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The sixth perfection is Prajna. Prajna is Sanskrit and means, generally, wisdom. Wisdom is a fairly common word. Prajna is an honored term, and so it is not translated. It is a miraculous kind of wisdom. Also, it includes several meanings, and it is not translated. Prajna is of three kinds:
1. Literary Prajna. This refers to the wisdom contained in the Sutras and commentaries spoken by the Buddha. It does not refer to ordinary worldly literature. Literary wisdom gives rise to,
2. Contemplative Prajna. After reading the Sutras, one then contemplates and illuminates their meanings through actual practice. This type of Prajna then leads one to,
3. Real Mark Prajna. Real Mark Prajna is without a mark. But there is nothing not marked by it. It has no mark, and it is also without the mark of having no mark! The Real Mark is neither existent nor non-existent. Literary Prajna is existent. Contemplative Prajna is non-existent. Real Mark is neither existent nor non-existent. From existence one penetrates to non-existence, and from non-existence one arrives at neither existence nor non-existence. If you can comprehend the realm of neither existence nor non-existence, you have attained Real Mark Prajna.
Because Prajna has these three meanings, we do not translate it. If you have wisdom, you will have Prajna. If you have no wisdom, you are stupid. Stupid people lack wisdom. Wise people are devoid of stupidity.
“I am worried,” you say, “because I am really stupid. I do not have and Prajna.”
Do not worry. To know that you are stupid is just the beginning of Prajna! It is just to be feared that you do not know that you are stupid. If you think that you are wise and that you have a lot of Prajna, then you are stupid. Why? It is because you do not understand yourself. If you understand yourself, you have Prajna. If you understand yourself today, then today you have wisdom. If you understand yourself tomorrow, then tomorrow you have wisdom. If you understand yourself every day, then every day you have wisdom.
So do not be afraid of not having wisdom. Just be afraid that you will not realize that you do not have wisdom! Where does wisdom come from, anyway? It comes from stupidity. If you were not stupid, you could not become wise. If you know that you are stupid, that means your wisdom is starting to manifest. It is just that wonderful, that ineffably wonderful. Basically, I cannot explain wonderful Dharma to you, but now I see that you have developed to the point that it is okay to tell you. Since we have arrived at the discussion of Prajna, you are no doubt wise enough to hear it!
A few days ago when I talked about patience, a lot of people could not be patient! Instead, they got angry! Before I talked about it, it did not occur to them to get angry and they were getting along alright, taking things in stride. But as soon as I lectured on patience, they got impatient. Before I explained vigor, nobody retreated. Once I lectured on it, people started to retreat! Before I talked about Chan, people were not too scattered. As soon as I discussed it, however, people started getting confused.
Before I talked about Prajna, people were not stupid. As soon as I talked about it, their stupidity was revealed! It is actually not that the stupidity was not there, but that you had no mirror to see it in. My explanations are like a mirror and so you say, “Oh, I am so stupid!” Before, you did not know that you were impatient, because you had nothing to compare yourself with. Now, hearing the discussion of patience and looking at yourself in that “mirror” you know that you are not patient. Before you heard about vigor, you could take it easy and not feel too bad about it. Now that you know what vigor is, you realize how lax you have been. So now if you are stupid, in that one clear thought, your wisdom manifests!
The Ten Advantages of the Perfection of Prajna :
Prajna is basically non-attachment. Non-attachment is wisdom. As long as you are attached to things, you have no wisdom. If you are unattached, the light of wisdom is ever present.
1. One will not grasp at the mark of giving. If you grasp at the mark of giving, you are attached. If you do not grasp, then you are not attached. One should give in such a manner that the “three aspects are empty.” By this we mean the giver, the receiver, and the gift. If you are caught up in your ability to give, in the gift, or in the person you are giving to, then you are attached. One should give in such a way that there is no attachment to the mark of the giver, the gift, or the receiver. If you give, thinking, “I gave several million. How much merit do you think I have?” then you are like the Emperor Wu of Liang who asked Patriarch Bodhidharma, “I have built so many temples and bridges, and allowed so many people to leave home. How much merit do I have?”
If Patriarch Bodhidharma had said, “A lot,” he would have just been following worldly thinking. Instead, the Patriarch spoke the genuine Buddhadharma, which does not just go along with worldly sentiments. He said, “No merit!” This is just “not grasping at the mark of giving.” Without the mark of giving, there are no attachments. Without attachments, one’s merit is like empty space. Empty space is entirely filled with merit. But you must not be attached.
2. One will not become dependent upon the precepts. This does not mean that one will not receive and keep the precepts. It means that one will not be attached; one will not grasp at the precepts. One will not think, “I keep precepts and know how to cultivate. I understand the Buddhadharma!” that is just attachment. One should keep the precepts and not hold on to them. Keep them as if not keeping them. One should not think of oneself as a “keeper of the precepts.” Even if one keeps them very well, one should not get arrogant about it and think, “I am a Vinaya Master!” That is just another attachment to the mark of self.
The precepts are for the purpose of getting rid of the “self.” One must not get conceited and full of the mark of self, thinking, “I cultivate according to the rules.” If one gets rid of the mark of self, then there is not any “I.” If there is not any self, how can there be a precept holder?
“If there is not any me, then I can go out and kill, steal, and set fires and it will not count, right? That is being pretty unattached, is it not?” someone may wonder.
One form of “non-attachment” reaps offenses, while the other creates merit! There is a difference! Do not misinterpret the Buddhadharma and try to twist it into this and that. You cannot use it as a rationalization for nihilism.
Not being dependent on the precepts means that one keeps them without an attachment to keeping them. One keeps the precepts, but not in an obvious way. That is true holding of the precepts.
3. One will not be caught up in the power of patience. This, too, means being unattached. One is not attached to the idea of being patient. If one is attached to being patient, then one is not truly patient. True patience goes even beyond the concept of being patient.
“Then I do not need to be patient?” one may ask.
If you are not patient, then you are really not patient! You should be patient and yet not patient. You are patient, but you are not caught up in “being a patient person.” If you think, “I cultivate patience,” you are just adding a head on top of a head! Patience is just patience. Why do you have to think in terms of a self—“I” am patient? True cultivators of the Way must understand that all dharmas are but empty appearances. If you cannot understand that concept, then you will not be able to cultivate the Way.
4. One will be vigorous in body and mind. This means that one will not be more vigorous with the body than the mind or vice-versa. One will be vigorous equally with both, but not attached. One should not think, “I really work hard! I am really vigorous!” as long as one cultivates, but holds the idea of vigor, that is not “Prajna” vigor. With Prajna vigor one must be vigorous and yet not vigorous, not vigorous, and yet vigorous. All dharmas must be empty and one must separate from all marks. One still has to cultivate, but one must separate from marks. One must subdue one’s mind and yet separate from the mark of having subdued one’s mind. One must regulate one’s mind until it is tame and does no false thinking.
5. In Chan, one will not dwell anywhere. When one investigates Dhyana, one will arrive at the level of “dwelling nowhere.” This means that one will have broken all attachments. One will have no attachment to self or dharmas; they will both be emptied, gone. Not dwelling anywhere means that one has obtained liberation. As long as one dwells somewhere, one is not free. Not dwelling anywhere is “Prajna” Chan.
6. Demons will be unable to disturb one. This is the “Prajna” Prajna. Demons cannot get one because one has real Prajna wisdom. If one has no Prajna, they will be able to bother one. They will take one by surprise and ambush one so that one does not know what to do. They will catch one off guard and one will be afraid and confused. If one has wisdom, it does not matter what great spiritual powers the demons have, they will not be able to disturb one.
7. Other’s theories will not confuse one. If you do not have genuine wisdom, then if someone says “East,” you will go east. If someone says, “West,” you will go west. Someone might say, “Cultivating the Secret School is the best form of cultivation. Recite the name of Akshobhya Buddha.” You will think, “Is it? Okay, I will do that. I will recite it and subdue the demons!”
Then someone else comes along and says, “The Pure Land School is the best. Reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha is the best form of cultivation in the Dharma Ending Age,” and you will think, “Really? Okay, I will do it.”
Someone else might tell you, “Do not bother learning how to lecture on the Sutras and speak the Dharma. Go off and live in a cave in the mountains. That is real cultivation!” After you have spent two and a half days in the mountains, someone comes by and says, “Hey, the Vinaya School is the best,” and off you go to the Vinaya School. In general you vacillate. You just follow other people’s opinions of what is good. You have no samadhi power and so other people’s ideas turn you around and around.
The Old Man of Mount Wei had real samadhi power. He lived in a broken down hut, which kept out neither the wind nor the rain. Minister Pei went to see him and, being very wealthy, brought forth the Bodhi mind and made an offering of thirty pounds of silver so the Master could build a new “hut.” Thirty pounds in the Tang Dynasty was worth a lot—enough to build a big temple. Minister Pei put the coins in the grass and left. Three years later he came back to see what had been done with his money, but the same old hut was there! Minister Pei got suspicious and asked, “Where is the new hut? I gave you thirty pounds of silver three years ago to build a hut? What happened? Where is the silver?”
The Old Man of Mount Wei said, “Oh? Where did you put it?”
Minister Pei said, “I put it over there in the grass.”
“Well go look in the grass. That is where it still is,” said the Old Man of Mount Wei.
The Minister checked it out and found that the money still lay there untouched. He left all that silver there for three years, and did not touch it. Luckily no one else came by and picked it up. They probably would not have met with any resistance. Minister Pei knew that the Old Man of Mount Wei was a true cultivator, and so he had a temple built for him. It was large enough for several thousand people. This was in Hunan.
Later, the Minister sent his son there to leave home at the temple. His son was an Imperial scholar, sort of like a modern-day Ph.D. When he arrived at the temple, the Old Man of Mount Wei put the scholar to work carrying water. But he had to carry three thousand buckets of water for everyone in the temple!
So, given thirty pounds of silver, the Old Man of Mount Wei did not even look at it. He really had a spirit worthy of our respect. Nowadays, if someone hands us a sack of garbage we go picking through it looking for treasures. Where are you going to find treasure in garbage? Acting like this, how do we compare with our forefathers? When people gave them things, those Elder Virtuous men did not want them. Nowadays if no one gives people anything, they go looking on their own and try to steal things! How can people like that cultivate the Way?
Somebody asked me, "Master, are you unhappy these few days?" I teach them:
Freezing, we do not climb on conditions.
Starving, we do not beg.
Dying of poverty, we do not scheme.
These three principles have been ruined. Since these principles have been ruined, I feel that my coming to this country has been in vain. Since it has been useless, I am unhappy. No one acts like Elder Wei Shan. He did not look at the 300 ounces of silver that others presented to him. He did not even take a peek for three years. Unlike us now, every day we count one dollar, two dollars, three dollars, and four dollars, fearing that they may be lost. He did not look at all! Look at that kind of attitude!" But most people do not follow any of these three principles.
Long ago there were two Dharma brothers who decided to cultivate together. They were very ascetic and only ate one meal a day. One time they went up north. They stayed in an empty, old hut, while it snowed outside. They had no food, no firewood and no water. It snowed for three days, and they did not eat for three days.
After three days, the younger brother had a false thought: “It does not matter if I do not eat for three days, but elder Dharma brother came from a wealthy household. No doubt this is too hard on him. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave us an offering? It is so cold outside. Wouldn’t some noodle soup be nice?” As soon as he had this false thought, the local earth spirit picked up the message and thought, “Look at this weather! Those cultivators work so hard and they have not had a bite to eat for three days. If I do not think of a way to protect their Dharma, I will have committed an offense.”
Then the earth spirit went off behind the mountain and appeared in a dream to a couple, saying, “In the hut on the other side of this mountain there are two genuine cultivators. They have not eaten for three days. Hurry and make some noodle soup and take it to them!” The two old folks were in their fifties or sixties and they really believed in spirits. Besides, they both had the same dream several times that night, so they knew it was for real. The next morning they made some noodles and took them right over.
When the younger brother saw the noodles, he laughed. This tipped off the older brother as to what had happened, and he said, “Oh! All you do is false think! You go ahead and eat these noodles you ‘false thought’ here, but I have had it. I am moving out! You are absolutely sickening. You have no scruples at all.” He picked up the mat they shared and ripped it in half saying, “You do your thing and I will do mine! All you do is climb on conditions.” And that was the end of that.
So you see, the virtuous cultivators of the past did not want noodles even when they had not eaten for three days. Nowadays, people think that if they get a response to their false thinking about food, they are really special! False thinking and climbing on conditions might get you some good food, but it will really obstruct your cultivation! If your mouth has good food to eat, your self-nature will not be bright. Why not? It is because you do too much false thinking! You climb on conditions.
If one has samadhi power, nothing will cause one to have false thinking or to climb on conditions. If you want to take a good look at climbing on conditions, look at the pigeons! As soon as you bring out the birdseed they fly all over the place and jump around! They will not leave you alone until you give them some. We cultivators should be careful not to be like the pigeons. They got to be pigeons, you know, because they were greedy and did not have any samadhi power.
8. One will get to the bottom of birth and death. The ocean has a bottom, and every bottle and jar has one. What is the bottom of birth and death? It is Nirvana. To get to the bottom of birth and death is to arrive at Nirvana. If you have wisdom, you can end birth and death and ascend the other shore. “Ascending the other shore” is the same as getting to the bottom of birth and death.
9. One will practice ever-increasing compassion. Previously, we heard about the five thousand who left the Dharma Flower Assembly because of overweening pride. Ever-increasing compassion is the exact opposite of overweening pride. Perhaps you were not very compassionate, but gradually with ever-increasing compassion your compassionate nature develops.
10. One will take no delight in dwelling in the position of the Two Vehicles. One will insist on walking down the Great Vehicle Path. Why is this? It is because one has wisdom. Therefore, one wants to turn away from the small and goes towards the great, put the Small Vehicle aside and pick up the Great Vehicle Dharma.
“The people of that time had a limitless life span. For the sake of the Dharma, I renounced the royal position, leaving the government to the crown prince. I beat upon the Dharma drum, announcing my search for Dharma in the four directions, saying, ‘whoever can speak the Great Vehicle for me, for him I will act as a servant for the rest of my life!’ ”
J2. To perfect Prajna, he diligently seeks the wonderful Dharma.
The people of that time had a limitless life span. When he was a king, the Buddha could give up his very life to cultivate the Six Perfections and the Myriad Conducts. For the sake of the Dharma, I renounced the royal position, leaving the government to the crown prince. I gave away my kingship to my first son. I beat upon the Dharma drum, announcing my search for Dharma in the four directions, saying, “whoever can speak the Great Vehicle for me, someone with Way-Virtue, for him I will act as a servant for the rest of my life! I will serve and run errands for him, doing whatever he wants me to do.”
“At that time a seer came forth and spoke to the king saying, ‘I have a Great Vehicle scripture by the name of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. If you do not disobey me, I will expound it for you.’ ”
H3. Finding a Dharma Master.
At that time a seer came forth and spoke to the king saying. A seer is an immortal, a hermit who can live forever. The seer said “I have a Great Vehicle scripture by the name of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. If you do not disobey me, I will expound it for you.” “Disobey” means not doing what you are told to do, or doing what you are told not to do! You would be disobeying, for example, if you are told to be vigorous and instead you are lazy. Or if you are told to be moral, but you break the precepts. Or told to give, but instead you are stingy. Or told to be patient, but instead you get angry. Or you are told to cultivate dhyana samadhi, but instead you are scattered. Or you are taught to cultivate Prajna, but instead you go on being stupid. Not disobeying means that you do not object to any of the Dharma that I teach you.
“When I, the king, heard the seer’s words, I jumped for joy. I then followed the seer, supplying all of his needs: picking fruit, drawing water, gathering firewood, and preparing food, even offering my own body as a couch for him, feeling no weariness in body or mind. I served him for a thousand years, for the sake of the Dharma, diligently waiting upon him so he lacked nothing.”
H4. Receiving the Dharma and offering up his conduct.
When I, the king, heard the seer’s words, I jumped for joy. Think about it; he was a king. To seek the Dharma he gave up his royal position and wanted to be a servant. We are not even kings and we do not have such sincere minds. I then followed the seer, supplying all of his needs: picking fruit. He would go into the mountains and pick fruit for him. He served him by drawing water, gathering firewood in the hills, and preparing food. I went so far as to even offering my own body as a couch for him, feeling no weariness in body or mind. I served him for a thousand years, for the sake of the Dharma, diligently waiting upon him so he lacked nothing. He was never lazy, and he made sure that the seer had everything he needed.
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
“I recall, in kalpas past, when seeking Dharma,
Although I was a king at the time,
I had no greed to enjoy the five desires.
Ringing the bell, I announced in the four directions,
‘If whoever has the great Dharma
Will explain it to me, I will be his servant.’ ”
H1. Verses about the length of time he spent seeking the Dharma.
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying: I recall in kalpas past, limitless eons ago, when seeking the Great Vehicle Dharma. Although I was a king at that time, I had no greed to enjoy the five desires. The five desires are defined in two ways:
1. Wealth 1. Forms
2. Forms 2. Sounds
3. Fame 3. Smells
4. Food 4. Tastes
5. Sleep 5. Objects
You should recognize them clearly. If the king was not greedy for the five desires, how much the less should we common people be greedy for them. It should not be as hard for us to renounce them. The king had as many opportunities available to him, and still he was not greedy. Ringing the bell, I announced in the four directions, “If whoever has the great Dharma and will explain it to me, I will be his servant.” Even though I am the king, I will be his slave. Why? It is because I am seeking the Dharma. I will do anything for the Dharma.