29 Jun Explanation of the Title: Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra, Part 5
[Series of Master Shen-Long expounding on Explanation of the Title: Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra]
(Last week we ended with, “Having phenomena of “birth, aging, illness or death” in our life is normal; from past unlimited existences of the world period to the present without ever ceasing, our bodies and minds are total exhausted from it.”)
We have good blessed rewards in this life where we all live peacefully and work happily, it is pretty good; but we still have afflictions. Today, even if we have everything we want of this world and are as happy as we can be, the one phenomenon of death will still happen.
Death is something where:
No things you can take with you, only your karma tags along.
What is “karma”? It is energy resulting from the fluctuations of your mind movements driving yourself into the self-caused karmic energy.
When religious practitioners do their daily morning and evening exercises, if during your morning exercise they asked themselves if their “birth, aging, illness or death” have lessened a little bit, then it would work. During your evening exercise before sleep, examine how many “birth, aging, illness or death” thoughts arose during the day. If you can follow this way of cultivation for two to three months, you will begin to transform and your worry will lessen. Simply, none of us have ever practiced this in this life nor have we practiced this way in our past life; saying and doing are two entirely different matters.
The fundamental essence of Prajna (wisdom)–Originally there is not a single thing.
The Sixth Patriarch opened his intelligence and reached enlightenment at the age of 24.
What does “open his intelligence” mean? It means you have truly witnessed yourself and all of the living beings as perfectly pure, with equality, enlightenment and compassion in self-nature, and there are no differences.
What does “reach enlightenment” mean? You are enlightened where your inherent life nature can manifest the infinite and boundless phenomena of all things under the sun.
All of you have the opportunity to read the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng. As stated by the Sixth Patriarch:
Who would have thought that the self-nature is intrinsically pure!
Who would have thought that all things are the manifestations of self-nature!
Self-nature is intrinsically puremeans “open the intelligence”;
All things are the manifestations of self-naturemeans “reach enlightenment”.
This is the importance.
Dhyana (Zen) Buddhism, we all know to study and explore Dhyana (Zen):
It stresses intuition rather than books and other external aids but is a special transmission outside scriptures.
The earliest source was established by Shakyamuni Buddha at a gathering of disciples at Vulture Peak—The Flower Sermon, where the Buddha silently held up a flower with his fingers and admired it with a smile. None of the disciples understood this action. It is the same if when I expound a Sutra, without opening the mouth but instead I just smile, everyone here will feel strange. At that time, only one of the disciples, Mahakasyapa, understood this action.
What did he understand? He understood but could not express it in words. He understood:
Originally there is not a single thing, where can dust (afflictions) be provoked.
Dhyana (Zen) Buddhism requires clear understanding and emphasizes the idea of: Originally there is not a single thing, where can dust (afflictions) be provoked. It is the same as Pure Land Buddhism. Practicing Pure Land Buddhism, when one chants Amitabha to the state of “wholeheartedly concentrating the mind without scattering, absolutely separating the self from phenomena, and obtain the underlying truth of all things with Buddha-nature” and you will behold the identical resultant condition.
Dhyana (Zen) Buddhism was transmitted from Mahakasyapa to Bodhidharma who was the 28th Indian Patriarch. The first Indian Patriarch was Mahakasyapa. Bodhidharma arrived in China around 520 CE and he wished to pass on his self-comprehended enlightenment wisdom.
What did he want to pass on? He wanted to transmit Prajna-as Prajnaparimita, to precisely pass on this teaching.
His first opportunity brought together by fate, was to meet with Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty. This gong-an (study case) is well known to everyone: Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty was a unique person, he spent every day and night reciting Sutras, chanting Buddha’s name, bowing down to Buddha statues, and performing the Buddhist repentance ritual. Practicing this way, he thought this is the Buddha teaching. He also encouraged people to become Buddhist monks. He spent a great deal of public wealth on funding over 400 Buddhist monasteries, with those tremendous Buddhist works, could you say he has attained none merits and virtues?
Therefore, when they met, Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma: “I have accomplished so many Buddhist projects; do I have merits and virtues?”
Bodhidharma replied directly: “None.”
This kind of honest, matter of fact reply indeed speaks the truth by Bodhidharma, neither won favor nor flattered Emperor Wu.
If you asked Bodhidharma: “Is this real or unreal?”
Bodhidharma answered back: “It is unreal, no merit and virtue”.
Why did the Emperor not have any merits and virtues? Because he seeks gain in mind.
“Merit” is for those who seek no gain. Everyone is clear that in this modern era—the period of degeneration and extinction of Buddha teaching, it is not easy to achieve nirvana merits and enlightenment virtues; it is truly difficult.
Why? Your mind has not been purified of defiling illusions, then how is it possible for you to work on merits and virtues.
Besides, merit and virtue cannot be attained by doing; it must be initiated from seeking no gain in mind.