Manifestation of Great Prajna

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by Eihei Dogen

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, while experiencing deeply the manifestation of prajna, clearly saw with the entire body that all five skandhas are empty. These five skandhas—form, feeling, perception, inclination, and discernment—are fivefold prajna. Clear seeing is prajna. To expound this teaching, it is said in the Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Form is form. Emptiness is emptiness, boundlessness. One hundred grasses are thus. Myriad forms are thus.

The manifestation of the twelvefold prajna [the prajna of the six senses and their objects] means twelve types of entering into buddha dharma.

There is the eighteenfold prajna: the prajna of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind; the prajna of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and objects of mind; also the prajna of the corresponding consciousness of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.

There is the fourfold noble truth prajna: suffering, craving, freedom from suffering, and the path. There is the sixfold manifestation prajna: generosity, precepts, patience, vigor, contemplation, and prajna.

There is the singlefold prajna: unsurpassable, complete enlightenment, actualized at this very moment. There is the manifestation of the threefold prajna: the past, present, and future. There is the sixfold great element prajna: earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness. The fourfold bodily posture prajna: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down common in daily activities.

 

In The Assembly of Shakyamuni Buddha there was a monk who said to himself:

I will take refuge in this very profound manifestation of prajna. Although nothing arises or perishes in the midst of this manifestation of prajna, the precept skandha, the samadhi skandha, the wisdom skandha, the emancipation skandha, and the emancipation of views skandha are established. The fruits of entering the stream, of once-returning, of no-longer-returning, and of the arhat are established. The pratyekabuddha’s enlightenment is established. The unsurpassable, complete enlightenment is established. Buddha, dharma, and sangha treasures are established. The turning of the wondrous dharma wheel and awakening sentient beings are established.

The Buddha read the monk’s mind and said to him, “That’s right, that’s right. The very profound manifestation of prajna is subtle and fathomless.”

This monk’s understanding was that taking refuge in all things is taking refuge in prajna that does not arise or perish. At the very moment of taking refuge, the prajna that establishes precepts, samadhi, wisdom, and awakening sentient beings is actualized. This prajna is called emptiness. So the actualization of emptiness is established. This is the manifestation of prajna that is extremely subtle and fathomless.

 

Indra Asked Elder Subhuti, “Great reverend, if bodhisattvas, great beings, want to experience the profound manifestation of prajna, how should they study?”

Subhuti said, “Lord Indra of Kausika, if bodhisattvas, great beings, want to experience the profound manifestation of prajna, they should study as they would study empty space.”

Thus, studying prajna is empty space, empty space is studying prajna.

Then, Indra asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, if good men and women receive, recite, reflect upon, and explain to others the profound manifestation of the prajna you have explained, how should I protect them? Please teach me.”

Subhuti answered for the Buddha, “Lord Indra of Kausika, do you think there is anything you need to protect?”

Indra said, “No, great reverend, I don’t see anything I need to protect.”

Photo by Giuseppe Milo

Photo by Giuseppe Milo

Subhuti said, “Lord Indra of Kausika, if good men and women practice the profound manifestation of the prajna, which the Buddha has explained, that itself is protection. If they do so, they will not stray from it. So you should know that in case humans or nonhumans want to find a way to harm good men and women, it will not be possible. Lord Indra of Kausika, protecting the profound manifestation of prajna, which the Buddha has explained, and protecting the bodhisattvas who practice it, are not different from protecting empty space.”

Thus, know that receiving, reciting, or reflecting upon the profound manifestation of prajna is no other than protecting prajna. Intending to protect is receiving, reciting, and so forth.

 

Rujing, My Late Master, Old Buddha, said:

The entire body is a mouth [wind-bell] hanging in empty space,
regardless of the wind from the east, west, south, or north,
joining the whole universe in chiming out prajna.
Ting-ting, ting-ting, ting-ting.

This is an authentic heir of buddha ancestors speaking prajna. The entire body is prajna. The entire other is prajna. The entire self is prajna. The entire east, west, south, and north is prajna.

 

Shakyamuni Buddha said:

Shariputra, sentient beings should dedicate themselves and pay respect to this prajna just as to the living Buddha. They should reflect upon the manifestation of prajna just as they dedicate themselves and pay respect to the Buddha, the World-Honored One. Why so? Because the manifestation of prajna is no other than the Buddha, the World-Honored One. The Buddha, the World-Honored One, is no other than the manifestation of prajna. The manifestation of prajna is itself the Buddha, the World-Honored One. The Buddha, the World-Honored One, is the manifestation of prajna. Why so? Shariputra, unsurpassable, complete enlightenment of all tathagatas has emerged from the manifestation of prajna. Shariputra, bodhisattvas, great beings, pratyekabuddhas, arhats, never-returners, once-returners, stream enterers have all emerged from the manifestation of prajna. Shariputra, the ten ways of wholesome actions in the world, the four stages of meditation, the four samadhis in formlessness, and the five miraculous powers have all emerged from the manifestation of prajna.

Thus, the Buddha, the World-Honored One, is the manifestation of prajna. The manifestation of prajna is all things. All things are aspects of emptiness—not arising [beyond arising], not perishing, not defiled, not pure, not increasing, and not decreasing. To actualize the manifestation of prajna is to actualize the Buddha, the World-Honored One.

 

Look Into This. Study this. To dedicate yourself and take refuge in the manifestation of prajna is to see and uphold the Buddha, the World-Honored One. It is to be the Buddha, the World-Honored One, seeing and accepting.

Presented to the assembly of the Kannondori Monastery on a day of the summer practice period in the first year of the Tempuku Era [1233].

 


Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) founded the Soto school of Zen in Japan after traveling to China and training under Rujing, a master of the Chinese Caodong lineage.

Kazuaki Tanahashi is a master calligrapher, Zen teacher, translator and author of numerous books.

From Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Copyright 2010 by the San Francisco Zen Center. Reprinted by arrangement of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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