You don’t gain anything. You drop delusive ideas. But, if you don’t gain anything, why practice at all? Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write a series of posts that will explore answers to this question. For now, let’s explore this question!
This is from chapter 22 of Perfect Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines.
How can a Bodhisattva arrive,
without an increase in perfect wisdom,
at the full attainment of enlightenment,
how can he know full enlightenment?
We can better understand what Subhuti is asking by understanding that Perfect Wisdom is intuitive understanding of the notself nature of all conceptual imputations. Nothing has ‘inherent existence’. It is not what you think it is. Nothing is what you think it is.
We can better understand Subhuti’s problem by asking some other questions.
“What do I gain with full enlightenment?”
And, we can then respond with:
“I don’t gain anything with full enlightenment.”
Do you see what Subhuti’s problem is?
Perfect Wisdom is awareness of the emptiness of all things, but Perfect Wisdom itself must also be empty– it too is a thing, a conceptual imputation, a notion, an idea.
So, as Bodhisattvas course in Perfect Wisdom, how can there be any kind of “progress along the path”?
What is progress in such a context?
If there is nothing to gain as we seek perfect awakening, why strive on with diligence along the course of the Perfection of Wisdom?
If you look around, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll notice that we, here… we *do* have problems and pain, confusion, struggle, stress and death. The reality of Dukkha is our Buddha’s First Noble Truth and it’s cessation is the aim of all Buddhist practice.
But, if all things are as “the horns of a hare”, or “dream-like”, they are not born and do not die. There are no beings so there is no suffering that can even ever occur. We can comfortably assert that all things are not born and do not die because they do not actually exist as we think they do!! At root, it’s all a bunch of funny notions.
All things are notions, and all notions– by nature of the fact that they are notions– are ill-equipped to deal with the Ultimate Nature of Highest Reality.
Notions, or discriminative ideas, are limitations of Pleroma (the All, perfect wholeness– or, “Emptiness”, Śūnyatā). The discriminative mind can only comprehend things by chopping them up into little dualisms. We know black from white, up from down, good from bad, etc…
Progress or ‘increase” is not progress along the path. Retreat or ‘decrease’ is not retreat along the path of the Perfection of Wisdom. These ideas have nothing to do with Perfect Wisdom.
Understanding these things,
“How am I advancing, progressing, from dukkha to the Highest Happiness of the Unconditioned if all things are empty and if there is, in fact, no such thing as ‘advance’ or ‘retreat'”?
In actual fact,
a Bodhisattva who courses in perfect wisdom
neither advances nor retreats– does not increase or decrease.
Just as perfect wisdom is empty,
without advance or retreat– without increase or decrease
just so also a Bodhisattva is empty,
without advance or retreat– without increase or decrease.
It is because of this fact,
i.e, that just as perfect wisdom is empty,
without advance or retreat– without increase or decrease,
so also the Bodhisattva is empty,
without increase or decrease– without advance or retreat.
that a Bodhisattva arrives at the full attainment of enlightenment,
and thus knows full enlightenment.
If a Bodhisattva,
when this is being taught,
is not afraid nor loses heart,
then she should be known as a Bodhisattva who courses in Perfect Wisdom.
Keep chewing! Digest the response. Next time, we’re going to continue through chapter 22 of Perfect Wisdom of Eight Thousand Lines.