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Flashcards in Madhyamaka and Prajnaparamita Sutras Deck (43)
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What is Prajnaparamita?

Prajnaparamita, (Sanskrit: “Perfection of Wisdom”) body of sutras and their commentaries that represents the oldest of the major forms of Mahayana Buddhism.


What is "perfect wisdom"?

The full and complete insight of what things are really are. The emphasis on 'perfect' suggests a wisdom beyond the everyday assumption of most people and beyond the earlier Abhidharma analyses of non-mahayana Buddhists. It is the wisdom of the Buddhas.


What is the central insight of the perfect wisdom?

Shunyata (emptiness). The term means 'empty of inherent existence' meaning nothing exists by itself, but only in relation to other things. Nothing possesses what Buddhists call svabhava (own-being) that is separate, eternal, existence.


What is the heart sutra?

One of the most widely influential texts of Mahayana Buddhism, since it captures the heart or essence of the perfection of wisdom.


When was the heart sutra written?

300-700 CE


What are the key themes of the heart sutra?

1) Perfection of wisdom
2) Emptiness
3) Bodhisattva ideal


Who is speaking in the Heart Sutra?

A dialogue between Shakyamuni Buddha, the Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara and Sariputra.


Who is Sariputra?

Is a Theravadin monk seeking to understand the broader reach offered by the mahayana thought - he was severly monastic and questing to find for individual enlightenment.


What was Sariputra asking in the Heart Sutra?

In what manner should he practice transcendental wisdom.


Who is Avolokiteshvara?

Male bodhisattva of compassion is a symbol of the activity of compassion and is dedicated to help save all sentient beings.


How is Avolokiteshvara talking in the Heart Sutra?

Talking as he one who has established in emptiness - the active, close observation of the mind i.e. meditative enquiry- vipassana. He is coursing through the depths of wisdom without fear or attachment.


On hearing Sariputra question what is aroused?

Compassion is aroused and he answers not from thought but from his immediate experiential state. He seems to destroy everything the Buddha taught and what Sariputra has learnt i.e. conceptualisations (his Buddhist cage').


What does Sariputra learn from Avolokiteshvara?

Teaches him to let go and to discover the deeper freedom beyond name and forms and to experience the 'ineffability of silence'. It is a radical broadening of the idea of emptiness to all phenomenon.


Why do these texts focus on prajna (wisdom)?

In Mahayana, the Perfection of wisdom is the 6th Perfection that a bodhisattva cultivates on the path to Buddhahood.


What are the 6 perfections?

1) Generosity
2) Morality
3) Patience
4) Effort
5) Meditation
6) Wisdom


What do the 6 perfections cultivate?

Six Perfections describe the true nature of an enlightened being, which, in Mahayana practice, is to say they are our own true buddha-nature.


Why is sunyata important for Mahayana Buddhists?

1. Wisdom also known as emptiness is on of the 6 perfections to be mastered y the Bodhisattva - underpins compassion
2. Wisdom needed to overcome attachment to a self and therefore helps overcome habits or conditioned states which cause suffering and keep you trapped in samsara
3. Wisdom enables Bodhisattva to practice skilful means
4. Helps to differentiate between conventional and ultimate truths


How is the Heart sutra used?

1. Chanted or recited
2. Meditation
3. Zen Retreats


Why is the heart sutra important?

1. Being in short it is easily memorised
2. It deals with issues that are key understanding Mahayana Buddhism:
- all phenomena lack inherent existence, own being (svabhava) the idea that things have independent existence is the wrong perception of reality.
- conventional and ultimate truths- words are required to explain concepts but the ultimate truth behind that is that they do not refer to anything.
- everything is both form and emptiness- emptiness is not a thing but it is the way all things are in their dependent arising


How does understanding the wisdom of emptiness underpins compassion?

Self cherishing because you are not attached to yourself. Compassion spontaneously arises.


Why is teaching on wisdom key to Bodhisattvas?

Master 6 perfections because the last 6 perfection is Wisdom and they need compassion to help remove suffering of others.


The key difference about nibbana between the Theravada understanding and the Mahayana understanding?

Theravada seen as a final goal, separate from samsara attained in life (nibbana with remainder) whilst the Mahayana is that nibbana and samsara is both empty only conventional terms.


How does experiencing the suchness of things help combat for example prejudice?

Suchness (tathata) means to experience things such as they are without superimposing the ideas. This helps avoid discrimination.


What is the difference between ultimate and conventional truth?

Conventional truth is ordinary language being used.
Ultimate truth is the world and self experienced as it really is, free of the constraints of language.


Karin Valham

Wisdom of emptiness helps us to realise that when we investigate the mind, body etc that we cannot pinpoint a self or "I" e.g. greedy me because greed is merely a conditioned state. There is no "me" being greed since greed us a momentary state of mind. When one feels or experiences the wisdom of emptiness through practice of vipasanna (insight meditation) the arising of compassion is "immediate" and make us feel content.


Janice Willis

Emptiness is merely a lack of an independent existence and shows how everything is connected or interdependent. When one directly meditates this experience of "emptiness" or "feels it" , our relation with others feel complete and compassion spontaneously arises.


Richard Gere

We are not independent islands but are dependent on causes and conditions- beings in the process of change. Such a fixed and concrete view of life creates habits or conditioned states- a permanent I, the root of all our problems. Realisation of emptiness creates 'space' and 'moments' of non-attachment which have the power to free our minds.


Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

The wisdom of emptiness destroys the root of our ignorance or attachment to a false "I" the king of delusion that binds us to samsaric existence. People do so many things to protect this "I" to make it happy. Emptiness can release the confused mind and help us to discover the real nature of phenomena.


Robina Courtin

Everything is emptiness- conventional thought is the product of ignorance, attachment, illusion and lies e.g. "a pair of glasses" only exist in a conventional sense, ultimately there are no glasses (they dependently arise). But if one says that 'nothing exists' people throw the baby out of the bath water and create a nihilistic view. Attachment to sense of 'I' or 'me ness' is karma and this leads to feelings of anger- the exact opposite of truth. The realisation of emptiness destroys ignorance which is the creation of karma.


Dalai Lama

Shunya is a sanskrit language meaning emptiness. Similarly, to understand emptiness you've got to experience emptiness. Emptiness doesn't mean nothingness, it means things exist inter-dependently whilst paper exists conventionally.