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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Threefold Training 3: Prajna

One of the more traditional ways of translating the Sanskrit word prajna is as "hightest knowledge." However, another, more interesting way of translating the term is as “before knowledge.” Thinking of prajna in this way, we can reflect on to what extent we are bound by our knowledge of how things seem. Wisdom belongs to awareness, skillful action, generosity of spirit and freedom. It requires keeping the “don’t know mind,” which allows us to look upon each and every aspect of our life with fresh, curious eyes. By not clinging to what we ‘know’ about someone or some aspect of our experience, we can relate to them as they are moment by moment. When we are this intimate with life, the situation itself contains and reveals right action.

Usually, we narrow our focus in life to three areas:

1. Self-interest. “What’s in it for me?” becomes the bottom line for every consideration and action. Putting ourselves first in this way ignores the truth and reality of interbeing.
2. Exclusive interest in the family. With this narrow focus, we marginalize our more distant relatives, friends, other peoples, and other species of Earthlings. This ignores the ever deeper global connections we share with all beings.
3. The interests of the nation. Living in the dualistic world of nationalism, that carves up the world into us and them, we narrowly identify with our country. We fall easy prey to propaganda, become xenophobic, support declarations of war made by those with narrow self-interests.

Wisdom supports morality and meditation (the other two trainings) and vice versa. Reflecting on circumstances, we develop four features of the Dharma for the collective welfare of all beings:

1. Awareness brings clarity.
2. Insights emerge from inquiry.
3. Meditation steadies the mind.
4. Action springs from vision.

Staying steady enables us to keep action, insight and vision alive and pertinent to the situations we find ourselves in. Meditation is a key to change. When we see clearly, of anything and everything we investigate, that “this is not mine, I am not this, this is not myself,” then self-centeredness is reduced and more spaciousness is felt for us to breathe within. Whatever we cling and grasp onto we will have to let go of. This is the Fourth of the Five Reminders. The practices of non-clinging and association with those who know the wisdom of interbeing enable us to release love into the world. This is the purest letting go!

In this non-clinging wisdom there is freedom. A genuine, effortless calmness and joyfulness runs through the very depth of our life. We realize freedom from prejudices, which are all born from clinging to the three areas of narrow focus listed above. We realize the end of the gulf between me and other. We know humanity as prior to (both temporally and in terms of value) political, religious, ethnic, gender, racial and other cultural labels. Knowing this, how could we cause anyone to suffer?

Through insight we see that what keeps us trapped in suffering is our clinging to that which is conditioned and ephemeral. With wisdom we realize the immeasurable nature of the heart and what it means to see things “as it is,” as Suzuki Roshi once said. We grow weary of living caught up in this delusion and spontaneously stop sowing seeds of unrest in the present which could only lead to more unrest in the future. THIS is the law of karma. Keeping awakening at the center of our mandala, liberation is our first priority, leading to the cessation of unsatisfactory formations. Gratitude for seeing clearly fills our heartminds.

As we practice, we take the backward step from our conditioned reactivity, emboldened, we ask ourselves, “Where is the wisdom to deal with this situation? What is the wise response?” And then we listen to the situation itself for the response. Rather then listening and believing the conditioned mental formations based upon past conditioning, we hear the voice of wisdom and sanity from within the totality. Yes, at first it may sound very faint indeed! We may not hear anything at all. Can we then have the courage to admit, “I don’t know” and simply return to the questioning again, rather then falling back onto the old familiar reactivity? Can we have the humility to seek help and guidance from others with the wisdom to share, careful that we are not merely drawn to a sympathetic voice that simply enables our conditioning, but maintain our integrity to hear truth? Wisdom is our birthright. It pervades this world. Open to it. Let us not sleepwalk though this life.


1. Know contact with the world through all the senses. Experience the senses free from the craving to fix or substantiate anything.
2. Abide in choiceless awareness; experience a deep sense of intimacy with all phenomena.
3. Allow your whole bodymind to rest effortlessly in this choiceless awareness.
4. Neither indulge in memories, nor pursue future dreams, not look to distract yourself in the present from just ‘this.’
5. Let go of clinging to viewpoints that obstruct an expansive vision.
6. Allow a transforming silence and stillness to pervade your being.
7. Realize the emptiness of all phenomena.
8. In this receptive mode, regard any liberating insights into truth as expression of truth rather than fruits of self effort.
9. Act from this spacious wise awareness.

In metta,
pobsa frank jude

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 10:14 PM

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