Predestined Karmic Associations

Part 2: On Prajñā 



“I was predestined to come to live here and to preach to you officials, monks, and laymen. My teaching has been handed down from the sages of the past; it is not my own personal knowledge. If you wish to hear the teachings of the sages of the past, each of you must quiet his mind and hear me to the end. Please cast aside your own delusions; then you will be no different from the sages of the past.”

(Wong Mou-Lam)

“Today, I have had the honor of meeting you in this assembly, and I must ascribe this to our good connection in previous kalpas (cyclic periods), as well as to our common accumulated merits in making offerings to various Buddhas in our past reincarnations; otherwise, we should have had no chance of hearing the above teaching of the ‘Sudden’ School, and thereby laying the foundation of our future success in understanding the Dharma. This teaching was handed down from the past Patriarchs, and it is not a system of my own invention. Those who wish to hear the teaching should first purify their own mind, and after hearing it they should each clear up their own doubts in the same way as the Sages did in the past.”

I have chosen both translations for the prologue of this prajñā section as they equally disclose the karmic-connection that Hui-neng shares with his Dharma-students. He reveals that their august association is no mere accident, but rather “predestined” over countless cycles of previous alliances that bore accumulated merit and has thus brought all of them together in this Mystic-Union of Unborn Light. The Great Wordless-Teaching of the Buddhadharma is not some hopeful pretence somehow whipped-up within the “personal/skhandic mind”, but rather Revelations of Buddhaic-Luminescence bearing Bodhi-seeds from the Tathagatas themselves, as discerned through the disciplined Prajñā of the Patriarchs. The Dunhuang text highlights that both lay-folk and monastics are equally empowered to hear the Buddhadharma; this was a great breakthrough for East-Asian Dhyana since the former Indianized Scholastic Model bore a somewhat exclusive hold on this affair. Hui-neng also makes it unequivocally clear that anyone who wants to fully-awaken to their own innate Buddha-nature, must first make a prior-purification (under all circumstances) of all sensate phenomena coagulated within the sphere of the clouded-mind. Once this process of being prior-to all affairs in the samsaric-realm occurs, then The Clear-Light of Suchness will extinguish all doubts in the same fashion as the Sages themselves experienced in ages past.


The Master Hui-neng called, saying: “Good friends, enlightenment (bodhi\ and intuitive wisdom (prajna) are from the outset possessed by men of this world themselves. It is just because the mind is deluded that men cannot attain awakening to themselves. They must seek a good teacher to show them how to see into their own natures. Good friends, if you meet awakening, [Buddha]-wisdom will be achieved.  

“Good friends, my teaching of the Dharma takes meditation (ting) and wisdom (hi)as its basis. Never under any circumstances say mistakenly that meditation and wisdom are different; they are a unity, not two things. Meditation itself is the substance of wisdom; wisdom itself is the function of meditation. At the very moment when there is wisdom, then meditation exists in wisdom; at the very moment when there is meditation, then wisdom exists in meditation. Good friends, this means that meditation and wisdom are alike. Students, be careful not to say that meditation gives rise to wisdom, or that wisdom gives rise to meditation, or that meditation and wisdom are different from each other. To hold this view implies that things have duality-if good is spoken while the mind is not good, meditation and wisdom will not be alike. If mind and speech are both good, then the internal and the external are the same and meditation and wisdom are alike. The practice of self-awakening does not lie in verbal arguments. If you argue which comes first, meditation or wisdom, you are deluded people. You won’t be able to settle the argument and instead will cling to objective things, and will never escape from the four states of phenomena.”  

Intuitive, Undivided Wisdom (Bodhiprajñā), is innately hidden in the depths of spirit; yet It is covered over by adventitious defilements since time immemorial. More often than not—yea, it occurs very rarely in man to fully-awaken on one’s own—there is great need for a good Dharma-teacher, one whose own Bodhipower has been sufficiently-galvanized, to likewise impregnate the dormant Bodhi-seed through a baptism of Tathatic-Light within the heart (mind) of a worthy-one. As this Dunhuang text states, if one encounters Bodhi-gnosis in this fashion, then Bodhiprajñā will surely be actuated.

For Hui-neng, Meditation (dhyana) and Wisdom (prajñā) were of One Mind—there was no bifurcation into dualisms with one taking prominence over the other. In this sense, dhyana does not foster prajñā nor does prajñā enhance dhyana. Within this very moment of Dhyana, Prajñā dwells therein; at this very moment of Prajñā, Dhyana delights in Prajñā Itself. He also points out that dense argumentation over this Mind-Realization gives birth to avidya (ignorance) itself; like the ol’ adage, “Which comes first, the Chicken or the Egg?”, the only result is mind entrapped within Its own creation of dualistic, objective phenomenon; thus never escaping from the four diurnal states of phenomena (birth, being, change, death).

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