Mother of all buddhas, the supreme guide and teacher of sages and
saints. All that is comes from Prajna and returns to Prajna. Sentient
beings experience birth and death in the wheel of life, their mind
deeply affected by ignorance, bent by the five skandhas, confused
and submerged in the ocean of suffering for long kalpas. How regrettable!
Prajna is said to be the light in the darkness of a very long night.
On the ebb and flow of the ocean of suffering, Prajna is a raft.
To a house consumed by a blazing fire, Prajna is the rain. Without
Prajna the universe is darkness, without Prajna the human mind is
ignorant, without Prajna sentient beings suffer without respite.
Cultivation of Prajnaparamita, the perfected virtue of knowing truth
by intuitive insight, relieves us from our suffering and helps us
to overcome, every kind of calamity. All buddhas of the past, present
and future attain Prajna, all sages and saints have cultivated Prajna:
Therefore, all of us need to cultivate the practice of Prajna.
doctrine of Prajna is true and, therefore, real, perfect in all
places, at all times and yet it is inconceivable. If one can understand
that voidness is not void since the radiant existence exists within
its mystery, then at this moment all is perceived as void. Sages
and saints become accomplished by means of Prajna, the ultimate
ground all sentient beings share. The uninformed majority fails
to understand that all existing is produced by causes and conditions,
and the self is a false self without any selfhood. Most grasp form
and mistake it for the True Existence, enduring immeasurable suffering
in the wheel of life. The practice of truth or reality of Prajna
excepted, there is no release from suffering in the three realms,
no hope of freedom from worldly worries.
It is said in
the Maha Prajna Paramita Sutra that "all forms are unreal and
illusory, and if they are seen as such, the Tathagata will be perceived"
because, originally, the true Void is formless. The sutra says further:
"The one who sees me by the form and seeks me by the sound
cannot perceive the Tathagata because of deluded views." It
is to be understood as saying that the one who perceives the form
(or body) and the sound or voice as the Buddha is grasping merely
the form. Missing the true meaning of reality he/she is unable to
perceive that all dharmas are voidness. Says the sutra further:
"A bodhisattva that (still) clings to the false notion of an
ego, a personality, a being and a life, is not a bodhisattva".
Bodhisattvas, same as the buddhas, establish themselves in Emptiness,
apprehending their ego, personality, being and life as false views
rooted in duality. "The one who hears this pure teaching with
a clear and faithful mind can attain the really real, the reality
that is formless; those freed from all forms are called buddhas"
continues the sutra.
The Prajna Paramita
Hrydaya Sutra is the core of the Maha Prajna Paramita in six hundred
scrolls. Its teaching is the teaching of supramundane Void as the
only true existence, the true Void being mysteriously concealed
in the existing. Therefore one might say the substance of this sutra
is the characteristic of Void of all dharmas; non-obtaining is the
purpose. There is nothing to be obtained from the manifestation
of dharmas, all dharmas being void, or empty. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara,
coursing deeply in Prajna Paramita comprehended the substance of
the Prajna reality: All dharmas, as well as all five skandhas are
empty of self, completely free from thought. For this reason the
Bodhisattva received the Chinese name "Guan Zi Zai Pu Sa".
As the substance
of all dharmas, Void confirms the true reality of form as non-form.
The one who understands that buddha and sentient beings are not
different can liberate all sentient beings from disease and calamity,
end the cycle of birth and death and attain perfect, complete enlightenment
of form (rupa skandha) stands for all matter as produced by causes
and conditions, with no permanent substance and no separate, lasting
self. The remaining four skandhas are: Feelings, perceptions, volitions,
and consciousness. They all belong to the Dharma of Mind, which
is, likewise, void. But mind cannot find expression without form
and form cannot manifest itself without mind. Without form, mind
cannot be expressed, without mind, form cannot be made manifest.
In other words, apart from form there is no mind, apart from mind
there is no form. Although they are inseparable, they are not the
same, as stated in the sutra: "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness
is form." Being neither form nor mind, all dharmas are empty
here and now; this is the wonderful Dharma of Reality as Suchness,
view the perceptible world with all its beings and non-beings as
real or true. Some of them know it to be an illusion produced by
interaction of matter and mentality, that it is deceptive and impermanent
and must return to the Void. That particular interpretation of void
has not been especially created by buddhas and bodhisattvas in order
to emphasize that all dharmas are rooted in emptiness, because all
existence is originally devoid of self-hood and, therefore, empty.
It is what they have been practicing for countless kalpas. All those
who attain enlightenment attain understanding of the true substance
of reality. They perceive that the five skandhas are empty, and
thereby overcome all ills and suffering.
mind and form are not different. Likewise, the rest of the existing
world has neither birth nor death, is neither pure nor impure, it
neither increases nor decreases because it is originally void (of
selfhood). In case one perceives birth as coming and death as going,
or if one claims that clean is pure and dirty is defiled, holds
"full" to be an increase and "less" a decrease,
one is not yet empty of skandhas. These views represent obstacles
which bind. Not being able to liberate oneself, how can one hope
to liberate others? When one has finally reached the understanding
that all existence is produced by causes and conditions and, therefore,
empty of permanent self, then all reality equals stillness and the
absence of diversified form. Then birth and death, pure, impure,
increase and decrease all are void. Without defiled thought arising,
suffering and calamity vanish. The entire range of artificial or
contrived forms is the result of the six organs, six kinds of data
and six kinds of consciousness. Reality, in truth, does not comprise
any realm. When the five skandhas are empty, there is no diversity
of form. Without ignorance there is no ending of ignorance and no
ending of old age and death.
is stillness without form. When one is neither the resultant person,
nor the dependent condition, one's suffering ends. When delusory
thoughts and views are severed it is the end of the cause of suffering.
To relinquish the doctrine of unreality is to block the cessation
of suffering. Without the three studies there is no path. If there
is no subject of wisdom, that is called "Non-wisdom."
Without the object and its domain there is nothing to obtain. True
mind is not empty, yet it is Emptiness. Although Bodhi is considered
to be an attainment, there is nothing to attain. To perceive the
ground of all buddhas is Suchness. There are adornments everywhere
and ten-thousand merits manifest themselves. When Dharma-kaya becomes
manifest, there is only true Emptiness. Mind established in true
Emptiness completely encompasses the universe. There should be no
seeking; no "inside" and "outside". The universe
is not attainable that way. As long as there is something to attain,
there are obstacles; thought arises and, there is then an object.
To have an object means duality, which means the loss of true reality.
It cannot be called Prajnaparamita.
Avalokitesvara practiced wonderful wisdom and attained enlightenment
completely free of attachment. He entered Emptiness, unobstructed,
through the gate of liberation. Since there is nothing but Emptiness,
(including the body, the mind and all that exists), a bodhisattva
is never moved by eulogy, ridicule, slander or fame. Even war, famine
or the bubonic plague are dismissed by him/her as illusions taking
hold through karma. Letting go of all that seemingly exists on its
own, independently of the mind, sets forth brightness and the one
experiencing it will no be intimidated. The Bodhisattva then entered
the kind of liberation that is Nirvana. Similarly, the one who has
been practicing over a long period of time achieves wonderful calmness
which empowers when faced with disturbance. Water cannot submerge
him/her nor fire burn. Because he/she attained liberation, he/she
is fearless. Seeking Dharma "outside", in what exists,
apparently independent of mind, is proceeding backward, perpetuating
a misunderstanding as to what is good and evil, dreaming of gain
and holding the cycle of birth and death to be the opposite of Nirvana.
It is essential to let go of distinctions such as dreaming versus
thinking, right side up, and so on if one wants to enter the gate
of liberation through non-action. Only when the name/form is dispatched
and there is no mind object, can the original enlightenment become
manifest and Nirvana, the perfect liberation in the Dharma-dhatu,
All the buddhas
in the three periods depend on Prajnaparamita for the attainment
of Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi. Because of superb causes, they attain
the fruit of sainthood. Consequently, we know that Prajnaparamita
can dispose of all kinds of demons. Independent of personality and
Dharma, free at all times and in all places, the buddhas manifest
or remain concealed depending on potential. The great mantra is
beyond comprehension of the Saints and the worldly alike. Endowed
with a power to sever ignorance, it radiates brilliance and stillness.
This great, bright mantra emanates unadulterated wisdom, and its
power to transcend the three realms and attain supreme Nirvana is
beyond comparison. Illuminating the ten directions, it shines, like
the sun, everywhere without discrimination. Such is the unequaled
The one who
can receive and hold this sutra and mantra will liberate all sentient
beings from obstacles, release them from suffering and attain complete
enlightenment. This is true, and it is real; therefore the Prajnaparamita
Mantra says: "Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha."
The great master T'an Hsu commented that "mantra belongs to
the esoteric tradition and accordingly, belongs to the five kinds
of texts deemed primal, untranslatable, and inconceivable; when
they are translated and explained they will became conceivable dharma
and their original meaning and merit will be lost." In short,
the primary purpose of the Prajna Paramita mantra is to liberate
self and others, traverse the sea of suffering and, attaining complete
enlightenment, reach the serenity and joy that is Nirvana.
Dharma Master Lok To
Buddhist Association of America
Bronx, New York.