Thursday, December 20, 2007

cultivating wisdom

Prajna is, above all, a practical knowledge, which is emphasized by the pra-prefix (cognate to pro- in English), indicating a "moving towards". What sort of knowledge is this? Generally it involves a breakdown of the factors of sensation and experience. These factors came to be called dharmas, 'upholders', and were related to the sense of Dharma as 'Teaching, Norm, True Doctrine', in that they are the true factors revealed by proper analysis of the dynamics of mind and sensation. Analysis in Buddhism is always at least in part, self-analysis. One does not acquire knowledge or insight merely to know a fact, as if one were a disinterested or unaffected observer. Rather, one analyzes and strives to know in order to improve oneself, to better understand how one has become what one is at THIS moment, and how one can MOVE, CHANGE, in a manner that reduces and ultimately eliminates pernicious views and drives. One does this not only for one's own benefit, but in order to become more effective in assisting others to do likewise. The most potent and common description of what constitutes Awakening in the early literature is 'the destruction of the asavas', asavas being the deep-core, embodied, conditioned proclivities that bind one to the suffering of the rounds of samsara. Even as later Buddhists replaced the term asava with others (klesa, anusaya, vasana, etc), the general programme of rooting out and eliminating samskara remain central.

Dan Lusthaus, Buddhist Phenomenology

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