The True meaning of “Maha Prajñā Paramita” “摩訶般若波羅蜜多”真義解說

一、前言 Introduction
此文主要依”六祖壇經 般若品第二“,來解說 “摩訶般若波羅蜜多” 的真實義。”般若“是佛經最重要的 一個術語,譯為 “大智慧”,是 “諸佛之母“。
The main purpose of this article is to explain the true meaning of “Maha Prajñā Paramita”, in accordance with “The Altar Sutra of Sixth Patriarch, Chapter 2 On Prajñā”. ” Prajñā ” is the most important terminology of the Buddhist scriptures. It is translated as “great wisdom” and is the Mother of the Buddhas.

“Maha Prajñā Paramita” means “through the wisdom of Dharma to reach the other shore of liberation.” That is, by using of characters or scripture to “listen, contemplate, and reflect”, to attain prajñā wisdom, surpass the life and death cycle, and reach the realm of liberation, a “Bliss Pure Land”.

This article is written in Chinese with English translation. It is intended for those who are unable to read or speak Chinese, or who have not studied Buddhist scriptures before.
[參看此園地 “六祖法寶壇經 (一) 第一及第二品 中英對照“]

二、”六祖壇經 般若品第二” 中英對照
Chinese with English translation of “The Altar Sutra of Sixth Patriarch” Chapter 2 “On Prajñā”

2.1 “摩訶般若波羅蜜多” 真義解說 The True meaning of “Maha Prajñā Paramita”
Having taken his seat and asked the assembly to purify their mind collectively, and to recite the ‘Maha Prajñā Paramita’ Sutra, the Partriarch then gave the following address:

菩提般若之智,世人本自有之,只緣心迷,不能自悟,須假大善知識, 示導見性。
The Wisdom of Enlightenment is inherent in every one of us. It is because of the delusion under which our mind works that we fail to realize it ourselves, and that we have to seek the advice and the guidance of enlightened ones before we can know our own Essence of Mind.

You should know that so far as Buddha-nature is concerned, there is no difference between an enlightened and an ignorant one. What makes the difference between the foolish and the wise man lies in whether one realizes the Buddha nature or not.

吾今為說 「摩訶般若波羅蜜法」,使汝等各得智慧。志心諦聽,吾為汝說。
Now, let me explain to you about the meaning of “Maha Prajñā Paramita”, so that each of you can attain the wisdom. Listen attentively.

世人終日口念般若,不識自性般若; 猶如說食不飽。
Those who recite the word ‘Prajñā’ all day long, do not seem to understand that Prajñā is inherent in their own true nature. It is like “mere talking about food will not appease hunger”, and this is exactly the case with these people.

We might talk about Sunyata (空, the Void) for myriads of kalpas (萬劫), but just talking alone will not enable us to realize the Essence of Mind (見性). This serves no purpose in the end.

Maha Prajñā Paramita is Sanskrit. It means “great wisdom to reach the opposite shore”.

What we have to do is to put it into practice with our mind; whether we recite it or not does not matter. Mere reciting it without mental practice may be likened to a phantasm, a magical delusion, a flash of lightning or a dewdrop.

On the other hand, if we do both, then our mind will be in accord with what we repeat orally. Our true nature is Buddha. Aside from this Buddha nature, there is no other Buddha.

信堅註 Wu’s note:
Mahā means “great”; prajñā means “Hui, wisdom”; “Pāramitā”, means “to the other side, redemption or being rescued” That is, “by using of characters or script to “listening, contemplation, and reflection”, to attain prajñā wisdom, surpassing the life and death cycle, and reaching the realm of liberation that is immortal”.]

般若波羅蜜多“的意思是“(超越)智慧的完美”,指以這種完美的方式來看待現實的本質。Prajñāpāramitā這字,結合了梵語單詞prajñā “智慧”和pāramitā“完美”。
Prajñāpāramitā means “the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom”. It refers to this perfected way of seeing the nature of reality. The word Prajñāpāramitā is a combination of the Sanskrit words “prajñā”, meaning “wisdom”, with “pāramitā ” which means perfection.

“Pāramitā” has two meanings: 1. thing has already been done, and it has reached a satisfactory situation; 2. things are being processed, and it is moving towards a satisfactory situation. The former refers to the outcome, the goal or purpose has been achieved; the latter refers to the process, including the pathway or method.

“Pāramitā” is a transliteration, which means “to the other shore” or “redemption, being rescued”. “Arrived at the other shore” is focused on the results; “redemption, being rescued” is “in the voyage to the other side” and is focused on the process.

To learn Buddhist practice is to “go to the other shore without troubles and pains” from “this shore full of troubles and pains”.

Buddhism has “six Pāramitā”, that is, six ways or methods to go to the other shore: “giving, precepting, forbearing, advancing, meditation, and Prajñā”. Prajñā is the most important, because the other five ways or methods need to be guided by wisdom. “The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise” said that: “The former five redemptions are blind, and the Prajñā is the guide.”

2.1.1何名「摩訶」? What is the meaning of “Maha”?
“Maha” means ‘Great’. The capacity of the mind is as great as that of the “Void”, the empty space.

諸佛剎土,盡同虛空。世人妙性本空,無有一法可得; 自性真空,亦復如是。
All Buddha Ksetras are as void as space. Intrinsically our transcendental nature is void and not a single Dharma can be attained. It is the same with the Essence of Mind, which is a state of “Absolute Void”.

莫聞吾說空,便即著空。第一莫著空,若空心靜坐,即著無記空。善知識,世界虛空,能含萬物色像。日月星宿,山河大地、泉源溪澗、草木叢林、惡人善人、惡法善法、天堂地獄、一切大海、須瀰諸山、總在空中; 世人性空,亦復如是。
When you hear me talk about the Void, do not at once fall into the idea of vacuity, (because this involves the heresy of the doctrine of annihilation). It is of the utmost importance that we should not fall into this idea, because when a man sits quietly and keeps his mind blank he will abide in a state of ‘Voidness of Indifference’.

自性能含萬法是大,萬法在諸人性中。若見一切人惡之與善,盡皆不取不捨,亦不染著,心如虛空,名之為大,故約「摩訶」。善知識,迷人口說,智者心行,又有迷人,空心靜坐,百無所思,自稱為大; 此一輩人,不可與語,為邪見故。
The illimitable Void (無邊虛空) of the universe is capable of holding myriads of things of various shape and form (萬法), such as the sun, the moon, stars, mountains, rivers, men, Dharmas pertaining to goodness or badness, deva planes, hells, great oceans, and all the mountains of the Mahameru (Meru or Sumeru, 須彌山). Space takes in all of these, and so does the voidness of our nature.

We say that “the Essence of Mind” (自性) is great (大), because it embraces all things, since all things are within our nature. When we see the goodness or the badness of other people, we are not attached to it; so that our attitude of mind is as void as space. In this way, we say our mind is great. Therefore we call it ‘Maha’.

What the ignorant merely talk about, wise men put them into actual practice with their mind. There are also foolish people who sit quietly, and try to keep their mind blank. They refrain from thinking of anything and call themselves ‘great’. On account of their heretical view, we can hardly talk to them.

2.1.2 何名「般若」? What is the meaning of “Prajñā”?
「般若者,唐言智慧也。」 一切處所,一切時中,念念不愚,常行智慧,即是般若行。一念愚,即般若絕;一念智,即般若生。
Prajñā means ‘Wisdom (智慧)’. If at all times and at all places, we steadily keep our thought free from foolish desire, and act wisely on all occasions, then we are practicing Prajñā. One foolish notion is enough to shut off Prajñā, while one wise thought will bring it forth again.

You should know that the mind is enormous in its capacity, since it pervades the whole Dharmadhatu (法界). When we use it, we are able to know everything clearly and deeply. When we use it to its full capacity, we will know All, All in One and One in All. When our mind works without hindrance, and is at liberty to ‘come’ or ‘go’, then it is in a state of ‘Prajñā.

All Prajñā comes from the Essence of Mind (自性), and not from an exterior source. Have no mistaken notion about that. This is called ‘Self-use of the True Nature’. Once the Tathata (Suchness, the Essence of Mind) is known, one will be free from delusion forever.

Since the scope of the mind is for great objects, we should not practice such trivial acts (such as sitting quietly with a blank mind). Do not talk about the ‘Void’ all day without practicing it in the mind. One who does this may be likened to a self-styled king who is really a commoner. Prajñā can never be attained in this way, and those who behave like this are not my disciples.

世人愚迷, 不見般若; 口說般若,心中常愚。常自言我修般若,念念說空,不識真空。般若無形相,智慧心即是。若作如是解,即名般若智。
People in ignorance or under delusion do not see Prajñā; they talk about it with their tongues, but in their mind they remain ignorant. They are always saying that they practice Prajñā, and they talk incessantly on ‘Vacuity’ (真空); but they do not know the ‘Absolute Void’. ‘The Heart of Wisdom’ is Prajñā, which has neither form nor characteristic. If we interpret it in this way, then indeed it is the wisdom of Prajñā.

般若,全是說心的妙用。般若是諸佛之母,上自佛,下至眾生,無不由此而成佛道。 Prajna is all about the magic function of the heart. Prajna is the Mother of All Buddhas. From the Buddha to the sentient beings, all of them are using it to became Buddhas,

論其性體,是不生不滅的金剛;論其相貌,卻是無形無狀的實相;論其妙用,乃是不可測知的圓通神妙。 這個般若,佛和眾生都是平等的。
On its physicality, it is the King Kong who is immortal; on his appearance, it is the invisible reality; on the magical function, it is the undetectable tact of flexibility and accommodation
The Buddha and all beings all possess this Prajna.

2.1.3 何名「波羅蜜」? What is the meaning of “Paramita”?
此是西國語,唐言到彼岸,解義離生滅。著境生滅起,如水有波浪,即名於此岸,離境無生滅,如水常通流,即名為彼岸,故號 「波羅蜜」。
It is a Sanskrit word, meaning redemption or being rescued to the opposite shore. Figuratively, it means ‘above existence and non-existence’. By clinging to sense objects, existence or non-existence arises like the up and down of the billowy sea, and such a state is called metaphorically ‘this shore’; while by non-attachment to a state above existence and non-existence, it is like smoothly running water, and this is called ‘the opposite shore’. This is why it is called it ‘Paramita’.

“Para” means “the other shore”. It is assumed that there is a river of life and death, and all beings are on the shore of distress, called “this shore”. “Para” means “through the wisdom of Dharma to reach the other side of liberation (the other shore).”

“蜜” 是到了究竟涅盤的果位。”Mi” is the fruit of Nirvana, like “honey” is made by the essence of the flower through the hard work of the bees.

“多”是上了彼岸,才是究竟。“Ta” means ashore, that is, one has landed on the other shore; it is the ultimate placewhere he should go.

2.1.4 結論 Summary Conclusion
般若波羅蜜多,即以佛法的智慧到達解脫的彼岸,分五步:一在此岸;二入流,上了渡船,是初發菩提心 (成佛之心);三中流,船在河中間;四到了彼岸;五上岸,捨船 (法見), 掃除執心。
“Prajna Pāramitā” means “through the wisdom of Dharma to reach the other side of liberation”,which consists of five steps: 1.On this shore; 2.Into the stream [on the ferry, is the initiation of Bodhicitta (菩提心)]; 3. In the middle stream [that is, the boat in the middle of the river]; 4.To the other shore; 5.Ashores [abandon the boat (attachment to dharma), and the removal of ātma-grāha (我執).

People under illusion recite the MahaPrajñā Paramita with their tongues, and while they are reciting it, their mind has erroneous and evil thoughts.

念念若行,是名真性。悟此法者,是般若法; 修此行者,是般若行; 不修即凡。一念修行,自身等佛。
But if they put it into practice unremittingly, they realize its ‘true nature’. To know this Dharma (法) is to know the Dharma of Prajñā, and to practice this is to practice Prajñā. He who does not practice it is an ordinary man. He who directs his mind to practice it with one mind is the equal of Buddha.

Ordinary man is Buddha, and Klesa (煩惱, defilement) is Bodhi (菩提, enlightenment).

A foolish passing thought makes one an ordinary man, while an enlightened second thought makes one a Buddha. A passing thought that clings to sense-objects is Klesa, while a second thought that frees one from attachment is Bodhi.

The Maha Prajñā Paramita is the most exalted, the supreme, and the foremost. It neither stays, nor goes, nor comes. By means of it, Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future generations attain Buddhahood. We should use this great wisdom to break up the five Skandhas (五蘊) .
Following such practice ensures the attainment of Buddhahood. The three poisonous elements (greed, hatred and illusion) will then be turned into Precepts, Samadhi, and Prajñā.

Prajñā does not vary with different persons; what makes the difference is whether one’s mind is enlightened or deluded.

內外不住,去來自由,能除執心,通達無礙,能修此行,與《般若經》 本無差別。
The mind should be framed in such a way that it will be independent of external or internal objects, at liberty to come or go, free from attachment and thoroughly enlightened without the least beclouding. He who is able to do this is of the same standard required by the Sutras of the Prajñā School.

一切修多羅及諸文字、大小二乘、十二部經,皆因人置。All Sutras and Scriptures of the Mahayana and Hinayana Schools, as well as the twelve sections of the canonical writings, were provided to suit the different needs and temperaments of various people.

It is upon the principle that Prajñā is latent in every man that the doctrines expounded in these books are established.

If there were no human beings, there would be no Dharmas; hence we know that all Dharmas are made for men, and that all Sutras owe their existence to the preachers.

Without enlightenment, there would be no difference between a Buddha and ordinary living beings; while a gleam of enlightenment is enough to make any living being the equal of a Buddha. Since all Dharmas are immanent in our mind, there is no reason why we should not realize intuitively the real nature of Tathata (真如本性).

《菩薩戒經》云: 「我本元自性清淨,若識自心見性,皆成佛道」
The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says: “Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure, and if we knew our mind and realized what our nature is, all of us would attain Buddhahood.”

智慧觀照,內外明徹,識自本心。When we use Prajñā for introspection, we are illumined within and without, and in a position to know our true mind.

2.1.偈頌 Gatha
說通及心通,如日處虛空。 唯傳見法性 ,出世破邪宗。
A master of the Buddhist Canon as well as of the teaching of the Dhyana School.
May be likened unto the blazing sun sitting high in his meridian tower.
Such a man would teach nothing but the Dharma for realizing the Essence of Mind.
And his object in coming to this world would be to vanquish the heretical sects.

We can hardly classify the Dharmas into ‘Sudden’ and ‘Gradual’,
But some men will attain enlightenment much quicker than others.
For example, this system for realizing the Essence of Mind
Is above the comprehension of the ignorant.

Erroneous views keep us in defilement, while right views remove us from it,
But when we are in a position to discard both of them, we are then absolutely pure.

菩提本自性,起心即是妄。常自見己過 ,與道即相當。
Bodhi is immanent in our Essence of Mind. An attempt to look for it elsewhere is erroneous.
Provided we keep a constant eye on our own faults, we cannot go astray from the right path.

If we leave our own path and seek some other way of salvation, we will not find it,
And if you wish to find the true way, right action will lead you to it directly;

But if you do not strive for Buddhahood, you will grope in the dark and never find it.
He who treads the Path in earnest, sees not the mistakes of the world.

If we find fault with others, we ourselves are in fault.
When other people are in fault, we should ignore it, for it is wrong for us to find fault.

The Kingdom of Buddha is in this world, within which enlightenment is to be sought.
To seek enlightenment by separating from this world, is as absurd as to search for a rabbit’s horn.

This stanza is for the Sudden Zen School. It is also called “Big Dharma Ship”.
Kalpa after kalpa, a man may be under delusion, but once enlightened, it takes him only a moment to attain Enlightenment.

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台南一中、台大物理、 哈佛博士。曾任教授、科學家、工程師。專長: 吹牛、高能物理、量子物理、太空物理,天文物理、地球物理,人造衛星設計、測試、發射、資料回收及科學應用。略涉: 武俠、太極、瑜珈、導引、氣功、經脈、論語、易經、老莊、一乘佛經、禪經、靈界實相、Hawkins、Seth。

7 thoughts on “The True meaning of “Maha Prajñā Paramita” “摩訶般若波羅蜜多”真義解說

  1. 信堅師兄好:
    真是感應甚深,不可思議,顏現正在蒐尋 佛陀教育基金會 是否有英文版 六祖壇經。

  2. 師父 ;小沙彌在來米偶有文思如下;





    • 在來米兄,神來之筆,觀天測地,本心莫忘。


  3. 信堅師兄: 鈞鑒

    I feel very amazing whenever I read your posted articles.

    I am very appreciated with your website providing so beneficial articles and/or comments.

    Best regards.
    Dr. Chao

    • 趙博士你好


      近日信堅,因 “摩訶般若波羅蜜多” 故,書寫 “心經”中英對照,湊巧趕上,趙博士來訪,真是善因緣感應,祝福趙師兄早日大功告成,廣益眾生。


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