16
"The Bodhisattva depends on Prajnaparamita..."

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajnaparamita and the mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance, no fears exists. Far apart from any perverted view, one dwells in Nirvana.

The bodhisattva is steadfast in his/her trust in the wisdom of sunyata and finds in it a sense of completion; he or she is completely at peace with it and with himself. This is his (her) support, and he knows there is nothing lacking in it. Whatever the limitations of his or her conditioned mind may be, he or she has a perfect understanding of, and trust in, the truth of sunyata. No perverted or deluded views are going to cloud his or her vision. In traditional Buddhism, there are "four perverted views" from which liberation is sought:

  1. a view that anything existent can be permanent even if it is compounded;
  2. a view that satisfaction may be found in the world of compounded entities;
  3. a view that there is a permanent self or soul; and
  4. a view that things are desirable and therefore worth striving for and clinging to.

An investment in any of these "perverted" views is likely to produce fear and confusion. Fear and confusion, by their very nature, seek other things to cling to, and each clinging brings about its own particular perverted view to further cloud the vision. Rooted firmly in the wisdom of sunyata, the bodhisattva has no such hindrance. S/he does not mistake the unreal for the real, the conditioned for the unconditioned, the relative for the absolute, etc.

For a contemporary reader of the sutra, the words, "no fears exist" may be the most significant insight contained in the sutra. Our century has been characterized by existential angst and its concomitant despair and hopelessness. The late twentieth century culture finds itself driven by the basic fuel of fear even while the individual is really yearning for love. Our conditioning has become such that we fear fear and we fear love. Any resolution of the individual human condition has to perforce deal with the basic fear of duality, fear of the "other," fear of the world which one finds to be hostile and threatening, and yet indispensable. Unless this dichotomy, this sense of separation from the world is resolved, all our efforts to find a "meaning" in human life are going to be nothing more than manipulative gestures. It is only in the pure experience of sunyata that one transcends the manipulative gestures which societal conditioning, in its ignorance, sees not as illusions but as substantive. The training of the bodhisattiva is to see the illusory nature of these manipulative gestures and transcend them.

Without a clouded vision, the bodhisattva "dwells in nirvana." For the earlier Hinayana, nirvana was the state of liberation resulting from the eradication of suffering caused by desires and any notion of a permanent selfhood. As happened with many other aspects of Buddha's teaching, nirvana too came to be posited as a category in the Abhidharma scheme of things. Mahayana response to this position was that while the Hinayana follower had certainly achieved a measure of peace, his understanding of liberation was limited as long as he persisted in having a fear of samsara (the world of desires and becoming) and felt that samsara had to be overcome by attaining nirvana. This is a dualistic approach and, according to Mahayana, cannot lead to the Transcendent Wisdom which is essentially non-dualistic and in which samsara and nirvana are not distinct from each other. Nirvana is not to be considered as "something," a category, which exists as a separate reality apart from everything else; nirvana is not the result of doing something or attaining something but of not-doing: the not-doing of not discriminating. The bodhisattva does not "attain" nirvana (since any attainment is empty of time-endurance or self-nature) but having the unclouded vision of non-discrimination, in other words, of sunyata, he is always immersed in tranquility and is at peace with himself or herself. Nirvana is sunyata and sunyata itself is nirvana. Nirvana is sunyata because it has no graspable nature; any thought of nirvana as an attainable object would therefore be an error. Nirvana is not something to be striven for but to be intuited in the unfolding of each moment where sunyata plays itself out unceasingly. Through his intuitive wisdom (prajna), the bodhisattva knows that in sunyata all things are just as they really are i.e. full of Thusness or Suchness (Sanskrit: Tathatha).