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THE HEART SUTRA AND EXTREMISM/FUNDAMENTALISM Thomas E. Maher English Tao Class Kuang Ming Saint Tao Temple June 6, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "THE HEART SUTRA AND EXTREMISM/FUNDAMENTALISM Thomas E. Maher English Tao Class Kuang Ming Saint Tao Temple June 6, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE HEART SUTRA AND EXTREMISM/FUNDAMENTALISM Thomas E. Maher English Tao Class Kuang Ming Saint Tao Temple June 6, 2009

2 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS Extremism/fundamentalism –Its recurrence throughout history is now aggravated by nuclear weapons. Identifying extremism/fundamentalism –“I am right and you are wrong.” –In its ultimate manifestation: “if you don’t agree with me, you deserve to die.”

3 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS A brief review of Buddhism –An antidote to extremism and fundamentalism Especially what Buddhism is NOT DHARMA –All phenomena –When spelled with a large “D” means the teachings of the Buddha. –When spelled with a small “d” it means all phenomena.

4 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS EMPTINESS (SUNYATA) (impossible to define; the following is a working definition only by T. Maher) –A fusion of joy and grief in which each disappears in a mindset that fully understands the ever-changing nature of all things and results in loving kindness for all creatures. TATHATA –Emptiness experienced subjectively –“Seeing” things in their incredible “suchness,” In their ever-changing quality and experiencing the empathy that results.

5 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS “OM MANI PADME HUM” –The mantra of Avalokiteshvara (male) The Bodhisattva of Compassion in India –A six syllable sound-composite representing the six virtues (paramitas).

6 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS BODHISATTVA –One who has completed one’s own cultivation and now stands at the threshold of enlightenment, fully and finally free to accept it or reject it. The Bodhisattva rejects it, so that he/she can remain in the world of samsara to realize his/her vow to save until all sentient beings, thereby fulfilling the Buddhist ideal of loving kindness for all creatures. –The Bodhisattva does not take pride in his/her work to save others, nor is his/her compassion contrived. –The Bodhisattva practices sincere compassion that comes from deep within, without any sense of ego or gain.

7 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS GUAN YIN BODHISATTVA (female) –The Bodhisattva of compassion in Chinese Buddhism (same as Avalokiteshvara). “Kwannon Bosatsu” in Japanese. TARA –The female Bodhisattva that consoled Avalokitesharva and dried his tears when he felt unable to save all sentient beings. She persuaded him to continue his efforts.

8 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS THE FIVE SKANDHAS –Form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and individual consciousness. –This is the erroneous process we pursue to “create” a false, separate self and is the cradle of the false world of “form.” It is the source of our suffering. SAMSARA –The world of ENDLESS BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS The everyday world; the world of suffering; the world of karma, the human realm.

9 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS SAHA WORLD (the other side of the coin) –The world of ENDURANCE The endurance of suffering because we don’t want to give up what causes it. –“We suffer from ourselves. None else compels. None other holds us, That we live and die. And whir upon the wheel, Hugging and kissing its spokes of agony. Its tire of tears, It’s nave of nothingness……….” (Alan Watts) THE PRAJNA PARAMITA –Some 40 sutras that comprise “The Perfection of Wisdom,” the most notable of which are the HEART SUTRA and the DIAMOND SUTRA.

10 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS THE DIAMOND SUTRA (as set forth in the 2005 translation of Alex Johnson Productions). –It tells us WHAT the nature of all dharma (phenomena) is, viz., FORMS that are ILLUSIONARY. It seeks to help us UNLEARN our preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality, enlightenment and compassion. –Some excerpts What is called the highest teaching is not the highest teaching and that is why we call it the highest teaching. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature. Practicing loving kindness without attachment is the way to reach the Highest Perfect Wisdom. Buddhas and their disciples are not enlightened by a set method of teachings, but by an inherently intuitive process which is spontaneous and embedded in their inner nature (and in all of us). Pending “enlightenment,” cultivation consists of choosing the forms that best accomplish our objective while avoiding those that do not. But when we reach the other shore, we no longer need the boat (the “good” forms) because we will not want to return.

11 SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS THE HEART SUTRA –Tells us WHY all dharma are illusionary, viz., because they are EMPTY (a fundamental teaching of Buddhism). –Some excerpts Everything is empty, including emptiness itself. Nothing lasts. There is no path, no wisdom and nothing to attain. Therefore, Bodhisattvas, having no spiritual hindrances, delusions or fear, attain complete enlightenment.

12 THE HEART SUTRA (as condensed and simplified by T. Maher) Saraputra, the venerable Buddhist priest, had sought enlightenment all of his life without success. So he came to the Shakyamuni Buddha and asked what more he needed to do. The Buddha immediately saw Saraputra’s problem: he was trying to find enlightenment outside himself. So the Buddha declined to answer Saraputra’s question because he knew that if he did Saraputra would just continue to externalize the process and think that the Buddha had the answer. So, instead, the Buddha asked the Guan Yin Bodhisattva to answer Saraputra’s question. The Guan Yin Bodhisattva then meditated for a long time on the Prajna Paramita and finally spoke.

13 THE HEART SUTRA (as condensed and simplified by T. Maher) “Saraputra, everything is empty, even emptiness itself, because nothing lasts. Absolutely nothing. Thus, the five skandhas are empty, and the six senses are empty. Nothing is born, and nothing dies. Nothing is stained, and nothing is pure. Saraputra, there is neither gain nor loss in anything. There is no ignorance and no ending of ignorance. There is no old age, no death and no ending of old age and death. There is no suffering, no cause of suffering and no end of suffering. There is no path, no wisdom, and no attainment of anything. Saraputra, because there is nothing to attain, Bodhisattvas have no spiritual hindrances or delusions. Thus, having no spiritual hindrances or delusions, Bodhisattvas have no fear, and they therefore attain complete enlightenment. Saraputra, all Buddhas, past, present and future, know that the truth of emptiness is contained in the great, unsurpassed mantra, the mantra of all mantras, the supreme mantra, the mantra of perfect wisdom - the prajna paramita:” “Ga-te---ga-te---pa-ra-ga-te---pa-ra-sam-ga-te---Bodhisvaha.” (Approximate translation: “gone beyond - gone beyond - gone way beyond - gone totally and completely beyond---the flame of enlightenment is now lit.”) When Saraputra asked the Buddha if the Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s answer was correct, the Buddha simply and gently said, “Yes.” What more could he say?

14 THE HEART SUTRA, THE GUAN YIN BODHISATTVA AND SENIOR ELDER CHEN Note: the words of the Heart Sutra are actually those of the Guan-Yin Bodhisattva (“she who hears the cries of the world”), not of the Shakyamuni Buddha. The Shakyamuni Buddha merely confirmed them as correct. Senior Elder Chen, our own example of the loving kindness of the Guan-Yin Bodhisattva. –A brief biographical sketch of Senior Elder Chen based on the translation of Alice Huang. –A Grand Lady who lived a life of devotion, dedication, disappointment, hardship, hard work, loving kindness for all creatures, and ultimate success. –After she passed on, the Holy Teacher gave her the title, “Never-Resting Bodhisattva.”

15 EMPTINESS It is the antithesis of Extremism and Fundamentalism. It cannot be defined conceptually or understood intellectually. It can only be experienced intuitively. “You should think of this fleeting world like this: a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a flash of lightening in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom…..a dream….” (ending words of the Diamond Sutra)

16 EMPTINESS Emptiness in the words of Jesus “Unless You Become As Little Children, You Cannot Enter The Kingdom Of Heaven….” –Because of his/her innocence (emptiness), a child of three has no difficulty understanding heaven. It’s so obvious! We have problems with heaven only as we grow older and become out of touch with “emptiness.”

17 EMPTINESS Emptiness in the words of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (a leading Zen Buddhist Teacher in America and Founder of the San Francisco Zen Center) –“We Must Always Keep a Beginner’s Mind Because to a Beginner All Things Are Possible…” The problem with Extremism and Fundamentalism –Enslavement to definition, ideology, and authoritarianism –Lacking an understanding of emptiness, they impose preconceived “objectives” and solidified “principles” on us and thus deny us our freedom. –Emptiness and freedom go hand in hand.

18 EMPTINESS Emptiness reveals to us that the “Truth,” though a single diamond, has an infinite number of sides. Similarly, the tree has many roots and branches but only one trunk (an example given by the Holy Teacher).

19 SOME CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH “EMPTINESS:” EXCERPTS FROM MY LIFE (some happy, some sad---but all “empty.”): Early Years: no stranger to death (the ultimate experience of emptiness) - it was in every home. The brief life of my precious six year old friend, Michael. A child’s experience of emptiness. At seventeen, an unexpected insight born of a failed love. A consequence of emptiness? World War II - it’s sudden, unexpected end - home at last - thank God, we’re home at last. Is war the antithesis of “emptiness?”

20 SOME CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH “EMPTINESS:” EXCERPTS FROM MY LIFE (some happy, some sad - but all “empty.”): The agony of being a military judge becomes an unexpected and wondrous experience of everything there is to behold - is this a gift of “emptiness?” The Japanese Tea Ceremony - spontaneous laughter in the midst of discipline and ritual. Was it the sound of emptiness? Cherry blossoms - they do not cling to the branch and, during their brief life, “fill the March sky as far as the eye can see…” (from “Sakura, Sakura”). Are cherry blossoms the perfect representation of “emptiness?”

21 SOME CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH “EMPTINESS:” EXCERPTS FROM MY LIFE (some happy, some sad - but all “empty.”): “Flower in the crannied wall….I pluck you out of the cranny…I hold you here in my hand…..Little flower…if I could know what you are…root and all…all in all, I would know what God and man is.” (Tenneyson) If we could understand a flower, would we not also understand emptiness? The virtue of imperfection. When truly understood, is emptiness not inconsistent with perfection? If you are “perfect,” how can you accommodate change? Always strive to be “better” (change), but not “perfect” (the doorway to extremism and fundamentalism.

22 SOME CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH “EMPTINESS:” EXCERPTS FROM MY LIFE (some happy, some sad - but all “empty.”): The Book of Tea by Okakura. “…..Let us dream of evanescence and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things…..” ( “emptiness” deeply understood)

23 END NOTES The vastness of emptiness. The beauty of change. Emptiness: the source of humility and loving kindness If nothing lasts, then why do we want to adopt extreme and fundamental positions? They won’t last either. Are they not just as empty as anything else? Is it not emptiness that causes the artist to create? Do emptiness and creativity go hand in hand? Could there be art without emptiness? Would there be a universe without change?

24 END NOTES Life is not a rehearsal. You only get to do it once in an ongoing process of change, and it’s unique for each of us. During your life, YOU are the conscious Tao in a moment of change---the opportunity of the Tao to know and experience itself. Someday you will return to the cosmic Tao whence you came. One with the Tao, enjoy your unique consciousness while you have it. Actualize its fulfillment in loving kindness towards others. Is this not the truth of emptiness?

25 END NOTES Emptiness teaches us that life is terribly precious. We would jump with joy just to find one tiny ant on Mars. Finally, recall the words of Saint Thomas More which go to the essence of emptiness: –“I shall pass through this world but once If there is any good that I can do Or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature Let me do it now Let me neither defer it nor neglect it For I shall not pass this way again……..”

26 May The Tao Be With You, Always! Always!

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