|The Buddha's transcendental message of freedom is profound, subtle, hard to see.|
|Mahayana Buddha statue flanked by dragons (Popolisson as Polo D/flickr.com)|
- This is the teaching at the core of the Heart Sutra, the most famous Mahayana Buddhist discourse, which is the epitome of the "Perfection of Wisdom" (Prajna Paramita) literature everyone reads but nearly no one understands. (This is the core because unless it is realized there is no stream entry/winning, the first stage of enlightenment, the Buddha declared). If there is no "self," then what is there? The answer is the Five Aggregates. How does "self" or at least the "illusion of selfhood" arise? It arises by a causal sequence called Dependent Origination: "When this is, that comes to be; with the ceasing of this, that ceases" is one way of briefly defining a very profound concept. The fact is, every composite thing, while it may seem to be self sufficient, actually depends on elements, causes, conditions because of its composed nature. Not only is this true of matter, it is true of us. What are we? What we call "self" is actually a composite of impersonal phenomena labelled form (the four qualities of matter); feelings, perceptions, formations, and consciousnesses. The first four are the "body," the remaining four are the "mind." There is no "self" to be found among these momentarily arising elements that immediately perish and are replaced with nearly identical substitutes. And it keeps happening. Everything is hurtling toward destruction. Anything we would cling to as "self" cannot be clung to because it is burning away, decaying rapidly, vanishing. The process of its replacement gives the illusion of continuity, but careful examination (mindful awareness while contemplating the 12 causal-links identified by the Buddha as Dependent Origination or paticca samuppada) reveals the trick. The illusion is broken. Enlightenment dawns. One glimpses nirvana (real peace, the deathless, the unsurpassable, the unexcelled), and liberation is realized as "the Truth that sets us free."
|Siddhartha renounces to go on quest|
- One should not misunderstand the Five Aggregates to amount to five things. They are innumerable heaps of five kinds or groupings. Not every feeling or perception is the same, but mental phenomena known as sensation and knowing can be analyzed and sorted into heaps.
|Hindu temple in India with sacred symbols|
|Nirvana is samsara? Ignorance is wisdom?|
- Nirvana alone -- because it is the only unconditioned element -- does not arise, change, pass away, or depend on any conditions. (The realization of it may depend on conditions, such as meditation and right view, but it does not come into being or grow or go out of being or shrink if people realize it or fail to realize it).