Prajna. Wisdom.

Painting: Master Yoda by Florian Yodarte

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned in previous posts, there are innumerable treatises on prajnaparamita.  So, why not a few more thoughts to add to the heaps? In our exploration of the other paramitas the members of the sangha consitently tapped into an understanding and experience of these  practices through an inquiry to what is already here. So we’ll start off this exploration in the same way. First looking at the etymology of ‘prajna’ and ‘wisdom’’

From the Sanskrit, pra, as a prefix to verbs, means ‘forward’, ‘forth’, ‘in front’, ‘onward’, ‘before’, ‘away1. From Sanskrit,  jna  is generally translated as ‘to know’, ‘to learn’, ‘to ascertain’, ‘to see’, ‘to understand’.

The most common English translation of prajna from buddhist texts is ‘wisdom’. The etymology of wisdom is from Old English root of ‘wise’; ‘weid’ meaning ‘to see’ plus ‘dom’ meaning judgment: to see (know) a judgment or wise judgment2

Neither the current cultural concepts of wisdom nor its etymolgy; “see a judgment’ or ‘wise judgment’, capture the complexity of prajna. There probably is not an English word that would accurately reflect a comprehensive meaning for prajna, but there may be a way to get a sense of it by combining the etymology for the Sanskrit ‘pra’ and ‘jna’  in a contemplative way. Try taking the English words “forward” ‘before’, ‘forth’, ‘in front’, ‘onward’, ‘away’, and inter-mixing them with ‘to know’, ‘to learn’, ‘to ascertain’, ‘to see’, ‘to understand’ in a kind of mantric meditation. In that process perhaps there will be a unique experience of prajna that resonates with your individual mindstream.

As we begin to approach some of the buddhist teachings on prajna, take some time this week to inquire into your own understanding of wisdom or, if you like, prajna. What general ideas do you have? Images? Memories? Somatic sensations? Are there any fixed ideas about wisdom? In other words, what is already here in your beingness when you contemplate wisdom or prajna. 

I look forward to hearing from you!

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With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

1https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/pra

2https://www.etymonline.com/word/wisdom

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Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays – Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays – Zazen Practice 7:00 AM Pacific Time.
  • Sundays – Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”

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