The Paramita of Prajna
The three aspects of prajna
are ordinary samsaric wisdom, lesser transcendent wisdom and highest
transcendent wisdom. The first covers all the many sorts of worldly
wisdom which we used to call' art' in Tibet, all the studies of which
are covered by ten topics, five of which are minor, and five of which
are major. The five minor disciplines are: poetry (and rhetoric),
astrology, terminology (including grammar), dramatic art and etymology.
means the expression of things in a pleasant way and in a way that
enables others to feel as we do, even if they are not in that
particular situation themselves.
Astrology is the study of the
inter-relationship of the various bodies of the universe. The way that
we exist internally is a total true reflection of the way that outer
things exist. This is why a charting based upon a
correlation of the
outer elements at our birth can show exactly and undeniably the sort of
mother and father we have and so forth. The outeruniverse is the outer
body and our earth its inner body. This human body is an outer body and
within it are the subtle bodies and then all the aspects of mind. There
are many bodies and they all have connections with one another. The
study of these connections is astrology. An example of this is our
calendar. Sometimes there are thirteen months in the year, sometimes
only eleven. Sometimes there are twenty-eight days in the month and
sometimes there are thirty. Why? because we regulate our calendar
according to the cycles of the moon in a way which allows no mistake
for the seasons. Our summer months are always summer months and the
winter months always winter months. Eclipses of the sun and moon,
everything, is clearly described by astrology and can be charted in the
calendar. There are several systems of astrology. There is 'white'
astrology and 'black' astrology; nothing to do with white magic and
black magic or good and bad. The black astrology is more complicated
and mathematical, involving angular calculations and so forth, while
the white astrology is a simpler form.
Terminology and grammar
deals with the use of terms in order to express ideas. For Tibetan
language there were originally seven master treatises giving the rules
for language but unfortunately five were lost. However, these two
contained all the information of the other five and so Tibetan grammar
Dramatic art incorporates many things and covers
many topics. It can be used to portray history or as a means of
expression and it involves pretending; pretending whatever it is that
we wish to portray. If it is an
historical drama then we reproduce
as faithfully as possible the historical event - the personalities of
the people involved, their background and the historical facts. Theatre
is like poetry since the people watching it are transported to that
condition, that realm, that situation by the motion and imagery of the
players. It utilizes movement, music, singing, - many things.
is a loose name for the fifth of the lower studies. It deals with
names. Names are used for everything; some of them are meaningful and
exist through reason while others are meaningless. When, for instance,
we say sang-jay in Tibetan, our word for Buddha, it implies 'sang' -
'awakened' from the sleep of ignorance, and 'jay' - 'full blossoming'
of all the qualities and knowledge. There is another sort of name which
has no meaning: house, for example. A house is just called a house -a
sound grew up in association with that object. There is a whole text
which contains hundreds of names, many for each thing, showing how a
flower can be called 'that which drinks through its feet' or 'that
which has fine petals' and so on.
The above five topics are
known as the five lesser disciplines and they deal with less important
topics. The five greater disciplines are: crafts, medicine,
communication, truth and dialectics.
The first of these is the
study of how to create and how everything was created. The whole
universe is made of five component elements, five qualities of nature
which support one another thereby enabling the universe to exist as it
is. Even when we make a pot, it is possible without a teacher to learn
how everything is composed. We need clay (solidity), water to make it
wet (humidity), air to propel it, space in which it moves and heat to
make it usable. We have gained insight into the five elements by simply
making a pot. This branch of the greater disciplines or sciences covers
metalwork, woodwork, weaving, pottery and a host of other creative
Second is medicine. In craft we learn how everything
is created. In medicine we study how it functions. When the functioning
goes wrong, we apply the correct treatment and it works again. There
are many ways of diagnosing the problem when the human body goes wrong.
In Tibet, if a good doctor was unable to diagnose the problem
immediately then, if there were ten possible sicknesses with ten
potential cures, he would take ten small pots and place a sample of the
patient's urine in each. To each was added one of the ten medications
and by skilful observation of what happened the doctor could tell which
remedy to apply. The medications are chemical; chemical in the broadest
sense of the term, that is, a composition of naturally occurring
things. Tibetan medicines were closer to nature than Western ones. The
organs of the human body have specific qualities and attributes which
correspond to similar qualities in herbs in the outer world and those
herbs can be picked and applied carefully to cure the organs of beings.
That is basically how Tibetan medicine works.
The study of
communication covers many things. It is often considered to be just the
study of the Sanskrit alphabet but it is much more than that. It
requires a study of all the elements, movement, feelings, the
the atmosphere and so on. Someone who develops this understanding of
communication or sound can hear and comprehend the language of animals,
who may not have language in the same sense
that we do but who do
make sounds to express certain things. In a similar way, we can
understand the language of the wind or of fire burning, water running
and so forth.
Movements make sound. One part of this knowledge
is being presently developed in the form of an understanding of the
theories which have given rise to television, radio and the telephone,
to talk to someone on the other side of the planet just
as though that person were in the same room as ourselves. It is the use
of movement, the environment and sound.
Truth means the study of
what is validly perceived and what is not. It is often translated as
logic. Logic is one way of determining the truth. Buddhist
philosophical logic is very complicated and the specialized section of
dialectics is hard to master. One needs ten or fifteen years of
determined practice to be able to do it properly.
Thus first we
learn how everything is made, then how it functions, then the
inter-relationship of everything and finally the truth about that.
These five lesser and five greater sciences comprise worldly wisdom.
transcendent wisdom covers both the relative and absolute levels of
truth but from a one-sided approach, wherein killing and the other
non-virtues are bad and suffering is very bad. To do the positive
things is good and happiness and altruism are very good. All takes
place within the realm of duality. Even the ultimate is the opposite of
the relative. It transcends samsara but is the lower aspect of the
wisdom that transcends samsara.
The highest non-samsaric wisdom
is the wisdom of non-duality. This is the pure essence of Madhyamaka,
beyond words, imagination or explanation. To know the way things work
is thus the first stage (samsaric
wisdom). To know the way they
really are is the second stage and to know that w*hich is truly the
essence of everything is the third stage. This third stage can only be
described very roughly and unclearly - it needs to be tasted. We have
to taste it.
When we practice the path of the Bodhisattva, we
practice according to the six paramitas. Having three aspects each,
there are thus eighteen aspects of practice to accomplish and we
develop them from their
beginnings until they truly become paramitas
or perfections. In doing this we traverse the five paths of the
Bodhisattva - the paths of accumulation, preparation, insight,
familiarization and fulfilment. As we make this journey, the ultimate
of the first path becomes the relative of the second path, and the
ultimate of the second path becomes the relative of the third path and
so on until the fifth path.
The first stage of profound
Bodhisattva realization is achieved with the third path and this grows
profoundly through ten stages. Until the tenth stage, although there
will be a growth in actual realization and understanding, there is
still the obstacle of subject and object. There is not full Buddhahood.
At the last level of the tenth stage there is full realization of the
transcendent ultimate truth itself, by itself, just as it is. That is
the non-dual wisdom which we call the Buddha. That wisdom from the end
of the tenth stage to Buddhahood is called the Vajra-like wisdom -
indestructible, unobscurable wisdom.
We should understand what
the Mahayana means, its fundamental principles - the Bodhicitta,
compassion and the results of Mahayana practice - understand the
qualities of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas and what realization really
means. It was not that there was first the Buddha and that then we
named him as being the realization of the ultimate truth. The
realization of the ultimate truth is always there. He who achieves such
realization is a Buddha.