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Teachings on emptyness

Teachings on emptyness

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Published by: xsrumination on Apr 10, 2011
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01/14/2013

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“Therefore, Shariputra, since bodhisattvas have no attainment, they
depend upon and dwell in the perfection of wisdom; their minds are
unobstructed and unafraid. They transcend all error and finally reach the
end point: nirvana.”

This passage deals with the path of meditation in general and the
meditative stabilization of a bodhisattva on the final stage of the tenth
ground in particular. This vajra-like state of meditation becomes an
antidote to the last obstacle to enlightenment. What is meant by
“they depend upon and dwell in the perfection of wisdom” is that
bodhisattvas are completely free from any fabrications when absorbed
in the nature of emptiness, being completely engaged in that state.
When we talk about purifying negativity, we find two kinds of

THE MEANING OF THE TEXT

123

defilement—coarse, or gross, and subtle. Just as the coarse dirt on
our clothes is easier to wash away, coarse defilements are easier to get
rid of. Subtle stains penetrate our clothes more deeply and are harder
to clean away; the final obscurations to omniscience, even though
the smallest in magnitude, are the toughest to eradicate. We need the
most powerful weapon to destroy them. This weapon is the vajra-like
meditative state.

“Their minds are unobstructed and unafraid” tells us that such
bodhisattvas, having trained their mind in stages, from the path of
accumulation all the way up to the final stage of the tenth bodhisattva
ground, have abandoned many of the obscurations along the way,
including fear.

Then comes the phrase, “They transcend all error.” We talk about
four kinds of error, sometimes called the “four distortions”—perceiv-
ing that which is impure as pure; perceiving that which is painful as
pleasurable; perceiving impermanent phenomena as permanent; and
perceiving that which is selfless as having self. Bodhisattvas are free
from these errors and also from the error of the two extremes—soli-
tary peace and cyclic existence.
When we emerge from the vajra-like meditative state, we achieve
the liberated path and attain the final enlightenment of buddhahood.
This state is described by the Sanskrit word nirvana, which means,
“beyond distress” or “ beyond sorrow.” These are the sorrow and dis-
tress of the solitary peace of personal liberation and the sorrow and
distress of cyclic existence. Nirvana refers not just to personal libera-
tion but to complete enlightenment as well.
Buddha’s great compassion prevents him from falling into the
extreme of solitary peace. If he did, he wouldn’t be able to work con-
tinuously for the benefit of other beings. Like the bodhisattvas, he
also has the fully developed perfection of wisdom and is thus free
from cyclic existence. Foe destroyers, arhats of the Lesser Vehicle, who
have liberated just themselves from samsara, are still trapped in soli-
tary peace and, unlike bodhisattvas, cannot work for the welfare of
other sentient beings.

MIRROR OF WISDOM

124

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