Chapter 2: Prajna
A very good evening to all Masters and practitioners! Today, we will continue with the Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra. We will expound on the word `prajna`. `Bo qie` is `prajna` in Taiwanese pronunciation, as is `ban ruo` [close to the `prajna` sound] in Mandarin, `bo ye` in Cantonese, and `bie zha` in Tibetan.
The meaning of this particular word is very profound, but I have never thought of a way to explain it. We all know that it essentially means `wisdom`, but to explain this wisdom is very difficult, and there is no example that can help in my explanation. Wisdom is, after all, just wisdom. Come to think of it, we did a very silly thing yesterday night, something that was not wise at all.
Yesterday afternoon at the office, Master Chang Ren informed us that the night before he received an invitation from the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Chinatown inviting all the Masters to a dinner. I said to Master Chang Ren, `Strange, why would a Chamber of Commerce invite us, Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, to a dinner? This is very special!` I used my wisdom to try to make the sense out of it, but I still could not figure out why. Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple is neither in business nor have we opened any factory, so why were we invited to attend such an occasion? So I asked Master Chang Ren: `Do we have to pay any money?` and he said: `No, it`s free!` Since it was free, I thought, we might as well go. We all wore our Lama Clothing and I wore my yellow dragon robe. I purposely wore my golden mala/praying beads for that occasion. I seldom wear that mala because of fear that it will be stolen. It is only on grand occasions like this that I would wear my golden mala. I brought with me three heads of departments: the head of Public Affairs, the head of Internal Affairs, and the head of the Transportation Department. In addition, I also brought Master Lian Xiang, the head of the Finance Department.
Before leaving, I asked the head of the Finance Department, `Do we have to bring our checkbook along?` Master Chang Ren replied that since we were getting a free meal, there was no need to bring the checkbook along.
When we arrived, the president of the Chamber of Commerce , Mr. Chen Da Xiang, welcomed us by sending two beautiful ladies to offer us flowers. No one else got this treatment. We sat at the best table nearest to the stage and we, as lamas, felt very honored. I told Master Chang Ren that if there were any other invitations to banquets like this one, he must inform us. What happened next is very simple. First, the president said a few words to formally open the ceremony, and then, dinner time! We were all very happily eating, when suddenly, in the middle of the banquet, the president started to speak once again. He said that the organization was newly founded and the Chamber of Commerce played a very important role in the community by helping Chinese living in America. The main reason the president set up the banquet was to announce that they were running short of funds, and he hoped that we would donate some money to them. At first two people, including the president, donated $2000 each. They were all talking in Cantonese and I pretended that I could not understand them. But the president was even cleverer. Whenever he mentioned Living Buddha Sheng-yen Lu from the Lei Zang temple, he made sure that he repeated it again in Mandarin lest I should not understand him. I had finished half of the meal, but after hearing him mentioning my name, I could not finish the other half and felt very nervous, as though I was sitting on a bed of nails. I said to Master Chang Ren, `It`s all because of you!` Suddenly a famous Chinese verse came up to my mind: There is never a good banquet! There is never a good meeting! There is always an ulterior motive behind a veil of politeness!
I thought to myself, Seattle Ling Shen Ching Tze temple is not a `save-oil lamp` (a mediocre organization) by Seattle standards or even internationally. So I said to the Head of the Finance Department, `How much should we give?` She said, `One thousand is enough!` I told her that nowadays people are money-minded, and our temple is so famous, so how can we give only $1000 when other people already gave $2000? So, finally, we shouted `Two thousand dollars!`, and with that, my pocket got lighter as well. That is because our head of finance donated $1000 and I contributed another $1000 of my own. So we donated a nice, even $2000.
Today, we will discourse on the word `wisdom`. Wisdom can be generated in two ways - through observation and reflection. Using your eyes to observe and thought to reflect, wisdom will be gained. We must know how to differentiate between a free meal and a paid meal. We know for sure now! We have learnt a lot from last night`s experience. We know what to do and how to differentiate between what is beneficial for us and what is not. Last night, we seemed to do something very unwise, yet looking from another angle, it can be considered quite wise. We donated money to help the Chinatown community - this was indeed a very worthwhile and meaningful deed.
I have some pearls of wisdom that I would like to share with you about using money: Money is just paper if you do not use it. When I shouted `Two thousand dollars!`, my voice was very loud, but, when I went to bed that night, I simply could not sleep. So before we engage in any act, we need to think first. We need to think carefully about what are the motive and meaning behind each action.
So a while ago, we talked about how to apply [worldly] wisdom in our world, our everyday life. There is another type of wisdom [other-worldly wisdom] that transcends this world. We all know how to apply worldly wisdom to gain what we want. Most people in this world hope that, through their wisdom, they can accumulate great merits and they want great joy and happiness in their life. But how about other-worldly wisdom? You can use your wisdom to get into an ultimate state of purity, beyond defilements. Through your wisdom, you can enter samadhi, a state in which your mind dwells in meditative stillness. The wisdom that is mentioned in the Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra surpasses ordinary wisdom. It is wisdom that transcends all things. In other words, it is wisdom beyond wisdom.
The wisdom we are talking about is wisdom of the highest level, which is achieved through entering into the deepest meditation. The wisdom in the Heart Sutra that we are talking about is very amazing. It is eminent wisdom, and it is the wisdom of the Five Dhyani Buddhas. We usually use two words to refer to this wisdom: `absolute truth`. With it, a person can reach liberation and achieve self-mastery.
Last week, we talked about `maha`, which means `great`. This week, we talk about `prajna`, which means wisdom. Therefore, if we add these two words together, they mean `great wisdom`. Nevertheless, you cannot talk about `great` without `wisdom`. It is of no use, because `great` by itself will create many disputes and slanders. You must combine `great` with wisdom. In this way, you will can reach liberation and achieve self-mastery. What is meant by true wisdom? True wisdom is the awareness of the emptiness of all phenomena, the realization of the empty nature of the four elements , and knowledge of the non-self nature of the five skandhas.
When I first practiced and taught Buddhism, there were many slanders and untrue rumours circulating about me. At that time, I had not attained full enlightenment, and after I heard about newspapers and magazines full of libel about me, I simply could not go to sleep. I kept thinking about a particular article that was full of criticism about me. The first night, I could not go to bed. The second night, I could not sleep again, but on the third night, I fell asleep. Do you know why I fell asleep on the third night? Because I felt so tired that I simply had to sleep! If you cannot sleep for two nights, rest assured that you will be able to on the third night! So my worries only lasted for 3 days. When I migrated to US, things got better. When I saw an article criticising me, I would only think about it for one night and would be able to sleep on the second night. As time passed, things improved so that when I was faced with such an article, I would be angry, but after an hour, my anger would subside.
I always think that I am not a bad guy, just an ordinary person. It is of course wrong to compare me with a sage in terms of the way I speak and the way I carry myself, because a sage does not make mistakes. But what I do not understand is why other people want to harm me when I do not harm in any way. Why is it that so many people are so interested in me? Where does the problem lie? It comes down to the word `great`. It is because my name, Sheng-yen Lu, is too great. It is because True Buddha School is too great. It is because I wrote too many books. It is because in all of Taiwan or even the whole earth, there are very few people who have written 97 books and who are writing their 98th book. And whenever I hold a ceremony, thirty thousand people or more attend and there will be 50,000 people gathering at the Hong Kong Football Coliseum. All this comes down to the word `great`. I want to tell you a secret. I won`t say who he is, but right now, there is a very great monk who often tells other people that he is number one in the whole world. He is not afraid of other monks regardless of their age, where they preach, or their level of cultivation. He can easily bulldoze them aside, but there is only one person who he thinks is his equal - only one person he is afraid of. Many people asked him, `Who is that person?` And he said, `He is Sheng-yen Lu, that irritating freak!`
Let me tell you something: When you are great, you encounter a lot of trouble. That is why I want to retire early. That is why I want to hide in the forest, so that I will not meet other people. Being great is so troublesome. I even have troubles clearing the customs in US. I ask those custom officers, `Why is it that I am always taken to that small room? I have a small build, I look honest, and I only have small bag with me. You can easily see what is inside the bag.` The customs officer replies that it is because I am too great. It is because I am so great that many people do not like me, and send me so many blackmail letters. That is why every time I have to enjoy myself in that small room. That is why in Hong Kong, before boarding the airplane, I am forced to eat some sweet potatoes. [Grand Master said `potato` in English]. Let`s not talk about that! When I was studying English, we used Taiwanese as the medium of instruction. `Lai` is come, `ki` is go, `kai meng` is open [a] door, and `han ji` is potato. That is how I learned English. But never mind, it does not matter for Grand Master. Do you know why it does not matter? It is because I have wisdom. A person who possesses wisdom realizes that everything in this world is empty of inherent existence. The four elements of my body are empty. All the slanders, insults and difficulties that I receive are empty. What I have now is also empty. And all these will be gone in the future when I pass away.
When I drove my car, people thought that I was driving a Rolls Royce, but in reality, I was driving emptiness. Everyone thinks that the house I live in is beautiful, but I know that it is also empty. There are people who are scolding Sheng-yen Lu. But in the past, there was no Sheng-yen Lu, and when Sheng-yen Lu dies in the future, there will be no more Sheng-yen Lu. But how about the Sheng-Yen Lu who is sitting and preaching right now? He will also die one day. He does not exist. So when people are scolding Sheng-yen Lu, they are actually scolding emptiness, because in reality, I do not exist. The only thing that exists is my `light`. After I pass away, my books will be passed down, and all that will be left of me will be my wisdom. Think about this - Since your body is empty, your mind is also empty, and thus you are able to liberate yourself and have self-mastery. You are free, free from all obstructions. If you are able to understand the wisdom of emptiness and realize that all phenomena are empty, you will know that these concepts of `I` and `me` are empty. You will know that the four elements of our body are empty. Since we are living in a world where everything is empty, what is there to fight for? The purpose of my existence is to bring light to the world. In other words, it is to bring liberation and self-mastery to the world - - the wisdom of emptiness.
If you gain liberation and really understand the wisdom of emptiness, you will not have even one minute of defilement. People thought that Grand Master was in hot water, because a few days ago a lady whose surname is Gao came from LA. She told me that in LA there are rumours about Sheng-yen Lu. And just because Lady Gao came from LA to Lei Zang Temple to visit me for a few days, she became my new girlfriend! There is so much `news` about me that I myself do not know which of these rumors are true.
Even if there is a cyclone all around you, if you can become the eye of the cyclone, if you can be unmovable and reside perfectly in the eye of the cyclone, that is samadhi. Only when a practitioner possesses true wisdom will his mind be free of all disturbances and his heart unmovable. It is only when you have true wisdom that you are free of delusions and able to reside perfectly in that state. If you are able to understand the wisdom of emptiness, you will gain complete liberation and self-mastery. I have practiced Buddhism for 20 years, and the difficulties and slanders that I have encountered are greater than the 99 difficulties that Tang San Zang experienced on his journey to the West. However, I want to say this: No matter what disaster falls upon me, my heart remains unmovable. I can enter samadhi and reside perfectly in emptiness. My body and heart can enlarge to encompass the sky, and no one would be able to find me. This is samadhi - the wisdom of emptiness.
Om Mani Padma Hum
Chapter 2: Prajna