There Is No Suffering 31

Function of Prajna

In terms of the function of prajna, the term ‘coursing’ may be understood as ‘using,’ ‘exercising,’ ‘function,’ or ‘applying.’ Therefore, “while coursing in the deep prajnaparamita” means, “while exercising profound wisdom.” Liberation is the fruit of prajna, or wisdom, which we can view in two ways. One, the prajna that liberates you from vexation is ‘fundamental wisdom,’ and two, the prajna you cultivate to liberate sentient beings is ‘acquired wisdom,’ or ‘wisdom of expedient means.’

When prajna manifests, a bodhisattva seems no different from an ordinary person. To a bodhisattva, the prajna that comes with ending affliction is fundamental wisdom. To others who perceive it as the power to help others, this prajna is acquired wisdom. One can also say that fundamental wisdom is present when there are no afflictions, and acquired wisdom manifests as skillful means in response to sentient beings.

The manifestation of wisdom and the ending of afflictions present a chicken-and-egg paradox. Some will say you cannot have wisdom until you end afflictions; others will say you cannot end afflictions without wisdom. How does wisdom arise?

Cultivation of Prajna in Chan

From the Chan perspective, prajna has four prerequisites: hearing, practice, reflection-contemplation, and realization. First, you hear and absorb the teachings of Buddhadharma. Second, you practice Chan meditation, and the paramitas (perfections) while interacting with others. With the right attitude and proper practice, your mind will settle and become more focused.