First Flame Sangha
Sergio A. Verdugo
Calipatria State Prison
Emptiness in the Perfection of Wisdom
HBL300 – Assignment One:
1. (A): Answer questions 1-10
1. What are some of the different elements that inter-are with this sheet of paper?
Thay Thich Nhat Hanh wants us to know, to understand, to realize, the fact that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements. And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Elements like sun, wind, water, clouds, tree, logger and mind therefore inter-are with this sheet of paper. So as thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.
2. What does the word Bodhisattva mean?
Bodhi means being awake, and sattva means a living being, so Bodhisattva means an awakened being.
3. What does Avalokitesvara mean?
Avalokitesvara means “the one who listens and hears the cries of the world in order to come and help.” Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva embodies the spirit of non-fear, as he himself has transcended fear.
The Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra is his wonderful gift to us.
4. What does the word Prajnaparamita mean?
The word Prajnaparamita in Sanskrit is translated to mean “perfect understanding”.
5. What does the word skandha mean?
The word skandha may be translated into English as heaps, or aggregates, and are the five elements that comprise a human being.
6. What are the five skandhas?
The five skandhas are the elements that comprise a human being and they consist of: form, feelings, perception, mental formations and consciousness.
7. What are the five skandhas empty of and what are they full of?
Thay Thich Nhat Hanh and Bodhisattva Avalokita teach us that the five skandhas are empty of a separate self; while at the same time the five skandhas are full of everything in the universe.
8. How does Thich Nhat Hanh relate form and emptiness to a wave and water?
Thay Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that a wave on the ocean has a beginning and an end, a birth and a death. But the wave is full of water and only made possible thanks to the existence of wind, therefore empty of a separate self. He relates the wave to form and emptiness to the ocean water.
In so doing maybe to illustrate that each wave is born and is going to die, but the water is free from birth and death because it knows to be part of every water move.
9. What does the word “Dharma” mean in the Heart Sutra?
In the Heart of Understanding Dharma is defined to mean: “things.” A human being is a dharma. A tree is a dharma. A cloud is a dharma. The sunshine is a dharma. Everything that can be conceived of is a dharma.
10. What is the line from the Majjhima Nikaya about how the world has come to be?
In the Majjhima Nikaya, there is a very short passage on how the world has come to be. It is very simple, very easy to understand, and yet very deep: “This is, because that is. This is not, because that is not. This is like this, because that is like that.”
1 (B): Essay questions for the Heart of Understanding 1-2
1. How are you interbeing with the universe in terms of time. In other words, what are you a continuation of interms of matter, genetics, culture, etc.?
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva through his supreme gift of Prajnaparamita has awaken in me the seed of non-fear; non-fear through understanding. Therefore in my narrow scope I am able to see that if emptiness abounds, than I abound, and because of my abundance there can possibly be no fear.
The entire universe and the time upon which I stand to speak of this are only a conceptualization of my mental construct; construct that allows me to differentiate a universe from the “me”, also to take notice and delineate a moment from the constant flux of living to call it time.
From every stand point “I am”, I am interbeing with the universe and time themselves, with there being no exception. From the very first speck of dust conceived of as a starting point all the way to the extinction of all causations, “I am.”
In complete continuation of all that has been and is going to be. “I am” the present, the past and the future, in one and every moment.
I am the result of wars and peace treaties from endless confrontations and arrangements. Yesturday I was somewhere else.
I am continuation of my parents, who have parents, who have parents, who have parents, who have parents, successively in a cicle which might not have a beginning nor an end. With genetic attributes and restrictions passed on and tinkered with from one to other like an eternal teaching. From culture to culture, from myself to myself in hopes of growth and maturity.
Maybe Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva through his supreme gift of Prajnaparamita wants me to see, to realize and to penetrate the perfect understanding that I am not a continuation of anything, instead that I am actually everything, only as it was, is and will be. In a samsaric and nirvanic stream that continues, or is, endlessly. Therefore there is no path, no interbeing, no attainment. We are, I am, enlightenment, hurrah!!
2. How are you interbeing with the universe in terms of space. In other words, how do the physical, mental and cultural elements that make up your body and mind inter-be with the world around you right now?
Every moment of being permits the opportunity for me to see the answer to this question clearly. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva through his supreme gift of the Prajnaparamita only illustrates the details to this in hopes that maybe I can understand the meaning of emptiness.
For example, the paper, the pen, the stool and table that I’m using for support to write and express my comprehension are only possible through the effort and labor of other beings. At birth my mother named me Sergio, clearly influenced by my father and their cultural heritage given by their mother and father.
The way I was taught made it possible for me to conceptualise, to choose in any one direction, event to discriminate right from wrong’ and that teaching was given to me by other beings I came into contact with.
Even my physical body could have been influenced to be the way it is, as I might have reasoned what is beauty and what is not, then adapted the habits or mannerism that would attain the desired, or influenced result.
The language I speak, the vocabulary I use, the clothings I wear, the hair style I preffer, even hygienic manners seem to have been given to me, passed on, or picked up from somewhere that came from somewhere, that came from somewhere.
In mindfulness I have been able to notice that what appears to be my free will, is simply, at least, mostly not so, but mainly emulations of my peers, friends, parents and teachers; all of whom share that same attribute as me.
To live and rationalize as I may is the product of an entire interbeing with every aspect of life. I need oxygen and lungs to breathe; I need trees to inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen; I need the sun, the moon, the wind, the water, the fire. I need friends and foes to learn and understand. I need all sentient beings, for every detail they contribute to life is a detail I need in order to live.