pt. 2, Bodhisattva Bhumis

In order to conceptually proceed into Trungpa Rinpoche’s teaching regarding the rest of the bodhisattva bhumis, a review of some key points (see previous post on Bodhisattva Bhumis).

On pg. 181, Rinpoche says, “Prajna is of absolute, utmost importance in Buddhism.”

In fact, one can honestly say that prajna IS the path of BuddhaDharma. Siddharta Gautama sought to understand why beings are caught in a net of seeming endless struggle. He sought the knowing that would illumine the underlying causes to this endless net/wheel of birth/rebirth and all that goes with that. His motive was not a quest for just any answer, but universal knowing, -the pure perception- that would render the net ineffective and thereby exhaust the holding and entangling power of the net of samsara. He sought answers that require free-falling into illumination itself, thereby vanquishing the illusion of darkness and unknowing. He sought prajna.

from PBS, The Buddha

Therefore, he practiced one-pointedness of body, speech, and mind, of volition, intention, and motive until they softened and opened like a lotus blossoming. The clarity of prajna has the energetic of forward momentum and the character of being clear, precise, wide and expansive. As a result, if prajna has blossomed, has illumined a subject (internal or external), there is no going back to how one perceived things before. The Buddha displayed this. His compassion which codified as his practice is what all Dharma speaks to. His teaching is that prajna worked and will work universally. As a result, the entirety of the BuddhaDharma is, in essence, prajna: illumination, seeing things as they are -unvarnished, without mitigation, pure and True.

Then what is prajna and why is it necessary to the bodhisattva bhumis?
As to what prajna is, Trungpa Rinpoche explains on pg. 145: “Prajna is a way to see; it is a kind of radar system that is trying to perceive the phenomenal world in the language of shunyata. Prajna is supreme knowledge; but in this case, knowledge does not refer to something you already know … . Prajna is the capability of having knowledge. Knowledge of what? Of nothing. Just knowledge.”

He continues in the next paragraph, “… in the case of prajna, knowledge is not knowledge of something — it is just knowledge. Prajna is the faculty to know; it is the ability to know in the fullest sense.”

“… the ability to know in the fullest sense”. This is what Siddhartha sought; this is what he developed as his practice. The result was knowing “in the fullest sense”. Thus, “Prajna is of absolute, utmost importance in Buddhism.”

In our lives, we constantly seek knowledge. But, this type of knowledge and its seeking is like an infant stacking toy blocks. It is engaging, seems to have purpose, but in short order the stack falls, the baby cries or moves on to another engaging something. One of the primary shams about samsara is the felt-sense of function and functional. Due to this, sentient beings ceaselessly try to fix the unfixable. Prajna, however, begins from the ground of accepting that phenomena are the display of the illusion of functionality and that this is a complete ruse, that samsara cannot be fixed. (parenthetically and for clarity: the Buddhist Path has no agenda to liberate beings from samsara because prajna has illumined that samsara is a state of mind, not a condition of phenomena. he Path of Dharma brings clarity to the fact of dukkha (discontent and suffering), its causes (ignorance and choice driven by desire), the ability to cease and exhaust those causes and thereby exhaust dukkha for all beings. Those causes lie in the mind [i.e. mind-emotion-self complex]). Samsara is the conditioned mind-emotion-self complex that creates/causes dukkha. Prajna sees things as they are: the results, the conditioning factors, and the causes. Prajna also perceives through these phenomena to the emptiness behind ignorance and grasping.

Why is prajna the necessary ingredient along the maturing Dharma Path? Why is it necessary to the maturing marked by the bodhisattva bhumis?

From pg. 136:
“The development of egolessness is a progressive process, not a sudden attainment. Shamatha is the basic technique. On the basis of shamatha, vipashyana is the practice that leads to the realization of the first egolessness, … egolessness of self, and then to the realization of … the first half of the egolessness of dharmas (phenomena). Vipashyana practice culminates in prajna, the technique that brings the complete experience of twofold egolessness, or shunyata. … You cannot have mahayana without vipashyana (indicating that ‘you cannot have mahayana’ without prajna). Prajna gives birth to the experience of the buddhas, and vipashyana is the stone that sharpens the sword of prajna. You could not experience twofold egolessness without vipashyana because you could not do it without prajna.”

He continues pg. 136/137 “Prajna is a technique … : shunyata is what you get, and prajna is what you are going to get it with. …. This is why the Heart Sutra places an emphasis on prajna, but little emphasis on shunyata. …. prajna is actually more important. … Since prajna is the instrument with which you discover shunyata, shunyata is regarded as the child of prajnaparamita, of the perfection of wisdom.”

The Bodhisattva Bhumis are stages of realization which perforce must and will actualize as bodhisattva/buddha activity; in a word applied bodhichitta. It is vital to release ideas of location vis a vis the bhumis, of stages of ascent, or of specialness. If a bodhisattva is anything, he or she has realized the ordinariness of Reality which erases concepts of a rarified location or state, of ascending out of phenomena into suchness or emptiness, and other such childish ego-centric notions.

The experience of the bhumis, their potential realizations, and their applied energetic of Awareness is the result of “the development of egolessness … of self” and phenomena. This is developed through vipashyana which “culminates in prajna;” but vipashyana requires the ground of shamatha. These three will, then, braid through the bhumis. One of three will be more forefront in the first five bhumis. With the fifth the three are unified to a large extent; then 6-10 and buddhahood itself are the expression of equality/peace/shamatha, awareness in its seat/vipashyana, and pure perception/prajna. This is why prajna is necessary to the Dharma Path and to the maturing that is named the Bodhisattva Bhumis.

Sixth Bhumi: Becoming Manifest
pg. 405: “On this bhumi, you realize more and more that the idea of abandoning samsara and achieving nirvana is meaningless. Your prajna begins to cut through dualistic notion and all other dualistic discriminations thoroughly and completely. … So at this stage, the paramita is … prajna, or transcendent knowledge.”

Shamatha has, in time, led to a sense of equanimity regarding phenomena; this result is due to the evenness of just watching, just letting be, just letting go. There is no need to abandon samsara: just let thoughts and emotions be and samsara is not fueled. Its waterwheel is not fed. Yet meaninglessness is a result of vipashyana. Vipashyana is the active vigilance that constantly observes the ruse of samsara, the hoodwinking going on in the sense of self, and its mind-emotion complex. Every component listed in the previous sentence is recognized as meaningless, likewise is the goal of achieving and abandoning. Again, let be. The rest will crumble of itself. The dualistic notions that remain in the deep recesses of ideation are those related to the scaffolding of knowing, of thinking and thought. As long as a bodhisattva harbors the idea of knowing, prajna has not emptied the constructs of mind, and the mara of self is not dissolved fully.

It is hard to convey in language the purity of thought that is being pointed at here. At essence, the classic statement that “thought is dharmakaya” is what is being pointed at. But, anyone even a bodhisattva not at this level of realization cannot dissolve into this. Thought is ultimately naught. Dharmakaya is a non-truth given as a relative teaching for myriad wise and compassionate reasons by the Buddha and the masters, male and female. And, the term “is” has no meaning when phenomena is understood as simply the displaying bifurcation of subject/object, apprehender/apprehended.

Seventh Bhumi: Far Gone
Before going to Rinpoche, call to mind the mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom. Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha OM. Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone far beyond, into enlightenment/awakeness.

pg. 406: “This is the last bhumi in which the bodhisattva has to go forward deliberately with diligence and effort. … On the seventh bhumi, the bodhisattva has finally managed to destroy the twenty mountains of ego.”

The reader’s challenge of the book or these comments is projection: projecting from our current, common knowns and experiences onto a state of expressing Awareness-Being that is truly gone, gone, gone beyond, hence “far gone.” The footnote on pg. 407 explains: “On this bhumi … Instead of using your understanding in that way (related to the dualities inherent in suffering, impermanence, and egolessness), you use the three marks of existence as a bomb to explode the mountain ranges of ego … . You begin to realize that even the understanding of the nonduality of dharmadhatu is also part of ego’s mountain ranges.You see through that falsification as well.”

The use of the term “ego’s mountain ranges” is purposeful and hopefully evocative of contemplation.

Eighth Bhumi: Immovable
Note that the Immovable state of Awareness As IT IS is possible only subsequent to the erasure of the mountain of ego.

“You are like ripened fruit.” pg. 408
pg. 410: “Eighth bhumi vision cannot be moved or changed. … By remaining immovable, … you accomplish everything at once.”

Ninth Bhumi: Good Intellect (or Awareness-Benevolence)
pg. 412: “On this bhumi, the epitome of Discriminating Wisdom is achieved.”

Tenth Bhumi: Cloud of Dharma
as in rain cloud that provides for life.

About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

Visit for additional meditations and blog posts.
This entry was posted in Mahayana. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply