Dharmavidya's teaching at Oasis de Longue Vie

Friday, 20th may 2016

recorded & transcribed by Annette

Sometimes, we say Buddhism is shila, samadhi and prajna.

Shila is the moral precepts, behaviour, right behaviour. Samadhi is meditation and prajna is wisdom. That's all! But how we understand it?

You can say there is a superficial level and there is a deep level. The precept indicate the superficial: behaviour, how the things appear in the world. So the Buddha says, « What would an ordinary person who knows nothing about Buddhism notice? They will notice the good behaviour. » So it is said the behaviour is what appears on the surface. We can say that meditation - samadhi- is what is underneath, what supports the good behaviour. So meditation is the cultivation of the mind - l'entraînement du coeur - In this way, we can understand Buddhism quite simply.

But Buddha says that that there is something else, beyond this: there is prajna, there is wisdom. But wisdom may not be quite the right term. Wisdom is 'wise'. If I am wise, I know a lot. I have got a lot. I have a lot to give. But in buddhism, prajna is emptiness. I have got nothing. So, in a way, shila and samadhi are states of fulness, they are same. But prajna is a state beyond these two. With the cultivation of behaviour - shila - you can go on and on and on. There is no end to it. You can always do better. However good you are, improvement is always possible, you can always do better. There is no natural end. This is like 'gradual cultivation'. The same is true for meditation. You can train your mind. It may be even more difficult. Training your behaviour is like training an ox, training your mind is like training a monkey. You can go on and on. You can always do better.

Prajna is not like that. It is like switching the light on and off again. Prajna is emptiness. Empty is empty, it cannot be more. So we have these two aspects. In a sense there are three aspects of Buddhism - shila, samadhi and prajna - but in a way there are only two: shila and samadhi on one side and prajna on the other side. Normally people cultivate shila and samadhi and maybe they have prajna. But some people have prajna, without having done the other side at all. They are kind of natural. They have that all-acceptance, or ,we can say, complete faith, complete trust. Emptiness is like that. Whatever comes along, you receive it. It is like the great earth. The earth doesn't mind what you put on it: you can put gold on it, you can put rubbish on it, it just accepts it. It is all alright. You can put the most delicious food on it or the excrement later on. So, in this sense, the earth is empty. It is all the same. It doesn't matter. Emptiness is like that. Spaciousness.

You have told me about a monk being asked about his sickness and he says: "Sun face Buddha, moon face Buddha". Sometimes sun face, sometimes moon face. Sometimes you are well, sometimes you are sick. Whatever comes, from the position of emptiness - sunyata - it is all the same. Sometimes monkey face Buddha, sometimes ox face Buddha, sometimes Buddha is the cat. From the Buddhist point of view, emptiness - prajna - is the most important. When we read the text, Tan Butsu Ge it says: there are many excellencies: meditation, virtues, but prajna is at their head.

Prajna is the spirit of Mahayana. Prajna paramita goes beyond, it is that which goes to the other shore. On this shore, we can cultivate meditation, many meditations, we can do many things but when on the other shore, you have a different perspective. Everything appears in a different perspective. When you are trying to be good, you are all the time measuring how good, you tend to be a bit judgemential, you tend to be a bit proud or sometimes demoralized: "Oh! I didn't mean to do that! Terrible!" But from the point of view of prajna, sometimes you are terrible, sometimes you are good, sometimes bad, it is human. There is the famous story of Takuan and Baso: the tile and the mirror. Baso has been meditating for 10 years. Takuan comes along and says: "What you are doing?" Baso says: "I am meditating." "Well, what you are meditating for?" "Meditation makes the Buddha" and Takuan picks up a tile and afer a while Baso asks him: 'What you are doing?" "I am polishing a tile to make a mirror." and Baso says "You can"t make a mirror with a tile and Takuan says: "You can't make a Buddha by meditation." This is a challenge to Zen people, because Zen is all about meditation. So this is the one side of the river. Baso thinks: "If I do enough, I can accumlulate enough merit to be a Buddha?" it is not like that. Enlightment of the Buddha cuts through. It is not a matter of getting a bigger stack of merit, it just cuts through, and Baso is enlightened. In a way, we can say that the tile is a mirror because the tile shows Baso his nature. Baso looks at the tile and he saw himself. So, it is a mirror. When you are in a state of emptinesss, you are a mirror and everything else is a mirror. We are all mirroring each other. My stupidity shows you your stupidity and for your stupidity, well, some thing we don't talk about:-)

So emptiness, wisdom, faith, mirror-mind are all the same thing.

Namo Amida Bu!

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Replies to This Discussion

I enjoyed this very much - both for the content and also for the transcription-like quality which conjures you, Dharmavidya, very effectively! Thank you to Annette for taking the time. I think I can feel Dogen's influence? Namo Amida Bu. 

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