Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Perfection of Wisdom - Prajna Paramita
Prajñā (Sanskrit) or paññā (Pali) has been translated as "wisdom," "understanding," "discernment," "cognitive acuity," or "know-how."
In some sects of Buddhism (three guesses!), it especially refers to the wisdom that is based on the direct realization of the Four Noble Truths, impermanence, interdependent origination, non-self, emptiness, etc. Prajñā is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about enlightenment.
I think that it is vitally important to understand that each of the six paramitas, not only Prajna Paramita, is an enlightened quality of the heart, a glorious virtue or attribute—the innate seed of perfect realization within us.
The paramitas are the very essence of our true nature. However, since these enlightened qualities of the heart have become obscured by delusion, selfishness, notional thinking, pre-conception, desire, aversion, and other karmic tendencies, we must develop these potential qualities and bring them into expression. In this way, the six paramitas are an inner cultivation, a daily practice for wise, compassionate, loving, and enlightened living.
My teacher is fond of saying that Zen is a ‘practice’, rather than a philosophy or a religion, although it has similarities to both religion and philosophy.
The thing is, you cannot just ‘think’ about life or live it from a distance... you must ‘be there’ completely and entirely... it is also true of Zen. In order to be a practitioner of Zen, you must, well, practice... Life. Zen. Subject. Object. You. Me. All are one. No separation.
Prajna is most often translated as ‘wisdom’, at least in the tradition that I practice.
So, what is wisdom? Wisdom is a part of all of the paramitas, which is why I decided to save it for last. It is the ground they stand on, so to speak. To be wise is to be charitable, disciplined, patient, determined, mindful, and the result is the development of wisdom.
Wisdom comes with time. It cannot be hurried, though we are all wise within our own understanding each moment. This sense will evolve as we take each step of our lives. We will become wise when we see our truth, our failures, our successes, our efforts, and so on as just what they are, impermanent moments of our being. Letting go of these is the fruit of our wisdom.
In previous posts, I have made mention that the word 'Paramita' (Parami in the origninal Pali) actually means, "To cross to the other shore." So, the paramitas are also the ways by which we cross away from the Three Poisons (anger, greed and delusion) to live a better life. – I keep repeating this and hammering away at it, and this is with good reason (at least *I* think so..); You see, the other shore isn’t ‘over there’... you can’t swim to it, or row to it or fly to it.... it is already here! You are *on* it... you always have been.
All of the perfection, all of the wisdom, patience, generosity, ethical steadfastness, concentration, joyous effort, all of it... is already yours! It isn’t something that you have... or something that you can find, or get, or take... it is a part of you... it *IS* you... you will never ‘get there’ because you are always arriving... always coming and going, coming and going... from moment to moment in the everlasting, eternal never ending beauteous moment that is NOW.
And *that* is wisdom.