Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma

I was asked to clarify Sunday's post about the Namgyal Monastery inscription in Dharamsala. I don't where it is taken from, but the text derives from the Prajna-Paramita literature, known as the Second Turning of the Wheel. It summarizes the entire teaching in a few simple lines.

Because phenomena are empty—in other words, because things exist only temporarily and can't exist independently of other things—the world is as it were apparitional, even if its constituent elements are subject to cause-and-effect (because nothing exists independently).

Our existence as biorganisms adrift in this world of birth-and-death makes us instinctively view phenomena as permanent and self-sustaining, and inevitably we want to glom onto them. But because we cannot, we are led to suffering. This awareness makes us want to help others.

I should add perhaps that although people can and do practice meditation to good effect without reference to any of this, it is the above that defines meditation as a Mahayana Buddhist practice.