain.”

The girl wasn’t satisfied with that. She dropped from the wagon seat and stepped over to the rock. Kneeling down she began digging away the dirt from around the rock. For hours she labored, her hands were bleeding and she kept digging. Finally she tied a rope to the rock and heaved with all her strength. At first the rock did not budge. She adjusted her grip on the rope and hauled even harder.

The rock shuddered, dirt sliding away and then suddenly came free and rolled to the side of the road. A broad smile came across the girls face. She then saw that she had uncovered something at the bottom of the hole. There was leather bag. Opening it she found it full of gold coins. Enough gold coins to give her family a better life.

Later she found out that the king himself had put that rock in place. He had put the bag of gold under it with the idea that anyone who was willing to put forth the effort should have their life changed.

Like the young girl’s family Buddhists are farmers too. A Buddhist weeds the unwholesome from their bodymind and sows the seeds of wholesome thoughts and behaviors. To do that one has to dig around in some metaphorical dirt. And, like any plot of dirt there are rocks that get in the way. Those rocks can conceal the causal roots of hindrances such as greed, hatred and delusion. One may pull out the weed of hatred and miss the root of that disposition hidden under that rock. Like a pernicious weed in a vegetable garden springs up again from a root left behind so too can anger, or other hindrances sprout again in the bodymind.

There can come a moment when a practitioner pulls a rock from the soil of the bodymind and experiences the enlightened moment that comes with the discovery of their Buddha-element. Buddha-element within each human being is like that bag of gold concealed under a rock. With commitment and effort to move that rock that Buddha-element can change one’s life just like a bag of gold.

Buddha recognized that life can be hard. He realized that all human beings suffer. There are habitual reactivities, hindrances that are buried deep in the bodymind waiting to be revealed. One can spend their life suffering the damage they do to self and others or, one can spend their life avoiding them. Both of those choices seem easier than striving to transform themselves.

The young girl experienced suffering along with so many other people on that road. She experienced that people wanted things to be better, they hoped the rock would be gone the next time they traveled the road. Rather than taking action to remove it; they chose to suffer. Looking at her own hands and knowing that she had inner strength and resolve the young girl realized it was her responsibility to strive for a better life. She chose to see the rock differently, not as a hindrance but as a challenge. She questioned why the rock was allowed to remain in the road. The girl took it upon herself to transform her family’s circumstances and in doing so, the circumstances of many others. She didn’t let tired and bleeding hands deter her from her goal. Achieving that goal not only transformed her life and the life of her family. It would go on to transform many other lives as well.

The Buddha-element within each human being is like that bag of gold. Buddha-element can change one’s life just like a bag of gold. The realization of one’s Buddha-element does not only affect the individual. It becomes the cause of compassion, generosity and acceptance that, like a net, gathers in all those who come in contact with it.

Habitual reactivities, the habits and dispositions that one acts upon even when after the recognition that they have negative, unwholesome effects, are like that rock. Their size and weight seem intimidating and too difficult to change. Over time it appears that leaving them in place is easier than making the effort . . . and it does take effort . . . to move them.

Many seek instant gratification. They avoid what might take time to achieve. They go around or over the rock in the road even when the sides of road are muddy and treacherous, or hitting the rock will irrevocably damage them.

Digging away the causal conditioning that caused such thought and action takes time and effort. It takes a different paradigm of how to see experiences and how to respond to them. There is a gradual process to transformation though, like the rock suddenly coming loose of the ground holding it, when it happens it might seem like it happened in an instant.

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Sep 14

Updated schedule for BC

Monday
07:00 AM SLT – Reading with Khong in the Main Temple (in voice)

08:00 AM SLT – meditation with Eestara in the Main temple11:00 AM SLT – Teaching with Venerable Wayne Slacker and the EDIG/BC sangha in the Deer Park (in voice)The fourth Monday of each month will include the Puja for the Release of CompassionateEnergy.
3:00 PM SLT – Meditation with Rollo in Deer Park (in voice)
6:00 PM SLT – Teaching with Bhante Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu in Deer Park (in voice)

Tuesday
07:30 AM SLT – Pure Land Practice with Prosper Telling in Deer Park. 08:00 AM SLT – 30 minutes of Meditation with Jane Chase
08:30 AM SLT – Silent Meditation with Lolo in the Main Temple.
09:00 AM SLT – Teaching with Swami Luminos in Main Temple (in voice) 3:00 PM SLT – Reading with Rollo in Deer Park (in voice)

Wednesday
08:30 AM SLT – 30 minutes of Meditation in the Main Temple with Talus Eun in the Main Temple 10:00 AM SLT – 30 minutes of Meditation in the Main Temple with Eestara in the Main Temple 4:00 PM SLT – Silent meditation with Lolo in Deer Park.
6:00 PM SLT – Teaching with Bhante Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu in Deer Park (in voice)

Thursday
07:30 AM SLT – Pure Land Practice with Prosper Telling in Deer Park
08:00 AM SLT – 30 minutes of Meditation with Jane Chase
09:00 AM SLT – Teaching with Swami Luminos in Main Temple (in voice) 02:30 PM SLT – Meditation with Meditative flute by Moon Fargis in Deer Park

Friday
07:30 AM SLT – Dharma reading in Deer Park with Talus Eun (in voice)
08:30 AM SLT – 30 minutes of Meditation in the Main Temple with Talus Eun in the Main Temple 2:00 PM SLT – Teaching with Venerable Wayne Slacker in the main temple (in voice)
3:00 PM SLT – Fund Raising Themed Party (Check Sign in Deer Park for Theme and Land mark)

Saturday
07:00 AM SLT – Reading with Khong in the Main Temple (in voice)
2:00 PM SLT – Teaching with Bhikkhu Jayasara in Deer Park (in voice)
4:00 PM SLT – Reading with Rollo in Deer Park (in voice)
6:00 PM SLT – Teaching with Bhante Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu in Deer Park (in voice)

Sunday
07:00 AM SLT – Reading with Khong in the Main Temple (in voice)
10:00 AM SLT – Streaming of Well-Being Service Chanting with Luvvie Starsider in Deer Park. 2:00 PM SLT – Session with Eestara in the Main temple
4:00 PM SLT – Introduction to Rinzai Zen Okyo chanting with Tyrehl Byk in the Main Temple.

(Enable Music) 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month. Also, voice may be used.

— All session are subject to change, please watch for notices for these events.– There will be spontaneous sessions and/or chanting with Mani. Popup sessions with JennLan Serra, and Tal Eun.

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